|Category||About the Sian Incident|
|Author|| Brown, Harrison|
|Notes||The following is a collection of transcribed excerpts from Harrison Brown’s 1936 and 1937 journals, pertaining to his travels in China in general and the Sian Incident in particular. Editorial notes have been added in certain places, for further explanation and clarity. You may also browse H.B.’s original hand-written journals in their entirety elsewhere in the database.|
Saturday June 27th, 1936 - London
At last the day arrives on which I turn my back on England, with no return ticket in view. It finds me unsentimental but sad at so many farewells. Some, as I told Dewall on St. Pancras platform, doubtless will be forever. ("You will see them all again, and soon" replied that incorrigible optimist - or wishful thinker.) I hate leaving Hilary but can reasonably hope to see each other again before so long, bless her. She has been marvelous all this time and it is something new to have both love and competence around one. "I hope you have a lovely little journey" she said weepily as I followed her down the stairs. Then I watched her waver up the street and round the corner, thinking how many corners we must both negotiate before we meet again.
Sunday December 6th, 1936 - Sian
Today all the University and school kids piled out in the streets and through the walls of the suburbs to demonstrate for strong action against Suiyuan. Walls are plastered with red and green streamers bearing slogans.
Monday December 7th, 1936 - Sian(H.B. meets with Chang Hseuh-liang, "The Young Marshall")
He is middle aged, or looks it but that might just be his rapid life of yore. He talked quite a lot, apologizing for being unable to stay longer. He and his "children", the 'North Eastern' troops, who had been formed by his father and whom he had brought here, want to fight. The whole country wants to fight Japan, "except for some wealthy men" and "there may be trouble if we don't" from the young people, who are everywhere demanding war, and rightly. I asked him point blank why there were no Chinese planes in Suiyuan. He twinkled the smile which makes the pouches under his eyes disappear. "I'm not Commander, remember, it's not my responsibility." He advised me to see Donald in Shanghai, using his name. "He can probably tell you more", adding that Donald was the Generalissimo's advisor and "pretty close to Madame Chiang to!" It was clear where he puts the blame - on the man who as usual was in hiding.
Friday December 11th, 1936 - Cheng tu: Driving to Kwan Hsien
Everywhere the water buffalo, with elongated head and neck, dragged the crude harrow or the cruder plough of early centuries. All along people rode in wheelbarrows or bamboo slings and peasants darted across the road like chickens at the sound of the horn... We knocked down one old man - and drove on despite my vehement protests. Kwan Hsien is the quaintest of places and includes a good example of a covered and ancient wooden bridge, with stalls inside it (and the awful, grinning face of an opium smoker, lying in rags on the steps of it.) ...But for me the day was chiefly horror, at the sight of the streaming, living skeletons of this "rich Province". The lonely path across the hill and away to the mountains is an age-old path of woe. Children of 5 and upwards, all in rags, staggering along for a few cents worth of bricks or wood or charcoal. One at least I had made happy for a moment, a boy of 11 who had walked 10 or 12 miles with 30 catties [note: A 'catty' or 'cattie' is a Chinese measurement of weight, equal to 500 grams] of charcoal, and was crying with exhaustion.
Sunday December 13th, 1936 - Chungking
On the bus to the airport only did I hear that Chiang Kai-Shek had been "detained" by Chang Hseuh-liang at Sian. Heard that by a fluke for nothing in the streets betokened knowledge of an event which may be the beginning of the Chinese Revolution and change the lives of all Chinese. "Good" said the young Chinese pilot, "that looks like good to me. I hope they hold him." A 2 hour flight in a tiny high-winged plane, then in Schukhardt's in Chungking a drunken German Consul said that the rumour was on the streets that Chiang Kai-Shek had committed suicide. All planes are commandeered by the military. Marshall Liu-Shiang of Szechuan saying he "may need them at any moment" - to escape. The plane I flew in had to return at once to Chengtu. Tonight radio communications with nanking is broken and no news coming through.
Monday December 14th, 1936 - Chungking
At breakfast talked with 3 Chinese, (one of them an official from Nanking!) who seemed much alarmed at the news from Sian. Rumours have circulated all day, tonight it is that Gen. Chan Cheng has been killed by Chang's troops (I should think it more likely that if anyone has been bumped off, it is Gen. Chien Ta-Chuen, Chiang's Chief of Staff).
Sunday December 20th, 1936 - Hankow
The chief engineer tells me that Chiang Kai-Shek is returning to Nanking and that Chang Hseuh-liang is "going abroad" - leaving others to face the music!
