This essay by Morley, the foreign correspondent for Dickens's Household Words appeared in the June 1851 issue of that periodical. [Philip V. Allingham scanned, proofed, and translated it into html for the Victorian Web.
OUR Phantom Ship has deposited our friend, Henry Rubley, Esquire, at Adelaide, and has now returned to China.
Since a typhoon occurs not much oftener than once in about three years, it would be odd if we should sail immediately into one; but we are fairly in the China seas, which are the typhoon's own peculiar sporting ground, and it is desperately sultry, and those clouds are full of night and lightning, to say nothing of a fitful gale and angry sea. Look out! There is the coast of China. Now for telescope to see the barren, dingy hills, with clay and granite peeping out, with a few miserable trees and stunted firs. That is our first sight of the flowery land, and we shall not get another yet, for the spray begins to blind us; it is quite as much as we can do to see each other. Now the wind howls and tears the water up, as if it would extract the waves by their roots, like so many Ocean's teeth; but he kicks sadly at the operation. We are driven by the wild blast that snaps our voices short off at the lips and carries them away; no words are audible. We are among a mass of spars and men wild as the storm on drifting broken junks; a vessel founders in our sight, and we are cast, with dead and living, upon half a dozen wrecks entangled in a mass, upon the shore of Hong Kong; — ourselves safe, of course, for left at home whatever could be bruised upon the journey. How many houses have been blown away like hats, how many rivers have been driven back to swell canals and flood the fields, (whose harvest has been prematurely cropped on the first warning of the typhoon's intended visit,) we decline investigating. The evening sky is very wild, and we were last night under the typhoon at sea; to-night, are in the new town of Victoria, and will be phantom bed-fellows to any Chinaman who has been eating pork for supper. The Chinese are very fond of pork, or anything that causes oiliness in man. A lean man forfeits something in their estimation; for they say, "He must have foolishness; why has he wanted wisdom to eat more? "
Hong Kong was one of the upshots of our cannonading in the pure and holy Chinese war; and as for the new town of Victoria, we shall walk out of it at once, for we have not travelled all this way to look at Englishmen. The island itself is eight or ten miles long, and sometimes two or sometimes six miles broad. It is the model of a grand mountain region on a scale of two inches to the foot. There are crags, ravines, wild torrents, fern- hills; but the highest mountain does not rise two thousand feet. We stand upon it now. Quite the contrary to our usual experience, we found, in coming up, the richest flowers at the greatest elevation. The heat and dryness of the air below, where the sun's rays are reflected from [325/326] bare surfaces, is said to be oppressive, and perhaps the flowers down there want a pleasant shade. From our elevation we see a few patches of cultivation, but leaping down the rocks are many picturesque cascades. Hong Kong is christened from its own name signifying in Chinese "the Island of Fragrant Streams." There is a goat upon the nearest rock; but look beyond. On one side is the bay, with shipping, and behind us the broad expanse of the ocean; and before us is the sea, studded as far as our eyes reach with mountainous islands, among which we must sail to reach Canton. Now we float onward in the Phantom, and among these islands our sharp eyes discover craft that have more hands on board than usually man an honest vessel. In the holes and corners of the islands pirates lurk to prey upon the traffic of Canton. We pass Macao on our way into the Canton river. Portugal was a nation of quality once, with a strong constitution, and in those days, once upon a time, wrecked Portuguese gained leave to dry a cargo on the Island of Macao. They erected sheds a little stronger than were necessary for that temporary purpose; in fact, they turned the accident to good account and established here an infant settlement, which soon grew to maintain itself, and money home occasionally to assist its mother. Twice the Emperors of China offered to make Macao an emporium for European trade: the Portuguese preferred to be exclusive. So the settlement fell sick, and since the English made Hong Kong a place of active trade, very few people trouble themselves to inquire whether Macao be dead yet, or only dying. The Portuguese town has a mournful aspect, marked as it is by strong lines of character that indicate departed power.
