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House of Commons with a quotation from Cicero, and yet governed the country well, so these masters of logomachy, these unrivalled writers of despatches, have showed true talent for carrying on municipal and political affairs.
In theory there is in China no barrier between the poorest student and the highest office. The clever boy is trained in the village school; if he show talent the family are proud to labor that he may continue to study under the best teacher available. He thus becomes one of the body of "book-conners," some two millions strong, who have devoted themselves to literature. Year by year the government examinations take place all over the empire; the district and county examinations are the first tests, and, should he be of the one per cent. or so who satisfy, he is decorated with the title of "Budding Talent." His district officials and gentry now subscribe to help him to pursue his studies; in all the larger towns there are colleges with scholarships in the form of prizes on bi-monthly examinations, and with this and other help readily offered to deserving talent, together with his own earnings from teaching or writing, the student is able to present himself for the triennial provincial examination. In the province of Hupeh, of which the writer has most intimate knowledge, out of fifteen thousand candidates sixty-six obtain the second degree," Deserving of Promotion." The survivor of such an ordeal may well be thus described; the whole province rings with his name, his village is honored, and his reflected glory at once raises his family to a proud pre-eminence over its neighbors.
He is now eligible for office, but as he is naturally desirous of higher academic distinction, all with whom the hero has any acquaintance are expected to subscribe towards the expense of his travel to Peking for the contest of the metropolitan degree. Here the picked graduates of the eighteen provinces compete, and a small percentage gain the next step of the "Scholar entering on Office." From these again are selected a small number by the emperor himself for the "Forest of Pencils" or Imperial Academy, the cream after four successive skimmings of the literary milk of the empire.
The road thus marked out from the village school to the Academy is clear and open. There are whispers of bribery, but collusion in the bestowal of a degree is a capital offence, and for practical purposes, as a general rule, we may regard the vari
ous tests as applied without fear or favor. Yet even thus we see that, as in the West, at the various stages a good deal of money is needed, while the actual entrance into office as distinct from degree is always blocked by obstacles similar but more serious. The members of the Academy are all occupied in the capital with literary undertakings of the State, whence they emerge should they wish it, as higher officials. Ordinarily the possessors of the second and third degrees either become proctors or professors in the management of the literary curriculum of the empire, or else they enter the ranks of "expectant officials." State registers are kept in Peking on which the name of all eligible and waiting for office are (for a good fee) recorded. Each man is assigned to a particular province and sent to await his turn for a magistracy. It is significant of knowledge of human nature, that in a land where clan-feeling is so strong nobody is allowed to take office in his own province, and relationship is not allowed between the high mandarins. The golden gates of office are, however, by no means open yet; the great difficulties are still to come. The hero of a hundred competitions of the past now finds himself one of a great company, perhaps two or three thousand in number, ail impotent and all awaiting the moving of the water in the official pool. Examination is not the only road to office. Poverty of the imperial exchequer has from time to time led to the institution of a system of purchase of degrees and office. It is a sad flaw in the ideal system, but England's memories of patronage and of purchase in the army are too recent for us to throw the first stone, especially while the right of presentation to livings in the Church is still purchased by good men with the approbation of society. The first degree (Budding Talent) costs one hundred taels or ounces of silver (about £25); such graduates by purchase are eligible for higher degrees. Clerks in civil and military service are through the influence of their chiefs entered after a while on the list of expectant officials. Large charities for the relief of flood or famine are rewarded by official rank, which may be purely honorary, or may be the stepping stone to high position. More. over there is a fixed tariff for the direct purchase of office. Before the T'ai Ping Rebellion the price of a district magistracy was ten thousand taels (£2,500), since then it has been reduced to three thousand (£750). It is a curious item of tithing mint and anise and cummin that a grad
uate in this transaction would pay eight | mandarin who had to take to angling for a taels less, a graduate by purchase one livelihood; the fortune-teller who was rehundred and eight less, because they have called in frantic haste from his street stall, already disbursed that amount in fees on "Your excellency, come home, your tablet taking their degrees. Candidates from is hung" i.e., you are appointed a magisall these sources now take up their dwell-trate and the like. In several proving in the provincial capitals in "expec- inces there is a certain amount distributed tancy." The graduate is engulfed amongst at New Year time to poor officials in sums them; on a rough estimate of every ten of from four to a hundred taels under the who actually take office, four win their name of coal money. rank by services in clerkships, four by purchase, and two by examination!
