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W. The Screen-work at the entrance.
Let us now retrace our steps to the entrance, and make the circuit of the hall in order. In the partition which separates the vestibule from the grand saloon, we have an admirable specimen of Chinese screen-work. By many persons this will be pronounced the most beautiful object in the whole Collection, and may, without exaggeration, be said to be of itself well worth the price of admission. It is richly and tastefully gilded; the portion of the wood work not covered with gold is painted of a delicate green; and the silk inserted in the panels is as gay as it can be rendered by a profusion of exquisitely executed paintings of the most delicate and magnificent of eastern flowers. The whole view is redolent of the spirit and beauty of spring. The drawings and colouring of the flowers are admirable, and show the perfection which has been attained in these branches of their art by Chinese painters. Besides the floral delineation, there is also a row of silk panels, if we may be allowed the expression, exhibiting views of naval architecture, both curious and instructive.
At each end of this screen-partition there is a superb China vase, about six feet high, including the base. These are of a size and beauty such as we rarely meet with in this country. They are covered with a profusion of characteristic figures, among which the imperial dragon holds a distinguished place.
VI. Picture of Canton.
We will commence our peregrination round the saloon at the north-west corner, that is, on the left side as you enter. The first object to which we call the attention of the visiter here is a picture of Canton, nine feet by five, painted by a native artist. A glance at this production will correct a prevalent error respecting the inability of Chinese painters to produce perspective. Though light and shade are certainly a good deal neglected here, and the perspective is not perfect, yet the picture is by no means deficient in this regard; and the drawings of individual objects are extremely accurate. The point from which the view has been taken is the bank of the river opposite Canton, directly in front of the foreign factories, which occupy about one half the canvass. The scene, particularly upon the surface of the intervening river, is altogether novel to American eyes, and highly characteristic. The national boats, of which there is a very great variety, have, all, their representatives here, from the gaudy flower barge, in which large parties are borne gaily over the waters, to the tiny sanpan, whose contracted dimensions will admit only a single navigator. This part of the view is peculiarly animated and interesting. The foreign factories occupy the central part of the picture, and the French, English and American ensigns float gaily above them. On each side of these, we have a view of a small portion of Canton bordering upon the river; but as the city is built upon low and flat ground, almost the whole of it is invisible from our present point of observation.
In connexion with this description of the picture, we oster a few general remarks upon the southern capital,
which will not, we trust, be without their interest to the
cumstances contain various well-furnished apartments, the walls of which are generally ornamented with carving, pictures, and various scrolls, inscribed with moral maxims from Confucius and other sages. The houses of the wealthy are often furnished in a style of great magnificence, and the occupants indulge in the most luxurious habits. Official personages, however, for the most part set a commendable example of simplicity and economy in their manner of living. The doors have no plates to tell who the occupant of the mansion is, but cylindrical lanterns are hung up by the sides of the gates of all houses of consequence, with the names and titles of the owners inscribed, so as to be read either by day, or at night, when the lanterns are lighted. Canton is a large manufacturing as well as commercial town. Mr. Bridgman informs us that there are no less than 17,000 persons engaged in weaving silk, and 50,000 in manufacturing cloth of all kinds; that there are 4,200 shoemakers; and, what will startle and astound every one, that there is an army of barbers amounting to 7,300! The important office of tonsor can be held only by license of government. Why the number is so great, will be explained subsequently. The manufacture of books is extensively carried on in this city, but we are not in possession of the exact statistics. “Those likewise,” says Bridgman, “who work in wood, brass, iron, stone, and various other materials, are numerous; and they who engage in each of these respective occupations, form, to a certain degree, a separate community, and have each their own laws and rules for the regulation of their business.” Both operatives and tradesmen are very much in the habit of herding together. Entire streets are devoted to the same kind of business. There is even a street occupied almost exclusively by professors of the healing art, and is thence called by the Fanquis,* “Doctor street.” The signs, gaily painted and lettered on each side, and hung out like tavern signs among us, give the business streets a lively and brilliant appearance. The population of Canton is a difficult subject. No certain data exist for an accurate estimate. The author above quoted enters into conjectures and calculations, which give him a result of nearly a million and a quarter, including the suburbs and river. It seems probable that this estimate is considerably beyond the mark. The river population is an interesting subject, to which we shall I’eCur.
VII. Picture of Whampoa.
Above the picture just described, is another, of the same dimensions and by the same artist, presenting us with a view of Whampoa and the surrounding country. The point from which the view is taken is French island,
a small portion of which appears in the fore-ground.
Considering ourselves as occupying this position, we have immediately before us Whampoa Reach, in which several foreign vessels are riding at anchor, and Whampoa Island, with its walled town, its plantations of rice, sugar-cane, &c., its orange groves, and its picturesque and lofty pagoda crowning a distant eminence. Beyond appear the winding channel called Junk River, the level coast, and the far-off mountains, that swell out, in undulating outline, to the northward of Canton. The view represented in the picture is extensive and beautiful, and the execution of the painting is creditable to the skill of the artist.