From: Erma Smythe
Peiyang University
Tientsin, China

To: Eunice (her sister)

October 23, 1924

Dear Eunice and all

Your Delta Zeta crested stationery is very nice and I enjoyed your letter very much. I was glad to know that you will be in Eugene this winter tho of course sorry that you had to give up the art school. I am hoping that later something will come up that will fully compensate you for your sacrifice. It must be a great satisfaction to mother to have you there and I am so glad that father continues to improve. I suppose that mother has received my letter by now containing the draft.

As for me I completely recovered my health and feel fine. Have a good appetite and am getting better looking every day (!whew!) But you do confess that there is room for improvement. I admit it my self. But I am gaining weight so am gradually losing my lantern jawed effect.

I have been trying to think of some more interesting things about China that I could tell you. I have not been to town for more than a week so have been about very little. Donald brought home a ponderous book entitled "Modern Chinese History: Selected Readings". It is a collection of extracts from various sources chosen to illustrate some of the chief phases of China's international relations during the past hundred years. It is compiled and written by Harley F. MacNair, Ph.D. professor history and government in St. John's University Shanghai. (Commercial Press, Ltd Shanghai Publishers). So you see it is a book written in China and I have found it most instructive and interesting. I have finished the Taiping Rebellion but haven't gotten to the Boxer uprising.

It is remarkable how many foreigners who live here know and care so little for Chinese history in relation to ourselves. But they readily pick up and accept for the truth every statement they hear on the street so to speak, concerning chinese customs and character and as a result they consider the Chinese fools and degenerates, treat them as such and then of course they can get nothing but poor service and misunderstandings. Some day I will bump into a quirk of Chinese character myself which will knock me out of plumb for a time I expect.

There is a very good book store in Tientsin in the French Concession. It is called the French Library. It is interesting to note how few the novels on display and how many books on literature, science, philosophy and religion as well as may(?) speeal(?) books on China. Donald got a copy of a book just off the press. Just as soon as we saw it we looked at each other and I asked Donald who he was thinking of and he said "Ray Bethers", So was I. I think that I told you of his pleasure in getting a copy, illustrated by a good artist of various types of ships. He had it with him when we saw him in San Francisco. Donald liked Ray and he said, "I am going to get a copy and trust to Eunice to get it to him."

This book is called "Chinese Junks and other Native Craft" by Ivan A Donnelly and illustrated by the author. It might interest you to note that the author lives in Tientsin and the book was printed in Shanghai. I think you will enjoy looking through it before sending it on to its final destination. We have another copy for ourselves.

In the Illustration on page 118 you will notice some tiny craft about the size of our row boats. They are called sampans. In the immediate foreground a man is propelling the boat. He always stands at the end and works the oars crisscross. On the Peiho which flows by the compound and which is the chief artery of traffic to Peking many of the boats are poled along. That is the boat is kept close to the bank and a long pole is thrust into the bank and the man pushes walking the length of the boat which is usually broad and flat. Having pushed the length of the boat he walks back plants his pole and repeats the process. Some times if the boat has considerable cargo and is large a crew of men will pole, all in perfect unison.

The author didn't include the Tientsin junk in his book. It really is two junks fastened together end to end. This type of junk is a remnant of the days of the Great Khan when he had the boats built in two sections so that they could more easily be transported overland when on some of his military expeditions. Today the only place that they survive is on the Peiho River.

The coolie is sick and has gone home to his mother. I asked Shi Bin how old the coolie was and he said 24. I never can tell how old these Chinese are. Age means little to them. I got hungry for home-made candy yesterday and asked Shi Bin to make some. At dinner on the table there was a plate heaped with peanut brittle and sea foam!

Tell Don that tomorrow Dr Grabau is coming to the University to deliver three lectures. He will stay with us while on the compound. Donald says that he is a most interesting speaker. He is now with the China Geological Survey.

It is time for Eugene to come for his geography lesson so I will close.

With love to all, Erma.

P.S. The war: It is still on but the Chinese are getting impatient because good weather continues because when it gets cold fighting will stop they think it may.

Pei Yang Sunday 26
I didn't get this mailed so there is more to write as our was has had a shift of scenery and Peking has been occupied as you have read. The war is over practically but due to leaderless troops geting loose things will not be normal for a while yet. If things get the least but uneasy around here we will go into the concessions and will be safe there as ther are troops stations thick all over the place. Tientsin is a city of refuge for all and defunct Chinese politicians are all making a bee-line for Tientsin where once in the concessions they cannot be touched.

The American Legion is having a call meeting today and Donald and Jack Oakley have gone in. Last night the Consul called up and told us (the women) to be prepared to go into town today. This morning he said we need not go, but Tien the rickshaw coolie I usually get was on the job this morning and was ready to take me to town if I was going.

This time there is no army in the vicinity of Tientsin which makes conditions much better than two years ago when Marshal Chang Tso-lin was licked by Wu Peifu and retreated along the road across the river from the University and Marshal Wu chasing him.

The men on the compound patrolled the place and no trouble was experienced at all. This year the Red bridge is down so to get here, and there is water on three sides, they would have to cross in boats and you can trust these boatmen at the first sight of a soldier to turn tail and beat it.

The other evening we had some friends going to town who had been out to have tiffin with us and it happened that some soldiers were being ferried across the river with provisions and on the other side where you can usually find a whole flock of rickshaws not one was in sight so we walked down to the next village and Donald explained who he was and that he needed two rickshaws and so got a couple.

Must close and sort out my things in case I am hustled off. Donald has his Luger oiled, loaded and cocked. One look into the muzzle of that weapon will be sufficient for any stray soldier I am thinking.

Now don't worry, we are really safe but the American Consul, by having the women come to the concessions, gets rid of a load of responsibility.

With love to all

P.S. I'm getting a real thrill out of this!

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