"Introductory Chapter - Letter V." by Isabella L. Bird Bishop (1831-1904)
CANTON and Saigon, and whatever else is comprised in the second half of my title, are on one of the best beaten tracks of travelers, and need no introductory remarks.
But the GOLDEN CHERSONESE is still somewhat of a terra incognita; there is no point on its mainland at which European steamers call, and the usual conception of it is as a vast and malarious equatorial jungle, sparsely peopled by a race of semi-civilized and treacherous Mohammedans. In fact, it is as little known to most people as it was to myself before I visited it; and as reliable information concerning it exists mainly in valuable volumes now out of print, or scattered through blue books and the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Singapore, I make no apology for prefacing my letters from the Malay Peninsula with as many brief preliminary statements as shall serve to make them intelligible, requesting those of my readers who are familiar with the subject to skip this chapter altogether.
The Aurea Chersonesus of Ptolemy, the "Golden Chersonese" of Milton, the Malay Peninsula of our day, has no legitimate claim to an ancient history. The controversy respecting the identity of its Mount Ophir with the Ophir of Solomon has been "threshed out" without much result, and the supposed allusion to the Malacca Straits by Pliny is too vague to be interesting.
The region may be said to have been rediscovered in 1513 by the Portuguese, and the first definite statement concerning it appears to be in a letter from Emanuel, King of Portugal, to the Pope. In the antique and exaggerated language of the day, he relates that his general, the famous Albuquerque, after surprising conquests in India, had sailed to the Aurea Chersonesus, called by its inhabitants Malacca. He had captured the city of Malacca, sacked it, slaughtered the Moors (Mohammedans) who defended it, destroyed its twenty-five thousand houses abounding in gold, pearls, precious stones, and spices, and on its site had built a fortress with walls fifteen feet thick, out of the ruins of its mosques. The king, who fought upon an elephant, was badly wounded and fled. Further, on hearing of the victory, the King of Siam, from whom Malacca had been "usurped by the Moors," sent to the conqueror a cup of gold, a carbuncle, and a sword inlaid with gold. This conquest was vaunted of as a great triumph of the Cross over the Crescent, and as its result, by the year 1600 nearly the whole commerce of the Straits had fallen into the hands of the Portuguese.
Of the remaining "Moorish" or Malay kingdoms, Acheen, in Sumatra, was the most powerful, so powerful, indeed, that its king was able to besiege the great stronghold of Malacca more than once with a fleet, according to the annalist, of "more than five hundred sail, one hundred of which were of greater size than any then constructed in Europe, and the warriors or mariners that it bore amounted to sixty thousand, commanded by the king in person." The first mention of Johore, or Jhor, and Pêrak occurs about the same time, Pêrak being represented as a very powerful and wealthy State.
The Portuguese, by their persevering and relentless religious crusade against the Mohammedans, converted all the States which were adjacent to their conquests into enemies, and by 1641 their empire in the Straits was seized upon by the Dutch, who, not being troubled by much religious earnestness, got on very well with the Malay Princes, and succeeded in making advantageous commercial treaties with them.
A curious but fairly accurate map of the coasts of the Peninsula was prepared in Paris in 1668 to accompany the narrative of the French envoy to the Court of Siam, but neither the mainland nor the adjacent islands attracted any interest in this country till the East India Company acquired Pinang in 1775, Province Wellesley in 1798, Singapore in 1823, and Malacca in 1824. These small but important colonies were consolidated in 1867 into one Government under the Crown, and are now known as the Straits Settlements, and prized as among the most valuable of our possessions in the Far East. Though these settlements are merely small islands or narrow strips of territory on the coast, their population, by the census of 1881, exceeded four hundred and twenty-two thousand souls, and in 1880 their exports and imports amounted to £32,353,000!
Besides these little bits of British territory scattered along a coast-line nearly four hundred miles in length, there are, on the west side of the Peninsula, the native States of Kedah, Pêrak, Selângor, and Sungei Ujong, the last three of which are under British "protection;" and on the east are Patâni, Kelantân, Tringgânu, and Pahang; the southern extremity being occupied by the State of Johore. The interior, which is scarcely at all known, contains toward its centre the Negri Sembilan, a confederation of eight (formerly nine) small States. The population of the native States of the Peninsula is not accurately known, but, inclusive of a few wild tribes and the Chinese immigrants, it is estimated at three hundred and ten thousand; which gives under nine inhabitants to the square mile, the population of the British settlements being about four hundred and twenty to the square mile.
The total length of the Peninsula is eight hundred miles, and its breadth varies from sixty to one hundred and fifty miles. It runs down from lat. 13° 50' N. to 1° 41' N. The northern part, forming the Isthmus of Kraw, which it is proposed to pierce for a ship canal, runs nearly due north and south for one hundred and forty miles, and is inhabited by a mixed race, mainly Siamese, called by the Malays Sansam. This Isthmus is under the rule of Siam, which is its northern boundary; and the northern and eastern States of Kedah, Patâni, Kelantân, Pahang, and Tringgânu, are more or less tributary to this ambitious empire, which at intervals has exacted a golden rose, the token of vassalage, from every State in the Peninsula. Except at the point where the Isthmus of Kraw joins Siam, the Peninsula is surrounded by the sea–to the east by the China Sea and the Gulf of Siam, and to the south and west by the Straits of Malacca and the Bay of Bengal. The area of the mainland is conjectured to be the same as that of Britain, but the region occupied by the Malays does not exceed sixty-one thousand one hundred and fifty square miles, and is about half the size of Java.
Its configuration is not very well known, but a granitic mountain chain, rising in Pêrak to ascertained heights of eight thousand feet, runs down its whole length near the centre, with extensive outlying spurs, and alluvial plains on both sides densely covered with jungle, as are also the mountains. There are no traces of volcanic formation, though thermal springs exist in Malacca. The rivers are numerous, but with one exception small, and are seldom navigable beyond the reach of the tides, except by flat-bottomed boats. It is believed that there are scarcely any lakes.
The general formation is granitic, overlaid by sandstone, laterite or clay ironstone, and to the north by limestone. Iron ores are found everywhere, and are so little regarded for their metallic contents that, though containing, according to Mr. Logan, a skillful geologist, sixty per cent. of pure metal, they are used in Singapore for macadamizing the roads! Gold has been obtained in all ages, and formerly in considerable quantities, but the annual yield does not now exceed nineteen thousand ounces. The vastest tin fields in the world are found in the western Malay States, and hitherto the produce has been "stream tin" only, the metal not having been traced to its veins in the rock.
The map, the result of recent surveys by Mr. Daly, and published in 1882 by the Royal Geographical Society, shows that there is a vast extent, more than half of the Malay Peninsula, unexplored. Its most laborious explorer confesses that "of the internal government, geography, mineral products, and geology of these regions, we do not know anything," and, he adds, that "even in this nineteenth century, a country rich in its resources, and important through its contiguity to our British possessions, is still a closed volume." "If we let the needle in, the thread is sure to follow" (meaning that if they let an Englishman pass through their territories, British annexation would be the natural sequence), was the reason given to Mr. Daly for turning him back from the States of the Negri Sembilan.
The climate is singularly healthy for Europeans as well as natives, although both hot and moist, as may be expected from being so close to the equator. Besides, the Peninsula is very nearly an insular region; it is densely covered with evergreen forests, and few parts of it are more than fifty miles from the sea. There are no diseases of climate except marsh fevers, which assail Europeans if they camp out at night on low, swampy grounds.
In 5° 15' N., about the latitude of the northern boundary of Pêrak, at the sea-level the mean annual temperature is nearly 80°, with a range of 20°; at Malacca in 2° 14' N. it is 80°, with a range of 15°; and at Singapore, in lat. 1° 17', it is 82°, with a range of 24°. Though the climate is undeniably a "hot" one, the heat, tempered by alternating land and sea breezes, is seldom oppressive except just before rain, and the thermometer never attains anything approaching those torrid temperatures which are registered in India, Japan, the United States, and other parts of the temperate zones.
The rainfall is not excessive, averaging about one hundred and ten inches annually, and there is no regular rainy season. In fact it rains in moderation all the year round. Three days seldom pass without refreshing showers, and if there are ten rainless days together, a rare phenomenon, people begin to talk of "the drought." Practically the year is divided into two parts by the "monsoons."* The monsoon is not a storm, as many people suppose, from a vague association of the word "typhoon," but a steady wind blowing, in the case of the Malay Peninsula, for six months from the north-east, bringing down the Chinamen in their junks, and for six months from the south-west, bringing traders from Arabia and India. The climate is the pleasantest during the north-east monsoon, which lasts from October to April. It is during the south-west monsoon that the heavier rains, accompanied by electrical disturbances, occur. The central mountain range protects the Peninsula alternately from both monsoons, the high Sumatran mountains protecting its west side from the south-west winds. The east side is exposed for six months to a modified north-east monsoon. Everywhere else throughout the almost changeless year, steadily alternating land and sea breezes with gentle variable winds and calms prevail, interrupted occasionally on the west coast during the "summer" by squalls from the south-west, which last for one or two hours, and are known as "Sumatrans." Hurricanes and earthquakes are unknown. Drenching dews fall on clear nights.
The Peninsula is a gorgeous tropic land, and, with its bounteous rainfall and sunshine, brings forth many of the most highly prized productions of the tropics, with some that are peculiar to itself. Its botany is as yet very imperfectly known. Some of its forest trees are very valuable as timber, and others produce hard-veined woods which take a high polish. Rattans, Malacca canes, and gutta are well known as among its forest products; gutta, with its extensive economical uses, having been used only for Malay horsewhips and knife-handles previous to 1843. The wild nutmeg is indigenous, and the nutmeg of commerce and the clove have been introduced and thrive. Pepper and some other spices flourish, and the soil with but a little cultivation produces rice wet and dry, tapioca, gambir, sugar-cane, coffee, yams, sweet potatoes, cocoa, sago, cotton, tea, cinchona, india rubber, and indigo. Still it is doubtful whether a soil can be called fertile which is incapable of producing the best kinds of cereals. European vegetables are on the whole a dismal failure. Conservatism in diet must be given up by Europeans; the yam, edible arum, and sweet potato must take the place of the "Irish potato," and water-melons and cucumbers that of our peas, beans, artichokes, cabbages, and brocoli. The Chinese raise coarse radishes and lettuce, and possibly the higher grounds may some day be turned into market gardens. The fruits, however, are innumerable, as well as wholesome and delicious. Among them the durion is the most esteemed by the natives, and the mangosteen by Europeans.
The fauna of the Peninsula is most remarkable and abundant; indeed, much of its forest-covered interior is inhabited by wild beasts alone, and gigantic pachyderms, looking like monsters of an earlier age, roam unmolested over vast tracts of country. Among this thick-skinned family are the elephant, the one-horned rhinoceros, the Malayan tapir, and the wild hog; the last held in abomination by the Malays, but constituting the chief animal food of some of the wild tribes.
A small bear with a wistful face represents the Plantigrade family. The Quadrumana are very numerous. There are nine monkeys, one, if not two apes, and a lemur or sloth, which screens its eyes from the light.
Of the Digitigrada there are the otter or water-dog, the musang and climbing musang, the civet cat, the royal tiger, the spotted black tiger, in whose glossy raven-black coat the characteristic markings are seen in certain lights; the tiger cat, the leopard, the Java cat, and four or five others. Many of these feline animals abound.
Among the ruminants are four species of deer, two smaller than a hare, and one as large as an elk; a wild goat similar to the Sumatran antelope; the domestic goat, a mean little beast; the buffalo, a great, nearly hairless, gray or pink beast, bigger than the buffalo of China and India; a short-legged domestic ox, and two wild oxen or bisons, which are rare.
The bat family is not numerous. The vampire flies high, in great flocks, and is very destructive to fruit. This frugiverous bat, known popularly as the "flying fox," is a very interesting-looking animal, and is actually eaten by the people of Ternate. At the height of the fruit season, thousands of these creatures cross from Sumatra to the mainland, a distance never less than forty miles. Their strength of wing is enormous. I saw one captured in the steamer Nevada, forty-five miles from the Navigators, with wings measuring, when extended, nearly five feet across. These are formed of a jet black membrane, and have a highly polished claw at the extremity of each. The feet consist of five polished black claws, with which the bat hangs on, head downward, to the forest trees. His body is about twice the size of that of a very large rat, black and furry underneath, and with red foxy fur on the head and neck. He has a pointed face, a very black nose, and prominent black eyes, with a remorseless expression in them. An edible bat of vagrant habits is also found.
Ponies are imported from Sumatra, and a few horses from Australia, but the latter do not thrive.
The domestic cat always looks as if half his tail had been taken off in a trap. The domestic dog is the Asiatic, not the European dog, a leggy, ugly, vagrant, uncared-for fellow, furnishing a useful simile and little more.
Weasels, squirrels, polecats, porcupines, and other small animals exist in numbers, and the mermaid, of the genus Halicore, connects the inhabitants of the land and water. This Duyong, described as a creature seven or eight feet long, with a head like that of an elephant deprived of its proboscis, and the body and tail of a fish, frequents the Sumatran and Malayan shores, and its flesh is held in great estimation at the tables of sultans and rajahs. Besides these (and the list is long enough) there are many small beasts.
The reptiles are unhappily very numerous. Craufurd mentions forty species of snakes, including the python and the cobra. Alligators in great numbers infest the tidal waters of the rivers. Iguanas and lizards of several species, marsh-frogs, and green tree-frogs abound. The land-leeches are a great pest. Scorpions and centipedes are abundant. There are many varieties of ants, among them a formidable-looking black creature nearly two inches long, a large red ant, whose bite is like a bad pinch from forceps, and which is the chief source of formic acid, and the termes, or white ant, most destructive to timber.
The carpenter beetle is also found, an industrious insect, which riddles the timber of any building in which he effects a lodgment, and is as destructive as dry rot. There are bees and wasps, and hornets of large size, and a much-dreaded insect, possibly not yet classified, said to be peculiar to the Peninsula, which inflicts so severe a wound as to make a strong man utter a cry of agony. But of all the pests the mosquitoes are the worst. A resident may spend some time in the country and know nothing from experience of scorpions, centipedes, land-leeches, and soldier ants, but he cannot escape from the mosquito, the curse of these well-watered tropic regions. In addition to the night mosquito, there is a striped variety of large size, known as the "tiger mosquito," much to be feared, for it pursues its bloodthirsty work in the daytime.
Among the harmless insects may be mentioned the cicada, which fills the forest with its cheery din, the green grasshopper, spiders, and flies of several species, dragon-flies of large size and brilliant coloring, and butterflies and moths of surpassing beauty, which delight in the hot, moist, jungle openings, and even surpass the flowers in the glory and variety of their hues. Among them the atlas moth is found, measuring from eight to ten inches across its wings. The leaf insects are also fascinating, and the fire-flies in a mangrove swamp on a dark, still night, moving in gentle undulations, or flashing into coruscations after brief intervals of quiescence, are inconceivably beautiful.
The birds of the Peninsula are many and beautiful. Sun-birds rival the flashing colors of the humming-birds in the jungle openings; king-fishers of large size and brilliant blue plumage make the river banks gay; shrieking paroquets with coral-colored beaks and tender green feathers, abound in the forests; great, heavy-billed hornbills hop cumbrously from branch to branch, rivaling in their awkward gait the rhinoceros hornbills; the Javanese peacock, with its gorgeous tail and neck covered with iridescent green feathers instead of blue ones, moves majestically along the jungle tracks, together with the ocellated pheasant, the handsome and high-couraged jungle cock, and the glorious Argus pheasant, a bird of twilight and night, with "a hundred eyes" on each feather of its stately tail.
According to Mr. Newbold, two birds of paradise (Paradisea regia and Paradisea gularis) are natives of the Peninsula,* and among other bright-winged creatures are the glorious crimson-feathered pergam, the penciled pheasant, the peacock pheasant, the blue pheasant partridge, the mina, and the dial bird, with an endless variety of parrots, lories, green-feathered pigeons of various sizes, and woodpeckers. Besides these there are falcons, owls, or "spectre birds," sweet-voiced butcher birds, storks, fly-catchers, and doves, and the swallow which builds the gelatinous edible nest, which is the foundation of the expensive luxury "Bird's Nest Soup," frequents the verdant islands on the coast.
