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Leave Hang-chow-foo — A China passage-boat — Scenery and natural productions — Remarkable hills — Our fellow-passengers — A smoker of Opium — I am discovered to be a foreigner — City of Yen-chow-foo — A Chinaman cheats a Chinaman! — The river and water-mills — Botany of the country — A valuable palm-tree — Birds — Lime-kilns and green granite — Tea-plant met with — The new FUNEREAL CYPRESS discovered — Its beauty — How its seeds were procured — Dr. Lindley's opinion of its merits — Strange echo — River and land beggars — Charity.
WHEN the next morning dawned we got under way and steered out into the river, which is here three or four miles in width. The boat was strongly built, flat-bottomed, and very sharp both fore and aft. Ordinary boats, such as those seen at Shanghae, would be perfectly useless here, for they would soon be broken to pieces on the rocks and stones which abound in this shallow but rapid river.
We were deeply laden with cargo, and carried about twenty passengers. The cargo was packed in the bottom of the boat, and the passengers above it. Two rows of sleeping-berths were constructed along each side of the boat, and a passage between them, so that both passengers and boatmen could walk from stem to stern without any inconvenience. The first-class passengers occupied the side-berths, and their servants and coolies slept in the passage.
A Chinese bed is not a very luxurious one. It consists simply of a mat to lie upon, a hard square pillow for the head, and a coverlet stuffed with cotton to draw over the body as a protection from the cold.
I had the berth nearest the stern of the boat, a dwarf occupied the one opposite, and my two servants slept in the passage between us. The galley, or, I should rather say, cooking apparatus, was placed outside in the stern, near to the steersman.
Each passenger, when he takes his passage in these boats, agrees for three meals a-day at a certain fixed rate. We were to have congé in the morning, rice at mid-day, and rice-congé again in the evening. Anything else the passengers wanted, such as tea, fish, meat, or vegetables, they had to provide and cook for themselves. The arrangement seems a good one, and it enables those who are so inclined to travel at a very small cost. Many of the passengers had nothing else than what was provided by the boatmen, excepting perhaps a little tea, which they all carried with them, and which in this country is cheap enough.
In the morning a basin of hot water, with a cloth in it, was brought to me to perform my ablutions. The following is the Chinese way of using this: the cloth is dipped in the hot water and then wrung until the greater part of the water is pressed out. In this hot and damp state it is spread out on both hands, and the face, neck, and head rubbed over with it. This mode of washing is not the most effectual, but there is nothing more refreshing on a warm day, if one comes in from a walk hot and weary; it is far more refreshing than bathing in cold water, and perhaps more conducive to health.
After I was dressed I received a cup of tea — tea in the strict sense of the word — without sugar or milk, these additions never being used in this part of China. About eight o'clock the cook had six large earthenware basins placed at the side of the rice-pot; each of these he filled brim full of congé, and set them in the open air to cool. When it was cool enough to be eaten, the basins were placed in a row in the passage between our berths; the passengers then arranged themselves into messes, four in each, and breakfast began. By this arrangement the dwarf, who occupied the berth opposite to mine, my two Chinese servants, and myself formed the mess nearest to the stern of the boat. Each man was furnished with a small basin and a pair of chop-sticks; a wooden ladle was placed in the earthen pan, with which each filled his basin.
Having had little to eat the day before, except some sweet potatoes which one of my men brought me, I was hungry enough not only to eat the congé, uninviting as it certainly was, but also to disregard the presence of the Chinese, or what they might think of the awkward way in which I used the chopsticks. I got on very well, however, and found that I had not quite forgotten the art of eating with these highly-civilized instruments. It is, however, easier to eat rice and congé with them than other kinds of food, for the basin is generally brought quite close up to the mouth, and its contents partly sucked and partly shovelled in.
The tide and wind were both fair, so that we glided up the river with great rapidity; it was a beautiful autumnal day, and the scene altogether was a most charming one. We had left behind us the great plain of the Yang-tse-kiang, and the country was now hilly and most romantic. The hills were richly wooded; pines, cypresses, and junipers clothed their sides from the base nearly to the top, and their foliage of a sombre green contrasted strongly with the deep-red, ripened leaves of the tallow-tree, which grows in great abundance on the plains. A few mulberry-trees were seen in the neighbourhood of Hang-chow, but, as we got higher up the river, their cultivation appeared to cease. Tobacco, Indian corn, millet, and a small portion of rice seemed to be the staple productions of the plains; millet and Indian corn were also observed on the lower sides of the bills.
