After having made the collection of boys' games we undertook to obtain in a similar way, fullest information concerning games played by the girls. Of course, it was impossible to do it alone, for the appearance of a man among a crowd of little girls in China is similar to that of a hawk among a flock of small chicks -- it results in a tittering and scattering in every direction, or a gathering together in a dock under the shelter of the school roof or the wings of the teacher. One of the teachers, however, Miss Effie Young, kindly consented to go with us, and a goodly number of the small girls, after a less than usual amount of tittering and whispering, gathered about us to see what was wanted. The smallest among them was the most brave, and Miss Young explained that this was a "little street waif" who had been taken into the school because she had neither home nor friends, with the hope that something might be done to save her from an unhappy fate.
"Do you know any games?" we asked her.
She put her hands behind her, hung her head, shuffled in an embarrassed manner, and answered: "Lots of them."
"Play some for me."
This small girl after some delay took control of the party and began arranging them for a game, which she called "going to town," similar to one which the boys called "pounding rice." Two of the girls stood back to back, hooked their arms, and as one bent the other from the ground, and thus alternating, they sang:
Up you go, down you see, Here's a turnip for you and me; Here's a pitcher, we'll go to town; Oh, what a pity, we've fallen down.At which point they both sat down back to back, their arms still locked, and asked and answered the following questions:
What do you see in the heavens bright? I see the moon and the stars at night. What do you see in the earth, pray tell? I see in the earth a deep, deep well. What do you see in the well, my dear? I see a frog and his voice I hear. What is he saying there on the rock? Get up, get up, ke'rh kua, ke'rh kua.They then tried to get up, but, with their arms locked, they found it impossible to do so, and rolled over and got up with great hilarity.
This seemed to suggest to our little friend another game, which she called "turning the mill." The girls took hold of each other's hands, just as the boys do in "churning butter," but instead of turning around under their arms they turn half way, put one arm up over their head, bringing their right or left sides together, one facing one direction and one the other; then, standing still, the following dialogue took place:
Where has the big dog gone? Gone to the city. Where has the little dog gone? Run away.Then, as they began to turn, they repeated:
The big dog's gone to the city; The little dog's run away; The egg has fallen and broken, And the oil's leaked out, they say. But you be a roller And hull with power, And I'll be a millstone And grind the flour.
As soon as this game was finished our little friend arranged the children against the wall for another game. Everything was in readiness. They were about to begin, when one of the larger girls whispered something in her ear. She stepped back, put her hands behind her, hung her head and thought a moment.
"Go on," we said.
"No, we can't play that; there is too much bad talk in it." This is one of the unfortunate features of Chinese children's games and rhymes. There is an immense amount of bad talk in them.
She at once called out:
"Meat or vegetables."
Each girl began to scurry around to find a pair of old shoes, which may be picked up almost anywhere in China, and putting one crosswise of the other, they let them fall. The way they fell indicated what kind of meat or vegetables they were. If they both fell upside down they were the big black tiger. If both fell on the side they were double beans. If one fell right side up and the other on its side they were beans. If both were right side up they were honest officials. (What kind of meat or vegetables honest officials are it is difficult to say, but that never troubles the Chinese child.) If one is right side and the other wrong side up they are dogs' legs. If the toe of one rests on the top of the other, both right side up and at right angles, they form a dark hole or an alley.
The child whose shoes first form an alley must throw a pebble through this alley -- that is, under the toe of the shoe -- three times, or, failing to do so, one of the number takes up the shoes, and standing on a line, throws them all back over her head. Then she hops to each successively, kicking it back over the line, each time crossing the line herself, until all are over. In case she fails another tries it in the same way, and so on, till some one succeeds. This one then takes the two shoes of the one who got the alley, and, hanging them successively on her toe, kicks them as far as possible. The possessor of the shoes, starting from the line, hops to each, picks it up and hops back over the line with it, which ends the game. It is a vigorous hopping game for little girls.