Nor are our own water birds wanting. There are bitterns, rails, wild-duck, teal, snipes; the common, gray, and whistling plover; green, black, and red quails; and the sport on the plains and reedy marshes, and along the banks of rivers, is most excellent.
Turtles abound off the coast, and tortoises, one variety with a hard shell, and the other with a soft one and a rapid movement, are found in swampy places. The river fish are neither abundant nor much esteemed; but the sea furnishes much of the food of both Malays and Chinese, and the dried and salted fish prepared on the coast is considered very good.
At European tables in the settlements the red mullet, a highly prized fish, the pomfret, considered more delicious than the turbot, and the tungeree, with cray-fish, crabs, prawns, and shrimps, are usually seen. The tongue-fish, something like a sole, the gray mullet, the hammer-headed shark, and various fish, with vivid scarlet and yellow stripes alternating with black, are eaten, along with cockles, "razor shells," and king-crabs. The lover of fishy beauty is abundantly gratified by the multitudes of fish of brilliant colors, together with large medusæ, which dart or glide through the sunlit waters among the coral-groves, where every coral spray is gemmed with zoophytes, whose rainbow-tinted arms sway with the undulations of the water, and where sea-snakes writhe themselves away into the recesses of coral caves.
Nature is so imposing, so magnificent, and so prolific on the Malay Peninsula, that one naturally gives man the secondary place which I have assigned to him in this chapter. The whole population of the Golden Chersonese, a region as large as Great Britain, is not more than three-quarters of a million, and less than a half of this is Malay. Neither great wars, nor an ancient history, nor a valuable literature, nor stately ruins, nor barbaric splendors, attract scholars or sight-seers to the Peninsula.
The Malays are not the Aborigines of this singular spit of land, and they are its colonists rather than its conquerors. Their histories, which are chiefly traditional, state that the extremity of the Peninsula was peopled by a Malay emigration from Sumatra about the middle of the twelfth century, and that the descendants of these colonists settled Malacca and other places on the coast about a century later. Tradition refers the peopling of the interior States to another and later migration from Sumatra, with a chief at its head, who, with all his followers, married Aboriginal wives; the Aboriginal tribes retreating into the jungles and mountains as the Malays spread themselves over the region now known as the States of the Negri Sembilan. The conquest or colonization of the Malay Peninsula by the Malays is not, however, properly speaking, matter of history, and the origin of the Malay race and its early history are only matters of more or less reasonable hypothesis. It is fair, however, to presume that Sumatra was the ancient seat of the race, and the wonderful valley of Menangkábau, surrounded by mountains ten thousand feet in height, that of its earliest civilization. The only Malay "colonial" kingdoms on the Peninsula which ever attained any importance were those of Malacca and Johore, and even their reliable history begins with the arrival of the Portuguese. The conversion of the Sumatra Malays to Mohammedanism arose mainly out of their commercial intercourse with Arabia; it was slow, not violent, and is supposed to have begun in the thirteenth century.
A population of "Wild Tribes," variously estimated at from eight thousand to eleven thousand souls, is still found in the Peninsula, and even if research should eventually prove them not to be its Aborigines, they are, without doubt, the same races which were found inhabiting it by the earliest Malay colonists.
These are frequently called by the Malays "Orang Benua," or "men of the country," but they are likewise called "Orang-outang," the name which we apply to the big ape of Borneo. The accompanying engraving represents very faithfully the "Orang-outang" of the interior. The few accounts given of the wild tribes vary considerably, but apparently they may be divided into two classes, the Samangs, or Oriental Negroes or Negritos, and the Orang Benua, frequently called Jakuns, and in Pêrak Sakei. By the Malays they are called indiscriminately Kafirs or infidels, and are interesting to them only in so far as they can use them for bearing burdens, clearing jungle, procuring gutta, and in child-stealing; an abominable Malay custom, which, it is hoped, has received its death-blow in Pêrak at least.
ORANG-OUTANG (male and female).
The Samangs are about the same height as the Malays, but their hair, instead of being lank and straight like theirs, is short and curly, though not woolly like that of the African negro, and their complexions, or rather skins, are of a dark brown, nearly black. Their noses, it is said, incline to be flat, their foreheads recede, and their lips are thick. They live in rude and easily removable huts made of leaves and branches, subsist on jungle birds, beasts, roots, and fruits, and wear a scanty covering made from the inner bark of a species of Artocarpus. They are expert hunters, and have most ingenious methods of capturing both the elephant and the "recluse rhinoceros." They are divided into tribes, which are ruled by chiefs on the patriarchal system. Of their customs and beliefs, if they have any, almost nothing is known. They are singularly shy, and shun intercourse with men of other races. It has been supposed that they worship the sun.
The Orang Benua or Orang-outang, frequently called Sakeis or Jakuns, consist of various tribes with different names, thinly scattered among the forests of the chain of mountains which runs down the middle of the Peninsula from Kedah to Point Romania.* In appearance and color they greatly resemble the Malays, and there is a very strong general resemblance between their dialects and pure Malayan. They have remarkably bright and expressive eyes, with nothing Mongolian about their internal angles, and the forehead is low rather than receding. The mouth is wide and the lips are large, the lower part of the face projects, the nose is small, the nostrils are divergent, and the cheek-bones are prominent. The hair is black, but it often looks rusty or tawny from exposure to the sun, against which it is their only protection. It is very abundant and long, and usually matted and curly, but not woolly. They have broad chests and very sturdy muscular limbs. They are, however, much shorter in stature than the Malays, the men in some of the tribes rarely exceeding four feet eight inches in height, and the women four feet four. Their clothing consists of a bark cloth waist-cloth. Some of the tribes live in huts of the most primitive description supported on posts, while others, often spoken of as the "tree people," build wigwams on platforms, mainly supported by the forking branches of trees, at a height of from twenty to thirty feet. These wild people, says Mr. Daly, lead a gregarious life, rarely remaining long in one place for fear of their wives and children being kidnapped by the Malays. They fly at the approach of strangers. As a rule, their life is nomadic, and they live by hunting, fishing, and on jungle fruits. They are divided into tribes governed by elders. They reverence the sun, but have no form of worship, and are believed to be destitute of even the most rudimentary ideas of religion. Their weapon is the sumpitan, a blow-gun, from which poisoned arrows are expelled. They have no ceremonies at birth, marriage, or death. They are monogamists, and, according to Mr. Syers, extremely affectionate. One of their strongest emotions is fear, and their timidity is so great that they frequently leave the gutta which they have collected at the foot of the tree, not daring to encounter the trader from whom they expect some articles in exchange; while the fear of ridicule, according to Mr. Maxwell, keeps them far from the haunts of the Malays.
The Rayet, or Orang Laut, "subjects," or men of the sea, inhabit the coast and the small islets off the coast, erecting temporary sheds when they go ashore to build boats, mend nets, or collect gum-damar and wood oil, but usually living in their boats. They differ little from the Malays, who, however, they look down upon as an inferior race, except that they are darker and more uncouth looking. They have no religious (!) beliefs but in the influence of evil spirits, to whom at times they perform a few propitiatory rites. Many of them become Mohammedans. They live almost entirely upon fish. They are altogether restless and impatient of control, but, unlike some savages, are passionately fond of music, and are most ingenious in handicrafts, specially in boat-building.
The Chinese in the Peninsula and on the small islands of Singapore and Pinang are estimated at two hundred and forty thousand, and their numbers are rapidly increasing, owing to direct immigration from China. It is by their capital, industry, and enterprise that the resources of the Peninsula are being developed. The date of their arrival is unknown, but the Portuguese found them at Malacca more than three centuries ago. They have been settled in Pinang and Singapore for ninety-three and sixty-three years respectively; but except that they have given up the barbarous custom of crushing the feet of girls, they are, in customs, dress, and habits, the exact counterparts of the Chinese of Canton or Amoy. Many of them have become converts to Christianity, but this has not led to the discarding of their queues or national costume. The Chinese who are born in the Straits are called Babas. The immigrant Chinese, who are called Sinkehs, are much despised by the Babas, who glory specially in being British-born subjects. The Chinese promise to be in some sort the commercial rulers of the Straits.
The Malays proper inhabit the Malay Peninsula, and almost all the coast regions of Borneo and Sumatra. They all speak more or less purely the Malay language; they are all Mohammedans, and they all write in the Arabic character. Their color is a lightish, olive-tinted, reddish brown. Their hair is invariably black, straight, and coarse, and their faces and bodies are nearly hairless. They have broad and slightly flat faces, with high cheek bones; wide mouths, with broad and shapely lips, well formed chins, low foreheads, black eyes, oblique, but not nearly so much so as those of the Chinese, and smallish noses, with broad and very open nostrils. They vary little in their height, which is below that of the average European. Their frames are lithe and robust, their chests are broad, their hands are small and refined, and their feet are thick and short. The men are not handsome, and the women are decidedly ugly. Both sexes look old very early.
The Malays undoubtedly must be numbered among civilized peoples. They live in houses which are more or less tasteful and secluded. They are well clothed in garments of both native and foreign manufacture; they are a settled and agricultural people; they are skilful in some of the arts, specially in the working of gold and the damascening of krises; the upper classes are to some extent educated; they have a literature, even though it be an imported one, and they have possessed for centuries systems of government and codes of land and maritime laws which, in theory at least, show a considerable degree of enlightenment.
Their religion, laws, customs, and morals are bound up together. They are strict Mussulmen, but among the uneducated especially they mix up their own traditions and superstitions with the Koran. The pilgrimage to Mecca is the universal object of Malay ambition. They practice relic worship, keep the fast of Ramadhan, wear rosaries of beads, observe the hours of prayer with their foreheads on the earth, provide for the "religious welfare" of their villages, circumcise their children, offer buffaloes in sacrifice at the religious ceremonies connected with births and marriages, build mosques everywhere, regard Mecca as the holy city, and the Koran, as expounded by Arab teachers, as the rule of faith and practice.
Much learning has been expended upon the origin of Malayan, but it has not been reliably traced beyond the ancient empire of Menangkábau in Sumatra. Mohammedanism undoubtedly brought with it a large introduction of Arabic words, and the language itself is written in the Arabic character. It has been estimated by that most painstaking and learned scholar, Mr. Crawfurd, that one hundred parts of modern Malayan are composed of twenty-seven parts of primitive Malayan, fifty of Polynesian, sixteen of Sanskrit, five of Arabic, and two of adventitious words, the Arabic predominating in all literature relating to religion. Malay is the lingua franca of the Straits Settlements, and in the seaports a number of Portuguese and Dutch words have been incorporated with it.
The Malays can hardly be said to have an indigenous literature, for it is almost entirely derived from Persia, Siam, Arabia, and Java. Arabic is their sacred language. They have, however, a celebrated historic Malay romance called the Hang Tuah, parts of which are frequently recited in their villages after sunset prayers by their village raconteurs, and some Arabic and Hindu romances stand high in popular favor. Their historians all wrote after the Mohammedan era, and their histories are said to contain little that is trustworthy; each State also has a local history preserved with superstitious care and kept from common eyes, but these contain little but the genealogies of their chiefs. They have one Malay historical composition, dated 1021 A.H., which treats of the founding of the Malay empire of Menangkábau in Sumatra, and comes down to the founding of the empire of Johore and the conquest of Malacca by Albuquerque in 1511. This has been thought worthy of translation by Dr. Leyden.
Their ethical books consist mainly of axioms principally derived from Arabic and Persian sources. Their religious works are borrowed from the Arabs. The Koran, of course, stands first, then comes a collection of prayers, and next a guide to the religious duties required from Mussulmen. Then there are books containing selections from Arabic religious works, with learned commentaries upon them by a Malay Hadji. It is to be noticed that the Malays present a compact front against Christianity, and have successfully resisted all missionary enterprise.
They have a good deal of poetry, principally of an amorous kind, characterized, it is said, by great simplicity, natural and pleasing metaphor, and extremely soft and melodious rhyme. They sing their poems to certain popular airs, which are committed to memory. Malay music, though plaintive and less excruciating than Chinese and Japanese, is very monotonous and dirge-like, and not pleasing to a European ear. The pentatonic scale is employed. The violin stands first among musical instruments in their estimation. They have also the guitar, the flageolet, the æolian flute, a bamboo in which holes are cut, which produce musical sounds when acted upon by the wind, and both metallic and wooden gongs.
They have no written system of common arithmetic, and are totally unacquainted with its higher branches. Their numerals above one thousand are borrowed from the Hindus, and their manner of counting is the same as that of the Ainos of Yezo.
Their theory of medicine is derived from Arabia, and abounds in mystery and superstition. They regard man as composed of four elements and four essences, and assimilate his constitution and passions to the twelve signs of the zodiac, the seven planets, etc., exaggerating the mysterious sympathy between man and external nature. The successful practice of the hakim or doctor must be based on the principle of "preserving the balance of power" among the four elements, which is chiefly effected by moderation in eating.
They know nothing of astronomy, except of some meagre ideas derived through the Arabs from the Ptolemaic system, and Mr. Newbold, after most painstaking research, failed to discover any regular treatise on astronomy, though Arabic and Hindu tracts on interpretations of dreams, horoscopes, spells, propitious and unpropitious moments, auguries, talismans, love philters, medicinal magic and recipes for the destruction of people at a distance, are numerous. They acknowledge the solar year, but adopt the lunar, and reckon the months in three different ways, dividing them, however, into weeks of seven days, marking them by the return of the Mohammedan Sabbath. They suppose the world to be an oval body revolving on its axis four times within a year, with the sun, a circular body of fire, moving round it. The majority of the people still believe that eclipses are caused by the sun or moon being devoured by a serpent, and they lament loudly during their continuance.
The popular modes of measuring distance are ingenious, but, to a stranger at least, misleading. Thus Mr. Daly, in attempting to reach the interior States, received these replies to his inquiries about distance–"As far as a gunshot may be heard from this particular hill;" "If you wash your head before starting it will not be dry before you reach the place," etc. They also measure distances by the day's walk, and by the number of times it is necessary to chew betel between two places. The hours are denoted by terms not literally accurate. Cockcrowing is daybreak, 1 P.M., and midnight; 9 A.M., Lepas Baja, is the time when the buffaloes, which cannot work when the sun is high, are relieved from the plough; Tetabawe is 6 P.M., the word signifying the cry of a bird which is silent till after sunset. The Malay day begins at sunset.
They are still maritime in their habits, and very competent practical sailors and boat-builders; but though for centuries they divided with the Arabs the carrying trade between Eastern and Western Asia, and though a mongrel Malay is the nautical language of nearly all the peoples from New Guinea to the Tenasserim coast, the Malays knew little of the science of navigation. They timed their voyages by the constant monsoons, and in sailing from island to island coasted the Asiatic shores, trusting, when for a short time out of sight of land, not to the compass, though they were acquainted with it, but to known rocks, glimpses of headlands, the direction of the wind, and their observation of the Pleiades.
They have no knowledge of geography, architecture, painting, sculpture, or even mechanics; they no longer make translations from the Arabic or create fiction, and the old translations of works on law, ethics, and science are now scarcely studied. Education among them is at a very low ebb; but the State of Kedah is beginning to awake to its advantages. Where schools exist the instruction consists mainly in teaching the children to repeat, in a tongue which they do not understand, certain passages from the Koran and some set prayers.
