The New York Times, March 8, 1868 p.3:|
CHINA.From Manila to Hong Kong--A Visit to Canton--
The City and its Inhabitants--Chinese Religion--
A Look into the Temples.
From Our Own Correspondent.
HONG KONG, Thursday, Dec. 12, 1867.
The Oneida made the run from Manilla to this place, a distance of 600 miles, in 62 hours. The sun was just sinking as the hills of China shaded the horizon, and I can hardly describe my feelings while leaning over the ship and watching the celestial shores.
Hong Kong is a city of 80,000 inhabitants, and is one of those instances of rapid growth which mark this age of progress. It is located at the mouth of the Canton River [Guangzhou River], the City of Canton [Guangzhou] being about sixty miles from the mouth, and has proved a serious rival to that famous port.
The island on which Hong Kong stands was ceded to the English a few years ago, and the city is built on the terraced sides of a mountain. This gives it a very picturesque appearance, especially in the evening, when the gaslights shimmer on the mountain side like stars.
The steepness of the streets forbids the use of carriages, and hence palanquins are employed in their stead. The streets are tolerably clean, but exceedingly irregular, and cross each other at every possible angle.
From the upper part of the city you look down over the tiled roofs upon the shipping, and the view, though limited, is a very fine one. Behind you are the green slopes of the mountain, affording pasture to great numbers of goats, and sumounted by a signal station. Hong Kong has recently been devastated by a fire, and the ruins are still smoking. The dwellings are commodious, and, in some instances, of imposing size, with grounds prettily terraced, and jalousied varandahs projecting from the upper stories.
Once a week the regimental band plays at the public garden, and the in crowds which flock hither one may see that variety of costumes which characterizes the free ports of the Orient: red-coated English officers, Parsees, Hindoos, Mohammedans, and numbers of European children attended by their Chinese female nurses, which their odd-looking dresses, huge chignons and diminutive shoes with sharp-pointed toes.
We found on our arrival here orders to proceed immediately to Nagasaki, (Japan,) in order to be present at the opening of the port of Osaki, an event which is to be celebrated on New-Year day. The combined fleets of England, France and America are to be there, and the occasion will be one of great ceremony. The rest of the American fleet has gone on, and hence we are the only one remaining behind.
A steamer sails daily from Hong Kong to Canton, distance sixty miles, and since the commencement of my epistle we have made the trip. On Friday the 11th December, I took passage in the Ku Kiang, in company with Mr. GRINNELL, son of Mr. HENRY GRINNELL of arctic fame, and Mr. and Mrs. SANDS, the latter a daughter of the late ROBERT B. MINTURN of New-York.
The scenery on the Canton River is very beautiful, resembling some portions of the James as we remember it in the campaign of 1862. Many of the hills are crowned by forts destroyed by the English in the war of 1857. The celestial soldiers neglected to fortify their rear, and when flanked by the barbarian declared that this was no fair way of fighting. Every hillside is terraced, and as the sunshine slants across it throws upon these terraces exquisite lines of light and shadow.
The bosom of the river is dotted with small crafts propelled by oar or by the use of clumsy sails of mattings, while here and there a huge lumbering junk bears down among them. Many of the former are passage boats; they are built as clumsy as mud-scows, such as we have seen on the Erie Canal, and their motion is not faster than a moderate walk. However, they make up in economy what they lack in speed, inasmuch as the fare for the entire voyage is but a few pennies.
Every craft, no matter how small, has an eye painted on each side of the bow in order that the boat may see. In explanation of this idea, John Chinaman thus expresses himself: "How can do? No eye hab got; makey no fools?" by which utterance he would be understood that a man must be a fool who would remove from a boat its means of vision and then blame it for colliding with obstacles.
Occasionally one beholds a dead body floating down the stream, no doubt the victim of foul play. The boatmen have a superstitious fear of such an object, and instantly pull away from it as fast as possible. For the same reason they always avoid a drowning man.
At 3:30 o'clock we reached Canton. The river here is very broad, and is alive with boats of all descriptions, nearly all of which are propelled by women. The floating population, or those who live on boats, is estimated at 100,000.
Everything swarms with life, and the very idea of such masses of humanity is oppressive. They crowded around the quays like hungry wolves, yelling and screeching at the top of their voices, and profering their boats for your service with a degree of persistence which a New-York hackman might envy.
By some process which is still a mystery, we found ourselves in one of these "Sam pangs" and were rowed to our destination. This was the residence of Mr. TALBOT, the head of the OLYPHANT house, while my companions went to Mr. GIDEON NYE'S. I was cordially received, and installed in very pleasant apartments.
There are but few Americans in Canton. The merchandise and offices of the OLYPHANTS, the NYES, and other commerical houses occupy the first floor of their warehouses, while above, or on the top side, as the Chinese would say, are the dwelling rooms.
The head of each concern is called the Typan, and the firm furnishes his apartments and supplies his table in the style of a hotel. The guests of these gentlemen are expected to make themselves at home. Each one is supplied with a coolie boy to wait upon him, and the house boat is always at his command.
Labor is very cheap, and is so subdivided that a gentleman, whether married or single, must have at least five attendants. There is the compador, or head servant, and the boy waiter; then comes the cook and his assistant, and the coolie who does the outside work. To these are added, as may be wanted, a pair of coolies to bear the palanquin. The minimum expense for these will be $30 a month.
