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Experiences in China
Tenney, Charles Daniel

ms-number: ms794-005

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Experiences in China.
When I first went to China no particular
change had taken place in the Chinese
civilization. China was ruled by an
Emperor. The old examination system
was still established, and the pride of
the people was still unbroken. They had
been so long accustomed to thinking of
themselves as the leading nation in the
world that and the Chinese civilization
as the premier civilization of the earth that
it is not strange that they had difficulty
in readjusting themselves to modern
conditions. Every one of the contacts which
they had with the foreigners led to some
changes but those changes did not affect
the life and feelings of the people as a
whole. Thus the war of 1830 led to the
opening of several ports for international
trade and to the break down of the principle of
seclusion. The trouble with Great Britain and
France in 1860 led to the establishment of the
Interpreters' School, the T'ung Wen Kuan at
Peking to train Chinese to deal with foreigners of
different nationalities. It also led to the organization

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of a Chinese navy and to the introduction
of foreign guns into the army, and ultimately
to the establishment of a Naval and a Military
School at Tientsin. All these reforms were
carried out in a half-hearted way, through
the ignorant conservatism of the officials at
Peking. Li Hung-Chang built up a navy
but the maintainance funds were diverted
from their proper use to the foolish and
unprofitable building and decorating of
the Summer Palace by the Empress Dowager.
So the Chinese fleet was destroyed by the
Japanese in 1894. All this while the
Japanese had been forging ahead. Since
the arrival of Commodore Perry in the 5th
decade of the 19th Century the Japanese have
been really modernizing themselves until at
last they have been admitted as one of the great
world powers. The Chinese, on the other
hand have been spasmodic and fitful
in their progress. The explanation of this
difference makes an interesting study.
In general, the Japanese had been trained
in the Feudal system. The people were
accustomed to follow, unquestioningly, their

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leaders. A group of these leaders realized
that Japan must be thoroughly reformed
and reorganized if she were to hold her
own under modern conditions. The
leaders made the plans and the people
followed. In China the people were more
individualistic. They were not accustom­
ed to follow a leader. The pride of the
Chinese also stood in their way. For ages
they had considered that China was the
foremost nation on earth and they
could not bend to adopt the ways of
the foreigners. The Japanese, on the
other hand, had borrowed their civil­
ization from the Chinese, and were not
so devoted to it as they would have been
if they had developed it themselves.
My life in China has been divided
between educational work and the
service of our own government. I organ­
ized the Anglo-Chinese School in
Tientsin in 1886. At that time China
was very back-ward, and there were
not lacking among the foreigners

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those who predicted failure. They said
there was no demand for a modern
school in China, but I went ahead
with my plans, and soon there was
no lack of patronage. After I had been
carrying on the school for less than two
years I was surprised to receive an
invitation from the Viceroy Li Hung-chang
to visit the Yamen, or official residence,
where he proposed to me that I should
spend two hours every afternoon in
acting as tutor to his sons and grand­
sons. This is common enough now
but unheard of at that time. Some of
the Viceroy's friends protested against
his placing young boys under the
influence of a foreigner. Li Hung-chang
insisted upon having his own way,
however. Although one of the highest
officials of the Empire he had a clear
impression of what was necessary. He
was really progressive. At that time
we looked upon the Viceroy with much
awe. He was really the chief executive

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officer of the Imperial Court. The
ministers of the foreign powers at Peking
had a sort of foreign office called the
Tsung-Li Yamen, but when they had
anything of great importance to be
settled they came to Tientsin to arrange
it with the Viceroy. I naturally felt
elated to know that my school had
made a name for itself in the Chinese
community and I knew that with the
recognition of the great Viceroy it would
continue to grow. I happen to have
a photo of the Viceroy taken at this period
which I will pass around. One advantage
of my new position was that I saw so
much of the Viceroy, for he was fond of
lounging about in the school-room
after the day's official work was finished
listening to the children recite their
lessons and hearing me explain the
scientific apparatus which I had.
The students in the Chinese schools
now are quite apt to combine to rebel
against the assertion of authority on the
part of their teachers, but in that day

