Elizabeth Adda Robinson Ratcliffe
Harold and Mary Robinson
This is an excerpt from the November 1926 Chinese Chimes, highlighting an extraordinary reflection of living in China in that time period - and a testament to the sacredness of the lost art of letter writing.


Since our last sheet went out from Paotingfu there has been considerable severe fighting in North and Central China and the present situation is not such as to lead one to believe that it is all over. Wu Pei Fu managed, with the help of Chang Tso Lin and some others, to drive Feng Yu Hsiang’s army back into Mongolia but he had to bite his own nose off to spite his face. While he was busy at this mischief the National Army from Canton crept up over the mountains and succeeded in capturing Hankow, Hanyang and Wu Chang where Wu had been formerly located. Wu has been threatening to recapture these places but about as far as he has got is to send out telegrams. He isn’t even in charge of his own army, according to reports in the papers. Tsao Kun went down to visit him and because Wu could not raise money for his troops Tsao put up the money and took over the troops. Tsao has also been threatening to take the Wu-Han cities but his threats have not materialized as yet.

Sun Chuan Fang who has controlled five provinces in the lower Yang Tse, and was supposed to be Wu’s ally, sat on the fence as long as he could but finally had to get off and face the Canton army. Now he seems to be about as completely finished as Wu and he is calling to Chang Tsung Ch’ang to come to his aid.

In the meantime Feng Yu Hsiang has returned from Russia and is reported to be getting ready to unite with the National Army from Canton. With Wu and Sun completely out of it some people believe that there will be a grand finale between Chang Tso Lin and the National Army, with Feng helping the latter side. Chang Tso Lin has come to Tientsin and the latest report is that he is to be made “Chief Executive”. Poor, poor China! She who has exalted education, and stood for peace for centuries, to have for her “head”, an ex-bandit who can’t read or write! But since there’s many a slip between cup and lip Chang may never reach his coveted position of “Chief Executive”.

Is it any wonder that even here in the north those who know the situation and do any thinking along political lines seem to hope that the Nationalists will win? In spite of the fact that Wu and Chang claim to be out to rid China of the “Reds” the Cantonese are making a splendid reputation among the people where they have gone. On the other hand, the northern militarists are becoming more and more hated because of their cruel authorities and lawless destruction. In Honan a short time ago it was reported that 40 people were burned alive by the militarists in control there in an attempt to put down the “Red Spear Society”. In an attempt to destroy the same society in Shantung the militarists have practically wiped out 20 or 30 villages. This Red Spear Society was organized by local people to protect themselves against robbers whom the militarists either could not, or would not, suppress.

Perhaps we should be more “neutral” but the boiling of the pot around us sometimes causes our own inner fires to burst forth. We wonder what the Nazarene would feel and say and do were he in North China today - he who said “In as much as you have done it unto one of the least of these --------------------.


We started out to wish you all a Merry Christmas but before we could get down to that message which was buried deep in our hearts we had to spew out the dross that was on top. Don’t feel that you have to take the dross. Some of you have been reading of conditions here in China and we could not refrain from mentioning them lest you should fear that we were holding back because they are too terrible to mention. They are bad, from many points of view, but we are not disheartened. A bettor day will come, we are confident and if our being here can only hasten that day we are glad to remain. So long as we are here we shall continue to endeavor to “make a joyful noise”. The whole staff is pulling with both hands on the rope of the Chimes at this time. We want you all to know that we are Merry with you, and partly because of you. God bless you all. May your joy be full and your hearts be glad during this Christmas Season, and may 1927 bring many blessings that 1926 has not seen fit to bestow.

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