From: Donald D. Smythe, Professor Geology
Peiyang University, Dept. of Geology
Tientsin, China

To: Erma Smythe
March 18, 1924

Dear little Wife:-
Plenty of nothing to do right now, the students are on strike. All of them have gone out except the Senior class. They don't like the president and are trying to run him out, the governor of the province has backed him up though so that the students are out of luck. The governor sent about 200 soldiers out so that we are practically under martial law. Some of the students want to return but the others won't let them, threaten them with bombs etc. A few are returning anyhow so that out of about 400 students we have now about 80 including 20 Seniors. I met my Freshman class which normally has 54 but this morning there were only two, one of whom was the nephew of the president. Of my other classes only the seniors have any present. The "Proclamations" which the students sent around to the faculty are funny I will enclose them but take very good care of them as they are worth keeping. They claim that the president is only acting President since the students have never accepted him as head of the institution. They struck once before when he first came and ran him off the compound. The whole thing is typical of conditions in China at present. We will probably have more students in a few weeks but less than half of what we have had to date.

You do not say in any of your letters how you are fixed for funds. I suppose that Harvey has sent you what he owed us. I sent a draft for $50 about the first of the year and a couple of weeks ago I sent $100 by cable so that you could pay the insurance. Please let me know if you received them. Have been under rather heavy expense to furnish the house or I would have sent more. Don't suppose your expenses have been very much but don't want you to be too short. Wish you could get that rug but we can get Chinese rugs here very reasonably.

I am afraid that I would shock your Durango family very much, I am getting worse than I used to be in some of my ideas or rather am getting away from some of the narrow ideas I was brought up on, particularly religion.

You will like it here I am sure, it will be easier than you have ever had it since you won't have to do any housework or sewing, not much in the way of amusement out here though.

The weather here is delightful right now. Spring has come, the grass is starting and the birds are singing. We have a garden in front of our house which I am starting to fix up. Have hired a gardener to look after it and will get plants to set out. Flowers are ridicously cheap. I bought two roses in pots to use inside the house, they were about three fee high and the two cost $1.50.

I think I told you that I am taking Chinese lessons from an old Manchu. Have the characters written on slips of paper with the sound and meaning on the other side. I know over a hundred characters by now. The construction of the sentences is very simple since there are no tenses or declensions so that if you know a few words you can do almost anything with them.

I want to know enough characters that I can get the sense out of what I see but there is no chance of ever being able to write it.

It is tiffin time and there is little more to say so will close.

With lots of love,
your husband, Donald

April 7, 1924

Dear little wife:-
Didn't realize that this letter had laid around as long as it has. I didn't send it as I was afraid that you might get excited over the strike. Vacation ends tomorrow and we will see then how many come back. All that do not return then will not be allowed to return at any time. Only a few students have been attending most of the classes, and of my 22 hours I have only needed to teach five. Looks as if I would have an easy time the rest of the year as most people estimate that we will have only about 100 students as the maximum. There is no danger to us as the strikers want our sympathy.

The students have tried in every way to get the president out, even sent a delegation to Pekin where the police put them back on the cars again. Pei Yang is on a different footing than the other government schools. The ministry of education at Pekin has charge of the other Universities, this minestry is pretty rotten so that the teachers are not paid and the students run the school saying who is to teach, who is to be passed, and what is to be taught. This ministry has tried to get control of this school and that is primairly what the students here want. When it came up at the last strike Gov. Wang of Chili Prov. told them that they could have control if they would pay the salaries here, but as long as he managed to pay the teachers he would retain control. They did not want that so that this school is still under the provincial authorities and is the only government school where the salaries are promptly paid. Revolutions are not likely to effect this school much.

Your last letter came while I was taking my Chinese lesson, The old schue shung complemented you on the way you wrote those Chinese Characters and said that he hoped you came to China soon, so do I.

Spring has been here since the first of the month, the peach trees are all in bloom and things are getting green. I have a gardener and will have things pretty so that they will look nice when you come. Gave a dinner party last week, went off in good shape. Had the Balls and the Oakleys, both young California couples in the Civil Dept. Mrs. Ball will probably write you later to tell you what to bring with you. You won't need to bring anything but your own clothing as we will get the rest here.

You didn't mention the trunks but I judge that they arrived in Grass Valley or you would not have been able to give that tea.

Hope it went off allright. Mrs. Oakley borrowed your samovar for the monthy "at home" of the Peiyang women, it sure was the best looking thing in the room, I have had a special tray made for it which sets it off.

Think I told you that I joined the American Legion here. Am going down to the smoker tonight.

It is about time for tiffin so will close.

With lots of love, Donald

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