Still sailing among islands, mountainous and barren, we soon reach the Bocca Tigris, or mouth of the Canton river, guarded now with very formidable forts. The Chinese, since their war with England, have been profiting by sore experience. If their gunnery be as completely mended as their fortifications, another war with them would not be quite so much like an attack of grown men upon children. The poor Chinese, in that war, were indefatigable in the endeavour to keep up appearances. Steam ships were scarcely worth attention--they had "plenty all the same inside;" and when the first encounter, near the spot on which we are now sailing, between junks and men-of-war, had exhibited the tragedy, in flesh and bone, of John Bull in a china-shop, the Chinese Symonds, at Ningpo, was ordered to build ships exactly like the British. He could not execute the order, and played, executioner upon himself. Cannon were next ordered, that should be large enough to destroy a ship at the first burst. They were made, and the first monster tried, immediately burst and killed its three attendants; nobody could he induced to fire the others. One morning, a British fleet was very much surprised to see the shore look formidable with a line of cannon mouths. The telescope, had formed no part of the Chinese calculations, discovered them to be a row of earthen pots. Forts, in the same way, often turned out to be dummies made of matting, with the portholes painted; and sometimes real cannon, mere three pounders, had their fronts turned to the sea, plugged with blocks of wood and so painted as to resemble the mouths of thirty-two pounders shotted. However, we have passed real strong forts and veritable heavy cannon, to get through the Bocca Tigris. Nothing is barren now; the river widens, and looks like an inland sea; the flat land near the shores is richly cultivated; rice is there and upon the islands, all protected with embankments to admit or exclude the flood in its due season, or provided with wheels for raising water where the land is too high to be flooded in a simpler manner. The embankments, too, yield plantain crops. The water on each side is gay with water lilies, which are cultivated for their roots. Banyan and fig-trees, cypress, orange, water-pines, weeping willows, grow beside the stream, with other trees; but China is not to be called a richly-timbered country; most of its districts are deficient in large trees. There is the Whampoa Pagoda; there are more pagodas, towers, joss-houses; here are the European factories, and here are boats, boats, boats, literally, hundreds of thousands of boat--the sea-going junk, gorgeous with griffins, with proverbs, and with painted eyes; the flower boat; boats of all shapes, and sizes, down to the barber's boat, which barely holds the barber and his razor. There is a city on the water, and the dwellers in these boats, who, whether men or women, dive or swim so naturally that they may all be fishes, curiously claim their kindred with the earth. On every boat, a little soil and a few flowers are as essential as the little joss-house and the joss. Canals flow from the river through Canton; everywhere, over the mud, upon the water side are wooden houses built on piles. But here we will not go ashore; the suburbs of Canton are full of thieves, and little who shout fan-qai (foreign devil) after all barbarians, and we should not be welcome in the city; so we will not go where we shall not be welcome. After floating up and down the streets and lanes of water made between the boats upon the Canton river, pleased with the strange music, the gongs, and the incessant chattering of women (Chinese women are pre-eminent as chatterers), we sail away. We do not wait even till night to wonder at the scene by lantern light; but returning by the way we came, repass the rice fields, the water lilies, and the forts, the islands, and Macao and Hong Kong, and have again before us the expanse of ocean. Canton lies within the tropic; sugar-cane grown in its vicinity yields brown sugar and candy; but our lump sugar is a luxury to which the Chinese have not [326/327] yet attained. Canton lying within the tropic, we shall change our climate on the journey northward. An empire that engrosses nearly a tenth part of the globe, and includes the largest population gathered under any single government, will have many climates in its eighteen provinces. Now we are sailing swiftly northward by a barren rocky coast, with sometimes hills of sand, and sometimes cultivated patches, and, except for the pagodas on the highest elevations, we might fancy we were off the coast of Scotland.
