Dogs and Chinese Not Allowed

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From Foreign Devils in the Flowery Kingdom, by Carl Crow



“The crow does not roost with the phoenix.”


According to a story which has been widely published and generally believed there was formerly a sign on the gates to a small park or public garden of the International Settlement of Shanghai reading:




The park existed for many years before it occurred to any Chinese that they should be admitted. The issue was raised in 1881 by some one who wrote a letter of complaint to the council pointing out that as the garden was supported by municipal taxes which were levied on Chinese and foreigners alike it was unfair to refuse admission to Chinese The reply was to the effect that owing to the small size of the garden it was obviously impossible to throw it open to the general public, but an attempt was made to meet Chinese desires by a police order to the effect that the garden would be open to any “well-dressed native.” But the individual Chinese did not know whether or not the gatekeeper would consider him to be a “well-dressed native.” The chance of being humiliated by a refusal was so great that few asked for admission.


The question was not one in which many Chinese were interested and it died a natural death, or appeared to have done so. But four or five years later it was brought up again. Japanese were coming to reside in Shanghai and the Chinese were mortified at exclusion from places to which Japanese were freely admitted.


As the Japanese were foreigners of a nation which had made treaties with China they enjoyed the same rights as other foreigners and missed no opportunity to exploit them. The council now adopted a new plan and issued passes to “bearer and party.” This proved as much of a failure as the previous scheme.


In the first six months this new arrangement was in effect there were only forty-six visits. But these visits represented a remarkably large number of people. Each pass-holder interpreted the word “party” to mean all his relatives, both near and far, his friends, children, retainers, and servants. Since they were more interested in the foreigners than in the garden itself the visits were timed to coincide with the hour when there would be the greatest possible number present, and so unintentionally caused the greatest possible amount of annoyance and inconvenience. The issue of passes was discontinued.


It would be unfair to compare the Shanghai park regulations with the “Jim Crow” laws which bar Negroes from some public places in the South. While it might appear to be an assumption of superiority on the part of the foreigner its roots went deeper than that.


The building of gardens and the establishment of clubs to which Chinese were not admitted were parts of the attempts made by the white man to create for himself something of the atmosphere of the homeland.


It was only here that he could escape the great mass of Orientals who surrounded him. A single native in a park like this provided a jarring note – a crowd of them destroyed the illusion completely. And of course the Chinese could not understand why a couple of tattered foreign beachcombers on the benches in the garden were unnoticed by the taipans and their ladies while the presence of a family of well-dressed Chinese should meet such hostile glances.


As other parks were built the same rules were adopted. The foreigner who lived in China engaged in a constant struggle for isolation. The Great Wall of China, which the Chinese had built several thousand years previously to keep out the Northern barbarians was no more impregnable than the wall of social seclusion with which the foreigners built.


Foreigners and Chinese lived separate lives and neither made any attempt to break down the mutual seclusion. The social customs of the Chinese themselves provided as much of a wall as that put up by the foreigners. To the respectable Chinese, it was unthinkable that men and women should meet outside their own family circle and there was actually now way for foreign and Chinese women to meet socially. Nor was there any common language. Shanghai foreigners did not speak Chinese. Until a few years ago the number of Chinese who could not speak English was extremely limited.


While the “dogs and Chinese” sign never existed it did rather accurately depict the attitude of some foreigners. Their number has grown fewer every year, but in the early part of the century there was a very large class who looked with considerable disdain and disgust on all Chinese people and all Chinese institutions.


Both the people and the institutions were so contrary to what they believed to be the proper order of things that any approval of them involved what appeared to be an heretical abandonment of principles. They believed that this was the road to ruin, the first step toward “going native.”


All of us knew men on whom this fate had fallen. The white man who “went native” whether in China, Japan, India or any other place in the Far East was lower than the natives themselves because he followed their worst instead of their best traits. It was their slovenliness rather than their austerity which attracted him.


There were many derelicts who smoked opium and lived with Chinese women. Representatives of this class are to be found in every port east of the Suez, white men who have adopted the ways of life of the native. They are tragic figures. So long as the Englishman or the American loudly proclaimed his disapproval of everything connected with China and the Chinese he felt a certain sense of self-protection. Most Anglo-Saxons who live in the Orient have a genuine though ill-defined dread of what the environment may do to them and encase themselves in an armor of disapproval and hostility.

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