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68 A HONG MERCHANT.
by the worms, are deposited in separate graves round about
THE THREE FORTS. 69
that vessel, intending to take a passage in her to Singapore. She is about a thousand tons burthen, and has excellent accommodations. Wampoa is fifteen miles below Canton, where English and other foreign ships are accustomed to anchor, but above which none are allowed to go. We passed innumerable boats, barges, junks, and vessels of all kinds, on the river, and, among others, a Chinese fleet, of between thirty and forty men of war, lying off the dock, at Honam Island. At a little distance from that station are several streets of boats, inhabited by women of loose manners, who, not being permitted on shore, or in the city, are here tolerated, if not protected, by government. These water-dwellings are decorated as gayly as the occupants can afford, with painting, sculpture, gilding, flowers, lanterns, and other ornamentS. We observed three forts by the way. The first bears the name of Dutch Folly, built on a small island, under false pretences; but some cannon being landed betrayed the secret of the adventurers, who were immediately dispossessed of their new territory. A second fort is called French Folly, for some reason, as wise, no doubt, as that which stigmatized the former, though we have not learnt what it was. The third is a Chinese fort, at the confluence of two rivers. Each of these streams may be the breadth of the Thames below the metropolis, and the low lands on their margin appear to be rich and highly cultivated. The soil is principally alluvial, having been gained from the water, and liable to be overflowed by the occasional high tides. Along the banks are ingenious contrivances, of great extent, for catching fish. Stakes being driven into the ground, bags are suspended between them, into which the fishes are drawn by the flowing, and left by the ebbing, tide. But what struck us as most singular, or rather most amusing, was a duck-boat. The size was considerable, with wide outside accommodations for the ducks. Of these we saw hundreds, swimming on the river, picking their feathers on the banks, or busily gobbling in the rice-fields adjacent. The birds are so trained that, at the whistle of their keeper, they all hasten home from their feeding or resting places, half on foot and half on wing, till they reach a board laid upon the water, along which they waddle, as orderly as soldiers of the line, into the boat. They are kept for their eggs, and to supply the Canton market. Another boat
70 MAGNIFICENT ENTERTAINMENT.
attracted our attention—a small, low one, painted white; about which the fishes, being frightened by the agitation of the waters, and not understanding trap, or probably not dis
tinguishing the snare by reason of its light coloring, leap into
it, and are thus caught in considerable numbers. Nov. 26. In company with several gentlemen of the factory, we dined with Houqua, an eminent Hong merchant, at his house on the other side of the water. He lives in Chinese magnificence, and the entertainment was of the most sumptuous kind. The whole house and premises were brilliantly illuminated with lamps. The decorations of the rooms, and the style of the furniture, were splendid and curious, but absolutely indescribable, otherwise than in the general terms—that every thing was according to the perfection of Chinese taste. The dinner, which lasted nearly four hours, consisted of between thirty and forty courses, including all the luxuries of the clime and the season, served upon China table-ware of the richest patterns. To attempt a description here would be hopeless, for every thing was so thoroughly national, that to be understood would require more knowledge of the manners of this singular people than many of our countrymen possess, and certainly much more than we could have learned without seeing, hearing, and tasting for ourselves. Before each guest was placed a pair of chopsticks (formerly described) and a silver spoon, with a plate resembling a saucer, and a small cup to serve for a wineglass. The first course consisted of various sweetmeats, to which every one helped himself from the dishes which were placed down the middle of the table. Presently the wine (prepared from rice, and not unpleasant to the taste) was poured warm, from a silver vessel like a tea-pot, into the small cups before us. In pledging healths this cup is held between both hands; the parties then, exchanging courteous looks and bows, drink it off, and each turns the inside of the cup towards the other, to show that the whole has been fairly drunk; it being deemed a great incivility to leave any liquor at the bottom. More substantial provisions, in basins and tureens, were next set upon the table, every one choosing for himself from the nameless and bewildering diversity of soups and made dishes, composed of fish, beef, mutton, fowls, ducks, geese, quails, pigeons, pigeons' eggs, turtle, &c. &c., all in a stewed form, for the most part very palatable, and not pungently seasoned. A salt-cellar, and a saucer of soy,