Buddhist temples and pagodas were observed, here and there, rising high above the trees; one of the latter is called Lui-foong-ta, or the "temple of the thundering winds." It stands on the borders of the Se-hoo lake, and appeared to be a very ancient edifice. Wild briers and other weeds were growing out of its walls, even up to its very summit, and it was evidently fast going to decay. It formed a striking feature in the landscape, and reminded me of those ancient castle ruins which are so common on the borders of England and Scotland.
At night, when it became too dark to see our course, the boat was anchored abreast of a small village until the following morning, when we again got under way. We were now forty or fifty miles to the south-west of Hang-chow-foo.
The hills here had not that rich appearance which those nearer the sea had presented, but they were far more striking in their formation. Their sides were ridged and furrowed in a most remarkable manner, and their summits broken up into many curious peaks and cones. Some were low, others were three or four thousand feet in height, and all were rugged, barren, and wild.
The river now became narrow, shallow, and in many parts very rapid. Near Hang-chow-foo the country seemed densely populated, but up here there is so little ground capable of cultivation that a numerous population could not find subsistence. We only passed two towns of any note, named Fu-yang and Tung-yu, all the way from Hang-chow to Yen-chow-foo, a distance of 380 le. The people in the villages amongst these hills seemed to earn a scanty subsistence by cutting firewood and sending it down to the lowland towns for sale.
My fellow-passengers, who were chiefly merchants and servants, were quiet and inoffensive, indeed they did little else but loll in bed and sleep, except when they were eating or smoking. One of them was a confirmed opium-smoker, and the intoxicating drug had made him a perfect slave. I have seen many opium-smokers in my travels, but this one was the most pitiable of them all; he was evidently a man of some standing in society, and had plenty of money. His bed was surrounded with silk curtains, his pillows were beautifully embroidered, and his coverlet was of the richest and softest satin. Everything about him told of luxury and sensual pleasures.
But let me take a peep inside his bed-curtains and describe what I saw on the first day of our acquaintance. The curtains were down and drawn close round, particularly on that side from which the wind came. He was clothed in the finest silks, and had lain down on his side upon a mat; his head was resting on one of the embroidered pillows. A small lamp was burning by his side, an opium-pipe was in his mouth, and he was inhaling the intoxicating fumes. After smoking for a few minutes he began to have the appearance which a drunken man presents in the first stage of intoxication; the fumes had done their work, and he was now in his "third heaven of bliss."
In a minute or two he jumped up and called for his teapot, from which he took a good draught of tea; he then walked about the boat evidently a good deal excited, and talked and joked with every one he met. After spending some time in this manner he began to smoke tobacco; he then took another draught out of his teapot and lay down to sleep; but his slumbers were not of long duration, and were evidently disturbed by strange and frightful dreams. He awoke at last, but it was only to renew the dose as before; and so on from day to day. Even in the silent night, when all around was sunk in repose, his craving for the stimulant was beyond his feeble powers of resistance. Often and often during this passage, when I happened to awake during the night, I could see his little lamp burning, and could smell the sickening fumes as they curled about the roof of the boat.
The effects which the immoderate use of opium had produced upon this man were of the most melancholy kind. His figure was thin and emaciated, his cheeks had a pale and haggard hue, and his skin had that peculiar glassy polish by which an opium-smoker is invariably known. His days were evidently numbered, and yet, strange to tell, this man tried to convince others and himself also that he was smoking medicinally, and that the use of opium was indispensable to his health. As I looked upon him in these moments of excitement I could not help feeling what a piteous object is man, the lord of Creation, and noblest work of God, when sensual pleasures and enjoyments take such a hold upon him as they had upon this poor opium-smoker.
