Letter from Thomas Sun, Tientsin, to Alfred E. Stearns August 19, 1931


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Letter from Thomas Sun, Tientsin, to Alfred E. Stearns August 19, 1931


Letter from Thomas Sun, Tientsin, to Alfred E. Stearns August 19, 1931


My dear Mr. Stearns,

Isn’t it funny that I should write letter-heads of my letters as the above? It struck me rather queer that I should type the "U.S.A." after the usual "Andover, Mass.", but come to think of it, I am in another country now.

Funny--just by crossing an ocean. When I touched Chinese soil for the first time in eleven years, I felt both joyful and sad. The two feelings mingled into a more or less fantastic ecstasy lost in the thrill of the moment. I looked around me--surely, this is my country. Honest faces, unknown to me, yet existing bv the millions in this land of "the dragon", --honest faces that bear the mark of centuries of toil.

As I stepped off the gangplank, I sought to grasp the hand of someone near-by just to show others that I do have a friend in my own country, but none was extended. It was a rather cold reception. I spied Arthur with Mr. Souter and Mr. Fitch, good friends of my Father, and they waited patiently till the kind custom officer finished with me.

Driving through Shanghai, I sat in the car dumb-founded--dumb-founded because of the visible potentiality of a great people. It is a potentiality that far surpassed the most ardent of my patriotic dreams. Ah, if only they are given a chance in this world of chances. Let them, or give them a chance, to express themselves, they ought to be the greatest people on the face of this world.

The car came to a sudden stop. We stepped out and proceeded into a hotel where I met Father in his room. I said, "Hello, Dad" in the true American tune and extended my right hand to him. He grasped it and looked at me into my misty eyes, and smiled without a word. He shook my hand, but his hand was weak. From the conversation, I gathered that he had been dangerously ill for some time, and he just arrived in Shanghai that very morning after arising out of a sick-bed in the north. His health is fast losing his old vigor. Mary and I tried to make him to go back to Tientsin so as to be away from his well-intentioned, but at times annoying, friends and have a real rest along with the rest of the family. But he stoutly refused claiming that he has some business in Shanghai which he can not put off. Now he has finished that business and is looking for something else to do in Shanghai, while Mary and I are longing to be back in Tientsin--the old home town. The thing is that I haven’t seen Mother yet, because she did not come down with Dad to meet us. Father begs you to forgive him for not writing because of his ill-health and commanded me to send to you his very best regards and deepest appreciation of whatever you had done to evolve his upstart children into college graduates.

Now, at this juncture, it may be proper for me to give you some of my impressions of my home country. My views, let me assure you, are not biased because of the pure fact that I am half foreigner by my education and living. I can not talk every time I ride through the city of Shanghai. I saw three and half millions of people living under subjection of a so-called superior race of the white uniformed men with rifles with bayonets fixed. It is truly humiliating to realize that a nation with four hundred million population should be so humble as to "take it on the chin" for so long. Then the question arises as to whether or not the Chinese are fit to rule themselves or are the foreigners afforded adequet [sic] protection with the much talked about and hated extraterritoriality. To any ordinary Chinese, the answer is apparent--so apparent as to need no discussion whatsoever. My education in the States, and especially my experience as the president of my fraternity in Middlebury taught me that if a person is given a chance to show up his best quality, he can not fail to do so provided he is given a free hand to do so (of course within reason). I have said in a previous paragraph that the Chinese is potentially a great race if they are only given a chance to express themselves. I repeat that again here with unlimited emphasis. I have seen my countrymen and countrywomen by the thousands living in humble circumstances--so humble as to be degrading. Why so degrading? Because of the civil wars? Yes. Because of the foreigners? Yes. Because of their willingness to live thus rather than be a decent and respectable citizen of the community? To answer that I must change the reply into a capitalized NO.

The three questions might be all linked into one circumstance or a series of circumstances. Why the civil wars? To answer that question, one must ask, "why the foreigners?". In former years, China was contented and was progressing in her own way by being happy and content. After all being happy and content is progress in the Chinese way of thinking. It is not progress to own two automobiles on the installment plan and have the monthly salaries spent three or four years before hand. That may stimulate industry into greater production, but why do that when money is merely "forthcoming” instead of already ready cash? That is all besides the point, but Chinese (to get back at the subject) is a progressive people.

The foreigners come into the country and create the most spectacular problem for whatever government in power to deal with. Being astute politicians valuing the public opinion highly, the government in power naturally make the foreigners its main issue and rise and fall with it, because in that issue, the government can always find public approval if succeeded. Thus everytime the government makes a move to establish the Chinese on basis of equality as the foreigners, the allied nations immediately dust off a volume of document and point to a phrase of an obscure and expired treaty with the Manchus. Will the foreigners believe that that phrase is against all decency and morality of internationality dealings? No. Then the foreigners will ask "Why won’t the government center its attention on interior affairs rather than on foreign affairs?". The answer to that is also apparent. Foreign affairs is more popular with the people, just because the Veteran’s Bonus Law is popular with the American public. It is patriotic--spectacularly patriotic, and the politicians are looking for things of that sort.

If one government fail, another faction will start a civil war and try to try its hand at it. As a result, civil wars are common. In this respect, the Chinese people can not be cursed not blamed for the civil wars. Blame the few men who has power and money. If they are captured, they ought to be put to a slow death lasting painfully for months.

Give China a free hand, and the world will witness the most amazing rise of the most amazing nation. Just give them a chance. You can tell from the faces of the people here that they are capable and willing. I am writing this to you, not because I am connected in any way yet with the Chinese government, but I think I am doing the duty of a common Chinese towards his country. Men in your station, I know, will understand and use influence toward the end of international decency and morality, honesty and fairness, and tolerance and friendliness. With that I resign from the subject.

As for the trip across the pacific, the ocean was so calm as to be monotonous. There is little I can tell you, because I know Mary wrote you from every stop. I would have done so, but I have an inherent contempt for postal cards and the subsequent entries therein. I am sure Mary conveyed my best to you as I asked and hoped that she should do. Otherwise, I humbly apologize.

With that I close with kindest regards to Miss Clemens and Marjory and deepest appreciation of your most thoughtful kindness to Arthur, Charlie, Mary, and myself. My father and Mother join me in sending greetings.

Yours forever


Thomas Sun


Phillips Academy


August 19, 1931


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