Friday, August 29, 2008

Farmers of Forty Centuries Some Customs Of The Common People


The Tosa Maru brought us again into Shanghai March 20th, just in time for the first letters from home. A ricksha man carried us and our heavy valise at a smart trot from the dock to the Astor House more than a mile, for 8.6 cents, U. S. currency, and more than the conventional price for the service rendered. On our way we passed several loaded carryalls of the type seen in Fig. 61, on which women were riding for a fare one-tenth that we had paid, but at a slower pace and with many a jolt.
The ringing chorus which came loud and clear when yet half a block away announced that the pile drivers were still at work on the foundation for an annex to the Astor House, and so were they on May 27th when we returned from the Shantung province, 88 days after we saw them first, but with the task then practically completed. Had the eighteen men labored continuously through this interval, the cost of their services to the contractor would have been but $205.92. With these conditions the engine-driven pile driver could not compete. All ordinary labor here receives a low wage. In the Chekiang province farm labor employed by the year received $30 and board, ten years ago, but now is receiving $50. This is at the rate of about $12.90 and $21.50, gold, materially less than there is paid per month in the United States. At Tsingtao in the Shantung province a missionary was paying a Chinese cook ten dollars per month, a man for general work nine dollars per month, and the cook's wife, for doing the mending and other family service, two dollars per month, all living at home and feeding themselves. This service rendered for $9.03, gold, per month covers the marketing, all care of the garden and lawn as well as all the work in the house. Missionaries in China find such servants reliable and satisfactory, and trust them with the purse and the marketing for the table, finding them not only honest but far better at a bargain and at economical selection than themselves.
We had a soil tube made in the shops of a large English ship building and repair firm, employing many hundred Chinese as mechanics, using the most modern and complex machinery, and the foreman stated that as soon as the men could understand well enough to take orders they were even better shop hands than the average in Scotland and England. An educated Chinese booking clerk at the Soochow railway station in Kiangsu province was receiving a salary of $10.75, gold, per month. We had inquired the way to the Elizabeth Blake hospital and he volunteered to escort us and did so, the distance being over a mile.
He would accept no compensation, and yet I was an entire stranger, without introduction of any kind. Everywhere we went in China, the laboring people appeared generally happy and contented if they have something to do, and showed clearly that they were well nourished. The industrial classes are thoroughly organized, having had their guilds or labor unions for centuries and it is not at all uncommon for a laborer who is known to have violated the rules of his guild to be summarily dealt with or even to disappear without questions being asked. In going among the people, away from the lines of tourist travel, one gets the impression that everybody is busy or is in the harness ready to be busy. Tramps of our hobo type have few opportunities here and we doubt if one exists in either of these countries. There are people physically disabled who are asking alms and there are organized charities to help them, but in proportion to the total population these appear to be fewer than in America or Europe. The gathering of unfortunates and habitual beggars about public places frequented by people of leisure and means naturally leads tourists to a wrong judgment regarding the extent of these social conditions. Nowhere among these densely crowded people, either Chinese, Japanese or Korean, did we see one intoxicated, but among Americans and Europeans many instances were observed. All classes and both sexes use tobacco and the British-American Tobacco Company does a business in China amounting to millions of dollars annually.
During five months among these people we saw but two children in a quarrel. The two little boys were having their trouble on Nanking road, Shanghai, where, grasping each other's pigtails, they tussled with a vengeance until the mother of one came and parted their ways.