During the first day all the passengers looked upon me as one of themselves, and I fancied I had become a very fair Chinaman; but my coolie, who was a silly, talkative fellow, imagined he was in possession of a secret, and doubtless felt the weight of it rather uncomfortable. I observed him once or twice in close conversation with one of the boatmen, and it turned out afterwards that he told this man, as a great secret of course, that I was a foreigner, — one of those Hong-mous who were so numerous in Shanghae. By-and-by the secret began to ooze out, and both boatmen and passengers were taking sly peeps at me when they thought I did not see them. Suspecting that all was not right, I called Wang aside, and asked him how it was that I had become all at once such an object of interest. "Oh," he said, "that coolie he too much a fool-o; he have talkie all that men you no belong this country; you more better sendie he go away, suppose you no wantye too much bobly." In plain English, he informed me that the coolie was a fool, that he had told all the people that I was a foreigner, and that I had better send him away if I did not wish to have a disturbance.
It was too true, my secret was such no longer. I felt much inclined to punish the coolie for his conduct, and he had to thank the peculiar circumstances in which I was placed for getting off "scot free." I believe the poor fellow was sufficiently punished afterwards by his own countrymen, who thought they had him, to a certain extent, in their power. Nothing more occurred worthy of notice until we arrived at the city of Yen-chow-foo, a large town about 380 le from Hang-chow, in latitude 29° 37' 12" north, and in longitude 119° 32' 47" east. It is walled and fortified in the same manner as all Chinese towns; the walls are fully four miles in circumference. It seems an ancient place, but, judging from the small number of boats moored in the river opposite, I should not imagine it of much importance as a place of trade. A considerable quantity of rough lacquered ware is manufactured here, and sold much cheaper than in the towns nearer to the sea. It is a place of call for all the Hwuy-chow boats, and a considerable trade is carried on in all the common necessaries of life. Judging from its size, it may contain about 200,000 inhabitants. They do not seem so rich, or at all events they are not so gaily dressed, as their neighbours in Hang-chow.
A little below the town there are two very pretty pagodas; one of these is built on a curious conical hill, and is named the Hoo-lung-tâ. Here the river divides, or, I should rather say, two streams unite, one of which comes down from the southward, taking its rise partly on the borders of Kiang-see and Kiang-nan, and partly on the northern sides of the Great Bohea mountains. To this I may return afterwards. In the mean time I went up the northern branch, which comes down from the green-tea country of Hwuy-chow.
The hills about Yen-chow-foo are barren, but the valleys and low lands are rich and fertile. This city is considered half-way between Hang-chow and Hwuy-chow, and our boatmen seemed to think themselves entitled to make it serve the purpose of a half-way house, at which they could remain some time. Moreover the river had increased much in rapidity, and it was necessary to add considerably to the number of our crew. Two days were spent here in making these arrangements, and in making various purchases, such as straw shoes for the men, rice to serve us during the remainder of the journey, and also articles which would sell at a profit further up the country. I did not regret this delay, as it gave me an opportunity of seeing the old town, as well as a portion of the country which was entirely new to me.
During our stay here, my servant Wang, who was a foolish, obstinate man, nearly got us all into a very serious scrape. It seemed he had given one of our boatmen a bad dollar in payment of a debt, which the latter brought back, not being able to pass it in the town. In the mean time Wang had been indulging in a little sam-shoo (a Chinese spirit), and was in a very excited state when the dollar was brought back. He affirmed that it was not the same one he had given the boatman, and that he would have nothing to do with it. After some altercation, however, he took it back, and set off into the city, as he said, to change it himself. In a few minutes he returned with a dollar's worth of copper cash strung over his shoulders, exclaiming, in triumph, that "the dollar was good enough, and that he had found no difficulty in passing it, although the fool of a boatman had." He now threw down the dollar's worth of cash to the other, and asked him, in an enraged and excited manner, if he was satisfied now. The latter took up the strings of cash very quietly, and began counting and examining them. In a second or two he returned them, saying that they were so mixed and inferior that it would be impossible to pay them away, except at a considerable loss, and that he would not receive them. He again demanded to be paid in good and perfect coin. Wang now pretended to be very indignant. "I gave you a dollar," said he, "and you said that was bad; I changed it, and gave you copper cash, and you return them; pray what do you want?" The passengers now gathered round them, and there was every prospect of a serious riot. After a great deal of noise, however, the poor fellow pocketed his cash, protesting, at the same time, that he had been badly used, and threatening to have his revenge on Wang at some future time.
