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about Hong merchants, war junks, and the taking of Chusan, Ningpo, and Chinhae, and have even read Barrow's China, and the accounts of lord Macartney's and lord Amherst's embassies. Having summoned all this information to your aid, together with what you have read of missionary efforts, you prepare, book in hand, to make the grand tour of the Chinese Collection.
It is a favourite plan with me, when gazing on a spectacle, before describing its details, to notice the effect of the whole. I like to know what impression is made by a first general glance, and to ask myself
, What is it that I prominently see? and what is it that I particularly feel? Let me try to give you my first general impression of this collection.
Imagine yourself to be in St. George's chapel, at Windsor, or rather, perhaps, in that of Henry vn., in Westminster Abbey, gazing on the fretwork roof, the painted windows, the carved stalls, and the pendant banners, that give a gloomy glory to that goodly temple. And now imagine that the wand of a magician has been waved, suddenly altering the character of the place, changing the fretwork roof into a fair ceiling, hung with ornaments of diversified colours; the painted windows into costly screens; the ornamented stalls into slabs with Chinese inscriptions; and the hanging banners into huge, highly decorated lanterns of white and green, and vermilion and gold; thus, at once, transforming solemn, sepulchral pomp and gloomy glory, into attractive beauty and lightsome gaiety. If you can fancy this, you will have before you something like the very scene on which I am now gazing.
Having made a few general inquiries of the proprietor of the Collection, who happens, at the moment, to be
present, and taken a giance at the whole, I must now enter a little more into detail. The three large dols are imposing things to gaze on, being gloriously gilt with the finest leaf gold; but when the thought that three hundred and sixty millions of people, bowing down to such things, comes across the mind, - how is the gold become dim! how is the most find gold changed !" "The large and elegant screens, at either end of the apartment, the profusion of splendid lanterne with the abundance of costly porcelain, impart a charac ter as pleasing as it is uncommon.
The grave-looking mandarin of the first class, in his state robes, stiff with embroidery, and enormous head necklace; the other mandarins, and secretary, are altogether unlike what we see among us. They appear to be engaged in sober trifling, and leave not on the mind a very favourable impression of their intellect and influence; but this, perhaps, is mainly owing to the apparent apathy, occasioned by want of motion, and the little expression in the figures. The maxim conveyed in the silk scroll on the wall is very appropriate, “ A nation depends on faithful ministers for its tranquillity.”
The mandarins are the real nobility, or aristocracy of China; for the princes, relations of the emperor, have little influence. The number of mandarins, on the civil list of the empire, is not less than fourteen thousand. The nominal rank of mandarins may be bought; and one of the Hong merchants is said to have purchased his at the price of a hundred thousand dollars.
The priest of Fo, or Buddhu, in his yellow canonicals, the priest of Taou, in full dress, with the gentleman, an odd-looking one, certainly, in mourning of coarse sackcloth, are not likely to be passed by un
needed; neither will the Chinese soldier, in huge blue nankeen trowsers, nor the Tartar archer, be altogether disregarded.
Judging by externals, the Chinese empire must have a paternal government; for the emperor is called the father of the nation; the viceroy is the father of his satrapy, or district; the mandarin is the father of the city he governs; the military officer who commands, is the father of his soldiers; and when an emperor dies, his hundreds of millions of subjects mourn for him, just as children do for a deceased parent. The principal religion of China is Buddhism, or Boodhism. No sabbath is observed by the Chinese. Not fewer than fifteen hundred temples are dedicated to Confucius, and more than sixty thousand pigs and rabbits are sacrificed every year to his memory. The standing army of the celestial empire is about seven hundred thousand men.
The literary coterie, in their summer dresses, with a mandarin of the fourth class, in his chocolate habit, and cap with red fringe; the Chinese ladies of rank, using the fan, preparing to smoke, and playing the guitar; and the mother and boy of the middle class; afford striking contrasts in occupation and dress. According to our European impressions of beauty, the Chinese ladies, with all their rouge and flowers, their “tiny feet," “ willow waists,” and eyes like “silver seas," are far from being beautiful; yet if it be true, that they possess much common sense, and make devoted wives and tender mothers, it is more to their credit than to be regarded as "golden lilies" in their generation.
The Chinese tragedian, in his splendid costume, will rank ir, the estimation of the visitor with mandarins of the first class, until he consults his book, and finds out
that he is but an actor. The juggler is one of a large class in China, and no jugglers, throughout the world, in dexterity, and daring, surpass them. One of the recorded feats of this singular class of people shall here be given.
6 Two men from Nankin appear in the streets of Canton; the one places his back against a stone wall, or wooden fence; the upper part of his person is divested of clothing. His associate, armed with a large knife, retires to a distance, say from one hundred to two hundred feet. At a given signal, the knife is thrown with an unerring aim in the direction of the person opposite, to within a hair's breadth of his neck, immediately below his ear. With such certainty of success is the blow aimed, and so great is the confidence reposed by the one in the skill of the other, that not the slightest uneasiness is discernible in the features of him whose life is a forfeit to the least deviation on the part of the practitioner. This feat is again and again performed, and with similar success, only varying the direction of the knife to the opposite side of the neck of the exposed person, or to any other point of proximity to the living target, as the spectators may desire."
The parasol there, beautifully enriched with embroidery and gold thread, is one of the kind carried on state occasions. Parasols, umbrellas, and lanterns, are
very general use in China. It is said, that at the feast of lanterns, when a general illumination takes place, not less than two hundred millions of lanterns are blazing, at the same time, in different parts oi the empire.
Here are a few common life Chinese characters. The itinerant barber, with his shaving and clipping implements; the spectacled shoemaker with his work:
brach, basket and tools; the travelling blacksmith, with his anvil, furnace, and bellows; and the boatwoman carrying her child, cannot be regarded without interest; and we naturally enough compare them with those among us who follow the same trades. It would puzzle us to account for more than seven thousand barbers procuring a livelihood in Canton alone, did we not know that the head, as well as the face, is shaven in China, and that no Chinaman ever shaves himself.
The specimens of agricultural implements, though rude, are curious; they are mostly of wood, shod with iron. Agriculture is much encouraged in China. The emperor himself, once a year, ploughs a piece of land, in imitation of the Shinnung, “the divine husbandman.” We must not suppose that his “celestial majesty” goes forth into the fields like one of our English labourers, with his wooden bottle of drink, to do “ a day's work :" most likely his performance is more akin to the custom among us, of a great person laying the first stone of a public building, with a mahogany mallet and silver trowel. Two, and sometimes three crops of rice, their staple grain, are grown and gathered in the year; millet is also extensively cultivated. The two inscriptions, suspended in the recess, are quite in character: the one, “ If you would be rich, rear the five domestic animals, namely: pigs, 'cows, sheep, fowls, and dogs." The other; “ Labour induces reflection, and reflection vniue."
The sedan 'scene, and the pavilion, a perfect resemblance of an apartment in a wealthy Chinaman's habitation, show how different to ours are the customs that prevail in China. How odd it would be to us, to receive a crimson card of invitation, entreatirug us to be. stow “ the illumination of our presence on the inviter !"