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The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither by Isabella L. Bird (Mrs. Bishop)

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Sullivan, e-mail bsulliva@lycos.com, from the 1892 G.P. Putnam's
Sons edition.




In presenting to the public the last installment of my travels in the
Far East, in 1879, I desire to offer, both to my readers and critics, my
grateful acknowledgments for the kindness with which my letters from
Japan were received, and to ask for an equally kind and lenient estimate
of my present volume, which has been prepared for publication under the
heavy shadow of the loss of the beloved and only sister to whom the
letters of which it consists were written, and whose able and careful
criticism, as well as loving interest, accompanied my former volumes
through the press.

It is by her wish that this book has received the title of the "Golden
Chersonese," a slightly ambitious one; and I must at once explain that
my letters treat of only its western portion, for the very sufficient
reason that the interior is unexplored by Europeans, half of it being
actually so little known that the latest map gives only the position of
its coast-line. I hope, however, that my book will be accepted as an
honest attempt to make a popular contribution to the sum of knowledge of
a beautiful and little-traveled region, with which the majority of
educated people are so little acquainted that it is constantly
confounded with the Malay Archipelago, but which is practically under
British rule, and is probable destined to afford increasing employment
to British capital and enterprise.

The introductory chapter, and the explanatory chapters on Sungei Ujong,
Selangor and Perak, contain information of a rather more solid character
than is given in my sketches of travel, and are intended to make the
letters more intelligible and useful.* The map by Mr. Daly is the result
of the most recent surveys, and is published here by permission of the
Royal Geographical Society.
[*These chapters are based upon sundry reports and other official
papers, and I have largely drawn upon those storehouses of accurate and
valuable information, Newbold's "British Settlements in Malacca," and
Crawfurd's "Dictionary of the Indian Islands."]

As I traveled under official auspices, and was entertained at the houses
of officials everywhere, I feel it to be due to my entertainers to say
that I have carefully abstained from giving their views on any subjects
on which they may have uttered them in the ease of friendly intercourse,
except in two or three trivial instances, in which I have quoted them as
my authorities. The opinions expressed are wholly my own, whether right
or wrong, and I accept the fullest responsibility for them.

For the sketchy personal descriptions which are here and there given, I
am sure of genial forgiveness from my friends in the Malay Peninsula,
and from them also I doubt not that I shall receive the most kindly
allowance, if, in spite of carefulness, I have fallen into mistakes.

In writing to my sister my first aim was accuracy, and my next to make
her see what I saw; but beside the remarkably contradictory statements
of the few resident Europeans and my own observations, I had little to
help me, and realized every day how much truth there is in the dictum of
Socrates--"The body is a hindrance to acquiring knowledge, and sight and
hearing are not to be trusted."*
[*Phaedo of Plato. Chapter x.]

This volume is mainly composed of my actual letters, unaltered, except
by various omissions and some corrections as to matters of fact. The
interest of my visits to the prison and execution ground of Canton, and
of my glimpses of Anamese villages, may, I hope, be in some degree
communicated to my readers, even though Canton and Saigon are on the
beaten track of travelers.

I am quite aware that "Letters" which have not received any literary
dress are not altogether satisfactory either to author or reader, for
the author sacrifices artistic arrangement and literary merit, and the
reader is apt to find himself involved among repetitions, and a
multiplicity of minor details, treated in a fashion which he is inclined
to term "slipshod;" but, on the whole, I think that descriptions written
on the spot, even with their disadvantages, are the best mode of making
the reader travel with the traveler, and share his first impressions in
their original vividness. With these explanatory remarks I add my little
volume to the ever-growing library of the literature of travel.

I. L. B.


The Aurea Chersonesus--The Conquest of Malacca--The Straits
Settlements--The Configuration of the Peninsula--A Terra Incognita--
The Monsoons--Products of the Peninsula--The Great Vampire--Beasts
and Reptiles--Malignant and Harmless Insects--Land and Water Birds--
Traditions of Malay Immigration--Wild and Civilized Races--Kafirs--
The Samangs and Orang-outang--Characteristics of the Jakuns--
Babas and Sinkehs--The Malay Physiognomy--Language andLiterature--
Malay Poetry and Music--Malay Astronomy--Education and Law--Malay
Sports--Domestic Habits--Weapons--Slavery and Debt Bondage--
Government--"No Information"

Canton and Saigon, and whatever else is comprised in the second half of
my title, are on one of the best beaten tracks of travelers, and need
no introductory remarks.

But the Golden Chersonese is still somewhat of a terra incognita; there
is no point on its mainland at which European steamers call, and the
usual conception of it is as a vast and malarious equatorial jungle,
sparsely peopled by a race of semi-civilized and treacherous
Mohammedans. In fact, it is as little known to most people as it was to
myself before I visited it; and as reliable information concerning it
exists mainly in valuable volumes now out of print, or scattered
through blue books and the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of
Singapore, I make no apology for prefacing my letters from the Malay
Peninsula with as many brief preliminary statements as shall serve to
make them intelligible, requesting those of my readers who are familiar
with the subject to skip this chapter altogether.

The Aurea Chersonesus of Ptolemy, the "Golden Chersonese" of Milton,
the Malay Peninsula of our day, has no legitimate claim to an ancient
history. The controversy respecting the identity of its Mount Ophir
with the Ophir of Solomon has been "threshed out" without much result,
and the supposed allusion to the Malacca Straits by Pliny is too vague
to be interesting.

The region may be said to have been rediscovered in 1513 by the
Portuguese, and the first definite statement concerning it appears to
be in a letter from Emanuel, King of Portugal, to the Pope. In the
antique and exaggerated language of the day, he relates that his
general, the famous Albuquerque, after surprising conquests in India,
had sailed to the Aurea Chersonesus, called by its inhabitants Malacca.
He had captured the city of Malacca, sacked it, slaughtered the Moors
(Mohammedans) who defended it, destroyed its twenty-five thousand
houses abounding in gold, pearls, precious stones, and spices, and on
its site had built a fortress with walls fifteen feet thick, out of the
ruins of its mosques. The king, who fought upon an elephant, was badly
wounded and fled. Further, on hearing of the victory, the King of Siam,
from whom Malacca had been "usurped by the Moors," sent to the
conqueror a cup of gold, a carbuncle, and a sword inlaid with gold.
This conquest was vaunted of as a great triumph of the Cross over the
Crescent, and as its result, by the year 1600 nearly the whole commerce
of the Straits had fallen into the hands of the Portuguese.

Of the remaining "Moorish", or Malay kingdoms, Acheen, in Sumatra, was
the most powerful, so powerful, indeed, that its king was able to
besiege the great stronghold of Malacca more than once with a fleet,
according to the annalist, of "more than five hundred sail, one hundred
of which were of greater size than any then constructed in Europe, and
the warriors or mariners that it bore amounted to sixty thousand,
commanded by the king in person." The first mention of Johore, or Jhor,
and Perak occurs about the same time, Perak being represented as a very
powerful and wealthy State.

The Portuguese, by their persevering and relentless religious crusade
against the Mohammedans, converted all the States which were adjacent
to their conquests into enemies, and by 1641 their empire in the
Straits was seized upon by the Dutch, who, not being troubled by much
religious earnestness, got on very well with the Malay Princes, and
succeeded in making advantageous commercial treaties with them.

A curious but fairly accurate map of the coasts of the Peninsula was
prepared in Paris in 1668 to accompany the narrative of the French
envoy to the Court of Siam, but neither the mainland nor the adjacent
islands attracted any interest in this country till the East India
Company acquired Pinang in 1775, Province Wellesley in 1798, Singapore
in 1823, and Malacca in 1824. These small but important colonies were
consolidated in 1867 into one Government under the Crown, and are now
known as the Straits Settlements, and prized as among the most valuable
of our possessions in the Far East. Though these settlements are merely
small islands or narrow strips of territory on the coast, their
population, by the census of 1881, exceeded four hundred and twenty-two
thousand souls, and in 1880 their exports and imports amounted to
32,353,000 pounds!

Besides these little bits of British territory scattered along a
coast-line nearly four hundred miles in length, there are, on the west
side of the Peninsula, the native States of Kedah, Perak, Selangor, and
Sungei Ujong, the last three of which are under British "protection;"
and on the east are Patani, Kelantan, Tringganu, and Pahang; the
southern extremity being occupied by the State of Johore. The
interior, which is scarcely at all known, contains toward its centre
the Negri Sembilan, a confederation of eight (formerly nine) small
States. The population of the native States of the Peninsula is not
accurately known, but, inclusive of a few wild tribes and the Chinese
immigrants, it is estimated at three hundred and ten thousand; which
gives under nine inhabitants to the square mile, the population of the
British settlements being about four hundred and twenty to the square

The total length of the Peninsula is eight hundred miles, and its
breadth varies from sixty to one hundred and fifty miles. It runs down
from lat. 13 degrees 50' N. to 1 degree 41' N. The northern part,
forming the Isthmus of Kraw, which it is proposed to pierce for a ship
canal, runs nearly due north and south for one hundred and forty miles,
and is inhabited by a mixed race, mainly Siamese, called by the Malays
Sansam. This Isthmus is under the rule of Siam, which is its northern
boundary; and the northern and eastern States of Kedah, Patani,
Kelantan, Pahang, and Tringganu, are more or less tributary to this
ambitious empire, which at intervals has exacted a golden rose, the
token of vassalage, from every State in the Peninsula. Except at the
point where the Isthmus of Kraw joins Siam, the Peninsula is surrounded
by the sea to the east by the China Sea and the Gulf of Siam, and to
the south and west by the Straits of Malacca and the Bay of Bengal. The
area of the mainland is conjectured to be the same as that of Britain,
but the region occupied by the Malays does not exceed sixty-one
thousand one hundred and fifty square miles, and is about half the size
of Java.

Its configuration is not very well known, but a granitic mountain
chain, rising in Perak to ascertained heights of eight thousand feet,
runs down its whole length near the centre, with extensive outlying
spurs, and alluvial plains on both sides densely covered with jungle,
as are also the mountains. There are no traces of volcanic formation,
though thermal springs exist in Malacca. The rivers are numerous, but
with one exception small, and are seldom navigable beyond the reach of
the tides, except by flat-bottomed boats. It is believed that there are
scarcely any lakes.

The general formation is granitic, overlaid by sandstone, laterite or
clay ironstone, and to the north by limestone. Iron ores are found
everywhere, and are so little regarded for their metallic contents
that, though containing, according to Mr. Logan, a skillful geologist,
sixty percent of pure metal, they are used in Singapore for
macadamizing the roads! Gold has been obtained in all ages, and
formerly in considerable quantities, but the annual yield does not now
exceed nineteen thousand ounces. The vastest tin fields in the world
are found in the western Malay States, and hitherto the produce has
been "stream tin" only, the metal not having been traced to its veins
in the rock.

The map, the result of recent surveys by Mr. Daly, and published in
1882 by the Royal Geographical Society, shows that there is a vast
extent, more than half of the Malay Peninsula, unexplored. Its most
laborious explorer confesses that "of the internal government,
geography, mineral products, and geology of these regions, we do not
know anything," and, he adds, that "even in this nineteenth century, a
country rich in its resources, and important through its contiguity to
our British possessions, is still a closed volume." "If we let the
needle in, the thread is sure to follow" (meaning that if they let an
Englishman pass through their territories, British annexation would be
the natural sequence), was the reason given to Mr. Daly for turning him
back from the States of the Negri Sembilan.

The climate is singularly healthy for Europeans as well as natives,
although both hot and moist, as may be expected from being so close to
the equator. Besides, the Peninsula is very nearly an insular region;
it is densely covered with evergreen forests, and few parts of it are
more than fifty miles from the sea. There are no diseases of climate
except marsh fevers, which assail Europeans if they camp out at night
on low, swampy grounds.

In 5 degrees 15' N., about the latitude of the northern boundary of
Perak, at the sea-level the mean annual temperature is nearly 80
degrees, with a range of 20 degrees; at Malacca in 2 degrees 14' N. it
is 80 degrees, with a range of 15 degrees; and at Singapore, in lat. 1
degree 17', it is 82 degrees, with a range of 24 degrees. Though the
climate is undeniably a "hot" one, the heat, tempered by alternating
land and sea breezes, is seldom oppressive except just before rain, and
the thermometer never attains anything approaching those torrid
temperatures which are registered in India, Japan, the United States,
and other parts of the temperate zones.

