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

To: William Ralph Smythe (his brother)

June 18, 1925

Dear Ralph:-
Judging from your letter of May 17, which arrived yesterday, you rather envy me the excitement which we are having here just now. I have been wondering just what sort of guff the papers have been giving you in the States, the lord knows things are confused enough here but where you are it must be worse. As near as we can judge here some body is using the Chinese but as to just who it is is a difficult matter to decide. At first it looked like an obviously Bolshiviki party but many people think that the Japs are at the bottom of it. It would be just in their line to stir up trouble surreptitiously and then point to the fact that China could not keep order and so step in. From recent developments I am inclined to think that the Japanese government is not concerned as they seem to be trying to keep on good terms with the Chinese in spite of all the trouble. Russia has undoubtedly been trying to get the Chinese to throw the foreigners out but seems to have impressed only some students and coolies. The missionaries, and particularly the Y.M.C.A., have been industriously helping them although they deny doing so. Feng yu shang has been bought by the Bolshiviki and is upheld by the missionaries because he is a Christian. I recently saw a Russian who is a merchant in Urga, he stated that the Soviets were sending Feng arms and ammunition by motor car through Mongolia. He has two cars of his own which he uses to carry his own goods but that these are likely to seizure at any time for the purpose of carrying the arms. I had heard the rumor before but of course it was always denied. Chang tso lin on the other hand is openly backed by the Japs.

The Japs have several factories in Shanghai where the conditions are undoubtedly very bad. probably no worse, however, than those in other places in China. The Chinese were apparently contented until the Bolshiviki told them how badly they were treated. Then they went on strike, tried to destroy the factories, which the Japs naturally defended. The mob outnumbered the Japs and when force was used one of the Jap foremen shot and killed a Chinese worker. Now the Chinese are utterly callous to the loss of human life but this was seized upon as a pretext for agitation by some of those who had been trained in the Bolshiviki doctrine, and, with a great display of patriotism, started the present trouble. The patriotism is all bunk as the Chinese do not know the meaning of the word, they will do anything to profit themselves but the largest group which means anything to them is the family. If you can imagine the conditions in England during the barons' wars and compare the present Tu chuns or war lords to the barons you will have a fair idea of the conditions. They do dislike the foreigners however and seize any pretext to agitate against them.

As a result of this strike certain students, apparently used as catspaws, entered the international settlement at Shanghai to parade and make speeches. They claim that they have a right to do this but the Chinese Gov't., when they gave the foreigners the settlement land, made an agreement that no political speeches would be allowed except with the permission of the foreign authorities. This authority was neither sought nor obtained. The students themselves probably had no thought of violence but soon a lot of riff raff collected and thought it a good time to start something in hopes of looting. Hence the group of "unarmed, innocent and defenseless students" consisted mainly of the irresponsible characters usually to be found around an oriental seaport. The students had no control over the mob but were kept in the forefront and were the goats. They treated several foreigners and policemen roughly and then started for the police station. Arriving there the man in charge tried to get them to disperse but they would not so, then shots were fired into the crowd. If this had not been done the mob would undoubtedly have wrecked the station and seized the arms stored there. As it was several of the rioters were killed. I saw the account of a Chinese returned student who was in the vicinity and he stated that the mob was crying "kill, kill" in such a way that it could not be misunderstood. The Chinese have attempted to give a different interpretation to the word, which is not difficult with a language like the Chinese, but this Chinese states that there was no mistaking the meaning and the intention of the mob. Since then there has been rioting in many other places, in each case the foreigners have gone out of their way to concilate the mob and have attempted to get protection from the Chinese forces, not protecting themselves by violent means until entirely necessary.

