CHAPTER VI. THE CITY OF SUIFU - THE CHINA INLAND MISSION, WITH SOME GENERAL REMARKS ABOUT MISSIONARIES IN CHINA.

At Suifu I rested a day in order to engage new coolies to go with me to Chaotong in Yunnan Province, distant 290 miles. Neither of my two Chungking men would re-engage to go further. Yet in Chungking Laokwang the cook had declared that he was prepared to go with me all the way to Tali-fu. But now he feared the loneliness of the road to Chaotong. The way, he said, was mountainous and little trodden, and robbers would see the smallness of our party and "come down and stab us." I was then glad that I had not paid him the retaining fee he had asked in Chungking to take me to Tali.

I called upon the famous Catholic missionaries, the Provicaire Moutot and Pere Beraud, saw the more important sights and visited some newly-arrived missionaries of the American Board of Missions. Four of the Americans were living together. I called with the Inland missionary at a time when they were at dinner. We were shown into the drawing-room, where the most conspicuous ornament was a painted scroll with a well executed drawing of the poppy in flower, a circumstance which would confirm the belief of the Chinese who saw it, that the poppy is held in veneration by foreigners. While we waited we heard the noise of dinner gradually cease, and then the door opened and one of the single ladies entered. She was fierce to look at, tall as a grenadier, with a stride like a camel; she was picking her teeth with a hairpin. She courteously expressed her regret that she could not invite us to dinner. "Waal now," she said, looking at us from under her spectacles, "ahm real sorry I caan't ask you to have somethin' to eat, but we've just finished, and I guess there ain't nothin' left."

Fourteen American missionaries were lately imported into Suifu in one shipment. Most of them are from Chicago. One of their earliest efforts will be to translate into Chinese Mr. Stead's "If Christ came to Chicago," in order the better to demonstrate to the Chinese the lofty standard of morality, virtue, probity, and honour attained by the Christian community that sent them to China to enlighten the poor benighted heathen in this land of darkness.

Szechuen is a Catholic stronghold. There are nominally one hundred thousand Catholics in the province, representing the labours of many French missionaries for a period of rather more than two hundred years. Actually, however, there are only sixty thousand Chinese in the province who could be called Catholics. To use the words of the Provicaire, the Chinese are "trop materialistes" to become Christian, and, as they are all "liars and robbers," the faith is not easily propagated amongst them. Rarely have I met two more charming men than these brave missionaries. French, they told me, I speak with the "vrai accent parisien," a compliment which I have no doubt is true, though it conflicts with my experience in Paris, where most of the true Parisians to whom I spoke in their own language gave me the same look of intelligence that I observe in the Chinaman when I address him in English. Pere Moutot has been twenty-three years in China - six years at the sacred Mount Omi, and seventeen years in Suifu; Pere Beraud has been twenty-three years in Suifu. They both speak Chinese to perfection, and have been co-workers with the bishop in the production of a Mandarin-French dictionary just published at Sicawei; they dress as Chinese, and live as Chinese in handsome mission premises built in Chinese style. There is a pretty chapel in the compound with scrolls and memorial tablets presented by Chinese Catholics, a school for boys attended by fifty ragamuffins, a nunnery and girls' school, and a fit residence for the venerable bishop. When showing me the chapel, the Provicaire told me of the visit of one of Our Lord's Apostles to Suifu. He seemed to have no doubt himself of the truth of the story. Tradition says that St. Thomas came to China, and, if further proof were wanting, there is the black image of Tamo worshipped to this day in many of the temples of Szechuen. Scholars, however, identify this image and its marked Hindoo features with that of the Buddhist evangelist Tamo, who is known to have visited China in the sixth century.

