Sivut kuvina

I realized the cheapening of the spiritual value of man in this country through his mind being ceaselessly exploited, in a wholesale manner and with a scientific thoroughness, for the sake of profit and power. Having had this chance to come into personal contact with prosperous America, with the mentality that could produce quickly rotating crops of an enormous harvest of success, I grew afraid of it. The following extract from a letter which I wrote on this occasion to an English friend in India will give you some idea of how I felt:

Every day I seem to be growing afraid of the very vision of this success. It has been said in the Upanishad: Happiness is greatness. But ambition points to bigness and calls it greatness, and our track is hopelessly lost. When I look at the picture of Buddha, I cry out for the great peace of inner fulfillment. My longing grows painfully intense as my mind becomes distracted at the stupendous unmeaning of the monstrosity in the things around me. Every morning I sit by my window and say to myself: 'I must not bow my head to this ugly idol worshiped by the West with daily human sacrifice.' I remember that morning at Shelida, when the Vaishnava woman came to me and said, 'When are you coming down from your three-storied building, to meet your love under the shade of the trees?' Just now I am on the top story of the skyscraper, to which the tallest of trees dares not send its whisper; but love silently comes to me saying: 'When are you coming down to meet me on the green grass under the rustling leaves, where you have the freedom of the sky and of sunlight and the tender touch of life's simplicity?' I try to say something about money in reply, but it sounds so ludicrous, and yet so tragic, that my words grow ashamed of themselves and they stop.

Let me conclude with another extract from a letter of the same period:

When I finish reading your letters from Santiniketan, I wake up from my lyric dream to find myself at the bottom of a prodigious pile of newspaper prose. My surroundings seem to me like the inside of

a whale that has swallowed me.

The idea of freedom, which the people in this country have, is the imaginary freedom of a fly shut up in a glass case whose walls are invisible. They are surrounded by an impregnable globe of unreality to which they cling and believe that they are in solid possession of the sky. But I can assure you that you have the right to laugh at these buzzing creatures, with their absurd pride at having made their sky densely substantial. This deludes them with a freedom that is of the eye, while immuring them in a confinement that is of the spirit.

My freedom is unreal, so long as I cherish slavery in my soul. This is a truism, like our idea of death; but opportunity comes when we discover it in our life, and then it discloses to us its ever-newness of truth. I seem to pass through a real training for becoming a fakir when I am in this country. Buddha was born to regal surroundings which gave him the fitness to attain the true majesty of beggardom. I wrote a poem when I was in India: 'I Shall Never Be an Ascetic.' But when I am here, the inspiration comes to me, with a rush of lyrical fervor, to write a hymn to Shiva, the Lord of Ascetics, who has the four quarters of the sky for his mantle.

It may sound to you like a paradox when I say that what oppresses me most in this country is the utter lack of freedom with which the atmosphere is charged. But it is true. I long to draw in the breath of life, but my nostrils get stopped with sand and soot, and then I am choked into acknowledging the truth, that it is not the substance which is most important for us, but the modest bareness of it.

Leisure and space are the most precious gifts for us; for we are creators. Our real freedom is in the world of our own creation, where our mind can work unhindered and our soul finds its throne from which to govern its own dominion.



It was one August that I landed in Mukden and put up at the Standard Oil Mess. Douglas was there. For three years we had been in China without sight of each other, although our friendship was of long standing. It was partly due to these facts that the following events occurred; events which, as it turned out, nearly brought us to blows.

'I am ordered on an inspection trip down the Manchurian coast,' he said to me. 'I leave to-morrow. Once a year someone has to make this jaunt. It's not very exciting, but it's awfully healthy. All good clean fun, you know. You have to go by native junk. How about signing on?'

I had not seen Douglas for a long time. I did not know the north or the coasts of China. I had never traveled in a sea junk. Eagerly I agreed to go.

The following evening, boarding the train, we were met by Mr. Huang. Mr. Huang - my first glimpse of the well-dressed interpreter was a fashionable young gentleman evidently expecting an eclipse of the sun, for he peered out at me from behind spectacles of cobalt-blue glass. He wore foreign clothes: trousers, skimpy and affectionate, wrapping themselves about his shins with the tenacity of ivy on a pole; a shirt of sporty salmon pink with a collar not to match; an almostgold bar pin large enough for the doors of a donjon keep; and a washable but unwashed-tie of robin's-egg blue.


Not because but rather in spite of his foreign clothes, Mr. Huang was pleasantly mannered. Before he left us he expressed wonderment and, I thought, a little alarm that we would not travel by launch, but were insistent on a native junk.

When he had gone Douglas declared, 'You can see that Pinko there is no sailor, can't you? Just to look at him. That's the only trouble with these sea trips- the boy and the interpreter always mess the place up so. They have none of the old viking blood which races through our veins.'

