"The Wonderful Man"
There is a certain Prefectural city in the south of China, which has earned a reputation distinguishing it from all such towns throughout the Empire.
In outward appearance this city is very much like every other of similar size. The streets are narrow, and the houses are crowded close up to each other. Every foot of land has been utilized, and no room has been left for sanitation, or for parks and open spaces, where the people may breathe the pure air of heaven. These things are modern inventions of the West and have never yet touched the thought or the life of the East, where sullen heat, fetid atmosphere, and stifling surroundings are the natural inheritance of the men and women who throng the cities and crowd and elbow each other in the great battle of life.
There was one thing, however, for which this city was deservedly celebrated. It had a great reputation for learning, and was famous as the abode of scholars.
In the main thoroughfares, where men with a dexterity begotten of long experience just managed to evade jostling each other, the long-gowned students were conspicuous by their numbers. Their pale intellectual faces, and their gleaming black eyes burning with hidden fires, marked them out distinctly from the farmers and artisans and coolies, with their coarser, heavier features, who moved along side by side with them. And down the narrow alley-ways, where fetid smells and impure airs floated the live-long day, one's ear would catch the shrill tones of more youthful students, who in unhealthy rooms were mastering aloud the famous classics of China, in order that in time they might compete in the triennial examinations for the prizes offered by the Empire to its scholars.
The ambition for learning was in the air, and a belated wayfarer, wandering down the labyrinth of streets in the early hours of the morning, would hear the solemn stillness broken into by the voices of the students, as in their highest tones they repeated the writings of the great sages.