Warner collection Ferguson After 40 years
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After Forty Years
Dr. John Calvin Ferguson (1865-1945) was a long-time friend and correspondent of Gertrude, and an old China hand. An American missionary, Ferguson went to China in 1887. He became important in the Chinese government, advising on trade and foreign relations. He served as president of Nanking University, gave his own art collection as the foundation of a new museum for the Republic of China, and published several books on Chinese art. Ferguson acted as Gertrude's agent in Asia, purchasing and shipping items for her, and came to Eugene to consult. He published two Shanghai newspapers, the Sin Wan Pao and the Shanghai Times.
After Forty Years is an essay Ferguson wrote to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of his arrival in China. The Peking Leader reprinted the article in a pamphlet, No. 34 in a reprint series. The pamphlet is part of the Museum of Art archives, #10,117, Box 4. Ferguson was actively engaged with the Chinese government through its many incarnations from Empire to Republic and beyond, and this essay provides an interesting summary of his experiences and expectations in 1927. See also his earlier letter.
A Distinguished Forty Years
The Leader counts it a privilege to publish today, the fortieth anniversary of his arrival in China, the article elsewhere on this page by Dr. John C. Ferguson. Dr. Ferguson is well known in Peking and in China, but it may not be out of place, for the sake of recent arrivals, to give the following brief and skeletonal summary of his career from the "Who's Who in America." To fill out this skeleton with the details of the many activities and achievements of this distinguished American would make too long a story for telling here. Let it suffice to say that few Americans have played as intimate or significant a part in developments here in China in the past forty years as Dr. Ferguson.
In conclusion, this from the "Who's Who":
Dr. Ferguson's Record
Ferguson, John Calvin, Chinese Government official; born Ont. Mar 1, 1866. Pres. Nanking U. 1888-97; Pres. Nanyang Coll., Shanghai 1897-1902; sec. Chinese Ministry of Commerce, 1902; chief sec. Imperial Chinese Ry. Administration, 1903-07; foreign advisor to Viceroys of Nanking 1898-1911, and of Wuchang, 1900-10; fgn. sec Ministry of Posts and Communications, Peking, 1911; resigned to devote himself to lit. and art studies; counsellor dept. of state, China, 1915-17; advisor to Pres. of Republic of China since 1917. Chmn Central China Famine Relief Com. 1910-11, raising nearly one million dollars; v.p. Red Cross Society of China,1911, and counsellor same, 1912-22; mem. Chinese Commn. to revise treaties with U.S. and Japan, 1902-03; sent on spl. missions for Chinese Govt. to U.S. 1901, 4, 7, 16, 18, 19, also to 9th Internat. Conv. of Red Cross Socs., Washington, 1912; mem. Cont. on Limitation of Armaments, 1921; pres. Sin Wan Pao, Shanghai (Chinese daily) newspaper since 1899. Propr. Shanghai Times (daily) 1907-11. Held 2nd class button of Chinese Govt.; Order of Double Dragon, 2nd Grade, 3rd Class, under former dynasty; Chevalier d Legion d'Honneur (France); Order of the Sacred Treasure (Japan); Order of St. Anne (Russia); 1st Class Chia-ho order of the Chinese Republic; 2nd class of Wen-hu Order; Order of Merit of the Red Cross Soc. of China, same of Japan; hon. sec. and editor of journal of N. China Royal Asiatic Soc., 1902-11, pres., 1911-12, hon. mem., 1919; editor China Journal of Science and Art since 1923. Trustee Boston U. since 1918; hon. fellow (1923) and fellow in perpetuity (1913) Metropolitan Mus., New York; hon. mem Phi Beta Kappa. Clubs: Century, India House (New York); Peking American (Shanghai). Author: Outlines of Chinese Art; Chinese Mythology.- (The Peking Leader, Oct. 25, 1927.)
AFTER FORTY YEARS
By Dr. John C. Ferguson
On October 25, 1887, I arrived in Shanghai accompanied by my wife.
On the evening of our arrival we took passage on the B.&S. steamer Shanghai, Captain David Martin, for Chinkiang where we were to live for a year as language students until a house was available for us in Nanking. The next autumns we went to Nanking and remained in that city until 1897 when we removed to Shanghai. Our next move was to Peking in 1911 and this has ever since been our home.
These details of personal history are only mentioned for the purpose of stating that my experiences of life in China have been confined to three places, Nanking, Shanghai and Peking, though not infrequently the affairs with which I have been connected have been related to all parts of the country.