Monday December 21st, 1936 - En Route, Hankow - Shanghai
Called in and had half hour with R.S. Moss, the small, charming and white-haired British Consul, who knew Chang Hseuh-liang well when he was in Hankow. Moss thinks Chang "has made a balls of it", that he is a weakling and a spoilt child who probably wishes to hell he had not done it now. Moss also thinks that Chiang Kai-Shek is the only man who "can oppose the Japs intelligently, and he hopes Chang's officers will not go after the Generalissimo, as he believes may still happen.
Wednesday December 23rd, 1936 - Yangtze, Wuhu, Nanking
Sian affair still on, Chief Steward tells me that some General's secretary who came aboard says he has been killed. It may be so that they are keeping it secret, as they did for three weeks the death of Chang Hseuh-liang's father. Madame Chiang, Donald and T.V. Soong flew to Sian yesterday. In nanking "hopes for release are more restrained." ... There are many boats on the river over 50 years old. Talked also, as we passed a fleet of junks, of the manners of Jap. destroyers, which dash through and often swamp them and never pay damages. Others pay dearly. "You wouldn't believe it but those things are weighted deep with gold" [the Captain] said sarcastically. "Why not with platinum?" asked Miss Butler. "No they are built of platinum", he replied.
Friday December 25th, 1936. - Shanghai
Took a first walk round this afternoon. Shanghai is a big modern city with the poverty largely pushed out of sight in the hotel quarter. Trains and trolley busses mix with wheelbarrow traffic and coolie labour (but the coolies do not sing in Shanghai, the first place they don't). The place is clean and foreign; big black-bearded Sikhs are everywhere as traffic cops, Jap. and other foreign police are at every corner and twice between. Armed Sikhs guard all banks and big offices. The side streets are crowded with Chinese shops and so hung with large banners and flags that one can seldom see down them. In the Whangpoo [river] are lines of warships of different nations, apparently in touching harmony since stern nuzzles stern, but in reality watching each other suspiciously, the mercenaries of rival cliques.
Saturday December 26th, 1936 - Shanghai
Chang Kai-Shek has been released unconditionally and is in Soyang!! Chang said to be coming here. Papers announce "wild rejoicings" (official!). Have not noticed it! Anyway the news is disgusting.
Monday December 28th, 1936 - Shanghai (H.B. meets Percy Chan)
...he congratulated me on having so soon reached the conclusion that Chiang Kai-Shek is an S.O.B. ...Chan says that killing Chiang would have meant certain civil war. Asked him if Chiang was ever sincere, replied that he was always an opportunist. Known as the "paper strategist", with endless schemes for winning this point or that, gaining such and such an objective, making money and so on. Agile minded, able, cunning, ruthless, dishonest. As treacherous as Simon, as mean-minded as MacDonald, as vain as Mussolini, as bloody as Hitler, in fact lacking only one vice of the European criminals - cowardice. Chiang has guts. [ Note: "Simon" refers to Sir John Simon, who served as Foreign Secretary under MacDonald. Simon supported the increase of arms in Germany in the mid 1930s, and said on Feb. 6th 1934: "The German claim to equality of rights in the matter of arms cannot be resisted and ought not to be resisted. You will have to face the rearmament of Germany."] January 2nd, 1937 - Shanghai
...[Went] to a Chinese supper in a Chinese YWCA with two grand young Chinese girls, one a 'worker' in the industrial section and one in the country. Children of 12 are "hired" from their poverty-stricken families for 3 years for a lump sum of Ch. $30 (less than 2 pounds!) The contractor is responsible for housing and clothing them, which he does to the least and worst degree possible, feeding them the same disease-making muck that the apprentices get, musty rice and dead vegetables, from which all the vitamins have gone. The children are just slaves and can be beaten or raped at pleasure. The girls pumped me much about Sian and as to what I thought the outcome would be. I told them I thought there might be some good results, less than one had hoped but still a chance of some. But Chiang Kai-Shek, being a paranoiac, was quite untrustworthy and I added what Chancellor said about Chang Hseuh-liang showing signs of having returned to opium.