In Suifu there is a branch of the China Inland Mission under an enthusiastic young missionary, who was formerly a French polisher in Hereford. He is helped by an amiable wife and by a charming English girl scarcely out of her teens. The missionary's work has he tells me, been "abundantly blessed," - he has baptised six converts in the last three years. A fine type of man is this missionary, brave and self-reliant, sympathetic and self-denying, hopeful and self-satisfied. His views as a missionary are well-defined. I give them in his own words : - "Those Chinese who have never heard the Gospel will be judged by the Almighty as He thinks fit" - a contention which does not admit of dispute - "but those Chinese who have heard the Christian doctrine, and still steel their hearts against the Holy Ghost, will assuredly go to hell; there is no help for them, they can believe and they won't; had they believed, their reward would be eternal; they refuse to believe and their punishment will be eternal." But the destruction that awaits the Chinese must be pointed out to them with becoming gentleness, in accordance with the teaching of the Rev. S. F. Woodin, of the American Baptist Mission, Foochow, who says : - "There are occasions when we must speak that awful word ' hell,' but this should always be done in a spirit of earnest love." (Records of the Shanghai Missionary Conference, 1877, p. 91.) It was a curious study to observe the equanimity with which this good-natured man contemplates the work he has done in China, when to obtain six dubious conversions he has on his own confession sent some thousands of unoffending Chinese en enfer bouillir eternellement.

But, if the teaching of this good missionary is unwelcome to the Chinese, and there are hundreds in China who teach as he does, how infinitely more distasteful must be the teaching of both the Founder and the Secretary of the Mission which sent him to China.

"They are God's lost ones who are in China," says Mr. C. L. Morgan, editor of The Christian, "and God cares for them and yearns over them." (China's Millions, 1879, p. 94.) "The millions of Chinese," (who have never heard the Gospel,) says Mr. B. Broomhall, secretary of the China Inland Mission, and editor of China's Millions, "where are they going, what is to be their future? What is to be their condition beyond the grave? Oh, tremendous question! It is an awful thing to contemplate - but they perish; that is what God says." (" Evangelisation of the World," p. 70.) "The heathen are all guilty in God's eyes; as guilty they perish." (Id., 101.) "Do we believe that these millions are without hope in the next world? We turn the leaves of God's Word in vain, for there we find no hope; not only that, but positive words to the contrary. Yes! we believe it." (Id., p. 199.)

The Rev. Dr. Hudson Taylor, the distinguished Founder of the Mission, certainly believes it, and has frequently stated his belief in public. Ancestral worship is the keystone of the religion of the Chinese; "the keystone also of China's social fabric." And "the worship springs," says the Rev. W. A. P Martin, D.D., LL.D., of the Tung Wen College, Peking, "from some of the best principles of human nature. The first conception of a life beyond the grave was, it is thought, suggested by a desire to commune with deceased parents." (" The Worship of Ancestors - a plea for toleration.") But Dr. Hudson Taylor condemned bitterly this plea for toleration. "Ancestral worship," he said (it was at the Shanghai Missionary Conference of May, 1890), "Ancestral worship is idolatry from beginning to end, the whole of it, and everything connected with it." China's religion is idolatry, the Chinese are universally idolatrous, and the fate that befalls idolaters is carefully pointed out by Dr. Taylor : - "Their part is in the lake of fire."

"These millions of China," I quote again from Dr. Taylor, "These millions of China" (who have never heard the Gospel), "are unsaved. Oh! my dear friends, may I say one word about that condition? The Bible says of the heathen, that they are without hope; will you say there is good hope for them of whom the Word of God says, 'they are without hope, without God in the world'?" (Missionary Conference of 1888, Records, i., 176.)

"There are those who know more about the state of the heathen than did the Apostle Paul, who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, 'They that sin without law, perish without law,' nay, there are those who are not afraid to contradict the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him to shew unto His servants, in which He solemnly affirms that 'idolaters and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.' Such being the state of the unsaved of China, do not their urgent needs claim from us that with agonising eagerness we should hasten to proclaim everywhere the message through which alone deliverance can be found?" (Ut supra, ii., 31.)

Look then at the enormous difficulty which the six hundred and eleven missionaries, of the China Inland Mission, raise up against themselves, the majority of whom are presumably in agreement with the teaching of their director, Dr. Hudson Taylor. They tell the Chinese inquirer that his unconverted father, who never heard the Gospel, has, like Confucius, perished eternally. But the chief of all virtues in China is filial piety; the strongest emotion that can move the heart of a Chinaman is the supreme desire to follow in the footsteps of his father. Conversion with him means not only eternal separation from the father who gave him life, but the "immediate liberation of his ancestors to a life of beggary, to inflict sickness and all manner of evil on the neighbourhood."

I believe that it is now universally recognised that the most difficult of all missionary fields - incomparably the most difficult - is China. Difficulties assail the missionary at every step; and every honest man, whether his views be broad or high or low, must sympathise with the earnest efforts the missionaries are making for the good and advancement of the Chinese.