The rainfall is not excessive, averaging about one hundred and ten
inches annually, and there is no regular rainy season. In fact it rains
in moderation all the year round. Three days seldom pass without
refreshing showers, and if there are ten rainless days together, a rare
phenomenon, people begin to talk of "the drought." Practically the year
is divided into two parts by the "monsoons."* The monsoon is not a
storm, as many people suppose, from a vague association of the word
"typhoon," but a steady wind blowing, in the case of the Malay
Peninsula, for six months from the north-east, bringing down the
Chinamen in their junks, and for six months from the southwest,
bringing traders from Arabia and India. The climate is the pleasantest
during the north-east monsoon, which lasts from October to April. It is
during the south-west monsoon that the heavier rains, accompanied by
electrical disturbances, occur. The central mountain range protects the
Peninsula alternately from both monsoons, the high Sumatran mountains
protecting its west side from the south-west winds. The east side is
exposed for six months to a modified north-east monsoon. Everywhere
else throughout the almost changeless year, steadily alternating land
and sea breezes with gentle variable winds and calms prevail,
interrupted occasionally on the west coast during the "summer" by
squalls from the south-west, which last for one or two hours, and are
known as "Sumatrans." Hurricanes and earthquakes are unknown. Drenching
dews fall on clear nights.
[*This word is recognized as a corruption by Portuguese and British
tongues of the Arabic word "musim," "season."]

The Peninsula is a gorgeous tropic land, and, with its bounteous
rainfall and sunshine, brings forth many of the most highly prized
productions of the tropics, with some that are peculiar to itself. Its
botany is as yet very imperfectly known. Some of its forest trees are
very valuable as timber, and others produce hard-veined woods which
take a high polish. Rattans, Malacca canes, and gutta are well known as
among its forest products; gutta, with its extensive economical uses,
having been used only for Malay horsewhips and knife-handles previous
to 1843. The wild nutmeg is indigenous, and the nutmeg of commerce and
the clove have been introduced and thrive. Pepper and some other spices
flourish, and the soil with but a little cultivation produces rice wet
and dry, tapioca, gambier, sugar-cane, coffee, yams, sweet potatoes,
cocoa, sago, cotton, tea, cinchona, india rubber, and indigo. Still it
is doubtful whether a soil can be called fertile which is incapable of
producing the best kinds of cereals. European vegetables are on the
whole a dismal failure. Conservatism in diet must be given up by
Europeans; the yam, edible arum, and sweet potato must take the place
of the "Irish potato," and water-melons and cucumbers that of our peas,
beans, artichokes, cabbages, and broccoli. The Chinese raise coarse
radishes and lettuce, and possibly the higher grounds may some day be
turned into market gardens. The fruits, however, are innumerable, as
well as wholesome and delicious. Among them the durion is the most
esteemed by the natives, and the mangosteen by Europeans.

The fauna of the Peninsula is most remarkable and abundant; indeed,
much of its forest-covered interior is inhabited by wild beasts alone,
and gigantic pachyderms, looking like monsters of an earlier age, roam
unmolested over vast tracts of country. Among this thick-skinned family
are the elephant, the one-horned rhinoceros, the Malayan tapir, and the
wild hog; the last held in abomination by the Malays, but constituting
the chief animal food of some of the wild tribes.

A small bear with a wistful face represents the Plantigrade family. The
Quadrumana are very numerous. There are nine monkeys, one, if not two
apes, and a lemur or sloth, which screens its eyes from the light.

Of the Digitigrada there are the otter or water-dog, the musang and
climbing musang, the civet cat, the royal tiger, the spotted black
tiger, in whose glossy raven-black coat the characteristic markings are
seen in certain lights; the tiger cat, the leopard, the Java cat, and
four or five others. Many of these feline animals abound.

Among the ruminants are four species of deer, two smaller than a hare,
and one as large as an elk; a wild goat similar to the Sumatran
antelope; the domestic goat, a mean little beast; the buffalo, a great,
nearly hairless, gray or pink beast, bigger than the buffalo of China
and India; a short-legged domestic ox, and two wild oxen or bisons,
which are rare.

The bat family is not numerous. The vampire flies high, in great
flocks, and is very destructive to fruit. This frugiverous bat, known
popularly as the "flying fox," is a very interesting-looking animal,
and is actually eaten by the people of Ternate. At the height of the
fruit season, thousands of these creatures cross from Sumatra to the
mainland, a distance never less than forty miles. Their strength of
wing is enormous. I saw one captured in the steamer Nevada, forty-five
miles from the Navigators, with wings measuring, when extended, nearly
five feet across. These are formed of a jet black membrane, and have a
highly polished claw at the extremity of each. The feet consist of five
polished black claws, with which the bat hangs on, head downward, to
the forest trees. His body is about twice the size of that of a very
large rat, black and furry underneath, and with red foxy fur on the
head and neck. He has a pointed face, a very black nose, and prominent
black eyes, with a remorseless expression in them. An edible bat of
vagrant habits is also found.

Ponies are imported from Sumatra, and a few horses from Australia, but
the latter do not thrive.

The domestic cat always looks as if half his tail had been taken off in
a trap. The domestic dog is the Asiatic, not the European dog, a leggy,
ugly, vagrant, uncared-for fellow, furnishing a useful simile and
little more.

Weasels, squirrels, polecats, porcupines, and other small animals exist
in numbers, and the mermaid, of the genus Halicore, connects the
inhabitants of the land and water. This Duyong, described as a
creature seven or eight feet long, with a head like that of an elephant
deprived of its proboscis, and the body and tail of a fish, frequents
the Sumatran and Malayan shores, and its flesh is held in great
estimation at the tables of sultans and rajahs. Besides these (and the
list is long enough) there are many small beasts.

The reptiles are unhappily very numerous. Crawfurd mentions forty
species of snakes, including the python and the cobra. Alligators in
great numbers infest the tidal waters of the rivers. Iguanas and
lizards of several species, marsh-frogs, and green tree-frogs abound.
The land-leeches are a great pest. Scorpions and centipedes are
abundant. There are many varieties of ants, among them a formidable-
looking black creature nearly two inches long, a large red ant, whose
bite is like a bad pinch from forceps, and which is the chief source of
formic acid, and the termes, or white ant, most destructive to timber.

The carpenter beetle is also found, an industrious insect, which
riddles the timber of any building in which he effects a lodgment, and
is as destructive as dry rot. There are bees and wasps, and hornets of
large size, and a much-dreaded insect, possibly not yet classified,
said to be peculiar to the Peninsula, which inflicts so severe a wound
as to make a strong man utter a cry of agony. But of all the pests the
mosquitoes are the worst. A resident may spend some time in the country
and know nothing from experience of scorpions, centipedes,
land-leeches, and soldier ants, but he cannot escape from the mosquito,
the curse of these well-watered tropic regions. In addition to the
night mosquito, there is a striped variety of large size, known as the
"tiger mosquito," much to be feared, for it pursues its bloodthirsty
work in the daytime.

Among the harmless insects may be mentioned the cicada, which fills the
forest with its cheery din, the green grasshopper, spiders, and flies
of several species, dragon-flies of large size and brilliant coloring,
and butterflies and moths of surpassing beauty, which delight in the
hot, moist, jungle openings, and even surpass the flowers in the glory
and variety of their hues. Among them the atlas moth is found,
measuring from eight to ten inches across its wings. The leaf insects
are also fascinating, and the fire-flies in a mangrove swamp on a
dark, still night, moving in gentle undulations, or flashing into
coruscations after brief intervals of quiescence, are inconceivably

The birds of the Peninsula are many and beautiful. Sun-birds rival the
flashing colors of the humming-birds in the jungle openings;
king-fishers of large size and brilliant blue plumage make the river
banks gay; shrieking paroquets with coral-colored beaks and tender
green feathers, abound in the forests; great, heavy-billed hornbills
hop cumbrously from branch to branch, rivaling in their awkward gait
the rhinoceros hornbills; the Javanese peacock, with its gorgeous tail
and neck covered with iridescent green feathers instead of blue ones,
moves majestically along the jungle tracks, together with the ocellated
pheasant, the handsome and high-couraged jungle cock, and the glorious
Argus pheasant, a bird of twilight and night, with "a hundred eyes" on
each feather of its stately tail.

According to Mr. Newbold, two birds of paradise (Paradisea regia and
Paradisea gularis) are natives of the Peninsula,* and among other
bright-winged creatures are the glorious crimson-feathered pergam, the
penciled pheasant, the peacock pheasant, the blue pheasant partridge,
the mina, and the dial bird, with an endless variety of parrots,
lories, green-feathered pigeons of various sizes, and wood-peckers.
Besides these there are falcons, owls, or "spectre birds," sweet-voiced
butcher birds, storks, fly-catchers, and doves, and the swallow which
builds the gelatinous edible nest, which is the foundation of the
expensive luxury "Bird's Nest Soup," frequents the verdant islands on
the coast.
[*Mr. Newbold is ordinarily so careful and accurate that it is almost
presumptuous to hint that in this particular case he may not have been
able to verify the statements of the natives by actual observation.]

Nor are our own water birds wanting. There are bitterns, rails,
wild-duck, teal, snipes; the common, gray, and whistling plover; green,
black, and red quails; and the sport on the plains and reedy marshes,
and along the banks of rivers, is most excellent.

Turtles abound off the coast, and tortoises, one variety with a hard
shell, and the other with a soft one and a rapid movement, are found in
swampy places. The river fish are neither abundant nor much esteemed;
but the sea furnishes much of the food of both Malays and Chinese, and
the dried and salted fish prepared on the coast is considered very

At European tables in the settlements the red mullet, a highly prized
fish, the pomfret, considered more delicious than the turbot, and the
tungeree, with cray-fish, crabs, prawns, and shrimps, are usually seen.
The tongue-fish, something like a sole, the gray mullet, the
hammer-headed shark, and various fish, with vivid scarlet and yellow
stripes alternating with black, are eaten, along with cockles, "razor
shells," and king-crabs. The lover of fishy beauty is abundantly
gratified by the multitudes of fish of brilliant colors, together with
large medusae, which dart or glide through the sunlit waters among the
coral-groves, where every coral spray is gemmed with zoophytes, whose
rainbow-tinted arms sway with the undulations of the water, and where
sea-snakes writhe themselves away into the recesses of coral caves.

Nature is so imposing, so magnificent, and so prolific on the Malay
Peninsula, that one naturally gives man the secondary place which I
have assigned to him in this chapter. The whole population of the
Golden Chersonese, a region as large as Great Britain, is not more than
three-quarters of a million, and less than a half of this is Malay.
Neither great wars, nor an ancient history, nor a valuable literature,
nor stately ruins, nor barbaric splendors, attract scholars or
sight-seers to the Peninsula.

The Malays are not the Aborigines of this singular spit of land, and,
they are its colonists rather than its conquerors. Their histories,
which are chiefly traditional, state that the extremity of the
Peninsula was peopled by a Malay emigration from Sumatra about the
middle of the twelfth century, and that the descendants of these
colonists settled Malacca and other places on the coast about a century
later. Tradition refers the peopling of the interior States to another
and later migration from Sumatra, with a chief at its head, who, with
all his followers, married Aboriginal wives; the Aboriginal tribes
retreating into the jungles and mountains as the Malays spread
themselves over the region now known as the States of the Negri
Sembilan. The conquest or colonization of the Malay Peninsula by the
Malays is not, however, properly speaking, matter of history, and the
origin of the Malay race and its early history are only matters of more
or less reasonable hypothesis. It is fair, however, to presume that
Sumatra was the ancient seat of the race, and the wonderful valley of
Menangkabau, surrounded by mountains ten thousand feet in height, that
of its earliest civilization. The only Malay "colonial" kingdoms on the
Peninsula which ever attained any importance were those of Malacca and
Johore, and even their reliable history begins with the arrival of the
Portuguese. The conversion of the Sumatra Malays to Mohammedanism arose
mainly out of their commercial intercourse with Arabia; it was slow,
not violent, and is supposed to have begun in the thirteenth century.

A population of "Wild Tribes," variously estimated at from eight
thousand to eleven thousand souls, is still found in the Peninsula, and
even if research should eventually prove them not to be its Aborigines,
they are, without doubt, the same races which were found inhabiting it
by the earliest Malay colonists.

These are frequently called by the Malays "Orang Benua," or "men of the
country," but they are likewise called "Orang-outang," the name which
we apply to the big ape of Borneo. The accompanying engraving
represents very faithfully the "Orang-outang" of the interior. The few
accounts given of the wild tribes vary considerably, but apparently
they may be divided into two classes, the Samangs, or Oriental Negroes
or Negritos and the Orang Benua, frequently called Jakuns, and in Perak
Sakei. By the Malays they are called indiscriminately Kafirs or
infidels, and are interesting to them only in so far as they can use
them for bearing burdens, clearing jungle, procuring gutta, and in
child-stealing, an abominable Malay custom, which, it is hoped, has
received its death-blow in Perak at least.