The Hankow rioting is a case in point. The Chinese state that the shooting was without provocation when as a matter of fact one Jap had been killed, several wounded, and portions of the concession wrecked before any attempt to use force was made. The foreigners had sent word to the Chinese general to send troops to keep order but as is usually the case he delayed. In the meantime matters became critical and the foreigners attempted to protect themselves first by means of a fire hose, then by firing over the heads of the mob, and as a last resort by shooting into the mob. The Chinese papers stated that it was an unprovoked attack on unarmed and inoffensive students. The Chinese troops for protection arrived after it was all over. At Kiu kiang the foreigners withdrew and the inoffensive students burnt a Japanese bank and half wrecked the concession. A similar tale at Che kiang and elsewhere.

In Tientsin things have been quiet since Chang tso lin is here is keeping order. The Chinese city is plastered with cartoons and posters mainly in Chinese but some in English. One of the latter advises the people to go to war while all of them are very inflammatory. Students are lecturing on the street corners and parading around but the Chinese of any substance are too interested in their own affairs to pay any attention. Last Sunday they called a strike of all shops etc. but very few responded. The students paraded but that was all. It had been planned to enter the foreign concessions but Chang got wind of it and arrested the leaders as they were about to attempt it. One of these men, the little tin god of the Y.M.C.A. in China, having come down from Peking where he had formerly been minister of foreign affairs in order to start the trouble, another was a former minister of education. This has not gotten into the papers but I got it straight from a man who was asked by Chang's agent about the advisibility of beheading them. Chang has them and wanted to put an end to their trouble making but was persuaded not to because the victims were so well known to the missionaries that they would have made trouble. In any case C.T. Wang has not been seen since Sunday. Immediately after the Shanghai trouble the missionaries began to write the papers about the outrage to the Chinese when they did not know the details or whereof they were talking. They made such damn fools of themselves that the consul finally told them to shut up until they found out what had happened. The Y.M.C.A. was particularly bad, not only the Chinese members but also the Foreigners particularly the Americans. The building was decorated yesterday with a large flag and many posters urging the Chinese to take arms and fight.

And now Borah is shooting off his face about China, what the hell does he know about it. The whole thing is typically Chinese; the same mentality that thinks the worst revenge a man can take on his enemy is to hang himself on his doorstep. Americans don't seem to realize that the Chinese are still three hundred years behind the western races and that a form of government which is called Republican does not indicate that they have reached a point where they can be treated like equals. The only treatment to which they will respond, the only government possible is that of armed force. The missionaries think that as soon as a man says he is a Christian that he has attained the same point as the citizen of the western nations, and is even a better citizen than a foreigner who does not profess Christianity. The Taiping rebellion is a splendid example of what the teaching does. My observation is that the Chinese who become Christians do so only because they expect to get some advantage from it in their dealings with foreigners. Most of the educated Chinese are agnostics, it is only in the lower classes that there is still sufficient superstition to make Christianity appealing. Even then it does not usually have as much to offer them as their own religions.

As an example of the veracity of the Chinese press I will mention the report of the murder of a Englishman in Shanghai day before yesterday. This man was out in a motor at night with a foreign woman. His car was stopped by Chinese and when he got out to see what was the matter they turned their flashlights on him and started to shoot. He got back to the car and got it started before they killed him, the woman, shot in both arms, got the car away and escaped. In the paper this morning there was a translation of the report from a Chinese paper in which they stated that it was all a put up job that the Chinese did not kill him but that he had died of some sickness, the British consul had a doctor cut him to simulate a bullet wound and then had blamed the whole thing on the inoffensive Chinese. At Hankow they claimed that the Japanese had wrecked their own shops and wounded themselves. What can you do with a nation such as that! And still the missionaries believe the Chinese reports that the foreigners did it all! I suppose the American papers are full of missionary reports of the treatment of the inoffensive Chinese. I only hope that Washington is not misled by them or the Bolshiviki reports which are as bad. Borah must of gotten his information from the latter source.

Please don't mention C.T. Wang to Terrill in case you see him. Terrill is one of those Y.M.C.A. men who are such Damn fools about the Chinese. He will doubtless be explaining the Chinese situation where you are so I have given you some of the real dope. Terrill is one of these men who married to get out of going to war and then was a four minute man, he is very proud of his diploma for the latter service which he keeps hung on the wall in a frame. Tell him anything you like about the rest of the dope but I was told about Wang and the rest of them in confidence.

