America Through the Spectacles of an Oriental Diplomat
Chapter 17. Sports
Perhaps in nothing do the Chinese differ from their Western friends
in the matter of amusements more than in regard to sports.
The Chinese would never think of assembling in thousands
just to see a game played. We are not modernized enough
to care to spend half a day watching others play. When we are tired of work
we like to do our own playing. Our national game is the shuttlecock,
which we toss from one to another over our shoulders,
hitting the shuttlecock with the flat soles of the shoes we are wearing.
Sometimes we hit with one part of the foot, sometimes with another,
according to the rules of the game. This, like kite-flying,
is a great amusement among men and boys.
We have nothing corresponding to tennis and other Western ball games,
nor, indeed, any game in which the opposite sexes join.
Archery was a health-giving exercise of which modern ideas of war robbed us.
The same baneful influence has caused the old-fashioned
healthful gymnastic exercises with heavy weights to be discarded.
I have seen young men on board ocean-going steamers
throwing heavy bags of sand to one another as a pastime.
This, though excellent practice, hardly equals our ancient athletic feats
with the bow or the heavy weight. Western sports have been introduced
into some mission and other schools in China, but I much doubt
if they will ever be really popular among my people. They are too violent,
and, from the oriental standpoint, lacking in dignity.
Yet, when Chinese residing abroad do take up Western athletic sports
they prove themselves the equals of all competitors, as witness
their success in the Manila Olympiad, and the name the baseball players
from the Hawaiian Islands Chinese University made for themselves
when they visited America. Nevertheless, were the average Chinese
told that many people buy the daily paper in the West
simply to see the result of some game, and that a sporting journalism
flourishes there, i.e., papers devoted entirely to sport,
they would regard the statement as itself a pleasant sport.
Personally, I think we might learn much from the West in regard to sports.
They certainly increase the physical and mental faculties,
and for this reason, if for no other, deserve to be warmly supported.
China suffers because her youths have never been trained to team-work.
We should be a more united people if as boys and young men
we learned to take part in games which took the form of a contest,
in which, while each contestant does his best for his own side,
the winning or losing of the game is not considered so important
as the pleasure of the exercise. I think a great deal
of the manliness which I have admired in the West must be attributed
to the natural love of healthy sport for sport's sake.
Games honestly and fairly played inculcate the virtues of honor, candidness,
and chivalry, of which America has produced many worthy specimens.
When one side is defeated the winner does not exult over
his defeated opponents but attributes his victory to an accident;
I have seen the defeated crew in a boat race applauding
their winning opponents. It is a noble example for the defeated contestants
to give credit to and to applaud the winner, an example which
I hope will be followed by my countrymen.
As an ardent believer in the natural, healthy and compassionate life
I was interested to find in the Encyclopaedia Britannica
how frequently vegetarians have been winners in athletic sports.*
They won the Berlin to Dresden walking match, a distance of 125 miles,
the Carwardine Cup (100 miles) and Dibble Shield (6 hours)
cycling races (1901-02), the amateur championship of England
in tennis (four successive years up to 1902) and racquets (1902),
the cycling championship of India (three years), half-mile running
championship of Scotland (1896), world's amateur cycle records
for all times from four hours to thirteen hours (1902),
100 miles championship Yorkshire Road Club (1899, 1901),
tennis gold medal (five times). I have not access to later statistics
on this subject but I know that it is the reverse of truth to say,
as Professor Gautier, of the Sarbonne, a Catholic foundation in Paris,
recently said, that vegetarians "suffer from lack of energy
and weakened will power." The above facts disprove it,
and as against Prof. Gautier, I quote Dr. J. H. Kellogg,
the eminent physician and Superintendent of Battle Creek Sanitarium
in Michigan, U.S.A., who has been a strict vegetarian for many years and who,
though over sixty years of age, is as strong and vigorous as a man of forty;
he told me that he worked sixteen hours daily without the least fatigue.
Mrs. Annie Besant, President of the Theosophical Society,
is another example. I am credibly informed that she has been
a vegetarian for at least thirty-five years and that it is doubtful
if any flesh-eater who is sixty-five can equal her in energy.
Whatever else vegetarians may lack they are not lacking
in powers of endurance.
* E. B., 9th ed., vol. 33, p. 649.
It is needless for me to say that hunting, or, as it is called, "sport",
is entirely opposed to my idea of the fitness of things.
I do not see why it should not be as interesting to shoot at "clay pigeons"
as to kill living birds; and why moving targets are not
as suitable a recreation as running animals. "The pleasures of the chase"
are no doubt fascinating, but when one remembers that
these so-called pleasures are memories we have brought with us
from the time when we were savages and hunted for the sake of food,
no one can be proud of still possessing such tastes.
To say that hunters to-day only kill to eat would be denied indignantly
by every true sportsman. That the quarry is sometimes eaten afterward
is but an incident in the game; the splendid outdoor exercise
which the hunt provides can easily be found in other ways without inflicting
the fear, distress, and pain which the hunted animals endure.
It is a sad commentary on the stage at which humanity still is
that even royalty, to whom we look for virtuous examples,
seldom misses an opportunity to hunt. When a man has a strong hobby
he is unable to see its evil side even though in other respects
he may be humane and kind-hearted. Thus the sorry spectacle is presented
of highly civilized and humane people displaying their courage
by hunting and attacking wild animals, not only in their own native country
but in foreign lands as well. Such personages are, I regret to have to add,
not unknown in the United States.
