Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

probable that any sect or denomination of Christians, Greek Orthodox, Latin Apostolic, or Protestant dissentient, will have much to boast of in their Chinese allies : more probably, as history has too often shown us to be the case, the reputation of the Redeemer will, among the poor ignorant people of the Celestial Empire, be transcended by that of his impious brother, and with the progress of time the same inveteracy will spring up between the followers of the junior propbet and those of the olden Saviour, as exists between the followers of Ali and Muhammad, or any two successive founders of religious dogmas.

To understand the true position of Russia with respect to China, a relationship which has been much misunderstood, it is necessary to take into consideration where the vast population of Shin-wah has sprung into being. That idea will not be gained by contemplating any ordinary map; it will by a glance at Petermann's, or other orographical maps. On the banks of the great Blue and Yellow and other great rivers, and their numberless tributaries-on, in fact, what is almost a delta-one great and continuous hydrographical basin, with its outlying islets-mis where this vast population is concentrated. This country, so constituted, is separated from most others by chains of lofty and very rugged mountains (Yun-ling, Ala-Shan, and Khin-gan), which pass off beyond into the high uplands or plateaus of Thibet, Gobi or Shamo, and Hanhai. The Chinese, strictly speaking, are, by reason of this configuration of their land, brought more under the influence, and into closer relationship, with maritime nations, as Great Britain and America, than with Russia. Manchura, Kirin, Mongolia, Thian-chan, Thsiang-hai, Greater and Lesser Thibet, will, in case of the declaration of a Chinese as distinguished from a Tartar Empire, of necessity detach themselves from a power to which they owe no allegiance by race or by custom, and constitute independent states, which will always oppose a barrier to the encroachments of Russia in China Proper, much more formidable than what is presented by the wide ocean. On the other hand, there is little chance of the Mongolian or Tartar races overrunning China, if once brought into contaet with European civilisation, so easily as they have done of yore. How low and effete the Tartars have become in China, experience has just shown ; and as for the horsemen of the north, the low canal and river-intersected districts of China Proper would present most formidable obstacles to races to whom a junk must be somewhat of a curiosity, and a steam-boat an object of apprehension, if not of positive terror.

It has been supposed by some that the Mongolian and Tartar tribes of Central Asia would, having no bonds of political unity, be likely to fall under the influence, if not the dominion, of Russia, as the paramount authority of Northern Asia, which would thus bring that colossal power in immediate contact with Hindustan. But such a supposition is quite out of the question. The Tartars have a bond of unity in a common race, faith, language, and religion ; similar habits of life, pursuits, and sympathies. They are not an indolent, submissive, yielding people, like the Hindus and the Chinese; they would be as independent in Mongolia as they are in Bokhara, where they have long been in presence of the bugbear of Western Europe. Much more chance of mischief might be anticipated, if a false policy were to dictate to the Anglo-Indian government an advance into Thibet, or an attempt to establish political relations with the countries beyond or within the Himma-leh. Then the ubiquitous, wary Russian would form alliances that would be a perpetual thorn in our side, and a source of unceasing apprehension and irritation.

We may for the present, however, fairly turn our attention to considerations of a far more promising, more cheerful, and more hopeful character—and these present themselves in the wonderful adaptability of the country to locomotion, whether by steam-boat or by rail. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that China, once opened to civilisation, with so vast a population, so much native ingenuity and educability, such great pecuniary, agricultural, and mercantile resources, its rivers and canals will, within the space of a very few years, be covered with steamboats, which will at once serve for the intercommunication of natives, and will convey the curious stranger to the innermost recesses of the empire. Rails, for which the greater part of the country is peculiarly adapted, will ultimately complete these facilities. It will no longer require the intrepidity of a Fortune to visit the strange freaks of nature and art displayed by the Sung-lu and Bohea hills. Thousands of tourists will annually trudge across the long bridge of Fu-chu-fu and the bridge of boats at Ningpo. The regattas of Chang-cha will be open to all the world. Golden pheasants, mother-of-pearl partridges, and gigantic edible bats, await the sportsman. The jonquil Aspasias of Su-chu-fu will alone, it is to be hoped, be kept in the background.

No nation can present works to be compared with the Great Wall and the Great Canal, the latter extending in a continuous line from Pekin to the Blue River, a distance of 500 miles. Nothing in Europe can give an idea of the fertility of Kian-Dan, where two harvests reward the labourer annually, and the soil gives forth vegetables, fruit, and flowers, uninterruptedly. Apricot-oil will succeed to olive-oil, and li-chi, lung-yan, wang-pi, and other delicious fruits, will come into fashion. The disciple of Walton may hook fish in armour (tetrodron) which eat like veal, whip the lakes for gold fish as he does here for trout, or net fish like crocodiles with inflammable fat!

