The New Zealand Evangelist
China.—Medical Missionary Society.—Chinese Ladies
China.—Medical Missionary Society.—Chinese Ladies.
This Institution was founded in 1838. It was thought that by employing Medical Missionaries, and furnishing means for alleviating and removing bodily suffering, a more ready acceptance would be given to the elevating, purifying and saving truths of the Gospel. The object is to some extent being accomplished. There is much interesting matter in the last report. It appears that diseases of the eye are of all maladies the most prevalent. Cholera and small pox had also prevailed. Among other things Dr. Magowan states that:—page 97
“Alopecia, or baldness, is almost a universal affection among the females of this part of the province of Chekiang. There is scarcely a woman who has attained her thirtieth year, whose head, (with the exception of the parietal and occipital portion) is not perfectly bald. The affection does not appear under the age of eighteen and twenty, and is unaccompanied with change of colour, the rest of the hair remaining black until fifty and upwards. It is difficult to assign a cause for the prevalence of Alopecia in this place. In one of the Shetland islands (where the affection is so common as to give rise to a saying among the inhabitants, “that there is not a hair between a Fair Isle man and heaven,“) the cause has been referred to the free use of fish; the same might be suspected to exist here, were it not that the males, whose diet is the same, are remarkably exempt from the affection. It cannot, therefore, be owing to the use of fish, unless the tonsure of the male acts as a prophylactic. Chinese females spend much time at the toilet, and almost entirely confine their care to the combing and arranging of the hair. They employ a simple mucilaginous liquid, obtained by macerating the shavings of the lien in water, which gives a gloss to the hair, but cannot, from its nature, tend to produce baldness. It might be attributed to the practice of wearing the hair drawn back tightly from the forehead; but as this fashion prevailed at one time among our European ladies, without occasioning Alopecia, so far as information can be obtained, it can hardly be attributed to that cause. The thing remains a mystery.
“Ulces are very common amongst the poor; the worst form of those that have been treated, were on the feet and legs of women. Bandaging the feet, if not the cause of ulcer, certainly prevents to a great extent their cure; they are also affected with corns, and other callosities of the feet. Other evils, the result of this pernicious and cruel practice, might be detailed. That a custom so harbarous could be imposed upon a comparatively civilized country, whose inhabitants number by hundreds of millions, is one of the most singular facts in the history of our race, and illustrates the deference which the Chinese pay to Imperial wishes. The custom, comparatively speaking, is of modern origin, and owes its existence to the whim of Leyuh, the licentious and unpopular prince of Keang-nan, whose court was in Nankin. He ruled from A.D. 961 to 976, and was subdued, and finally poisoned, by the founder of the Sung dynasty. It appears that he was amusing himself in his palace, when the thought occurred to him, that he might improve the appearance of the feet of a favourite concubine. He accordingly bent her feet, so as to raise the instep into an arch, to resemble the new moon. The figure was much admired by the courtiers, who at once began to introduce it into their families.— Soon after, the province of Kiangnan again became an integral part of the empire, from which point the new practice spread, throughout all provinces and all ranks, until it became a national custom. Many lives were sacrificed by suicide. Those females whose feet had not been bound, were persecuted by their mothers-in-law, and despised by their husbands; so much so, that many page 98 hung themselves, or took poison. About 150 years after the origin of the practise, we find a poet celebrating the beauty of the “Golden lilies,” which he makes just six inches long; from which it would appear that six centuries ago, they were of the same size as at the present day. According to the theory of Lord Monboddo, and Monsieur Lamarck, such continued compression for centuries should have occasioned a material alteration in the structure of Chinese feet, but nothing of the kind is observed; for until they attain their seventh or ninth year, when the painful process of bandaging commences, the feet are perfectly natural, both in size and figure. This custom, though deeply entwined in the feelings of the people, could be abolished by a single sweep of the vermilion pencil. The present dynasty could abolish the cruel custom with less opposition than was experienced in introducing that degrading mark of subjection, the tonsure. There have been, and new are, in China, those who possess the humanity and moral courage to express their dislike of the practice. Among them may be mentioned Yuen, a member of the Hanlin college, a writer of celebrity in the latter part of the last century. In the most popular of his works, entitled “The Sayings not of Confucius,” he represents Prince Leyuh, as suffering in purgatory, for the introduction of such a vile custom, and awaiting with much impatience the expiration of the 700 years, which he had been condemned to suffer, before he could attain to his original state of a Priest in Sungsan; but in profound ignorance of another punishment, which awaited him on the completion of the first period.—Authentic history informs us that a celebrated robber, during the period of anarchy which ushered in the reigning dynasty, cut off the feet of an immense number of women, and made a pyramid of them. The spirits of these women, several myriads in number, are represented by Yuen as voeiferously demanding of heaven further chastisement upon Leyuh, whom they regarded as the author of their sufferings, and small feet, to which the robber had an antipathy. Whereupon, the Prince was condemned to make a hundred myriad of shoes for those women. It may here be added that the Chinese females can scarcely stand, and cannot walk without their shoes.
“Indeed,” says Dr. Macgowan, “it is extremely difficult for a medical observer to omit noticing a practice so fraught with painful interest to every humane mind, and so intimately conected with the physical interest of this great empire.