CHINA 463. The people speak disrespectfully of the Chinese because they have yellow skins, slanting eyes, and do not do things in our way. Persons who speak thus do not know enough about China. The Chinese are the oldest nation in the world. For hundreds of years before there were any white people in America, the Chinese were doing many things that we have only recently learned to do. They invented printing and gunpowder and made compasses long before America was discovered, and before white men knew about any of these things. Millions of Chinese could read and write when our ancestors knew nothing of books.
We would find it a much harder task to learn to read and write Chinese than English. We have twenty-six letters in our alphabet, and we use the letter c to help spell ever so many words such as cow, cat, or coat. But the Chinese have a sign for each word: thus, instead of learn ing twenty-six letters, Chinese children have to learn the signs for all of the words in the Chinese language. What a job! It is so much work to learn these word signs that the Chinese have recently decided to write with letters as we do, so they have made a new alphabet with thirty-nine letters.
For hundreds of years the students in the higher Chinese schools have studied the writings of a Chinese wise man named Confucius. He lived 2700 years before the time of Christ. The students have examinations to see if they have learned well the writings of Confucius, and those who pass may be appointed to high offices in the government. The son of the poorest Man may win in these exam inations and rise to high pcsition.
It seems to us that the Chinese do many things back ward. When one Chinaman meets another, he shakes his own hands. Men do the wash ing; girls run the boats. The lines of their writing begin at the top of the page and read down, instead of across; and the first line is at the right side of the page instead of at the left. They eat with chop sticks instead of forks. But they think we do things back ward, and they know that they have had their ways longer than we have had our ways.
The Chinese have been in one place such a long time, and have done everything so many times during so many years, that they have come to a certain way of doing every thing, and it is very hard for them to change. They are a people of much ceremony and great politeness.
For a very long time, they would have nothing to do with strangers and would not even let them travel in their country.
But China is now beginning to change, just as Japan has changed. Young China men are going to American and to English colleges. For a long time we had nothing that the Chinese wanted to buy; so they were not anxious to trade with us. Now they want our cotton cloth, our oil for their lamps, and our machines for their fac tories. They have telegraph lines, and are beginning to build railroads and steam boats. China, the oldest of the nations, is becoming a progressive one.
For many centuries China had an em peror who lived at Peking, the capital, and sent a governor to each of many provinces somewhat like our states. A few years ago, China became a republic, in which women, as well as men, can vote.
The Chinese belong to the Mongolian or Yellow race, as do the Japanese. These two peoples are very much alike. China has nearly twice as many people as all' North and South America.
464. The great plain of China.—Much of China is a low plain, formed by earth washed down from the mountains. Like the Mississippi delta, it is rich and level. In summer, there is much rain, which gives plenty of moisture at a time when there is also heat enough to cause big crops to grow. Sometimes the rains are even too heavy, and the rivers overflow and drown thou sands of people.
On the wide plains of China, one may see thousands of villages, hun dreds of towns and cities, and millions of people raising rice, tea, mulberry trees, corn, beans, and sweet potatoes. There is not room enough on the little farms for many animals. So, to get meat, the people catch fish in the canals and rivers and raise many chickens and ducks.