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    Chapter LIV

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    Chapter 58
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    Of course there was a large Chinese population in Virginia--it is the
    case with every town and city on the Pacific coast. They are a harmless
    race when white men either let them alone or treat them no worse than
    dogs; in fact they are almost entirely harmless anyhow, for they seldom
    think of resenting the vilest insults or the cruelest injuries. They are
    quiet, peaceable, tractable, free from drunkenness, and they are as
    industrious as the day is long. A disorderly Chinaman is rare, and a
    lazy one does not exist. So long as a Chinaman has strength to use his
    hands he needs no support from anybody; white men often complain of want
    of work, but a Chinaman offers no such complaint; he always manages to
    find something to do. He is a great convenience to everybody--even to
    the worst class of white men, for he bears the most of their sins,
    suffering fines for their petty thefts, imprisonment for their robberies,
    and death for their murders. Any white man can swear a Chinaman's life
    away in the courts, but no Chinaman can testify against a white man.
    Ours is the "land of the free"--nobody denies that--nobody challenges it.
    [Maybe it is because we won't let other people testify.] As I write, news
    comes that in broad daylight in San Francisco, some boys have stoned an
    inoffensive Chinaman to death, and that although a large crowd witnessed
    the shameful deed, no one interfered.

    There are seventy thousand (and possibly one hundred thousand) Chinamen
    on the Pacific coast. There were about a thousand in Virginia. They
    were penned into a "Chinese quarter"--a thing which they do not
    particularly object to, as they are fond of herding together. Their
    buildings were of wood; usually only one story high, and set thickly
    together along streets scarcely wide enough for a wagon to pass through.
    Their quarter was a little removed from the rest of the town. The chief
    employment of Chinamen in towns is to wash clothing. They always send a
    bill, like this below, pinned to the clothes. It is mere ceremony, for
    it does not enlighten the customer much. Their price for washing was
    $2.50 per dozen--rather cheaper than white people could afford to wash
    for at that time. A very common sign on the Chinese houses was: "See
    Yup, Washer and Ironer"; "Hong Wo, Washer"; "Sam Sing & Ah Hop, Washing."
    The house servants, cooks, etc., in California and Nevada, were chiefly
    Chinamen. There were few white servants and no Chinawomen so employed.
    Chinamen make good house servants, being quick, obedient, patient, quick
    to learn and tirelessly industrious. They do not need to be taught a
    thing twice, as a general thing. They are imitative. If a Chinaman were
    to see his master break up a centre table, in a passion, and kindle a
    fire with it, that Chinaman would be likely to resort to the furniture
    for fuel forever afterward.

    All Chinamen can read, write and cipher with easy facility--pity but all
    our petted voters could. In California they rent little patches of
    ground and do a deal of gardening. They will raise surprising crops of
    vegetables on a sand pile. They waste nothing. What is rubbish to a
    Christian, a Chinaman carefully preserves and makes useful in one way or
    another. He gathers up all the old oyster and sardine cans that white
    people throw away, and procures marketable tin and solder from them by
    melting. He gathers up old bones and turns them into manure.
    In California he gets a living out of old mining claims that white men
    have abandoned as exhausted and worthless--and then the officers come
    down on him once a month with an exorbitant swindle to which the
    legislature has given the broad, general name of "foreign" mining tax,
    but it is usually inflicted on no foreigners but Chinamen. This swindle
    has in some cases been repeated once or twice on the same victim in the
    course of the same month--but the public treasury was no additionally
    enriched by it, probably.

    Chinamen hold their dead in great reverence--they worship their departed
    ancestors, in fact. Hence, in China, a man's front yard, back yard, or
    any other part of his premises, is made his family burying ground, in
    order that he may visit the graves at any and all times. Therefore that
    huge empire is one mighty cemetery; it is ridged and wringled from its
    centre to its circumference with graves--and inasmuch as every foot of
    ground must be made to do its utmost, in China, lest the swarming
    population suffer for food, the very graves are cultivated and yield a
    harvest, custom holding this to be no dishonor to the dead. Since the
    departed are held in such worshipful reverence, a Chinaman cannot bear
    that any indignity be offered the places where they sleep.
    Mr. Burlingame said that herein lay China's bitter opposition to
    railroads; a road could not be built anywhere in the empire without
    disturbing the graves of their ancestors or friends.

    A Chinaman hardly believes he could enjoy the hereafter except his body
    lay in his beloved China; also, he desires to receive, himself, after
    death, that worship with which he has honored his dead that preceded him.
    Therefore, if he visits a foreign country, he makes arrangements to have
    his bones returned to China in case he dies; if he hires to go to a
    foreign country on a labor contract, there is always a stipulation that
    his body shall be taken back to China if he dies; if the government sells
    a gang of Coolies to a foreigner for the usual five-year term, it is
    specified in the contract that their bodies shall be restored to China in
    case of death. On the Pacific coast the Chinamen all belong to one or
    another of several great companies or organizations, and these companies
    keep track of their members, register their names, and ship their bodies
    home when they die. The See Yup Company is held to be the largest of
    these. The Ning Yeong Company is next, and numbers eighteen thousand
    members on the coast. Its headquarters are at San Francisco, where it
    has a costly temple, several great officers (one of whom keeps regal
    state in seclusion and cannot be approached by common humanity), and a
    numerous priesthood. In it I was shown a register of its members, with
    the dead and the date of their shipment to China duly marked. Every ship
    that sails from San Francisco carries away a heavy freight of Chinese
    corpses--or did, at least, until the legislature, with an ingenious
    refinement of Christian cruelty, forbade the shipments, as a neat
    underhanded way of deterring Chinese immigration. The bill was offered,
    whether it passed or not. It is my impression that it passed. There was
    another bill--it became a law--compelling every incoming Chinaman to be
    vaccinated on the wharf and pay a duly appointed quack (no decent doctor
    would defile himself with such legalized robbery) ten dollars for it.
    As few importers of Chinese would want to go to an expense like that, the
    law-makers thought this would be another heavy blow to Chinese

