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guilds, and each takes a distinguishing name, as the Happy and Blessed company, the Glorious Appearing company, &c. The performances usually extend through three entire days, with brief recesses for sleeping and eating, and in villages where they are comparatively rare, the people act as if they were bewitched, neglecting everything to attend them. The female parts are performed by lads, who not only paint and dress like women, but even squeeze their toes into the “golden lilies,” and imitate, upon the stage, a mincing, wriggling gait. These fellows personate the voice, tones, and motions of the sex with wonderful exactness, taking every opportunity, indeed, that the play will allow to relieve their feet by sitting when on the boards, or retiring into the greenroom when not speaking. The acting is chiefly pantomime, and its fidelity shows the excellent tuition of the players; this development of their imitative faculties is probably still more encouraged by the difficulty the audience find to understand what is said; for, owing to the differences in the dialects, the open construction of the theatre, the high falsetto recitative key in which the words are spoken, and the din of the orchestra intervening between every few sentences, not one quarter of the people hear or understand a word. The scenery is very simple, consisting merely of rudely painted mats arranged on the back and sides of the stage, a few tables, chairs, or beds, which successively serve for many uses, and are brought in and out from the robing-room. The orchestra is seated on the side of the stage, and not only play interludes but strike a crashing noise by way of emphasis, or to add energy to the rush of opposing warriors. No falling curtain divides the acts or scenes, and the play is carried to its conclusion without intermission. The dresses are made of gorgeous silks, and present the best specimens of ancient Chinese costume of former dynasties now to be seen. The imperfections of the scenery require much to be suggested by the spectator's imagination, though the actors themselves supply the defect in a measure by each man stating what part he performs, and what the person he represents has been doing while absent. If a courier is to be sent to a distant city, away he strides across the boards, or perhaps gets a whip and cocks up his leg as if mounting a horse, and on reaching the edge of the stage, cries out that he has arrived, and there delivers his message. Passing a bridge, or
THEATRICAL PERFORMANCES AND PLAYACTORS. 87
crossing a river, are indicated by stepping up and then down, or by the rolling motion of a boat. If a city is to be impersonated, two or three men lie down upon each other, when warriors rush on them furiously, overthrow the wall which they formed, and take the place by assault. Ghosts, or supernatural beings, are introduced through a wide trap-door in the stage, and if he thinks it necessary, the impersonator cries out from underneath that he is ready, or for assistance to help him up through the hole. Mr. Lay describes a play he saw in which a medley of celestial and terrestrial personages were introduced. “The first scene was intended to represent the happiness and splendor of beings who inhabit the upper regions, with the sun and moon and the elements curiously personified playing around them. The man who personated the sun held a round image of the sun's disk, while the female, who acted the part of the moon, had a crescent in her hand. The actors took care to move so as to mimic the conjunction and opposition of these heavenly bodies as they revolve round in their apparent orbs. The Thunderer wielded an axe, and leaped and dashed about in a variety of extraordinary somersets. After a few turns the monarch, who had been so highly honored as to find a place, through the partiality of a mountain nymph, in the abodes of the happy, begins to feel that no height of good fortune can secure a mortal against the common calamities of this frail life. A wicked courtier disguises himself in a tiger's skin, and in this garb imitates the animal itself. He rushes into the retired apartments of the ladies, frightens them out of their wits, and throws the heir-apparent into a moat. The sisters hurry into the royal presence, and casting themselves on the ground divulge the sad intelligence that a tiger has borne off the young prince, who it appears was the son of the mountain nymph aforesaid. The loss the bereaved monarch takes so much to heart, that he renounces the world, and deliberates about the nomination of a successor. By the influence of a crafty woman, he selects a young man who has just sense enough to know that he is a fool. The settlement of the crown is scarcely finished, when the unhappy king dies, and the blockhead is presently invested with the crown, but instead of excelling in his new preferment, the lout bemoans his lot in the most awkward strains of lamentation, and cries “O dear! what shall I do?’ with such piteous action, and yet withal so truly ludicrous, that the spectator is at a loss to know whether to laugh or to weep. The courtier, who had taken off the heir and broken the father's heart, finds the new king an easy tool for prosecuting his traitorous purposes, and the state is plunged into the depths of civil discord at home and dangerous wars abroad. “In the sequel a scene occurred, in which the reconciliation of this court and some foreign prince depends upon the surrender of a certain obnoxious person. The son-in-law of the victim is charged with the letter containing this proposal, and returns to his house and