At the end of two days, the additional men having been engaged, and all the purchases completed, we passed up the river, and left the town of Yen-chow behind us. Our course was now in a north-westerly direction. The stream was very rapid in many parts, so much so that it is used for turning the waterwheels which grind and husk rice and other kinds of grain. The first of these machines which I observed was a few miles above Yen-chow-foo. At the first glance I thought it was a steamboat, and was greatly surprised. I really thought the Chinese had been telling the truth when they used to inform our countrymen in the south that steamboats were common in the interior. As I got nearer I found that the "steamboat" was a machine of the following description. A large barge or boat was firmly moored by stem and stern near the side of the river, in a part where the stream ran most rapidly. Two wheels, not unlike the paddles of a steamer, were placed at the sides of the boat, and connected with an axle which passed through it. On this axle were fixed a number of short cogs, each of which, as it came round, pressed up a heavy mallet to a certain height, and then allowed it to fall down upon the grain placed in a basin below. These mallets were continually rising and falling, as the axle was driven rapidly round by the outside wheels, which were turned by the stream. The boat was thatched over to afford protection from the rain. As we got farther up the river we found that machines of this description were very common.
About ten or twelve miles above Yen-chow the country appears more fertile; the hills are covered again with low pines, and the lowlands abound in tallow-trees, camphor-trees, and bamboos. Large quantities of Indian corn and millet are grown in this part of the country, which is, for the most part, too hilly for rice crops.
Our progress upwards was now very slow, owing to the great rapidity of the river. Every now and then we came to rapids, which it took us hours to get ever, notwithstanding that fifteen men, with long ropes fastened to the mast of our boat, were tracking along the shore, and five or six more were poling with long bamboos. Nothing shows so much as this the indefatigable perseverance of the Chinese. When looking upon a river such as this is, one would think it quite impossible to navigate it, yet even this difficulty is overcome by hard labour and perseverance.
The slow progress which we necessarily made suited my purposes exactly, and enabled me to explore the botanical riches of the country with convenience and ease. I used to rise at break of day, and spend the morning inspecting the hills and valleys near the sides of the river, and then return to the boat in time for breakfast. Breakfast over, I generally went on shore again, accompanied by my men, who carried the seeds, plants or flowers we might discover during our rambles. The first thing we did on these occasions was to ascend the nearest hill and take a survey of the windings of the river, with the number of rapids, in order that we might form some idea of the progress our boat would make during our absence. If the rapids were numerous we knew that she would progress slowly, and that we might wander to a considerable distance with perfect safety; if, on the other hand, the river seemed smooth, and its bed comparatively level, we were obliged to keep within a short distance of the banks.
During these rambles I met with many plants growing wild on the hills, which I had never seen before, except in gardens. Here the curious and much-prized Edgworthia chrysantha was growing in great abundance. Reeves's Spiræa and Spiræa prunifolia were found in great profusion. Several species of the Chimonanthus or Japan allspice, Forsythia viridissima, Buddlea Lindleyana, and numerous Daphnes, Gardenias, and Azaleas, were also met with. Many kinds of mosses and Lycopods were growing out of the crevices of the moist rock; amongst the latter, and very abundant, was a fine species named Lycopodium Willdenovii.
Amongst the trees the most common were the Dryandra cordata of Thunberg, the tung-eu of the Chinese, which is valuable on account of the quantity of oil found its seeds, and the tallow-tree, which furnishes both tallow and oil. Here and there were plantations of the common Chinese pine, and the lance-leaved one known to botanists as Cunninghamia lanceolata. A palm-tree, and the only species of the genus indigenous to, or cultivated in, the northern or central provinces of the empire, was seen on the hillside here in a high state of perfection. It seems a species of Chamærops. It is particularly valuable to the northern Chinese, who use its large, brown, hairlike bracts for many purposes. Ropes and cables for their junks are made out of this substance, and seem to last, even under water, for a very long time. It is probably better and stronger for those purposes than the fibre of the cocoa-nut, which it resembles to a certain extent. Bed-bottoms are wrought out of this, and are largely used in the country by all classes of the natives. Agricultural labourers and coolies are fond of wearing hats and cloaks made out of the same substance, which in wet weather keeps out a great deal of rain; and there are many other purposes to which this useful tree is applied. Besides all this, it is most ornamental in the country where it grows.