Admires China's Inherent Strength
Forty years is a long stretch of time, especially when they have been spent in a foreign country. In my case, these years have been devoted to intimate contacts with all classes of the people of China-literary, agricultural, working and mercantile. It would be presumptuous to claim that even this long period has been sufficient to give me a complete knowledge of the intricacies of the organized life of a nation with such a large extent of territory and such a vast population as China. I have been able to comprehend but little more than the enormity of the problems connected with social life, governmental administration and general progress. I have no panacea for the ills of China but must confess to an increasing admiration for its inherent strength even in the midst of the distressing chaos which now surrounds us.
Just Beginning to Awaken in 1887
In 1887 the giant China was just beginning to stretch its enormous body in the first moments of waking up. It had had little idea of the outside world when it went to war with France in 1884; and ten years later when it fought Japan one of the Nanking generals who went to the front told me with deep conviction of his intention to march his army through Corea [sic] into Japan and exterminate his troublesome enemies. The intervening sea was unknown to him. The process of enlightenments as to Chinas' real place among the nations of the world has been distressingly slow but a comparison of present knowledge with that of forty years ago shows marked change and real improvement. I used to be asked during those first years whether or not we had the same sun and moon as they had in China.
Expected and Found Difficulties
We who came over the seas to China were considered at best to be barbarians in search of the civilizing influences of the Flowery Kingdom. It was taken for granted that we were immoral; otherwise, why would men and women be seen walking on the street arm in arm. Our children were cursed from birth with the devilish marks of blue eyes and fair hair. When we studied the Chinese language it was to learn decorum and moral standards. Our personal teachers even disliked the odor of our bodies, though on our part we were trying to catch our breath among the stifling air produced by the warmth of their bodies enveloped in wadded garments. As my friend Brodie Clark once remarked to me we who came to China in those days expected opposition and discomfort and we were not disappointed. We knew that our lot was then even better than had been that of our predecessors in the factories or in the Five Open Ports.
Distrust Replaced by Understanding
We foreigners have not been popular in China for the last year or two and some have suffered the loss of their homes and businesses. Many of these have longed for the good old days of the Empire,
"A jolly place" said he, "in times of old
But something ails it now; the spot is cursed."
Bad as things have unquestionably been along the Yangtze these many months I saw them in the same condition in 1891 when there was an orgy of burning and looting by the Ko Lao Hui and this had been preceded by the burning of the British and American Consulates in Chinkiang in the winter of 1888-89. One does not become callous in the midst of the present distress of one's friends nor would I add one word to condone the ruthlessness of recent outrages; I am only concerned in pointing out that disorders were not unknown to us of an earlier generation. It should also be remembered that whereas the opposition to foreigners in those days was true relic of the real opinion of the people, the recent persecution has been political propaganda for partisan purposes. Keeping this fact in mind it must be recognized that there has been during the last forty years distinct improvement in the relations between China and outside nations. Superstitious distrust has been replaced by a more intelligent understanding, even though sometimes this understanding has been tainted by political prejudice.
Many Changes toward Modernization
China is being modernized. Forty years ago there were but few river and coast steamers, no launches in inland waters, no telephones, no postal service; telegraphic communication between Shanghai and the north of China had only recently been established; there were no railways with the exception of the short line at Lutai which Mr. Kinder had under construction and the military railway in Formosa built from the refuse of the defunct Shangha-Woosung line. At Nanking we had a local post office which functioned twice a week. There were no roads, only country paths. In the cities the streets were filthy; in Peking they were series of cess-pools and bogs. In the autumn of 1898 it took me four hours in a sedan chair to make a call upon Dr. Martin in the West City of Peking-a distance which would now require not much more than twenty minutes each way by ricksha. In 1887 the Yung Wing Educational Mission to America with its one hundred and twenty students had recently been recalled and the young men had been distributed as suspects to various unimportant posts. It was to the lasting credit of the sound through uncompleted training these youths had received in America that such a large proportion of them finally emerged from the humiliating positions to which they had been assigned and attained positions of dignity and responsibility. One of the young men in the joyous excitement of seeing his parents after an absence of many years attempted to kiss his mother as he had seen American boys do in such circumstances and received stern reproval; for his unfilial conduct. Physical conditions, social surroundings, intellectual outlook among the peoples of the cities of China have all undergone tremendous changes during these years of my life in China. It is vain to enquire whether these changes have been for the better or for worse; it is enough to recognize that they have been inevitable. It is futile to sit on the seashore and discuss the advantages or otherwise of a rising tide.