January 7th, 1937 - Shanghai
A mass of visits and interviews during the past few days has brought me a lot of information, though scrappy and unassimilated. Socof the manager of Tass here told me tonight that C.T. Wang is said to have made an agreement with Hitler to prosecute the war against the Reds, for which Germany will supply money and arms, and to do all he can to line up China with the Fascist bloc, and y compris Japan! ... Wang was shot at last year in Nanking by a patriotic student, for having signed (at Chiang Kai-Shek's direction) secret agreements with the Japanese involving concessions. Unhappily he was not killed and has been "recovering" ever since in Germany. He is now on his way back and has almost reached Singapore. He is proposed by the pro-Japanese group for his old post of Chairman of the Executive Yuan but there will clearly be a struggle with T.V. Soong, who is bitterly anti-Jap and is now in a very strong position, having done much to obtain the release of Chiang Kai-Shek (his dear brother-in-law, who once slapped his face!). The struggle will centre largely round these three men, Chiang Kai-Shek leaning probably as far as he dare towards the pro-Jap clique. In Nanking on Tuesday Han Lih-Wu, the polished and reserved young Director of the Board of Trustees of the British Boxer Indemnity Fund, confirmed that a re-shuffle of the governments was expected after the Kuomintang meeting next month. Han seemed to think that Chiang Kai-Shek would try to push his young Whampoa military academy people, perhaps even into political positions. Mrs. Wikman and Socof do not seem to think that anything can stop the growth of the patriotism movement here. I am not so sure. They have killed so many good young people that an intensification of the terror under terms of Wang's bargain might so thin the ranks as to slow matters up considerably. I think the Russians under estimate the fact that the patriotism movement here is only a handful of intellectuals and can only be so whilst 75% of the masses are illiterate and only a very few have any stake in the country.
...On Sunday I had a long session with Max and Grace Granich, two Americans who run 'The Voice of China' and are close to Madame Sun Yat Sen... They are getting me some dope on the S.M. Police atrocities, about which I begin to learn things. Torture is a regular thing in Shanghai police enquiries, usually the application of electric shocks to the penis or in the vagina. Death often results. Rewi told me of a lad of 15 whom he knew in 1934 who was merely suspected of stealing a couple of dollars, and who died after his police "enquiry". Granich told me of a young student girl in a quite peaceful demonstration, whose pamphlets were snatched by a British cop, and snatched back again by the girl, who screwed them up and swallowed them. "Alright" said the cop, "we didn't suspect you but now we know", she was put through it.
...I also heard about the student "demonstration" in Peijing after the release of Chiang Kai-Shek. A manifesto was issued in the name of 20,000 students, acclaiming Chiang and demanding the cleaning up of the Reds. 500 students were at the meeting, 300 students walked out after a furious scene, the remaining 200 fascists voted the manifesto in the name of 20,000! All fascist students are paid $10 per month, the leaders up to $50. The row still continues in Peijing but one can learn nothing from the brief press "news".
...T. T. Li as another whom I met in Nanking. Official spokesman in the Foreign Office, a slick little propagandist whom I gave a rough time. Asked about the result of the Sian affair, he said that he thought there "would have to be some mopping up" in Sian. Some of Chang's followers were quite 'red', he announced with would-be round eyes. "The whole country seems to see red when it thinks of Nanking's foreign policy", I replied rudely and tersely. He tried to serve back some propaganda about the Reds being "terrorists". "And what do you call your government?" I asked. "Don't you know you have the reputation of being the worst gang of terrorists of any legal government?" - which was not quite the way to speak to an official spokesman. But these lousy little yes-men get my goat.
...Li was insistent that a Sino-Japanese war was inevitable (he seemed to think that I had come to beg for one) and made the usual defiance of the policy that they were not ready, that gasoline was hard to get in Sian!! (as an excuse for the government not sending planes to oppose Japanese bombing). I remarked that they seemed to have plenty of gasoline for planes which were sent after the Reds to prosecute the civil war. About Chahar he would say nothing definite, except that the Japanese had served notice three times on Fu Tso Yi that if his troops entered Chahar they, the Kwantung Army, would come in force and undisguised. On the whole Mr. Li will probably think how nice British journalists are, now that he has been rudely bullied by me!
Han Li-wu told me that during the Sian affair, the Japs offered their "friendly assistance" to suppress the "revolt" - in return for Pailing-miao. The Japanese certainly are dumb psychologists.
January 9th, 1937 - Shanghai
I went along to see Jack Chan's drawings and cartoons and he showed me a lot of woodcuts by other young people, some showing strong influence of Kathe Kollwitz. These young artists are still crude but they work hard and do some very interesting work. It is necessary, the present gangsters have almost eliminated culture from China. There is not one front rank artist or writer who is not in jail or exile. Hundreds have been killed by Chiang Kai-Shek's blueshirts.
Woodcuts were used with much effort for propaganda work that a woodcutter was automatically arrested as a "communist" in 1927. It was the chief medium of revolution.
...Chiang Kai-Shek and his thugs from the underworld are not content with having driven every first rate artist to death or prison or exile. They are not content with having exterminated such culture as could exist in the present soil of China. What they want is to keep China's four hundred millions in ignorance, for only then can they keep them in starvation.