In ordinary speech China is known as the Eighteen Provinces. Recent addition and re-arrangement have actually altered the number, but the number eighteen is as persistent as the little maiden's "We are seven." These provinces have separate governments of their own; each pair or trio has a viceroy, each province a governor, judge, treasurer, literary chancellor, and from four to ten "intendants of circuit"- these are the high officials. Besides these the empire is divided into more than eighteen hundred counties and districts, each of which has its magistrate; subordinate to these are a corresponding number of assistants in fiscal, literary, statistical, police, and other departments. It is these offices which are the goal of the Chinese student's ambition. We do not here speak of the military hierarchy, for the soldier in China is a man of brute strength, rude and unlettered, and entirely looked down upon by his cultured brethren of the pencil.
The nearest Western parallel is the waiting for practice after being called to the bar. The moral effect is not hard to guess. The darling of the family, for whose hopes the household has pinched and starved, the pride of the village for whom the local gentry have subscribed, has exhausted all his means of support in the long struggle; probably he is in debt for his initial expenses. His hopes are now absolutely an influence, and the many mouths of his own family (he marries at twenty), and of the large household he is obliged to keep up, lead him to abject sycophancy to those in high place, a careful observance of their whims and caprices, a playing the part of jackal in general to the local lions. Probably he borrows, and where interest is three per cent. per month, woe to him who enters a debtor's toils. It must be said, however, that the Chinamen take to debt very kindly, and it is gravely doubted whether there exists one man who is not in debt to some one else.
After a longer or shorter period of his life he probably gets an acting appointThe expectant, on arrival at his provin- ment for a year, and then, if he is lucky, cial capital, reports himself to the higher he "hangs his tablet "- he is appointed authorities, on whom now depend all his to a district magistracy. What now is the hopes. He hires a house, rides out in a golden prize for which so many toils have special sort of chair, with three bearers, been undertaken, so many prívations unand sits down with his mouth open, await- dergone? The income is from six huning the plum which Providence, in the dred to twelve hundred taels (£150 to shape of the viceroy, will drop into it. £300) a year. The emperor in these bad Twelve times a month he has to keep him-times deducts thirty or forty per cent. self in evidence by calling three times on from this meagre allowance! Still, in a each of the four highest mandarins. In land where the ordinary currency is a coin their gift are many temporary offices the escort of treasure, the maintenance of public buildings, the examination of customs stations, and other posts. A capable expectant is glad to get these odds and ends to eke out a living. He is absolutely without other emolument, and will have to wait some years at least, perhaps ten, twenty, thirty, or even a lifetime, before the longed-for office becomes his own. Every one in a Chinese capital knows not a few who have waited with sickening hopes as the years rolled by, and never entered on office at all. Chinese dinnertables are full of anecdotes of such the
in value about the twenty-fifth of a penny, and where a graduate teacher is comfortably off on 16 a year, a man might live decently on this income, if he got it. Alas! he has to engage a head clerk, whom he must feed, and to whom he must give a salary exactly equivalent to his own, with two or three more junior clerks at lower salaries. But there are many other claims on the resources of an official, which might fairly be considered as charges on public funds, but, having grown up by custom, they are not assigned to specified heads, and are simply charged to him as an individual. The fees of the
higher officials, all at regularly understood | higher offices are the means of great 553 rates, the entertainment of journeying wealth. The viceroy has an assigned inmandarins and travellers with government come of £3,750 (reduced thirty or forty passes, the support of colleges and poor per cent.), together with some tons of rice. students, all these have to be attended to. This latter, as in the case of his subordiMoreover, the ordinary term, " Father-and-nates and their proportionate allowances, Mother Mandarin," is not a complete is never seen by the officials; the whole is misnomer, for, in addition to parental chas- withdrawn on the plea of fines for omistisement, the official acknowledges and sion of duty. Yet the viceroy is able to discharges the duty of the distribution of make, should he desire it, an income of food and clothes in times of distress, and £40,000 a year, or even more. has to deal with a thousand other calls to have some reserve, for on being sumHe needs besides. one term of office, or the commencement moned to audience on the completion of of another, he is not allowed to enter the gates of Peking until he has been fleeced of a sum proportioned to his wealth, in some cases amounting to as much as £20,000, for the benefit of the highly dignified but poorly paid imperial officers.
In face of such claims, what wonder is it that all means are resorted to, not only to cover actual drain, but to repay the heavy investment of many years of study, poverty, debt, and deferred hope? The mandarin recognizes the fact that he is not expected to live on his income, and that he has to make the money up from somewhere else; no source being officially assigned, he has to manipulate the public funds in fact, to Anglo-Chinese term, to squeeze. use the expressive heavily in debt; he will have to retire He is from his incumbency in three years to return to the capital in expectancy; should his father or mother die, his filial piety stimulated by the penalty of permanent loss of place would necessitate his retiring from official status for three years. What is he to do? To put the fact in plain English, the Chinese government forces its mandarins to be dishonest men. Rather, let us say, that in place of sufficient income a system of perquisites is instituted, most pernicious to the government and the official, suggesting direct dishonesty; but that these perquisites are so regularly recognized that the man who is moderate in the use of them is honest, and that there is established an honesty within a dishonesty, a penumbra within the umbra of the eclipse of straightforwardness.