Look for example at the difficulty there is in telling a Chinese, who has been taught to regard the love of his parents as his chief duty, as his forefathers have been taught for hundreds of generations before him - the difficulty there is in explaining to him, in his own language, the words of Christ, "If any man come to Me and hate not his father, he cannot be My disciple. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father."

In the patriarchal system of government which prevails in China, the most awful crime that a son can commit, is to kill his parent, either father or mother. And this is said to be though the description is no doubt abundantly exaggerated, the punishment of his crime. He is put to death by the "ling-chi" or "degrading and slow process," and his younger brothers are beheaded; his house is razed to the ground and the earth under it dug up several feet deep; his neighbours are severely punished; his principal teacher is decapitated; the district magistrate is deprived of his office; and the higher officials of the province degraded three degrees in rank.

Such is the enormity of the crime of parricide in China; yet it is to the Chinese who approves of the severity of this punishment that the missionary has to preach, "And the children shall rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death."

The China Inland Mission, as a body of courageous workers, brave travellers, unselfish and kindly men endowed with every manly virtue that can command our admiration, is worthy of all the praise that can be bestowed on it. Most of its members are men who have been saved after reaching maturity, and delicately-nurtured emotional girls with heightened religious feelings.

Too often entirely ignorant of the history of China, a mighty nation which has "witnessed the rise to glory and the decay of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome, and still remains the only monument of ages long bygone," of its manners and polity, customs and religions, and of the extraordinary difficulties in the acquirement of its language, too often forgetful that the Chinese are a people whose "prepossessions and prejudices and cherished judgments are the growth of millenniums," they come to China hoping that miraculous assistance will aid them in their exposition of the Christian doctrine, in language which is too often impenetrable darkness to its hearers.

"They are God's lost ones who are in China, and God cares for them and yearns over them," and men who were in England respectable artisans, with an imperfect hold of their own language, come to China, in response to the "wail of the dying millions," to stay this "awful ruin of souls," who, at the rate of 33,000 a day, are "perishing without hope, having sinned without law."

Six months after their arrival they write to China's Millions: "Now for the news! Glorious news this time! Our services crowded! Such bright intelligent faces! So eager to hear the good news! They seemed to drink in every word, and to listen as if they were afraid that a word might be lost." Five years later they write: "The first convert in Siao Wong Miao was a young man named Sengleping, a mat-seller. He was very earnest in his efforts to spread the Gospel, but about the beginning of the year he became insane. The poor man lost his reason, but not his piety." (China's Millions, iv., 5, 95, and 143).

A young English girl at this mission, who has been more than a year in China, tells me that she has never felt the Lord so near her as she has since she came to China, nor ever realised so entirely His abundant goodness. Poor thing, it made me sad to talk to her. In England she lived in a bright and happy home with brothers and sisters, in a charming climate. She was always well and full of life and vigour, surrounded by all that can make life worth living. In China she is never well; she is almost forgetting what is the sensation of health; she is anaemic and apprehensive; she has nervous headaches and neuralgia; she can have no pleasure, no amusement whatever; her only relaxation is taking her temperature; her only diversion a prayer meeting. She is cooped up in a Chinese house in the unchanging society of a married couple - the only exercise she can permit herself is a prison-like walk along the top of the city at the back of the mission. Her lover, a refined English gentleman who is also in the mission, lives a week's journey away, in Chungking, a depressing fever-stricken city where the sun is never seen from November to June, and blazes with unendurable fierceness from July to October. In England he was full of strength and vigour, fond of boating and a good lawn-tennis player. In China he is always ill, anaemic, wasted, and dyspeptic, constantly subject to low forms of fever, and destitute of appetite. But more agonising than his bad health is the horrible reality of the unavailing sacrifice he is making - no converts but "outcasts subsidised to forsake their family altars"; no reward but the ultimate one which his noble self-devotion is laying up for himself in Heaven. No man with a healthy brain can discern "Blessing" in the work of these two missionaries, nor be blind to the fact that it is the reverse of worshipful to return effusive thanks to the great Almighty, "who yearns over the Chinese, His lost ones," for "vouchsafing the abundant mercies" of a harvest of six doubtful converts as the work of three missionaries for three years.