Among the most frequent sights in the city streets are the itinerant vendors of hot foods and confections. Stove, fuel, supplies and appliances may all be carried on the shoulders, swinging from a bamboo pole. The mother in Fig. 63 was quite likely thus supporting her family and the children are seen at lunch, dressed in the blue and white calico prints so generally worn by the young. The printing of this calico by the very ancient, simple yet effective method we witnessed in the farm village along the canal seen in Fig. 10. This art, as with so many others in China, was the inheritance of the family we saw at work, handed down to them through many generations. The printer was standing at a rough work bench upon which a large heavy stone in cubical form served as a weight to hold in place a thoroughly lacquered sheet of tough cardboard in which was cut the pattern to appear in white on the cloth. Beside the stone stood a pot of thick paste prepared from a mixture of lime and soy bean flour. The soy beans were being ground in one corner of the same room by a diminutive edition of such an outfit as seen in Fig. 64. The donkey was working in his permanent abode and whenever off duty he halted before manger and feed. At the operator's right lay a bolt of white cotton cloth fixed to unroll and pass under the stencil, held stationary by the heavy weight. To print, the stencil was raised and the cloth brought to place under it. The paste was then deftly spread with a paddle over the surface and thus upon the cloth beneath wherever exposed through the openings in the stencil. This completes the printing of the pattern on one section of the bolt of cloth. The free end of the stencil is then raised, the cloth passed along the proper distance by hand and the stencil dropped in place for the next application. The paste is permitted to dry upon the cloth and when the bolt has been dipped into the blue dye the portions protected by the paste remain white. In this simple manner has the printing of calico been done for centuries for the garments of millions of children. From the ceiling of the drying room in this printery of olden times were hanging some hundreds of stencils bearing different patterns. In our great calico mills, printing hundreds of yards per minute, the mechanics and the chemistry differ only in detail of application and in dispatch, not in fundamental principle.
In almost any direction we traveled outside the city, in the pleasant mornings when the air was still, the laying of warp for cotton cloth could be seen, to be woven later in the country homes. We saw this work in progress many times and in many places in the early morning, usually along some roadside or open place, as seen in Fig. 65, but never later in the day. When the warp is laid each will be rolled upon its stretcher and removed to the house to be woven.
In many places in Kiangsu province batteries of the large dye pits were seen sunk in the fields and lined with cement. These were six to eight feet in diameter and four to five feet deep. In one case observed there were nine pits in the set. Some of the pits were neatly sheltered beneath live arbors, as represented in Fig. 66. But much of this spinning, weaving, dyeing and printing of late years is being displaced by the cheaper calicos of foreign make and most of the dye pits we saw were not now used for this purpose, the two in the illustration serving as manure receptacles. Our interpreter stated however that there is a growing dissatisfaction with foreign goods on account of their lack of durability; and we saw many cases where the cloth dyed blue was being dried in large quantities on the grave lands.
In another home for nearly an hour we observed a method of beating cotton and of laying it to serve as the body for mattresses and the coverlets for beds. This we could do without intrusion because the home was also the work shop and opened full width directly upon the narrow street. The heavy wooden shutters which closed the home at night were serving as a work bench about seven feet square, laid upon movable supports. There was barely room to work between it and the sidewalk without impeding traffic, and on the three other sides there was a floor space three or four feet wide. In the rear sat grandmother and wife while in and out the four younger children were playing. Occupying the two sides of the room were receptacles filled with raw cotton and appliances for the work. There may have been a kitchen and sleeping room behind but no door, as such, was visible. The finished mattresses, carefully rolled and wrapped in paper, were suspended from the ceiling. On the improvised work table, with its top two feet above the floor, there had been laid in the morning before our visit, a mass of soft white cotton more than six feet square and fully twelve inches deep. On opposite sides of this table the father and his son, of twelve years, each twanged the string of their heavy bamboo bows, snapping the lint from the wads of cotton and flinging it broadcast in an even layer over the surface of the growing mattress, the two strings the while emitting tones pitched far below the hum of the bumblebee. The heavy bow was steadied by a cord secured around the body of the operator, allowing him to manage it with one hand and to move readily around his work in a manner different from the custom of the Japanese seen in Fig. 67. By this means the lint was expeditiously plucked and skillfully and uniformly laid, the twanging being effected by an appliance similar to that used in Japan.
Repeatedly, taken in small bits from the barrel of cotton, the lint was distributed over the entire surface with great dexterity and uniformity, the mattress growing upward with perfectly vertical sides, straight edges and square corners. In this manner a thoroughly uniform texture is secured which compresses into a body of even thickness, free from hard places.