Five ports are open to our trade upon the coast of China; one of these, Canton, we have merely looked at, and the next, Amoy, we pass unvisited in sailing up between t land and Formosa. Amoy produces the best Chinese sailors, and it is in this port that native junks have most experience of foreign trade; it is a dirty, densely-peopled town, too distant from the tea and silk regions to be of prominent importance to the Europeans. As soon as we have passed through the Formosa channel, we direct our course to river Min, and steering safely among the rocks and sand-banks, among which is a rock cleft into five pyramids, regarded with a sort of worship by the sailors, we float up to the third of the five cities, Foo-chow-foo. The river varies in its width, sometimes a mile across, where it is flowing between plains, sometimes confined between the hills; a hilly country is about us, with some mountains nearly twice as high as those up which we clambered at Hong Kong. We pass, after a few miles' sail, the little town at Mingan; we sail among pagodas and temples, near which the priests plant dark spreading fig-trees, terraced hills, yielding earth-nuts and sweet potatoes; we see cultivation carried up some mountain sides beyond two thousand feet, and barren mountains, granite rocks, islands, and villages; here and there more wooded tracts than usually belong to a Chinese landscape, rills of water and cascades that tumble down into the Min. We have sailed up the river twenty miles, and here is Foo-chow-foo. We have met on our way a good many junks, having wood lashed to their sides; and here we see acres of wood (chiefly pine) afloat before the suburbs, for here wood is a main article of trade. We pass the bridge Wanshow ("myriads of ages"), which connects the suburbs on each bank; it is a bridge of granite slabs, supported upon fifty pillars of strong masonry, the whole about two thousand feet in length. The suburbs happen just now to be flooded, and the large Tartar population here delights in mobbing a barbarian. This inhospitable character repels men, while the floods and rapids of the river and its tributaries, causing an uncertainty of transit, tend also to keep European traders out of Foo-chow-foo. True, the bohea tea hills are in the vicinity, but their bohea tea has not a first-rate character, and the great seat of the tea trade is yet farther north. The city walls are eight or nine miles in circumference; but we will not enter their gates for all Chinese cities have a close resemblance to each other; it is enough to visit one, and we can do better than visit this. We sail back to the sea again, and there resume our northward voyage. We have seen part of mountainous or hilly half of China; farther north, between the two great rivers, and beyond them to the famous Wall, is a great plain, studded in parts with lakes or swamps, and very fertile.
Far westward, we might journey to the high central table-land of Asia, where there are extensive levels; but the seaward provinces are the most fertile; and as for Chinese themselves, they are in all places very much alike--in body as in character. But sailing in our ship, and talking of those plains, we may naturally recal to our minds those ancient days when the Chinese, civilised then as now, guided their chariots across a pathless level on the land by the same instrument that guides our ship across a pathless level on the water.
The coast by which we sail is studded with islands, and to reach Ningpo, the fourth the five ports, we pass between the mainland and the Island of Chusan. The water here is quite hemmed in with islands forming the Chusan Archipelago. Chusan is like a piece of the Scotch Highlands, twenty miles long, and ten or twelve broad, with rich vegetation added. Forty miles' sail from Chusan brings us to Ningpo. Amongst the numerous islands past which we have floated, we should have found, on many, characters not quite Chinese. One island, visited for water by one of ships, was said to be an Eden for its innocence. Crime was unknown among islanders; and at a grave look or a slight tap with a fan, the wrong-doer invariably desisted from his evil course. The simplicity of the natives here consisted in the fact, that they expected credit for the character they gave themselves. On another island, the natives entertained snug notions of a warm bed in the winter. Their bed was a stone trough; in winter they spread at the bottom of this trough hot embers, and over these a large stone, over that their bedding, and then tucked themselves comfortably in.
Ningpo, with its bridge of boats and Chinese shipping and pagodas, has a picturesque appearance from the river. It is large, populous, and wealthy; a place to which the merchant may retire to spend his gains, more than a port for active and hard-working commerce. That is the reason why we will not land at Ningpo. Where, then, shall we land? If you have no objection, at Shangae, the fifth and most important, although not the largest, of these ports. But sea life is monotonous, and therefore we will take five minutes' diversion ashore, after we have sailed some twenty miles up this canal. Here we will land under an avenue of pines, and walk up [327/328] to a Buddhist temple. We are in the of the green-tea district.