As to law, Sir Stamford Raffles observed in a formal despatch, "Nothing has tended more decidedly to the deterioration of the Malay character than the want of a well-defined and generally acknowledged system of law." There are numerous legal compilations, however, and nearly every State has a code of its own to a certain extent; there are maritime and land codes, besides "customs" bad and good, which override the written law; while in Pêrak, Selângor, and Sungei Ujong an ill understood adaptation of some portions of British law further complicates matters. "The glorious uncertainty" of law is nowhere more fully exemplified than on this Peninsula. It is from the Golden Island, the parent Empire of Menangkábau, that the Malays profess to derive both their criminal and civil law, their tribal system, their rules for the division of land by boundary marks, and the manner of government as adapted for sovereigns and their ministers. The existence of the various legal compilations has led to much controversy and even bloodshed between zealots for the letter of the Koran on one side, and the advocates of ancient custom on the other. Among the reasons which have led to the migration of Malays from the native states into the Straits Settlements, not the least powerful is the equality of rights before English law, and the security given by it to property of every kind. In the Malay country itself, occupied by Malays and the Chinese associated with them, there are four Malays to the square mile, whilst under the British flag some one hundred and twenty-five Malays to the square mile have taken refuge and sought protection for their industry under our law!
Cock-fighting, which has attained to the dignity of a literature of its own, is the popular Malay sport; but the grand sport is a tiger and buffalo fight, reserved for rare occasions, however, on account of its expense. Cock-fighting is a source of gigantic gambling and desperate feuds. The birds, which fight in full feather and with sharpened steel spurs, are very courageous, and die rather than give in. Wrestling among young men and tossing the wicker ball, are favorite amusements. There are professional dancing girls, but dancing as a social amusement is naturally regarded with disfavor. Children have various games peculiar to themselves, which are abandoned as childish things at a given age. Riddles and enigmas occupy a good deal of time among the higher classes. Chess also occupies much time, but it is much to be feared that the vice of gambling stimulated by the Chinese, who have introduced both cards and dice, is taking the place of more innocent pastimes.
The Malays, like other Mohammedans, practice polygamy. They are very jealous, and their women are veiled and to a certain extent secluded; but they are affectionate, and among the lower classes there is a good deal of domesticity. Their houses are described in the following letters. The food of the poorer classes consists mainly of rice and salt-fish, curries of both, maize, sugar-cane, bananas, and jungle fruits, cocoa-nut milk being used in the preparation of food as well as for a beverage. As luxuries they chew betel-nut and smoke tobacco, and although intoxicants are forbidden, they tap the toddy palm and drink of its easily fermented juice. Where metal finds its way into domestic utensils it is usually in the form of tin water-bottles and ewers. Every native possesses a sweeping broom, sleeping mats, coarse or fine, and bamboo or grass baskets. Most families use an iron pan for cooking, with a half cocoa-nut shell for a ladle. A large nut shell filled with palm-oil, and containing a pith wick, is the ordinary Malay lamp. Among the poor, fresh leaves serve as plates and dishes, but the chiefs possess china.
The Malay weapons consist of the celebrated kris, with its flame-shaped wavy blade; the sword, regarded, however, more as an ornament; the parang, which is both knife and weapon; the steel-headed spear, which cost us so many lives in the Pêrak war; matchlocks, blunderbusses, and lelahs, long heavy brass guns used for the defence of the stockades behind which the Malays usually fight. They make their own gunpowder, and use cartridges made of cane.
The Malays, like the Japanese, have a most rigid epistolary etiquette, and set forms for letter writing. Letters must consist of six parts, and are so highly elaborate that the scribes who indite them are almost looked upon as littérateurs. There is an etiquette of envelopes and wafers, the number and color of which vary with the relative positions of the correspondents, and any error in these details is regarded as an insult. Etiquette in general is elaborate and rigid, and ignorant breaches of it on the part of Europeans have occasionally cost them their lives.
The systems of government in the Malay States vary in detail, but on the whole may be regarded as absolute despotisms, modified by certain rights, of which no rulers in a Mohammedan country can absolutely deprive the ruled, and by the assertion of the individual rights of chiefs. Sultans, rajahs, maharajahs, datus, etc., under ordinary circumstances have been and still are in most of the unprotected States unable to control the chiefs under them, who have independently levied taxes and blackmail till the harassed cultivators came scarcely to care to possess property which might at any time be seized. Forced labor for a quarter of the laboring year was obligatory on all males, besides military service when called upon.
Slavery and debt bondage exist in all the native States; except in Selângor and Sungei Ujong, where it has recently been abolished, as it is hoped it will be in Pêrak. The slaves of the reigning princes were very easily acquired, for a prince had only to send a messenger bearing a sword or kris to a house, and the parents were obliged to give up any one of their children without delay or question. In debt slavery, which prevails more or less among all classes, and has done a great deal to degrade the women of the Peninsula, a man owing a trifling debt incurred through extravagance, misfortune or gambling, can be seized by his creditor; when he, his wife, and children, including those who may afterwards be born, and probably their descendants, become slaves.
In most of the States the reigning prince has regular officers under him, chief among whom are the Bandahara or treasurer, who is the first minister, chief executive officer, and ruler over the peasantry, and the Tumongong or chief magistrate. Usually the throne is hereditary, but while the succession in some States is in the male line, in others it is in the female, a sister's son being the heir; and there are instances in which the chiefs have elected a sultan or rajah. The theory of government does not contain anything inherently vicious, and is well adapted to Malay circumstances. Whatever is evil in practice is rather contrary to the theory than in accordance with it. The States undoubtedly have fallen, in many ways, into evil case; the privileged few, consisting of rajahs and their numerous kindred and children, oppressing the unprivileged many, living in idleness on what is wrung from their toil. The Malay sovereigns in most cases have come to be little more than the feudal heads of bodies of insubordinate chiefs, while even the headmen of the villages take upon themselves to levy taxes and administer a sort of justice. Nomadic cultivation, dislike of systematic labor, and general insecurity as to the boundaries and tenure of land, have further impoverished the common people, while Islamism exercises its usual freezing and retarding influence, producing the fatal isolation which to weak peoples is slow decay.
When Sir A. Clarke was appointed Governor of the Straits Settlements in 1873 he went to the Curator of the Geographical Society's library in quest of maps and information of any kind about the country to which he was going, but was told by that courteous functionary that there was absolutely no information of the slightest value in their archives. Since then the protectorate which we have acquired over three of the native States and the war in Pêrak have mended matters somewhat; but Mr. Daly, on appearing in May last before the same Society with the map which is the result of his partial survey, regrets that we have of half of the Peninsula "only the position of the coast-line!" Of the States washed by the China Sea scarcely anything is known, and the eastern and central interior offer a wide field for the explorer.
The letters which follow those written from China and Saigon relate to the British settlements in the Straits of Malacca, and to the native States of Pêrak, Selângor, and Sungei Ujong, which, since 1874, have passed under British "protection." The preceding brief sketch is necessarily a very imperfect one, as to most of my questions addressed on the spot and since to the best informed people, the answer has been, "No information." The only satisfaction that I have in these preliminary pages is, that they place the reader in a better position than I was in when I landed at Malacca. To a part of this beautiful but little known region I propose to conduct my readers, venturing to hope for their patient interest in my journeyings over the bright waters of the Malacca Straits and in the jungles of the GOLDEN CHERSONESE.
I. L. B.
S.S. "VOLGA," CHINA SEA,
Christmas Eve, 1878.
THE snowy dome of Fujisan, reddening in the sunrise, rose above the violet woodlands of Mississippi Bay as we steamed out of Yokohama harbor on the 19th, and three days later I saw the last of Japan–a rugged coast, lashed by a wintry sea.
THE PALACE, VICTORIA, HONG KONG,
Of the voyage to Hong Kong little need be said. The Volga is a miserable steamer, with no place to sit in, and nothing to sit on but the benches by the dinner-table in the dismal saloon. The master, a worthy man, so far as I ever saw of him, was Goth, Vandal, Hun, Visigoth, all in one. The ship was damp, dark, dirty, old, and cold. She was not warmed by steam, and the fire could not be lighted because of a smoky chimney. There were no lamps, and the sparse candles were obviously grudged. The stewards were dirty and desponding, the serving inhospitable, the cooking dirty and greasy, the food scanty, the table-linen frowsy. There were four French and two Japanese male passengers, who sat at meals in top-coats, comforters, and hats. I had a large cabin, the salon des dames, and the undivided attention of a very competent, but completely desponding stewardess. Being debarred from the deck by incessant showers of spray, sleet, and snow, and the cold of mid-winter being unbearable in the dark, damp saloon, I went to bed at four for the first two days. On the third it blew half a gale, with a short violent sea, and this heavy weather lasted till we reached Hong Kong, five days afterward. During those cold, dark, noisy days, when even the stewards could scarcely keep their feet, I suffered so much in my spine from the violent movements of the ship that I did not leave my cabin; and besides being unable to read, write, or work, owing to the darkness, I was obliged to hold on by day and night to avoid being much hurt by the rolling, my berth being athwart ships; consequently, that week, which I had relied upon for "overtaking" large arrears of writing and sewing, was so much lost out of life,–irrecoverably and shamefully lost, I felt,–as each dismal day dawned and died without sunrise or sunset, on the dark and stormy Pacific. No one, it seemed, knew any more English than "Yes" and "No;" and as the ship knocked French out of my memory, I had not even the resource of talking with the stewardess, who told me on the last day of our imprisonment that she was "triste, triste," and "one mass of bruises!"
In this same gale, but on a dry day, we came close up with the mainland of Eastern Asia. Coasts usually disappoint. This one exceeded all my expectations; and besides, it was the coast of Asia, the mysterious continent which has been my dream from childhood–bare, lofty, rocky, basaltic; islands of naked rock separated by narrow channels, majestic, perpendicular cliffs, a desolate uninhabited region, lashed by a heavy sea, with visions of swirling mists, shrieking sea-birds, and Chinese high-sterned fishing-boats with treble-reefed, three-cornered brown sails, appearing on the tops of surges, at once to vanish. Soon we were among mountainous islands; and then, by a narrow and picturesque channel, entered the outer harbor, with the scorched and arid peaks of Hong Kong on one side; and on the other the yet redder and rockier mainland, without a tree or trace of cultivation, or even of habitation, except here and there a few stone huts clustering round inlets, in which boats were lying. We were within the tropic of Cancer, but still the cold, coarse bluster continued, so that it was barely possible to see China except in snatches from behind the deck-house.
Turning through another channel, we abruptly entered the inner harbor, and sailed into the summer, blue sky, blue water, a summer sun, and a cool breeze, while a tender veil of blue haze softened the outlines of the flushed mountains. Victoria, which is the capital of the British colony of the island of Hong Kong, and which colloquially is called Hong Kong, looked magnificent, suggesting Gibraltar, but far, far finer, its Peak eighteen hundred feet in height–a giant among lesser peaks, rising abruptly from the sea above the great granite city which clusters upon its lower declivities, looking out from dense greenery and tropical gardens, and the deep shade of palms and bananas, the lines of many of its streets traced in foliage, all contrasting with the scorched red soil and barren crags which were its universal aspect before we acquired it in 1843. A forest of masts above the town betoken its commercial importance, and "P. and O." and Messageries Maritimes steamers, ships of war of all nations, low-hulled, big-masted clippers, store and hospital ships, and a great fishing fleet lay at anchor in the harbor. The English and Romish cathedrals, the Episcopal Palace, with St. Paul's College, great high blocks of commercial buildings, huge sugar factories, great barracks in terraces, battery above battery, Government House, and massive stone wharves, came rapidly into view, and over all, its rich folds spreading out fully on the breeze, floated the English flag.
But dense volumes of smoke rolling and eddying, and covering with their black folds the lower slopes and the town itself made a surprising spectacle, and even as we anchored came off the rapid tolling of bells, the roll of drums, and the murmur of a "city at unrest." No one met me. A few Chinese boats came off, and then a steam launch with the M. M. agent in an obvious flurry. I asked him how to get ashore, and he replied, "It's no use going ashore, the town's half burned, and burning still; there's not a bed at any hotel for love or money, and we are going to make up beds here." However, through the politeness of the mail agent, I did go ashore in the launch, but we had to climb through and over at least eight tiers of boats, crammed with refugees, mainly women and children, and piled up with all sorts of household goods, whole and broken, which had been thrown into them promiscuously to save them. "The palace of the English bishop," they said, was still untouched; so, escaping from an indescribable hubbub, I got into a bamboo chair, with two long poles which rested on the shoulders of two lean coolies, who carried me to my destination at a swinging pace through streets as steep as those of Varenna. Streets choked up with household goods and the costly contents of shops, treasured books and nicknacks lying on the dusty pavements, with beds, pictures, clothing, mirrors, goods of all sorts; Chinamen dragging their possessions to the hills; Chinawomen, some of them with hoofs rather than feet, carrying their children on their backs and under their arms; officers, black with smoke, working at the hose like firemen; parties of troops marching as steadily as on parade, or keeping guard in perilous places; Mr. Pope Henessey, the Governor, ubiquitous in a chair with four scarlet bearers; men belonging to the insurance companies running about with drawn swords; the miscellaneous population running hither and thither; loud and frequent explosions; heavy crashes as of tottering walls, and, above all, the loud bell of the Romish cathedral tolling rapidly, calling to work or prayer, made a scene of intense excitement; while utterly unmoved, in grand Oriental calm (or apathy), with the waves of tumult breaking round their feet, stood Sikh sentries, majestic men, with swarthy faces and great, crimson turbans. Through the encumbered streets and up grand flights of stairs my bearers brought me to these picturesque grounds, which were covered over with furniture and goods of all descriptions brought hither for safety, and Chinese families camping out among them. Indeed, the Bishop and Mrs. Burdon had not only thrown open their beautiful grounds to these poor people, but had accommodated some Chinese families in rooms in the palace under their own. The apathy or calm of the Chinese women as they sat houseless amidst their possessions was very striking. In the broad, covered corridor which runs round the palace everything the Burdons most value was lying ready for instantaneous removal, and I was warned not to unpack or take off my traveling dress. The Bishop and I at once went down to the fire, which was got under, and saw the wreck of the city and the houseless people camping out among the things they had saved. Fire was still burning or smouldering everywhere, high walls were falling, hose were playing on mountains of smouldering timber, whole streets were blocked with masses of fallen brick and stone, charred telegraph poles and fused wires were lying about, with half burned ledgers and half burned everything. The colored population exceeds one hundred and fifty-two thousand souls, and only those who know the Babel which an eastern crowd is capable of making under ordinary circumstances can imagine what the deafening din of human tongues was under these very extraordinary ones. In the prison, which was threatened by the flames, were over eight hundred ruffians of all nations, and it was held by one hundred soldiers with ten rounds of ammunition each, prepared to convey the criminals to a place of safety and to shoot any who attempted to escape. The dread of these miscreants, which was everywhere expressed, is not unreasonable, for the position of Victoria, and the freedom and protection afforded by our laws, together with the present Governor's known sympathies with colored people, have attracted here thousands of the scum of Canton and other Chinese cities, to say nothing of a mass of European and Asiatic ruffianism, much of which is at all times percolating through the magnificent Victoria prison.
On returning, I was just beginning to unpack when the flames burst out again. It was luridly grand in the twilight, the tongues of flame lapping up house after house, the jets of flame loaded with blazing fragments, the explosions, each one succeeded by a burst of flame, carrying high into the air all sorts of projectiles, beams and rafters paraffine soaked, strewing them over the doomed city, the leaping flames coming nearer and nearer, the great volumes of smoke, spark-laden, rolling toward us, all mingling with a din indescribable. Burning fragments shortly fell on the window-sills, and as the wind was very strong and setting this way, there seemed so little prospect of the palace being saved that important papers were sent to the cathedral and several of the refugees fled with their things to the hills. At that moment the wind changed, and the great drift of flame and smoke was carried in a comparatively harmless direction, the fire was got well in hand the second time, the official quarter was saved, and before 10 P.M. we were able for the first time since my arrival at mid-day to sit down to food.
Most people seem much upset as well from personal peril as from sympathy, and all parties and pic-nics for two days were given up. Even the newspapers did not come out this morning, the types of one of them being in this garden. The city is now patrolled night and day by strong parties of marines and Sikhs, for both the disposition to loot and the facilities for looting are very great.