The next step in building the mattress is even more simple and expeditious. A basket of long bobbins of roughly spun cotton was near the grandmother and probably her handiwork. The father took from the wall a slender bamboo rod like a fish-pole, six feet long, and selecting one of the spools, threaded the strand through an eye in the small end. With the pole and spool in one hand and the free end of the thread, passing through the eye, in the other, the father reached the thread across the mattress to the boy who hooked his finger over it, carrying it to one edge of the bed of cotton. While this was doing the father had whipped the pole back to his side and caught the thread over his own finger, bringing this down upon the cotton opposite his son. There was thus laid a double strand, but the pole continued whipping hack and forth across the bed, father and son catching the threads and bringing them to place on the cotton at the rate of forty to fifty courses per minute, and in a very short time the entire surface of the mattress had been laid with double strands. A heavy bamboo roller was next laid across the strands at the middle, passed carefully to one side, back again to the middle and then to the other edge. Another layer of threads was then laid diagonally and this similarly pressed with the same roller; then another diagonally the other way and finally straight across in both directions. A similar network of strands had been laid upon the table before spreading the cotton. Next a flat bottomed, circular, shallow basket-like form two feet in diameter was used to gently compress the material from twelve to six inches in thickness. The woven threads were now turned over the edge of the mattress on all sides and sewed down, after which, by means of two heavy solid wooden disks eighteen inches in diameter, father and son compressed the cotton until the thickness was reduced to three inches. There remained the task of carefully folding and wrapping the finished piece in oiled paper and of suspending it from the ceiling.
On March 20th, when visiting the Boone Road and Nanking Road markets in Shanghai, we had our first surprise regarding the extent to which vegetables enter into the daily diet of the Chinese. We had observed long processions of wheelbarrow men moving from the canals through the streets carrying large loads of the green tips of rape in bundles a foot long and five inches in diameter. These had come from the country on boats each carrying tons of the succulent leaves and stems. We had counted as many as fifty wheelbarrow men passing a given point on the street in quick succession, each carrying 300 to 500 pounds of the green rape and moving so rapidly that it was not easy to keep pace with them, as we learned in following one of the trains during twenty minutes to its destination. During this time not a man in the train halted or slackened his pace.
This rape is very extensively grown in the fields, the tips of the stems cut when tender and eaten, after being boiled or steamed, after the manner of cabbage. Very large quantities are also packed with salt in the proportion of about twenty pounds of salt to one hundred pounds of the rape. This, Fig. 68, and many other vegetables are sold thus pickled and used as relishes with rice, which invariably is cooked and served without salt or other seasoning.
Another field crop very extensively grown for human food, and partly as a source of soil nitrogen, is closely allied to our alfalfa. This is the Medicago astragalus, two beds of which are seen in Fig. 69. Tender tips of the stems are gathered before the stage of blossoming is reached and served as food after boiling or steaming. It is known among the foreigners as Chinese "clover." The stems are also cooked and then dried for use when the crop is out of season. When picked very young, wealthy Chinese families pay an extra high price for the tender shoots, sometimes as much as 20 to 28 cents, our currency, per pound.
The markets are thronged with people making their purchases in the early mornings, and the congested condition, with the great variety of vegetables, makes it almost as impressive a sight as Billingsgate fish market in London. In the following table we give a list of vegetables observed there and the prices at which they were selling.