January 11th, 1937 - Kowloon, Hong Kong
Almost everybody with whom I talk politics in general terms asks about the "change in British Far Eastern policy", many showing in pathetic faith in the wisdom and intelligence of the F.O. which is today entirely unjustified. It is more difficult than ever to convince all but the few Americans of the haphazard way in which affairs are run in London. Consequently they never realise the disproportionate influence which individuals often exercise, spasmodically at least. When foreigners do begin to grasp this fact, the evidence of even the headlines shows them that G.B. has no foreign "policy" at all today, other than that of keeping the country out of war as long as possible, whatever happens and at whatever later cost. It is entirely a "peace in our time of office" policy. Sometimes one feels that the suicidal nature of this "policy" begins to dawn upon Whitchall, but they have neither the intelligence nor the guts to change it. London thrives in a perpetual state of jitters, knowing now at last that they and their predecessors, as much as the French, have made war in the near future certain. The British cabinet today is like a plague of rats in the hold of a sinking ship. Instinct tells them that they are doomed, unfortunately there is no longer any dry land in sight on which they can escape in traditional rat fashion, not even an island!
The approach to Hong Kong is very beautiful. We had been steaming in sunny waters for some hours before the mountainous coast crept nearer out of the haze. Then it is seen to be a mass of inlets like Norwegian Fjords in places, cliffs rising sheer from the water and with numerous small rock islands dotted along it. The sea was alive with fishing junks, they are several types and sizes but all look picturesque as they pitch and swim along under full canvas. Junks are amazing craft and the way in which junkmen can handle them is even more marvelous. These Chinese, both at sea and on the river, seem able to turn them about like canoes.
January 13th, 1937 - Canton
...Devoid of culture as are the Chinese today, the Europeans out here are no better. Corrupt as the Chinese are in all maters of politics and administration, the Europeans equal them every time, except most of the government civil servants. The French and British in Shanghai, the Portuguese along the coast, the Japanese everywhere buy and sell anything and anybody. The Police of the International Settlement not only resort to torture, like the Chinese, but are in cahoots with the notorious 'Three Musketeers', the gangsters Tu Youh Seng, Wong Ching-Yung and Chang Hsiao-lui. The British colony of Hong Kong is as riddled with graft as this city of Canton. When a sergeant leaves the army and joins the Hong Kong police he is soon running a car and owning a house. Most of the wealthy men of the city made their money in opium; the brothels have been closed (officially) but the prostitutes are still a vested interest of a few Britishers. The headwoman just now, I am told, is an ex-whore of about seventy who can still pass for 35!
...But Hong Kong is unique. Wherever else I have been I have found exceptions. In Hong Kong the only exceptions appear to be the officials who come and go. I called on the Governor yesterday, Sir Andrew Caldecote, reputed to be a good man and anyway an unusual one. In appearance he is big and heavy, rather like a wealthy business man from the north of England. He has an equal contempt for the Chinese and for the inhabitants of Hong Kong. I awoke yesterday very full of the Wang business and his alleged agreement with Hitler. As I crossed the sparkling harbour on the ferry the "Potsdam" lay in front of me, dazzling white in the sunshine above her black hull. Wang has not left the ship, he is probably afraid to do so for fear of being bumped off.
I first asked Sir Andrew if he had heard the rumour. He had not but said that he thought it is quite possible. Then he almost silenced me by remarking that he always suspected Chiang Kai-Shek of having a secret understanding with the Soviets. I said I could not see how the two things fitted, my fear was that he would go too far in he other direction. "Yes quite" he answered, "but in view of the extraordinary way these people do things, I should say it would appeal to them immensely to have an agreement on one side with the Soviets and on the other with the Germans and Japanese". I am still not quite certain how much he meant it and how much he was living up to - or trying to earn - a reputation for cynicism.
...But the waterfront life of Hong Kong is nothing to that of this city, Canton, where half a million people literally spend their time afloat. The junks vary in size, the slimmer are just 10 ft sampans. All are clean and their high poops [poop decks] are polished shiny with the rubbing of the lying or squatting inhabitants. In one corner is the brazier, a meal always seems either in process of being eaten or cooked. Children swarm and vast numbers of the boats are only manned by women and girls, often by tiny children. As I waited on the canal bank of Shameen, the international settlement island, for my appointment with Phillips the consul, I became fascinated by this teeming water life and took several pictures. Hundreds of junks and sampans were moored stern-first to the opposite wall, leaving a passage-way free for traffic. A junk had arrived and wanted its place by the wall to unload its cargo of wood. Another heavy junk had to wriggle out to make room for it. This second one was in command of two children, a girl of about 12 at the bow and a tiny tot of 7 or so at the stern, with a tousled little head of wet black hair. She was wearing a blue Chinese shirt and black trousers, and as she manipulated the great bamboo pole ten times her own length, the shirt kept riding up and showing her plump little tummy. On the other side of the high poop was the kitchen, shiny brass pans all in order and ready for a meal. Slowly the heavy boat was edged out, the other nosed into position and then the children had to get their own junk settled. It was a long slow process but there was no shouting or fuss. Chinese men shout constantly at their work, the women only when they are angry or have something to sell. When it was fixed the child pulled with all her little weight to dig the pole into the river mud. Then she leaned over like a kitten on the rail and made all fast with a rope. That done she rejoined her sister at the stern end and got on with the business in process when they had been disturbed, which was the washing of the infant's head, as she stood straight-legged but doubled right over with her head in a basin on the deck! A puppy tied to the rail looked on sleepily.