The priests, belonging, for a wonder, to a simple-minded class, receive us, of course, hospitably. The stranger is at all times welcome to a lodging, and to his portion of the Buddhist vegetable dinner. These priests are like some of our monks in mendicancy, charity, and superstition. In the pagodas they always have a meal prepared for the arrival of a hungry traveller. But hungry we are not; and we came hither to see the tea-plantations; these we now seek are small farms upon the lower slopes of hills; the soil is rich; it must be rich, or the tea-plant would not long endure the frequent stripping of its leaves, which usage does of course sooner or later kill it. Each plant is at a distance of about four feet from its neighbours, and the plantations look like little shrubberies. The small proprietors inhabit wretched-looking cabins, in which each of them has fixed a flue and coppers for the drying of his tea. In the appearance of the people there is nothing wretched sit at their doors like patriarchs, expecting and receiving reverence; young men, balancing bales across their shoulders, travel out, and some return with strings of copper money; the chief tea-harvest is over, and the merchants have come down now to the little inns about the district, that each husbandman may offer them his produce. There are three tea-making seasons. The first is in the middle of April, just before the rains, when the first leaves of spring are plucked: these make the choicest tea, but their removal tries the vigour of the plant. Then come the rains; the tea-plant pushes out new leaves, and already in May the plantation is again dark with foliage; that is the season of the second great gathering. A later gathering of coarse leaves yields an inferior tea, scarcely worth exporting. It should be understood that although black and green tea are both made from the same kind of leaf, there really are two tea-plants. The plant cultivated at Canton for black tea, and known in our gardens as Thea Bohea, differs from the Thea vividis, which yields the harvest here. The Canton plant, however, is not cultivated in the North; on the Bohea hills themselves, speaking botanically, there grows no Bohea tea; the plant there, also, is the Thea vividis. The difference between our green and black tea is produced entirely in the making. Green tea is more quickly and lightly dried, so that it contains more of the virtues of the leaf. Black tea is dried more slowly; exposed, while moist, on mats, when it ferments a little, and then subjected in drying to a greater heat, which makes it blacker in its colour. The bright bloom on our green tea is added with a dye, to suit the gross taste of barbarians. The black tea will keep better, being better dried. There is a kind of tea called Hyson Pekoe made from the first the first young buds which keeps ill, being very little fired, but when good it is extremely costly. As for our names of teas,--of the first delicate harvest, the black tea is called Pekoe, and the green, Young Hyson; Hyson being the corruption of Chinese words that mean "flourishing spring." The produce of the main or second harvest yields, in green tea, Hyson; out of which are picked the leaves that prove to be best rolled for Gunpowder or as the Chinese call it, pearl-tea. Souchon ("small or scarce sort") is the best black tea of the second crop, followed by Congou (koong-foo, "assiduity"). Twankay is imported largely, a green tea from older leaves which European retailers employ for mixing with the finer kinds. Bohea, named from the hills we talked of, is the lowest quality of black tea, though good Bohea is better than a middling quality of Congou. The botanical Thea Bohea comes into our pots, with refuse Congou, as Canton Bohea. At Canton, however, Young Hyson and Gunpowder are manufactured out of these leaves, chopped and painted; and this branch of the fine arts is carried on extensively in Chinese manufactories established there. As the tea- merchants go out to collect their produce of the little farmers; so the mercers in the Nankeen districts leave their cities for the purchase, in the same way, of home-woven cloth. It is the same in the silk districts. If we look now into a larger Chinese farm on our way back to the Phantom, we shall find the tenants on a larger scale supplying their own wants, and making profit of the surplus. On such a farm we shall find also familiar friends, fowls, ducks, geese, pigs, goats, and dogs, bullocks, and buffaloes; in-doors there will be a best parlour