CHINESE BEGGAR CHIEFS

One of the Peculiar Features of Social Life in 1889 China

found in an old Grant County, Oregon newspaper -
author unknown.


One of the most peculiar and interesting figures in Chinese Social life is the beggar chief and no less peculiar and interesting, both to method and personal appearance, are the members of the motley organization of mendicants over which he reigns absolutely.

He is required to pay the sum equivalent to about $100 to every newly-appointed tunghawn of his allegiance to the high authority from whom his badge of office emanates, and when this requirement has been duly fulfilled he is allowed to exercise the prerogatives of his position without fear of interference on the part of the government officials in the district assigned to him. His authority over the beggars is absolutely unlimited,and they obey his orders without hesitation or sign of protest.

The office is hereditary, so long as the tribute is paid: but the immediate progeny of the incumbent are debarred from the employment of any literary degree. Why this condition is exacted is not quite clear, but it is certain that no descendant of a beggar chief has ever held a literary degree. However, the other privileges enjoyed by him are so attractive and the income is so substantial that he probably does not worry much over this one privation.

How does this secure his income from the merchants and trades people who know that unless they procure from the beggar chief on or before New Years day a "holo twa," or "passport of safety,"their shops or "hongs" will be infested almost constantly by a horde of boisterous, impudent, importunate vagabond's who will drive away customers and damage the stock of goods without hindrance from the regular authorities of the district.

Once a month, on a day suited to the convenience of the chief, he assembles all the beggars of his district at the "khichla Jan," or rendezvous, and distributes aluis among them, each receiving a sum commensurate with his personal merits and obedience to orders.


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