Every day a boy, long-tailed and shod with Chinese shoes, brushed my clothes, attended to my bath, and looked after my wants generally. These celestials moved around silently and have nothing to say, and disappear when not wanted. One really gets to liking them.
Life in Canton runs in this wise: the Typan is up in order to prepare letters for the 9 o'clock boat for Hong Kong. Each of the guests is supplied as he rises with tea and toast, and also an egg or a slice of cold beef. Business is then attended to.
At 12 comes breakfast. At 5, the business of the day being over, they take their usual walk on the "Shanin" side, or "English concessions." At 7 dinner is served; three or four Chinamen, with long tails, skull-caps and neat loose sacks, attend the table and generally anticipate our wants.
Canton is divided by a river into two parts--the one the city proper, the other the "Honan Side," as it is called. The latter is an island, and here nearly all the American and European residents are to be found. The city was once surrounded by a wall, and that wall still girds old Canton, but the swarming population has overleaped it and spread in all directions.
Old Canton is evidently a place of great antiquity, and the ancient places of Europe are young in comparison. Everything is old, and bears the hoar aspect of distant ages; it is impressively old. Centuries before Jesus taught and suffered, the oblique-eyed mandarin walked the narrow streets of Canton. I viewed the city from the summit of a pagoda, comparatively of modern build, and yet its architect was a contemporary of JUSTINIAN. Here, too, is a mosque with a tower two hundred feet high, built by some pious followers of the prophet, and yet of such age that there grows on its top a graceful tree, one of the most picturesque features of the city.
Everywhere one beholds tablets erected centuries ago. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. TAINTOR, once a college friend, who has been here two years, and has recently arrived from Pekin [Peking, Beijing]. He has acquried the language, and was at home in all the ways of this strange people. We visited together the "temple of five hundred gods," the "temple of horrors," temple of "CONFUCIUS" and that of other divinities.
The streets of Canton are very narrow, and seldom show a breadth of more than ten feet. Each side is lined with attractive shops, the fronts of which are entirely open. The advantage of this narrowness is found in the fact that the buildings, being two stories in height, overshadow the street and thus protect it from the overpowering heat of the sun.
The street is flagged, and the stones are worn quite smooth by the incessant pedestrian tramp. In such a street carriages, as a matter of course, are out of the question, and the better class of people travel in palanquins, whose bearers herald their approach by a loud exclamation, which being interpreted, means "clear the way." A good notion of a street in Canton may be obtained from a view of the sidewalk of Broadway, being some narrower and more crowded, with the additional nuisance of a great number of coolies carrying burdens, who crowd on from side to side.
One meets large number of mendicants, both blind and crippled, making their way without guides and quite rapidly. Their method of begging is very ingenious. Each carries a small gong and a pair of bones. The religion of the Chinese forbids their driving away a beggar unrelieved. Hence the latter enters a shop and commences a racket with his gong and bones. The owner endures this as long as his patience will admit, and then hands the mendicant the smallest of his coins, and the latter proceeds to another shop. One frequently hears the din of these gongs in every direction.
We frequently passed one unfortunate victim to Chinese fashion, in the person of a female hobbling painfully along on her ruined feet, or stumps, as they might well be termed. They are compelled to swing their arms to and fro to preserve their balance, and stumble along like one walking on stilts. The front foot presents an appearance which, to one unaccustomed to it, is hideous and deformed. This fashion is chiefly prevalent among the so-called ladies, and the poorer classes, as a general rule, allow the foot its natural growth.
The chief feature in Chinese costume is the hair; children are taught from infancy to cultivate the cue with almost sacred regard, and the women accomplish wonders in the way of waterfalls...
I dined to-day at Mr. NYE'S, in company with Mr. and Mrs. SANDS of New-York, the former being son of A. B. SANDS, the distinguished wholesale drug merchant of New-York. He is a very fine Greek scholar, and while in New-York is connected with a Greek Club.
Lately I took a walk on the famous Canton wall, which is a remarkable piece of masonry, being twenty-five feet high and equally broad. It encircles the old city, and is said to be eight miles in extent. The gates are closed every night.
Among the other places of interest, I lately visited the celebrated Honan temples. Their approaches are guarded by two gigantic warriors, and the temples (three in number) are square edifices of a large size and a single story, (as we would say,) with huge dragons on the roof. The floor is of stone, and in the centre is an immense image of Buddha, while on the other side may be seen minor deities. They are well executed, and before the first-mentioned incense of sandalwood is always burning.
Every afternoon at 4 o'clock several hundred priests, clothed in yellow robes, congregate in this place and go through a sort of mass. The service of the Romish or Pusevite Churches here finds a close counterpart, and one might almost imagine himself looking upon the ritual at St. Albans.
One feature in Canton life is very striking: large as the city is, it contains no hotels. Every man goes to his friends, and as we were most agreeably entertained, the lack was not felt.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, we sail for Japan in order to be present at the opening of the port of Osaki.
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Occupied by the UK in 1841, Hong Kong was formally ceded by China the following year; various adjacent lands were added later in the 19th century.
Pursuant to an agreement signed by China and the UK on 19 December 1984, Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 1 July 1997. In this agreement, China has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be imposed on Hong Kong and that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs for the next 50 years.
The CIA World Factbook: Hong Kong
Area of Hong Kong:
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six times the size of Washington, DC
Population of Hong Kong:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of Hong Kong:
Chinese (Cantonese), English both official
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