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w 58 A TEA PLANTATION
Macao is the see of a Roman Catholic bishop, who has under him nearly a hundred officiating priests. The papists have two schools, one for boys and another for girls, containing about a hundred of each sex. Twenty-four of the boys, we are informed, are educating for missionaries in China, some of whom are natives of that empire. It is remarkable that the Portuguese should still maintain their ground at Pekin, and be able to supply vacancies from hence, while Christians of every other nation are said to be excluded.
Oct. 25. In the afternoon, Mr. Daniel, to whom we have been indebted for much kind attention, accompanied us across the harbor to the small island of Lapas. This, like Macao, is a mass of rugged granite, intersected or spotted with stripes and patches of verdure and fertility. Our object was to visit a tea-plantation, nearly at the summit of one of the highest eminences, about two miles inland. We found a dozen or fourteen plants, growing upon a narrow platform, cut along the side of a sandy hill—such a soil, in a dry situation, it is understood, being most favorable to the cultivation of tea. The shrubs were set about eight feet from each other; they were the size of an ordinary black currant-bush, and more resembled that than any other in England. These specimens, however, did not seem to be in healthy condition. On the same plant might be found leaves, blossoms, and berries, but all of a puny appearance. In the evening we returned.
The pearl oyster-shell (a peculiarly flat, thin kind, brought from Bombay) is used here, more frequently than glass, in common houses. Pieces, about three inches square, are cut out of the middle of the shell, and, the rough coating being removed, these are let in between two laths, each pane (for so it may be called) lapping a little over the top of the lower one, like sky-lights or hot-house glasses in England. Though not transparent, the windows thus constructed are strong; durable, and cheap, and they admit sufficient light for those who need but little. The lattices are placed sometimes perpendicularly, sometimes obliquely, in the frame, and, being painted green, have rather a neat appearance.
Deputation sail to Canton—Chinese Dramatic Exhibition—Music— Deputation visit the Governor—Description of the Suburbs of Canton —Hong Merchants—City Wall—Trades and Shops—Cracker-cages —Beggars—A Tea-house—Population of Canton—British Factory— Edible Birds' Nests—Bad Food of the Poor—Chop-sticks—Idol-worship—Ancient Temple—Sacred Swine—A Hong Merchant—Wampooa—The Three Forts—Contrivances on the River—Magnificent Entertainment—A Chinese Bride.
Nov. 2. WE embarked on board a Chinese chop-boat for Canton. The vessel was about sixty feet long, with an airy, comfortable cabin in midships; forward of which was another inferior cabin for the crew. At setting out, a series of fantastic ceremonies were observed, like those which we witnessed of the devotee, in the pagoda, the other day. A tray loaded with provisions, lighted lanterns, sticks of burning incense, discharges of crackers, the deafening din of gongs, and the thumping of dull drums, were the ingredients of this idolatrous rite, which was to render some god, whose name we could not learn, propitious, and thereby secure a good voyage.
Nov. 5. We reached Canton this morning. The country, on each flank of the river, is exceedingly beautiful, fertile, and populous. The lands are cultivated close to the channel of the stream, from which numerous lateral canals are cut, for the purpose of irrigation. Rice, sugar-canes, bananas, &c. seemed to be the principal products. Many of the hills are crowned with pagodas, consisting of seven or eight stories, octagonally formed, having arched windows, and the whole structure exactly proportioned. Frequent villages were seen; and our course led us through two large towns, each being built along both margins of the river. The river itself was peopled in these places, not only by the crews and passengers of vessels passing to and fro, on business or pleasure, but multitudes of boats, moored side by side, alongshore, were the regular abodes of families; and these were so busily occupied, that the population on the water appeared to rival that on the land.
The river at Canton is about three-quarters of a mile in breadth, on the bank of which, where we disembarked, stands the Foreign Factory, consisting of a long range of substan
