Identifier

MSS.2.22

Publication Date

2-13-1918

Document Type

Letter

Transcription

13 February, 1918

Dearest Dada:

Your 25th letter came this morning. In spite
of my efforts to keep up with you, you are always several
letters ahead of me due to the fact that while I was
on the ocean, you had some three weeks' advantage
over me! After all, though, I have not done so
badly: have I?

By the way, before I forget it, I want to
tell you that I had written to Ruth Tuthill,
& also sent her a little remembrance. I
addressed them merely to Newport R.I. as
I had forgotten her street address. A few days
ago I received a value from the P.O. in Shangh-
ai requesting me to call for a letter & package
addressed to her and were unclaimed at
the Newport P. Office. Please tell her this
for me. She forgot to put on her address
when she wrote me,- as a result I had no
knowledge of her street etc.

A few ways ago I received an announce-
ment of [Dot] Days' engagement. "Everybody is
doing it" - you see.

I hope that you are thoroly recovered from the [page break]
Grippe. To say the least, it is an aggravating ill-
ness. And I hope that you got the trip on your
friend's boat too. I can well sympathize
how celestially grateful one would feel in
letting one's wings fly without the least bit
of hindrance. Ah. well, you need not
think, though, that you are the only one who
has "to be responsible," for the world is alike
all over! In that respect at least!

By the by, I am looking forward to
that visit of [Marguinte's] friend - a Mr. Hyde,
is it not? I am just longing for a chance to
talk to a man as a human being, and not
as a girl! We certainly were mere infants at
college! I haven't gotten to be a woman yet;
but I am in that irritating stage of develop-
ment called "teething." You may well
imagine all the minor ailments usually
accompanying it.

Yesterday was the first day of the Chinese
New Year - officially the "New Year" lasts
five days. When we got up, we all dressed
in our best clothes and all of us children [page break]
knelt and touched our foreheads to the floor
before Father & Mother. Then all the servants
followed and did the same thing to Dad
& Mother & then to us. When you bow
down you say something like this
"Congratulations and Prosperity."
Of course Dad & Mother said for us not to
kow-tow etc, that it was not necessary
as we are a Republic now. You may feel
certain though that had we omitted the
ceremony, they would feel that the new year
had an inauspicious beginning. You ought
to see them smiling benignly sitting in
the drawing room as each of us paid
our respects.

I forgot to add that my little brother awoke
at five yesterday morning, and kept firing off
firecrackers. I did not get up until
ten or there-abouts.

After the kow-towing, money was distributed
to all the servants wrapped in red paper. My
little brother also received some: but as
we are "grown ups", we did not get anything [page break]
for our pains - In my case it was a pain,
as unused to such kneeling, I almost tore the skin
on my knee. My married sister also gave
presents of money to the servants, & so did my
oldest brother: however as I am not married,
I only gave money to my own maid.

After the distribution of money, fruits, nuts,
and candies were also given to the servants.
Then we all set down to eat a sort of
pastry made of white flour with the inside
stuffed either with meat or nuts or a certain
sort of bean sugar. They look like potato
balls being round: but instead of fried,
they are put in boiling water & boiled. They
are round - roundness being symbolic
of happiness. One must not eat an odd
number of them, as the even numbers
are propitious whereas the odd numbers
cause all sorts of embarassments.

After the breakfast, - which was at
10:30, we had family prayers. Then we
fired fire-crackers until dinner which
included some 20 courses. As you may im- [page break]
agine, none of us were hungry, although we
all pretended to be. After dinner, the three
boys went off to pay respects to their
elders. Father stayed at home to receive
his younger relatives - all men of course.
Mother, sister & I stayed at home. I read
the "New Republic."

I forgot to tell you that my sister's children
also kow-towed to us, and of course as their
elders, we gave presents of money. I am so
glad that I have only one niece & nephew:
otherwise I might be worse off financially
than I am at present!

About five-thirty or six, my brothers returned
from their calls. Only my youngest brother
received money, as the other two are no longer
children. He came in very much excited,
with 20 or 21 packages of money wrapped
in red paper. Practically each package con-
tained a dollar and a penny-: again
you see, "even money" are wrapped in
an even number. Of course this custom is
not so strict as it was when China was a
monarchy. [page break]
After supper we had fireworks which lasted
about an hour and a half. Then each
one went to his or her own room ex-
cept brother and I. We sat in front of
the fire and talked.

The following are a few queer
customs which I noticed.

First, it is considered bad luck
to clean on the first day of the year.
Therefore our servants wiped and scrubbed
and dusted until about midnight
on New Year's Eve.

Second, on New Year's Eve, one must
not put soup in one's rice, for that means
that bad weather will attend every outing
one makes during the next year.

Third, - one can collect all debts
until the dawn of the New Year. Then if
the creditor appears, the debtor has the
right to throw him out. For this reason in [page break]
the country, when the debtor risks going to
the creditor's house when the first glimmer of
dawn steals forth, he takes a lantern
with him, - then still claiming it is night.

Fourth - In cooking meat for the New
Year season, - if the meat swells, then
that household is sure to prosper - if it
diminishes, then poverty will attend
that family. Our meat swelled beauti-
fully this year: so Mother is sure that
we are going to be rich!! Especially as
the night before New Year, I dreamt of
a whole pile of coffins with dead people
in them. If the coffins were empty, it
would mean that I am going to lose
money: however I dreamt of them as full.
Whatever you may say, the superstitions
of the people here have affected me
most strongly too. I believe them also;
in spite of the fact that when I first came [page break]
home, I tried to laugh at them.

Fifth - The first day of the New Year
is when the younger generation calls on
the older. Then no calling cards are
used. After the first day, the older
people call among themselves, and the
younger people call on their own
friends. In such cases, cards are
used.

Sixth - Women do not call except
perhaps among their relatives of their
own sex - And then what rottenly
stupid and dull. Mother has gone off
to see her widowed sister, & wanted me
to go along. However, before I go, I know
already what my aunt will say, and
what I shall answer - hence why
be told. Both the car & the carriage
are being used - And I have no
way to go out unless I use the [rickoka] [page break]
which is cold, and full of germs, I bet.
Or else the tramways which always
mixes me up as to directions. And I
hate to ask the conductor questions. All
the shops are closed, and without my
Mother, I am afraid to go calling on
the friends of the family, for they belong
to the oldest families here,
and are horribly conservative.

[], what I would not
give for a "wow wow" with the
crowd at college. But I guess, I
might as well say, "Aw chuck it"
and shut up!

China, you see, is not like America.
Conventions, manners, and ideas all
tend to restrict one. Either one conforms
to them, and be proper, - or there is
another possibility: one can flout them
entirely and be what is called "The New [page break]
Woman." That title however is somewhat
unsavory - used in a derogatory sense.
And as I am anxious that the "Returned
Student" class should not be confused
with the "New Woman" class, which
really is quite shocking in their inability
to distinguish & differentiate license from
liberty, - more or less I am bound to
observe and to respect the old conventions
which irritating as they are, at least
bar women from actions questionable
not only in themselves but in their
influence.

Ergo - drat them all!
Bad way to begin a New Year. I should
say - However as Sir Roger de Couerley
says, "Much might be said on both
sides" - Especially when China has
absolutely no place of amusement or [page break]
recreation when a decent person can enjoy
himself or herself.

Take the movies, for instance. After a
week of them, one is satiated with them.
And the Chinese theatres! - I beg to
excuse myself. I may be devoid of all
musical sense: yet the Good Lord
save me a nerve center with
little threads called nerve cells or
"neuritis"- is that the name for them.

With love
Daughter

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