The Samangs are about the same height as the Malays, but their hair,
instead of being lank and straight like theirs, is short and curly,
though not woolly like that of the African negro, and their
complexions, or rather skins, are of a dark brown, nearly black. Their
noses, it is said, incline to be flat, their foreheads recede, and
their lips are thick. They live in rude and easily removable huts made
of leaves and branches, subsist on jungle birds, beasts, roots, and
fruits, and wear a scanty covering made from the inner bark of a
species of Artocarpus. They are expert hunters, and have most ingenious
methods of capturing both the elephant and the "recluse rhinoceros."
They are divided into tribes, which are ruled by chiefs on the
patriarchal system. Of their customs and beliefs, if they have any,
almost nothing is known. They are singularly shy, and shun intercourse
with men of other races. It has been supposed that they worship the

The Orang Benua or Orang-outang, frequently called Sakeis or Jakuns,
consist of various tribes with different names, thinly scattered among
the forests of the chain of mountains which runs down the middle of the
Peninsula from Kedah to Point Romania.* In appearance and color they
greatly resemble the Malays, and there is a very strong general
resemblance between their dialects and pure Malayan. They have
remarkably bright and expressive eyes, with nothing Mongolian about
their internal angles, and the forehead is low rather than receding.
The mouth is wide and the lips are large, the lower part of the face
projects, the nose is small, the nostrils are divergent, and the cheek
bones are prominent. The hair is black, but it often looks rusty or
tawny from exposure to the sun, against which it is their only
protection. It is very abundant and long, and usually matted and curly,
but not woolly. They have broad chests and very sturdy muscular limbs.
They are, however, much shorter in stature than the Malays, the men in
some of the tribes rarely exceeding four feet eight inches in height,
and the women four feet four. Their clothing consists of a bark cloth
waist-cloth. Some of the tribes live in huts of the most primitive
description supported on posts, while others, often spoken of as the
"tree people," build wigwams on platforms, mainly supported by the
forking branches of trees, at a height of from twenty to thirty feet.
These wild people, says Mr. Daly, lead a gregarious life, rarely
remaining long in one place for fear of their wives and children being
kidnapped by the Malays. They fly at the approach of strangers. As a
rule, their life is nomadic, and they live by hunting, fishing, and on
jungle fruits. They are divided into tribes governed by elders. They
reverence the sun, but have no form of worship, and are believed to be
destitute of even the most rudimentary ideas of religion. Their weapon
is the sumpitan, a blow-gun, from which poisoned arrows are expelled.
They have no ceremonies at birth, marriage, or death. They are
monogamists, and, according to Mr. Syers, extremely affectionate. One
of their strongest emotions is fear, and their timidity is so great
that they frequently leave the gutta which they have collected at the
foot of the tree, not daring to encounter the trader from whom they
expect some articles in exchange; while the fear of ridicule, according
to Mr. Maxwell, keeps them far from the haunts of the Malays.
[*I was so fortunate as to see two adult male Jakuns and one female, but
my information respecting them is derived chiefly from Mr. Syers,
Superintendent of Police in Selangor, and from Mr. Maxwell, the
Assistant-Resident in Perak.]

The Rayet, or Orang Laut, "subjects," or men of the sea, inhabit the
coast and the small islets off the coast, erecting temporary sheds when
they go ashore to build boats, mend nets, or collect gum dammar and
wood oil, but usually living in their boats. They differ little from
the Malays, who, however, they look down upon as an inferior race,
except that they are darker and more uncouth looking. They have no
religious (!) beliefs but in the influence of evil spirits, to whom at
times they perform a few propitiatory rites. Many of them become
Mohammedans. They live almost entirely upon fish. They are altogether
restless and impatient of control, but, unlike some savages, are
passionately fond of music, and are most ingenious in handicrafts,
specially in boat-building.

The Chinese in the Peninsula and on the small islands of Singapore and
Pinang are estimated at two hundred and forty thousand, and their
numbers are rapidly increasing, owing to direct immigration from China.
It is by their capital, industry, and enterprise that the resources of
the Peninsula are being developed. The date of their arrival is
unknown, but the Portuguese found them at Malacca more than three
centuries ago. They have been settled in Pinang and Singapore for
ninety-three and sixty-three years respectively; but except that they
have given up the barbarous custom of crushing the feet of girls, they
are, in customs, dress, and habits, the exact counterparts of the
Chinese of Canton or Amoy. Many of them have become converts to
Christianity, but this has not led to the discarding of their queues or
national costume. The Chinese who are born in the Straits are called
Babas. The immigrant Chinese, who are called Sinkehs, are much despised
by the Babas, who glory specially in being British-born subjects. The
Chinese promise to be in some sort the commercial rulers of the

The Malays proper inhabit the Malay Peninsula, and almost all the coast
regions of Borneo and Sumatra. They all speak more or less purely the
Malay language; they are all Mohammedans, and they all write in the
Arabic character. Their color is a lightish, olive-tinted, reddish
brown. Their hair is invariably black, straight, and coarse, and their
faces and bodies are nearly hairless. They have broad and slightly flat
faces, with high cheek bones; wide mouths, with broad and shapely lips,
well formed chins, low foreheads, black eyes, oblique, but not nearly
so much so as those of the Chinese, and smallish noses, with broad and
very open nostrils. They vary little in their height, which is below
that of the average European. Their frames are lithe and robust, their
chests are broad, their hands are small and refined, and their feet are
thick and short. The men are not handsome, and the women are decidedly
ugly. Both sexes look old very early.

The Malays undoubtedly must be numbered among civilized peoples. They
live in houses which are more or less tasteful and secluded. They are
well clothed in garments of both native and foreign manufacture; they
are a settled and agricultural people; they are skilful in some of the
arts, specially in the working of gold and the damascening of krises;
the upper classes are to some extent educated; they have a literature,
even though it be an imported one, and they have possessed for
centuries systems of government and codes of land and maritime laws
which, in theory at least, show a considerable degree of enlightenment.

Their religion, laws, customs, and morals are bound up together. They
are strict Mussulmen, but among the uneducated especially they mix up
their own traditions and superstitions with the Koran. The pilgrimage
to Mecca is the universal object of Malay ambition. They practice relic
worship, keep the fast of Ramadhan, wear rosaries of beads, observe the
hours of prayer with their foreheads on the earth, provide for the
"religious welfare" of their villages, circumcise their children, offer
buffaloes in sacrifice at the religious ceremonies connected with
births and marriages, build mosques everywhere, regard Mecca as the
holy city, and the Koran, as expounded by Arab teachers, as the rule of
faith and practice.

Much learning has been expended upon the origin of Malayan, but it has
not been reliably traced beyond the ancient empire of Menangkabau in
Sumatra. Mohammedanism undoubtedly brought with it a large introduction
of Arabic words, and the language itself is written in the Arabic
character. It has been estimated by that most painstaking and learned
scholar, Mr. Crawfurd, that one hundred parts of modern Malayan are
composed of twenty-seven parts of primitive Malayan, fifty of
Polynesian, sixteen of Sanskrit, five of Arabic, and two of
adventitious words, the Arabic predominating in all literature relating
to religion. Malay is the lingua franca of the Straits Settlements, and
in the seaports a number of Portuguese and Dutch words have been
incorporated with it.

The Malays can hardly be said to have an indigenous literature, for it
is almost entirely derived from Persia, Siam, Arabia, and Java. Arabic
is their sacred language. They have, however, a celebrated historic
Malay romance called the Hang Tuah, parts of which are frequently
recited in their villages after sunset prayers by their village
raconteurs, and some Arabic and Hindu romances stand high in popular
favor. Their historians all wrote after the Mohammedan era, and their
histories are said to contain little that is trustworthy; each State
also has a local history preserved with superstitious care and kept
from common eyes, but these contain little but the genealogies of their
chiefs. They have one Malay historical composition, dated 1021 A.H.,
which treats of the founding of the Malay empire of Menangkabau in
Sumatra, and comes down to the founding of the empire of Johore and the
conquest of Malacca by Albuquerque in 1511. This has been thought
worthy of translation by Dr. Leyden.

Their ethical books consist mainly of axioms principally derived from
Arabic and Persian sources. Their religious works are borrowed from the
Arabs. The Koran, of course, stands first, then comes a collection of
prayers, and next a guide to the religious duties required from
Mussulmen. Then there are books containing selections from Arabic
religious works, with learned commentaries upon them by a Malay Hadji.
It is to be noticed that the Malays present a compact front against
Christianity, and have successfully resisted all missionary enterprise.

They have a good deal of poetry, principally of an amorous kind,
characterized, it is said, by great simplicity, natural and pleasing
metaphor, and extremely soft and melodious rhyme. They sing their poems
to certain popular airs, which are committed to memory. Malay music,
though plaintive and less excruciating than Chinese and Japanese, is
very monotonous and dirge-like, and not pleasing to a European ear. The
pentatonic scale is employed. The violin stands first among musical
instruments in their estimation. They have also the guitar, the
flageolet, the aeolian flute, a bamboo in which holes are cut, which
produce musical sounds when acted upon by the wind, and both metallic
and wooden gongs.

They have no written system of common arithmetic, and are totally
unacquainted with its higher branches. Their numerals above one
thousand are borrowed from the Hindus, and their manner of counting is
the same as that of the Ainos of Yezo.

Their theory of medicine is derived from Arabia, and abounds in mystery
and superstition. They regard man as composed of four elements and four
essences, and assimilate his constitution and passions to the twelve
signs of the zodiac, the seven planets, etc., exaggerating the
mysterious sympathy between man and external nature. The successful
practice of the hakim or doctor must be based on the principle of
"preserving the balance of power" among the four elements, which is
chiefly effected by moderation in eating.

They know nothing of astronomy, except of some meagre ideas derived
through the Arabs from the Ptolemaic system, and Mr. Newbold, after
most painstaking research, failed to discover any regular treatise on
astronomy, though Arabic and Hindu tracts on interpretations of dreams,
horoscopes, spells, propitious and unpropitious moments, auguries,
talismans, love philters, medicinal magic and recipes for the
destruction of people at a distance, are numerous. They acknowledge the
solar year, but adopt the lunar, and reckon the months in three
different ways, dividing them, however, into weeks of seven days,
marking them by the return of the Mohammedan Sabbath. They suppose the
world to be an oval body revolving on its axis four times within a
year, with the sun, a circular body of fire, moving round it. The
majority of the people still believe that eclipses are caused by the
sun or moon being devoured by a serpent, and they lament loudly during
their continuance. The popular modes of measuring distance are
ingenious, but, to a stranger at least, misleading. Thus Mr. Daly, in
attempting to reach the interior States, received these replies to his
inquiries about distance--"As far as a gunshot may be heard from this
particular hill;" "If you wash your head before starting it will not be
dry before you reach the place," etc. They also measure distances by
the day's walk, and by the number of times it is necessary to chew
betel between two places. The hours are denoted by terms not literally
accurate. Cockcrowing is daybreak, 1 P.M., and midnight; 9 A.M., Lepas
Baja, is the time when the buffaloes, which cannot work when the sun is
high, are relieved from the plough; Tetabawe is 6 P.M., the word
signifying the cry of a bird which is silent till after sunset. The
Malay day begins at sunset.

They are still maritime in their habits, and very competent practical
sailors and boat-builders; but though for centuries they divided with
the Arabs the carrying trade between Eastern and Western Asia, and
though a mongrel Malay is the nautical language of nearly all the
peoples from New Guinea to the Tenasserim coast, the Malays knew little
of the science of navigation. They timed their voyages by the constant
monsoons, and in sailing from island to island coasted the Asiatic
shores, trusting, when for a short time out of sight of land, not to
the compass, though they were acquainted with it, but to known rocks,
glimpses of headlands, the direction of the wind, and their observation
of the Pleiades.

They have no knowledge of geography, architecture, painting, sculpture,
or even mechanics; they no longer make translations from the Arabic or
create fiction, and the old translations of works on law, ethics, and
science are now scarcely studied. Education among them is at a very low
ebb; but the State of Kedah is beginning to awake to its advantages.
Where schools exist the instruction consists mainly in teaching the
children to repeat, in a tongue which they do not understand, certain
passages from the Koran and some set prayers.

