|"The east wind fans a gentle breeze,
The streams and trees glory in the brightness of the spring.
The bright sun illuminates the green shrubs,
And the falling flowers are scattered and fly away,
The solitary cloud retreats to the hollow hill;
The birds return to their leafy haunts:
Every being has a refuge whither he may turn;
I alone have nothing to which to cling.
So, seated opposite the moon shining o'er the cliff,
I drink and sing to the fragrant blossoms."
They might easily apply to a tea garden.
The power of a single word to arouse trains of thought composed of the most varied ideas, to set in motion a panorama of scenery which is well nigh endless with persons of lively imaginations, is illustrated by this word, tea. While to one person it may suggest only refreshment and personal comfort, and to another, scenes of home life, to still others it will bring into being all that the dreamer has read or heard of China, that land of Cathay, and of its slant-eyed, mild mannered wearers of the pig-tail, and their real or fabulous characteristics. Not the least interesting of such associations are memories of the queer manners and habits of the Chinese people, some of which to us outside barbarians, appear so drolly opposed to our civilization of fancied superiority. Let us recapitulate a few of the most marked differences between the Chinese and Western peoples.
The very first antithesis that strikes us is the braided pig-tail of long black glossy hair so religiously cherished by the men. Have they forgotten that this is a badge of servitude ? The original inhabitants of China - by which we mean that people who occupied central China as far back as the beginning of the Assyrian Empire, or say 1300 years before Christ, - are said to have worn their jet black hair long, and coiled loosely upon the crown of the head, but they did not shave any portion of the head, nor braid their hair in a queue. The northern tribes of Manchus and Mongols (Tarters or Taters in olden nomenclature), who inhabited Manchuria and Mongolia, had endeavored to conquer the Chinese in wars which began about 950 A. D., and during which in the 12th century, the celebrated Jenghiz Khan and Kublai Khan severally commanded the Mongolian armies. These wars continued until 1627 A. D. when the Manchurian invaders regarded their conquest as sufficiently assured to warrant them in imposing their commands upon their Chinese vassals. At that time the Manchus partly shaved their head and wore braided queues. In 1627 an edict was issued by the Manchus requiring all Chinese subjects to henceforth follow the Manchu fashion and to wear the pig-tail as a token of submission to their conquerors. So, after time a badge of bondage became with the Chinese an insignia of national pride and honor.
Then, let us consider their written language, the oldest in the world except Hebrew, says Dr. Williams, and the oldest spoken language without any exception. Professor James Legge, writing upon Confucianism and Taoism, says that the written language of China takes us back at least five thousand years. Like most things in China, the language has suffered very little change since its adoption and completion. It does not consist of words, built up of letters, as with us; it has no alphabet, no letters, but its curious symbols represent objects, qualities, ideas, or sounds, which by combination express every shade of Chinese thought. The number of these written characters is variously estimated by European philologists at from 25,000 to 50,000, although it is believed that one may become a fair reader of Chinese literature, by acquiring a knowledge of say 10,000 of the pictorial symbols, with their allowable variations of form in use. Punctuation is not ordinarily used in Chinese literature and of course sentences or paragraphs are not divided from each other by capitals, for they have none.
In the spoken language, rising or falling inflections, and indescribable variations of tone must be learned, as well as pronunciation, and when it is said that there are many different dialects, each unintelligible to those accustomed to some other one, there seems to be little encouragement for the introduction of Chinese into our public school system. For all this, Dr. Morrison, the compiler of a Chinese and English dictionary, declares that " Chinese fine writing darts upon the mind with a vivid flash, a force and beauty, of which alphabetic language is not capable."
Graphic representation of an idea in a picture illustrates Dr. Morrison's meaning.
- Chinese written or printed composition is arranged in perpendicular columns, which are read from top to bottom and from the right to the left; and a Chinese book begins at the end from our point of view.
- When in China two polite acquaintances accost each other, they pause before meeting and each shakes his own hand; (a much neater and more refined custom than our own).
- To raise one's hat to a Chinaman is to offer an insult.
- A favorite road vehicle for passengers is a wheel barrow, and a mast and sail are often attached to aid in its propulsion, with a fair wind.
- Kite-flying is a sport for old men, boys look on.
- The game of checkers or draughts is played with 360 men.
- Shop signs are set on end.
- White is the universal color for full mourning.
- Men make women's head dresses.
- Women row heavy boats on the canals.
- A Chinese compass needle points to the south.
- In addressing a person, his last or surname is first written, and his first name last.
- The seat of honor at the table is at the left of the host.
- Fashions in fine clothing never change in China.
- Thieves are required by the Government to be organized into companies or guilds with elected heads, with whom the Government and public may treat.
- If a man is busy at his store, a traveling restaurant will wait upon him. A charcoal furnace, culinary vessels, and food, are slung upon a pole carried by the proprietor, who stops before the customer's door, and cooks a meal to order.
- The first paddle-wheel boats built in China were anchored in the stream where the current turned the paddle-wheels, and ground grain for food.
- The Chinese paint the edges of their shoe-soles white.
- An expensive coffin is always an acceptable present from an affectionate son and heir to his living father.
- Military officers in the Chinese army formerly wore embroidered silk petticoats, * and strings of beads around their necks; they carried fans, and mounted their horses on the right hand side.
- Chinese Cashiers are said to be uniformly honest.
Tea Leaves, 1900, was written by Francis Leggett & Co.