29 JANUARY 1910, Page 48


Court Life in China. By Isaac Taylor Headland. (Fleming H. Revell Company. 65. net.)—Professor Headland explains that in writing this book he has had the assistance of Mrs. Headland, who has for many years been physician to great ladies of the Chinese Court. The most important part of it, indeed, is a defence of the late Empress-Dowager, and it is only fair to say that the case has been presented with much force. We are apt to forget that Europe has been encroaching, not to say rapacious, in her dealings with China. There are some things of which we have good cause to be ashamed in our own conduct, and the record of other Western nations is not better, to say the least, than ours. The Empress-Dowager was certainly patriotic, and she undoubtedly succeeded in moving the inert Chinese mind. The more we realise what this means, the higher will be our estimate of her powers,—of course, if we grant that the movement was a good thing. But this cannot be discussed here; it will be worth while to give a careful study to what Professor Headland says,—he holds a Chair, we should say, in Peking University. His account of the Empress's early life and of her tenure of power is distinctly informing. He tells us also about others who have taken a prominent part in Chinese affairs. First we have an interesting account of Kwang Hsii, the late Emperor. Doubtless he attempted more than he could accomplish. There is an astonishing list of projected reforms on pp. 137-39. Among them we see a total reform of the Army, Copyright and Patent Laws, School Boards in every city, a free Press, a Bill of Rights, and annual Budgets. If he was not equal to the task, who can wonder? As long as he published Edicts of reform it did not matter ; when he touched abuses by dismissing or degrading officials, the end was not far off, In 1898 he was imprisoned, and never recovered his liberty. The difficulty of Professor Headland's easels that what he advances for one of his clients tells against the other. To say this does not mean that the book is not well worth reading. This it certainly is for many reasons.