in the shape of a Hall of Ancestors, containing household gods and an ancestral picture, before which is a table or altar with its offerings. There is the head of the family, who built a room for each son as he married, and left each son to add other rooms as they were necessary, till a colony arose under the common roof about the common hall, in which rules, as a high priest and patriarch, the living ancestor. Respect for the past is the whole essence of Chinese religion and morality. The oldest emperors were fountain-heads of wisdom, and he who imitates the oldest doctrine is the wisest man. The tombs of ancestors are visited with pious care; respect and worship is their due. This had at all times been the Chinese principle, to which Confucius added the influence of a good man's support. No nation has been trained into this feeling so completely as the Chinese, and as long as they saw nothing beyond themselves, and were taught to look down upon barbarians out of the heights of their own ignorance concerning them, they were contented to stand still. But the Chinese are a people sharply stimulated by the love of gain; they despised what they had not seen, yet it is evident that they have [328/329] not been slow to profit by experience of European arts. An emigrant Chinese acquainted with a Prussian blue manufactory, secretly observed the process of the manufacture, took his secret home, and China makes at home all the Prussian blue which was before imported. The Chinese emigrant is active, shrewd. In Batavia he ko-toos to the Dutch, and lets his tail down dutifully. In Singapore he readily assumes a freer spirit, keeps his tail curled, and walks upright among the Englishmen.
We are sailing now towards Shangae, no very long way northward from Ningpo, to the last of the five ports that we came out to visit. It is not necessary to return to the Yellow Sea, for all this part of China is so freely intersected with canals that we may sail to Shangae among farms and rice-grounds. While among the farmers, we may call to mind that the great lord of the Chinese manor is the Emperor, to whom this ground immediately belongs, and who receives as rent for it a tenth of all the produce. A large part of this tenth is paid in kind. The Emperor is the great father also; his whole care of his enormous family distinctly assumes the paternal form, and embodies a good deal of the maxim, that to spare the rod will spoil the child. To govern is expressed in Chinese by the symbols of bamboo and strike; and the bamboo does, in. the way of striking a vast deal of business. The central legislation is as a rule beneficent, and based upon an earnest desire to do good; for the father is answerable for the welfare of his children. National calamities have, at all times, been ascribed by the Chinese directly to their Emperors; who must by personal humiliation appease the anger of the gods. So large a household as this father has to care for requires many stewards, mandarins and others; all these officers of state are those sons who have proved themselves to be the wisest, on examination into their attainments. A grand system of education pervades China; and, above the first school, to which all are sent, there is a series of four examinations, through which every Chinese may graduate if he will study. Not to pass the first is to be vile, and the highest degrees qualify for all the offices of state; but Chinese education means, after reading and writing, and moral precepts of Confucius, little beside a knowledge of Chinese ancient history and literature. The Emperor, belonging to a Tartar dynasty, bestows an equal patronage on Tartars and Chinese. The officers throughout the provinces are, as a farther precaution, serve in places distant from their own connexions, in order that no private feelings may destroy their power to be just. They are scantily paid, however; and, as a Chinese likes profit with his honour, the minor officials drive a trade in bribery, which often nullifies the central edicts, and which very directly helped to bring about the Opium war. The Emperor himself is, of course, too sublime a person to be often seen; the Son of Heaven, he himself in the imperial yellow, because that is the hue of the sun's jacket ; but, once a year, in enforcement of a main principle of the Chinese political economy--Honour to Agriculture--he drives the plough before a state procession; and the grain sown in those imperial furrows is afterwards bought up by courtiers, at a most flattering price.
