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POPULATION OF MACAO. 53
in the centre, on which vegetables (principally rice) are cultivated with the utmost care by Chinese husbandmen. There are a few clumps of trees on this spot, but its general aspect is that of incorrigible sterility. The summits of the hills are crowned either with Portuguese churches, or with forts. A little earth may here and there be traced among the crevices of the granite strata, by the miserable phenomenon of short starved grass, struggling here and there for existence, in obedience to a law of nature which compels life, in one form or another, to come forth, wherever there is the possibility of it being in any manner maintained. As there are no carriage-roads, those who do not walk must either be conveyed in sedans, or ride on horseback; and paths for the convenience of the latter have been made in every direction, over the uneven rock, where beasts of burthen can travel. On the Macao side of the barrier-wall and isthmus, stands a sumptuous Chinese pagoda, consisting of several compartments. In each of these are idols of many barbarous models, before some of which incense is continually burning. In one of these sanctuaries, an urn, containing warm tea, is placed
on a table, with two saucers, for the use of passengers, and
every one that chooses may turn in, to drink, from the foot-path near which this temple for worship and refreshment has been built. Many smaller temples, some not larger than an old English arm-chair, appear by the way-sides; all having their images, their incense, and their devotees.
A prodigious population, of Europeans (principally Portuguese) and Chinese, is crowded within the prison-bounds (for such they may be called) of this city. According to a census, taken three years ago, the former reached five, and the latter forty, thousand. Here are thirteen Roman Catholic places of worship, and one English chapel. The foreigners and natives live on good terms together, each being governed by their own laws, and amenable to their respective authorities. The English reside by the sufferance of the Portuguese, and both are only tolerated by the Chinese, who claim the territorial right of the soil, but allow the strangers to occupy their district as tenants-at-will ! . The climate is said to be very healthful, though extremes of cold and heat are occasionally experienced in the course of the same day, the thermometer varying between 84° and the freezing point. Ice is sometimes formed the thickness of a dollar. Yet there is not, we are told, a house to be found with a fire-place in it.
5 + . . ;
The prospect from the church-hill, on the west of the town—the harbor, with a thousand ships, prakus, and boats, Chinese and European, the seas beyond, and numerous islands—is very gay and attractive. In the distance, across the peninsula of separation (which the eye may pass, though the foot may not), we could perceive many Chinese temples, towns, villages, rice-grounds, gardens, and orchards, occupying the low and level lands. Above these many naked rocks raised their cragged precipices, like skeletons of hills, once clothed with soil and verdure, which devastating storms, and the slow decay of atmospheric influence, had, in the lapse of ages, wholly worn or washed away, and left nothing but their fossil rudiments behind.
Oct. 18. At a famous Chinese pagoda, situated among granite rocks, on the sea-shore, and consisting of various attached temples, with places for offerings, all in the gaudiest style of nationally fantastic architecture, we met a mandarin of high rank coming to worship, with a large train of attendants. We were not allowed to follow him into the shrine, whither he went to prostrate his magnificence before a deaf, dumb, blind, lame, dead stock, which a man who durst not have looked him in the face, had they met by the way, may have carved out of a piece of wood, and, when he had finished his work, gathered up the chips and made a fire with them to boil his paddy-pot! But we had an opportunity of witnessing the antic rites exhibited by another personage, of no mean rank, at the same temple. Immediately upon his arrival he put a white robe over all his other clothing. While he was doing this, a man brought a large wooden tray, on which were laid two ribs of fat pork, a boiled fowl, and a baked fish. These were placed upon an altar-table before the idol, together with a tea-pot and five porcelain cups. The worshipper first poured water out of the pot into each of the cups. He then produced a bundle of incense sticks, rolled in sacred papers, which having reverentially lighted, he fixed them, one by one—there might be thirty in all—before the idol, on either hand of it, and in various niches both within and on the outside of the building; at each act making certain grotesque, but grave, gesticulations, as though an invisible divinity dwelt in every hole and crevice where he could stick a splinter of sandal-wood. After this preparation, he went and kneeled down in front of the altar where the provisions had been deposited. A servant on each side of
CAVE OF CAMOENS. 55
him did the same; and all three repeatedly bowed their bodies till they touched the ground with their foreheads. This part of the service was accompanied by three loud strokes upon a bell without, and as many upon a great drum within, by a boy in attendance. Some sacred scrolls of paper, which had been carefully counted, and put into a kind of fire-place on the outside of the temple, were now set in flames, by a scroll of the same hallowed character, which was lighted at one of the incense-sticks. Finally a parcel of small crackers was opened, and the train of them suspended before a hole in the wall, at the back of the fire-place. One of these, being ignited, communicated with the next to it, and on went the blaze, the fume, and the explosion, till the whole had been dissipated, and left nothing but the stench behind. Here ended the ceremony. The water was poured back from the little cups into the tea-pot, the tray and its savory contents were carried away again. We were informed that the spirit of the god had regaled itself on the spirit of the food, and the latter, not being a whit the worse for wear, was taken home by the devout owner for his own use. This is genuine Chinese thrift. All the while a company of gamblers were seated on the floor, within the same sanctuary, playing at cards with quite as much devotion as the idolater and his menials were playing at religion. Better employed than either party were a few lads, in the joy of youth, romping and racketing at their own more commendable, and not less intellectual, pastimes; though our presence somewhat interrupted the indulgence of their mirth, that they might amuse their curiosity with looking at the strangers, and wondering—if even a Chinese child can wonder, born and brought up as they are in dogged indifference to every thing not Chinese—wondering, we say, what two outlandish fellows could be doing there, who were neither gambling nor worshipping, nor playing, like themselves. Oct. 19. Having heard much of a cave here which bears the name of Camoens, the Portuguese Homer, we visited it this morning. The gentleman's grounds in which it is situated are curiously and tastefully laid out. The soil, which is covered with fertility in every form of tree, and plant, and flower, blooming into beauty, or expanding into luxuriance, runs, in irregular lines and breadths, between the masses of bare granite which emboss the surface of the earth, and in some places are piled fearfully, but firmly, one upon another,
56 . cAMoENs's ADVENTURES IN THE EAST.