What, again, will the tourist think of pleasure-grounds which extend over 60,000 acres, and comprehend thirty separate palaces as at Yuanmin-Yuan?—what displays of squibs, crackers, gongs, and trumpets, hail the full moon? A constant succession of large villages, towns, and cities, with high walls, lofty gates, and more lofty pagodas, will present to the traveller an animated picture of activity, industry, and commerce, almost without a parallel. What an outlet for manufactured goods, from broadcloth to glass, does this dense population lay open! In the lakes and morasses, every little islet is crowned with villages and hovels. There birds are used for catching fish; while men in the water, with jars on their heads, are fishing for birds. Shoals of ducks may be seen issuing from floating habitations, obedient to the sound of a whistle ; while carts on the land are driven by the wind.

The meanest hut is constructed of blue bricks, and its tiled roof is supported on pillars; the luxury of glass is alone wanting. Almost every terraced hill is terminated with a clump of trees or a pagoda. Bridges of every variety of fanciful shape-circular, elliptical, horse-shoe, and Gothic, attract notice by their variety and novelty ; the monumental architecture that adorns the cemeteries under every form is as peculiar as everything else. Within the great cities the traveller fancies himself, from the low houses with curved, overhanging roofs, the pillars, poles, flags, and streamers, to have got into the midst of a large encampment. The glitter arising from the gilding, the varnishing, and the painting in vivid colours, that adorn the front of the shops—and in particular the gaily-coloured lanterns of horn, muslin, silk, and paper-the busy multitude, the confused noise, the numerous processions, the itinerant vendors and workshops, the musicians, mountebanks, quack-doctors, and comedians, will be enough to dazzle even the Titmarshes of Cornhill.

Then, again, without, on the Great Canal or great rivers, the multitude of vessels of all descriptions—the banks covered with towns and villages as far as the eye can reach—the vast number of light stone bridges—the temples, with their double or triple tiers of roofs, if not destroyed by the Chang-ti

-the Pai-lus, or triple gateways, in commemoration of some honest man or chaste virgin-the face of the surrounding country, beautifully diversified with hill and dale, and every part of it in the highest state of cultivation—and lastly, but not least, the apparent happy condition of the numerous inhabitants, indicated by their cheerful looks, and improved by a new clothing and the removal of the odious Manchu tail-will present altogether a scene magnificent beyond description.

China will require something more than the scanty notices given to us by a Du Halde, a Grosier, a De Guignes, a Barrow, a Staunton, an Ellis, an Abel, a Gutzlaff, a Mailla, a Bell, a Morrison, a Remusat, a Fortune, a Huc, or a Davis. The cookery will also require correction. Rice, garlic, and cabbage fried in oil are not artistic. The flesh of horses and asses is objectionable, and worms, frogs, rats, dogs, and offal of all kinds are not symposiac. Soyer must remove to Pekin. The cordon bleu must be exchanged for a cordon jaune. As the Chinese had boats propelled by wheels long before us, so it is worth mentioning they not only hatch ducks artificially, but also the spawn of fish, a piscatorial proceeding much vaunted of late as a new discovery in Europe. The habitué of Baden-Baden will find cards and dice, and may add tsoi-moi to his resources. There is cock, quail, and even locust fighting for those who take pleasure in such things. The public festivals, the feast of lanterns, and the fireworks, rival the displays of the French imperial fêtes. The concerts are not first-rate. Noise and rapidity are the great criterions of excellence. There will be a decided opening at Pekin and Nankin for a few adventurous Philharmonic Societies.

Su-chu-fu—the Venice of China-is the resort of the fashionable and the voluptuous. “ Paradise," say the Chinese, “may be in heaven, but Su

also be mentioned the mountain cemetery of the princes of the Tai-mingchau family; the fine tower of Yang-chu, erected in the sixth century; the warm baths and mineral springs of Fuan-ho; the octagonal porcelain tower of Lin-chin-chu, like all the rest, a temple of the now bygone Fu or Fo, whose image is placed in the highest chamber; Hu-nan, the navel of the world; the observatory of Chu-kong, an astronomer who lived 1000 years before Christ ; Tung-wa, “the central flower ;" the Nestorian monument at Sin-gan; the tomb of Fu-hi on the mountains of Kungchan, and that of Kung-fu-su (Confucius) at Kiu-fu; the military road of Shan-si; the natural and artificial beauties of Hang-chu; the marvels of Kuai-lin; the sacred snakes of Nan-chang; the regattas of Hu-nan; the pyramidal temples of Suan-chu ; the monasteries of the Bonzes ; and the splendid, temples of Fu. But little is as yet known of the curiosities, natural and artificial, of China; the travels of Huc and Fortune have made known a host unheard of before, but much, very much, must remain that has as yet to be described. China is certainly not " done" yet, nor can Cockney critics repeat, as they do once a week of the Nile, the Amazon, and the Ganges, that the Blue River and its Yellow congeneer are as familiar to them as the Thames! There is something new in China---something genuine and undiscovered. It is undoubtedly great, ancient, curious, and original. Let the Europeans only assist to swell up those continuous streams of travellers, on horse, on foot, and in litters, which Huc and Fortune describe to us as some fifteen hundred miles in length without a break, ever and continuously pouring on under avenues of trees, with coffee and tea-shops, restaurants, pleasure-gardens, and guard-houses every few steps ; and truly, till steam-boats and railways operate a little clearance, China will be the greatest wonder of the world!

