Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

nor any open spaces except small areas in front of temples, relieve the closeness of these lanes. The absence of horses and carriages, and a custom of huddling together, a desire to screen the path from the sun, and their ignorance of the advantages of another mode, are perhaps the reasons for making them so narrow. In case of fire, it is difficult to get access to the burning buildings, and troublesome and dangerous for the inmates to move or save their property. At all times, porters carrying burdens are impeded by the crowd of passengers thronging the thoroughfares, who likewise must pass Indian file lest they tilt against the porters. Ventilation is very imperfect where the buildings are packed so closely ; and the public necessaries and offal carried through the streets by the scavengers, still further pollute the air. Drainage is only partially attended to, and the sewers often get choked or the coverings are broken, and exude their contents over the pathway. The ammoniacal and other gases which are generated by all this filth aggravate the ophthalmic diseases so prevalent among the Chinese; and it is a matter of surprise that the cholera, plague, or yellow fever does not visit the inhabitants of such confined abodes, who breathe so tainted an atmosphere. The streets are usually paved with slabs of stone laid crosswise, and except near markets and wells are comparatively clean. They are not laid out straight, and some of them present a singularly irregular appearance from the slight angle which each house makes with its neighbors; it being considered rather unlucky to have them exactly even. The names of the streets, instead of being marked on the corners of the blocks, are written on the gateways at their ends; and as each division makes a separate neighborhood, and has its own name, a single long street will in its course have five, six, or more names. The general arrangement of a Chinese city presents a labyrinth of streets, alleys, and byways, very perplexing to a stranger who has neither plan nor directory to guide him, nor numbers upon the houses and shops to direct him. The sign-boards are hung from the eaves or wall each side of the door, or securely inserted in stone sockets; some of them are ten or fifteen feet high, and being gaily painted and gilded on both sides with picturesque characters, a succession of them as seen down a street produces a pleasing effect. The inscriptions on these signs simply mention

STREETS, SQUARES, AND PUBLIC BUILDINGs. 13

the kind of goods sold, and without half the puffing seen in west. ern cities; and the accounts sometimes given of the inscriptions on sign-boards in Chinese cities, as “No cheating here,” and others, are the exception and not the rule. The edicts and official notices of government, handbills of medicines to cure all diseases, and the famous doctors who make them, notices announcing the loss of children or escape of slaves, houses to let, or other events, cover blank walls in great abundance and variety, printed on red, black, or yellow paper; but the absence of newspapers leads the shopmen to depend more for patronage upon a circle of customers, and the distribution of cards, than to spend much money in handbill advertising. The shrines of the street gods are usually located in little niches in the wall, sometimes with altars before them, and receiving no other regard than a few incense sticks. The temples and assembly-halls are almost the only public buildings in Chinese cities, except the governmental offices, but although very numerous, they present few architectural points to distinguish them from other edifices. A few of the temples at Canton, and the grounds attached to them,...occupy a large space, among which the Hai-chwang sz’, or Budhist monastery in Honam, noticed in the account of that city, is the best known. The temples in all parts of the country derive no small portion of their income from travellers, and are consequently made more commodious and extensive than the number of priests or the throng of worshippers require. There are no public buildings erected for markets, each butcher, greengrocer, and poulterer hiring stalls, or hawking his commodities around the street as suits his own convenience. The assembly-halls are built somewhat like warehouses, with one spacious hall for public use. There are more than a hundred of them in Canton, and the same proportion in other cities. Some of them are partly like a hotel, being occupied by traders, coming in from the country to sell their produce, and to buy goods, who club together, because they speak the same dialect, or are engaged in the same commerce. All the houses, shops, and halls, pay a ground rent to the general government, depending on their size and value, but no data are available for comparing this tax with that levied in western cities. The government furnishes the owner of the ground with a hung ki or red deed, in testimony of his right to occupancy, which puts him in perpetual possession as long as he pays the taxes.

Houses are rented on short leases, and the rent collected quarterly in advance; the annual income from real estate is between nine and twelve per cent. The yearly rent of the best shops in Canton is from $150 to $400; there is no system of insuring buildings, which, with the municipal taxes and the difficulty of collecting bad rents, enhances their price.

The taverms, tsiu tien, or “wine shops,” are numerous in all parts of the country, but though they will not bear comparison with the hotels of western cities, they are far in advance of the cheerless khans and caravansaries found in Asia Minor. Boarding-houses, as they exist in western cities, are unknown as distinct from taverns or restaurants; nor are grog shops, beer shops, or gin palaces, found in Chinese cities. The traveller usually brings his own bedding, and sometimes his own provision also, and when night comes spreads his mat upon the floor or bedstead, and lies down in his clothes. The better sort of travellers order a room for themselves, but owing to the common practice of men of wealth going to the temples, or hiring a separate boat when travelling, in which they sleep during their stay, the taverns are not much frequented by those who would pay well. One considerable source of income to innkeepers is the preparation of dinners for parties of men, who either come to the house or send to it for so many covers, for when a gentleman invites his friends to an entertainment it is common to serve it up at his warehouse, or at an inn. In towns and cities, thousands of men take their meals at tables or at eating-stands in the streets, and the number of these conveniences with the cooking-stalls attached, strikes a stranger singularly. The noisy hilarity of the customers, as they ply their “nimble lads” or chopsticks, and the vociferous cries of the cooks recommending their cakes and dishes, with the steaming savor from the frying-pan and kettles, form, however, but a small part of the various objects in these streets to attract the eyes, ears, and nose of the observer. Their appearance to a foreigner is very amusing, and the variety of bustling scenes and picturesque novelties presented to him on arrival from sea, afford no little entertainment. They have been thus described by an eye-witness.