I had never known that Douglas was a sailor, but, not to be outdone, I asserted, 'My people were all sea captains before me. It's in my blood. I can smell the tang of the ocean already.'

'Yes, so can I. And we're one hundred and seventy miles away.'

Morning brought us to Antung and the sea. We left our baggage at the very modern Japanese hotel. It is, by the way, so modern and so efficient that it can control the railroad timetable for its own uses. All important trains arrive in Antung too late for the unlucky traveler to make connections until the following day. It was from this accommodating hostelry that we proceeded to the water front.

Along its edge a strip of ragged road swerved in and out to follow the twistings of the shore. On the land side ship chandlers, makers of tackle and cordage, sellers of sailcloth, lumber

dealers with unpeeled masts, venders of bamboo for sail ribs, shipwrights, merchants of millet and rice and bean cake, had tacked their flimsy mud-andplaster shops one against the crazy walls of another. As we passed, their long pendulous signs, painted with the Chinese characters in black and gold, swung and creaked on their rusted brackets, for the wind was high. Those which were of cloth streamed straight out as pennons do, or, like red tongues doubling back upon themselves, bellied roundly, and then shook out with a report like the snapping of whips.

On the sea side an in-running tide slashed about the gray hulls of the junks, slapping their flanks and spouting up jeweled water between. Where the junks bumped and rubbed each other and jostled side to side, their gunwales groaned like old gentlemen with the gout. The masts stabbed the sky, or went sawing through it in great sweeping arcs. Below, the cordage and rigging swung nets to tangle the eye. High up, terns swept down the wind, or beat up into it in ascending spirals, or balanced with feathers frilled, poised satin-white against the stretched blue silk of the sky.

bamboo pole borne on the shoulders between them, and slung from the pole one bean cake as large as an artillery wheel. Under its weight each pair of coolies bowed their backs and sagged at the knees, for the cake had been heavily wetted during its passage. As a result the air around us choked with a rancidness which stuck like a bone in the throat.

It was with much relief that we at last turned in at the door of a junk hong. The interpreter having asked for the head man, a servant went out to get him; another servant, lifting the curtain of split bamboo which hung over the doorway, let us into an inner room. Passing from here into another room, we penetrated deeper into the dimness of the interior. The last room, after the August sun of outdoors, seemed as dim and dank as a cave. Here, I told myself, one hired junks for trading in strange ports. From this dim room went out clumsy argosies to try their fortunes on the sea.

I saw a dirt floor and about it square Chinese chairs with carved arms and straight carved backs. The kang platform, occupying a third of the room, was spread with grass mats; a low black opium table with carved legs crouched in its centre. I knew that in the long Manchurian winter the crowd of sleepers lay huddled together here on the kang while in the oven beneath them stalks of burning kaoliang gave out heat through the intervening bricks. At the end of the room stood a small, high table, and on it, pushed back against the wall, an incense pot, a tall ancestor tablet like a miniature gravestone, strange-lipped candlesticks of long-unpolished pewter, two unburnt tapers, square, candy-red, and with a wick of gold, and a gilt-encrusted foreign clock with its dial roguishly painted in pink and blue hearts, flowers, and cupids.

Out of ships came smells, for we passed close to the holds. Smells of fish; of tar; of resin from new pine masts sweating their sap; of mildewed sailcloth; of musty kaoliang; of bitter bricks of tea; of camphor wood from the far south; of sweet, pungent joss; of wine from a broken keg; of flour turned mouldy by brine; and over all the knifelike thrust of the smell of bean cake. As we plodded along through ankle-deep dust which grimed our white shoes to a dinginess darker than slate, we passed a score of newly tapers, score of newly landed junks unloading this bean cake from their holds. The quai side rang with the singsong of their stevedores. They swayed by, sweating, in pairs, a

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My observations were interrupted by the manager of the hong, who came bowing himself into the room. With a flourish of skirts he sat on the kang. There followed the customary 'polite talk,' the 'guest breath,' which must preface every business transaction. Douglas and the interpreter explained their own and my dishonorable names; our absolutely worthless homeland; from what place we had just come; what company we were connected with; our ages; the number of our sons (Not married? Amazement!); how long we had been in such a (they insisted) despicable country as China (Only two years? Oy-yah! Our Chinese was perfection itself almost like a native's!); whether Mukden bank notes were going up or down; and how much we regretted being unable to accept their most courteous invitation to feast that night.

Here the servants entered with bowls of tea, cans of cigarettes, a smouldering paper slow match, and one brass water pipe. I accepted the tea, but turned down the doubtful pleasures of the pipe. By now the room contained four or five clerks and assistants and three shipmen wearing peaked yellow hats of plaited straw. Beneath their brims were faces brown as iodine. Behind these lookers-on the bamboo door curtain flickered every thirty seconds as someone passing, and overcome by curiosity but having no right to enter the room, lifted the screening to stare in for a moment at the foreigners.

