網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

those who have seen only the paltry daubs usually brought as specimens of the art in China. There is one of the high priests in the Honan temple, and others of distinguished men well known in Canton, worked with the minuteness of miniature painting. This department comprises also a variety of paintings on glass, an art much practised by the natives; pictures of all the boats peculiar to the country; of rooms, their domestic arrangements, of all the costumes of people of rank ; of furniture, lanterns, and, in short, every variety of Chinese life, from the most degraded class to the Emperor.” The fine arts in China are undoubtedly far from having reached the perfection that belongs to them in the enlightened nations of Christendom ; yet an examination of the paintings collected by Mr. Dunn, will satisfy every candid mind that great injustice has been done to Chinese artists, in the notions hitherto entertained respecting their want of ability and skill. They paint insects, birds, fishes, fruits, flowers, and the like, with great correctness and beauty; and the brilliancy and variety of their colours cannot be surpassed. They group with considerable taste and effect; and their perspective, a department of the art in which they have been thought totally deficient, is often very good. Let the views already described, and a large and beautiful landscape painting over one of the cases on the south side of the saloon, attest the truth of these statements. Shading they do not well understand, and they positively object to the introduction of shadows in pictures. Barrow, as quoted by Davis, says, that “when several portraits by the best European artists, intended as presents for the Emperor, were exposed to view, the mandarins, observing the variety of tints occasioned by the light and shade, asked whether the originals had the two sides of different colours. They considered the shadow of the nose as a great imperfection in the figure, and some supposed it to have been placed there by accident.” There is one picture in the Collection, which, on account of the interest of the subject, and the insight it affords into the administration of public justice in China, deserves special notice. Its place is on the wall between the window and the silk mercer's shop. Seldom does it fall to the lot of foreigners residing in Canton, to witness a more painfully interesting scene than the one portrayed in the above painting. It represents a court sitting in the Consoo House, at the head of China Street, near the foreign Factories, in 1829, for a final decision on a charge of piracy committed by the crew of a Chinese junk, on a French captain and sailors, at a short distance from Macao. The French ship Navigatre, put into Cochin-China in distress. Having disposed of her to the Government, the captain, with his crew, took passage for Macao, in a Chinese junk, belonging to the province of Fokien. Part of their valuables consisted of about $100,000 in specie. Four China passengers bound for Macao, and one for Fokien, were also on board. This last apprised the Frenchmen, in the best way he could, that the crew of the junk had entered into a conspiracy to take their lives, and seize their treasure. He urged that an armed watch should be kept. On making the Ladrone Islands, the four Macao passengers left the junk. Here the Frenchmen believed themselves out of danger, and, exhausted by sickness and long watching, yielded to a fatal repose. They were all massacred but one, a youth of about nineteen years of age, who escaped by leaping into the sea, after receiving several wounds. A fishing boat picked him up, and landed him at Macao, where information was given to the officers of government, and the crew of the junk, with their ill-gotten gains, were seized on arriving at their port of destination in Fokien. Having been found guilty by the court in their own district, they were sent down to Canton by order of the Emperor, to the Unchat-see (criminal judge,) to be confronted with the young French sailor. This trial is represented in the painting. The prisoners were taken out of their cages, as seen in the foreground. The Frenchman recognised seventeen out of the twenty-four, but when the passenger who had been his friend was brought in, the two eagerly embraced each other, which scene is also portrayed in the painting. An explanation of this extraordinary act was made to the judge, and the man forthwith set at liberty. A purse was made up for him by the Chinese and foreigners, and he was soon on his way homeward. The seventeen were decapitated in a few days, in the presence of the foreigners; the captain was put to a “lingering death,” the punishment of traitors; and the stolen treasures were restored.

XXXII. The two inner Rows of Cases.

In our introductory notices, we stated that many articles were held in reserve for want of space for displaying them. During the composition of these pages, changes have been going on continually; and now having completed the circuit of the hall, we find two new rows of cases constructed within the others, and several of them already filled. The sirst two contain specimens of manufactures in silk, linen, and cotton fabrics. One, near the other extremity of the saloon, on the right, is filled with complete sets of cabinetmakers and carpenter’s tools. Next to this, on the same side, is a case containing some beautiful specimens of castings, in pots and kettles of different sizes, together with a set of implements for working in iron. But of these newly constructed cases, that which con

tains the greatest variety of novel articles is on the north side of the saloon, and nearly midway between its two ends. Here we have two bamboo shirts, with meshes resembling those of a very fine fishing net, and worn in summer to protect the skin from the cotton or silk with which it would otherwise be in contact; a refinement of luxury, in which we may presume the multitude do not indulge. There are also, in this case, two very elegant circular fans, one of which is made partly of bird's feathers, of gay plumage; a white silken scarf adorned with rich embroidery; a ring-shaped flat iron, containing a furnace within itself, with a handle projecting from the side; embroidered knee cushions; elegant pouches of various descriptions; and tiny books, used as a kind of amulet.

XXXIII. General Remarks on the Government and People of China.

The Chinese government is, nominally, at least, patriarchal. The authority of a parent over his children is the type of the imperial rule. The Emperor claims to be the father of his subjects. As such, he exercises supreme, absolute, unchecked power, over more than onethird of the human race. He has but to sign the decree, and any one of three hundred and fifty millions of human beings is instantly deprived of rank, possessions, liberty, or life itself. This is a stupendous system, a phenomenon unmatched in the annals of time, and worthy to engage the profound attention of statesmen and philosophers. The subjects of the Macedonian were but as a handful compared with the teeming millions of Eastern Asia; the Roman Empire, when at its widest extent, numbered not more than one-third of the present population of China; and the throne of the Caesars was, in the power it conferred upon its occupant, but as a child’s elevation in comparison with that on which the Tartar sits. We can but glance at a few of the details of this system, and the causes which have given it stability. At the head of the system stands, of course, the Emperor. His titles are, the “Son of Heaven,” and the “Ten Thousand Years.” Ubiquity is considered as among his attributes; temples are erected to him in every part of the Empire; and he is worshipped as a god. Yet he sometimes styles himself “the imperfect man,” and his ordinary dress is far from splendid. While the grand mandarins that compose his court, glitter in gold and diamonds, he appears in a plain and simple garb. Nevertheless, no means are omitted to keep up the prestige of his majesty. The outer gate of the imperial palace cannot be passed by any person whatsoever, in a carriage or on horseback. There is a road between Peking and the Emperor's summer residence in Tartary, wide, smooth, level, and always cleanly swept, on which no one but himself is permitted to travel. At the palace, a paved walk leads to the principal hall of audience, which is never pressed but by imperial feet. Despatches from the Emperor are received in the provinces with prostrations and the burning of incense. The succession is at the absolute disposal of the Emperor. Instances have occurred, though they are rare, in which persons not con

« 上一頁繼續 »