I. L. B.
THE PALACE, VICTORIA,
I LIKE and admire Victoria. It is so pleasant to come in from the dark, misty, coarse, loud-tongued Pacific, and the December colorlessness of Japan to bright blue waters crisped by a perpetual north wind–to the flaming hills of the Asian mainland, which are red in the early morning, redder in the glow of noon, and pass away in the glorious sunsets through ruby and vermilion into an amethyst haze, deepening into the purple of a tropic night, when the vast expanse of sky which is seen from this high elevation is literally one blaze of stars. Though they are by no means to be seen in perfection, there are here many things that I love,–bananas, poinsettias, papayas, tree-ferns, dendrobiums, dracenas, the scarlet passion-flower, the spurious banyan, date, sago, and traveler's palms, and numberless other trees and shrubs, children of the burning sun of the tropics, carefully watered and tended, but exotics after all.
It is a most delightful winter climate. There has not been any rain for three months, nor will there be any for two more; the sky is cloudless, the air dry and very bracing. It is cold enough at night for fires, and autumn clothing can be worn all the day long, for though the sun is bright and warm, the shade temperature does not rise above 65°, and exercise is easy and pleasant. At night, even at a considerable height, the lowest temperature is 40°. It is impossible to praise the climate too highly, with its bright sky, cool dry air, and five months of rainlessness; but I should write very differently if I came here four months later, when the mercury ranges from 80° to 90° both by day and night, and the cloudy sky rests ever on the summits of the island peaks, and everything is moist, and the rain comes down continually in torrents, rising in hot vapors when the sun shines, and people become limp and miserable, and their possessions limp and moldy, and insect life revels, and human existence spent in a vapor bath becomes burdensome. But the city is healthy to those who live temperately. It has, however, a remarkable peculiarity. Standing in and on rock, one fancies that fever would not be one of its maladies, but the rock itself seems to have imprisoned fever germs in some past age, for whenever it is quarried or cut into for foundations, or is disturbed in any way, fever immediately breaks out.
Victoria is a beautiful city. It reminds me of Genoa, but that most of its streets are so steep as to be impassable for wheeled vehicles, and some of them are merely grand flights of stairs, arched over by dense foliaged trees, so as to look like some tropical, colored, deep colonnades. It has covered green balconies with festoons of creepers, lofty houses, streets narrow enough to exclude much of the sun, people and costumes of all nations, processions of Portuguese priests and nuns; and all its many-colored life is seen to full advantage under this blue sky and brilliant sun.
This house is magnificently situated, and very large and airy. Part is the Episcopal Palace, and the rest St. Paul's College, of which Bishop Burdon is warden. The mountainous grounds are beautiful, and the entrance blazes with poinsettias. There are no female servants, but Chinese men perform all the domestic service satisfactorily. I learn that for a Chinese servant to appear without his skull-cap is rude, but to appear with his pig-tail wound round his head instead of pendent, is a gross insult! The "Pidjun English" is revolting, and the most dignified persons demean themselves by speaking it. The word "pidjun" appears to refer generally to business. "My pidjun" is undoubtedly "my work." How the whole English-speaking community, without distinction of rank, has come to communicate with the Chinese in this baby talk is extraordinary.
If you order a fire you say something like this: "Fire makee, chop, chop, here, makee fire number one," chop being quick, and number one good, or "first-class." If a servant tells you that some one has called he says, "One piecey manee here speak missey," and if one asks who he is, he very likely answers, "No sabe," or else, "Number one, tink," by which he implies that the visitor is, in his opinion, a gentleman. After the courteous, kindly Japanese, the Chinese seem indifferent, rough and disagreeable, except the well-to-do merchants in the shops, who are bland, complacent, and courteous. Their rude stare and the way they hustle you in the streets and shout their "pidjun" English at you is not attractive. Then they have an ugly habit of speaking of us as barbarian or foreign devils. Since I knew the word I have heard it several times in the streets, and Bishop Burdon says that before his servants found out that he knew Chinese, they were always speaking of him and Mrs. Burdon by this very ugly name.
[Victoria is, or should be, well known, so I will not describe its cliques, its boundless hospitalities, its extravagances in living, its quarrels, its gayeties, its pic-nics, balls, regattas, races, dinner parties, lawn tennis parties, amateur theatricals, afternoon teas, and all its other modes of creating a whirl which passes for pleasure or occupation. Rather, I would write of some of the facts concerning this very remarkable settlement, which is on its way to being the most important British colony in the Far East.
Moored to England by the electric cable, and replete with all the magnificent enterprises and luxuries of English civilization, with a population of one hundred and sixty thousand, of which only seven thousand, including soldiers and sailors, are white, and possessing the most imposing city of the East on its shores, the colony is only forty years old; the island of Hong Kong having been ceded to England in 1841, while its charter only bears the date of 1843. The island, which is about eleven miles long, from two to five broad, and with an area of about twenty-nine square miles, is one of a number situated off the south-eastern coast of China at the mouth of the Canton river, ninety miles from Canton. It is one of the many "thieves' islands," and one of the first necessities of the administration was to clear out the hordes of sea and river pirates which infested its very intricate neighborhood. It lies just within the tropic of Cancer in lat. 22° N. and long. 114° E. The Ly-ee-moon Pass, the narrow strait which separates it from the Chinese mainland, is only half a mile wide. Kow-loon, on the mainland, an arid peninsula, on which some of the Hong Kongese have been attempting to create a suburb, was ceded to England in 1861. The whole island of Hong Kong is picturesque. The magnificent harbor, which has an area of ten square miles, is surrounded by fantastic, broken mountains from three thousand to four thousand feet high, and the magnificent city of Victoria extends for four miles along its southern shore, with its six thousand houses of stone and brick and the princely mansions and roomy bungalows of its merchants and officials scrambling up the steep sides of the Peak, the highest point of the island, carrying verdure and shade with them. Damp as its summer is, the average rainfall scarcely exceeds seventy-eight inches, but it is hotter than Singapore in the hot season, though the latter is under eighty miles from the Equator.
The causes by which this little island, which produces nothing, has risen into first-rate importance among our colonies are, that Victoria, with its magnificent harbor, is a factory for our Chinese commerce and offers unrivaled facilities for the military and naval forces which are necessary for the protection not only of that commerce but of our interests in the far East. It is hardly too much to say that it is the naval and commercial terminus of the Suez Canal. Will it be believed that the amount of British and foreign tonnage annually entering and leaving the port averages two millions of tons? and that the number of native vessels trading to it is about fifty-two thousand, raising the total ascertained tonnage to upward of three millions and a half, or half a million tons in excess of Singapore? To this must be added thousands of smaller native boats of every build and rig trading to Hong Kong, not only from the Chinese coasts and rivers, but from Siam, Japan, and Cochin China. Besides the "P. and O.," the Messageries Maritimes, the Pacific Mail Company, the Eastern and Australian Mail Company, the Japanese "Mitsu Bichi" Mail Company, etc., all regular mail lines, it has a number of lines of steamers trading to England, America, and Germany, with local lines both Chinese and English, and lines of fine sailing clippers, which, however, are gradually falling into disuse, owing to the dangerous navigation of the China seas, and the increasing demand for speed.
Victorian firms have almost the entire control of the tea and silk trade, and Victoria is the centre of the trade in opium, sugar, flour, salt, earthenware, oil, amber, cotton, and cotton goods, sandal-wood, ivory, betel, vegetables, live stock, granite, and much else. The much abused term "emporium of commerce" may most correctly be applied to it.
It has five docks, three slips, and every requisite for making extensive repairs for ships of war and merchantmen.
It has telegraphic communication with the whole civilized world, and its trade is kept thereby in a continual fever.
It has a large garrison, for which it pays to England £20,000 a year. Were it not for this force, its six hundred and fifty policemen, of whom only one hundred and ten are Europeans, might not be able to overawe even as much as they do the rowdy and ruffianly elements of its heterogeneous population. As it is, the wealthier foreign residents, for the security of their property, are obliged to supplement the services of the public caretakers by employing private watchmen, who patrol their grounds at night. It must be admitted that the criminal classes are very rampageous in Victoria, whether from undue and unwise leniency in the treatment of crime, or whether from the extraordinary mass of criminals to which our flag affords security is not for a stranger to say, though the general clamor raised when I visited the great Chinese prison in Canton, "I wish I were in your prison in Hong Kong," and my own visit to the Victoria prison, render the former suspicion at least permissible.
Hong Kong possesses the usual establishment of a Crown Colony, and the government is administered by a Governor, aided by a Legislative Council, of which he is the President, and which is composed of the Chief Justice, the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney-General, the Treasurer, and four unofficial members, nominated by the Crown on the Governor's recommendation.
The enormous preponderance of the mixed Oriental population is a source of some difficulty, and it is not easy by our laws to punish and destroy a peculiarly hateful form of slavery which is recognized by Chinese custom, and which has attained gigantic proportions in Victoria. There is an immense preponderance of the masculine element, nearly six to one among the Europeans, and among the Orientals the men are nearly two and a half times as numerous as the women.
As Victoria is a free port, it is impossible to estimate the value of its imports and exports, but its harbor, full of huge merchantmen, and craft of all nations, its busy wharves, its crowd of lighters loading and unloading by day and night, its thronged streets and handsome shops, its huge warehouses, packed with tea, silk, and all the costly products of the East, and its hillsides terraced with the luxurious houses of its merchants, all say, "CIRCUMSPICE, these are better than statistics!"]
I. L. B.
S.S. "KIN KIANG," December 30.
YOU will remember that it is not very long since a piratical party of Chinese, shipping as steerage passengers on board one of these Hong Kong river steamers, massacred the officers and captured the boat. On board this great, white, deck-above-deck American steamer there is but one European passenger beside myself, but there are four hundred and fifty second-class passengers, Chinamen, with the exception of a few Parsees, all handsomely dressed, nearly all smoking, and sitting or lying over the saloon deck up to the saloon doors. In the steerage there are fifteen hundred Chinese steerage passengers, all men. The Chinese are a noisy people, their language is inharmonious, and the lower class male voices, at least, are harsh and coarse. The fifteen hundred men seem to be all shouting at once, and the din which comes up through the hatchways is fearful. This noisy mass of humanity is practically imprisoned below, for there is a heavy iron grating securely padlocked over each exit, and a European, "armed to the teeth," stands by each, ready to shoot the first man who attempts to force it. In this saloon there is a stand of six rifles with bayonets, and four revolvers, and, as we started, a man carefully took the sheaths off the bayonets, and loaded the firearms with ball cartridge.
Canton, January 1, 1879.–The Canton river for the ninety miles up here has nothing interesting about it. Soon after leaving Hong Kong the country becomes nearly a dead level, mainly rice-swamps varied by patches of bananas, with their great fronds torn to tatters by the prevailing strong breeze. A very high pagoda marks Whampoa, once a prosperous port, but now, like Macao, nearly deserted. An hour after disgorging three boat loads of Chinamen at Whampoa, we arrived at the beginning of Canton, but it took more than half an hour of cautious threading of our way among junks, sampans, house-boats, and slipper-boats, before we moored to the crowded and shabby wharf. If my expectations of Canton had been much raised they would certainly have been disappointed, for the city stands on a perfectly level site, and has no marked features within or around it except the broad and bridgeless tidal river which sweeps through it at a rapid rate. In the distance are the White-cloud hills, which were painted softly in amethyst on a tender green sky, and nearer are some rocky hills, which are red at all hours of daylight. Boats and masts conceal the view of the city from the river to a great extent, but even when from a vantage ground it is seen spread out below, it is so densely packed, its streets are so narrow, and its open spaces so few, that one almost doubts whether the million and a half of people attributed to it are really crowded within the narrow area. From the river, and indeed from any point of view, Canton is less imposing even than Tôkiyô. Few objects rise above the monotonous level, and the few are unimpressive. There are two or three pagodas looking like shot towers. There is a double-towered Romish cathedral of great size, not yet finished. There is the "Nine-storied pagoda." But in truth the most prominent objects from the river are the "godowns" of the pawnbrokers, lofty, square towers of gray brick which dominate the city, play a very important part in its social economy, and are very far removed from those establishments with the trinity of gilded balls, which hide themselves shamefacedly away in our English by-streets. At one part of the riverside there are some substantial looking foreign houses among trees, on the site of the foreign factories of former days, but they and indeed all else are hidden by a crowd of boats, a town of boats, a floating suburb. Indeed, boats are my earliest and strongest impressions of what on my arrival I was hasty enough to think a mean city. It is not only along the sides of the broad Pearl river, but along the network of innumerable canals and creeks which communicate with it, that they are found.
These boats, the first marvel of a marvelous city, have come between me and my landing. When the steamer had disgorged her two thousand passengers, Mr. Mackrill Smith, whose guest I am, brought me in a bamboo chair, carried by two coolies, through a covered and crowded street of merchandise six feet wide, to Shameen, the island in the river on which the foreigners reside; most of the missionary community, however, living in the buildings on the site of the old factory farther down.
I am now domiciled on Shameen, a reclaimed mud flat, in the beautiful house belonging to the firm of Jardine, Matheson & Co. This island, which has on the one side the swift flowing Canton river, with its ever shifting life, has on the other a canal, on which an enormous population lives in house boats, moored stem and stern, without any space between them. A stone bridge with an iron gate gives access into one of the best parts of Canton, commercially speaking; but all the business connected with tea, silk, and other productions, which is carried on by such renowned firms as Jardine, Matheson & Co., the Dents, the Deacons, and others, is transacted in these handsome dwellings of stone or brick, each standing in its tropical garden, with a wall or ornamental railing or bamboo hedge surrounding it, but without any outward sign of commerce at all. The settlement, insular and exclusive, hears little and knows less of the crowded Chinese city at its gates. It reproduces English life as far as possible, and adds a boundless hospitality of its own, receiving all strangers who are in any way accredited, and many who are not. A high sea-wall with a broad concrete walk, shaded by banyan trees, runs round it, a distance of a mile and a quarter. It is quite flat and covered with carefully kept grass, intersected with concrete walks and banyan avenues, the tropical gardens of the rich merchants giving variety and color.
The community at present consists of forty-five people–English, French, and German. The establishment of the electric telegraph has not only favored business, but has enabled some of the senior partners of the old firms to return home, leaving very junior partners or senior clerks here, who receive their instructions from England. Consequently, in some of these large family dwellings there are only young men "keeping bach." There are a pretty English church, a club bungalow, a book club, lawn tennis and croquet grounds, and a small hall used for dancing, lectures and amateur theatricals. No wheeled vehicle larger than a perambulator ever disturbs the quiet. People who go into the city are carried in chairs, or drop down the river in their luxurious covered boats, but for exercise they mostly walk on the bund, and play croquet or lawn tennis. In this glorious weather the island is very charming. It is possible to spend the whole year here, as the tidal breezes modify the moist heat of summer; but the English children look pale and languid even now.
Canton, January 4.–If I were to describe Canton, and had time for it, my letters would soon swell to the size of Archdeacon Gray's quaint and fascinating book, "Walks in Canton;" but I have no time, and must content myself with brief sketches of two or three things which have greatly interested me, and of the arrangement and management of the city; putting the last first, if I am able "to make head or tail of it," and to cram its leading features into a letter.
Viewing Canton from the "five-storied pagoda," or from the dignified elevation of a pawn tower, it is apparent that it is surrounded by a high wall, beyond which here and there are suburban villages, some wealthy and wood-embosomed, others mean and mangy. The river divides it from a very populous and important suburb. Within the city lies the kernel of the whole, the Tartar city, occupied by the garrison and a military colony numbering about twenty thousand persons. This interesting area is walled round, and contains the residence of the Tartar General, and the consulates of the great European Powers. It is well wooded and less closely built than the rest of Canton. Descending from any elevation one finds oneself at once involved at any and every point in a maze of narrow, crowded streets of high brick and stone houses, mostly from five to eight feet wide. These streets are covered in at the height of the house roofs by screens of canvas matting, or thin boards, which afford a pleasant shade, and at the same time let the sunbeams glance and trickle among the long, pendent signboards and banners which swing aloft, and upon the busy, many-colored, jostling throng below.