As to law, Sir Stamford Raffles observed in a formal despatch, "Nothing
has tended more decidedly to the deterioration of the Malay character
than the want of a well-defined and generally acknowledged system of
law." There are numerous legal compilations, however, and nearly every
State has a code of its own to a certain extent; there are maritime and
land codes, besides "customs" bad and good, which override the written
law; while in Perak, Selangor, and Sungei Ujong an ill understood
adaptation of some portions of British law further complicates matters.
"The glorious uncertainty" of law is nowhere more fully exemplified
than on this Peninsula. It is from the Golden Island, the parent Empire
of Menangkabau, that the Malays profess to derive both their criminal
and civil law, their tribal system, their rules for the division of
land by boundary marks, and the manner of government as adapted for
sovereigns and their ministers. The existence of the various legal
compilations has led to much controversy and even bloodshed between
zealots for the letter of the Koran on one side, and the advocates of
ancient custom on the other. Among the reasons which have led to the
migration of Malays from the native states into the Straits
Settlements, not the least powerful is the equality of rights before
English law, and the security given by it to property of every kind. In
the Malay country itself, occupied by Malays and the Chinese associated
with them, there are four Malays to the square mile, whilst under the
British flag some one hundred and twenty-five Malays to the square mile
have taken refuge and sought protection for their industry under our

Cock-fighting, which has attained to the dignity of a literature of its
own, is the popular Malay sport; but the grand sport is a tiger and
buffalo fight, reserved for rare occasions, however, on account of its
expense. Cock-fighting is a source of gigantic gambling and desperate
feuds. The birds, which fight in full feather and with sharpened steel
spurs, are very courageous, and die rather than give in. Wrestling
among young men and tossing the wicker ball, are favorite amusements.
There are professional dancing girls, but dancing as a social amusement
is naturally regarded with disfavor. Children have various games
peculiar to themselves, which are abandoned as childish things at a
given age. Riddles and enigmas occupy a good deal of time among the
higher classes. Chess also occupies much time, but it is much to be
feared that the vice of gambling stimulated by the Chinese, who have
introduced both cards and dice, is taking the place of more innocent

The Malays, like other Mohammedans, practice polygamy. They are very
jealous, and their women are veiled and to a certain extent secluded;
but they are affectionate, and among the lower classes there is a good
deal of domesticity. Their houses are described in the following
letters. The food of the poorer classes consists mainly of rice and
salt-fish, curries of both, maize, sugar-cane, bananas, and jungle
fruits, cocoa-nut milk being used in the preparation of food as well as
for a beverage. As luxuries they chew betelnut and smoke tobacco, and
although intoxicants are forbidden, they tap the toddy palm and drink
of its easily fermented juice. Where metal finds its way into domestic
utensils it is usually in the form of tin water-bottles and ewers.
Every native possesses a sweeping broom, sleeping mats, coarse or fine,
and bamboo or grass baskets. Most families use an iron pan for cooking,
with a half cocoa-nut shell for a ladle. A large nut shell filled with
palm-oil, and containing a pith wick, is the ordinary Malay lamp. Among
the poor, fresh leaves serve as plates and dishes, but the chiefs
possess china.

The Malay weapons consist of the celebrated kris, with its flame-shaped
wavy blade; the sword, regarded, however, more as an ornament; the
parang, which is both knife and weapon; the steel-headed spear, which
cost us so many lives in the Perak war; matchlocks, blunderbusses, and
lelahs, long heavy brass guns used for the defense of the stockades
behind which the Malays usually fight. They make their own gunpowder,
and use cartridges made of cane.

The Malays, like the Japanese, have a most rigid epistolary etiquette,
and set forms for letter writing. Letters must consist of six parts,
and are so highly elaborate that the scribes who indite them are almost
looked upon as litterateurs. There is an etiquette of envelopes and
wafers, the number and color of which vary with the relative positions
of the correspondents, and any error in these details is regarded as an
insult. Etiquette in general is elaborate and rigid, and ignorant
breaches of it on the part of Europeans have occasionally cost them
their lives.

The systems of government in the Malay States vary in detail, but on
the whole may be regarded as absolute despotisms, modified by certain
rights, of which no rulers in a Mohammedan country can absolutely
deprive the ruled, and by the assertion of the individual rights of
chiefs. Sultans, rajahs, maharajahs, datus, etc., under ordinary
circumstances have been and still are in most of the unprotected States
unable to control the chiefs under them, who have independently levied
taxes and blackmail till the harassed cultivators came scarcely to care
to possess property which might at any time be seized. Forced labor for
a quarter of the laboring year was obligatory on all males, besides
military service when called upon.

Slavery and debt bondage exist in all the native States; except in
Selangor and Sungei Ujong, where it has recently been abolished, as it
is hoped it will be in Perak. The slaves of the reigning princes were
very easily acquired, for a prince had only to send a messenger bearing
a sword or kris to a house, and the parents were obliged to give up any
one of their children without delay or question. In debt slavery, which
prevails more or less among all classes, and has done a great deal to
degrade the women of the Peninsula, a man owing a trifling debt
incurred through extravagance, misfortune or gambling, can be seized by
his creditor; when he, his wife, and children, including those who may
afterwards be born, and probably their descendants, become slaves.

In most of the States the reigning prince has regular officers under
him, chief among whom are the Bandahara or treasurer, who is the first
minister, chief executive officer, and ruler over the peasantry, and
the Tumongong or chief magistrate. Usually the throne is hereditary,
but while the succession in some States is in the male line, in others
it is in the female, a sister's son being the heir; and there are
instances in which the chiefs have elected a sultan or rajah. The
_theory_ of government does not contain anything inherently vicious,
and is well adapted to Malay circumstances. Whatever is evil in
practice is rather contrary to the theory than in accordance with it.
The States undoubtedly have fallen, in many ways, into evil case; the
privileged few, consisting of rajahs and their numerous kindred and
children, oppressing the unprivileged many, living in idleness on what
is wrung from their toil. The Malay sovereigns in most cases have come
to be little more than the feudal heads of bodies of insubordinate
chiefs, while even the headmen of the villages take upon themselves to
levy taxes and administer a sort of justice. Nomadic cultivation,
dislike of systematic labor, and general insecurity as to the
boundaries and tenure of land, have further impoverished the common
people, while Islamism exercises its usual freezing and retarding
influence, producing the fatal isolation which to weak peoples is slow

When Sir A. Clarke was appointed Governor of the Straits Settlements in
1873 he went to the Curator of the Geographical Society's library in
quest of maps and information of any kind about the country to which he
was going, but was told by that courteous functionary that there was
absolutely no information of the slightest value in their archives.
Since then the protectorate which we have acquired over three of the
native States and the war in Perak have mended matters somewhat; but
Mr. Daly, on appearing in May last before the same Society with the map
which is the result of his partial survey, regrets that we have of half
of the Peninsula "only the position of the coast-line!" Of the States
washed by the China Sea scarcely anything is known, and the eastern and
central interior offer a wide field for the explorer.

The letters which follow those written from China and Saigon relate to
the British settlements in the Straits of Malacca, and to the native
States of Perak, Selangor, and Sungei Ujong, which, since 1874, have
passed. under British "protection." The preceding brief sketch is
necessarily a very imperfect one, as to most of my questions addressed
on the spot and since to the best informed people, the answer has been,
"No information." The only satisfaction that I have in these
preliminary pages is, that they place the reader in a better position
than I was in when I landed at Malacca. To a part of this beautiful but
little known region I propose to conduct my readers, venturing to hope
for their patient interest in my journeyings over the bright waters of
the Malacca Straits and in the jungles of the Golden Chersonese.

I. L. B.


The Steamer Volga--Days of Darkness--First View of Hong Kong--Hong Kong
on Fire--Apathy of the Houseless--The Fire Breaks Out Again--An Eclipse
of Gayety

S.S. "VOLGA," CHINA SEA, Christmas Eve, 1878.

The snowy dome of Fujisan, reddening in the sunrise, rose above the
violet woodlands of Mississippi Bay as we steamed out of Yokohama
harbor on the 19th, and three days later I saw the last of Japan--a
rugged coast, lashed by a wintry sea.


Of the voyage to Hong Kong little need be said. The Volga is a
miserable steamer, with no place to sit in, and nothing to sit on but
the benches by the dinner-table in the dismal saloon. The master, a
worthy man, so far as I ever saw of him, was Goth, Vandal, Hun,
Visigoth, all in one. The ship was damp, dark, dirty, old, and cold.
She was not warmed by steam, and the fire could not be lighted because
of a smoky chimney. There were no lamps, and the sparse candles were
obviously grudged. The stewards were dirty and desponding, the serving
inhospitable, the cooking dirty and greasy, the food scanty, the
table-linen frowsy. There were four French and two Japanese male
passengers, who sat at meals in top-coats, comforters, and hats. I had
a large cabin, the salon des dames, and the undivided attention of a
very competent, but completely desponding stewardess. Being debarred
from the deck by incessant showers of spray, sleet, and snow, and the
cold of mid-winter being unbearable in the dark, damp saloon, I went
to bed at four for the first two days. On the third it blew half a
gale, with a short violent sea, and this heavy weather lasted till we
reached Hong Kong, five days afterward. During those cold, dark, noisy
days, when even the stewards could scarcely keep their feet, I suffered
so much in my spine from the violent movements of the ship that I did
not leave my cabin; and besides being unable to read, write, or work,
owing to the darkness, I was obliged to hold on by day and night to
avoid being much hurt by the rolling, my berth being athwart ships;
consequently, that week, which I had relied upon for "overtaking" large
arrears of writing and sewing, was so much lost out of
life--irrecoverably and shamefully lost, I felt--as each dismal day,
dawned and died without sunrise or sunset, on the dark and stormy
Pacific. No one, it seemed, knew any more English than "Yes" and "No;"
and as the ship knocked French out of my memory, I had not even the
resource of talking with the stewardess, who told me on the last day of
our imprisonment that she was "triste, triste," and "one mass of

In this same gale, but on a dry day, we came close up with the mainland
of Eastern Asia. Coasts usually disappoint. This one exceeded all my
expectations; and besides, it was the coast of Asia, the mysterious
continent which has been my dream from childhood--bare, lofty, rocky,
basaltic; islands of naked rock separated by narrow channels, majestic,
perpendicular cliffs, a desolate uninhabited region, lashed by a heavy
sea, with visions of swirling mists, shrieking sea-birds, and Chinese
high-sterned fishing-boats with treble-reefed, three-cornered brown
sails, appearing on the tops of surges, at once to vanish. Soon we
were among mountainous islands; and then, by a narrow and picturesque
channel, entered the outer harbor, with the scorched and arid peaks of
Hong Kong on one side; and on the other the yet redder and rockier
mainland, without a tree or trace of cultivation, or even of
habitation, except here and there a few stone huts clustering round
inlets, in which boats were lying. We were within the tropic of Cancer,
but still the cold, coarse bluster continued, so that it was barely
possible to see China except in snatches from behind the deck-house.

Turning through another channel, we abruptly entered the inner harbor,
and sailed into the summer, blue sky, blue water, a summer sun, and a
cool breeze, while a tender veil of blue haze softened the outlines of
the flushed mountains. Victoria, which is the capital of the British
colony of the island of Hong Kong, and which colloquially is called
Hong Kong, looked magnificent, suggesting Gibraltar, but far, far
finer, its peak eighteen hundred feet in height--a giant among lesser
peaks, rising abruptly from the sea above the great granite city which
clusters upon its lower declivities, looking out from dense greenery
and tropical gardens, and the deep shade of palms and bananas, the
lines of many of its streets traced in foliage, all contrasting with
the scorched red soil and barren crags which were its universal aspect
before we acquired it in 1843. A forest of masts above the town betoken
its commercial importance, and "P. and O." and Messageries Maritimes
steamers, ships of war of all nations, low-hulled, big-masted clippers,
store and hospital ships, and a great fishing fleet lay at anchor in
the harbor. The English and Romish cathedrals, the Episcopal Palace,
with St. Paul's College, great high blocks of commercial buildings,
huge sugar factories, great barracks in terraces, battery above
battery, Government House, and massive stone wharves, came rapidly into
view, and over all, its rich folds spreading out fully on the breeze,
floated the English flag.