60 CHINESE DRAMATIC ExhibiTION.
tial buildings, painted white or blue in front, and bearing, on different parts, the British, American, and Portuguese flags. Mr. Davis, a young gentleman of great respectability, and who is well acquainted with the Chinese language, made us welcome in this strange place. In the course of the day we got our luggage on shore, and established our quarters at an hotel kept by an American, in the line of the factory-buildIngs. The first spectacle that detained us, in walking out, was entirely novel. A crowd of people had been assembled to witness the performance of a Chinese drama, of so heterogeneous a cast that it comprised all the elements of tragedy, comedy, farce, opera, and pantomime. The stage was placed across the street, being about three yards square, and two above the ground. The scenery and furniture consisted of a large skreen, a table, and two chairs, gaudily decorated with yellow silk. On either side there was a door for entrances and exits. The entertainment was open, and without cost, to every body who chose to waste time at it, in broad daylight; and multitudes were gazing with stupid or lively, enraptured or horrified, interest upon the silly or mad pranks of the actors. These were all men, though two appeared in female characters; there must have been five and twenty, or thirty, of them, so thronged and tumultuous, at times, was the stage, as well as gorgeous and glistening with tinsel, gold-trimmings, and silk robes, in the most fanciful costume of this fanciful people. The performance consisted of recitals, conversations, songs, battles, murders, resurrections from the dead, tumbling, kicking, screaming, scolding, boxing, brawling, laughing, crying—all that man, in folly or in frenzy, can do or suffer, most absurdly and extravagantly represented. The nimbleness, dexterity, strength, and self-management of the performers, were surprising, in the changes and chances of all kinds of calamities to which they were every moment exposed. Those who personated the women played the men most valiantly. The chief heroine fought a whole army at once, knocking down one, falling upon another, tripping up the heels of a third, and finally clearing the field of them all. The exhibition was outrageously ludicrous, and altogether different, in violent personal exertion, from any thing that we had hitherto seen in hot climates, and such as we should previously have imagined could not be endured. The Chinese music is either contemptible, puerile, or horribly bar
CHINESE SHOPS. 61
barian. , Behind the stage a fellow was employed in beating a stick, laid across his knees, with two others in his hand. A second made a miserable jingle with a pair of harsh cymbals. A third was scraping as much dissonance as he could out of a two-stringed fiddle. Occasionally was heard a flourish of invisible trumpets, in sound resembling those which children buy at country fairs: but, above all, an ill-toned gong, from within the inclosure, made the ear tingle, and the blood run chill, with its terrible vibrations. The din of this instrument is absolutely excruciating to unaccustomed nerves. Nov. 6. We dined, by invitation, with sir James Urmston, the governor. Many gentlemen of the factory were at table, from whom, as well as from his Excellency, we received the most polite attentions. But the absence of Dr. Morrison is felt by us to be a great drawback from the satisfaction which we derive from civilities and acts of kindness, shown us by official or mercantile gentlemen, with whom we cannot confidentially consult on the main objects of our mission in these remote regions. Here, indeed, a language is spoken into which the Scriptures have been translated; but, whatever partial effects may have been produced, we do not find any public signs of evangelization among the people. Nov. 7. We walked through the greater part of this remarkable city—that is, through the suburbs of Canton, for these, though very populous and extensive, are the only unforbidden ground, in the immense empire of China, to foreigners—Canton itself being walled and guarded as jealously, from their intrusion, as though it were the capital of the celestial empire. The streets in this quarter are very narrow, rarely exceeding seven feet in breadth, while the lanes are little more than four. These are generally paved with hewn granite. Every house is a shop or store, open on the whole width of the front, which is seldom more than twelve feet; but the premises are frequently two or three rooms deep. The roof is flat and galleried round. Many of these shops are richly and abundantly furnished with all kinds of commodities, in demand, which are displayed in the best manner. We entered several of the warehouses of Hong merchants, which are of prodigious extent—many of them being little less than a quarter of a mile from end to end, though not more than twenty-five or thirty feet wide. They are generally built in long lines, terminating at the river, for the convenience of importing or shipping off their goods. The WOL. III. 6
62 SUBURBS OF CANTON.
business done in these repositories is immense, and the transit of stock very quick. One day there may be thousands of chests of tea, and the next thousands of bales of cotton, or packages of different articles. These Hong merchants have the whole trade with foreigners in their hands, and, being few in number, are supposed to be exceedingly wealthy. Coming to one of the seven gates of the inclosed city of Canton, we were not allowed to enter, of course, at the peril of a severe bambooing; but, looking through into the place, the character of the streets, buildings, &c. seemed much the
same as those in the suburbs. These gates are very old, and ,
somewhat the worse for wear. At one of them we calculated
a day. Each beggar is confined to his appointed walk, .
within a certain district, beyond which he dare not trespass; and to every district a fair proportion of the whole mendicant fraternity is assigned. A certain provision is