    What the Chinese quarter of Virginia was like--or, indeed, what the
    Chinese quarter of any Pacific coast town was and is like--may be
    gathered from this item which I printed in the Enterprise while reporting
    for that paper:

    CHINATOWN.--Accompanied by a fellow reporter, we made a trip through
    our Chinese quarter the other night. The Chinese have built their
    portion of the city to suit themselves; and as they keep neither
    carriages nor wagons, their streets are not wide enough, as a
    general thing, to admit of the passage of vehicles. At ten o'clock
    at night the Chinaman may be seen in all his glory. In every little
    cooped-up, dingy cavern of a hut, faint with the odor of burning
    Josh-lights and with nothing to see the gloom by save the sickly,
    guttering tallow candle, were two or three yellow, long-tailed
    vagabonds, coiled up on a sort of short truckle-bed, smoking opium,
    motionless and with their lustreless eyes turned inward from excess
    of satisfaction--or rather the recent smoker looks thus, immediately
    after having passed the pipe to his neighbor--for opium-smoking is a
    comfortless operation, and requires constant attention. A lamp sits
    on the bed, the length of the long pipe-stem from the smoker's
    mouth; he puts a pellet of opium on the end of a wire, sets it on
    fire, and plasters it into the pipe much as a Christian would fill a
    hole with putty; then he applies the bowl to the lamp and proceeds
    to smoke--and the stewing and frying of the drug and the gurgling of
    the juices in the stem would well-nigh turn the stomach of a statue.
    John likes it, though; it soothes him, he takes about two dozen
    whiffs, and then rolls over to dream, Heaven only knows what, for we
    could not imagine by looking at the soggy creature. Possibly in his
    visions he travels far away from the gross world and his regular
    washing, and feast on succulent rats and birds'-nests in Paradise.

    Mr. Ah Sing keeps a general grocery and provision store at No. 13 Wang
    street. He lavished his hospitality upon our party in the friendliest
    way. He had various kinds of colored and colorless wines and brandies,
    with unpronouncable names, imported from China in little crockery jugs,
    and which he offered to us in dainty little miniature wash-basins of
    porcelain. He offered us a mess of birds'-nests; also, small, neat
    sausages, of which we could have swallowed several yards if we had chosen
    to try, but we suspected that each link contained the corpse of a mouse,
    and therefore refrained. Mr. Sing had in his store a thousand articles
    of merchandise, curious to behold, impossible to imagine the uses of, and
    beyond our ability to describe.

    His ducks, however, and his eggs, we could understand; the former were
    split open and flattened out like codfish, and came from China in that
    shape, and the latter were plastered over with some kind of paste which
    kept them fresh and palatable through the long voyage.

    We found Mr. Hong Wo, No. 37 Chow-chow street, making up a lottery
    scheme--in fact we found a dozen others occupied in the same way in
    various parts of the quarter, for about every third Chinaman runs a
    lottery, and the balance of the tribe "buck" at it. "Tom," who speaks
    faultless English, and used to be chief and only cook to the Territorial
    Enterprise, when the establishment kept bachelor's hall two years ago,
    said that "Sometime Chinaman buy ticket one dollar hap, ketch um two tree
    hundred, sometime no ketch um anything; lottery like one man fight um
    seventy--may-be he whip, may-be he get whip heself, welly good."

    However, the percentage being sixty-nine against him, the chances are,
    as a general thing, that "he get whip heself." We could not see that
    these lotteries differed in any respect from our own, save that the
    figures being Chinese, no ignorant white man might ever hope to succeed
    in telling "t'other from which;" the manner of drawing is similar to

    Mr. See Yup keeps a fancy store on Live Fox street. He sold us fans of
    white feathers, gorgeously ornamented; perfumery that smelled like
    Limburger cheese, Chinese pens, and watch-charms made of a stone
    unscratchable with steel instruments, yet polished and tinted like the
    inner coat of a sea-shell. As tokens of his esteem, See Yup presented
    the party with gaudy plumes made of gold tinsel and trimmed with
    peacocks' feathers.

    We ate chow-chow with chop-sticks in the celestial restaurants; our
    comrade chided the moon-eyed damsels in front of the houses for their
    want of feminine reserve; we received protecting Josh-lights from our
    hosts and "dickered" for a pagan God or two. Finally, we were impressed
    with the genius of a Chinese book-keeper; he figured up his accounts on a
    machine like a gridiron with buttons strung on its bars; the different
    rows represented units, tens, hundreds and thousands. He fingered them
    with incredible rapidity--in fact, he pushed them from place to place as
    fast as a musical professor's fingers travel over the keys of a piano.

    They are a kindly disposed, well-meaning race, and are respected and well
    treated by the upper classes, all over the Pacific coast. No Californian
    gentleman or lady ever abuses or oppresses a Chinaman, under any
    circumstances, an explanation that seems to be much needed in the East.
    Only the scum of the population do it--they and their children; they,
    and, naturally and consistently, the policemen and politicians, likewise,
    for these are the dust-licking pimps and slaves of the scum, there as
    well as elsewhere in America.
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