The girls were pretty well exhausted when this game was over and we asked them to play something which required less exercise.
"Water the flowers," said the small leader.
Several of them squatted down in a circle, put their hands together in the centre to represent the flowers. One of their number gathered up the front of her garment in such a way as to make a bag, and went around as if sprinkling water on their heads, at the same time repeating:
"I water the flowers, I water the flowers, I water them morning and evening hours, I never wait till the flowers are dry, I water them ere the sun is high."
She then left a servant in charge of them while she went to dinner. While she was away one of them was stolen.
Returning she asked: "How is this that one of my flowers is gone?"
"A man came from the south on horseback and stole one before I knew it. I followed him but how could I catch a man on horseback?"
After many rebukes for her carelessness, she again sang:
"A basin of water, a basin of tea, I water the flowers, they're op'ning you see."
Again she cautioned the servant about losing any of the flowers while she went to take her afternoon meal, but another flower was stolen and this time by a man from the west.
When the mistress returned, she again scolded the servant, after which she sang:
"A basin of water, another beside, I water the flowers, they're opening wide."
This was continued until all the flowers were gone. One had been taken by a carter, another by a donkey-driver, another by a muleteer, another by a man on a camel, and finally the last little sprig was eaten by a chicken. The servant was soundly berated each time and cautioned to be more careful, which she always promised but never performed, and was finally dismissed in disgrace without either a recommendation, or the wages she had been promised when hired.
The game furnishes large opportunity for invention on the part of the servant, depending upon the number of those to be stolen. This little girl seemed to be at her wit's end when she gave as the excuse for the loss of the last one that it had been eaten by a chicken.
This game suggested to our little friend another which proved to be the sequel to the one just described, and she called out:
The girl who had just been dismissed appeared from behind the corner of the house with all the stolen "flowers," each holding to the other's skirts. At the same time she was calling out:
"Flowers for sale, Flowers for sale, Come buy my flowers Before they get stale."
The original owner hereupon appeared and called to her:
"Hey! come here, flower-girl, those flowers look like mine," and she took one away.
The flower-seller did not stop to argue the question but hurried off crying:
"Flowers for sale," etc.
The original owner again called to her:
"Ho! flower-seller, come here, those flowers are certainly mine," whereupon she took them all and whipped the flower-seller who ran away crying.
As the little flower-seller ran away crying in her sleeve, she stumbled over an old flower-pot that lay in the school court. This accident seemed to act as a reminder to our little leader for she called out,
The girls divided themselves into companies of three and stood in the form of a triangle, each with her left hand holding the right hand of the other, their hands being crossed in the centre.
Then by putting the arms of two back of the head of the third she was brought into the centre (steps into the well), and by stepping over two other arms, she goes out on the opposite side, so that whereas she was on the left side of this and the right side of that one, she now stands on the right side of this and the left side of that girl. In the same way the second and third girls go through, and so on as long as they wish to keep up the game, saying or singing the following rhyme:
You first cross over, and then cross back, And step in the well as you cross the track, And then there is something else you do, Oh, yes, you make a flower-pot too.
By this time the girls had lost most of their strangeness or embarrassment and continued the flower-pot until we were compelled to remind them that they were playing for us. Everybody let go hands and the little general called out,
"The cow's tail."
One girl with a small stick in her hand squatted down pretending to be digging and the others took a position one behind the other similar to the hawk catching the chicks. They walked up to the girl digging and engaged in the following conversation:
"What are you digging?" "Digging a hole." "What is it for?" "My pot for to boil." "What will you heat?" "Some water and broth." "How use the water?" "I'll wash some cloth. "What will you make?" "I'll make a bag." "And what put in it?" "A knife and a rag." "What is the knife for?" "To kill your lambs." "What have they done?" "They've eaten my yams." "How high were they?" "About so high." "Oh, that isn't high." "As high as the sky."