But dense volumes of smoke rolling and eddying, and covering with their
black folds the lower slopes and the town itself made a surprising
spectacle, and even as we anchored came off the rapid tolling of bells,
the roll of drums, and the murmur of a "city at unrest." No one met me.
A few Chinese boats came off, and then a steam launch with the M. M.
agent in an obvious flurry. I asked him how to get ashore, and he
replied, "It's no use going ashore, the town's half burned, and burning
still; there's not a bed at any hotel for love or money, and we are
going to make up beds here." However, through the politeness of the
mail agent, I did go ashore in the launch, but we had to climb through
and over at least eight tiers of boats, crammed with refugees, mainly
women and children, and piled up with all sorts of household goods,
whole and broken, which had been thrown into them promiscuously to save
them. "The palace of the English bishop," they said, was still
untouched; so, escaping from an indescribable hubbub, I got into a
bamboo chair, with two long poles which rested on the shoulders of two
lean coolies, who carried me to my destination at a swinging pace
through streets as steep as those of Varenna. Streets choked up with
household goods and the costly contents of shops, treasured books and
nick-nacks lying on the dusty pavements, with beds, pictures,
clothing, mirrors, goods of all sorts; Chinamen dragging their
possessions to the hills; Chinawomen, some of them with hoofs rather
than feet, carrying their children on their backs and under their arms;
officers, black with smoke, working at the hose like firemen; parties
of troops marching as steadily as on parade, or keeping guard in
perilous places; Mr. Pope Henessey, the Governor, ubiquitous in a chair
with four scarlet bearers; men belonging to the insurance companies
running about with drawn swords; the miscellaneous population running
hither and thither; loud and frequent explosions; heavy crashes as of
tottering walls, and, above all, the loud bell of the Romish cathedral
tolling rapidly, calling to work or prayer, made a scene of intense
excitement; while utterly unmoved, in grand Oriental calm (or apathy),
with the waves of tumult breaking round their feet, stood Sikh
sentries, majestic men, with swarthy faces and great, crimson turbans.
Through the encumbered streets and up grand flights of stairs my
bearers brought me to these picturesque grounds, which were covered
over with furniture and goods of all descriptions brought hither for
safety, and Chinese families camping out among them. Indeed, the Bishop
and Mrs. Burdon had not only thrown open their beautiful grounds to
these poor people, but had accommodated some Chinese families in rooms
in the palace under their own. The apathy or calm of the Chinese women
as they sat houseless amidst their possessions was very striking. In
the broad, covered corridor which runs round the palace everything the
Burdons most value was lying ready for instantaneous removal, and I was
warned not to unpack or take off my traveling dress. The Bishop and I
at once went down to the fire, which was got under, and saw the wreck
of the city and the houseless people camping out among the things they
had saved. Fire was still burning or smouldering everywhere, high walls
were falling, hose were playing on mountains of smouldering timber,
whole streets were blocked with masses of fallen brick and stone,
charred telegraph poles and fused wires were lying about, with half
burned ledgers and half burned everything. The colored population
exceeds one hundred and fifty-two thousand souls, and only those who
know the Babel which an eastern crowd is capable of making under
ordinary circumstances can imagine what the deafening din of human
tongues was under these very extraordinary ones. In the prison, which
was threatened by the flames, were over eight hundred ruffians of all
nations, and it was held by one hundred soldiers with ten rounds of
ammunition each, prepared to convey the criminals to a place of safety
and to shoot any who attempted to escape. The dread of these
miscreants, which was everywhere expressed, is not unreasonable, for
the position of Victoria, and the freedom and protection afforded by
our laws, together with the present Governor's known sympathies with
colored people, have attracted here thousands of the scum of Canton and
other Chinese cities, to say nothing of a mass of European and Asiatic
ruffianism, much of which is at all times percolating through the
magnificent Victoria prison.

On returning, I was just beginning to unpack when the flames burst out
again. It was luridly grand in the twilight, the tongues of flame
lapping up house after house, the jets of flame loaded with blazing
fragments, the explosions, each one succeeded by a burst of flame,
carrying high into the air all sorts of projectiles, beams and rafters
paraffine soaked, strewing them over the doomed city, the leaping
flames coming nearer and nearer, the great volumes of smoke,
spark-laden, rolling toward us, all mingling with a din indescribable.
Burning fragments shortly fell on the window-sills, and as the wind was
very strong and setting this way, there seemed so little prospect of
the palace being saved that important papers were sent to the cathedral
and several of the refugees fled with their things to the hills. At
that moment the wind changed, and the great drift of flame and smoke
was carried in a comparatively harmless direction, the fire was got
well in hand the second time, the official quarter was saved, and
before 10 P.M. we were able for the first time since my arrival at
mid-day to sit down to food.

Most people seem much upset as well from personal peril as from
sympathy, and all parties and picnics for two days were given up. Even
the newspapers did not come out this morning, the types of one of them
being in this garden. The city is now patrolled night and day by strong
parties of marines and Sikhs, for both the disposition to loot and the
facilities for looting are very great.

I. L. B.


A Delightful Climate--Imprisoned Fever Germs--"Pidjun" English--Hong
Kong Harbor--Prosperity of Hong Kong--Rampageous Criminal


I like and admire Victoria. It is so pleasant to come in from the dark,
misty, coarse, loud-tongued Pacific, and the December colorlessness of
Japan to bright blue waters crisped by a perpetual north wind--to the
flaming hills of the Asian mainland, which are red in the early
morning, redder in the glow of noon, and pass away in the glorious
sunsets through ruby and vermilion into an amethyst haze, deepening
into the purple of a tropic night, when the vast expanse of sky which
is seen from this high elevation is literally one blaze of stars.
Though they are by no means to be seen in perfection, there are here
many things that I love,--bananas, poinsettias, papayas, tree-ferns,
dendrobiums, dracenas, the scarlet passion-flower, the spurious banyan,
date, sago, and traveler's palms, and numberless other trees and
shrubs, children of the burning sun of the tropics, carefully watered
and tended, but exotics after all.

It is a most delightful winter climate. There has not been any rain for
three months, nor will there be any for two more; the sky is cloudless,
the air dry and very bracing. It is cold enough at night for fires,
and autumn clothing can be worn all the day long, for though the sun is
bright and warm, the shade temperature does not rise above 65 degrees,
and exercise is easy and pleasant. At night, even at a considerable
height, the lowest temperature is 40 degrees. It is impossible to
praise the climate too highly, with its bright sky, cool dry air, and
five months of rainlessness; but I should write very differently if I
came here four months later, when the mercury ranges from 80 degrees to
90 degrees both by day and night, and the cloudy sky rests ever on the
summits of the island peaks, and everything is moist, and the rain
comes down continually in torrents, rising in hot vapors when the sun
shines, and people become limp and miserable, and their possessions
limp and moldy, and insect life revels, and human existence spent in a
vapor bath becomes burdensome. But the city is healthy to those who
live temperately. It has, however, a remarkable peculiarity. Standing
in and on rock, one fancies that fever would not be one of its
maladies, but the rock itself seems to have imprisoned fever germs in
some past age, for whenever it is quarried or cut into for foundations,
or is disturbed in any way, fever immediately breaks out.

Victoria is a beautiful city. It reminds me of Genoa, but that most of
its streets are so steep as to be impassable for wheeled vehicles, and
some of them are merely grand flights of stairs, arched over by dense
foliaged trees, so as to look like some tropical, colored, deep
colonnades. It has covered green balconies with festoons of creepers,
lofty houses, streets narrow enough to exclude much of the sun, people
and costumes of all nations, processions of Portuguese priests and
nuns; and all its many-colored life is seen to full advantage under
this blue sky and brilliant sun.

This house is magnificently situated, and very large and airy. Part is
the Episcopal Palace, and the rest St. Paul's College, of which Bishop
Burdon is warden. The mountainous grounds are beautiful, and the
entrance blazes with poinsettias. There are no female servants, but
Chinese men perform all the domestic service satisfactorily. I learn
that for a Chinese servant to appear without his skull-cap is rude, but
to appear with his pig-tail wound round his head instead of pendent, is
a gross insult! The "Pidjun English" is revolting, and the most
dignified persons demean themselves by speaking it. The word "pidjun"
appears to refer generally to business. "My pidjun" is undoubtedly "my
work." How the whole English-speaking community, without distinction of
rank, has come to communicate with the Chinese in this baby talk is

If you order a fire you say something like this: "Fire makee, chop,
chop, here, makee fire number one," chop being quick, and number one
good, or "first-class." If a servant tells you that some one has called
he says, "One piecey manee here speak missey," and if one asks who he
is, he very likely answers, "No sabe," or else, "Number one, tink," by
which he implies that the visitor is, in his opinion, a gentleman.
After the courteous, kindly Japanese, the Chinese seem indifferent,
rough and disagreeable, except the well-to-do merchants in the shops,
who are bland, complacent, and courteous. Their rude stare and the way
they hustle you in the streets and shout their "pidjun" English at you
is not attractive. Then they have an ugly habit of speaking of us as
barbarian or foreign devils. Since I knew the word I have heard it
several times in the streets, and Bishop Burdon says that before his
servants found out that he knew Chinese, they were always speaking of
him and Mrs. Burdon by this very ugly name.

[Victoria is, or should be, well known, so I will not describe its
cliques, its boundless hospitalities, its extravagances in living, its
quarrels, its gayeties, its picnics, balls, regattas, races, dinner
parties, lawn tennis parties, amateur theatricals, afternoon teas, and
all its other modes of creating a whirl which passes for pleasure or
occupation. Rather, I would write of some of the facts concerning this
very remarkable settlement, which is on its way to being the most
important British colony in the Far East.

Moored to England by the electric cable, and replete with all the
magnificent enterprises and luxuries of English civilization, with a
population of one hundred and sixty thousand, of which only seven
thousand, including soldiers and sailors, are white, and possessing the
most imposing city of the East on its shores, the colony is only forty
years old; the island of Hong Kong having been ceded to England in
1841, while its charter only bears the date of 1843. The island, which
is about eleven miles long, from two to five broad, and with an area of
about twenty-nine square miles, is one of a number situated off the
south-eastern coast of China at the mouth of the Canton river, ninety
miles from Canton. It is one of the many "thieves' islands," and one of
the first necessities of the administration was to clear out the hordes
of sea and river pirates which infested its very intricate
neighborhood. It lies just within the tropic of Cancer in lat. 22
degrees N. and long. 114 degrees E. The Ly-ee-moon Pass, the narrow
strait which separates it from the Chinese mainland, is only half a
mile wide. Kowloon, on the mainland, an arid peninsula, on which some
of the Hong Kongese have been attempting to create a suburb, was ceded
to England in 1861. The whole island of Hong Kong is picturesque. The
magnificent harbor, which has an area of ten square miles, is
surrounded by fantastic, broken mountains from three thousand to four
thousand feet high, and the magnificent city of Victoria extends for
four miles along its southern shore, with its six thousand houses of
stone and brick and the princely mansions and roomy bungalows of its
merchants and officials scrambling up the steep sides of the Peak, the
highest point of the island, carrying verdure and shade with them. Damp
as its summer is, the average rainfall scarcely exceeds seventy-eight
inches, but it is hotter than Singapore in the hot season, though the
latter is under eighty miles from the Equator.

The causes by which this little island, which produces nothing, has
risen into first-rate importance among our colonies are, that Victoria,
with its magnificent harbor, is a factory for our Chinese commerce and
offers unrivaled facilities for the military and naval forces which are
necessary for the protection not only of that commerce but of our
interests in the far East. It is hardly too much to say that it is the
naval and commercial terminus of the Suez Canal. Will it be believed
that the amount of British and foreign tonnage annually entering and
leaving the port averages two millions of tons? and that the number of
native vessels trading to it is about fifty-two thousand, raising the
total ascertained tonnage to upward of three millions and a half, or
half a million tons in excess of Singapore? To this must be added
thousands of smaller native boats of every build and rig trading to
Hong Kong, not only from the Chinese coasts and rivers, but from Siam,
Japan, and Cochin China. Besides the "P. and O.," the Messageries
Maritimes, the Pacific Mail Company, the Eastern and Australian Mail
Company, the Japanese "Mitsu Bichi" Mail Company, etc., all regular
mail lines, it has a number of lines of steamers trading to England,
America, and Germany, with local lines both Chinese and English, and
lines of fine sailing clippers, which, however, are gradually falling
into disuse, owing to the dangerous navigation of the China seas, and
the increasing demand for speed.

Victorian firms have almost the entire control of the tea and silk
trade, and Victoria is the centre of the trade in opium, sugar, flour,
salt, earthenware, oil, amber, cotton, and cotton goods, sandal-wood,
ivory, betel, vegetables, live stock, granite, and much else. The much
abused term "emporium of commerce" may most correctly be applied to it.

It has five docks, three slips, and every requisite for making
extensive repairs for ships of war and merchantmen.

It has telegraphic communication with the whole civilized world, and
its trade is kept thereby in a continual fever.