Every street is paved with large slabs of granite, and under each of the massive foot-ways (for carriage-ways there are none) there is a drain for carrying off the rain-water, which is then conveyed into six large culverts, from them into four creeks which intersect the city, and thence into the river. These large drains are supervised by the "prefect," who is bound by an ancient law to have them thoroughly cleansed every autumn, while each of the small drains is cleansed by the orders and at the expense of the "vestry" of the street under which it passes. This ancient sanitary law, like many other of the admirable laws of this empire, is said to be by no means punctiliously carried out; and that Canton is a very healthy city, and that pestilences of any kind rarely gain a footing in it, may be attributed rather to the excellent plan of sending out the garbage of the city daily to fertilize the gardens and fields of the neighborhood, than to the vigilance of the municipal authorities.
There are heavy and ancient gates or barricades which enclose each street, and which are locked at night, only to be opened by favor of the watchmen who guard them. Their closing brings to an end the busy street life, and at 10 P.M. Canton, cut up into small sections, barred out from each other, is like a city of the dead. Each gate watchman is appointed and paid by the "vestry" of the street in which he keeps guard. They wear uniform, but are miserable dilapidated-looking creatures, and I have twice seen one fast asleep. In the principal streets night watchmen are stationed in watch-towers, which consist of small mat huts, placed on scaffolds raised far above the house-tops, on bamboo poles bound together with strong cords. These men are on the look-out for armed bands of robbers, but specially for fire. They are provided with tom-toms and small gongs on which to proclaim the hours of the night, but, should fire arise, a loud, rapid, and incessant beating of the gong gives the alarm to all the elevated brotherhood in turn, who at the same time, by concerted signals, inform the citizens below of the ward and street in which the fire has originated. In each principal street there is a very large well, covered with granite slabs, with its exact position denoted on a granite slab on the adjoining wall. These wells, which are abundant reservoirs, are never opened except in case of fire.
Besides these watchmen, eleven hundred military constabulary are answerable for the good order of the "new city" and its suburbs, and a thousand more, called the Governor's brigade, garrison the outer gates in the city wall and several interior guard-houses, all the inner gates being garrisoned by Tartar troops. Canton is divided into thirty-six wards, under twelve officers in summer, but in winter, as now, when burglars are supposed to be more on the alert, this number is increased. Each officer having soldiers under him traverses at intervals during the night every street under his jurisdiction, and these armed followers, whether to intimidate criminals or to show their vigilance, are in the habit of discharging their old-fashioned matchlocks and gingalls as they patrol. In consequence of so many precautions, which are carried out very thoroughly, fires and burglaries are much minimized, and the proverb "as safe as Canton" appears to have a substantial foundation. The barricaded streets at night have an eerie solemnity about them. One night, my present hostess, Mrs. H., and I prowled through some of them quite unattended, on our way back from a friend's dwelling, roused up the watchmen to unlock and unbar the gates, saw no other people astir, went down one of the water streets, hailed a boat, and were deposited close to the door of our own abode about midnight; such an event being quite of common occurrence in this quarter.
In the streets the roofs of the houses and shops are rarely, if ever, regular, nor are the houses themselves arranged in a direct line, This queer effect results from queer causes. Every Chinese house is built on the principles of geomancy, which do not admit of straight lines, and were these to be disregarded the astrologers and soothsayers under whose auspices all houses are erected, predict fearful evils to the impious builders. There are few open spaces in Canton, and these are decorated, not with statues, but with monumental arches of brick, red sandstone, or gray granite, which are put up as memorials of virtuous men and women, learned or aged men, and specially dutiful sons or daughters. Such memorials are erected by citizens, and, in some cases, by Imperial sanction or decree.
The public buildings and temples, though they bear magnificent names, are extremely ugly, and are the subjects of slow but manifest decay, while the streets of shops exceed in picturesqueness everything I have ever seen. Much of this is given by the perpendicular sign boards, fixed or hanging, upon which are painted on an appropriate background immense Chinese characters in gold, vermilion, or black. Two or three of these belong to each shop, and set forth its name and the nature of the goods which are to be purchased at it. The effect of these boards as the sun's rays fall upon them here and there is fascinating. The interiors of the shops are lofty, glass lamps hang from the ceilings and large lanterns above every door, and both are painted in bright colors, with the characters signifying happiness, or with birds, butterflies, flowers, or landscapes. The shop wall which faces the door invariably has upon it a gigantic fresco or portrait of the tutelary god of the building, or a sheet of red paper on which the characters forming his name are placed, or the character Shan, which implies all gods, and these and the altars below are seen from the street. There is a recess outside each shop, and at dusk the joss-sticks burning in these fill the city with the fragrance of incense.
As there are streets of shops and trades, so there are streets of dwelling-houses, but even the finest of these present a miserable appearance to the passers-by, for all one can see is a lofty and dimly-lighted stone vestibule, furnished with carved ebony chairs with marble seats and backs, and not infrequently with gigantic coffins placed on end, the gift of pious juniors to their seniors! A porter stands in this vestibule ready to open the lofty triple gate which admits to the courtyard of the interior. Many Chinese mansions contain six or seven courtyards, each with its colonnade, drawing, dining, and reception rooms, and at the back of all there is a flower garden adorned with rockeries, fish-ponds, dwarf trees, and miniature pagodas and bridges.
The streets in which the poor dwell are formed of low, small, dark, and dirty houses, of two or three rooms each. The streets of dwellings are as mean and ugly as those of shops are brilliant and picturesque.
This is a meagre outline of what may be called the anatomy of this ancient city, which dates from the fourth century B.C., when it was walled only by a stockade of bamboo and mud, but was known by the name of "the martial city of the south," changed later into "the city of rams." At this date it has probably greater importance than it ever had, and no city but London impresses me so much with the idea of solid wealth and increasing prosperity.
My admiration and amazement never cease. I grudge the hours that I am obliged to spend in sleep; a week has gone like half a day, each hour heightening my impressions of the fascination and interest of Canton, and of the singular force and importance of the Chinese. Canton is intoxicating from its picturesqueness, color, novelty and movement. To-day I have been carried eighteen miles through and round it, reveling the whole time in its enchantments, and drinking for the first time of that water of which it may truly be said that whoso drinks "shall thirst again"–true Orientalism. As we sat at mid-day at the five-storied pagoda, which from a corner of the outer wall overlooks the Tartar city, and ever since, through this crowded week, I have wished that the sun would stand still in the cloudless sky, and let me dream of gorgeous sunlight, light without heat, of narrow lanes rich in color, of the glints of sunlight on embroideries and cloth of gold, resplendent even in the darkness, of hurrying and colored crowds in the shadow, with the blue sky in narrow strips high above, of gorgeous marriage processions, and the "voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride," of glittering trains of mandarins, of funeral processions, with the wail of hired mourners clad in sackcloth and ashes, of the Tartar city with its pagodas, of the hills of graves, great cities of the dead outside the walls, fiery-red under the tropic blue, of the "potter's field" with its pools of blood and sacks of heads, and crosses for crucifixion,–now, as on Calvary, symbolical of shame alone,–of the wonderful river life, and all the busy, crowded, costumed hurry of the streets, where blue banners hanging here and there show that in those houses death has stilled some busy brains forevermore. And I should like to tell you of the Buddhist and Confucian temples; of the monastery garden, which is the original of the famous "Willow Pattern;" of the great Free Dispensary which is to rival that of the Medical Mission; of the asylums for lepers, foundlings, the blind, aged men and aged women, dating from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, originally well conceived and noble institutions, but reduced into inefficiency and degradation by the greed and corruption of generations of officials; of the "Beggars' Square" and beggars' customs; of the trades, and of the shops with their splendors; of the Examination Hall with its streets numbering eleven thousand six hundred and seventy-three cells for the candidates for the literary honors which are the only road to office and distinction in China, but Canton deserves a volume, and Archdeacon Gray has written one!
I. L. B.
REV. B. C. HENRY'S,
CANTON, Jan. 6.
IN the week in which I have been here I have given myself up to ceaseless sight-seeing. Almost the first sight that I saw on arriving in this quarter, which is in Canton itself, was a number of Christian refugees, old men, women, and children, who, having fled from a bloody persecution which is being waged against Christianity about ninety miles from Canton, are receiving shelter in the compound of the German mission. It was late in the evening, and these poor refugees, who had sacrificed much for their faith and had undergone great terror, were singing hymns, and reading and worshipping in Chinese. In the place from which they came a Christian of wealth wished to build a church, and last week he was proceeding to do so, when the heathen, instigated by the district mandarin, seized upon him and four other Christians, and when he would neither say the word nor make the obeisance which is regarded as equivalent to denying Christ, they wrapped him in cotton wadding soaked in oil, tied him to a cross, and burned him, no extremity of torture availing to shake his constancy. They cut off the arms and legs of the four other persons, tied crosses to the trunks, and then burned them. This deed, done so near Canton, has caused great horror among the foreigners both here and at Hong Kong, and the deepest sympathy is felt both with the converts and the missionary priests. In the sympathy with the heroism and sufferings of those who have been "faithful unto death," all the Protestant missionaries join heartily, as in the belief that these victims are reckoned among "the noble army of martyrs." It is estimated that there are seven hundred and fifty thousand Romish Christians in China, many of them of the third or fourth generation of Christians, and in some places far in the interior there are whole villages of them. The Portuguese and French missionary priests who devote themselves for life to this work, dress, eat, and live as Chinamen, and are credited with great devotion.
It is most interesting to be brought by the spectacle of these poor refugees so near to the glory and the woe of martyrdom, and to hear that the martyr spirit can still make men "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." A placard was posted up some time ago calling for a general massacre of the native Christians on Christmas Day. It attributes every vice to the "Foreign Devils," and says that, "to preserve the peace and purity of Chinese Society, those whom they have corrupted must be cut off." One phrase of this placard is, "The wickedness of these foreign devils is so great that even pigs and dogs would refuse to eat their flesh!"
Mr. and Mrs. Henry speak Chinese, and are both fearless, and familiar with the phases of Canton life. Of all the places I have seen, Canton is the most overwhelmingly interesting, fascinating, and startling. "See Canton and die," I would almost say, and yet I can give no idea of all that has taken such a strong hold of me. I should now be quite content to see only the manifold street life, with its crowds, processions, and din, and the strange and ever-shifting water life, altogether distinct from the land life. The rice-paper pictures give a very good idea of the forms and colors of the boats, but the thousands of them, and the rate at which they are propelled, are altogether indescribable, either by pen or pencil.
There are junks with big eyes on either side of the stem, "without which they could not see their way,"* and with open bows with two six-pounders grinning through them. Along the sides there are ten guns, and at the lofty, square, quaint, broad, carved stern, two more. This heavy armament is carried nominally for protection against pirates, but its chief use is for the production of those stunning noises which Chinamen delight in on all occasions. In these helpless and unwieldy-looking vessels which are sailed with an amount of noise and apparent confusion which is absolutely shocking to any one used to our strict nautical discipline, the rudder projects astern six feet and more, the masts are single poles, the large sails of fine matting; and what with their antique shape, rich coloring, lattice work and carving, they are the most picturesque craft afloat. Then there are "passage boats" from the whole interior network of rivers and canals, each district having its special rig and build, recognizable at once by the initiated. These sail when they can, and when they can't are propelled by large sweeps, each of which is worked by six men who stand on a platform outside. These boats are always heavily laden, crowded with passengers and "armed to the teeth" as a protection against river pirates, and they carry crews of from thirty-five to fifty men.
At some distance below Shameen there are moored tiers of large, two-storied house boats, with entrance doors seven feet high, always open, and doorways of rich wood carving, through which the interiors can be seen with their richly decorated altars, innumerable colored lamps, chairs, and settees of carved ebony with white marble let into the seats and backs, embroidered silk hangings, gilded mirrors and cornices, and all the extravagances of Chinese luxury. Many of them have gardens on their roofs. These are called "flower boats," and are of noisy and evil reputation. Then there are tiers of three-roomed, comfortable house boats to let to people who make their homes on the water in summer to avoid the heat. "Marriage boats," green and gold, with much wood carving and flags, and auspicious emblems of all kinds; river junks, with their large eyes and carved and castellated sterns lying moored in treble rows; duck boats, with their noisy inmates; florists' boats, with platforms of growing plants for sale; two-storied boats or barges, with glass sides, floating hotels, in which evening entertainments are given with much light and noise; restaurant boats, much gilded, from which proceeds an incessant beating of gongs; washing boats, market boats, floating shops, which supply the floating population with all marketable commodities; country boats of fantastic form coming down on every wind and tide; and, queerest of all, "slipper boats," looking absurdly like big shoes, which are propelled in and out among all the heavier craft by standing in the stern.
One of the most marvelous features of Canton is the city of house boats, floating and stationary, in which about a quarter of a million people live, and it may with truth be added are born and die. This population is quite distinct in race from the land population of Canton, which looks down upon it as a pariah and alien caste. These house boats, some of which have a single bamboo circular roof, others two roofs of different heights, and which include several thousand of the marvelous "slipper boats," lie in tiers along the river sides, and packed closely stem and stern along the canals, forming bustling and picturesque water streets. Many of the boats moored on the canals are floating shops, and do a brisk trade, one end of the boat being the shop, the other the dwelling-house. As the "slipper boats" are only from fifteen to twenty feet long, it may be imagined, as their breadth is strictly proportionate, that the accommodation for a family is rather circumscribed, yet such a boat is not only the home of a married pair and their children, but of the eldest son with his wife and children, and not unfrequently of grandparents also! The bamboo roofs slide in a sort of telescope fashion, and the whole interior space can be inclosed and divided. The bow of the boat, whether large or small, is always the family joss-house; and the water is starred at night with the dull, melancholy glimmer, fainter, though redder than a glow-worm's light, of thousands of burning joss-sticks, making the air heavy with the odor of incense. Unlike the houses of the poor on shore, the house boats are models of cleanliness, and space is utilized and economized by adaptations more ingenious than those of a tiny yacht. These boats, which form neat rooms with matted seats by day, turn into beds at night, and the children have separate "rooms." The men go on shore during the day and do laborer's work, but the women seldom land, are devoted to "housewifely" duties, and besides are to be seen at all hours of day and night flying over the water, plying for hire at the landings, and ferrying goods and passengers, as strong as men, and clean, comely, and pleasant-looking; one at the stern and one at the bow, sending the floating home along with skilled and sturdy strokes. They are splendid boat-women, and not vociferous. These women don't bandage their feet.
Their dress is dark brown or blue cotton, and consists of wide trousers and a short, loose, sleeved upper garment up to the throat. The feet are big and bare, the hair is neat and drawn back from the face into a stiff roll or chignon, and they all wear jade-stone earrings. You see a woman cooking or sewing in most housewifely style in one of these "slipper boats;" but if you hail it, she is plying the heavy oar in one moment, and as likely as not with a wise-looking baby on her back, supported by a square piece of scarlet cloth embroidered in gold and blue silks. Not one of this river population has yet received Christianity. Very little indeed is known about them and their customs, but it is said that their morals are low, and that when infanticide was less discouraged than it is now, the river was the convenient grave of many of their newly-born female children. I spent most of one afternoon alone in one of these boats, diving into all canals and traversing water streets, hanging on to junks and "passage boats," and enjoying the variety of river life to the full.