CROWDED STREETS OF CHINEse Cities. 15

“The number of itinerant workmen of one kind or another which line the sides of the streets or occupy the areas before public buildings in Chinese towns, is a remarkable feature. Fruiterers, pastrymen, cooks, venders of gimcracks and wayside shopmen are found in other countries as well as China; but to see a travelling blacksmith or tinker, an itinerant glassmender, a peripatetic repairer of umbrellas, a locomotive sealcutter, an ambulatory barber, a migratory banker, a peregrinatory apothecary or druggist, or a walking shoemaker and cobbler, one must travel hitherwards. These movable establishments, together with fortune-tellers, herb and booksellers, chiromancers, &c., pretty well fill up the space, so that one often sees both sides of the streets literally lined with the stalls, wares, or tools of persons selling or making something to eat or to wear. The money-changer sits behind a small table, on which his strings of cash are chained, and where he weighs the silver he is to change; his neighbor, the seal-cutter, sits next him near a like fashioned table. The barber has his chest of drawers made to serve for a seat, and if he has not a furnace of his own he heats his water at the cook's or the blacksmith's fire nearby, perhaps shaving his friend gratis by way of recompense.

“The herbseller chooses an open place where he will not be trampled on, and there displays his simples and his plasters, while the dentist, with a ghastly string of fangs and grinders around his neck, testimonials of his skill, sits over against him, each with his infallible remedy. The bookpeddler and chooser of lucky days, and he who finds stolen goods by divination, arrange themselves on either side, with their tables and stalls, and array of sticks, pencils, signs, and pictures, all trying to ‘catch a little pidgeon.” The spectacle-mender and razor-grinder, the cutler and seller of bangles and bracelets, and the maker of clay puppets or mender of old shoes, are not far off, all plying their callings as busily as if they were in their own shops. Then, besides the hundreds of stalls for selling articles of food, dress, or ornament, there are innumerable peddlers going up and down with baskets and trays slung on their shoulders, each bawling or making his own peculiar note, which, with coolies transporting burdens, chairbearers carrying sedans, and passengers following one another like a stream, with here and there a woman among them, so fill up the streets that it is no easy matter to navigate them. Notwithstanding all these obstructions, it is worthy of note and highly praiseworthy in the Chinese, that these crowds pass and repass with the greatest rapidity in the narrow streets without altercation or disturbance, and seldom with accident.”—Chi. Rep. Vol. X., p. 473.

Streets at the north present a little different aspect. Barrow thus delineates those in Peking: “The multitude of movable workshops of tinkers and barbers, cobblers and blacksmiths, the tents and booths where tea and fruit, rice and other eatables were exposed for sale, with the wares and merchandise arrayed before the doors, had contracted this spacious street to a narrow road in the middle, just wide enough for two little vehicles to pass each other. The processions of men in office attended by their numerous retinues, bearing umbrellas and flags, painted lanterns and a variety of strange insignia of their rank and station, different trains that were accompanying, with lamentable cries, corpses to their graves, and with squalling music, brides to their husbands; the troops of dromedaries laden with coals from Tartary; the wheelbarrows and hand-carts stuffed with vegetables, occupied nearly the whole of this middle space in one continued line. All was in motion. The sides of the streets were filled with an immense concourse of people, buying and selling and bartering their different commodities. The buzz and confused noises of this mixed multitude, proceeding from the loud bawling of those who were crying their wares, the wrangling of others, with every now and then a strange twanging sound like the jarring of a cracked jewsharp (the barber's signal), the mirth and laughter that prevailed in every group, could scarcely be exceeded. Peddlers with their packs, jugglers and conjurers, fortune-tellers, mountebanks and quackdoctors, comedians and musicians, left no space unoccupied.” All shops are closed at nightfall, and persons going abroad carry a lantern or torch. Over all the thoroughfares, watchtowers are erected, where notice of a fire is given, and the watches of the night announced by striking a gong. Few persons, comparatively speaking, are met in the streets at night, except beggars, and the private watch kept by all who are able, greatly assists the regular police in preserving order and apprehending thieves. These men go up and down their wards beating large bamboos to let “thieves know they are on the lookout.” Considering all things, large Chinese cities are remarkably quiet at night. Beggars find their lodgings in the porches of temples, or the sides of the streets, and nestle together in their rags for mutual warmth. This class of people is under the care of a headman, who, with the advice of the elders and constables, apportions them in the separate neighborhoods. During the day, they go from one shop or house door to another, and receive their

* Travels in China, page 96.

« EdellinenJatka »