It has a large garrison, for which it pays to England 20,000 pounds a
year. Were it not for this force, its six hundred and fifty policemen,
of whom only one hundred and ten are Europeans, might not be able to
overawe even as much as they do the rowdy and ruffianly elements of its
heterogeneous population. As it is, the wealthier foreign residents,
for the security of their property, are obliged to supplement the
services of the public caretakers by employing private watchmen, who
patrol their grounds at night. It must be admitted that the criminal
classes are very rampageous in Victoria, whether from undue and unwise
leniency in the treatment of crime, or whether from the extraordinary
mass of criminals to which our flag affords security is not for a
stranger to say, though the general clamor raised when I visited the
great Chinese prison in Canton, "I wish I were in your prison in Hong
Kong," and my own visit to the Victoria prison, render the former
suspicion at least permissible.

Hong Kong possesses the usual establishment of a Crown Colony, and the
government is administered by a Governor, aided by a Legislative
Council, of which he is the President, and which is composed of the
Chief Justice, the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney-General, the
Treasurer, and four unofficial members, nominated by the Crown on the
Governor's recommendation.

The enormous preponderance of the mixed Oriental population is a source
of some difficulty, and it is not easy by our laws to punish and
destroy a peculiarly hateful form of slavery which is recognized by
Chinese custom, and which has attained gigantic proportions in
Victoria. There is an immense preponderance of the masculine element,
nearly six to one among the Europeans, and among the Orientals the men
are nearly two and a half times as numerous as the women.

As Victoria is a free port, it is impossible to estimate the value of
its imports and exports, but its harbor, full of huge merchantmen, and
craft of all nations, its busy wharves, its crowd of lighters loading
and unloading by day and night, its thronged streets and handsome
shops, its huge warehouses, packed with tea, silk, and all the costly
products of the East, and its hillsides terraced with the luxurious
houses of its merchants, all say, "Circumspice, these are better than

I. L. B.


The S.S. Kin Kiang--First View of Canton--The Island of
Shameen--England in Canton--The Tartar City--Drains and
Barricades--Canton at Night--Street Picturesqueness--Ghastly
Gifts--Oriental Enchantments--The Examination Hall

S.S. "KIN KIANG," December 30.

You will remember that it is not very long since a piratical party of
Chinese, shipping as steerage passengers on board one of these Hong
Kong river steamers, massacred the officers and captured the boat. On
board this great, white, deck-above-deck American steamer there is but
one European passenger beside myself, but there are four hundred and
fifty second-class passengers, Chinamen, with the exception of a few
Parsees, all handsomely dressed, nearly all smoking, and sitting or
lying over the saloon deck up to the saloon doors. In the steerage
there are fifteen hundred Chinese steerage passengers, all men. The
Chinese are a noisy people, their language is inharmonious, and the
lower class male voices, at least, are harsh and coarse. The fifteen
hundred men seem to be all shouting at once, and the din which comes up
through the hatchways is fearful. This noisy mass of humanity is
practically imprisoned below, for there is a heavy iron grating
securely padlocked over each exit, and a European, "armed to the
teeth," stands by each, ready to shoot the first man who attempts to
force it. In this saloon there is a stand of six rifles with bayonets,
and four revolvers, and, as we started, a man carefully took the
sheaths off the bayonets, and loaded the firearms with ball cartridge.

Canton, January 1, 1879.--The Canton river for the ninety miles up here
has nothing interesting about it. Soon after leaving Hong Kong the
country becomes nearly a dead level, mainly rice-swamps varied by
patches of bananas, with their great fronds torn to tatters by the
prevailing strong breeze. A very high pagoda marks Whampoa, once a
prosperous port, but now, like Macao, nearly deserted. An hour after
disgorging three boat loads of Chinamen at Whampoa, we arrived at the
beginning of Canton, but it took more than half an hour of cautious
threading of our way among junks, sampans, house-boats, and
slipper-boats, before we moored to the crowded and shabby wharf. If my
expectations of Canton had been much raised they would certainly have
been disappointed, for the city stands on a perfectly level site, and
has no marked features within or around it except the broad and
bridgeless tidal river which sweeps through it at a rapid rate. In the
distance are the White-Cloud hills, which were painted softly in
amethyst on a tender green sky, and nearer are some rocky hills, which
are red at all hours of daylight. Boats and masts conceal the view of
the city from the river to a great extent, but even when from a vantage
ground it is seen spread out below, it is so densely packed, its
streets are so narrow, and its open spaces so few, that one almost
doubts whether the million and a half of people attributed to it are
really crowded within the narrow area. From the river, and indeed from
any point of view, Canton is less imposing even than Tokiyo. Few
objects rise above the monotonous level, and the few are unimpressive.
There are two or three pagodas looking like shot towers. There is a
double-towered Romish cathedral of great size, not yet finished. There
is the "Nine-storied pagoda." But in truth the most prominent objects
from the river are the "godowns" of the pawnbrokers, lofty, square
towers of gray brick which dominate the city, play a very important
part in its social economy, and are very far removed from those
establishments with the trinity of gilded balls, which hide themselves
shamefacedly away in our English by-streets. At one part of the
riverside there are some substantial looking foreign houses among
trees, on the site of the foreign factories of former days, but they
and indeed all else are hidden by a crowd of boats, a town of boats, a
floating suburb. Indeed, boats are my earliest and strongest
impressions of what on my arrival I was hasty enough to think a mean
city. It is not only along the sides of the broad Pearl river, but
along the network of innumerable canals and creeks which communicate
with it, that they are found.

These boats, the first marvel of a marvelous city, have come between me
and my landing. When the steamer had disgorged her two thousand
passengers, Mr. Mackrill Smith, whose guest I am, brought me in a
bamboo chair, carried by two coolies, through a covered and crowded
street of merchandise six feet wide, to Shameen, the island in the
river on which the foreigners reside; most of the missionary community,
however, living in the buildings on the site of the old factory farther

I am now domiciled on Shameen, a reclaimed mud flat, in the beautiful
house belonging to the firm of Jardine, Matheson & Co. This island,
which has on the one side the swift flowing Canton river, with its ever
shifting life, has on the other a canal, on which an enormous
population lives in house boats, moored stem and stern, without any
space between them. A stone bridge with an iron gate gives access into
one of the best parts of Canton, commercially speaking; but all the
business connected with tea, silk, and other productions, which is
carried on by such renowned firms as Jardine, Matheson & Co., the
Dents, the Deacons, and others, is transacted in these handsome
dwellings of stone or brick, each standing in its tropical garden, with
a wall or ornamental railing or bamboo hedge surrounding it, but
without any outward sign of commerce at all. The settlement, insular
and exclusive, hears little and knows less of the crowded Chinese city
at its gates. It reproduces English life as far as possible, and adds a
boundless hospitality of its own, receiving all strangers who are in
any way accredited, and many who are not. A high sea-wall with a broad
concrete walk, shaded by banyan trees, runs round it, a distance of a
mile and a quarter. It is quite flat and covered with carefully kept
grass, intersected with concrete walks and banyan avenues, the tropical
gardens of the rich merchants giving variety and color.

The community at present consists of forty-five people--English,
French, and German. The establishment of the electric telegraph has not
only favored business, but has enabled some of the senior partners of
the old firms to return home, leaving very junior partners or senior
clerks here, who receive their instructions from England.
Consequently, in some of these large family dwellings there are only
young men "keeping bach." There are a pretty English church, a club
bungalow, a book club, lawn tennis and croquet grounds, and a small
hall used for dancing, lectures and amateur theatricals. No wheeled
vehicle larger than a perambulator ever disturbs the quiet. People who
go into the city are carried in chairs, or drop down the river in their
luxurious covered boats, but for exercise they mostly walk on the bund,
and play croquet or lawn tennis. In this glorious weather the island
is very charming. It is possible to spend the whole year here, as the
tidal breezes modify the moist heat of summer; but the English children
look pale and languid even now.

Canton, January 4.--If I were to describe Canton, and had time for it,
my letters would soon swell to the size of Archdeacon Gray's quaint and
fascinating book, "Walks in Canton;" but I have no time, and must
content myself with brief sketches of two or three things which have
greatly interested me, and of the arrangement and management of the
city; putting the last first, if I am able "to make head or tail of
it," and to cram its leading features into a letter.

Viewing Canton from the "five-storied pagoda," or from the dignified
elevation of a pawn tower, it is apparent that it is surrounded by a
high wall, beyond which here and there are suburban villages, some
wealthy and wood-embosomed, others mean and mangy. The river divides it
from a very populous and important suburb. Within the city lies the
kernel of the whole, the Tartar city, occupied by the garrison and a
military colony numbering about twenty thousand persons. This
interesting area is walled round, and contains the residence of the
Tartar General, and the consulates of the great European Powers. It is
well wooded and less closely built than the rest of Canton. Descending
from any elevation one finds oneself at once involved at any and every
point in a maze of narrow, crowded streets of high brick and stone
houses, mostly from five to eight feet wide. These streets are covered
in at the height of the house roofs by screens of canvas matting, or
thin boards, which afford a pleasant shade, and at the same time let
the sunbeams glance and trickle among the long, pendent signboards and
banners which swing aloft, and upon the busy, many-colored, jostling
throng below.

Every street is paved with large slabs of granite, and under each of
the massive foot-ways (for carriage-ways there are none) there is a
drain for carrying off the rain-water, which is then conveyed into six
large culverts, from them into four creeks which intersect the city,
and thence into the river. These large drains are supervised by the
"prefect," who is bound by an ancient law to have them thoroughly
cleansed every autumn, while each of the small drains is cleansed by
the orders and at the expense of the "vestry" of the street under which
it passes. This ancient sanitary law, like many other of the admirable
laws of this empire, is said to be by no means punctiliously carried
out; and that Canton is a very healthy city, and that pestilences of
any kind rarely gain a footing in it, may be attributed rather to the
excellent plan of sending out the garbage of the city daily to
fertilize the gardens and fields of the neighborhood, than to the
vigilance of the municipal authorities.

There are heavy and ancient gates or barricades which enclose each
street, and which are locked at night, only to be opened by favor of
the watchmen who guard them. Their closing brings to an end the busy
street life, and at 10 P.M. Canton, cut up into small sections, barred
out from each other, is like a city of the dead. Each gate watchman is
appointed and paid by the "vestry" of the street in which he keeps
guard. They wear uniform, but are miserable dilapidated-looking
creatures, and I have twice seen one fast asleep. In the principal
streets night watchmen are stationed in watch-towers, which consist of
small mat huts, placed on scaffolds raised far above the house-tops, on
bamboo poles bound together with strong cords. These men are on the
look-out for armed bands of robbers, but specially for fire. They are
provided with tom-toms and small gongs on which to proclaim the hours
of the night, but, should fire arise, a loud, rapid, and incessant
beating of the gong gives the alarm to all the elevated brotherhood in
turn, who at the same time, by concerted signals, inform the citizens
below of the ward and street in which the fire has originated. In each
principal street there is a very large well, covered with granite
slabs, with its exact position denoted on a granite slab on the
adjoining wall. These wells, which are abundant reservoirs, are never
opened except in case of fire.

Besides these watchmen, eleven hundred military constabulary are
answerable for the good order of the "new city" and its suburbs, and a
thousand more, called the Governor's brigade, garrison the outer gates
in the city wall and several interior guard-houses, all the inner gates
being garrisoned by Tartar troops. Canton is divided into thirty-six
wards, under twelve officers in summer, but in winter, as now, when
burglars are supposed to be more on the alert, this number is
increased. Each officer having soldiers under him traverses at
intervals during the night every street under his jurisdiction, and
these armed followers, whether to intimidate criminals or to show their
vigilance, are in the habit of discharging their old-fashioned
matchlocks and gingalls as they patrol. In consequence of so many
precautions, which are carried out very thoroughly, fires and
burglaries are much minimized, and the proverb "as safe as Canton"
appears to have a substantial foundation. The barricaded streets at
night have an eerie solemnity about them. One night, my present
hostess, Mrs. H., and I prowled through some of them quite unattended,
on our way back from a friend's dwelling, roused up the watchmen to
unlock and unbar the gates, saw no other people astir, went down one of
the water streets, hailed a boat, and were deposited close to the door
of our own abode about midnight; such an event being quite of common
occurrence in this quarter.