I am in hopes that one day we shall see this beautiful palm-tree ornamenting the hill-sides in the south of England, and in other mild European countries. With this view I sent a few plants home to Sir William Hooker, of the Royal Gardens at Kew, with a request that he would forward one of them to the garden of His Royal Highness Prince Albert, at Osborne House, Isle of Wight.1
For the accompanying sketch of this interesting palm, and for several others in this work, I am indebted to the kindness of Captain Cräcroft, R.N., a gentleman whose services in China, when in command of the "Reynard," were highly and justly appreciated by the foreign community.
Limestone rock is very plentiful in this district, and there are a great number of kilns for burning it, constructed exactly like those we see at home. Large quantities of water-fowl, such as geese, ducks, teal, and several fine varieties of the kingfisher, were common about the river. Inland, on the hill-sides, pheasants, woodcocks, and partridges were most abundant. I believe deer are also plentiful, but I did not see any.
Thus day after day passed pleasantly by; the weather was delightful, the natives quiet and inoffensive, and the scenery picturesque in the highest degree. My Chinamen and myself, often footsore and weary, used to sit down on the hill-top and survey and enjoy the beautiful scenery around us. The noble river, clear and shining, was seen winding amongst the hills; here it was smooth as glass, deep and still, and there shallow, and running rapidly over its rocky bed. At some places trees and bushes hung over its sides, and dipped their branches into the water, while at others rocks reared their heads high above the stream, and bade defiance to its rapid current.
The whole country was hilly, and the distant mountains, varying in height from three hundred to three thousand feet, were peaked, ridged, and furrowed in a most remarkable manner. Altogether the views were most charming, and will long remain vividly impressed upon my memory.
On the 29th and 30th of October we passed the towns of Tsa-yuen, Tsa-sa-poo, Kang-koo, and Shang-i-yuen, all places of considerable note, particularly the last, which must contain at least 100,000 inhabitants.
Opposite to the town of Tsa-yuen there is a curious shaped hill, which is composed chiefly of granite of a beautiful greenish colour, much prized by the Chinese. The slabs which are quarried out of the hill are used for various ornamental purposes, but they are more particularly in demand for the building of tombs. Large quantities are taken down the river to Yen-chow and Hang-chow for this purpose.
The tea-plant was now frequently seen in cultivation on the hill sides, this being the outskirt of the great green-tree country to which I was bound. Large camphor-trees were frequently seen in the valleys, particularly near the villages. Tallow-trees were still in extensive cultivation, and at this season of the year, being clothed in their autumnal hues, they produced a striking effect upon the varied landscape. The leaves had changed from a light-green to a dark blood-red colour. Another tree, a species of maple, called by the Chinese the fung-gze, was also most picturesque from the same cause. These two trees formed a striking contrast with the dark-green foliage of the pine tribe.
But the most beautiful tree found in this district is a species of weeping cypress, which I had never met with in any other part of China, and which was quite new to me. It was during one of my daily rambles that I saw the first specimen. About half a mile distant from where I was I observed a noble-looking fir-tree, about sixty feet in height, having a stem as straight as the Norfolk Island pine, and weeping branches like the willow of St. Helena. Its branches grew at first at right angles to the main stem, then described a graceful curve upwards, and bent again at their points. From these main branches others long and slender hung down perpendicularly, and gave the whole tree a weeping and graceful form. It reminded me of some of those large and gorgeous chandeliers, sometimes seen in theatres and public halls in Europe.
What could it be? It evidently belonged to the pine tribe, and was more handsome and ornamental than them all. I walked, no, — to tell the plain truth, I ran up to the place where it grew, much to the surprise of my attendants, who evidently thought I had gone crazy. When I reached the spot where it grew it appeared more beautiful even than it had done in the distance. Its stem was perfectly straight, like Cryptomeria, and its leaves were formed like those of the well-known arbor-vitæ, only much more slender and graceful.