make bricks without straw, and the result The government thus bids its bondsmen is, as of old, that they are scattered over all the land seeking for straw in other which must produce immoral servants. men's fields an immoral government The style of thought and morality thus brought about in the mandarins themranks of their attendants. selves is reproduced through all the lower regular paid clerks there are a number of Beside the dependents who draw no incomes, but are permanently attached to the yamen (i.e., magistrate's court), and hand down the office eagerly and jealously from father to son. £700 or £800 a year, down to the runFrom the apparitor, who will make ners, whose work it is to apprehend or bamboo offenders against justice, all live comfortable lives on the proceeds of the people's lawsuits. In the yamen of the largest district in one great city we know well there are no less than eighteen hundred of these blood-suckers. This number is very much larger than in the other It is obvious that the experiment pays, the city, the leech process for the whole districts, yet as there are fifty yamens in for to "be a mandarin " is the aim held area is tolerably severe. up before every Chinese boy; a button is to the yamen is broad, the exit narrow," "The entrance the object of his dreams, and year by year says the proverb. Should a man lay an the road to office is strewn with the car-information against another he has to pay cases of those that fall by the way. The best district magistracy in this neighborhood is supposed to yield £10,000 a year net profit; in the district containing the provincial capital the magistrate is just able to make both ends meet; some years ago his year's occupancy would have led to a dead loss of some £3,000 or £4,000, yet it is a post eagerly coveted, because it is the necessary road to the higher offices of prefect and intendant. Nearly all the
fees, which are divided in definite proportions from the magistrate downwards; the runners go to the accused, and extract money for leaving him alone till their master becomes too pressing, then when they dare leave him alone no more they extract money for the trouble of taking him, extract further money for beating him lightly, and finally, when he is released, extract money for letting him go. The profession of a lawyer- a fomenter of
lawsuits is not looked up to in this country, and a yamen-runner's child is classed with the sons of actors, barbers, and prostitutes, as ineligible for examination and office!
yamen, is such as to justify us in saying that, broadly speaking, and notwithstanding all that we have said, China is certainly the best-governed country in the East. Such is the East.
The exaction of bricks without straw extends to other matters than money. In China everybody is responsible for his neighbor, a system which, with individual injustice, works well for the general preservation of order. A mandarin has before now been dismissed because an unnatural murder has occurred in his district or a subordinate has been guilty of some seri ous lapse, on the ground that such misdoing must be the result of a defective example. The penalty is hard on the mandarin, though the principle itself is not without value as recognizing with grim humor the solidarity of the race. An instance may be given of what appears to be the mere cynical indifference of the hard taskmaster. A prefectural city of some twenty-five thousand inhabitants is twice in three years the rendezvous of ten or twelve thousand undergraduates up for their examination, together with their friends. The prefect and district magistrate are responsible for order, but the available police force is not increased, and the only means of enforcing order attainable is a handful of a score or two of
Another fruitful source of support is the land tax, which goes partly to the imperial exchequer, and partly to the public funds of the neighborhood, a ground tax charged on every piece of land in the empire. When a mandarin enters upon office he needs, say, £1,000; he calls the head publicanus, and receives the sum from him, giving him the receipt bills for the tax for a considerable portion of the district. The head collector gives to his subordinates, and they scatter in search of prey. As an instance, suppose the tax one tael, which in ordinary commerce changes for about fourteen hundred and fifty copper cash. The tax rate of exchange is fixed at twenty-eight hundred or three thousand cash, the balance being divided between the various underlings. If by any chance the bill is not paid one year, the collector does little to jog the memory of the defaulter, but appears next year with the terrors of the law behind him, and makes large demands which the trembling peasant is only too glad to comply with. Should the piece of land be in the country the runner claims "sandal money," "candle money" (for the inns), a sumptuous soldiers partially under their control. meal, etc. If the tax be estimated in kind, the rice which sells at twenty-three cash a bushel is valued at one hundred cash, and a cash commutation insisted on. One man the writer knows, who year by year pays with helpless protest large taxes on a piece of ground devoured by the Yangtsze twenty years ago; all redress is refused on the plea that each subordinate is responsible to his superior for the exact pieces of land on the register!