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there was no such trouble. I remember
well when the first Chinese Hsiu-Ts'ai
[illegible: of] B.A. applied for admission to the
school. He was a progressive young
man who had fully made up his mind
as to the inadequacy of the classical
education as a preparation for meeting
modern conditions. He wanted me to
appoint a time for the ceremony. I
explained to him that no ceremony was
necessary, that simply registering his
name would make him a member of
the school. He was greatly distressed
at this and explained that he wished
to break absolutely with the old system
of education and place himself under
a foreign teacher and that this could
not be done without a certain ceremony.
Seeing his distress I appointed a time
and he came wearing full dress with the
B.A.'s button in his hat, and prostrated
himself before me. After that, he was
satisfied to join the classes. I remember
that one afternoon, the Viceroy came

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came to the school room and found the
the word 'the' is repeated little grandson in tears because I had
given him some light punishment for inattention.
As this grandson was the eldest son of the
eldest son of the eldest son and was a special
pet of his grand-father, I was a little doubtful
how he would regard his punishment. I was
relieved when he heartily approved of it.
Many years later I met the grandson then
a full-grown man and a Marquis and I
asked him if he ever remembered the old
school days. He replied that he often remem­
bered the day when I punished him.
After the disastrous war between China and
Japan in 1894, the Viceroy Li Hung-chang
was relieved of his post, and the [illegible: lustorus]
Taotai, a man of great wealth and power
sent for me and asked if I would consider
closing my school and merging it into
a Government University, the first to be
organized. I have already spoken of how
the different humiliations which China has
suffered at the hands of foreigners have led to
forward movements in the modernizing
of the country. So the dissatisfaction of
the Chinese with the poor showing that

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they made against the Japanese led to
the organization of a University. It also
led to the formation of a model corps of the
army which Yüan Shih-K'ai took charge
of at a camp not far from Tientsin.
The advance in education was what I
[illegible: only] hoped for. So I readily agreed to the
Taotai's proposition. I set about forming my
staff at once. Among others I wrote to
Dr. Jordan asking him to nominate a
professor of mining and geology. He did so,
and Dr. Drake, the Stanford graduate whom
he nominated was with me for many years.
I held examinations for students at different
ports down as far as Hongkong and we
soon had the new University in running
order. I was unable to give high standing
to the students available; but I organized
a Preparatory Department of four years
and the lowest class in the advanced course.
I had long been of the opinion that the
young men of China were second to none
in natural ability and I was not disap­
pointed in the results. Several of our
graduates have taken high positions

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In fact, since the Republic created the
office, two of them have been Premirers and
others have held high office in the provinces
and in the Cabinet at Peking.
In the year 1900 the reactionaries gained
possession of the Central Government and
started the movement which we look back
upon as the Boxer Outbreak. Knowing
that the reactionaries had for one of their
first measures the wiping out of the
University, I first armed the students
and organized them as a defense corps, but
after some days the foreign troops began to
arrive, and I felt that through their in­
credible ignorance and [illegible: stupidity] regarding
all things Chinese, they were liable to
confound students and Boxers and so I
was forced to disband the University.
Those of the students who could left for their
homes. Some fifty were unable to get
away and I continued to live with them at the
University, which was outside the defense lines
of the word 'the' is repeatedthe Foreign Settlements. The newly
arrived soldiers were not the only ones who
showed ignorance of things Chinese in that

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period of madness. I remember that some
of my friends protested against my staying
with the students at the University, saying
that they would kill me some night and
not believing me when I said they would
as soon think of killing their own fathers.
I was fortunate in my educational work
in those early times. The principle of
honor to parents and to teachers which is
laid down in the Chinese Classics still had
a firm grip on the minds of the young.
In recent times under the Republic the
student body has not always been true to
the old doctrines. Socialism and even
Bolshevism have spread among them
so that they many of them are neither good sons nor
good pupils. Now that we are on the
subject of filial piety I wish to speak of a
certain matter and that is the ceremonies
performed by the Chinese in honor of Confucius,
the founder of Chinese literature and in
honor of the ancestors, through whom
we have life. (See memo.)
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