January 15th, 1937 - Canton
Spent the morning yesterday seeing people. First Colonel Li Fung, secretary to Mayor Tseng Yang-fu. The Mayor is away in Nanking, where is Vice-Minister of Railways (a lovely job for squeeze!). Tseng is said to have been Mayor but apparently the appointment has not been wholly successful in that! Li Fung's title of Colonel means no more than military titles usually do in China, he was an officer in the Labour Battalion in France! Until a year ago he was Chinese Colonel in Novo-Sibirsk. I found him an entirely interesting official and wondered why our C.G. Phillips should have spoken of him as his 'friend'. Anyhow he quite obviously only wanted to serve me propaganda, said I might take photos "if they were good ones, not of beggars in rags". Didn't even seem to know the countryside, when I asked him about visiting the "City of the Dead" he did not at first know what I was talking about, then mumbled something about its being "horribly dusty, we don't even go there ourselves." On my insisting that I was used to dust he mumbled that it "was not safe"!
[H.B. meets Y.C. Koo, Governor of the Provincial Bank of Kwantung]
...He [Koo} spoke very highly of T.L. Soong (T.V.'s brother, a younger member of the Soong Dynasty), Kwantung Provincial Commissioner, as a "very able and active young man". When I asked the Governor about him in Hong Kong the other day, that unusual person burst out - "He is a little squirt!". And Patterson added that he had been responsible for the murder of some other politician the other day. It seems that T.L., the Minister of Agriculture and the murdered man were in cahoots on some deal; that T.L. wanted to welch and was threatened in some way, and, as Patterson dryly added, "one does not threaten the brother of Madame Chiang Kai-Shek".
...He [Koo] touched on the Sian affair, emphasizing the necessity for national unity, saying that he thought the situation would be solved without fighting. "In China, things can happen as by a miracle. Less than a year ago civil war down here seemed inevitable. Then the Generalissimo came and there was no war!" The same thing might happen in Shensi, he averred. Chang Kai-Shek was a man, he paused for a word, a man who did not hurry, who never showed his emotions - "cold-blooded?" I suggested. Well, anyhow, they had begun to bargain, Sian might capitulate. "What the Communists have suffered in China is incredibly awful", he said. "These warlords are not made of such stuff, these yang's and Chang's with their concubines and their soft living. It takes men of characters and deep conviction to be a Communist here!" All of which was interesting from such a quarter. But when we got on to the factions in Nanking I could not follow him. He claims there are 3 factions, the Fascist Nationalists, the Liberal Intellectuals, and the Bankers. In point of fact there are two, the pro-Japanese Fascists hired by Chiang Kai-Shek and the anti-Japanese, with a negligible Liberal element floating about uneasily. Nanking is divided on the Japanese issue, just as is the country. Sian is a barometer reading of the public emotion, despite all the personal factors involved. These money men think too much in terms of money, even the best of them like Koo. They have yet to learn that a real revolution has started in China, a double-headed one in fact, and like all revolutions based on an idea. The idea is of national resistance to Japanese aggression and figures are arising who are invulnerable to silver bullets. To men who deal in money and who know their China such an idea is naturally incredible. Even if it were worth the effort one could not convince them, if only because the great figures have not yet emerged.
But Koo made me see more clearly that if Chiang Kai-Shek dies China is likely to be given to a straight fight between Fascism and Communism. Yet the swine (Chiang Kai-Shek) is a conscienceless rogue and a bloody-minded fascist. Somebody told me that when he was planning the mopping up operations after the Communist retreat, he told his officers "there are 6 1/2 million people in such and such a red district. You can kill every man, woman and child". In any case those are the terms in which these underworld gangsters think. Life means nothing to them, of culture they have never heard. Money and brute force are their only weapons, personal power their only aim. I do not believe for one moment that Chiang Kai-Shek is capable of thinking in terms of "China", except solely in so far as the word means domination for himself. Nothing in his record or his character shows him to be anything more than an intensely jealous, vain and grasping paranoiac. That such a low type, straight from the Shanghai gang, should have become the spearhead of what is in essence a spiritual movement of national regeneration, is one of the greatest ironies of modern history. Koo unconsciously gave me a valuable sidelight when he told me that Chiang's two heroes in Chinese history were Wang au Siu of the Sung Dynasty and Wang Mung of the Han Dynasty. "Both were Fascists in mentality", Koo admitted, "but both had the interests of the people at heart." Incidentally both failed. Anyhow Chiang advises his junior officers to need their lives!