On another day I was carried eighteen miles through Canton on a chair by four coolies, Mr. Smith and his brother walking the whole distance–a great testimony to the invigorating influences of the winter climate. As to locomotion, one must either walk or be carried. A human being is not a heavy weight for the coolies, but it is distressing to see that the shoulders of very many of them are suffering from bony tumors, arising from the pressure of the poles. We lunched in the open air upon a stone table under a banyan-tree at the "Five-storied Pagoda" which forms the north-east corner of the great wall of Canton, from which we looked down upon the singular vestiges of the nearly forgotten Tartar conquest, the walled inner city of the Tartar conquerors, containing the Tartar garrison, the Yamun (official residence) of the Tartar governor, the houses of the foreign consuls, and the unmixed Tartar population. The streets of this foreign kernel of Canton are narrow and dirty, with mean, low houses with tiled roofs nearly flat, and small courtyards, more like the houses of Western than Eastern Asia. These Tartars do not differ much in physiognomy from the Chinese. They are somewhat uglier, their stature is shorter, and the women always wear three rings in their ears. I saw more women in a single street in one day in the Tartar city than I have seen altogether in the rest of Canton.
The view from that corner of the wall (to my thinking) is beautiful, the flaming red pagoda with its many roofs; the singularly picturesque ancient gray wall, all ups and downs, watch-towers, and strongholds, the Tartar city below, with the "flowery pagoda," the mosques, the bright foliage of the banyan, and the feathery grace of the bamboo; outside the wall the White-Cloud hills, and nearer ranges burrowed everywhere for the dead, their red and pink and orange hues harmonized by a thin blue veil, softening without obscuring, all lying in the glory of the tropic winter noon–light without heat, color without glare. Vanish all memories of grays and pale greens before this vividness, this wealth of light and color! Color is at once music and vitality, and after long deprivation I revel in it.
This wall is a fine old structure, about twenty feet wide and as many high, with a broad pavement on which to walk, and a high platform on the outside, with a battlement pierced for marksmen. It is hardly ever level for ten yards, but follows the inequalities of the ground, and has picturesque towers which occur frequently. It is everywhere draped with ferns, which do not help to keep it in repair. The "Five-storied Pagoda" which flames in red at one of its angles, is a striking feature in the view. As we sat on stone seats by stone tables in what might be called its shadow, under the cloudless heaven, with the pure Orientalism of the Tartar city spread out at our feet,–that unimaginable Orientalism which takes one captive at once, and, like the first sight of a palm or a banana, satisfies a longing of which one had not previously been conscious,–a mundane disappointment was severely felt. We had been, as the Americans say, "exercising" for five hours in the bracing air, and I had long been conscious of a craving for solid food which no Orientalism could satisfy; and our dismay was great not only to find that the cook had put up lunch for two when there were three hungry persons, but that the chicken was so underdone that we could not eat it, and as we were not starving enough to go and feed at a cat and dog or any other Chinese restaurant, my hosts at least, who had not learned that bananas are sustenance for men as well as "food for gods," were famished. As we ate "clem pie" or "dined with Duke Humphrey," two water buffaloes, dark gray ungainly forms, with little more hair than elephants, recurved horns, and muzzles like deer, watched us closely, until a Tartar drove them off. Such beasts, which stand in the water and plaster themselves with mud like elephants, are the cows and draught oxen of China. Two nice Chinese boys sat by us, and Mr. Smith practiced Chinese upon them, till a man came out angrily and took them away, using many words, of which we only understood "Barbarian Devils." The Cantonese are not rude, however. A foreign lady can walk alone without being actually molested, though as a rule Chinese women are not seen in the streets. I have certainly seen half a million men, and not more than ninety women, and those only of the poorest class. The middle and upper class women never go out except in closed palanquins with screened windows, and are nearly as much secluded as the women of India.
Passing through the Tartar city and some streets of aristocratic dullness, inhabited by wealthy merchants, we spent some hours in the mercantile quarter; which is practically one vast market or bazaar, thronged with masculine humanity from morning till night. Eight feet is the width of the widest street but one, and between the passers-by, the loungers, the people standing at stalls eating, or drinking tea, and the itinerant venders of goods, it is one long push. Then, as you are elbowing your feeble self among the big men, who are made truly monstrous by their many wadded garments of silk and brocade, you are terrified by a loud yell, and being ignominiously hustled out of the way, you become aware that the crowd has yielded place to a procession, consisting of several men in red, followed by a handsome closed palanquin, borne by four, six, or eight bearers in red liveries, in which reclines a stout, magnificently dressed mandarin, utterly oblivious of his inferiors, the representative of high caste feeling all the world over, either reading or absorbed, never taking any notice of the crowds and glitter which I find so fascinating. More men in red, and then the crowd closes up again, to be again divided by a plebeian chair like mine, or by pariahs running with a coffin fifteen feet long, shaped like the trunk of a tree, or by coolies carrying burdens slung on bamboo poles, uttering deafening cries, or by a marriage procession with songs and music, or by a funeral procession with weeping and wailing, succeeding each other incessantly. All the people in the streets are shouting at the top of their voices, the chair and baggage coolies are yelling, and to complete the bewildering din the beggars at every corner are demanding charity by striking two gongs together.
Color riots in these narrow streets, with their high houses with projecting upper stories, much carved and gilded, their deeply projecting roofs or eaves tiled with shells cut into panes, which let the light softly through, while a sky of deep bright blue fills up the narrow slit between. Then in the shadow below, which is fitfully lighted by the sunbeams, hanging from all the second stories at every possible interval of height, each house having at least two, are the richly painted boards of which I wrote before, from six to ten feet long, some black, some heavily gilded, a few orange, but the majority red and perfectly plain, except for the characters several inches long down the middle of each, gold on the red and black, and black on the gold and orange–these, with banners, festoons, and the bright blue draperies which for a hundred days indicate mourning in a house, form together a spectacle of street picturesqueness such as my eyes have never before beheld. Then all the crowd is in costume, and such costume! The prevailing color for the robe is bright blue. Even the coolies put on such a one when not working, and all above the coolies wear them in rich, ribbed silk, lined with silk of a darker shade. Over this a sleeveless jacket of rich dark blue or puce brocade, plain or quilted, is worn; the trousers, of which little is seen, being of brocade or satin. The stockings are white, and the shoes, which are on thick, white, canoe-shaped soles, are of black satin. The cap, which is always worn, and quite on the back of the head, is of black satin, and the pigtail, or plait of hair and purse silk mixed, hangs down nearly to the bottom of the robe. Then the most splendid furs are worn, and any number of quilted silk and brocade garments, one above another. And these big, prosperous-looking men, who are so richly dressed, are only the shopkeepers and the lower class of merchants. The mandarins and the rich merchants seldom put their feet to the ground.
The shops just now are filled with all sorts of brilliant and enticing things in anticipation of the great festival of the New Year, which begins on the 21st. At the New Year they are all closed, and the rich merchants vie with each other in keeping them so; those whose shops are closed the longest, sometimes even for two months, gaining a great reputation for wealth thereby. Streets are given up to shops of one kind. Thus there is the "Jade-Stone Street," entirely given up to the making and sale of jade-stone jewelry, which is very costly, a single bracelet of the finest stone and workmanship costing £600. There is a whole street devoted to the sale of coffins; several in which nothing is sold but furniture, from common folding tables up to the costliest settees, bedsteads, and chairs of massive ebony carving; chinaware streets, book and engraving streets, streets of silk shops, streets of workers in brass, silver, and gold, who perform their delicate manipulations before your eyes; streets of second-hand clothing, where gorgeous embroideries in silk and gold can be bought for almost nothing; and so on, every street blazing with colors, splendid with costume, and abounding with wealth and variety.
We went to a "dog and cat restaurant," where a number of richly dressed men were eating of savory dishes made from the flesh of these animals. There are thousands of butchers' and fishmongers' shops in Canton. At the former there are always hundreds of split and salted ducks hanging on lines, and pigs of various sizes roasted whole, or sold in joints raw; and kids and buffalo beef, and numbers of dogs and cats, which, though skinned, have the tails on to show what they are. I had some of the gelatinous "birds'-nest" soup, without knowing what it was. It is excellent; but as these nests are brought from Sumatra and are very costly, it is only a luxury of the rich. The fish shops and stalls are legion, but the fish looks sickening, as it is always cut into slices and covered with blood. The boiled chrysalis of a species of silkworm is exposed for sale as a great delicacy, and so are certain kinds of hairless, fleshy caterpillars.
In our peregrinations we came upon a Yamun, with its vestibule hung with scarlet, the marriage color as well as the official color. Within the door the "wedding garments" were hanging for the wedding guests, scarlet silk crêpe, richly embroidered. Some time later the bridal procession swept through the streets, adding a new glory to the color and movement. First marched a troop of men in scarlet, carrying scarlet banners, each one emblazoned with the literary degrees of the bride's father and grandfather. Then came ten heavily gilded, carved, and decorated pavilions, containing the marriage presents, borne on poles on the shoulders of servants; and after them the bride, carried in a locked palanquin to the bridegroom's house, completely shrouded, the palanquin one mass of decoration in gold and blue enamel, the carving fully six inches deep; and the procession was closed by a crowd of men in scarlet, carrying the bridegroom's literary degrees, with banners, and instruments of music. It is the China of a thousand years ago, unaltered by foreign contact.
There are many beggars, and a "Beggars' Square," and the beggars have a "king," and a regular guild, with an entrance fee of £1. The shopkeepers are obliged by law to give them a certain sum, and on the occasion of a marriage or any other festivity, the giver sends a fee to the "king," on the understanding that he keeps his lieges from bothering the guests. They make a fearful noise with their two gongs. There is one on the Shameen bridge who has a callosity like a horn on his forehead, with which he strikes the pavement and produces an audible thump.
After the cleanliness, beauty, and good repair of the Japanese temples, those of Canton impress me as being very repulsive. In Japan the people preserve their temples for their exquisite beauty, and there are a great many sincere Buddhists; but China is irreligious; a nation of atheists or agnostics, or slaves of impious superstitions. In an extended tramp among temples I have not seen a single male worshiper or a thing to please the eye. The Confucian temples, to which mandarinism resorts on certain days to bow before the Confucian tablets, are now closed, and their courts are overgrown with weeds. The Buddhist temples are hideous, both outside and inside, built of a crumbling red brick, with very dirty brick floors, and the idols are frightful and tawdry. We went to several which have large monasteries attached to them, with great untidy gardens, with ponds for sacred fish and sacred tortoises, and houses for sacred pigs, whose sacredness is shown by their monstrous obesity. In the garden of the Temple of Longevity, the scene of the "Willow Pattern," dirty and degraded priests, in spite of a liberal douceur to one of them, set upon us, clamoring kum-sha, attempting at the same time to shut us in, and the two gentlemen were obliged to use force for our extrication. In the court of the "Temple of Horrors," which is surrounded by a number of grated cells containing life-sized figures of painted wood, undergoing at the hands of other figures such hell-torments as are decreed for certain offences, there is perpetually a crowd of fortune-tellers, and numbers of gaming tables always thronged with men and boys. Each temple has an accretion of smaller temples or shrines round it, but most, on ordinary occasions, are deserted, and all are neglected and dirty. Where we saw worshipers they were always women, some of whom looked very earnest, as they were worshiping for sick children, or to obtain boys, or to insure the fidelity of their husbands. "Worship" consists in many prostrations, in the offering of many joss-sticks, and in burning large squares of gilded paper, this being supposed to be the only way in which gold can reach either gods or ancestors. One or two of the smaller temples were thronged by women of the poorest class, whose earnest faces were very touching. Idolatry is always pathetic. It is not, however, idol worship which sits like a nightmare on China, and crushes atheists, agnostics, and heathens alike, but ancestral worship, and the tyranny of the astrologers and geomancers.
I like the faces of the lower orders of Chinese women. They are both strong and kind, and it is pleasant to see women not deformed in any way, but clothed completely in a dress which allows perfect freedom of action. The small-footed women are rarely seen out of doors; but the sewing-woman at Mrs. Smith's has crippled feet, and I have got her shoes, which are too small for the English baby of four months old! The butler's little daughter, aged seven, is having her feet "bandaged" for the first time, and is in torture, but bears it bravely in the hope of "getting a rich husband." The sole of the shoe of a properly diminished foot is about two inches and a half long, but the mother of this suffering infant says, with a quiet air of truth and triumph, that Chinese women suffer less in the process of being crippled than foreign women do from wearing corsets! To these Eastern women the notion of deforming the figure for the sake of appearance only is unintelligible and repulsive. The crippling of the feet has another motive.
I. L. B.
YESTERDAY, after visiting the streets devoted to jade-stone workers, jewelers, saddlers, dealers in musical instruments, and furriers, we turned aside from the street called Sze-P'aai-Lau, into a small, dirty square, on one side of which is a brick wall, with a large composite quadruped upon it in black paint, and on the other the open entrance gate of the Yamun, or official residence of the mandarin whose jurisdiction extends over about half Canton, and who is called the Naam-Hoi magistrate. Both sides of the road passing through this square, and especially the open space in front of the gate which leads into the courtyard of the Yamun, were crowded with unshaven, ragged, forlorn, dirty wretches, heavily fettered round their ankles, and with long heavy chains padlocked round their necks, attached, some to large stones with holes in the centre, others to short thick bars of iron. Two or three, into whose legs the ankle fetters had cut deep raw grooves, were lying in a heap on a ragged mat in the corner; some were sitting on stones, but most were standing or shifting their position uneasily, dragging their weighty fetters about, making a jarring and dismal clank with every movement. These unfortunates are daily exposed thus to the scorn and contempt of the passers-by as a punishment for small thefts. Of those who were seated on stones or who were kneeling attempting to support themselves on their hands, most wore square wooden collars of considerable size, weighing thirty pounds each, round their necks. These cangues are so constructed that it is impossible for their wearers to raise their hands to their mouths for the purpose of feeding themselves, and it seemed to be a choice pastime for small boys to tantalize these criminals by placing food tied to the end of sticks just within reach of their mouths, and then suddenly withdrawing them. Apart from the weight of their fetters, and of the cangue in which they are thus pilloried, these men suffer much from hunger and thirst. They are thus punished for petty larcenies. Surely "the way of transgressors is hard."
The bearers set me down at the gate of the Yamun among the festering wretches dragging the heavy weights, the filthy and noisy beggars, the gamblers, the fortune-tellers, the messengers of justice, and the countless hangers-on of the prison and judgment-seat of the Naam-Hoi magistrate, and passing through a part of the courtyard, and down a short, narrow passage, enclosed by a door of rough wooden uprights, above which is a tiger's head, with staring eyes and extended jaws, we reached the inner entrance, close to which is a much blackened altar of incense, foul with the ashes of innumerable joss-sticks, and above it an equally blackened and much worn figure of a tiger in granite. To this beast, which is regarded by the Chinese as possessing virtue, and is the tutelary guardian of Chinese prisons, the jailers offer incense and worship night and day, with the object of securing its aid and vigilance on their behalf.
Close to the altar were the jailers' rooms, dark, dirty, and inconceivably forlorn. Two of the jailers were lying on their beds smoking opium. There we met the head jailer, of all Chinamen that I have seen the most repulsive in appearance, manner, and dress; for his long costume of frayed and patched brown silk looked as if it had not been taken off for a year; the lean, brown hands which clutched the prison keys with an instinctive grip were dirty, and the nails long and hooked like claws, and the face, worse, I thought, than that of any of the criminal horde, and scored with lines of grip and greed, was saturated with opium smoke. This wretch pays for his place, and in a few years will retire with a fortune, gains arising from bribes wrung from prisoners and their friends by threats and torture, and by defrauding them daily of a part of their allowance of rice.
The prison, as far as I can learn, consists mainly of six wards, each with four large apartments, the walls of these wards abutting upon each other, and forming a parallelogram, outside of which is a narrow, paved pathway, on which the gates of the wards open, and which has on its outer side the high boundary wall of the prison. This jailer, this fiend,–made such by the customs of his country–took us down a passage, and unlocking a wooden grating turned us into one of the aforesaid "wards," a roughly paved courtyard about fifty feet long by twenty-four broad, and remained standing in the doorway jangling his keys.
If crime, vice, despair, suffering, filth and cruelty can make a hell on earth, this is one. Over its dismal gateway may well be written, "Whoso enters here leaves hope behind."
