Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

CRICKET AND QUAIL FIGHTS, CHESS, Etc. 91

upon these cricket or quail fights, which, if not as sublime, are perhaps less inhuman than the pugilistic fights and bull-baits of Christian countries, while both show the same brutal love of sport at the expense of life. The flying of paper kites is a favorite amusement of men as well as children; they are made in imitation of birds, butterflies, lizards, and other living creatures, and flown in a manner that is unequalled ; contrivances are sometimes attached to make a whistling sound in the air. Chess and draughts are unlike the same games in Europe. In chess each player has sixteen pieces arranged on the intersections of the lines; the board contains 72 squares, divided from each other by a line representing a river, on the banks of which the battle is supposed to be fought. There are five pawns stationed in the van, two artillery-men in their rear, and the king, with his suite of two aids, two elephants, two horsemen, and two charioteers, stands in the top row. The king and his two aids cannot go out of the foursquare inclosure in which they stand, but the other men can cross the river; the horsemen, and charioteers correspond to our knights and castles, but the aids, artillery-men, and elephants, have different powers from any pieces in European chess. Draughts are not often played; the number of men is 360, half of them white and half black, intended to represent the number of days in a year; it partly resembles our game of fox and geese. If this sketch of the customs and amusements of the Chinese in their social intercourse and public entertainments is necessarily brief, it is perhaps enough to exhibit their character. Dr. Johnson has well remarked, that no man is a hypocrite in his amusements. The absence of some of the violent and gladiatorial sports of other countries, and of the adjudication of doubtful questions by ordeals or duels; the general dislike of a resort to force, their inability to cope with enemies of vastly less resources and number, and the comparative disesteem of warlike achievements, all indicate the peaceful traits of Chinese character. Duels are unknown, assassinations are infrequent, betting on horseraces is still to begin, and running a muck à la Malay is unheard of; and when two persons fall out upon a matter, after a vast variety of gesture and huge vociferation of opprobrium, they will blow off their wrath, and separate almost without touching each other. Some contrarieties in their ideas

and customs from those practised among ourselves, have frequently been noticed by travellers, a few of which are grouped in the following sketch —

“On inquiring of the boatman in which direction Macao lay, I was answered west-north ; and the wind, he said, was east-south. “We do not say so in Europe, thought I, but imagine my surprise when inexplaining the utility of the compass, he added that the needle pointed south. On landing, the first object that attracted my attention was a military officer, who wore an embroidered petticoat, with a string of beads around his neck, and a fan in his hand. His insignia of rank was a peacock feather pointing downwards instead of a plume turning upwards, and a button on the apex of his sugar-loaf cap instead of a star on his breast, or epaulettes on his shoulders; and it was with some dismay I observed him mount on the right side of his horse. Several scabbards hung from his belt, which, of course, I thought must contain dress-swords or dirks, but on venturing near through the crowd, I was surprised to see a pair of chopsticks and a knife-handle sticking out of one, and soon his fan was folded up and put into the other, whereupon I concluded he was going to a dinner instead of a review. The natives around me had all shaved their hair on the front of their heads, and let it grow long behind; many of them did not shave their faces, but their mustaches grew over their mouths, and lest some straggling hairs should diverge cheek-ways, the owners were busily employed pulling them down. “We arrange our toilets differently, thought I, but I acknowledged the happy device of chopsticks, which enabled these gentlemen to put their food into the mouth endwise underneath this natural fringe.

“On my way to the hotel, I saw a group of old people, some of whom were greybeards; a few were chirruping and chuckling to singingbirds, which they carried perched on a stick or in cages, others were catching flies to feed them, and the remainder of the party seemed to be delightfully employed in flying fantastic paper kites; while a group of boys were gravely looking on and regarding these innocent occupations of their seniors with the most serious and gratified attention.

“As I had come to the country to reside for some time, I made inquiries respecting a teacher, and happily found one who understood English. On entering, he stood at the door, and instead of coming forward and shaking my hands, he politely bowed and shook his own, clasping them before him : I looked upon this mode as a decided improvement, especially in doubtful cases, and requested him to be seated. I knew I was to study a language without an alphabet, but was somewhat astonished to see him begin at what I considered to be the end of the book. He read the date of publication, “the fifth year, tenth month,

[ocr errors]