Changes by Social Strata
The gradual emergence of different grades in social development is one of the most interesting features that I have witnessed. With the exception of the few isolated cases of persons who had been abroad for study or on business, the whole population forty years ago was willingly ignorant of the rest of the world. At the present time though the peasant population has been aroused only to a certain extent by the number of farmer boys who have been taken into one or other of the armies and have thus had a chance of seeing something of their own country with its railways, electric lights, motor cars and steamboats, yet the general mass of the agrarian classes remains as bound to the soil as its has always been., But in the cities in every part of the country there have been great changes; and these have been most apparent in the parts where foreign trade flourishes. In these cities one may meet young men and women who are living in the Utopia of their own imaginings-a socialistic heaven where nothing enters that can defile or produce unhappiness. Others are living in an up-to-date England, France, Japan or America and make all their mental comparisons between China as it now exists and what it will be when it adopts the political formulae of their favorite country. Others are living in the times of the American or the French revolution. Many of the old scholarly class are still living in the age of the Book of Changes. One of the most prominent military leaders has spent his leisure for years in studying the philosophy of the Tao Te King and the military wisdom of Sun tzu.
Difficult to Generalize or Cure Ills
This division of the people into the strata of Utopia, 20th century, 18th century, Middle Ages and the Golden Age make it difficult to generalize concerning present-day China. It also complicates the problem of finding a solution for the ills of the country since it is evident that what would suit the devotees of Utopia or the Golden Age is not applicable to the revolutionary stage of China's development or to its conversion into the type of a modern western nation. Unquestionably in places like Shanghai or Tientsin there is a large class of well-educated young men and women who are well qualified to take over the responsibility of participation in municipal government , but it must also be recognized that the mass of the population even of these advanced places should not be expected to undertake such such a task. This is only mentioned as an illustration of the striking variety of class distinction at the present time in comparison with the uniformity of forty years ago.
These distinctions are an evidence of progress even though they may often stand in the way of smooth administration. The problem created by them is how the necessary connection can be made between this well trained modern class and the untrained mass of the people so that the strong may be willing to carry the burdens of the weak. Otherwise despotism or oligarchy are the only possible remedies.
Splitting Up China Impossible
China's size and large population are her protection as well as her problem. She cannot be sliced up as a melon-a fate which she feared after the awful events of 1900, for the good reason, she knows, that the great Powers could not agree upon the size of the piece due to each one. Furthermore she cannot split herself up into several groups of regional governments. This has already been tried and has been proved even more destructive even than attempts to bring about unity by armed force. Each group as soon as it gets settled safely in one region becomes aggressive, and casts covetous eyes upon adjoining territory. The problem would be fairly easy if there could be a division into North-east, North-west, South-east and South-west, with two or three Yangtse groups; but such a condition is as impossible as to bring them all together under a unified central government.
Distinctions Based on Manner of Life
The class distinctions of forty years ago were those of official rank or scholarly prestige. Now they are based to a large extent on manner of life and thought. One must be modern, progressive, liberal or radical in order to be in the front rank. Conservatism is a deadly sin, while to act like one of the old fashioned official class is to make oneself a laughing-stock. The present social customs in the relations of the men and women of this generation shock their parents and would have paralysed their grandparents. The changes that have occurred have all been in the direction of adopting the customs of the western world. It might therefore be considered certain that I should consider them to be steps in advance and I should surely do so if they did not involved in so many instances a sharp separation from the mass of the Chinese people.
Some of this new class speak of the non-progressive portion of the people as "the Chinese." They themselves live abroad or in the Open Ports where they can pass the time in the ways to which they have grown accustomed. They would be miserable if they tried to live in their ancestral homes in country villages or inland towns. They are a city class; but the masses of China are in the country. How can this progressive class keep in touch with the slow going country class and patiently lead it toward a better existence? This is the real problem of present-day China.
Co-operation Succeeded in Japan
I well remember a conservation with the Marquis Ito in 1902 when we were fellow passengers from Genoa to Shanghai. He was returning to Japan after having negotiated the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. He asked me one day what part of the great changes in Japan had most impressed me and I replied that is was the way in which a small group of men like himself had been able to carry the deadweight of Japan's Ignorant population on their shoulders and to land them successfully in a new era. Marquis Ito remarked that it could only have been accomplished by the closest cooperation among members of the group and unremitting efforts to keep in touch with the common people. Every advance in political achievement was accomplished by a betterment of the condition of the masses.