Where are we now?--we have shot out upon a grand expanse of water, like an inland sea. An horizon of water is before us--we cannot see the other bank of the Yang-tse-Kiang, the "child of the ocean," the greatest river of China; the greatest river in the old world, and surpassed only by two on the whole globe. Here, eighty miles above the sea, it is eight miles in breadth, and sixty feet deep, flowing five miles an hour; and far up, off the walls of Nankin, its bread is three thousand six hundred feet, and its depth twenty-two fathoms, at a distance of fifty paces from either shore. Well, this is something like a river; from its source to its mouth, in a straight line, the distance is one thousand seven hundred and ninety-six miles; and the windings nearly double its real length, making three thousand three hundred thirty-six English miles; of which two thousand, from the mouth upwards, are said to be quite free from all obstruction. At its mouth it is, comparatively, shallow; much of vast body of water is diverted from its course and carried through the country in canals. We are not far, now, from the great canal which cuts across this river and the Hoang-Ho, another grand stream farther northward, with a course of two thousand six hundred and thirty miles. Between the Yang-tse-Kiang and Hang-Ho the country is so flat that, if we may judge by the scene from the mast- head of the Phantom, not a hillock breaks the level waste of fertile land. In ancient times this country was subjected to desolating floods, which, in fact, caused the removal of the capital. The canal system was commenced, then, as a means of drainage, by a wise man, who was made an emperor for his sagacity. Now the canals serve the purposes of commerce, and of agriculture also, since water, in abundance, is essential for the irrigation of the rice-fields. We are sailing up the Shangae river, a tributary of the Yang-tse-Kiang; this river, at Shangae, we perceive is about as broad as the Thames at London Bridge; for we are at Shangae. We sail through a water-gate into the centre of the town, and land beside a fleet of junks, into which heaps of rice are being shot; these are grain junks sent from Pekin to receive part of the imperial tribe.
Narrow, dirty streets, low houses, brilliant open shops, painted with red and gold. Here is a fragrant fruit-shop, where a poor Chinese is buying an iced slice of pine-apple for less money than a farthing. Here is the chandler's, gay with candles of the tallow-tree coated with [329/330] coloured wax. The chandler deals in puffs; and what an un-English appeal is this from the candle-maker on behalf of his wares--"Late at night in the snow gallery they study the books." Study the books! Yes; through the crowd of Chinese, in their picturesque familiar dresses, look at that man, with books upon a tray, who dives into house after house. He lends books on hire to the poor people and servants. Who is the puffer here? "We issue and sell Hang Chow tobacco, the name and fame of which has gallopped to the north of Kechow; and the flavour has pervaded Keangnan in the south." Here we have "Famous teas from every province;" see boiling water handy in the shop, wherewith the customer may test his purchases. Here, on the other side of this triumphal arch, we peep through a gateway hung with into a small paved paradise with gold fish, (China is the home of gold fish), and exotics, and trellis-work, and vines, and singing birds; that is a mercer's shop, affecting style in China as in England, only in another way. We will walk through the paradise into a grand apartment hung with lanterns, decorated also with gilded tickets, inscribed "Pekin satins and Canton crapes," "Hang-chow reeled silks," and so on. Here a courtly Chinese, skilled in the lubrication of a customer, produces the rich heavy silks for which his country is renowned, the velvets or satins you desire, and shaves you skilfully. Talking of shaving, and we run against a barber as we come out of the silk shop. He carries a fire on his head, with water always boiling; on a pole over his shoulder he balances his water, basin, towels, razors. Will you be you shaved like a Chinese? he picks you out a reasonably quiet doorway, shaves your head, cleans your ears, tickles your eyes, and cracks your joints in a twinkling. Where heads are shaved the wipings of the razors are extensive; they are all bought up, and employed as manure. The Chinese have so many mouths to feed, that they can afford to lose nothing that will fertilise the ground. Instead of writing on their walls "Commit no nuisance," they place jars, and invite or even pay the pilgrim.