CONTRARIETIES in Chinese AND WESTERN USAGES. 93

and first day.” “We arrange our dates differently,' I observed, and begged him to read, which he did from top to bottom, and proceeding from right to left. “You have an odd book here,' remarked I, taking it up ; ‘what is the price?’ ‘A dollar and eight thirds,’ said he ; upon which I counted out $34, and went on looking at it. The paper was printed only on one side, the running title was on the edge of the leaves instead of the top of the page, the paging was near the bottom, the number and contents of the chapters were at their ends, the marginal notes on the top, where the blank was double the size at the foot, and a broad black line across the middle of each page separated the two works composing the volume, instead of one being printed after the other. The back was open and sewed outside, and the name of the work written on the bottom edge. “You have given me too much,' said he, handing me $24, and then explained that eight thirds was eight divided by three, or only three eighths. A small vocabulary he carried with him had the sounds arranged according to their termination, ming, sing, king being all in a row, and the first word in it was sien. “Ah! my friend,' said I, ‘English won't help you find a word in that book; please give me your address.’ He accordingly took out a red card as big as a sheet of paper, instead of a neat white strip, and wrote Wu Tânyuen. “I thought your name was Mr. Wu ; why do you write your name wrong end first?' inquired I. ‘It is you who are wrong,” replied he ; ‘look in your own Directory, where alone you write names as they should be, placing the honored family name first.’ “I could only say, ‘customs differ;' and giving back the book, begged him to speak of ceremony. He commenced, “When you receive a distinguished guest, do not fail to place him on your left, for that is the seat of honor; and be cautious not to uncover the head, as it would be an unbecoming act of familiarity.’ This was a severe blow to my established notions; but when he reopened the volume and read, ‘The most learned men are decidedly of opinion that the seat of the human understanding is in the belly, I exclaimed, ‘Better say it is in the feet!' and immediately shut up the book, dismissing him until another day, for this shocked all my principles of correct philosophy, even if Solomon was against me. “On going abroad, I met so many things contrary to all my preconceived ideas of propriety that I readily assented to a friend's observation, “that the Chinese were our antipodes in many things besides location.” “Indeed,” said I, ‘they are so; I shall expect shortly to see a man walking on his head: look there's a woman in trousers, and a party of gentlemen in petticoats; she is smoking a segar, and they are fanning themselves;' but I was taught not to trust to appearances too much, as on passing, I saw the latter wore tight under-garments. We soon after met the steward of the house dressed in white, and I stopped to ask him what merrymaking he was invited to ; with a look of the deepest concern he told me he was then returning from his father's funeral. Soon we passed where we heard sobbing and crying, and I inquired who was ill; the man, suppressing a smile, said, ‘It is a girl about leaving home to be married, who is lamenting with her fellows.” “I thought, after these unlucky essays, I would ask no more questions, but use my eyes instead. Looking into a shop, I saw a stout fellow sewing lace on a bonnet for a Portuguese lady; and going on to the landing-place, behold ! all the ferry-boats were rowed by women, and from a passage-boat just arrived, I saw the females get out of the cabin in the bow. “What are we coming to next 7” said I, and just then, saw a carpenter take his foot-rule out of his stocking to measure some timber which his apprentice was cutting with a saw whose blade was set nearly at right angles with the frame. Before the door sat a man busily engaged in whitening the thick soles of a pair of shoes; ‘that's a shoewhite, I suppose,” said I; “and he answers to the shoeblack of other lands.’ “Just so,” said my friend, “and beyond him is a poor wretch with a board round his neck for a shirt-collar, who has got into chokey; an article of his toilet which answers to the gyves with which those lads in the Tombs are garnished instead of bangles.’ “In the alleys called streets, the signs stood on their ends, and the pigs were packed in baskets, which coolies were carrying to the infinite satisfaction of the inmates; and the shops seemed to have lost their fronts, and ejected their inmates into the streets, where they were eating, cooking, working, selling, and sleeping in every imaginable way. A loud voice led us to look in at an open door to see what was going on, when we saw it was a school, and the boys learning their lessons all crying like auctioneers. We next passed a fashionable lady stepping out of her chair, her feet only three inches long, her plaited and embroidered petticoat a foot longer than her gown, and smallest at bottom, and her waist quite concealed. Then came an acquaintance of my friend's, accompanying a splendidly carved coffin. “Who's dead?’ asked he. “No man hab die, replied the celestial, “this one piece coffin I present my olo fader; he lik-ee too much, count-a my number one proper; 'spose he die, he can us-ee he “So, eh?’ rejoined my friend; ‘how muchy price can catchee one all same same for that?’ ‘I tinky can catchee one alla same so fashion one tousand dollar so; this hab first chop, handsome, lo.’ “‘Do you call that gibberish English or Chinese ?” said I, for the language sounded no less strange than the custom of presenting a coffin to a live father differed from my preconceived notions of filial affection. ‘That's the pure Canton-English,” said he; “you must be the Jack Downing of Canton to immortalize it.’ “Come, rather let us

COMMENDABLE TRAITS OF CHINESE CHARACTER. 95

go home,' said I, ‘for I am getting dizzy, and shall soon be upside-down in this strange country.’”

In summing up the moral traits of Chinese character, a far more difficult task than the enumeration of its oddities, we must necessarily compare it with that perfect standard given us from above ; while also we should not forget that the teachings of that book are unknown. While their contrarieties indicate a different external civilization, a slight acquaintance with their morals proves their similarity to their fellowmen in the lineaments of a fallen and depraved nature. As among other people, the lights and shadows of virtue and vice are blended in their character, and the degree of advancement they have made while destitute of the great encouragements offered to perseverance in welldoing in the Bible, afford grounds for hoping that when they are taught out of that book, they will receive it as the rule of their conduct. Some of the better traits of their character have been remarkably developed. They have attained, by the observance of peace and good order, to a high degree of security for life and property ; the various classes of society are linked together in a remarkably homogeneous manner by the diffusion of education and property, and equality of competition for office; and industry receives its just reward of food, raiment, and shelter, with a uniformity which encourages its constant exertion. If any one asks how they have reached this point, we would primarily ascribe it to the blessing of the Governor of the nations, who has, for his own purposes, continued one people down to the present time from remote antiquity. The roots of society among them have never been broken up by emigration or the overflowing conquest of a superior race, but have been fully settled in a great regard for the family compact and deep reverence for parents and superiors. Education has strengthened and disseminated the morality they had, and God has blessed

their filial piety by making their days long in the land which he

has given them. Davis lays rather too much stress upon geographical and climatic causes in accounting for their advancement in these particulars, though their isolation has no doubt had much to do with their security and progress. When, however, these traits have been mentioned, the Chinese

* Chinese Repository, Vol. X., page 106.

« EdellinenJatka »