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Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio vol. II (of

Shansi being literally west of the mountains


[144] By which he would become eligible for Government employ. The sale of degrees has been extensively carried on under the present dynasty, as a means of replenishing an empty Treasury.

[145] Kung-sun is an example of a Chinese double surname.

[146] Such is the common system of repaying the loan, by means of which an indigent nominee is enabled to defray the expenses of his journey to the post to which he has been appointed, and other calls upon his purse. These loans are generally provided by some "western" merchant, which term is an ellipsis for a "Shansi" banker, Shansi being literally "west of the mountains." Some one accompanies the newly-made official to his post, and holds his commission in pawn until the amount is repaid; which settlement is easily effected by the issue of some well-understood proclamation, calling, for instance, upon the people to close all gambling-houses within a given period. Immediately the owners of these hells forward presents of money to the incoming official, the Shansi banker gets his principal with interest, perhaps at the rate of 2 per cent. _per month_, the gambling-houses carry on as usual, and everybody is perfectly satisfied.

[147] Which fact would disqualify him from taking the post.

[148] Literally, "Square hole." A common name for the Chinese cash.

See No. II., note 42.

[149] In the case of wealthy families these strong rooms often contain, in addition to bullion, jewels to a very great amount belonging to the ladies of the house; and, as a rule, the door may not be opened unless in the presence of a certain number of the male representatives of the house.

[150] Pieces of silver and gold paper made up to represent the ordinary Chinese "shoes" of bullion (See No. XVIII., note 133), and burnt for the use of the dead. Generally known to foreigners in China as "joss-paper."

[151] See No. VII., note 54. In this case the reference is to a similar Board in the Infernal Regions.

[152] These would be sure to sneer at him behind his back.

[153] A compliment usually paid to an in-coming official.

[154] See No. I., note 39.

[155] The retinue of a Mandarin should be in accordance with his rank. I have given elsewhere (See No. LVI., note 315) what would be that of an official of the highest rank.

[156] See No. LXXVII., note 76.

[157] Good writing holds a much higher place in the estimation of the Chinese than among western nations. The very nature of their characters raises calligraphy almost to the rank of an art.

[158] The commentator here adds a somewhat similar case, which actually occurred in the reign of K'ang Hsi, of a Viceroy modestly attended falling in with the gorgeous retinue of a Magistrate, and being somewhat rudely treated by the servants of the latter. On arriving at his destination, the Viceroy sent for that Magistrate, and sternly bade him retire from office, remarking that no simple magistrate could afford to keep such a retinue of attendants unless by illegal exactions from the suffering people committed to his charge.

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