The fact that hunting has been followed from time immemorial,
that the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians
indulged in this pastime, does not make it any more suitable an occupation
for us to-day. The good qualities of temper and patience
which hunting demands are equally well developed by athletic sports.
I understand that a good hunting establishment will cost as much as
$10,000 (2000 Pounds) a year. Surely those who can afford so much on luxuries
could find a more refined amusement in yachting and similar recreations.
To sail a yacht successfully in half a gale of wind, is, I should imagine,
more venturesome, more exciting, and a pastime requiring a manifestation
of more of the qualities of daring, than shooting a frightened animal
from the safe retreat of the saddle of a trusty horse;
and not even the hunt of the wild beast can equal in true sportsmanship
a contest with the wind and the waves, for it is only occasionally
that a beast shows fight because he is wounded, and even then
man is well protected by his gun; but whether yachting or swimming
the sportsman's attitude of watchfulness is uninterrupted.
I fancy it is convention and custom, rather than conviction
of the superiority of the sport, that has given hunting its pre-eminence.
It is on record that four thousand years ago the ancient emperors of China
started periodically on hunting expeditions. They thus sought relief from
the monotony of life in those days; in the days of the Stuarts, in England,
royalty found pleasure in shows which were childish and even immoral.
Of course in barbarous countries all savages used to hunt for food.
For them hunting was an economic necessity, and it is no slander
to say that the modern hunt is a relic of barbarism.
It is, indeed, a matter of surprise to me that this cruel practice
has not ceased, but still exists in this twentieth century.
It goes without saying that hunting means killing the defenseless,
inflicting misery and death on the helpless; even if it be admitted
that there is some justification for killing a ferocious and dangerous animal,
why should we take pleasure in hunting and killing the fox,
the deer, the hare, the otter, and similar creatures?
People who hunt boast of their bravery and fearlessness,
and to show their intrepidity and excellent shooting
they go to the wilderness and other countries to carry on their "sport".
I admire their fearless courage but I am compelled to express my opinion
that such actions are not consistent with those of a good-hearted
Still less excuse is there for the practice of shooting.
What right have we to wantonly kill these harmless and defenseless birds
flying in the air? I once watched pigeon shooting at a famous watering place,
the poor birds were allowed to fly from the trap-holes simply that
they might be ruthlessly killed or maimed. That was wanton cruelty;
to reprobate too strongly such revolting barbarity is almost impossible.
I am glad to say that such cruel practices did not come under my observation
during my residence in the States, and I hope that they are not American vices
but are prohibited by law. No country, with the least claim to civilization,
should allow such things, and our descendants will be astonished
that people calling themselves civilized should have indulged
in such wholesale and gratuitous atrocities. When people allow animals
to be murdered -- for it is nothing but murder -- for the sake of sport,
they ought not to be surprised that men are murdered by criminals
for reasons which seem to them good and sufficient.
An animal has as much right to its life as man has to his.
Both may be called upon to sacrifice life for the sake of some greater good
to a greater number, but by what manner of reasoning can killing for
killing's sake be justified? Does the superior cunning and intellect of man
warrant his taking life for fun? Then, should a race superior to humanity
ever appear on the earth, man would have no just cause of complaint
if he were killed off for its amusement. There formerly existed in India
a "well-organized confederacy of professional assassins" called Thugs,
who worshipped the goddess Kali with human lives. They murdered according to
"rigidly prescribed forms" and for religious reasons. The English,
when they came into power in India, naturally took vigorous measures
to stamp out Thuggeeism; but from a higher point of view
than our own little selves, is there after all so much difference
between the ordinary sportsman and the fanatic Thuggee? If there be,
the balance is rather in favor of the latter, for the Thug at least had
the sanction of religion, while the hunter has nothing to excuse his cruelty
beyond the lust of killing. I do not understand why the humane societies,
such as "The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals",
are so supine in regard to these practices. The Chinese
are frequently accused of being cruel to animals, but I think
that those who are living in glass houses should not throw stones.
In this connection I would remark that birds are shot not only
for pleasure and for their flesh, but in some cases for their plumage,
and women who wear hats adorned with birds' feathers, do, though indirectly,
encourage the slaughter of the innocent. Once a Chinese was arrested
by the police in Hongkong for cruelty to a rat. It appeared that the rat
had committed great havoc in his household, stealing and damaging
various articles of food; when at last it was caught the man nailed its feet
to a board, as a warning to other rats. For this he was brought
before the English Magistrate, who imposed a penalty of ten dollars.
He was astonished, and pleaded that the rat deserved death,
on account of the serious havoc committed in his house.
The Magistrate told him that he ought to have instantly killed the rat,
and not to have tortured it. The amazed offender paid his fine,
but murmured that he did not see the justice of the British Court
in not allowing him to punish the rat as he chose, while foreigners in China
were allowed the privilege of shooting innocent birds without molestation.
I must confess, people are not always consistent.
The Peace Societies should take up this matter, for hunting
is an imitation of war and an apprenticeship to it.
It certainly can find no justification in any of the great world religions,
and not even the British, or the Germans, who idolize soldiers,
would immortalize a man simply because he was a hunter.
From whatever point the subject be viewed it seems undeniable
that hunting is only a survival of savagery.
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