The long tail that the barber leaves is to the Chinese his sign of manhood. Beards do not form a feature of Mongolian faces; a few stray coarse hairs are all they get, with their square face, high cheekbones, slanting eyes, and long dark hair upon the head. A plump body, long ears, and a long tail are the respectabilities of a Chinese. The tail is magnified by working in false hair, and it generally ends with silk. There is a man using his tail to thrash a pig along; and one traveller records that he has seen a Chinese servant use the same instrument for polishing a table. It is, of course, the thing to pull at in a street fight. Here is a phrenologist, with a large figure of a human head mapped into regions, inviting Chinese bumpkins to submit to him their bumps. Here is a dentist showing his teeth. Here--we must stop here--with a gong for drum, but raised on the true pedestal, with a man inside, who knows the veritable squeak, are Punch and Judy, all alive. This is their native land. "Pun-tse," the Chinese call our friend, because he is a little puppet, after all--Puntse meaning, in Chinese, "the son of an inch." Here is the very Chinese bridge that we have learned by heart along with the pagoda, from a willow-patterned soup-plate: steps up, steps down, and a set of Chinese lanterns. Here is a temple, flaming with red paint. Let us go in. Images, votive candles burning on an altar, and a woman on her face wrestling in prayer. After praying in a sort of agony for a few minutes, she has stopped to take a bit of stick, round on one side, for she purposes therewith to toss up and whether her prayer is granted. Tails! She loses! She is wrestling on her knees again,--praying, doubtless, for a "bull child." Girls are undesirable, because they are of no use except for what they fetch in marriage gifts, and to fetch much they must be good-looking. Poor woman--tails again! Never mind, she must persevere, and she will get heads presently. Here comes a grave man, who prays for half a minute, and pulls out one from a jar of scrolls. Having examined it, he takes one of the little books that hang against the wall, looks happy, and departs. He has been drawing lots to see whether the issue of some undertaking will fortunate. Poor woman--tails again! We cannot stop for the result; but I have no doubt that if she persevere she will get heads up presently. Here is a man in the street with a whole bamboo kitchen on his head, nine feet long, by six broad, uttering all manner of good things. The poor fellow who drove the pig stops in the street to dine. What a Soyer that fellow is, with his herbs, and his peppers, and his magic stove, and what a magnificent stew he gives the pig-driver! Do you know, I doubt whether the Chinese are fools. What place have we here steaming like a boiler? This, sir, is one of the public bath establishments, where a bath, towels, and a dressing-closet are service of the pig-driver after his dinner, for five le--less than a farthing. There, too, his wife may go and obtain boiling water for the day's tea, which is to that poor Chinaman his beer, and pay for it but a. single le. It would cost far more to boil it for herself; fuel is dear, and except for cooking or for manufactures, is not used in China. There are neither grates nor stoves in any Chinese parlour. The continent of Asia, and with it China, has a climate of extremes, great summer heat and an excessive winter cold; so that even at Canton, within the tropic, snow falls. But the Chinaman warms not his toes at a fire; he accommodates his comfortable costume to the climate; puts on more clothes as the cold makes itself felt, and takes some off again if [330/331] he should feel too warm. That building on the walls is the temple of Spring, to which ladies repair to dress their hair with flowers when the first buds open. This handsome structure is the temple of Confucius. Yonder is the hall of United Benevolence, which supports a free hospital, a foundling hospital, and makes other provision for the poor. The Chinese charities are supported generously; the Chinese are a liberal and kindly race. Here is a shoemaker's shop, with a huge boot hung over the door, and an inscription which might not suit lovers of a good fit, "All here are measured by one rule." "When favoured by merchants who bestow their regards on us, please to notice our sign of the double Phoenix on a board as a mark; then it will be all right." These signs are in common use on shops in China, as they were formerly in England. In this shop there is a wild fellow, who is beating a gong fearfully, and who has rubbed himself with stinking filth, that he may be the greater nuisance. This is his way of extorting charity. That shopkeeper, not having compounded with the king of the beggars for immunity from customers of this kind, seldom lives a day without being compelled to pay as he is now paying for a little peace. The beggar takes his nuisance then into another shop. This is a vast improvement upon our street fiddle and organ practice. There is a pawnbroker's three-per-cent. per month shop. Here is a tea-house, surrounded with huge vases for rain-water which is kept to acquire virtue by age--of course imaginary virtue--for the making of celestial tea. In that house there is the oven for hatching eggs. Gateways are fitted at the end of the wide streets, locked at night to restrain thieves; and in the first house through the gateway here a girl is screaming dreadfully. Very likely it is a case of sore feet. The small feet of the Chinese women--about three inches long--are essential, for without them a girl cannot get a husband; as a wife, she is her husband's obedient, humble servant, but as a spinster she is her parents' plague. The operation on the feet takes place when the girl is seven or eight years old. A naval surgeon, in his walks, heard screams (like those) proceeding from a cottage, and went in; he found a little girl in bed, with her feet bandaged; he removed the bandage, and found the feet of course bent, and ulcerated. He dressed the wounds, and warned the mother. Passing, another day, he found the child still suffering torment, and in a hectic fever. He again removed the bandages, and warned the mother that her child's life would be sacrificed if she continued with the process. The next time he went by he saw a little coffin at the door.
