The Chinese Laundryman by Unknown

1905

The differences in general appearance of the men of various races are most striking. No one could mistake a Chinaman for a North American Indian, or a Negro for a Malay or a Maori. Not only are these men of various races different in outward appearance, but they have also minds of different characters, and seem naturally fitted for different kinds of work.

The Chinaman has his own special fields of labour. He is a great trader with the countries near home, and sends out many junks to the East Indies, the Malay Islands, and the South Sea Islands, to collect edible birds' nests, trepang, ornamental woods, pearls, pearl-shells, tortoise-shell, and the skins of birds of paradise. At Singapore, there are hundreds of Chinese shopkeepers, who sell all kinds of miscellaneous articles, such as penknives, cotton thread, writing-paper, gunpowder, and corkscrews, often at a price which would be considered cheap even in England.

But it is when the Chinaman settles in some American or Australian town that his special abilities are best seen. He is surrounded and outnumbered by Englishmen and Americans, and is entirely under their government; and yet there are some kinds of work which he can do so well and so cheaply that no European can compete with him. He is an excellent gardener in a small way, and if he can obtain only a very little plot of ground, he will cultivate it so constantly and so carefully that he will be able to maintain himself in comfort with the money which he obtains from the sale of his vegetables and fruits. Many gardens belonging to Chinamen are to be seen on the outskirts of the cities of Australia and New Zealand, and early in the morning the Chinamen hawk their products through the streets.

The Chinaman is equally good as a laundryman, and in some cities the Chinese colonists do the whole of the laundry-work. In San Francisco, where there are thousands of Chinese, all the washing is performed by them. They work in the open air, just as the English and Scotch women used to do in their public washing-grounds, standing in the water rubbing and wringing their clothes. They have a curious practice in ironing, of spraying the linen with water through their mouths. They do the work very thoroughly, and at the same time cheaply. A Chinaman will live very comfortably on forty pounds a year, and, as he is an almost incessant worker, he can make sufficient money for his needs by work which is very poorly paid from an Englishman's point of view.