And Canton! I long ago found that one cannot understand the word 'population' without having seen the East. I doubt if any single city in the Orient is a better example of this. The very ground seems to ooze people and the river water to breed them like flies. There are said to be half a million of this boat population alone, who live and die on the water and spend but little of their time ashore. At any hour of the day or night the streets are teeming with people, every foetid narrow alley crawls with them, every corner and wall cranny harbours them. Nowhere else in China have I seen greater discrepancy in wealth and only in Szechuan have I seen more terrible sights. There are beggars clad in rags here too, I saw one boy with scarcely a rag. They shuffle along, leprous, barefoot and filthy beyond words, with humped shoulders and eyes scanning the gutter for scraps of anything to eat. Now and again one will flop down and scrabble between the stones for some filthy morsel as only starving animals would do. People don't give them things, they throw it at them. If they are spoken to, they quail, if shouted at they shrink away. They are no longer men in any sense of the word, quite literally they are the lowest of the animals.
But even stages higher the struggle for existence is just as bitter. If one stands for an instant on the pavement 3 or 4 ricksha's are clamouring for hire, shouting and pushing and beating each other down. Rushkin's description of mankind as a heap of maggots battening on each other for the means of substinance was never better illustrated than here. And with it, great hotels, luxurious cars, hundreds of men in smartly creased western cloths, hundreds of women in elaborate silk gowns.
Canton is claimed as the only proudly Chinese "modern city", developed without foreign influence and money. It has, in recent years, cleared away some of its narrow, winding streets and driven tarred roads across in all directions. Plenty of the old remains but outwardly the place must have changed much. Only the mentality of the ruling class does not seem to have changed at all. Not only is nothing done for the beggars but everything, more and more, is done to increase the class.
It is an ancient society in complete decadence and I do not believe at all in Mr. Koo's theory of new wine in such an old bottle, for the interior of the bottle itself is poisoned. All the efforts of the authorities to introduce scientific agriculture without touching usury or the tenant problems are as hopeless as the New Life Movement's campaign to make people clean their teeth whilst giving them nothing to put in their bellies. They are pruning a dead tree.
This afternoon I saw five blind beggars in a row, and all in rags. The leader was an old man, next came a young boy, then a girl of some sixteen years and behind her two smaller girls. They moved through the crowd amazingly quickly, in single file slantwise across the pavement, each with right hand on the shoulder of the one in front, the blind leading the blind. Syphilitics almost certainly. One of the most terrifying sights of all is to see the lowest beggars with small babies. That the instinct of reproduction should function in such condition seems incredible.
Jan 16th, 1937 - Canton
One sees astonishing things on the streets of Canton. I meant to make a list of them but so much crowds in, half are now forgotten. Things which would shock or sicken one in other countries, and stay in the mind for weeks, are forgotten in a few minutes when one has been soaking for months in China. I have only just remembered one spectacle which, at the time, I thought I could not forget quickly. A son had carried his dying father on to a main street, probably to get more air than in the rat-hole from which they emerged. I had wandered into the city after dinner a few nights ago and saw them. At first I thought they were beggars but they were not apparently. The old man looked ghostly, a face of creased skin over a yellow skull, he was speechless and his head alternately hung back, mouth open, or dropped upon his chest. When I first saw them the younger fellow was sitting propped against the wall with the huddled figure of the old man leaning against him between his legs. A few minutes later they passed me, the old man pick-a-back, and bearer and burden seemed to collapse in a heap a few doors farther on, to resume their old position.
Another day I saw a small girl dragging along a large basket on a string. She walked carelessly, staring about her. In the basket were two herons, one a largish bird, the other appeared to be a very dirty specimen of the white egret. It was standing and having a hard time keeping its balance. All for the larder I suppose. They eat everything, rats included, and the butcher's shops are fearsome to behold, though mostly birds and unidentifiable rods of meat. Coolies are everywhere with half-live fish floating in a tub of water. The tub on the other end of the pole contains the scales. At one part of the Bund are unloaded most of the junks which bring this vast supply of waterfowl into the city. They travel in huge round baskets with a hole in the top. Most of the small junks and large sampans on the river have their own egg supply, a few fowls borne in a small crate hung over the stern, their heads popping out absurdly. There they live and lay eggs until they, too, are eaten. Cats also seem favorites, tethered by strings and all mixed up with the chickens and the babies.