There are 180,000 people in Suifu, and, as is the case with Chinese cities, a larger area than that under habitation is occupied by the public graveyard outside the city, which covers the hill slopes for miles and miles. The number of opium-smokers is so large that the question is not, who does smoke opium, but who doesn't. In the mission street alone, besides the Inland Mission, the Buddhist Temple, Mohammedan Mosque, and Roman Catholic Mission, there are eight opium-houses. Every bank, silk shop, and hong, of any pretension whatever, throughout the city, has its opium-room, with the lamp always lit ready for the guest. Opium-rooms are as common as smoking rooms are with us. A whiff of opium rather than a nip of whisky is the preliminary to business in Western China.

An immensely rich city is Suifu with every advantage of position, on a great waterway in the heart of a district rich in coal and minerals and inexhaustible subterranean reservoirs of brine. Silks and furs and silverwork, medicines, opium and whitewax, are the chief articles of export, and as, fortunately for us, Western China can grow but little cotton, the most important imports are Manchester goods.

Szechuen is by far the richest province of the eighteen that constitute the Middle Kingdom. Its present Viceroy, Liu, is a native of Anhwei; he is, therefore, a countryman of Li Hung Chang to whom he is related by marriage, his daughter having married Li Hung Chang's nephew. Its provincial Treasurer is believed to occupy the richest post held by any official in the empire. It is worth noticing that the present provincial Treasurer, Kung Chao-yuan, has just been made (1894) Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Norway, and one can well believe how intense was his chagrin when he received this appointment from the "Imperial Supreme" compelling him, as it did, to forsake the tombs of his ancestors - to leave China for England on a fixed salary, and vacate the most coveted post in the empire, a post where the opportunities of personal enrichment are simply illimitable.

In Suifu there are two magistrates, both with important yamens. The Fu magistrate is the "Father of the City," the Hsien magistrate is the "Mother of the City;" and the "Mother of the City" largely favours the export opium trade. When Protestant missionaries first came to the city in 1888 and 1889 there was little friendliness shown to them. Folk would cry after the missionary, "There goes the foreigner that eats children," and children would be hurriedly hidden, as if from fear. These taunts were at first disregarded. But there came a time when living children were brought to the mission for sale as food; whereupon the mission made formal complaint in the yamen, and the Fu at once issued a proclamation checking the absurd tales about the foreigners, and ordering the citizens, under many pains and penalties, to treat the foreigners with respect. There has been no trouble since, and, as we walked through the crowded streets, I could see nothing but friendly indifference. Reference to this and other sorrows is made in the missionary's report to China's Millions, November, 1893: -

"Soon after this trial had passed away (the rumours of baby eating), still more painful internal sorrow arose. One of the members, who had been baptised three years before and had been useful as a preacher of the Gospel, fell into grievous sin, and had to be excluded from Church fellowship. Then a little later a very promising inquirer, who had been cured of opium-smoking and appeared to be growing in grace, fell again under its power. While still under a cloud he was suddenly removed during the cholera visitation."

The China Inland Mission has pleasant quarters close under the city wall. Their pretty chapel opens into the street, and displays prominently the proclamation of the Emperor concerning the treaty rights of foreign missionaries. Seven children, all of whom are girls, are boarded on the premises, and are being brought up as Christians. They are pretty, bright children, the eldest, a girl of fourteen, particularly so. All are large-footed, and they are to be married to Christian converts. When this fact becomes known it is hoped that more young Chinamen than at present may be emulous to be converted. All seven are foundlings from Chungking where, wrapped in brown paper, they were at different times dropped over the wall into the Mission compound. They have been carefully reared by the Mission.

At the boys' school fifty smart boys, all heathens, were at their lessons. They were learning different subjects, and were teaching their ears the "tones" by reading at the top of their voices. The noise was awful. None but a Chinese boy could study in such a din. In China, when the lesson is finished, the class is silent; noise, therefore, is the indication of work in a Chinese school - not silence.

The schoolmaster was a ragged-looking loafer, dressed in grey. He was in mourning, and had been unshaven for forty-two days in consequence of the death of his father. This was an important day of mourning, because on this day, the forty-second after his death, his dead father became, for the first time, aware of his own decease. A week later, on the forty-ninth day, the funeral rites would cease.