----------------------------------------------------------- LIST OF VEGETABLES DISPLAYED FOR SALE IN BOONE ROAD MARKET, SHANGHAI, APRIL 6TH, 1900, WITH PRICES EXPRESSED IN U. S. CURRENCY.-- --------------------------------------------------------- Cents Lotus roots, per lb. 1.60 Bamboo sprouts, per lb. 6.40 English cabbage, per lb. 1.33 Olive greens, per lb. .67 White greens, per lb. .33 Tee Tsai, per lb. .53 Chinese celery, per lb. .67 Chinese clover, per lb. .58 Chinese clover, very young, lb. 21.33 Oblong white cabbage, per lb. 2.00 Red beans, per lb. 1.33 Yellow beans, per lb. 1.87 Peanuts, per lb. 2.49 Ground nuts, per lb. 2.96 Cucumbers, per lb. 2.58 Green pumpkin, per lb. 1.62 Maize, shelled, per lb. 1.00 Windsor beans, dry, per lb. 1.72 French lettuce, per head .44 Hau Tsai, per head .87 Cabbage lettuce, per head .22 Kale, per lb. 1.60 Rape, per lb. .23 Portuguese water cress, basket 2.15 Shang tsor, basket 8.60 Carrots, per lb. .97 String beans; per lb. 1.60 Irish potatoes, per lb. 1.60 Red onions, per lb. 4.96 Long white turnips, per lb. .44 Flat string beans, per lb. 4.80 Small white turnips, bunch .44 Onion stems, per lb. 1.29 Lima beans, green, shelled, lb. 6.45 Egg plants, per lb. 4.30 Tomatoes, per lb. 5.16 Small flat turnips, per lb. .86 Small red beets, per lb. 1.29 Artichokes, per lb. 1.29 White beans, dry, per lb. 4.80 Radishes, per lb. 1.29 Garlic, per lb. 2.15 Kohl rabi, per lb. 2.15 Mint, per lb. 4.30 Leeks, per lb. 2.18 Large celery, bleached, bunch 2.10 Sprouted peas, per lb. .80 Sprouted beans, per lb. .93 Parsnips, per lb. 1.29 Ginger roots, per lb. 1.60 Water chestnuts, per lb. 1.33 Large sweet potatoes, per lb. 1.33 Small sweet potatoes, per lb. 1.00 Onion sprouts, per lb. 2.13 Spinach, per lb. 1.00 Fleshy stemmed lettuce, peeled, per lb. 2.00 Fleshy stemmed lettuce, unpeeled, per lb. .67 Bean curd, per lb. 3.93 Shantung walnuts, per lb. 4.30 Duck eggs, dozen 8.34 Hen's eggs, dozen 7.30 Goat's meat, per lb. 6.45 Pork, per lb. 6.88 Hens, live weight, per lb. 6.45 Ducks, live weight, per lb. 5.59 Cockerels, live weight, per lb. 5.59-- ---------------------------------------------------------
This long list, made up chiefly of fresh vegetables displayed for sale on one market day, is by no means complete. The record is only such as was made in passing down one side and across one end of the market occupying nearly one city block. Nearly everything is sold by weight and the problem of correct weights is effectively solved by each purchaser carrying his own scales, which he unhesitatingly uses in the presence of the dealer. These scales are made on the pattern of the old time steelyards but from slender rods of wood or bamboo provided with a scale and sliding poise, the suspensions all being made with strings.
We stood by through the purchasing of two cockerels and the dickering over their weight. A dozen live birds were under cover in a large, open-work basket. The customer took out the birds one by one, examining them by touch, finally selecting two, the price being named. These the dealer tied together by their feet and weighed them, announcing the result; whereupon the customer checked the statement with his own scales. An animated dialogue followed, punctuated with many gesticulations and with the customer tossing the birds into the basket and turning to go away while the dealer grew more earnest. The purchaser finally turned back, and again balancing the roosters upon his scales, called a bystander to read the weight, and then flung them in apparent disdain at the dealer, who caught them and placed them in the customer's basket. The storm subsided and the dealer accepted 92c, Mexican, for the two birds. They were good sized roosters and must have dressed more than three pounds each, yet for the two he paid less than 40 cents in our currency.
Bamboo sprouts are very generally used in China, Korea and Japan and when one sees them growing they suggest giant stalks of asparagus, some of them being three and even five inches in diameter and a foot in height at the stage for cutting. They are shipped in large quantities from province to province where they do not grow or when they are out of season. Those we saw in Nagasaki referred to in Fig. 22, had come from Canton or Swatow or possibly Formosa. The form, foliage and bloom of the bamboo give the most beautiful effects in the landscape, especially when grouped with tree forms. They are usually cultivated in small clumps about dwellings in places not otherwise readily utilized, as seen in Fig. 66. Like the asparagus bud, the bamboo sprout grows to its full height between April and August, even when it exceeds thirty or even sixty feet in height. The buds spring from fleshy underground stems or roots whose stored nourishment permits this rapid growth, which in its earlier stages may exceed twelve inches in twenty-four hours. But while the full size of the plant is attained the first season, three or four years are required to ripen and harden the wood sufficiently to make it suitable for the many uses to which the stems are put. It would seem that the time must come when some of the many forms of bamboo will be introduced and largely grown in many parts of this country.