In the streets the roofs of the houses and shops are rarely, if ever,
regular, nor are the houses themselves arranged in a direct line, This
queer effect results from queer causes. Every Chinese house is built on
the principles of geomancy, which do not admit of straight lines, and
were these to be disregarded the astrologers and soothsayers under
whose auspices all houses are erected, predict fearful evils to the
impious builders. There are few open spaces in Canton, and these are
decorated, not with statues, but with monumental arches of brick, red
sandstone, or gray granite, which are put up as memorials of virtuous
men and women, learned or aged men, and specially dutiful sons or
daughters. Such memorials are erected by citizens, and, in some cases,
by Imperial sanction or decree.

The public buildings and temples, though they bear magnificent names,
are extremely ugly, and are the subjects of slow but manifest decay,
while the streets of shops exceed in picturesqueness everything I have
ever seen. Much of this is given by the perpendicular sign boards,
fixed or hanging, upon which are painted on an appropriate background
immense Chinese characters in gold, vermilion, or black. Two or three
of these belong to each shop, and set forth its name and the nature of
the goods which are to be purchased at it. The effect of these boards
as the sun's rays fall upon them here and there is fascinating. The
interiors of the shops are lofty, glass lamps hang from the ceilings
and large lanterns above every door, and both are painted in bright
colors, with the characters signifying happiness, or with birds,
butterflies, flowers, or landscapes. The shop wall which faces the door
invariably has upon it a gigantic fresco or portrait of the tutelary
god of the building, or a sheet of red paper on which the characters
forming his name are placed, or the character Shan, which implies all
gods, and these and the altars below are seen from the street. There is
a recess outside each shop, and at dusk the joss-sticks burning in
these fill the city with the fragrance of incense.

As there are streets of shops and trades, so there are streets of
dwelling-houses, but even the finest of these present a miserable
appearance to the passers-by, for all one can see is a lofty and
dimly-lighted stone vestibule, furnished with carved ebony chairs with
marble seats and backs, and not infrequently with gigantic coffins
placed on end, the gift of pious juniors to their seniors! A porter
stands in this vestibule ready to open the lofty triple gate which
admits to the courtyard of the interior. Many Chinese mansions contain
six or seven courtyards, each with its colonnade, drawing, dining, and
reception rooms, and at the back of all there is a flower garden
adorned with rockeries, fish-ponds, dwarf trees, and miniature pagodas
and bridges.

The streets in which the poor dwell are formed of low, small, dark, and
dirty houses, of two or three rooms each. The streets of dwellings are
as mean and ugly as those of shops are brilliant and picturesque.

This is a meagre outline of what may be called the anatomy of this
ancient city, which dates from the fourth century B.C., when it was
walled only by a stockade of bamboo and mud, but was known by the name
of "the martial city of the south," changed later into "the city of
rams." At this date it has probably greater importance than it ever
had, and no city but London impresses me so much with the idea of solid
wealth and increasing prosperity.

My admiration and amazement never cease. I grudge the hours that I am
obliged to spend in sleep; a week has gone like half a day, each hour
heightening my impressions of the fascination and interest of Canton,
and of the singular force and importance of the Chinese. Canton is
intoxicating from its picturesqueness, color, novelty and movement.
to-day I have been carried eighteen miles through and round it,
reveling the whole time in its enchantments, and drinking for the first
time of that water of which it may truly be said that who so drinks
"shall thirst again"--true Orientalism. As we sat at mid-day at the
five-storied pagoda, which from a corner of the outer wall overlooks
the Tartar city, and ever since, through this crowded week, I have
wished that the sun would stand still in the cloudless sky, and let me
dream of gorgeous sunlight, light without heat, of narrow lanes rich in
color, of the glints of sunlight on embroideries and cloth of gold,
resplendent even in the darkness, of hurrying and colored crowds in the
shadow, with the blue sky in narrow strips high above, of gorgeous
marriage processions, and the "voice of the bridegroom and the voice of
the bride," of glittering trains of mandarins, of funeral processions,
with the wail of hired mourners clad in sackcloth and ashes, of the
Tartar city with its pagodas, of the hills of graves, great cities of
the dead outside the walls, fiery-red under the tropic blue, of the
"potter's field" with its pools of blood and sacks of heads, and
crosses for crucifixion, now, as on Calvary, symbolical of shame alone,
of the wonderful river life, and all the busy, crowded, costumed hurry
of the streets, where blue banners hanging here and there show that in
those houses death has stilled some busy brains forevermore. And I
should like to tell you of the Buddhist and Confucian temples; of the
monastery garden, which is the original of the famous "Willow Pattern;"
of the great Free Dispensary which is to rival that of the Medical
Mission; of the asylums for lepers, foundlings, the blind, aged men and
aged women, dating from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries,
originally well conceived and noble institutions, but reduced into
inefficiency and degradation by the greed and corruption of generations
of officials; of the "Beggars' Square" and beggars' customs; of the
trades, and of the shops with their splendors; of the Examination Hall
with its streets numbering eleven thousand six hundred and
seventy-three cells for the candidates for the literary honors which
are the only road to office and distinction in China, but Canton
deserves a volume, and Archdeacon Gray has written one!

I. L. B.


"Faithful unto Death"--"Foreign Devils"--Junks and Boats--Chinese
Luxury--Canton Afloat--An Al Fresco Lunch-Light and Color--A Mundane
Disappointment--Street Sights and Sounds--Street Costume--Food and
Restaurants--A Marriage Procession--Temples and Worship--Crippled Feet

REV. B. C. HENRY'S, CANTON, January 6.

In the week in which I have been here I have given myself up to
ceaseless sight-seeing. Almost the first sight that I saw on arriving
in this quarter, which is in Canton itself, was a number of Christian
refugees, old men, women, and children, who, having fled from a bloody
persecution which is being waged against Christianity about ninety
miles from Canton, are receiving shelter in the compound of the German
mission. It was late in the evening, and these poor refugees, who had
sacrificed much for their faith and had undergone great terror, were
singing hymns, and reading and worshipping in Chinese. In the place
from which they came a Christian of wealth wished to build a church,
and last week he was proceeding to do so, when the heathen, instigated
by the district mandarin, seized upon him and four other Christians,
and when he would neither say the word nor make the obeisance which is
regarded as equivalent to denying Christ, they wrapped him in cotton
wadding soaked in oil, tied him to a cross, and burned him, no
extremity of torture availing to shake his constancy. They cut off the
arms and legs of the four other persons, tied crosses to the trunks,
and then burned them. This deed, done so near Canton, has caused great
horror among the foreigners both here and at Hong Kong, and the deepest
sympathy is felt both with the converts and the missionary priests. In
the sympathy with the heroism and sufferings of those who have been
"faithful unto death," all the Protestant missionaries join heartily,
as in the belief that these victims are reckoned among "the noble army
of martyrs." It is estimated that there are seven hundred and fifty
thousand Romish Christians in China, many of them of the third or
fourth generation of Christians, and in some places far in the interior
there are whole villages of them. The Portuguese and French missionary
priests who devote themselves for life to this work, dress, eat, and
live as Chinamen, and are credited with great devotion.

It is most interesting to be brought by the spectacle of these poor
refugees so near to the glory and the woe of martyrdom, and to hear
that the martyr spirit can still make men "obedient unto death, even
the death of the cross." A placard was posted up some time ago calling
for a general massacre of the native Christians on Christmas Day. It
attributes every vice to the "Foreign Devils," and says that, "to
preserve the peace and purity of Chinese Society, those whom they have
corrupted must be cut off." One phrase of this placard is, "The
wickedness of these foreign devils is so great that even pigs and dogs
would refuse to eat their flesh!"

Mr. and Mrs. Henry speak Chinese, and are both fearless, and familiar
with the phases of Canton life. Of all the places I have seen, Canton
is the most overwhelmingly interesting, fascinating, and startling.
"See Canton and die," I would almost say, and yet I can give no idea of
all that has taken such a strong hold of me. I should now be quite
content to see only the manifold street life, with its crowds,
processions, and din, and the strange and ever-shifting water life,
altogether distinct from the land life. The rice-paper pictures give a
very good idea of the forms and colors of the boats, but the thousands
of them, and the rate at which they are propelled, are altogether
indescribable, either by pen or pencil.

There are junks with big eyes on either side of the stem, "without
which they could not see their way,"* and with open bows with two
six-pounders grinning through them. Along the sides there are ten
guns, and at the lofty, square, quaint, broad, carved stern, two more.
This heavy armament is carried nominally for protection against
pirates, but its chief use is for the production of those stunning
noises which Chinamen delight in on all occasions. In these helpless
and unwieldy-looking vessels which are sailed with an amount of noise
and apparent confusion which is absolutely shocking to anyone used to
our strict nautical discipline, the rudder projects astern six feet and
more, the masts are single poles, the large sails of fine matting; and
what with their antique shape, rich coloring, lattice work and carving,
they are the most picturesque craft afloat. Then there are "passage
boats" from the whole interior network of rivers and canals, each
district having its special rig and build, recognizable at once by the
initiated. These sail when they can, and when they can't are propelled
by large sweeps, each of which is worked by six men who stand on a
platform outside. These boats are always heavily laden, crowded with
passengers and "armed to the teeth" as a protection against river
pirates, and they carry crews of from thirty-five to fifty men.
[*These eyes are really charms, but the above is the explanation given
to "griffins."]

At some distance below Shameen there are moored tiers of large,
two-storied house boats, with entrance doors seven feet high, always
open, and doorways of rich wood carving, through which the interiors
can be seen with their richly decorated altars, innumerable colored
lamps, chairs, and settees of carved ebony with white marble let into
the seats and backs, embroidered silk hangings, gilded mirrors and
cornices, and all the extravagances of Chinese luxury. Many of them
have gardens on their roofs. These are called "flower boats," and are
of noisy and evil reputation. Then there are tiers of three-roomed,
comfortable house boats to let to people who make their homes on the
water in summer to avoid the heat. "Marriage boats," green and gold,
with much wood carving and flags, and auspicious emblems of all kinds;
river junks, with their large eyes and carved and castellated sterns
lying moored in treble rows; duck boats, with their noisy inmates;
florists' boats, with platforms of growing plants for sale; two-storied
boats or barges, with glass sides, floating hotels, in which evening
entertainments are given with much light and noise; restaurant boats,
much gilded, from which proceeds an incessant beating of gongs; washing
boats, market boats, floating shops, which supply the floating
population with all marketable commodities; country boats of fantastic
form coming down on every wind and tide; and, queerest of all, "slipper
boats," looking absurdly like big shoes, which are propelled in and out
among all the heavier craft by standing in the stern.

One of the most marvelous features of Canton is the city of house
boats, floating and stationary, in which about a quarter of a million
people live, and it may with truth be added are born and die. This
population is quite distinct in race from the land population of
Canton, which looks down upon it as a pariah and alien caste. These
house boats, some of which have a single bamboo circular roof, others
two roofs of different heights, and which include several thousand of
the marvelous "slipper boats," lie in tiers along the river sides, and
packed closely stem and stern along the canals, forming bustling and
picturesque water streets. Many of the boats moored on the canals are
floating shops, and do a brisk trade, one end of the boat being the
shop, the other the dwelling-house. As the "slipper boats" are only
from fifteen to twenty feet long, it may be imagined, as their breadth
is strictly proportionate, that the accommodation for a family is
rather circumscribed, yet such a boat is not only the home of a married
pair and their children, but of the eldest son with his wife and
children, and not unfrequently of grandparents also! The bamboo roofs
slide in a sort of telescope fashion, and the whole interior space can
be inclosed and divided. The bow of the boat, whether large or small,
is always the family joss house; and the water is starred at night with
the dull, melancholy glimmer, fainter, though redder than a glow-worm's
light, of thousands of burning joss-sticks, making the air heavy with
the odor of incense. Unlike the houses of the poor on shore, the house
boats are models of cleanliness, and space is utilized and economized
by adaptations more ingenious than those of a tiny yacht. These boats,
which form neat rooms with matted seats by day, turn into beds at
night, and the children have separate "rooms." The men go on shore
during the day and do laborer's work, but the women seldom land, are
devoted to "housewifely" duties, and besides are to be seen at all
hours of day and night flying over the water, plying for hire at the
landings, and ferrying goods and passengers, as strong as men, and
clean, comely, and pleasant-looking; one at the stern and one at the
bow, sending the floating home along with skilled and sturdy strokes.
They are splendid boat-women, and not vociferous. These women don't
bandage their feet.