At this point the manager, having first drunk some tea in a manner that was neither sip nor inundation, but some succulent in-between, took the water pipe from a servant. It guggled like a racing coffee percolator and filled the lungs of the smoker. He handed it back to the servant, belched out a cloud of smoke like a volcano in a tantrum, and flipped open his fan.

"This,' said Douglas to me, 'means that the battle is on. You'd better settle yourself for a long siege. We may have to stay the night.'

This prediction surprised me. As these preliminaries had taken almost an hour, the opening of negotiations would, I had imagined, mean a quick settlement. Sublime was my optimism.

The hong manager snapped his fan shut with a ripple of stiff paper folds and a final clack at the end. Perhaps we, the foreign gentlemen, had come on some business of some kind? A junk. Ah, ah, ah-yes, a junk. It was a very bad time for hiring junks now. A very bad time. Junks were very scarce and in constant demand. The military had been seizing them to transport soldiers and millet. Perhaps the foreign gentlemen wished a junk to make a trip in on the sea. They did? Ah, ah, ah he had thought so all the time. Perhaps they wished to sail to the north? Oh, no, to the south hao, hao, hao, that was good, too. To the little towns - Chuangho, Takoushan, to finish at Dairen. Ah yes, knew them well. It was a dangerous trip to the south. The tides were li hai teh hên, very terrible. And the winds -oy-yah! The winds along that coast were like a buffet from one's godmother's fist. And it was the beginning of the storm season now. Several junks had been driven way out of their course only last week.

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Thrrr the fan, like a pack of cards. Snap it had shut. Thrrr, snap, thrrr, snap, thrrr. A gentle creaking while it was used for fanning.

I became fascinated watching it. The hong manager went on, gesticulating, smiling always. I thought, 'What a fat, jolly, laughing Buddha! How absolutely different from the inscrutable Oriental of books!'

The foreign gentlemen, he went on, might wish a small junk or perhaps one

which was not small. Fairly large? Ah, hao, hao, hao. The price? H'm the price no need to worry about the price. That would be reasonable. (The ribs of the fan snapped shut against each other as one claps together a row of books stacked loose between book-ends.) The price would be twenty-five dollars a day.

"Tell him,' Douglas said, 'nothing doing on this by-the-day business. We'll never get back for Thanksgiving if we pay money by the day. How much for the trip?' The interpreter translated. The manager smiled from the kang.

By the trip? Oh, pu, pu, pu, pu, pu! Impossible! Pu hsin! Impossible. How can one know the winds, the strength of the tides? We might be blown all the way in six days, but we might have evil winds and our trip differ not much from twenty to thirty days. By the trip? Quite impossible.

'Tell him,' said Douglas, 'to pipe down on these horrors of the sea and to give us a price for the trip, and to be quick about it.'

"The foreign gentlemen,' translated the interpreter, ‘much appreciate your forewarning them of all the perils of the heavens and the sea, but they believe that Heaven will favor them with a fair breeze. Perhaps you, sir, would consider telling them what a fair price would be for the trip if by any chance you should waive your prejudices.'

The fan tapped the grass mat of the kang.

'For the trip. Hao-hao-h'm h'm'm. I will speak in one last word -three hundred and fifty dollars.'

'Tell him he's got us all wrong,' Douglas instructed. 'We want to hire his junk not buy it.'

"The foreign gentleman wishes to suggest that possibly you, sir, have overestimated the expenses and asked

a price too high,' said the interpreter, following Douglas's instructions.

Ah, pu shih, pu shih-there is no mistake. He would not think of overestimating for foreigners. He had given them a special consideration! May his grandmother be ashamed of him if he has not spoken fairly. But the other way so much for each dayis cheaper, then? That is very good. Perhaps, with good wind - only four days- quite possible. For emphasis he spit on the floor. It was not an ineffectual emphasis, but the act of a professional.

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'No!' from Douglas. "Tell him nothing doing, absolutely. Tell him our clothes would wear out before we got back. Tell him to come down out of the crosstrees and stow that by-theday business. Trip or nothing!'

"The foreign gentleman says that he knows your junks are very fine, in fact the best on the water front, and that, as you say, they might make the journey even in four days; but he must hire a boat by the trip, for that is his custom,' the interpreter translated with as close an accuracy as the two races are usually capable of.

While the hong manager ran over several score of reasons why a junk could not be hired except by the day, I once more glanced at my watch. Another hour had almost passed.

The servants circulated again with fresh tea from galvanized iron watering pots, and a new can of cigarettes. I noted that the crowd looking on had been increased to seventeen. They stood to one side, void of expression, wooden as mannequins.

"Tell him,' I heard Douglas urging, 'that we will give him seventy dollars for the trip. It took twelve days last year. If we get in under twelve days, they still keep the whole seventy dollars. For any time over we'll give seven dollars a day up to the fifteenth

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