The tea-gardens are in the centre of the town; we will go thither and rest. We might have dined with a hospitable townsman, where we could have been present at a theatrical entertainment, in which the Chinese delight like children. But a dinner in this country is a work of many hours; the list is very long of things that we should have to touch or eat. Chinese eat almost anything; their carte includes birds' nests, delicate meal-fed puppies, sea-slugs, sharks' fins and tails, frogs, worms, lizards, tortoises, and water-snakes, with many things that we should better understand, and a great many disguised vegetables. A Chinese dinner is so tediously long that we escape it altogether. Milk is not used; it is thought improper to take it from the calves; and meat plays no very large part in the Chinese diet. During our late war it was seriously stated, by several advisers of the Emperor, that to forbid the English tea and rhubarb would go a great way to destroy the nation; "for it is well known that the barbarians feed grossly on the flesh of animals, by which their bodies are so bound and obstructed," that rhubarb and warm tea were necessary to be taken, daily, as correctives. Now we are in the tea-gardens, and have passed through a happy crowd, sipping tea, smoking, eating melon pips, walking or looking at the jugglers. Into a fairy-like house of bamboo, perched over water, we ascend. Here is an elegant apartment, we claim as private. We recline, and take our cups of tea; the cups that have been are wiped, not washed ; for washing, say the people here, would spoil their capacity for preserving the pure flavour of this delicate young Hyson; upon a spoonful of which, placed in the cup, hot water is now poured. Opium pipes, bring us! Ha! a hollow cane, closed at one end, with a mouthpiece at the other; near the centre is the bowl, of ample size, but with an outward opening no bigger than a pin's head. We recline luxuriously--looking down on the gay colours of the Chinese crowd, we take our long stilettos, prick off a little pill of opium from its ivory reservoir, and burn it, dexterously, in the spirit lamp; then twist it, judiciously, about the pin's head orifice. Three whiffs and it is out, and we are more than half deprived of active consciousness. Let us repeat the operation. Practised smokers will go on for hours; a few whiffs are enough for us. Another languid gaze at the pagodas, and the flowers, and the water, and the Chinamen; now some more opium to smoke!
The Phantom finding us intoxicated, like a good servant may have brought us home; for, certainly, we are at home again.
THE WARNINGS OF THE PAST
FAINT dream-like voices of the spectral Past
Whisper the lessons of departed ages;
Each gathering treasured wisdom from the last,
A long succession of experienced sages.
They steal upon the statesman as he sleeps,
And chantin Fancy's ear their warning numbers;
When restless Thought unceasing vigil keeps,
Trimming her taper while the body slumbers.
Related Illustrations and Other Materials
- The Voyage on the River
- Specimen of Chinese Country Carts
- Mr. Ward and His Suite at the Gate of Pekin
- Interview Between the United States Minister, Mr. Ward, and the Chinese Commissioners, in the City Hall at Pekin, August, 1859
- England and China: The Opium Wars, 1839-60
Morley, Henry. "Our Phantom Ship: China," Household Words 3 (No. 66: Saturday, 28 June 1851): 325-31.
Last modified 25 August 2016