CHAPTER II TRAVEL.
Travel abroad for one year is more profitable than study at home for five years. It has been well said that seeing is a hundred times better than hearing. One year’s study in a foreign institution is better than three years in a Chinese. Mencius remarks that a man can learn foreign things best abroad; but much more benefit can be derived from travel by older and experienced men than by the young, and high mandarins can learn more than petty officials. Some of the ancients were fond of travel. Ts’in Wen-kung went abroad for nineteen years, visiting among the feudal princes, and there were others who did the same for the benefit of their country. But let us turn to the present. The diminutive country of Japan has suddenly sprung into prominence. Ito, Yamagata, Yanomoto, Mutsui and others visited foreign countries twenty years ago and learned a method by which to escape the coercion of Europe. Under their leadership more than one hundred Japanese students were sent to Germany, France, and England, to learn foreign systems of conducting government, commerce, war, etc. After these had completed their course, they were recalled and employed by the Japanese Government as generals and ministers. When the government was once changed they developed into the Heroes of the Orient.
Not only Japan but other countries have profited by the travels of wide-awake men. Peter the Great of Russia, feeling that the military resources of his country were inadequate, went himself to the dockyards of England and Holland in the capacity of a common workman, where he labored and learned for more than ten years, thus equipping himself with qualifications and experience which afterwards revolutionized Russia and made her what she is to-day, the foremost power of the world.
France has long desired to annex Siam. In 1894 the relations between these two countries became somewhat strained, and France was on the point of gobbling up this morsel, when the King of Siam suddenly changed the governmental system of the country and sent his son to England to study in the Naval Academy. Last year the King himself visited Europe, and, being acquainted with Western literature and manners, was most cordially received by the representatives of the Great Powers. His son, who has just graduated from the Academy, met the steamer by which the King travelled in the Red Sea amid general rejoicing. The gobbling process was arrested.
We have, then, these three object lessons: First, the case of Russia, next of Japan, and last of Siam. Cannot China follow the viam mediam and learn a lesson from Japan? As the case stands to-day, study by travel can better be done in that country than in Europe for the following reasons:
I. Japan lies nearer to us than Europe and more men can be sent there for the same amount of money. 2. The language, literature, and customs of the Japanese are more closely allied to ours than those of any European country. 3. A selection of important Western books has been made from the countless volumes of Europe, and lese have been translated into Japanese. Our students could learn what is requisite in half the time by going to Japan, and there is nothing better than this. If it were deemed advisable, some students could afterwards be sent to Europe for a fuller course. But some one may say, ” Did not China try this plan once without success?” We reply that the students who were placed in American schools were too young; those in the industrial, military, and naval schools of England, France, and Germany were not properly looked after by the Chinese officials in charge, and after they returned home no inducement or encouragement was offered them by the Government to continue their studies. Under these conditions how could we expect any satisfactory results?
Others may argue that China has sent plenipotentiaries abroad and they have returned and continued just the same as other Chinese officials. We reply that the selection of those who went to foreign countries was not felicitous. The fact that our old plans miscarried is no argument against the adoption of new ones. Because we choked once shall we abolish eating? Did we not expect too much from such a small outlay? No attention whatever should be paid to the pernicious gossip on this subject by certain individuals who would bring down dire calamity upon our homes and upon our country. Study what Mencius says about the Sages, the Emperors, Kings, Ministers, and Generals whose characters were established by repeated contact with danger and difficulty:
“Thus when Heaven is about to confer a great office on any man, it first exercises his mind with suffering, and his sinews and bones with toil. It exposes his body to hunger, and subjects him to extreme poverty. It confounds his undertakings. By all these methods it stimulates his mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies.” A man born of sorrow and adversity is a true man.
But the Chinese receive insult and do not feel shame; the country is oppressed, but they feel no apprehension; the night of anarchy threatens to shut down upon the nation, but they perceive no danger nor recognize the desperate urgency of the case. Inured to no hardship, and holding merely a perfunctory office, the mandarins consider the following of others’ examples a shameful procedure, and look upon the slightest movement towards change with consternation. One gets the example and a hundred follow him.
(Among our officials there is not one man of discernment; we have no real scholars and no skilful artisans. We are not represented abroad, and at home have established no schools. So our incompetencies are not supplied. With naught to stimulate the mind, harden the nature, or supply the deficiencies, there seems nothing left for China but to perish miserably in the slough of despond and despair. And who is sufficient for these things?