|Mrs. Bishop “found the people a quiet, law-abiding peasantry, only anxious to reap the fruits of their labor in peace. A more thrifty, sober und industrious population could not be found.” – The article below from 1900, on “Chinese Characteristics,” showed that even the humblest of Chinese were well versed in their country’s manners and customs at the dawn of the 20th century. In 105 years’ time, the Chinese public was studying Western-etiquette in preparation for the Beijing Olympics. For more on the early 21st C. push by the Chinese to learn Western manners and etiquette, read the Etiquipedia post here|
Mrs. J. F. Bishop, F.R.G.S., the author of several works on the Far East, lectured at Exeter Hall, Strand, on “China and the Chinese.” Mrs. Bishop has traveled for two years, generally alone, through the most remote regions of the Celestial empire, without being molested. She found the people a quiet, law-abiding peasantry, only anxious to reap the fruits of their labor in peace. A more thrifty, sober und industrious population could not be found. In China, contracts with foreigners are always kept; Mrs. Bishop’s coolies and boatmen, although haggling much before making a bargain, never once failed to carry it out. This was largely due to the influence of the great guilds in which all sections of the people united, and which were admirably managed.
These guilds were most powerful in protecting their members, and even the throne would hesitate to provoke their opposition. The country was the most democratic in the world, learning being the one avenue to promotion. Chinese charities were remarkable. The educational charities, burial and clothing societies, winter soup kitchens, and the lifeboat service in the rapid rivers were most admirable. The Chinese were horrified at the want of reverence and politeness of foreigners, and at the familiarity of children to their parents. When they asked a foreigner, “What do you allow your parents?” and the reply was, “Nothing,” they looked on him almost as a reptile. Chinese etiquette was complex, and was a part of their religion, but it was right in the main, and they were alienated by what they thought the rudeness of the foreigner.
Some missionaries studied and carried out the native etiquette, but others, especially Americans, ignored it, and greatly shocked the people. Some American lady missionaries, by wearing birds or reptiles in their hats, and close-fitting dresses, which the Chinese regarded as contrary to propriety, caused the greatest offense. So complex was the etiquette of the Chinese that there were five rules to be observed in getting into a sedan chair, and once, when Mrs. Bishop forgot one of these, her bearers went and made sacrifices on her behalf at their own expense! —London News, 1900
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