Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Province Of Chehkiang

( Originally Published 1910 )

Chusan Archipelago—Putu and Pirates—Queer Fishers and Queer Boats Ningpo A Literary Triumph—Search for a Soul—Chinese Psychology—Hangchow —The Great Bore

CHÉHKIANG, the next province to the north, and the smallest of the eighteen, is a portion of the highlands mentioned in the last chapter. It is about as large as Indiana, while some of the provinces have four or five times that area. There is no apparent reason why it should have a distinct provincial government save that its waters flow to the north, or perhaps because the principality of Yuih (1100 B.C.) had such a boundary, or, again, perhaps because the language of the people is akin to that of the Great Plain in which its chief river finds an outlet. How often does a conqueror sever regions which form a natural unit, merely to provide a principality for some favourite!

Lying off its coast is the Chusan archipelago, in which two islands are worthy of notice. The largest, which gives the archipelago its name, is about half the length of Long Island, N. Y., and is so called from a fancied resemblance to a junk, it having a high promontory at either end. It contains eighteen valleys—a division not connected with the eighteen provinces, but The natives have a peculiar mode of propelling a boat. Sitting in the stern the boatman holds the helm with one hand, while with the other he grasps a long pipe which he smokes at leisure. Without mast or sail, he makes speed against wind or current by making use of his feet to drive the oar. He thus gains the advantage of weight and of his strong sartorial muscles. These little craft are the swiftest boats on the river.

At the forks of the river, in a broad plain dotted with villages, rise the stone walls of Ningpo, six miles in circuit, enclosing a network of streets better built than those of the majority of Chinese cities. The foreign settlement is on the north bank of the main stream; but a few missionaries live within the walls, and there I passed the first years of my life in China.

Above the walls, conspicuous at a distance, appears the pinnacle of a lofty pagoda, a structure like most of those bearing the name, with eight corners and nine stories. Originally designed for the mere purposes of look-outs, these airy edifices have degenerated into appliances of superstition to attract good influences and to ward off evil.

Not only has this section of the province a dialect of its own, of the mandarin type, but its people possess a finer physique than those of the south. Taller, with eyes less angular and faces of faultless symmetry, they are a handsome people, famed alike for literary talent and for commercial enterprise. During my residence there the whole city was once thrown into excitement by the news that one of her sons had won the first prize in prose and verse in competition, before the emperor, with the assembled scholars of the empire—an honour comparable to that of poet laureate or of a victor in the Olympic games. When that distinction falls to a city, it is believed that, in order to equalise matters, the event is sure to be followed by three years of dearth. In this instance, the highest mandarins escorted the wife of the literary athlete to the top of the wall, where she scattered a few handfuls of rice to avert the impending famine.

My house was attached to a new church which was surmounted by a bell-tower. In a place where nothing of the sort had previously existed, that accessory attracted many visitors even before the bell was in position to invite them. One day a weeping mother, attended by an anxious retinue, presented herself and asked permission to climb the tower, which request of course was not refused.

Uncovering a bundle, she said : " This is my boy's clothing. Yesterday he was up in the tower and, taking fright at the height of the building, his little soul forsook his body and he had to go home without it. He is now delirious with fever. We think the soul is hovering about in this huge edifice and that it will recognise these clothes and, taking possession of them, will return home with us."

When a bird escapes from its cage the Chinese sometimes hang the cage on the branch of a tree and the bird returns to its house again. They believe they can capture a fugitive soul in the same way. Sometimes, too, a man may be seen standing on a housetop at night waving a lantern and chanting in dismal tones an invitation to some wandering spirit to return to its abode. Whether in the case just mentioned the poor woman's hopes were fulfilled and whether the animula vagula blandula returned from its wanderings I never learned, but I mention the incident as exhibiting another picturesque superstition.

Chinese psychology recognises three souls, viz., the animal, the spiritual, and the intellectual. The absence of one of the three does not, therefore, involve immediate death, as does the departure of the soul in our dual system.

But I tarry too long at my old home. We have practically an empire still before us, and will, therefore, steer west for Hangchow.

In the thirteenth century this was the residence of an imperial court; and the provincial capital still retains many signs of imperial magnificence. The West Lake with its pavilions and its lilies, a pleasance fit for an emperor; the vast circuit of the city's walls enclosing hill and vale; and its commanding site on the bank of a great river at the head of a broad bay—all combine to invest it with dignity. Well do I re-call the day in 1855 when white men first trod its streets. They were the Rev. Henry Rankin and myself. Though not permitted by treaty to penetrate even the rind of the "melon," as the Chinese call their empire, to a distance farther than admitted of our returning to sleep at home, we nevertheless broke bounds and set out for the old capital of the Sungs. On the way we made a halt at the city of Shaohing; and as we were preaching to a numerous and respectful audience in the public square, a well-dressed man pressed through the crowd and invited us to do him the honour of taking tea at his house, His mansion exhibited every evidence of affluence; and he, a scholar by profession, aspiring to the honours of the mandarinate, explained, as he ordered for us an ample repast, that he would have felt ashamed if scholars from the West had been allowed to pass through his city without any one offering them hospitality. What courtesy! Could Hebrew or Arab hospitality surpass it?

Two things for which the city of Shaohing is widely celebrated are (1) a sort of rice wine used throughout the Empire as being indispensable at mandarin feasts, and (2) clever lawyers who are deemed indispensable as legal advisers to mandarins. They are the " Philadelphia lawyers" of China.

As we entered Hangchow the boys shouted Wo tsei lai liao, " the Japanese are coming "—never having seen a European, and having heard their fathers speak of the Japanese as sea-robbers, a terror to the Chinese coast. Up to this date, Japan had no treaty with China, and it had never carried on any sort of regular commerce with or acknowledged the superiority of China. Before many years had passed, these youths became accustomed to Western garb and features; and I never heard that any foreigner suffered insult or injury at their hands.

In 1860 the Rev. J. L. Nevius, one of my colleagues, took possession of the place in the name of Christ. He was soon followed by Bishop Burden, of the English Church Mission, whose apostolic successor, Bishop Moule, now makes it the seat of his immense diocese.

Another claim to distinction not to be overlooked is that its river is a trap for whales. Seven or eight years ago a cetaceous monster was stranded near the river's mouth. The Rev. Dr. Judson, president of the Hangchow Mission College, went to see it and sent mean account of his observations. He estimated the length of the whale at l00 feet; the tail had been removed by the natives. To explain the incident it is necessary to say that, the bay being funnel-shaped, the tides rise to an extraordinary height. Twice a month, at the full and the change of the moon, the attractions of sun and moon combine, and the water rushes in with a roar like that of a tidal wave. The bore of Hangchow is not surpassed by that of the Hooghly or of the Bay of Fundy. Vessels are wrecked by it; and even the monsters of the deep are unable to contend with the fury of its irresistible advance.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com