Their dress is dark brown or blue cotton, and consists of wide trousers
and a short, loose, sleeved upper garment up to the throat. The feet
are big and bare, the hair is neat and drawn back from the face into a
stiff roll or chignon, and they all wear jade-stone earrings. You see a
woman cooking or sewing in most housewifely style in one of these
"slipper boats;" but if you hail it, she is plying the heavy oar in one
moment, and as likely as not with a wise-looking baby on her back,
supported by a square piece of scarlet cloth embroidered in gold and
blue silks. Not one of this river population has yet received
Christianity. Very little indeed is known about them and their
customs, but it is said that their morals are low, and that when
infanticide was less discouraged than it is now, the river was the
convenient grave of many of their newly-born female children. I spent
most of one afternoon alone in one of these boats, diving into all
canals and traversing water streets, hanging on to junks and "passage
boats," and enjoying the variety of river life to the full.

On another day I was carried eighteen miles through Canton on a chair
by four coolies, Mr. Smith and his brother walking the whole
distance--a great testimony to the invigorating influences of the
winter climate. As to locomotion, one must either walk or be carried. A
human being is not a heavy weight for the coolies, but it is
distressing to see that the shoulders of very many of them are
suffering from bony tumors, arising from the pressure of the poles. We
lunched in the open air upon a stone table under a banyan-tree at the
"Five-storied Pagoda" which forms the north-east corner of the great
wall of Canton, from which we looked down upon the singular vestiges of
the nearly forgotten Tartar conquest, the walled inner city of the
Tartar conquerors, containing the Tartar garrison, the Yamun (official
residence) of the Tartar governor, the houses of the foreign consuls,
and the unmixed Tartar population. The streets of this foreign kernel
of Canton are narrow and dirty, with mean, low houses with tiled roofs
nearly flat, and small courtyards, more like the houses of Western than
Eastern Asia. These Tartars do not differ much in physiognomy from the
Chinese. They are somewhat uglier, their stature is shorter, and the
women always wear three rings in their ears. I saw more women in a
single street in one day in the Tartar city than I have seen altogether
in the rest of Canton.

The view from that corner of the wall (to my thinking) is beautiful,
the flaming red pagoda with its many roofs; the singularly picturesque
ancient gray wall, all ups and downs, watch-towers, and strongholds,
the Tartar city below, with the "flowery pagoda," the mosques, the
bright foliage of the banyan, and the feathery grace of the bamboo;
outside the wall the White-Cloud hills, and nearer ranges burrowed
everywhere for the dead, their red and pink and orange hues harmonized
by a thin blue veil, softening without obscuring, all lying in the
glory of the tropic winter noon-light without heat, color without
glare. Vanish all memories of grays and pale greens before this
vividness, this wealth of light and color! Color is at once music and
vitality, and after long deprivation I revel in it. This wall is a fine
old structure, about twenty feet wide and as many high, with a broad
pavement on which to walk, and a high platform on the outside, with a
battlement pierced for marksmen. It is hardly ever level for ten yards,
but follows the inequalities of the ground, and has picturesque towers
which occur frequently. It is everywhere draped with ferns, which do
not help to keep it in repair. The "Five-storied Pagoda" which flames
in red at one of its angles, is a striking feature in the view. As we
sat on stone seats by stone tables in what might be called its shadow,
under the cloudless heaven, with the pure Orientalism of the Tartar
city spread out at our feet, that unimaginable Orientalism which takes
one captive at once, and, like the first sight of a palm or a banana,
satisfies a longing of which one had not previously been conscious, a
mundane disappointment was severely felt. We had been, as the Americans
say, "exercising" for five hours in the bracing air, and I had long
been conscious of a craving for solid food which no Orientalism could
satisfy; and our dismay was great not only to find that the cook had
put up lunch for two when there were three hungry persons, but that the
chicken was so underdone that we could not eat it, and as we were not
starving enough to go and feed at a cat and dog or any other Chinese
restaurant, my hosts at least, who had not learned that bananas are
sustenance for men as well as "food for gods," were famished. As we ate
"clem pie" or "dined with Duke Humphrey," two water buffaloes, dark
gray ungainly forms, with little more hair than elephants, recurved
horns, and muzzles like deer, watched us closely, until a Tartar drove
them off. Such beasts, which stand in the water and plaster themselves
with mud like elephants, are the cows and draught oxen of China. Two
nice Chinese boys sat by us, and Mr. Smith practiced Chinese upon them,
till a man came out angrily and took them away, using many words, of
which we only understood "Barbarian Devils." The Cantonese are not
rude, however. A foreign lady can walk alone without being actually
molested, though as a rule Chinese women are not seen in the streets. I
have certainly seen half a million men, and not more than ninety women,
and those only of the poorest class. The middle and upper class women
never go out except in closed palanquins with screened windows, and are
nearly as much secluded as the women of India.

Passing through the Tartar city and some streets of aristocratic
dullness, inhabited by wealthy merchants, we spent some hours in the
mercantile quarter; which is practically one vast market or bazaar,
thronged with masculine humanity from morning till night. Eight feet is
the width of the widest street but one, and between the passers-by, the
loungers, the people standing at stalls eating, or drinking tea, and
the itinerant venders of goods, it is one long push. Then, as you are
elbowing your feeble self among the big men, who are made truly
monstrous by their many wadded garments of silk and brocade, you are
terrified by a loud yell, and being ignominiously hustled out of the
way, you become aware that the crowd has yielded place to a procession,
consisting of several men in red, followed by a handsome closed
palanquin, borne by four, six, or eight bearers in red liveries, in
which reclines a stout, magnificently dressed mandarin, utterly
oblivious of his inferiors, the representative of high caste feeling
all the world over, either reading or absorbed, never taking any notice
of the crowds and glitter which I find so fascinating. More men in red,
and then the crowd closes up again, to be again divided by a plebeian
chair like mine, or by pariahs running with a coffin fifteen feet long,
shaped like the trunk of a tree, or by coolies carrying burdens slung
on bamboo poles, uttering deafening cries, or by a marriage procession
with songs and music, or by a funeral procession with weeping and
wailing, succeeding each other incessantly. All the people in the
streets are shouting at the top of their voices, the chair and baggage
coolies are yelling, and to complete the bewildering din the beggars at
every corner are demanding charity by striking two gongs together.

Color riots in these narrow streets, with their high houses with
projecting upper stories, much carved and gilded, their deeply
projecting roofs or eaves tiled with shells cut into panes, which let
the light softly through, while a sky of deep bright blue fills up the
narrow slit between. Then in the shadow below, which is fitfully
lighted by the sunbeams, hanging from all the second stories at every
possible interval of height, each house having at least two, are the
richly painted boards of which I wrote before, from six to ten feet
long, some black, some heavily gilded, a few orange, but the majority
red and perfectly plain, except for the characters several inches long
down the middle of each, gold on the red and black, and black on the
gold and orange--these, with banners, festoons, and the bright blue
draperies which for a hundred days indicate mourning in a house, form
together a spectacle of street picturesqueness such as my eyes have
never before beheld. Then all the crowd is in costume, and such
costume! The prevailing color for the robe is bright blue. Even the
coolies put on such a one when not working, and all above the coolies
wear them in rich, ribbed silk, lined with silk of a darker shade. Over
this a sleeveless jacket of rich dark blue or puce brocade, plain or
quilted, is worn; the trousers, of which little is seen, being of
brocade or satin. The stockings are white, and the shoes, which are on
thick, white, canoe-shaped soles, are of black satin. The cap, which is
always worn, and quite on the back of the head, is of black satin, and
the pigtail, or plait of hair and purse silk mixed, hangs down nearly
to the bottom of the robe. Then the most splendid furs are worn, and
any number of quilted silk and brocade garments, one above another. And
these big, prosperous-looking men, who are so richly dressed, are only
the shopkeepers and the lower class of merchants. The mandarins and the
rich merchants seldom put their feet to the ground.

The shops just now are filled with all sorts of brilliant and enticing
things in anticipation of the great festival of the New Year, which
begins on the 21st. At the New Year they are all closed, and the rich
merchants vie with each other in keeping them so; those whose shops are
closed the longest, sometimes even for two months, gaining a great
reputation for wealth thereby. Streets are given up to shops of one
kind. Thus there is the "Jade-Stone Street," entirely given up to the
making and sale of jade-stone jewelry, which is very costly, a single
bracelet of the finest stone and workmanship costing 600 pounds. There
is a whole street devoted to the sale of coffins; several in which
nothing is sold but furniture, from common folding tables up to the
costliest settees, bedsteads, and chairs of massive ebony carving;
chinaware streets, book and engraving streets, streets of silk shops,
streets of workers in brass, silver, and gold, who perform their
delicate manipulations before your eyes; streets of second-hand
clothing, where gorgeous embroideries in silk and gold can be bought
for almost nothing; and so on, every street blazing with colors,
splendid with costume, and abounding with wealth and variety.

We went to a "dog and cat restaurant," where a number of richly dressed
men were eating of savory dishes made from the flesh of these animals.
There are thousands of butchers' and fishmongers' shops in Canton. At
the former there are always hundreds of split and salted ducks hanging
on lines, and pigs of various sizes roasted whole, or sold in joints
raw; and kids and buffalo beef, and numbers of dogs and cats, which,
though skinned, have the tails on to show what they are. I had some of
the gelatinous "birds'-nest" soup, without knowing what it was. It is
excellent; but as these nests are brought from Sumatra and are very
costly, it is only a luxury of the rich. The fish shops and stalls are
legion, but the fish looks sickening, as it is always cut into slices
and covered with blood. The boiled chrysalis of a species of silkworm
is exposed for sale as a great delicacy, and so are certain kinds of
hairless, fleshy caterpillars.

In our peregrinations we came upon a Yamun, with its vestibule hung
with scarlet, the marriage color as well as the official color. Within
the door the "wedding garments" were hanging for the wedding guests,
scarlet silk crepe, richly embroidered. Some time later the bridal
procession swept through the streets, adding a new glory to the color
and movement. First marched a troop of men in scarlet, carrying scarlet
banners, each one emblazoned with the literary degrees of the bride's
father and grandfather. Then came ten heavily gilded, carved, and
decorated pavilions, containing the marriage presents, borne on poles
on the shoulders of servants; and after them the bride, carried in a
locked palanquin to the bridegroom's house, completely shrouded, the
palanquin one mass of decoration in gold and blue enamel, the carving
fully six inches deep; and the procession was closed by a crowd of men
in scarlet, carrying the bridegroom's literary degrees, with banners,
and instruments of music. It is the China of a thousand years ago,
unaltered by foreign contact.

There are many beggars, and a "Beggars' Square," and the beggars have a
"king," and a regular guild, with an entrance fee of 1 pound. The
shopkeepers are obliged by law to give them a certain sum, and on the
occasion of a marriage or any other festivity, the giver sends a fee to
the "king," on the understanding that he keeps his lieges from
bothering the guests. They make a fearful noise with their two gongs.
There is one on the Shameen bridge who has a callosity like a horn on
his forehead, with which he strikes the pavement and produces an
audible thump.

After the cleanliness, beauty, and good repair of the Japanese temples,
those of Canton impress me as being very repulsive. In Japan the people
preserve their temples for their exquisite beauty, and there are a
great many sincere Buddhists; but China is irreligious; a nation of
atheists or agnostics, or slaves of impious superstitions. In an
extended tramp among temples I have not seen a single male worshiper or
a thing to please the eye. The Confucian temples, to which mandarinism
resorts on certain days to bow before the Confucian tablets, are now
closed, and their courts are overgrown with weeds. The Buddhist temples
are hideous, both outside and inside, built of a crumbling red brick,
with very dirty brick floors, and the idols are frightful and tawdry.
We went to several which have large monasteries attached to them, with
great untidy gardens, with ponds for sacred fish and sacred tortoises,
and houses for sacred pigs, whose sacredness is shown by their
monstrous obesity. In the garden of the Temple of Longevity, the scene
of the "Willow Pattern," dirty and degraded priests, in spite of a
liberal douceur to one of them, set upon us, clamoring _kum-sha_,
attempting at the same time to shut us in, and the two gentlemen were
obliged to use force for our extrication. In the court of the "Temple
of Horrors," which is surrounded by a number of grated cells containing
life-sized figures of painted wood, undergoing at the hands of other
figures such hell-torments as are decreed for certain offences, there
is perpetually a crowd of fortune-tellers, and numbers of gaming tables
always thronged with men and boys. Each temple has an accretion of
smaller temples or shrines round it, but most, on ordinary occasions,
are deserted, and all are neglected and dirty. Where we saw worshipers
they were always women, some of whom looked very earnest, as they were
worshiping for sick children, or to obtain boys, or to insure the
fidelity of their husbands. "Worship" consists in many prostrations, in
the offering of many joss-sticks, and in burning large squares of
gilded paper, this being supposed to be the only way in which gold can
reach either gods or ancestors. One or two of the smaller temples were

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