There does not appear to be any danger here at the present time although you can't tell what will happen. Erma is safely out of the way at Pei tai ho, the summer resort, so that I am free to act and in fact would rather enjoy it if something did break. Last year the American Legion listed all the American citizens when trouble was expected. These lists were turned over to General Conner (Comm. American Forces in China.) who divided them up into groups. There are three groups the first group of about sixty who will be called as soon as trouble starts, a second group who will serve only when all foreigners have to retire to the concessions and a third group, mainly of missionaries, who will not fight but will let us protect their families. I am in the first group is is unnecessary to state. If we are called upon to serve we will merely be absorbed in the 15th infantry and serve under regular officers.

The tax receipt arrived O.K. also the stamps, thanks for sending them. I had seen the Lex. Concord issue but these were the first I have obtained. There are three values 1, 2, and 5 cents. You were right, if any of those issues come out please get me some. They are talking of a Norse Commerative set as well as several new values of special delivery stamps, the 1 1/2 cent I had but not the coil.

I expect to go to Peking the first of July if nothing happens to prevent and will get your much delayed rug. May also spend some time in the Western Hills with a friend who has rented a temple for the summer. My summer research does not look good now, don't think I want to go out into the hills until I know how this trouble is going to end. I am sorry that Bean has not come through, he is trying to operate on a shestring I think so he may not make it.

Things at the University are much better now. We are probably the only school in China where the studens have not struck and gone agitating. The attitude toward poreign professors here has under gone a favorable change in the last few months so that prospects look much more rosy. We have received all our back salary and have even received our June salary half a month in advance! School is over now and the compound very quiet. Chang tso lin has noticed with pleasure that the Peiyang students have taken part in no demonstrations which will help us considerably in getting money, it should also help us with the boxer indemnity funds. It has been a very cool spring, has only been hot the last few days. Last year it was hot a month earlier. The cicadas have begun to sing but the chorus is not yet deafening the way it will be later. I always thought that cukoos lived only in clocks but there is one on the compoind here which is striking at all hours of the day. I haven't seen him yet as he is very shy but he sounds just like a clock. Lots of rain early in the season so there will be no drought and little likely hood of a flood later.

Erma is Pei tai ho correspondent for the P&T Times this summer. They pay her six dollars a column so that she expects to make about ten dollars a day at it. Pei tai ho is north of here on the sea coast where the water is clear, it is the summer resort for most of China with some people coming from Japan and the Phillipines. During the summer it has a larger foreign population than any other place in China at any time of year. During the winter only two or three foreigners live there.

I am studying French now, but the direct method you might say as my teacher speaks it very fluently. It is not very hard so I expect to be able to read it with facility by fall. Have also started taking Chinese lessons again. Took some lessons in Chinese politeness this morning. It is very interesting but difficult. Bought an interesting Chinese book a short time ago, it is called the Mustard Seed Garden and is a treatise on Chinese painting full of old wood cuts. Part of it is 200 years old. it is very hard to get but I got it for only $20 mex. In London I could probably get $200 gold for it or even more. Some of the cuts are beautiful.

I have not done much photography yet but expect to do some work with the temples in the Western Hills this summer. May try to place them with some magazine such as the National Geographic. It has always been my ambition to get a set of photos published there.

Was very sorry to hear about Miss Gussie. I sent her money from time to time till I came out here but have not had much to spare since. Intended to write her today but this is so long that it will have to wait now.

This letter is long enough to make up for some of my lapses I should say. I don't know but that I will feel so virtuous that I can let several of your letters go without answering after this effusion.

Was glad to hear that you and Helen were so well. Erma and I have both been ill. Can't find anything wrong with her but she seems to be under the weather most of the time . With me it has been liver mainly, result of the China climate I judge. It doesn't help my naturally mean disposition any.

Kindest regards to you both,
Tsai chien,

[ MENU ] [ TOP ]