China, that immense country, a continent rather than a country, a sort of human continent, was for centuries regarded as being excluded, as it were, from any evolutionary process. Frozen in a tradition not dissimilar to the continuity among animal species, this human sea remained in a kind of interior viscosity which any internal movement or external impact had ever been powerless to disturb. If at any period she seemed agitated with superficial change, China began again to last on and on.
For several years I witnessed that immobility which was in course of developing into a survival. Stirred on all sides by fast-changing universe, the Empire had been led to self-examination which resulted in measures more and more opposed to somnolence. A final protest, a feeble and hopeless gesture, the Boxer insurrection, and all was at an end.
I once spent the whole evening talking to Sun-Yat-sen on board the ship which was taking him back from Hong Kong to Shanghai. One year later both the last Emperor and the last Empress died at the same time. Two years later the revolution broke out.
Paul Claudel of the French Academy.
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