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China - 100 Years Ago
Then and Now


Home > Holiday and Occasions > Chinese New Year > China 100 Years Ago

Below is a write up of the Chinese culture from 100 years ago.

Do some research on the internet. What customs are the same today and what customs are different?


CHINA (100 Years Ago)

On the other side of this great round world is a country called China. When it is dark here, and we are going to sleep, the sun is just waking up the children in China and telling them it is morning. When we get up in the morning they are just bidding the sun good night. When it is light here it is dark there. So they have day when we have night.

Chinese children look like little men and women, for they dress like their fathers and mothers. Boys and girls dress nearly alike. They both dress in silk or cotton trousers. They wear long gowns over these - reaching nearly to their feet. They wear odd-looking shoes with thick white soles. The boys' heads are shaved, except a small part on top. There a lock of hair is left. This lock of hair is braided and hangs down the back. It is called a "queue." Girls in China do not go to school, but all day long they are busy; they help their mothers keep house; they tend the babies; they sew, and help with the cooking.

[Illustration: Chinese Women and Children.]

The schools in China are only for boys. The boys make a great deal of noise in school. A Chinese teacher thinks the boys are idle if they do not study their lessons out loud. So each boy shouts as loud as he can. When the boy has learned his lesson, he goes up and gives his book to the teacher. Then he turns his back to the teacher, and shouts out the whole lesson to show that he knows it.

The boys are taught to count. They learn by using balls set in a frame. The frame is like the frame of a slate. The balls slide on wires. With the balls they learn to add and subtract. This aparatus is called an abacus.

They also learn how to write, but they have no pens or pencils. They write with small brushes dipped in ink. Each boy makes his own ink. He puts some water on a stone and then rubs a cake of ink in the water. This makes a fine black ink called India ink. Then the boy fills his brush and begins at the top, right-hand corner of the paper. He writes toward the bottom of the sheet. He puts one word under another instead of beside it as you do. Then he begins a new line at the top, and writes to the bottom again.

[Illustration: Chinese writing.]

Chinese books are printed in the same way. Where do you think a Chinese book begins? A Chinese book begins where our books end.

In China many girls and women have very small feet. When they are babies their feet are bound up tightly. They sometimes wear iron shoes. Then their feet never grow, but are so very small that they can hardly walk. Poor parents know their girls will have to work hard, and so do not bind their feet.

Chinese girls make beautiful paper flowers. They paint pictures. They sing and play. Some of them pick the snow-white cotton in the fields. Some of them take care of the silk-worms that spin the soft silk.

But they do not work all the time. They play many pretty games. Chinese boys, too, have many kinds of games and toys. One game is like battledoor and shuttlecock. They use their feet to strike the shuttlecock. They do this so fast that the shuttlecock hardly ever falls to the ground. The Chinese are fond of flying kites. Even old men fly kites. They fly their kites in the spring-time. Chinese kites are of all sizes and shapes. Some are like birds. Some are like fish. Some are like butterflies.

[Illustration: Chinese Kite.]

There is no other such land in all the world for lanterns as China. The lanterns there are made of paper in the shape of balls, or flowers, or animals. Some of the lanterns have a wheel inside. When the candle is lighted, the draft of air makes the wheel go round very quickly. When the wheel begins to move inside, the figures on the outside of the lantern begin to move. Then men are seen fishing or fanning. Sometimes children are seen dancing.

The Chinese are so fond of lanterns that every year they have a "Feast of Lanterns." On that day and night lanterns are to be seen everywhere. Bridges and houses and trees are covered with lighted lanterns.

They have fireworks, too, that look like stars and trees and flowers.

A Chinese dinner begins in a special way. They have fruits and nuts first. After this comes rice. They eat more of rice than of anything else. Then they drink tea without either milk or sugar. They use neither forks nor knives. Instead they eat with small sticks of wood or ivory. These are called "chopsticks." They hold them between the thumb and first two fingers. They use them to carry their food to their mouths as you use a fork or a spoon.

[Illustration: Chopsticks.]

Do you know how they catch fish in China?

They have a bird which swims and dives into the water. This bird lives on fish. Every time he dives he catches one. He is trained to bring the fish to his master. A tight ring is put round the bird's neck. This is to keep him from swallowing the fish. When enough fish have been caught, the bird is given some to eat. This bird is called a cormorant.

A Chinese fisherman lives in his fishing boat. But China is a very crowded country. So other men as well as fishermen live on small flatboats in the rivers near the big towns. Ducks and other fowls are raised on these boats. The people on the water are as busy as the people on the land.

In China, houses are one story high. They are built of wood. The roofs slope, and are made of sticks woven together. The churches are called pagodas. They are not like our churches, but are tall, like towers. They are usually nine stories high. They have little bells hung all around the roof. These bells ring when the wind blows them back and forth.

[Illustration: Chinese Boats and Pagoda.]

Between the houses are narrow streets without sidewalks. There are no wagons. If a lady goes to make a call, she sends for a sort of covered chair. This has long poles on each side. The chair is set on the ground before her door. After she gets in, men lift the poles to their shoulders. In this way they carry her. Baggage and heavy articles are also carried on the shoulders of men.

[Illustration: Covered Chair with Poles.]

But perhaps the most wonderful thing in China is the Great Wall. It was built by kings a long time ago. They wanted to keep savage people from coming into the country. The wall is built very high and very wide. It is so wide in some places that eight horses can be driven on top of it side by side. It is hundreds of miles long. The people of China think it is very wonderful. They think there is nothing so wonderful in all the rest of the world.

[Illustration: The Great Wall.]

China seems a curious country. Boys shout out loud in school. They read and write backward. Men fly kites, like boys. Women have feet as small as babies' feet. At dinner nuts and fruits are eaten first. Men work like animals. There are many ways in which the Chinese are different from the people in our country.


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