England through Chinese Spectacles. Leaves from the notebook of Wo Chang.
Wo Chang (London, 1897)
Wo Chang lived in England for over 25 years before writing this eloquent and scathing indictment of the irregularities and hypocrisies of “British social, political, ethical, and economic life.” His topics include family life, education, society, doctors, lawyers, paupers, crime and punishment, and “downtrodden English toilers.” He calls dowries a “degrading custom,” wonders why homeless children are jailed (rather than their parents), and likewise why women who tried to commit suicide by jumping into the Thames were jailed rather than their “bad husbands whose brutality drove them to [it].” He asks, “Are the husbands to go unpunished, and is nothing to be done to prevent the manufacture of such husbands?” He is appalled by the treatment of animals and describes the “revolting sport” of “slaughtering holocausts of pigeons in inhuman fashion.” His contempt for both doctors and lawyers in the West is palpable. In China, he says, “the rule in regard to doctors is unmistakably simple: no cure, no pay.” In Britain he finds it reprehensible that so many people “are compelled to go on living without being ill, because they cannot afford to pay a medical man to kill or cure them.” Nor are the Americans spared. Passing through San Francisco, he notes that “in the Christian City of San Francisco” (where there were over 40,000 Chinese) they “treat my countrymen like dogs during the week, while on Sundays praying for their conversion.” Wo Chang’s account is a rare find, both because there are so few printed records in English of how other cultures viewed Britain and because Wo Chang manages to be amusing, bitter, insightful, thought-provoking, and (in many cases) still timely.
History of Travel