But the strangest things is the method of carrying pigs, more practical than the Szechwan fashion of binding them tightly and wheeling them, legs in air, on a barrow. Here they use long baskets 6 ft or 8 ft long and about 3 ft in diameter. Two or three huge pigs are crammed into these baskets, legs doubled up or sticking through the holes, as chance ordains. It is cruel of course, like almost everything is here to do with animals. Legs are often broken and ear-piercing shrieks go up all the time from the lorries. A long bamboo pole is thrust through the basket end to end (often taking a piece of the pig as it goes through, whence more squeals). Then a coolie and his son, or two women coolies or what not, lift the heavy load and head off. They bring them from the market down a long dark passageway, cross the road and dump them on the dockside. If a leg is caught there is yelling but nobody cares. Presumably the baskets will be lifted again and loaded on to or into trucks. A motor lorry will take several down, piled one atop the other. More often they are put in flat cars and towed away by half a dozen men and women coolies. The work seems to go on day and night and I can tell when a leg is breaking by the screams of the animals. But I never saw a basket shifted for that.
...The government may have stopped gambling but they've had small success with an even worse form of waste - funerals. Never have I seen such vast processions. One which passed the island yesterday went on for two hours, a constant stream of pantomime figures, devil's heads, cardboard vases decked with flowers, dragons, shrines interspersed with uniformed "bands" making earsplitting noises, groups of tonsured boy "priests" and, the only attractive thing, little girls riding on Mongolian ponies. The children were terribly made up in colours almost as bright as their costumes. The whole things was a riot of colour. Nothing was on wheels, everything was carried by straining coolies, many of them old women who looked half dead themselves, or half-naked men in rags. One some of the shrine tables were plates of food, sweetmeats and so on. Like this they proceed for miles, all through the already overcrowded streets, sweating and grunting. Somewhere towards the end comes the coffin, smothered under canopies and cloths and banners and flowers, carried also on poles by 30 men in costume, jammed together and moving like automatons in the queer short coolie step. If one gets out of step - but then they never do apparently, not even in a funeral procession when their usual chanting is denied them.
January 21st, 1937 - At Sea
At last I am turned towards my new home. Bit by bit I am leaving Asia. Tomorrow in Shanghai will be the last I shall see of China. I have seen much of it, over 5000 miles have I traveled through the North and West and South. It has been an education and it would not have been complete without the last two weeks in the South.
Shanghai, of course, is not China. Hong Kong is merely a self-complacent backwater of the British Empire. But Canton is China, very much so indeed. And Kwantung today seems a China which does not exist elsewhere. The people of Canton and the South are different from the Peijing and Suiyuan as are the bears of Manchuria and the tigers of Kwantung. They are, in the south, considerably smaller with traces of a dwarf element. "Less muscle but more brain" is how old Wylie described the southerners. Wylie is a canny old Scot who is Managing Director of the S. China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has been out here for a quarter of a century. It is the Cantonese or people from Kwantung Province who fill all the Chinatowns of the world. "The Cantonese are the Scots of China", says Wylie, "I can describe it no other way. It takes guts to leave your country and launch out into the world."
[H.B. is in Nanning at this point] ...I lost myself wandering about the streets and, although none could understand or help me, all were friendly and cheerful. I was impressed by the air of buy, cheerful prosperity and absence of beggars. As the population is furiously anti-Japanese it is all the more surprising to find them distinguish between Japs and other foreigners. This seems to show greater intelligence or better education, or both. In Western China the illiterate masses do not make much distinctions and an anti-Japanese wave always results in the killing of Europeans too. It did so recently in Sian, where a wretched German emigré got bumped off.
[H.B. meets with General Li Tsung-jên, whose name is alternately spelled "Li Chung-jen" and "Li Shung-jen" at different points by H.B.]
...Li impressed me as a personality of force, perhaps the only warlord I have met who is growing to the conception of China divorced from the old obsessions of personal dominance. Maybe this is a bold statement and that a Chinese warlord of the Civil War period is really incapable of thinking otherwise than in terms of his own power and his own feudal satrapy. Undoubtedly one must not go too far in this. I am not naive enough to believe that Li Chung-jen would sacrifice himself in the interests of "the nation". He could not so conceive his duty in any circumstances. All I would venture to think is that perhaps he sees the welfare of the country as a whole in broader terms than the others, and, given the power, would thus use it more wisely.
