Articles - A Day In Fuh-Chow by M. E. Barber, June 1896

A Day In Fuh-Chow.

Letter from a Lady Missionary.

This letter from Miss Barber was published in a periodical called CMS Awake! with the following note:

[Miss Barber, the writer of this delightful letter, went out to China last year. She and her companions were the first ladies sent out to the Fuh-kien Province after the massacre at Hwasang,—Ed.]

Fuh-chow, South China, June 1896.

Would you care to imagine yourselves living here, and about to visit a poor heathen woman in her little cottage? If so, let us start! It is very hot, so we must put on sun-hats and take our white umbrellas! As we cannot speak Chinese, we will wait for Mrs. Sieh, the English-speaking wife of our Native catechist. Here she comes with her clean dress and her flower-decked hair—no hat and no umbrella, for she does not mind the sun. How bright she seems and how sweet she looks! We must take this turning to the right, and go down this narrow lane. How dirty it is! How bad are the smells, and how black the pigs which we see in all directions (all the Chinese pigs I have ever seen are black). Also don’t you feel that you will never get accustomed to being stared at by every passer-by?

Presently we arrive at our destination, and knock at what looks like a wooden fence. A woman comes, very poorly dressed, with a baby in her arms, and we step inside. The door is locked after us, so we shall be quiet. That is unusual and very nice. We cross the little yard and seat ourselves on one of the benches in the little room. The floor is of earth, and the furniture consists of two benches, one old table, and incense sticks in jars for burning before gods, of which there are plenty on the wall. How nice it is to be able to pray and listen as Mrs. Sieh tells I Sung the story of a Saviour’s love. How one longs for God Himself to open the hearts of these poor ignorant women! Before we leave we have prayer together—prayer in a heathen home, with signs of idolatry on every side. How grand to know we plead the All-Prevailing Name!

Before leaving I discover that I Sung has three children, but she has only two in the house with her. “Where is the other one?” I ask. “Oh!” says the mother, “she is a girl, so I gave her away.” Not only that, but she seemed so unconcerned about it that I felt a new meaning was lighting up those words of Him Who loves us so tenderly: “Can a woman forget her child…yet will not I forget thee.” Poor, ignorant mother, do pray for her and her children. There is a nice little incident about this woman which I must tell you. She wanted to come to service in the little chapel attached to the school, but she had no clothes, only rags, and no earrings. What was to be done? The dear girls in this school heard of it, and subscribed, some one cash, and some more, and bought I Sung an jacket and trousers, and gave her the surplus money to get her earrings out of pawn. What a nice example for us! Of course there was great excitement when I Sung appeared in her new suit the following Sunday, but only one girl was unable to suppress her pleasure and curiosity. They had all been warned not to stare at their friend and make her uncomfortable.

It is so lovely for these girls to be here. They get such splendid teaching, and are surrounded with such holy influences. Most of them, when they leave this school, are married to Native catechists or pastors, and thus a life of usefulness is before them. Miss Bushell, the Principal of the school, is dearly loved by all her girls. Her sweet, holy influence must tell upon all with whom she comes in contact. One day I heard one of the older girls talking so earnestly to an old woman, and found she was explaining John iii. 16. The woman was a Heathen, who had come in from curiosity. One just longed for her to understand that it was for her that God gave His Son.

I must tell you of another visit I paid; this time to a heathen day-school. It is too far to walk, and there are no conveyances except these funny little houses swung between two bamboo poles. It really is very cosy inside the chair. My chair is painted green—vivid green—because the Chinese like bright colours, and I have windows in it, so that I do not feel as prisoner! Presently we start. The coolies want to go their way, avoiding the hilly places, but taking us by paddy-fields. They have to give in, however, and go the right way, avoiding thus the unpleasant odours of paddy. How lovely the country is, and how nice the fields look, clothed in their bright green! Our coolies are so glad when we get out and walk. After about an hour’s journey, perhaps hardly so long, we reach the village. Perhaps you may picture (as I used to do) a sweet little English-looking village, with its greensward and pretty gardens, and merry children; but Chinese villages are not like that. This one is a typical one. How shall I describe it? Generally there is one narrow, dirty street full of children, almost without any dress, barking dogs, staring men and women, and the usual number of grunting black pigs. We do not go through the street this time, however, but up a narrow passage, and a turn to the right leads us into a courtyard full of puddles and naked children, and after finding a fairly clean place for our chairs we reach the school. Here it is a very dirty iangdong (or room almost open to the sky); in it a table, four forms, six children, the teacher, and the usual number of hens, together with a friendly visitor, who now and then picks up a morsel, viz. the indispensable black pig. No sooner are we seated than the neighbours flock in and dozens of children. All want to see the foreigner.