The most remarkable feature in the latest news from China is that the insurgents were moving south, towards Canton, through the principal tea-districts, instead of northwards, towards Pekin. This we should consider to have originated in some erroneous rumour, as it is opposed to the system pursued from the beginning by the insurgents, who have always gone onwards, looking to Pekin as the goal of their ambition. If, for "insurgents moving south,” we were to read “the insurrection is spreading southwards," the origin of the rumour would be at once understood.

From Shanghai the statement, on the contrary, was that a large force was moving to the north, towards Pekin. It was also positively asserted that the progress of the insurgents to the westward had extended to Nan-chang, the capital of the Kiang-si province, the most central city of the Chinese Empire, and next in importance to Pekin. Mr. Meadows had been up the Blue River again, with an officer of the Hermes. Fu-ehu was in a state of riot and confusion, and there was also fighting going on at Yan-ping-fu.

It has been known that the governor of Shanghai has been some time past organising a fleet at Canton, with which to attempt the recovery of the mouths of the Grand Canal. The attempt is said to have been actually made, and, as was to have been anticipated, to have been signally defeated. A considerable imperialist force is also said to have made a similarly unsuccessful attempt to recover Amoy; and the insurgent and imperialist fleets are reported to have come to an engagement in the same neighbourhood, to the disadvantage of the latter. The chief of the insurgents at Amoy has, as we have anticipated, proclaimed himself a general in the service of the Ming party. Tian-ta is still asserted by some to be no myth, and is said to be only abiding his time to come forward and take his position as lawful sovereign of the empire.

TALES OP MY DRAGOMAN.
By BASIL MAY.

No. I.

THE HADJ MARABOU’S JUDGMENT. In contradistinction with the usual custom of the East, where one man takes unto himself many wives, a certain Moorish lady of Algiers took it into her head to have two husbands. One was a porter, the other was a baker. The porter's business kept him out during the day; the baker was never at home at night. Thus the reader sees there was no fear of the cari sposi coming in contact with each other.

In the course of time the lady was as ladies like to be when they love their lords, and the approaching event was looked forward to by both husbands, individually and separately, with mutual feelings of undivided satisfaction.

“ It shall be a holiday,” said the porter.

“ Were the whole community dependent on my night's labour for their next day's bread, they should fast," affirmed the baker.

And they kept their word.

The hoped-for day arrived. They met, and, strange to relate, both were grateful; and both believing in their claim to the title of father, both insisted on their right to exercise parental authority over the child. How should this difficult question be settled. They would go to the cadi, and lay the matter before him.

* Mustapha," said the cadi, addressing the baker, "you say the child is yours?"

“ As I live, by the grace of the true prophet, your most sublime personification of the effervescence of wisdom hath spoken truly.”

“ Mahmoud,” continued the cadi, addressing the other, thou maintainest that the brat is thine ?”

“Rather so, Joseph,” answered Mahmoud, who had heard English sailors make use of the expression, and who, from the fact of the cadi having frequently to decide between them and the Algerines, thought he was paying a tribute of admiration to the cadi's knowledge of modern languages.

But the cadi frowned. “Let him receive twenty stripes,” said he.

The eunuchs prepared to seize upon him, but the unfortunate Mahmoud prostrated himself at the feet of the cadi, crying, “ Allah! Allah ! and Mannikin's his brother !"

The cadi bowed; the attendants threw themselves upon their faces, and Mahmoud was saved.

There was a moment’s pause, during which the whole assembly seemed to be digesting the solemn effect that Mahmoud's appeal had had upon them, and then the cadi, addressing him again, said, “Thou sayest the brat is thine ?"

“ The moon,” answered Mahmoud, reverently, “lights the pilgrim on his way, and shows him the precipice ; but thy words, oh! son of Allah, are like the sun's rays, which not only- ".

“ Cut it short,” interrupted the cadi. “Yea, or nay ?” “ Yes, oh Allah !"

« AnteriorContinuar »