Donald D. Smythe, Professor of Geology
Peiyang University, Dept. of Geology,
Don Zimmerman (Erma's brother)
January 20, 1924
Your letter arrived some time ago but I have been so busy getting the second semester's work started that I could not write till now. The first semester I had six classes; Hand specimen, petrography, economic geology, blowpipe analysis, crystallography, historical geology and general geology. This term microscopic petrography, ore deposits, descriptive mineralogy, engineering geology, historical geology and general geology. It makes a lot of work when you have to write all your lectures as you go along. We have pretty good material but all the minerals were scattered through the drawers without lables and the rocks and crystal models (1700 of them) were in the same shape. Have them in pretty fair shape now but expect to have them better at New Years. Holidays are not the same here as in the States. No vacation between terms and only two days at Christmas. We have about two weeks at New Years (Feb 5) There is a weeks vacation in the spring when I go on a trip to Shantung with the students. Then after school in the summer there is a six weeks trip; If there is no revolution to interfere. We go to Korea sometimes and sometimes to South China. It looks as if there would be trouble in the spring which would interfere this year, there has been for the last 15 years but the trip was taken several times. They stop fighting here when the weather is bad so that during the winter there is no trouble.
This school is run by the Chinese gov't and is said to be the best engineering school in China. There are three branches here, Mining, Metallurgical and Civil Engineering, most of my work is with the Min. and Met. but I have some work with the Civils.
I received the Condon Club Bullitin by the last boat, it is much better than it has been before, used to be rather sophomoric I thought. You may use any of this dope you like for them.
There is not much chance to see any geology in the vicinity of Tientsin as we are located in the middle of the loess plain, there is lots of research to be done in China though and it is too hot here in the summer anyhow. Climate is not bad in the winter, much like Denver Colo. but with less snow. Cold enough that we have considerable skating. The only unpleasant thing is the duststorms which we have in the winter. We haven't had any bad ones yet but will have in a few weeks then it seems as if the whole Gobi desert is moving in on us. The school is located at Heiku (Chegoo) a little village five miles north of Tientsin. We usually take a rickshaw to go in to town. It takes about 45 minutes if you don't meet a funeral in the Chinese city, then it may take two or three hours. We could go by boat if we liked as we are on the Pei-ho (North River) It is frozen over now so that they take you by means of a sled instead. A man stands behind and pushes it between his legs.
The present university is located on the site of an old arsenal. At the time of the boxer trouble it was captured by the allies and saw considerable fighting.
This is the season of the year when fires are common here. The Chinese have to pay up all their debts on the new year or be disgraced. Many of them do not have the money to do it with so they have a fire and collect the insurance. I saw one down in Tientsin when I went to bed last night. The pawn shops do a good business too, it makes it a good time to buy things as they sell them very cheap.
The Chinese characters at the top of the sheet start at the upper right and read down; the first two mean Tientsin, the next two Pei-yang (North Foreign) and the last three university. The next column means Geology Professor and the last column is my name, Ssu Mai Ssu.
I was up to Peking to the Geological Society of China meeting a couple of weeks ago. Met some very interesting men, Dr. Grabau among others. He is with the Geol. Survey of China and doing most of the work in Chinese stratigraphy. didn't have time to see the sights but will see them later. It seems strange to be going along a macadam road in the city where there are autos passing all the time and see strings of camels too.
Think I will be able to manage some of the Chinese language if I keep it up. The written language is the same all over China but the characters have different sounds in different parts of the country. I believe that one sound is given to about 300 different characters in one instance. As a result the Chinese have difficulty in understanding themselves. It is helped out some by means of the tone used, there are four tones in the Peking variety of the Mandarin dialect. Each town has its own dialect which may vary so that a native from the next town has difficulty understanding. We have students here from all over China. Many of them have to resort to English in order to understand each other. Of course if they write the characters they can understand each other. You can easily see why it would be impossible to teach a scientific subject in Chinese. All the instruction is in English. You usually need an interpreter when you are correcting papers though to understand what the student is talking about. I asked one class to explain the formation of Pelee's spine and I got answers varying all the way from a diagram of a seismograph to a cross section of a mature valley.
I have a lot of papers to correct so must stop this. Let me know how you are making out. Tell your mother that the candy and socks arrived and were appreciated. The latter arrived just in time for a formal function which I attended in Tientsin. Havn't seen the Pryors and don't think that I want to. They sure got in bad in Peking, give me a good honest crook to a missionary every time.
Donald D. Smythe