ePub 版

Whampoa Reach, the southern channel, is the anchorage of all foreign shipping. It is nine miles from Canton. The cargoes imported are here unladed, and taken up to the factories in a kind of lighter, called chops; and whatever is to be exported is brought down in the same Way.

VIII. Picture of Honan.

Directly opposite these two pictures, is a smaller one of Honan, a village on the south side of Pearl river, over against Canton. This village is chiefly celebrated for its extensive and magnificent temple of Budha, the richest religious establishment in this part of the Empire. No part of the splendid structure is visible in the painting, which is mainly interesting as affording the best view of river life in the Collection. This is a mode of existence peculiar to the Chinese. The people of other nations resort to the water for purposes of gain, warfare, health, or pleasure, for a season, but they never cease to regard the land as their natural and permanent dwelling-place. They would be miserable if they believed themselves confined for life to floating habitations, whatever temporary attractions these might possess. But millions on millions of people in China are born, vegetate, and die, upon the bosom of its numerous streams. They occasionally make a “cruise on shore,” but they return to the water as their natural home and element. It is computed that there are not less than 84,000 dwelling boats within the immediate neighbourhood of Canton. These are arranged in regular streets, which are lighted up at night. Besides the boats used as habitations, the river is covered with innumerable craft in perpetual motion; yet such is the skill with which they are managed, and the peaceableness of the boatmen, that jostlings rarely occur, and quarrels are almost unknown. . The visiter will observe, on the window-sill in this corner of the saloon, two specimens of Chinese windows. The substance used for transmitting the light is motherof pearl. A variety of other substances is employed for the same purpose, as mica, horn, paper, silk-gauze, &c. Glass windows are seldom seen. There is a frame-work in front of the translucent substance, dividing it into small panes, of various shapes. This is the general style of Chinese windows, but the passion of the people for variety leads them to adopt an endless diversity of patterns, as any one may easily assure himself by examining divers of the paintings in Mr. Dunn's Collection.

IX. The first Case on the north wall, with the two Cases opposite.

We now proceed to notice the contents of the glass cases in order. The first contains two civil mandarins, of the first and second grades. The one highest in rank is seated, with his head uncovered ; the other, with his cap still on, is paying the customary respect to his superior, previous to his occupancy of an adjoining chair. The former is upon the left, this being the post of honour among the Chinese. A secretary is in waiting behind each, with some official documents in his hand. The two dignitaries are attired in their state robes, which are literally stiff with embroidery, a liberal proportion of which is wrought with gold thread. Each has an enormous bead neck-lace, extending below the waist in front, with a string of “court beads” attached to it at the hinder part of the neck, which reaches down to the middle of the back. The caps are dome-shaped, with the lower portion turned up, and forming a broad rim, which is faced with black velvet. The top of the cap is surmounted by a globular button, or ball, from which there depends a sufficient quantity of crimson silk to cover completely the whole of the upper portion. The material and colour of the crowning sphere indicates the rank of the wearer. Besides this distinctive button, each grade of mandarins has a characteristic badge, worn both upon the breast and the back. This is a square piece of black silk, covered with various embroidery, but having its centre occupied with the embroidered figure of a bird, a dragon, or a tiger. The rank of the officer is designated by the kind and colour of the central figure. In the badges of the two mandarins in this case, for example, the figure in each is a bird, but in one it is white, and in the other blue. The articles of furniture in the first case are such as are commonly met with in the houses of the higher classes. There are two massive arm chairs, of a dark-coloured wood, the enormous breadth of which will attract general notice. There is also a square table, with abundance of carving upon it, the top of which is inlaid with porcelain. In front depends an elegant and costly piece of golden embroidery. The back wall of the apartment is hung with crimson drapery thickly sprinkled with gold, and containing maxims from the philosophers, in large and elegant Chinese characters. The nobility of China is of two kinds, hereditary and official. The former class of nobles is not numerous, nor greatly influential. It consists chiefly of the relations of the Emperor, who are styled princes, and are bound to live within the precincts of the imperial palace. The real nobility, or aristocracy, of the country, are the mandarins. Of these there are estimated to be, on the civil list of the Empire, not less than 14,000. The mandarins are divided into nine ranks, or pin, each of which is indicated by a double badge—the colour of the globe on the apex of the cap, and the embroidery on the front and back of their official robes. The colours employed are red, blue, crystal, white, and gold; and these, with certain modifications of shade, serve to distinguish what are denominated “the nine ranks.” The nominal rank, and of course the distinctive costume, of any of the official grades, may be purchased of the Emperor. It is, however, rarely done, as the sum demanded is very large. Houqua, for instance, the richest of the Hong merchants, whose likeness we have in the figure of the mandarin of the first class, purchased his nominal rank at the enormous price of $100,000. Persons are selected for civil office in China with an almost exclusive reference to their talents and education. Strange as it may seem, there is probably no other country on the globe where cultivated talent exercises its legitimate sway to an equal extent. Wealth, and titular nobility, and purchased rank, have their influence, no doubt; but, unless accompanied by personal merit, and above all, by education, their power is comparatively limited and feeble. That the Emperor takes good heed to choose for his officers none but men of the highest attainments and most commanding abilities, is certain; whether he is equally careful to secure men of the purest virtue, seems at least questionable. Most writers on China agree in ascribing to the mandarins no very enviable character for moral honesty or civil justice. They represent them as crafty, rapacious, and oppressive; traitors alike to the interests of their master, the principles of equity, and the sentiment of mercy. The lower orders of Chinese are presented to our imagination under the similitude of pigeons, while the mandarins are represented as the hawks who are watching to despoil them of their property. Mr. Dunn thinks this picture quite too highly coloured. Mr. J. F. Davis, also,-an English gentleman of education and intelligence, who, having accompanied Lord Amherst on an embassy to Peking, in 1816, afterwards resided over twenty years in China, and whose opportunities of observation were therefore the best that could be, gives a greatly modified, if not an entirely different, view of the mandarin's character. He says that the worst phases under which the Chinese character is any where seen, is at Canton; and that it is not fair to reason from the malpractices of the government officers in that city to a similar line of conduct in those of other parts of the Empire. There is doubtless considerable force in this observation. Foreigners are considered by all Chinamen as fair game. Such, then, is the view of Mr. Davis: nevertheless, he is obliged to confess that malversations in the public functionaries are of frequent occurrence, and that the patriarchal character claimed for the government has degenerated into “a mere fiction, excellently calculated to strengthen and perpetuate the hand of despotism, but retaining little of the paternal character beyond its absolute authority.” It is well known that the civil institutions of China claim to be framed and fashioned upon the exact model of a wise family government. The Emperor is invariably spoken of as the father of the nation; the viceroy of a province arrogates the same title in reference to his

« 上一頁繼續 »