This specimen was fortunately covered with a quantity of ripe fruit, a portion of which I was most anxious to secure. The tree was growing in some grounds belonging to a country inn, and was the property of the innkeeper. A wall intervened between us and it, which I confess I felt very much inclined to get over; but remembering that I was acting Chinaman, and that such a proceeding would have been very indecorous, to say the least of it, I immediately gave up the idea. We now walked into the inn, and, seating ourselves quietly down at one of the tables, ordered some dinner to be brought to us. When we had taken our meal we lighted our Chinese pipes, and sauntered out, accompanied by our polite host, into the garden where the real attraction lay. "What a fine tree this of yours is! we have never seen it in the countries near the sea where we come from; pray give us some of its seeds." "It is a fine tree," said the man, who was evidently much pleased with our admiration of it, and readily complied with our request. These seeds were carefully treasured; and as they got home safely, and are now growing in England, we may expect in a few years to see a new and striking feature produced upon our landscape by this lovely tree. Afterwards, as we journeyed westward, it became more common, and was frequently to be seen in clumps on the sides of the hills.
This tree has been named the FUNEREAL CYPRESS. Professor Lindley — to whom I sent one of the dried specimens procured during this journey — pronounces it "an acquisition of the highest interest;" and adds, "We have received a specimen of it, which enables us to say that it must be a plant of the greatest beauty. It may be best described as a tree like the weeping willow in growth, with the foliage of the savin, but of a brighter green; it is, however, not a juniper, as the savin is, but a genuine cypress. It has long been a subject of regret that the Italian cypress cannot be made to endure our climate, and to decorate our burial-places; but we have now a finer tree, still better adapted for the purpose." 2
Leaving the town of Shang-i-yuen, abreast of which we had anchored during the night, we proceeded on our journey on the morning of the 31st of October. After going a short distance we came to a wild-looking part of the hills where there was a most curious and distinct echo, called by the Chinese Fung-shu. The boatmen and passengers amused themselves by yelling and uttering strange sounds at the highest pitch of their voices; these were taken up and distinctly repeated again and again, first by the nearest hills, and then by others more distant, until they gradually died away. The Chinese have strange prejudices and opinions about this place. They told me that the spirits of men after death often chose to dwell amidst this wild and beautiful scenery; and they said it was they that now repeated these sounds, and echoed them from hill to hill.
As the day wore on we came to one of those rapids which were so difficult to pass, and observed a great number of small boats waiting for and visiting all the larger ones as they came up. These were river beggars. Each of them had a very old man or woman on board, whose hair in most instances was whitened with age, and who was evidently in a state of imbecility and second childhood. They all expected alms from the boatmen who arrived from the rich towns of the east near the sea. The Chinese, to their honour, revere and love old age. It was said that a celebrated English admiral was once in danger of an attack from the Canton mob, but the moment he lifted his hat and showed his gray hairs they drew back and allowed him to pass on unmolested. Be this as it may, it is certain that they revere and love old age and gray hairs.
It was a custom with the boatmen every morning to set aside a small portion of rice in a bamboo cup to give to the poor. Hence the beggars were generally successful in their applications; indeed, it was a most difficult matter to get rid of them otherwise, for they were most importunate and even troublesome. We were visited by so many that the boatman often complained of his inability to give more than an ounce or two of rice to each, and appealed to them on the subject. But unless the whole of the contents of the bamboo cup was emptied into the basket held out, the mendicants made a great noise, and complained that they had been deprived of their due.
Sometimes the river was so shallow and so full of stones that the only passage for boats was close in shore. The land beggars knew these places well, and always took their stations there. Each was provided with a basket suspended from the point of a bamboo pole, which he held out to the boatman and asked for alms. These landsmen were quite as importunate as their brethren in the boats, and were generally as successful in their applications.
I was not aware until now that the lower orders in China — such as these boatmen — were so charitable. Few of the beggars — and "their name was legion" — were sent away without "an alms." It might be that, ignorant and idolatrous as these boatmen were, they had yet some idea that a blessing would result from "casting their bread upon the waters."
1 In the 'Botanical Magazine' for March, 1850, Sir Wm. Hooker thus writes of it: — "A palm, Chamærops excelsa, (?) sent to the Royal gardens by Mr. Fortune, has braved, unharmed, and unprotected by any sort of covering, the severe winter now passed" (1849-50).
2 Gardener's Chronicle, 1849, p. 243.