beyond the art or strength of man to have accomplished, yet all to the eye that art could desire for the adornment of the place. From various points, the peninsula, the town, the shipping, and the harbor, south-westward, are seen in a diversity of agreeable aspects. On the south side of this Oriental elysium, overshadowed with stately trees, is the cave of the poet, which is formed by two vast rocks, standing four feet apart, and roofed with a third enormous mass, transversely laid. Between and underneath there is a passage, open at either end, but closed with a column and arch of masonry at the further extremity. In a coved recess, upon a rough pilaster against the side of the rock, is a bust of him whose name, having been given to the cavern, needed not to be inscribed under the sculptured memorial of his features. These are sufficiently recognised when it is remembered that
“Here, nobly pensive, CAMoENs sat and thought.”
And what he thought here, three centuries ago, he has left the world to think upon so long as the language of his country shall be spoken or understood. At Macao, Camoens held the singular office of commissary of the estates of the defunct on the island. During the five years of his residence here, he wrote a great portion of his Lusiad, in which he celebrated the glory of his countrymen, who, under Vasco de Gama, discovered the south-east passage to India, by doubling the cape of Good Hope. Here, too, in his almost poetical occupation of standing between the dead and the living, that jus
'tice might be done to both, he acquired a fortune, which, though small, was equal to his wishes. Unfortunately, however, on attempting to return to continental India in a vessel freighted by himself, he suffered shipwreck in the gulf of Mecon, on the coast of Cochin China, and there lost all that he had, except his life and his poem. The manuscript of the latter he held in one hand, while he fought his way through the waves with the other. Being cast friendless and fortuneless on an unknown coast, he was nevertheless humanely received, and hospitably treated, by the natives, among whom he remained a considerable time before an opportunity occurred for him to re-embark for Goa, the metropolis of Portuguese India. This kindness of his semi-barbarian friends he has gratefully and gloriously celebrated in the tenth book of the Lusiad; and among them he composed a
CHINESE WOMEN AND THEIR FEET. 57
pathetic paraphrase of the 137th psalm; “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down; yea, we wept when we remembered Zion,” &c.—Upon the rock over the cave of Camoens, which we have described, an elegant summer-house has been erected, of an hexagonal form, and commanding beautiful views from the different sides, especially towards the barrier-gate, which separates the China in miniature on one part of the island, and the Portugal in miniature on the other. On our return we passed by the ruins of an ancient nunnery, once of great extent, but the whole of which was accidentally destroyed by fire, two years ago, neither chapel nor cell being spared in the unexpected conflagration. We were not permitted to violate the sacred ground within the exterior walls with our Protestant feet; but we could not help remarking how the multitude of iron gratings (many of which were collected in rusty heaps, and others yet filled their respective places) indicated that no attention had been spared which could be necessary either to keep in or to keep out. At the time of the calamity there were few nuns in the establishment; and it must soon have died a natural death, with the last of its inmates, no young persons having been permitted to join the sisterhood for several years previously. One person lost her life in the flames; the rest, about forty, were rescued, and now reside together in a far humbler habitation. We are pained, in walking the streets of this town, to see the crippled condition of the Chinese women of the higher order, whose feet have been so stunted and cramped in their growth as to be reduced to mere clubs. The monstrous fashion of their country makes its victims vain of this deformity; the effect of which they artificially exaggerate to the eye by making the soles of their shoes (the outside of which are white, and the heels raised) so short that the heel projects two inches backward beyond the shoe, while, forward, the foot terminates in an abrupt stump. And, to make this outrage on nature more flagrant, their shoes are lavishly ornamented. The gait of these females is any thing but graceful, though it must be confessed that a Chinese lady might be as certainly known by her step as the Venus of Virgil. The difficulty and misery of walking are much increased to them by the uneven pavements, and many are obliged to avail themselves of the aid of an umbrella to support their decrepitude as they totter and hobble along.