I do with I could paint the scene. Do you see that man walking round in search of something? He is one fo the coolies. In his search he discovers the teapot, and takes a good drink. Presently, failing to find what he wants he asks for it, and is presented with a pipe. How does he light it? He has no matches, no fire, and no other light to light it by, and if you watch you see him using flint and tinder, such as our forefathers used in this country years ago. It does seem such a funny way to get a light. The coolie is very liberal with his pipe, for I see him handing it to all the other coolies in turn. This woman sitting by me is a decided trial to the examiner, Miss Bushell, for she yells at the top of her voice when any newcomer appears, but as she is deaf and dumb, we must not mind the curious sounds she is making. I see and feel, too, that the children are touching my hair and dress, and sitting as close to me as they can, making room for each other in a most ingenious way. It is quite funny to be on view in this fashion. Here is a sweet little girl about ten years old. Let us hear her repeat, “Jesus loves me, this I know”; she says it so nicely, but when I question her I find she knows very little about the precious Saviour “Who died, Heaven’s gate to open wide.” The Chinese children can get things off by heart in a most surprising way, but it never dawns on them to think about what they learn. Miss Bushell says Chinese children can never be taught to love knowledge for its own sake—they always want to be paid to come to school. This is why only six are here to-day. That little girl on our right looks so ashamed and is listening so quietly to what Miss Bushell is saying. What is it all about? She does not know her lessons well, and Miss Bushell has asked the reason, and has been told that her little pupil makes idol-paper all day long, and has no time for school. Poor little girl! She does not want to make the idol-paper, but she has to work—her parents make her do it. Will you pray for her, dear friends? She has promised to ask God to make a way for her to earn some money apart from idol-paper making.

As we make our way home in the cool evening, we notice several very curious things—curious to my eyes at least. Here is a buffalo with only his head out of the water, evidently enjoying the coolness of a slimy pond. Then we meet a gaily-dressed Chinaman, in blue and scarlet, with a servant behind him, and a chair in attendance. He looks very lordly, but he is only a poor teacher, earning six dollars a month, who has lately got a degree and is visiting his friends, having hired the servant and the chair to impress them with a sense of his greatness. There are some men watering their little plots. What curious watering-pots they have!—all of wood, with a spout like a flute, out of which the water comes in fountain-like sprays. Quite as effectual, this little flute-like arrangement is, as our more elaborate way of doing things in England. What a number of people we see carrying their suppers home on a string. It has one advantage—one can see what they are going to eat. We see black, crab-like creatures, goats’ flesh, dried vegetables, green-looking cakes, fish like young codfish, and a great many very unwholesome-looking dainties, whose names I am quite ignorant of. I hope I shall remain quite as ignorant of the taste of them. It is getting dark, so we get into our chairs. There is a Christian Endeavour meeting at seven. An English-speaking Chinaman will give the address. Afterwards he stays to supper with us, and tells us about great blessing in a district in which he has lately been. He also tells us that, rather than work on Sundays, he goes to his office at 6 a.m. and stays there till nine o’clock, and then enjoys what he calls his Sunday rest. He does not realize that we know he preaches twice every Sunday, and visits besides. Oh, that God would raise up many such men to testify for Him in this dark land! Pray for this, dear friends, and for all who are here.

With loving Christian greetings,
I am yours in Christ’s glad service,
Margaret Barber.

Source: CMS Awake!, Volume 6, Issue . 1896. London: Church Missionary Society.

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