Thus China lives; thus it comes that to be a yamen-runner is exactly what it was to be a publican in Judæa. An "expect ant" said the other day: "I have determined never to take office; everybody around me would have dirty hands; how could I hope to be clean? An honest mandarin would starve." Of course bitter experience and good sense tend to a large extent towards the cure of all this evil. Where law is such a terror, there are many villages which preserve their prosperity by never going to law. The picture of a prosperous Chinese village, with its body of elders dispensing patriarchal justice, composing quarrels, settling apologies, and even occasionally exercising power of life and death without reference to any
During the examinations of last autumn a rowdy undergraduate became involved in a quarrel, and in his wrath fomented a riot, in which a house was pulled down and some gentlemen roughly handled. The officials, instead of taking the natural course and bringing the bully to justice, temporized, and finally declared their inability to arrest him. The fact was, that any punishment administered to him would have brought his whole clan and all the undergraduates into immediate action, the city would have been in their hands, probably the undergraduates would refuse to be examined, and in that case the mandarin would be dismissed for having managed so badly as to cause them to miss the examination! The district magistrate, a well-meaning old man who tries to do his duty, was absolutely unable to do it be cause he had no means to enforce order. Rare indeed would it have been in any land to find the man with moral courage to do the right in such a case at any cost. But what is the moral character and influence of a system of government, which places its officials in so agonizing a posi tion as this? We are here introduced to a new factor in Chinese government, the
will of the people. A short consideration will justify the claim already put forward, that with all its absolutism, China is an intensely democratic country. Not merely does the son of the peasant sit in the seat of power, but the people, knowing the personal responsibility of the official, sometimes use their power of united action in a wonderful way. Roughly speaking, we may say that when the gentry and people are united firmly, no ordinary mandarin dare go against them. The resulting disturbance would cost him his office! He is a single man, a stranger to the province, and he must and does yield. He often has additional difficulty from the absolute necessity of acting according to the will of his superiors. It is only fair to say that this power of the people waits for provocation before asserting itself, and is on the whole wisely used. But in some points the result is a strange lack of moral courage on the part of the officials. Two instances will suffice.
Some years ago, after deliverance from flood, a snake was found on the banks of the Yellow River, and by cunning priests and superstitious people at once claimed as an incarnation of the Dragon Spirit of the Flood. Li Hung Chang, the most advanced statesman in the empire, by birth | a Confucian and therefore an Agnostic, by training and thought a man of sense and knowledge, yet went to bow down to this wretched little snake. "How could he incur in the people's minds the odium of risking misfortune for them by lack of courtesy to the spirit?"
In Wuchang, Chang Chih Tung recently turned aside from his great schemes of iron works and cloth factory, mines and railways, to pray for rain before an idol. He no more believes in the idol than a Christian does, but the people do, and he would greatly enrage them if he did not act as their intercessor. Although all meat was forbidden, and the people were fasting, the rain yet delayed; the lower officials pointed out that it was undignified for a viceroy to pray day by day without answer, and offered to act as his deputies! After a few days half an hour's rain fell, and, though this was followed by another drought, honor was satisfied, credit saved, prayer ceased, and meat was once more eaten. This game of hide and seek with the unseen powers is merely state-craft; the high official laughs in his capacious sleeve, but he sees no need to stir up discontent by lack of a little complaisance, for he is held responsible by the central government. Many an official, notwith
standing light and knowledge, is obliged by the State to conduct the official worship of gods "of the city" and "of the county;" he does not believe it, but religion is one of the duties of State, and must be fulfilled, even if idolatrous.
Finally, all this has a marked influence on public good faith and national development. We are constantly face to face with the fact that the Chinese government will not allow any great commercial enterprise to be undertaken, save under official directorate, and that the Chinese people will not invest money in enterprises which are thus directed. They know only too well that the mandarin will secure himself from loss, will have his first pickings, and that his nominees and dependents will be employed in order that they may take their pickings too. Witness the China Merchants' Company for river and coast navigation, which, with every help from State funds, is encumbered through and through with hordes of parasites, who eat up its dividends. Railways and other schemes are kept under government control, and merchants will decline to invest as long as this is the law.
Any system tending towards greater centralization is fought tooth and nail by the whole official class. The telegraph has during the last four years reduced the distant viceroys from semi-independence to servile waiting on the beck and call of the throne; the imperial maritime customs department, manned by foreigners, has taken large sums free from the handling of the local mandarins and announced the amounts direct to the imperial treasury. The outraged mandarin sees the hated foreign devil drawing his income monthly, and never a cash beside, and he yearns regretfully for the bygone time when that foreigner's income with a good percentage of the sums he announces to Peking remained in his own pockets. No wonder the Chinese official hates Western improvements; he has everything to lose and nothing to gain. His patriotism, of which there is an embryo kernel in the shape of overweening pride, cannot soar to the height of the country's gain at his own expense, it is simply a question as to whether the emperor or he shall make more money.
Such are a few of the moral traits of Chinese official life. The prime fault is in the government. When every official has an income enough to live on, when his subordinates are all paid and his runners dismissed, when public opinion is strength. ened by new sanctions giving potency and