"What is your name?" "My name is Grab, what is your name?" "My name is Turn." "Turn once for me."
They all walked around in a circle and as they turned they sang:
"We turn about once, Or twice I declare, And she may grab, But we don't care."
"Can't you grab once for us?" "Yes, but what I grab I keep."
She then ran to "grab" one of the "lambs" but they kept behind the front girl just as the boys did in the hawk catching the chicks. After awhile however, they were all caught.
Why this game is called "cow's tail" and the girls called "lambs," we do not know. We asked the girls why and their answer was, "There is no reason."
The girls were panting with the running before they were all caught and we suggested that they rest awhile, but instead the little leader called out:
"Let out the doves."
One of the larger girls took hold of the hands of two of the smaller, one of whom represented a dove and the other a hawk. The hawk stood behind her and the dove in front.
She threw the dove away as she might pitch a bird into the air, and as the child ran it waved its arms as though they were wings. She threw the hawk in the same way, and it followed the dove.
She then clapped her hands as the Chinese do to bring their pet birds to them, and the dove if not caught, returned to the cage. This is a very pretty game for little children.
By this time the girls were all rested and our little friend said:
"Seek for gold."
Three or four of the girls gathered up some pebbles, squatted down in a group and scattered them as they would a lot of jackstones. Then one drew her finger between two of the stones and snapped one against the other. If she hit it the two were taken up and put aside.
She then drew her finger between two more and snapped them.
If she missed, another girl took up what were left, scattered them, snapped them, took them up, and so on until one or another got the most of the pebbles and thus won the game. Our little friend was reminded of another and she called out:
"The cow 's eye." Immediately the girls all sat down in a ring and put their feet together in the centre. Then one of their number repeated the following rhyme, tapping a foot with each accented syllable.
One, two, three, and an old cow's eye, When a cow s eye's blind she'll surely die. A piece of skin and a melon too, If you have money I'll sell to you, But if you're without, I'll put you out.
The foot on which her finger happened to rest when she said "out" was excluded from the ring. Again she repeated the rhyme excluding a foot with each repetition till all but one were out.
Up to this point all the children were in a nervous quiver waiting to see which foot would be left, but now the fun began, for they took the shoe off and every one slapped that unfortunate foot. This was done with good-natured vigor but without intention to hurt. It was amusing to see the children squirm as they neared the end of the game.
This game finished, the little girl called out:
"Pat your hands and knees."
The girls sat down in pairs and, after the style of "Bean Porridge Hot," clapped hands to the following rhyme:
Pat your hands and knees, On January first, The old lady likes to go a sightseeing most. Pat your hands and knees, On February second, The old lady likes a piece of candy it is reckoned. Pat your hands and knees, On March the third, The old lady likes a Canton pipe I have heard. Pat your hands and knees, On April fourth, The old lady likes bony fish from the north. Pat your hands and knees, The fifth of May, The old lady likes sweet potatoes every day. Pat your hands and knees, The sixth of June, The old lady eats fat pork with a spoon. Pat your hands and knees, The seventh of July, The old lady likes to eat a fat chicken pie. Pat your hands and knees, On August eight, The old lady likes to see the lotus flowers straight. Pat your hands and knees, September nine, The old lady likes to drink good hot wine. Pat your hands and knees, October ten,
The old lady, you and I, may meet hope again.
This we afterwards discovered is very widely known throughout the north of China.
The foregoing are a few of the games played by the children in Peking. In that one city we have collected more than seventy-five different games, and have no reason to believe we have secured even a small proportion of what are played there. Games played in Central and South China are different, partly because of climatic conditions, partly because of the character of the people. There, as here, the games of children are but reproductions of the employments of their parents. They play at farming, carpentry, house- keeping, storekeeping, or whatever employments their parents happen to be engaged in. Indeed, in addition to the games common to a larger part of the country, there are many which are local, and depend upon the employment of the parents or the people.