Paralysis of Disunion
And here I must confess to a grievous disappointment. As the modern educated class was gradually emerging, I cherished the hope that they would form a solid group, united in opposition to the prevalent ills of their country, but in this I have been disappointed. For instance, I have seen the Foreign Office pass gradually into the control of what came to be known as the Wai Chiao Hai--a group of well-educated men of the younger generation. The older generation of officials was eliminated and young men of wider vision took their places. At the close of the great War they held together and put up a good fight for China at the Paris Conference. By the time of the Washington Conference disunion had begun to creep into their ranks and now the group has already been supplanted by a new order. These have been the Communications Group-Chiao T'ung Hsi; the Liberal Group-Tsing Pu Tang; the Parliamentary Group and the Kuomintang, but on each and all of them the paralysis of disunion has fallen.
Due to Lack of Experience
In my opinion this inability to work together is not a natural defect in the mentality of the Chinese but can be put down to a lack of experience in modern political methods. All the traditions of the old system of government to which China was accustomed were based on control and not upon consultation. In a Republic there must be tolerance of the opinion of others and constant compromise so as to reach a decision to which all can agree. I am aware that this type of political wisdom can not be obtained for the asking; it can only be developed by experience. Nevertheless I had hoped that the Wai Chiao Hai was qualified to set the first example of group effort and tolerant agreement but in this I was unfortunately mistaken. No matter how long it takes, however, the more enlightened part of China's population must come to agreement on a common policy for progressive action, and must then take upon itself the burden of lifting up of the mass of the people to a higher level. Sooner of later some single leader or some small compact body must arise which can weld this enlightened group into a solid organization but until this time comes, there can be no solution of the country's problems.
Remarkable Growth of National Feeling
I have observed during these years a remarkable growth of national feeling in China. This is evident in financial matters as may be seen in the use of the dollar currency in place of the earlier cumbersome system of ounce weights of silver; in the Post Office with its system of Savings Banks, but chiefly in all matters connected with foreign relations. There is one outstanding national policy to which all parties agree and that is the regaining of full sovereign rights-territorial, judicial, economic and industrial. This unanimity in respect to foreign policy has not yet been able to command enough enthusiastic support to make to a rallying point around which parties would drop all lesser issues but it could develop at any moment more than enough strength to make impossible any new encroachment. Any aggression in any part would have an immediate repercussion throughout the whole country. This is the sign of returning self-respect.
More Education Needed
Fully and reservedly I believe in education as the greatest need of China and I may further say that I have no fault to find with the education, governmental or private, that has already been given to Chinese youth except that there has not been enough of it. Those of us who have been teachers have taught what we ourselves had studied in our home lands and had learned to cherish as truth. I may ask, what else should we have taught? If as a result of our teaching there had not been generated in the minds of our pupils desire for a better country with better laws, better government, better social order, better economic conditions and a better knowledge of outside nations, of what use would our teaching have been? Dare anyone rise up to say that we should not have taught the truth as it was given to us to see it?
It is the vogue at the present time to lay all China's ills at the door of education. It is rightly said that if these young men and women had not been educated on modern lines in the new schools of China or by residence abroad we should not have had the present political chaos. This statement is based upon the theory that it is only necessary to keep people ignorant in order to make it easy to govern them. I do not believe in the truth of this theory as a theory and even if I did I would not subscribe to it for I am in opposition to all attempts to govern China with outside force.
China must govern herself and must control her own destiny; the surest and quickest way for her to be able;e to do so is through the education of leaders who will in turn train the masses. As compared with spectacular revolutions or military campaigns this is a slow process but it is the only one which promises permanency of results.
China Will Emerge
I have already written at too great length but I cannot close without expressing again my conviction that China will eventually emerge from its present condition and become an orderly self-governed nation.
This is my belief even in the face of the present chaos of military oppression, party corruption, loose social morals and etiolated pessimism. The process will take a long time and will prove to be a severe strain upon the patient forbearance of the outside world. It can be facilitated by wise counsels and enlightened leadership and it can be seriously retarded by prolonged internal disorders but sooner or later China will learn to develop orderly government on modern lines. Instead of being a ward of the Great Powers she will become one of them. Sloth, avarice, pride and deceit may delay but cannot prevent this outcome, for the Chinese people have in themselves sufficient mental and moral equipment to overcome those evils and to solve their own problems.