Judge And Prisoners.
It seems impossible to say anything in defense of such a system as this; for in China a man is not only looked upon as guilty till he is proved innocent, but is kept in loathsome confinement, and may be even put upon the rack, in spite of the established fact that torture is never a test of truth. And yet a foreign resident made, as an apology, the following statement: "You must remember that testimony here amounts to nothing, and that, by paying sixpence apiece, you can pack the court - room with men who will swear that black is white. Hence, where a man can easily bribe false witnesses to ruin his enemy, the Chinese law provides that no one shall under any circumstances be put to death unless he has confessed his crime. But since a prisoner on trial for his life will usually protest his innocence to the last, the court attempts by torture to force him to confess."
A Chinese Court.
We visited finally an object in Canton far pleasanter than its scenes of punishment, yet equally characteristic of the national life. It is the place where natives of this province take the first step in the only path which in China leads to political and social rank. It is the scene of the competitive examinations, the fame of which has filled the world.
The Examination Ground, Canton.
The courtyard where the contest takes place is by no means inviting. It is an area of sixteen acres, covered with nearly nine thousand rough brick sheds. At the time of an examination each of these is occupied by a candidate. Before he enters it, his person is carefully searched, and soldiers and policemen guard all passageways to prevent communication. "Each in his narrow cell," these applicants for office then remain for three consecutive days and nights, about as pleasantly lodged, I should imagine, as Jonah was for the same length of time; for these dirty dens of brick are only four feet long, three feet wide, and possibly six feet high. One of the horse-sheds in the rear of a New England meetinghouse would be a far more comfortable place in which to eat and sleep. Perhaps they are meant, however, to emphasize the triumph of mind over matter. Their only furniture consists of two small planks, one for a seat, the other for a table. Rest is, of course, impossible in such a cage, and candidates have sometimes died here from physical and mental strain. All this seems inexcusably cruel; yet the Chinese government may have good reasons for maintaining this severity. For instance, such a system, if introduced at Washington, would rid the District of Columbia of nine-tenths of its office-seekers within twenty-four hours. While some of these students persevere in their attempts till they are seventy or eighty years of age, others are quite young; but the fact of youth is not considered discreditable, for Confucius said: "A youth should always be regarded with respect. How do we know that his future may not be superior to our present?" At all events, the highest place is open to them, if their brains will take them there; for every village in China has its school, and every free- born citizen may qualify for this struggle, the governing principle of which is "Let the best man win! " It is the law of the "survival of the fittest" exemplified in politics.
The Great Wall At A Precipice.
Fishing On The River.
In all the provinces of China, on the appointed day, thousands of candidates assemble, eager for the contest. Subjects are given them on which they must produce a poem and original essays. Their work is then examined by officials appointed by the Government, and so extremely rigid is the test, that out of every thousand applicants only about ten gain the first, or "District," degree. There are, however, three degrees to be attained by Chinese aspirants for fame. Those who come out as victors in the first receive no office, but are at least exempt from corporal punishment, and may attempt the examination for the next degree. Even the few who pass the second, or "Provincial," test (about one in a hundred) receive no government appointment. Yet they are distinguished among their countrymen by wearing a gold button in their hats, and by a sign over their houses signifying "Promoted man."