National Geographic : 1923 Sep
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by II. S. Elliott A LESSON IN GEOMETRY A boy of the old regime in Peking University used his queue in drawing a circle for his prob lem (see also illustration, page 329). One concrete illustration will suffice to show how the industry expands. About four years ago a native firm was organ ized in Paotingfu for the purpose of en gaging in hairnet manufacture. Seventy five girls were called in from the country and formed into a normal class. Trained teachers were brought from Chefoo and the girls were given instruc tion free of charge for one month. There was only one requirement: that they promise to sell their product exclusively to the company which taught them the trade. As soon as the first class was finished, the girls went back to their homes to be gin their new trade and teach it to others. (No doubt they received a bonus from those whom they taught.) The company kept starting new classes, and its agents took the hair out into the regions where the girls lived, collected the completed nets, and paid the makers. To be sure, the girls at first earned only a few coppers a day, but it was better than any other employment they had ever had. Some had once tried spinning thread and weaving straw braid, but they could not make a living at those tasks. ONE CENT FOR TYING I,000 KNOTS The hairnet company also undertook to do tatting and to make lace and em broidery, but the demand for the nets in America and Europe increased so rapidly that the production of the other articles has been discontinued, and work is now concentrated on hairnets. When many nets are accumulated, they are taken to Chefoo to be sold to exporters. Some of these exporting firms, which are mostly American, would be glad to make long-term contracts with Chinese buyers. This method of selling is not very attractive to the Chinese trader, how ever, for it lacks the element of chance, of which he is so fond. Rather than sell his nets at a good price on a long-term contract, he prefers to take them to Che foo and sell to the highest bidder on the day he happens to be in town. This means that the market is some what irregular, and consequently the girls never know how much they will receive for their work until the agent comes to collect. However, during the last few years the price paid has not varied much from two or two and a half coppers, or about one cent in United States currency. A single net requires the tying of a thousand knots or more, but if a girl is clever she can make as high as twenty coppers a day; and, as she can live on much less than that, she often not only supports herself, but helps other members of the family as well. NEITIIER MACHINERY NOR CAPITAL IS REQUIRED Is it any wonder, then, that fathers and mothers are glad to see the hairnet in dustry'enter their villages? Their daugh ters, heretofore a burden, are now be coming the breadwinners of the family.