I touched bluntly on this at one stage of the conversation. Mentioning no names I said that I had heard much about the "unification of China" but had become persuaded that what was usually meant was extension of the personal domination of the individual speaking. He agreed gleefully and with a grin, knowing of course that I meant Chiang Kai-Shek. Li began the 6 hour interview by saying that he stood for the Three Principles of Sun yat Sen, and first and foremost for the recapture of China's lost territory. The Government of a country must follow pronounced public opinion, and in this case the whole nation wanted to fight Japan.
Nanking was always saying that China was weak. One of its chief weaknesses lay in the great discrepancy in wealth between different sections of the population. Neither the Russian nor the Japanese systems were suitable for China. The ideal for them was a democratic system with relative equality of wealth. This could be brought about in their country, the first step was to eliminate squeeze. They were strong on military training in Kwangai, using it as a means to develop group sentiment and a wider conception of individual responsibility amongst their 28,000,000.
This is certainly a step in the right direction. The old family system riveted on the Chinese people by Confucianism is obviously fatal to nationhood. By it a man's obligations were confined to his own family. A man might be arrested or expropriated for a cousin's debts but no man would willingly lift a finger for his Province, much less for his country. Why, after all, should he do so, when neither Province nor country did anything for him save to strip him of his hard earned coppers! The old Chinese looked after his family and sacrificed at the tomb of his ancestors on set occasions. And that was that. The old proverb summed it up. "Let every man sweep the snow from his own doorstep and not trouble himself with the frost on his neighbour's roof".
As for Sun yat Sen's Three Principles "People's livelihood, People's nationalism, People's equality", they have long since been lost in Chiang Kai-Shek's reaction and have become, as Lin Yu-tang puts it: "Face, Favour and Priveledge".
I asked Li if all this military training interfered with the normal agricultural life of the peasants. He said it did not. The first "Principle" came first and the training was adapted to the population's necessity of earning a living. The total amount of such training required from everybody was 180 hours, scattered over a long period. In any case it was not all strictly military training, only 30% was military, 70% of it was "political education". This training was carried out in each separate village. There are two courses, for those between ages of 18 and 30, and those between 31 and 45.
The administration is much on the leader principle. At the head of the Province is the Governor. Directly under him a series of special officers. Then come District Magistrates and then the Head of the Village, to whom the heads of all the different families are responsible. Schooling is free for all children and there are night schools for the older people. There is a "Middle" (our "High") school for each 10 villages. Each hundred rural families has a "leader", who must be literate; the same applies to each 100 shops in a town. Through these leaders the training is organized. There are 24,000 of these "leaders" and it is expected that illiteracy will have been abolished by 1940.
Multiple taxes have been abolished and general taxation much reduced. The Province remains poor but is less so than formerly. Wood oil production, for instance, was increased last year to $20,000,000, most of which went to U.S.A. Speaking of measures towards equalising of wealth, Li described the system of public go-downs (barns) organised in each village and supplied with seed grain etc. for the use of the community by the levy of 5% on the income of the rich farmers.
There is a girl's Military Training Corps as there is for boys. All girls in the middle schools between ages of 14-20 wear the cotton grey uniform and military cap and do 7 to 10 hours military training each week. Girls in the Senior Middle Schools from 16 to 23 are only trained for military purposes during their 1st year. In addition to this there are special courses for nurses, etc. I went down to a Nanning girl's school the next day and photographed some of these youngsters.
...Li Shung-jen believes in force and the will to resist aggression. He denies, as propaganda rumours spread by Chiang Kai-Shek, the allegation that Kwangsi made use of Japanese military advisors. (From other sources however it is categorically asserted that they had, and even that Pai Tsung-chi still has his representative in Japan, which I find hardly credible.). Li says that the Japanese formerly sent many "travelers" to Kwangsi, until they made it clear that they would not be welcome. None come now, he says. Chiang Kai-Shek surrounded Kwangsi and Kwantung with a million men less than a year ago. The Provinces were vastly out-numbered but Li made it plain that he would resist invasion by the Central Government. Chiang quit and promised to fight Japan "before long", having seen that behind the provincial army the population was united. "That is the attitude I want to see Nanking adopt towards the Japanese", said Li. "The more China resists the less the Japanese will encroach and the less will be the danger to international peace."
February 2nd, 1937 - Mid-Pacific
[Final paragraph of last journal entry, H.B. writes of trip to Hong Kong] ...Dined with Max and Grace Granich and Tsao Lang at 17 Route Paul Henri and talked of my southern trip. Took the opportunity of running in to Taso, who agreed with me, that the young Chinese should be impressed with the importance of their living for China rather than of dying for it. They cannot afford to lose another 300,000.
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