This ward is divided into four "apartments," each one having a high wall at the back. The sides next the court are formed of a double row of strong wooden bars, black from age and dirt, which reach from the floor to the roof, and let in light and air through the chinks between them. The interiors of these cribs or cattle-pens are roughly paved with slabs of granite, slimy with accumulations of dirt. In the middle and round the sides are stout platforms of laths, forming a coarse, black gridiron, on which the prisoners sit and sleep.
In each ward there is a shrine of a deity who is supposed to have the power of melting the wicked into contrition, and to this accursed mockery, on his birthday, the prisoners are compelled to give a feast, which is provided by the jailer out of his peculations from their daily allowances. No water is allowed for washing, and the tubs containing the allowance of foul drinking water are placed close to those which are provided for the accumulation of night soil, etc., the contents of which are only removed once a fortnight. Two pounds of rice is the daily allowance of each prisoner, but this is reduced to about one by the greed of the jailer.
As we entered the yard, fifty or sixty men swarmed out from the dark doorways which led into their dens, all heavily chained, with long, coarse, matted hair hanging in wisps, or standing on end round their death-like faces, in filthy rags, with emaciated forms caked with dirt, and bearing marks of the torture; and nearly all with sore eyes, swelled and bleeding lips, skin diseases, and putrefying sores. These surrounded us closely, and as, not without a shudder, I passed through them and entered one of their dens, they pressed upon us, blocking out the light, uttering discordant cries, and clamoring with one voice, kum-sha, i.e., backsheesh, looking more like demons than living men, as abject and depraved as crime, despair, and cruelty can make them.
Within, the blackness, the filth, the vermin, the stench, overpowering even in this cool weather, the rubbish of rags and potsherds, cannot be described. Here in semi-starvation and misery, with nameless cruelties practised upon them without restraint, festering in one depraved mass, are the tried and untried, the condemned, the guilty and innocent (?), the murderer and pirate, the debtor and petty thief, all huddled together, without hope of exit except to the adjacent judgment-seat, with its horrors of "the question by torture," or to the "field of blood" not far away. On earth can there be seen a spectacle more hideous than these abject wretches, with their heavy fetters eating into the flesh of their necks and ankles (if on their wasted skeletons, covered with vermin and running sores, there is any flesh left), their thick matted, bristly, black hair–contrasting with the shaven heads of the free–the long, broken claws on their fingers and toes, the hungry look in their emaciated faces, and their clamorous cry, kum-sha! kum-sha! They thronged round us clattering their chains, one man saying that they had so little rice that they had to "drink the foul water to fill themselves;" another shrieked, "Would I were in your prison in Hong Kong," and this was chorused by many voices saying, "In your prison at Hong Kong they have fish and vegetables, and more rice than they can eat, and baths, and beds to sleep on; good, good is the prison of your Queen!" but higher swelled the cry of kum-sha, and as we could not give alms among several hundred, we eluded them, though with difficulty, and, as we squeezed through the narrow door, execrations followed us, and high above the heavy clank of the fetters and the general din rose the cry, "Foreign Devils" (Fan-Kwai), as we passed out into sunshine and liberty, and the key was turned upon them and their misery.
We went into three other large wards, foul with horror, and seething with misery, and into a smaller one, nearly as bad, where fifteen women were incarcerated, some of them with infants devoured by cutaneous diseases. Several of them said that they are there for kidnapping, but others are hostages for criminal relations who have not yet been captured. This imprisonment of hostages is in accordance with a law which authorizes the seizure and detention of persons or families belonging to criminals who have fled or are in concealment. Such are imprisoned till the guilty relative is brought to justice, for months, years, or even for a lifetime. Two of these women told us that they had been there for twenty years.
There are likewise some single cells–hovels clustering under a wall, in which criminals who can afford to pay the jailer for them may enjoy the luxury of solitude. In each ward there is a single unfettered man,–always a felon,–who by reason either of bribery or good conduct, is appointed to the place of watchman or spy among his fellows in crime. There is a turnkey for each ward, and these men, with the unchained felons who act as watchmen, torture new arrivals in order to force money from them, and under this process some die.
In the outer wall of the prison there is a port-hole, just large enough to allow of a body being pushed through it, for no malefactor's corpse must be carried through the prison entrance, lest it should defile the "Gate of Righteousness." There is also a hovel called a deadhouse, into which these bodies are conveyed till a grave has been dug in some "accursed place," by members of an "accursed" class.
In addition to the large mortality arising from poor living and its concomitant diseases, and the exhaustion produced by repeated torture, epidemics frequently break out in the hot weather in those dark and fetid dens, and oftentimes nearly clear out the prison. On such occasions as many as four hundred have succumbed in a month. The number of criminals who are executed from this prison, either as sentenced to death, or as unable to bribe the officials any further, is supposed to be about five hundred annually, and it is further supposed that half this number die annually from starvation and torture. Sometimes one hundred criminals are beheaded in an hour, as it is feared may be the case on the Governor going out of office, when it is not unusual to make a jail delivery in this fashion.
In numerous cases, when there is a press of business before the judgment-seat and a dead-lock occurs, accusers and witnesses are huddled indiscriminately into the Naam-Hoi prison, sometimes for months; and as the Governor or magistrate takes no measures to provide for them during the interval, some of the poorer ones who have no friends to bribe the jailer on their behalf, perish speedily. At night, in the dens which I have described, the hands of the prisoners are chained to their necks, and even in the daytime only one hand is liberated. I thought that many of the faces looked quite imbecile. The jailer, as we went out, kept holding out his long-clawed, lean, brown hand, muttering about his promised kum-sha, very fearful lest the other turnkeys, who were still lying on their beds smoking opium, should come in for any share of it.
Mr. Henry,* my host and very able cicerone, is an American missionary, and as such carries with him the gospel of peace on earth and good will to men. Surely if the knowledge of Him who came "to preach liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound," were diffused and received here, and were spread with no niggard hand, the prison of the Naam-Hoi magistrate, with its unspeakable horrors, would go the way of all our dungeons and bedlams.
But this is not all. From the prison it is only a short distance to the judgment-seat, and passing once more through the "Gate of Righteousness," we crossed a large court infested by gamblers and fortune-tellers, and presented ourselves at a porch with great figures painted on both its doors, and gay with the red insignia of mandarinism, which is the entrance to the stately residence of the Naam-Hoi magistrate, one of the subordinate dignitaries of Canton. In the porch, as might have been in that of Pilate or Herod, were a number of official palanquins, and many officials and servants of the mandarin with red-crowned hats turned up from their faces, and privates of the city guard, mean and shabby persons. One of these, for a kum-sha of course, took us, not through the closed and curtained doors, but along some passages, from which we passed through a circular brickwork tunnel to the front of the judgment seat at which all the inmates of the Naam-Hoi prison may expect sooner or later to be tried. My nerves were rather shaken with what I had seen, and I trembled as a criminal might on entering this chamber of horror.
In brief, the judgment-seat is a square hall, open at one end, with a roof supported on three columns. In the plan which I send, No. 1 is the three pillars; No. 2, the instruments of torture ranged against the wall; No. 3, four accused men wearing heavy chains, and kneeling with their foreheads one inch from the ground, but not allowed to touch it. These men are undergoing the mildest form of torture–protracted kneeling without support in one position, with coarse sand under the bare knees. No. 4 is a very old and feeble man, also kneeling, a claimant in an ancient civil suit. No. 6 indicates a motley group of notaries, servants, attendants, lictors, alas! The table (No. 5) is of dark wood, covered with a shabby red cloth. On it are keys, petitions, note-books, pens and ink, an official seal, and some small cups containing tallies, which are thrown down to indicate the number of blows which a culprit is to receive. This was all.
NAAM-HOI JUDGMENT HALL.
In a high-backed ebony arm-chair, such as might be seen in any English hall, sat the man who has the awful power of life and death in his hands. It is almost needless to say that the judge, who was on the left of the table, and who never once turned to the accused, or indeed to anyone, was the only seated person. He was a young man, with fine features, a good complexion, and a high intellectual brow, and had I seen him under other circumstances, I should have thought him decidedly prepossessing looking. He wore a black satin hat, a rich, blue brocade robe, almost concealing his blue brocade trousers, and over this a sleeved cloak of dark blue satin, lined with ermine fur. A look of singular coldness and hauteur sat permanently on his face, over which a flush of indescribable impatience sometimes passed. He is not of the people, this lordly magistrate. He is one of the privileged literati. His literary degrees are high and numerous. He has both place and power. Little risk does he run of a review of his decisions or of an appeal to the Emperor at Pekin. He spoke loud and with much rapidity and emphasis, and often beat impatiently on the floor with his foot. He used the mandarin tongue, and whether cognizant of the dialect of the prisoners or not, he put all his questions through an interpreter, who stood at his left, a handsomely dressed old man, who wore a gold chain with a dependent ivory comb, with which while he spoke he frequently combed a small and scanty gray mustache.
Notaries, attendants with scarlet-crowned hats, and a rabble of men and boys, in front of whom we placed ourselves, stood down each side. The open hall, though lofty, is shabby and extremely dirty, with an unswept broken pavement, littered at one side with potsherds, and disfigured by a number of more or less broken black pots as well as other rubbish, making it look rather like a shed in an untidy nursery garden than an imperial judgment-hall. On the pillars there are certain classical inscriptions, one of which is said to be an exhortation to mercy. Pieces of bamboo of different sizes are ranged against the south wall. These are used for the bastinado, and there were various instruments ranged against the same wall, at which I could only look fitfully and with a shudder, for they are used in "The Question by Torture," which rapid method of gaining a desired end appears to be practised on witnesses as well as criminals.
The yard, or uncovered part of this place, has a pavement in the middle, and on one side of this the most loathsome trench I ever beheld, such a one as I think could not be found in the foulest slum of the dirtiest city in Europe, not only loathsome to the eye, but emitting a stench which even on that cool day might produce vertigo, and this under the very eye of the magistrate, and not more than thirty feet from the judgment-seat.
On the other side by which we entered, and which also has an entrance direct from the prison, is a slimy, green ditch, at the back of which some guards were lounging, with a heap of felons in chains attached to heavy stones at their feet. Above, the sky was very blue, and the sun of our Father which is in heaven shone upon "the just and the unjust."
The civil case took a long time, and was adjourned, and the aged claimant was so exhausted with kneeling before the judge, that he was obliged to be assisted away by two men. Then another man knelt and presented a petition, which was taken to "avizandum." Then a guard led in by a chain a prisoner, heavily manacled, and with a heavy stone attached to his neck, who knelt with his forehead touching the ground. After some speaking, a boy who was standing dangling a number of keys came forward, and, after much ado, unlocked the rusty padlock which fastened the chain round the man's neck, and he was led away, dragging the stone after him with his hands. He had presented a formal petition for this favor, and I welcomed the granting of it as a solitary gleam of mercy, but I was informed that the mitigation of the sentence came about through bribery on the part of the man's relatives, who had to buy the good-will of four officials before the petition could reach the magistrate's hands.
More than an hour and a half had passed since we entered, and for two hours before that the four chained prisoners had been undergoing the torture of kneeling on a coarsely sanded stone in an immovable and unsupported position. I was standing so close to them that the dress of one touched my feet. I could hear their breathing, which had been heavy at first, become a series of gasps, and cool as the afternoon was, the sweat of pain fell from their brows upon the dusty floor, and they were so emaciated that, even through their clothing, I could see the outlines of their bones. There were no counsel, and no witnesses, and the judge asked but one question as he beat his foot impatiently on the floor, "Are you guilty?" They were accused of an aggravated robbery, and were told to confess, but they said that only two of them were guilty. They were then sent back to the tender mercies of the opium-smoking jailer, probably to come back again and again to undergo the severer forms of torture, till no more money can be squeezed out of their friends, when they will probably be beheaded, death being the legal penalty for robbery with aggravations.
There is no regular legal process, no jury, no one admitted to plead for the accused, and owing to the way in which accusations are made and the intimate association of trial with bribery, it is as certain that many innocent persons suffer as it is that many guilty escape. From such a system one is compelled to fall back upon the righteousness of the Judge of all the earth; and as I stood in that hideous judgment-hall beside the tortured wretches, I could not shut out of my heart a trembling hope that for these and the legion of these, a worthier than an earthly intercessor pleads before a mightier than an earthly judge.
It is not clear whether torture is actually recognized by Chinese law, but it is practised in almost every known form by all Chinese magistrates, possibly as the most expeditious mode of legal procedure which is known. It is also undoubtedly the most potent agent in securing bribes. The legal instruments of summary punishment which hang on the wall of the Naam-Hoi judgment-hall consist of three boards with proper grooves for squeezing the fingers, and the bastinado, which is inflicted with bamboos of different weights. The illegal modes of "putting the question," i.e., of extorting a confession of guilt, as commonly practised are, prolonged kneeling on coarse sand, with the brow within an inch of the ground; twisting the ears with "roughened fingers," and keeping them twisted while the prisoner kneels on chains; beating the lips to a jelly with a thick stick, the result of which was to be seen in several cases in the prison; suspending the body by the thumbs; tying the hands to a bar under the knees, so as to bend the body double during many hours; the thumb-screw; dislocating the arm or shoulder; kneeling upon pounded glass, salt and sand mixed together, till the knees are excoriated, and several others, the product of fiendish ingenuity. Severe flogging with the bamboo, rattan, cudgel, and knotted whip successively, is one of the most usual means of extorting confession; and when death results from the process, the magistrate reports that the criminal has died of sickness, and in the few cases in which there may be reason to dread investigation, the administration of a bribe to the deceased man's friends insures silence.
The cangue, if its wearers were properly fed and screened from the sun, is rather a disgrace than a cruel mode of punishment. Death is said to be inflicted for aggravated robbery, robbery with murder, highway robbery, arson, and piracy, even without the form of a trial when the culprits are caught in flagrante delicto; but though it is a frequent punishment, it is by no means absolutely certain for what crimes it is the legal penalty.
We left the judgment-seat as a fresh relay of criminals entered, two of them with faces atrocious enough for any crime, and passed out of the courtyard of the Yamun through the "Gate of Righteousness," where the prisoners, attached to heavy stones, were dragging and clanking their chains, or lying in the shade full of sores, and though the red sunset light was transfiguring all things, the glory had faded from Canton and the air seemed heavy with a curse.
ALTHOUGH I went to the execution ground two days before my visit to the prison, the account of it belongs to this place. Passing through the fruit-market, the "Covent Garden" of Canton, where now and in their stated seasons are exposed for sale, singly and in fragrant heaps, among countless other varieties of fruits, the orange, pommeloe, apple, citron, banana, rose-apple, pine-apple, custard-apple, pear, quince, guava, carambola, persimmon, loquat, pomegranate, grape, water-melon, musk-melon, peach, apricot, plum, mango, mulberry, date, cocoa-nut, olive, walnut, chestnut, lichi, and papaya, through the unsavory precincts of the "salt-fish market," and along a street the specialty of which is the manufacture from palm leaves of very serviceable rain cloaks, we arrived at the Ma T'au, a cul de sac resembling in shape, as its name imports, a horse's head, with the broad end opening on the street. This "field of blood," which counts its slain by tens of thousands, is also a "potter's field," and is occupied throughout its whole length by the large earthen pots which the Chinese use instead of tubs, either in process of manufacture or drying in the sun. This Ma T'au, the place of execution, on which more than one hundred heads at times fall in a morning, is simply a pottery yard, and at the hours when space is required for the executioner's purposes more or fewer pots are cleared out of the way, according to the number of the condemned. The spectacle is open to the street and to all passers-by. Against the south wall are five crosses, which are used for the crucifixion of malefactors. At the base of the east wall are four large earthenware vessels full of quicklime, into which heads which are afterward to be exposed on poles are cast, until the flesh has been destroyed. From this bald sketch it may be surmised that few accessories of solemnity or even propriety consecrate the last tragedy of justice.