disguises himself for the sake of concealment. When he reaches the court of the foreign prince, he discovers that he has dropped the letter in changing his clothes, and narrowly escapes being taken for a spy without his credentials. He hurries back, calls for his garments, and shakes them one by one in an agony of self-reproach, but no letter appears. He sits down, throwing himself with great violence upon the chair, with a countenance inexpressibly full of torture and despair: reality could have added nothing to the imitation. But while every eye was riveted upon him, he called the servant-maid, and inquired if she knew anything about the letter; she replied she overheard her mistress reading a letter whose contents were so and so. The mistress had taken her seat at a distance from him, and was nursing her baby; and the instant he ascertained the letter was in her possession, he looked towards her with such a smile upon his cheek, and with a flood of light in his eye, that the whole assembly heaved a loud sigh of admiration, for the Chinese do not applaud by clapping and stamping, but express their feelings by an ejaculation that is between a sigh and a groan. The aim of the husband was to wheedle his wife out of the letter, and this smile and look of affection were merely the prelude; for he takes his chair, places it beside her, lays one hand softly on her shoulder, and fondles the child with the other in a style so exquisitely natural, and so completely English, that in this dramatic picture it was seen that nature fashioneth men's hearts alike. His addresses were, however, ineffectual, and her father’s life was not sacrificed.” The morals of the Chinese stage, so far as the sentiments of the pieces are concerned, are better than the acting, which some. times panders to depraved tastes, but no indecent exposure, as of
Prew ALENCE AND MODES OF GAMBLING. 89
the persons of dancers, is ever seen in China. The audience stand in the area fronting the stage, or sit in the sheds around it, and the women present are usually seated in the galleries. The police are at hand to maintain order, but the crowd, although in an irksome position, and sometimes exposed to a fierce sun, is remarkably peaceable. Accidents seldom occur on these occasions, but whenever the people are alarmed, or the stage takes fire, loss of life or limb generally ensues. A dreadful destruction of life took place at Canton in May, 1845, by the conflagration of a stage during the performances, by which more than 2000 persons lost their lives; and the survivors remembered that fifty persons were killed many years before in the same place and occasion by the falling of a wall.” Active, manly plays are not popular in the south, and instead of engaging in a cricket-match or regatta, going to a bowling alley or fives’ court, to exhibit their strength and skill, they lift beams headed with heavy stones to prove their brawn, or kick up their heels in a game of shuttlecock. The outdoor amusements of gentlemen consist in flying kites, carrying birds on perches, sauntering hand in hand through the fields, or lazily boating on the water, while pitching coppers, fighting crickets or quails, kicking a shuttlecock, snapping sticks, chucking stones, or guessing the number of seeds in an orange, are plays for lads. Gambling is universal. Hucksters at the roadside are provided with a cup and saucer, and the clicking of their dice is heard at every corner. A boy with two cash prefers to risk their loss on the throw of a die, to simply buying a cake without trying the chance of getting it for nothing. Gaming-houses are opened by scores, their keepers paying a bribe to the local officers, who can hardly be expected to be very severe against what they were brought up in and daily practise; and women in the privacy of their apartments while away their time at cards and dominoes. Porters play by the wayside while waiting for employment, and hardly have the retinue of an officer seen their superiors enter the house, than they pull out their cards or dice, and squat down to a game. The most common game played at Canton is called fan tan or quadrating cash, and so simple as to be almost childish. The keeper of the table is provided with a pile of bright coin, of which he takes a double handful, and lays them on the
* Chinese Repository, Vol. XIV., page 335.
table, covering them with a bowl. The persons standing outside the rail guess the remainder there will be left after the pile has been divided by four, whether 1, 2, 3, or nothing, the guess and stake of each person being first recorded by a clerk; the keeper then carefully picks out the coins four by four, all narrowly watching his movements. Cheating is almost impossible in this game, and twenty people can play at it as easily as two. Their cards are smaller and more numerous than our own ; but the dominoes are the same.
Boys gambling with crickets.
Combats between crickets are contested with great spirit, and tubfuls of them are caught in the autumn, and sold in the streets to supply gamesters. Two well chosen combatants are put into a basin, and irritated with a straw, until they rush upon each other with the utmost fury, chirruping as they make the onset, and the battle seldom ends without a tragical result in loss of life or limb. Quails are also trained to mortal combat; two are placed on a railed table, on which a handful of millet has been strown, and as soon as one picks up a kernel, the other flies at him with beak, claws, and wings, and the struggle is kept up till one retreats by hopping into the hand of his disappointed owner. Hundreds of dollars are occasionally betted