Lotus roots form another article of diet largely used and widely cultivated from Canton to Tokyo. These are seen in the lower section of Fig. 70, and the plants in bloom in Fig. 71, growing in water, their natural habitat. The lotus is grown in permanent ponds not readily drained for rice or other crops, and the roots are widely shipped.
Sprouted beans and peas of many kinds and the sprouts of other vegetables, such as onions, are very generally seen in the markets of both China and Japan, at least during the late winter and early spring, and are sold as foods, having different flavors and digestive qualities, and no doubt with important advantageous effects in nutrition.
Ginger is another. crop which is very widely and extensively cultivated. It is generally displayed in the market in the root form. No one thing was more generally hawked about the streets of China than the water chestnut. This is a small corm or fleshy bulb having the shape and size of a small onion. Boys pare them and sell a dozen spitted together on slender sticks the length of a knitting needle. Then there are the water caltropes, grown in the canals producing a fruit resembling a horny nut having a shape which suggests for them the name "buffalo-horn". Still another plant, known as water-grass is grown in Kiangsu province where the land is too wet for rice. The plant has a tender succulent crown of leaves and the peeling of the outer coarser ones away suggests the husking of an ear of green corn. The portion eaten is the central tender new growth, and when cooked forms a delicate savory dish. The farmers' selling price is three to four dollars, Mexican, per hundred catty, or $.97 to $1.29 per hundredweight, and the return per acre is from $13 to $20.
The small number of animal products which are included in the market list given should not be taken as indicating the proportion of animal to vegetable foods in the dietaries of these people. It is nevertheless true that they are vegetarians to a far higher degree than are most western nations, and the high maintenance efficiency of the agriculture of China, Korea and Japan is in great measure rendered possible by the adoption of a diet so largely vegetarian. Hopkins, in his Soil Fertility and Permanent Agriculture, page 234, makes this pointed statement of fact: "1000 bushels of grain has at least five times as much food value and will support five times as many people as will the meat or milk that can be made from it". He also calls attention to the results of many Rothamsted feeding experiments with growing and fattening cattle, sheep and swine, showing that the cattle destroyed outright, in every 100 pounds of dry substance eaten, 57.3 pounds, this passing off into the air, as does all of wood except the ashes, when burned in the stove; they left in the excrements 36.5 pounds, and stored as increase but 6.2 pounds of the 100. With sheep the corresponding figures were 60.1 pounds; 31.9 pounds and 8 pounds; and with swine they were 65.7 pounds; 16.7 pounds and 17.6 pounds. But less than two-thirds of the substance stored in the animal can become food for man and hence we get but four pounds in one hundred of the dry substances eaten by cattle in the form of human food; but five pounds from the sheep and eleven pounds from swine.
In view of these relations, only recently established as scientific facts by rigid research, it is remarkable that these very ancient people came long ago to discard cattle as milk and meat producers; to use sheep more for their pelts and wool than for food; while swine are the one kind of the three classes which they did retain in the role of middleman as transformers of coarse substances into human food.
It is clear that in the adoption of the succulent forms of vegetables as human food important advantages are gained. At this stage of maturity they have a higher digestibility, thus making the elimination of the animal less difficult. Their nitrogen content is relatively higher and this in a measure compensates for loss of meat. By devoting the soil to growing vegetation which man can directly digest they have saved 60 pounds per 100 of absolute waste by the animal, returning their own wastes to the field for the maintenance of fertility. In using these immature forms of vegetation so largely as food they are able to produce an immense amount that would otherwise be impossible, for this is grown in a shorter time, permitting the same soil to produce more crops. It is also produced late in the fall and early in the spring when the season is too cold and the hours of sunshine too few each day to permit of ripening crops.

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