In some cases criminals are brought directly from the judgment-seat to the execution ground on receiving sentence, but as a rule the condemned persons remain in prison ignorant of the date of their doom, till an official, carrying a square board with the names of those who are to die that day pasted upon it, enters and reads the names of the doomed. Each man on answering is made to sit in something like a dust-basket, in which he is borne through the gate of the inner prison, at which he is interrogated and his identity ascertained by an official, who represents the Viceroy or Governor, into the courtyard of the Yamun, where he is pinioned. At this stage it is usual for the friends of the criminal, or the turnkeys in their absence, to give him "auspicious" food, chiefly fat pork and Saam-su, an intoxicating wine. Pieces of betel-nut, the stimulating qualities of which are well known, are invariably given. These delays being over, the criminal is carried into the presence of the judge, who sits not in the judgment-hall but in the porch of the inner gateway of his Yamun. On the prisoner giving his name, a superscription bearing it, and proclaiming his crime and the manner of his death, is tied to a slip of bamboo and bound to his head. A small wooden ticket, also bearing his name and that of the prison from which he is taken to execution, is tied to the back of his neck.
Then the procession starts, the criminals, of whom there are usually several, being carried in open baskets in the following order:–Some spearmen, the malefactors, a few soldiers, a chair of state, bearing the ruler of the Naam-Hoi county, attended by equerries; and another chair of state, in which is seated the official who, after all is over, pays worship to the five protecting genii of Canton, a small temple to whom stands close to the potter's field, and who have power to restrain those feelings of revenge and violence which the spirits of the decapitated persons may be supposed hereafter to cherish against all who were instrumental in their decapitation. Last of all follows a herald on horseback, carrying a yellow banner inscribed "By Imperial Decree," an indispensable adjunct on such occasions, as without it the county ruler would not be justified in commanding the executioner to give the death stroke. This ruler or his deputy sits at a table covered with a red cloth, and on being told that all the preliminaries have been complied with, gives the word for execution. The criminals, who have been unceremoniously pitched out of the dust baskets into the mud or gore or dust of the execution ground, kneel down in a row or rows, and the executioner with a scimitar strikes off head after head, each with a single stroke, an assistant attending to hand him a fresh sword as soon as the first becomes blunt. It is said that Chinese criminals usually meet their doom with extreme apathy, but occasionally they yield to extreme terror, and howl at the top of their voices, "Save life! Save life!" As soon as the heads have fallen, some coolies of a pariah class take up the trunks and put them into wooden shells, in which they are eventually buried in a cemetery outside one of the city gates, called "The trench for the bones of ten thousand men." It is not an uncommon thing, under ordinary circumstances, for fifteen, twenty, or thirty-five wretches to suffer the penalty of death in this spot; and this number swells to very large dimensions at a jail delivery, or during a rebellion, or when the crews of pirates are captured in the act of piracy. My friend Mr. Bulkeley Johnson, of Shanghai, saw one hundred heads fall in one morning.
Mr. Henry says that the reason that most of the criminals meet death with such stoicism or indifference is, that they have been worn down previously by starvation and torture. Some are stupefied with Saam-su. It is possible in some cases for a criminal who is fortunate enough to have rich relations to procure a substitute; a coolie sells himself to death in such a man's stead for a hundred dollars, and for a week before his surrender indulges in every kind of expensive debauchery, and when the day of doom arrives is so completely stupefied by wine and opium, as to know nothing of the terror of death.
We had not gone far into this aceldema when we came to a space cleared from pots, and to a great pool of blood and dust mingled, blackening in the sun, then another and another, till there were five of them almost close together, with splashes of blood upon the adjacent pots, and blood trodden into the thirsty ground. Against the wall opposite, a rudely constructed cross was resting, dark here and there with patches of blood. Among the rubbish at the base of the wall there were some human fragments partly covered with matting; a little farther some jaw-bones with the teeth in them, then four more crosses, and some human heads lying at the foot of the wall, from which it was evident that dogs had partially gnawed off the matting in which they had been tied up. The dead stare of one human eye amidst the heap haunts me still. A blood-splashed wooden ticket, with a human name on one side and that of the Naam-Hoi prison on the other, was lying near one of the pools of blood, and I picked it up as a memento, as the stroke which had severed its string had also severed at the same time the culprit's neck. The place was ghastly and smelt of blood.
The strangest and most thrilling sight of all was the cross in this unholy spot, not a symbol of victory and hope, but of the lowest infamy and degradation, of the vilest death which the vilest men can die. Nor was it the solid, lofty structure, fifteen or twenty feet high, which art has been glorifying for a thousand years, but a rude gibbet of unplaned wood, roughly nailed together, barely eight feet high, and not too heavy for a strong man to carry on his shoulders. Most likely it was such a cross, elevated but little above the heads of the howling mob of Jerusalem, which Paul had in view when he wrote of Him who hung upon it, "But made Himself obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." To these gibbets infamous criminals, whose crimes are regarded as deserving of a lingering death, are tightly bound with cords, and are then slowly hacked to pieces with sharp knives, unless the friends of the culprit are rich enough to bribe the executioner to terminate the death agony early by stabbing a vital part.
These facts do not require to be dressed out with words. They are most effective when most baldly stated. I left the execution ground as I left the prison–with the prayer, which has gained a new significance, "For all prisoners and captives we beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord;" but though our hands are nationally clean now as regards the administration of justice and the treatment of criminals, we need not hold them up in holy horror as if the Chinese were guilty above all other men, for the framers of the Litany were familiar with dungeons perhaps worse than the prison of the Naam-Hoi magistrate, and with forms of torture which spared not even women, and the judges' and jailers' palms were intimate with the gold of accused persons. It is simply that heathenism in Canton is practising at this day what Christianity in Europe looked upon with indifference for centuries.
I. L. B.
HONG KONG, January 10.
THE year seems already getting old and frowzy. Under these blue skies, and with all the doors and windows open, I should think it midsummer if I did not look at the calendar. Oh, how I like blue, sunny skies, instead of gray and grim ones, and blazing colors instead of the dismal grays and browns of our nondescript winters!
I left Canton by the Kin-Kiang on Monday, with two thousand Chinese passengers and two Portuguese missionary priests, the latter wearing Chinese costume, and so completely got up as Chinamen that had they not spoken Portuguese their features would not have been sufficient to undeceive me. They were noble-looking men, and bore upon their faces the stamp of consecration to a noble work. On the other steamer, the Tchang, instead of a man with revolvers and a cutlass keeping guard over the steerage grating, a large hose pipe is laid on to each hatchway, through which, in case of need, boiling water can be sent under strong pressure. Just as we landed here, about five hundred large fishes were passed through a circular net from a well in the steamer into a well in a fishing boat, to which all the fishmongers in Hong Kong immediately resorted.
(I pass over the hospitalities and festivities of Hong Kong, and an afternoon with the Governor in the Victoria Prison, to an interesting visit paid with Mr., now Sir J. Pope Hennessey to the Chinese Hospital.)
We started from Government House, with the Governor, in a chair with six scarlet bearers, attended by some Sikh orderlies in scarlet turbans, for a "State Visit" to the Tung-Wah Hospital, a purely Chinese institution, built some years ago by Chinese merchants, and supported by them at an annual cost of $16,000. In it nothing European, either in the way of drugs or treatment, is tried. There is a dispensary connected with it, where advice is daily given to about a hundred and twenty people; and, though lunacy is rare in China, they are building a lunatic asylum at the back of the hospital.
The Tung-Wah hospital consists of several two-storied buildings of granite, with large windows on each side, and a lofty central building which contains the directors' hall, the accommodation for six resident physicians, and the business offices. The whole is surrounded by a well-kept garden, bounded by a very high wall. We entered by the grand entrance, which has a flagged pavement, each flag consisting of a slab of granite twelve feet long by three broad, and were received at the foot of the grand staircase by the directors and their chairman, the six resident doctors, and Mr. Ng Choy, a rising Chinese barrister, educated at Lincoln's Inn, who interpreted for us in admirable English. He is the man who goes between the Governor and the Chinese community, and is believed to have more influence with the Governor on all questions which concern Chinamen than anybody else. These gentlemen all wore rich and beautiful dresses of thick ribbed silk and figured brocade, and, unless they were much padded and wadded, they had all attained to a remarkable embonpoint.
The hall in which the directors meet is lofty and very handsome, the roof being supported on massive pillars. One side is open to the garden. It has a superb ebony table in the middle, with a chair massive enough for a throne for the chairman, and six grand, carved ebony chairs on either side.
Our procession consisted of the chairman and the twelve directors, the six stout middle-aged doctors, Mr. Ng Choy, the Governor, the Bishop of Victoria, and myself; but the patients regarded the unwonted spectacle with extreme apathy.
The wards hold twenty each, and are divided into wooden stalls, each stall containing two beds. Partitions seven feet high run down the centre. The beds are matted wooden platforms, and the bedding white futons or wadded quilts, which are washed once a week. The pillows are of wood or bamboo. Each bed has a shelf above it, with a teapot upon it in a thickly wadded basket, which keeps the contents hot all day, the infusion being, of course, poured off the leaves. A ticket, with the patient's name upon it, and the hours at which he is to take his medicine, hangs above each person.
No amputations are performed, but there are a good many other operations, such as the removal of cancers, tumors, etc. The doctors were quite willing to answer questions, within certain limits; but when I asked them about the composition and properties of their drugs they became reticent at once and said that they were secrets. They do not use chloroform in operations, but they all asserted, and their assertions were corroborated by Mr. Ng Choy, that they possess drugs which throw their patients into a profound sleep, during which the most severe operations can be painlessly performed. They asserted further that such patients awake an hour or two afterward quite cheerful, and with neither headache nor vomiting! One of them showed me a bottle containing a dark brown powder which, he said, produced this result, but he would not divulge the name of one of its constituents, saying that it is a secret taught him by his tutor, and that there are several formulas. It has a pungent and slightly aromatic taste.
The surgery and medicine are totally uninfluenced by European science, and are of the most antiquated and barbaric description. There was a woman who had had a cancer removed, and the awful wound, which was uncovered for my inspection, was dressed with musk, lard, and ambergris, with a piece of oiled paper over all. There was also exhibited to us a foot which had been pierced by a bamboo splinter. Violent inflammation had extended up to the knee, and the wound, and the swollen, blackened limb were being treated with musk and tiger's fat. A man with gangrened feet, nearly dropping off, had them rolled up in dark-colored paste, of which musk and oil were two ingredients. All the wounds were deplorably dirty, and no process of cleaning them exists in this system of surgery.
The Governor and Bishop were not allowed to go into the women's ward. It looked very clean and comfortable, but a woman in the last death-agony was unattended. They never bleed, or leech, or blister, or apply any counter-irritants in cases of inflammation. They give powdered rhinoceros' horns, sun-dried tiger's blood, powdered tiger's liver, spiders' eyes, and many other queer things, and for a tonic and febrifuge, where we should use quinine, they rely mainly on the ginseng (Panax quinquefolia?) of which I saw so much in Japan. They judge much by the pulse and tongue. The mortality in this hospital is very large, not only from the nature of the treatment, but because Chinamen who have no friends in Victoria go there when they are dying, in order to secure that their bodies shall be sent to their relations at a distance. There were fifteen sick and shipwrecked junkmen there, covered with sores, who looked very far down in the scale of humanity.
After going through the wards I went into the laboratory, where six men were engaged in preparing drugs, then to the "chemical kitchen," where a hundred and fifty earthen pipkins on a hundred and fifty earthen furnaces were being used in cooking medicines under the superintendence of eight cooks in spotless white clothing; then to the kitchen, which is large and clean; then alone into the dead-house, which no Chinese will enter except an unclean class of pariahs, who perform the last offices for the departed and dress the corpses for burial. This gloomy receptacle is also clean.
Great attention is paid to cleanliness and ventilation. Dry earth is used as a deodorizer, but if there be a bad odor they burn sandal-wood. They don't adopt any disinfectants; indeed, they don't appear to know their use. The patients all lie with their backs to the light, and there is a space five feet wide between the beds and the windows. All the windows were open both at the top and bottom, so as to create a complete current of air, and the airiness and freedom from smells and closeness were quite remarkable, considering the state in which the wounds are, which is worse than I dare attempt to describe. The hospital is conducted on strictly "temperance principles," i.e., no alcoholic stimulants are given, which is not remarkable, considering how little comparatively they are used in China, and with what moderation on the whole by those who use them. There were seventy-five patients in the wards yesterday, and the cases were mostly either serious originally, or have been made so by the treatment. There are one hundred and twenty beds. There is much to admire in this hospital,–the humane arrangements, the obvious comfort of the patients, and the admirable ventilation and perfect cleanliness of the beds and wards, but the system adopted is one of the most antiquated quackery, and when I think of the unspeakably horrible state of the wounds, the mortifying limbs, and the gangrened feet ready to drop off, I almost question Governor Hennessey's wisdom in stamping the hospital with his approval on his "State Visit."
The Governor and I were received in the boardroom after our two hours' inspection, where we were joined by Mrs. Hennessey, and entertained by the directors at what might be called "afternoon tea." But when is the Chinaman not drinking tea? A monstrous plateau of the preserved and candied fruits, in the making of which the Chinese ladies excel, had been placed upon the ebony table, and when we were seated in the stately ebony chairs on the chairman's right, with the yellow, shining-faced, wadded or corpulent directors opposite to us, excellent tea with an unusual flavor was brought in, and served in cups of antique green dragon china. The Governor made kindly remarks on the hospital, which fluent Mr. Ng Choy doubtless rendered into the most fulsome flattery; the chairman complimented the Governor, and unlimited "soft sawder," in Oriental fashion, passed all round.
It is proper in China on such an occasion to raise the tea-cup with both the hands to a good height and bow to each person, naming at the same time the character so continually seen on tea-cups and saké bottles,–Happiness,–which is understood to be a wish for happiness in this formula, "May your happiness be as the Eastern Sea;" but the wish may also mean "May you have many sons." It is strange that these Chinamen, who showed all fitting courtesy to Mrs. Hennessey and me, would only have spoken of their wives apologetically as "the mean ones within the gates!" It was a charming Oriental sight, the grand, open-fronted room with its stone floor and many pillars, the superbly dressed directors and their blue-robed attendants, and the immense costumed crowd outside the gate in the sunshine, kept back by crimson-turbaned Sikh orderlies.
If civilization were to my taste, I should linger in Victoria for the sake of its beauty, its stirring life, its costume and color, its perfect winter climate, its hospitalities, its many charming residents, and for various other reasons, and know nothing of its feuds in state, church, and society. But I am a savage at heart, and weary for the wilds first, and then for the beloved little home on the wooded edge of the moorland above the Northern Sea, which gleams like a guiding star, even through the maze of sunshine and color of this fascinating Eastern world. To-day I lunched at (acting) Chief Justice Snowden's, and he urges me to go to Malacca on my way home. I had never dreamed of the "Golden Chersonese;" but I am much inspired by his descriptions of the neighborhood of the Equator, and as he has lent me Newbold's Malacca for the voyage, and has given me letters to the Governor and Colonial Secretary of the Straits Settlements, you will next hear from me from Singapore!
I. L. B.
* This word is recognized as a corruption by Portuguese and British tongues of the Arabic word musim, "season."
* Mr. Newbold is ordinarily so careful and accurate that it is almost presumptuous to hint that in this particular case he may not have been able to verify the statements of the natives by actual observation.
* I was so fortunate as to see two adult male Jakuns and one female, but my information respecting them is derived chiefly from Mr. Syers, Superintendent of Police in Selângor, and from Mr. Maxwell, the Assistant-Resident in Pêrak.
* These eyes are really charms, but the above is the explanation given to "griffins."
* I cannot forbear adding a note on the extent of Mr. Henry's work in 1881. He preached 190 times in Chinese, and five times in English; held fifty-two Bible-class meetings, and thirteen communion services; baptized forty-five adults and eight children; traveled on mission work by boat 2,540 miles, by chair, eighty miles, and on foot, 670 miles; visited 280 different towns and villages, and distributed 14,000 books, receiving assistance in the latter work only on one short journey. His life is a happy combination of American energy and Christian zeal.
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