TO THE EDITORS OF THE CRIMSON: -
SOME time ago a few letters from a Chinese gentleman, residing in Cambridge, to a friend in China, accidentally fell into my hands. Anticipating some curious comments on our civilization, I immediately elected all the Chinese courses given at Harvard, and after a time I was enabled to translate the valuable find. I was not deceived in my anticipations, for I think the interest attached to the letters well repays all my trouble. I send you herewith some extracts from them; if they are acceptable, I shall send them from time to time. It is to be observed that the literary merit of these letters is not great. They were not intended for publication. The writer evidently hoped they would never see any other light than that of the library of the friend to whom they were addressed. Still I hope that their value will not be lessened from this fact. They present things familiar to us from the point of view of a foreign but impartial observer. However, I will let the letters speak for themselves.
LETTER OF HICHAECHONG.CAMBRIDGE, in the 10th revolution of the Sun.
O Button of my Cap! My parched soul longs for the refreshing waters of communication with thee. In the excitement and bustle of travel thy image is still vivid before my mind's eye. And with longing do I look forward to the blissful day that will bring me tidings from the friend of my youth.
You ask how I fare now? I am at last in condition of writing from the land of the East. America is a large country. A son of the heavenly empire, should he divest himself of his club feet, could walk from one end of the country to another in no less than a year. The ship which I took at Canton brought me first to San Francisco. The people of that city showed me great respect. Whenever they saw me on the street, they crowded around me and shouted "Oh, see the Chinaman; pull his pigtail; knock him down!" - expressions which, my interpreter told me, signified great pleasure of seeing me. Some even actually pulled my long plait of hair, - evidently a very high compliment. For the Americans express good-will by touching one another. When pleased with themselves they rub their own hands; when pleased with others, they rub and shake the hands of others. Different degrees of pleasure are expressed by different manners of touching. When greatly pleased, they touch each other's lips. Once, I distinctly remember, I saw one American stretch out his left foot and knock it against the back of his friend, probably because he was very much satisfied with him.
You will be surprised, O friend of my bosom, to learn that here neither the men nor the women attach any importance to their hair. None of the graces of a closely cropped crown or a long plait adorn American heads. The men cut off their hair in places called barber's shops, where three times a week they have their faces painted white with a mixture of froth and fire-water. I was curious to visit such a barber's shop, and what did I see? Three men were stretched out full-length and wrapped up in towels, with shut eyes, lying opposite a looking-glass. They probably wished to see how they looked when asleep. Some must have been in a fainting-fit, or at least fast asleep, for, though rubbed and scrubbed by other men, they did not mind it at all, but remained very quiet.
Although, O my beloved friend, the departing fireball reminds me that I must part from you on paper, my heart still fondly throbs for thee, and that blessings may fall upon thee is the earnest prayer of
DOO LING HICHAECHONG.