A CHINESF BRIDE. 71
before each person, enabled him to heighten the flavor of the food to his own taste. Towards the conclusion, besides a second course of sweetmeats, basins of boiled rice, quite dry, were set before all the company, with cups of tea; the tea, as usual, being prepared in each cup, with hot water poured upon the leaves, and without either cream or sugar. The cloth was then removed, and the table covered with a profusion of the most delicious fruits. These were accompanied by Madeira wine, which was drunk, like every other beverage here, out of cups of the most delicate and exquisitely beautiful porcelain. The greatest rarity, however, after this feast, was the sight of a Chinese bride. The son of our host having been married a few days before, we were honored (according to the usage of the country, during the honey-moon) with permission to look at his wife, as she stood at the door of her apartment, while we were passing out. The lady was surrounded by several old women, who held tapers and lamps above and about her, that we might have a more complete view of her figure and attire. She was a young person (perhaps seventeen years of age), of middle stature, with very agreeable features and a light complexion, though she seemed to us to have used paint. She wore a scarlet robe, superbly trimmed with gold, which completely covered her from the shoulders to the ground. The sleeves were very full, and along the bottom ran a beautiful fringe of small bells. Her head-dress sparkled with jewels, and was most elegantly beaded with rows of pearls, encircling it like a coronet; from the front of which a brilliant angular ornament hung over her forehead and between her eye-brows. She stood in a modest and graceful attitude, having her eyes fixed on the floor, though she occasionally raised them, with a glance of timid curiosity, towards the spectators. Her hands, joined together, but folded in her robe, she lifted several times towards her face, and then lowered them very slowly. Her attendants, presuming that the guests would be gratified with a peep at that consummation of Chinese beauty, the lady's feet, raised the hem of the mantle from hers, for a moment or two. They were of the most diminutive kind, and reduced to a mere point at the toe. Her shoes, like the rest of her bridal apparel, were scarlet, embroidered with gold. In justice to the poor creature, during this torturing exhibition (as we imagine it must have been to her), her demeanor was natural
72 HoNG MERCHANT's HospitaLITY.
and becoming; and once or twice something like half a smile, for an instant, showed that she was not entirely unconscious of the admiration which her appearance excited, nor much displeased by it.
CHAPTER XL II.
Another Hong Merchant's Hospitality—Dancing—Taking Leave of a Friend—Marriage-procession—Smugglers of Opium—Christmas Day —Deputation return to Singapore—Clanship and Inhumanity of the Chinese—Deputation proceed to Malacca—Description of that Town —Extraordinary Tree—Pepper-plantations—Schools in Malacca— Chinese Fopperies—Proficiency of Native Scholars—Foundation of a Chapel laid–Chinese Emigrants—Tomb of Dr. Milne—Process of extracting Toddy—Land-crabs, Frogs, and Alligators—Arrival at Pinang–Sabbath Exercises—Fantastic Marriage-procession—Waterfall–Popish Mission College—Singular Paintings—A deposed Kin —The Great Tree—Monkeys and #. . Plant–Dress an Habitations of the Malays—Personal Habits—Musical Cricket--Ingenious Spider.
Nov. 28. WE dined with Chunqua, another Hong merchant. All the English gentlemen at Canton, with most of the captains and principal officers of the ships at Wampoa, had been invited, so that the company amounted to nearly a hundred persons. The feast was more than all that the heart of a Chinese could desire, for it was in the English style, and, therefore, the best that he could offer to his outlandish guests. A sing-song, or drama, had been prepared in front of the dinner-table, and a distinguished company of actors, from Nanquin, performed what to us was an unintelligible medley of dialogues, songs, feats of strength, tumbling, and other muscular exercises, accompanied by the incessant din of jarring, jingling, and discordant music, which required Chinese ears to relish, and which ours could with difficulty endure. We retired at nine o'clock in the evening, but the play and the feast were expected to continue till two or three the next morning. . It is singular that the Chinese have nothing among them that resembles dancing, ancient, and nearly universal, as this practice is among other nations, savage and civilized. One reason may be the jealous separation of the sexes, and the privacy in which the women are kept. Perhaps the outrageous fashion of maiming the female foot may