Canton, 24 July 1893

A German, Mr. Lange, who has been living for many years in China and also knows Canton well has offered his services as a guide for the city which I gladly accepted as a cicerone familiar with the place is irreplaceable if all the interesting places of which there are many in Canton are to be discovered in a short time. Consul general Haas from Shanghai, whose arrival on time had been prevented by a typhoon, joined us too having arrived this morning in Canton as well as Mr. Goetz. Early in the morning the caravan started in palanquins towards the city.

Soon after we had crossed the bridge that separates Shamian from the mainland, a view developed in front of our astonished eyes that is not comparable to the street views in Singapore and Hongkong. At once we had stepped into a completely strange new world, a true, unadulterated Chinese city untouched by European civilization, a city that today still looks as it did since ancient times. The constancy with which the Chinese continue the tracks set by their ancestors and maintain the existing and bequeath it to the coming generations extends to all aspects of life, also to the way people live, to the cities. Enlargement, regulation and  refurbishment of communities seem to be completely unknown things — things only good enough for us barbarians. The sons of the Zhongguo, the „Middle Kingdom“ are deeply rooted towards containing all foreign elements and their influence, even though they had been repeatedly forced to bend to the iron fist of European states and are connected by various trade relations with the old world and know the superiority of Western civilization very well, still there are no signs of a sustained European influence whatsoever that can be detected and this will be also the case for quite some time.

The Chinese, whom I find quite unsympathetic, look back in big-headed illusions to their ancient strange high civilization that has not been copied from another people but whose development process has been completely arrested, The Chinese hold on, with a tough determination, to the gains made centuries and even millennia ago. Their per se commendable conservatism has in this manner led  to a fossilization. Probably only an event with a fundamental effect will manage to create a breach and thus open the way for European civilization — whether that is to the benefit of Europe remains to be seen.

The streets of the city are so narrow that we hardly think it possible. In many main avenues of traffic there is insufficient space for two humans to squeeze past one another with difficulty. Not one of rear passageways in our cities is as narrow as these alleys. The practical Chinese taking the density of the population into consideration is thus an enemy of wasting space. He prefers to squeeze through narrow streets and push to decide to build broader streets. Still the streets of Canton are spacious enough to offer many occurrences so that one requires eyes of Argus to view everything, to observe to catch all impressions that intrude upon the stranger. During the long duration of the journey I have practised and become used to catch new thing but here the amount, the diversity, the color, the liveliness of the images that emerged everywhere, changed, disappeared, returned, impeded themselves and supplanted one another seemed to bewilder the traveler, to benumb and overwhelm him.

Shouting loudly our carriers cleared a path for our palanquins, in the midst of the moving crowd where all classes of the population are present. The coolie carrying burden pushes forward and the hideous beggar struggles to claim space to come close to our palanquins wailing with his collecting box. Other palanquins, closed and ornamented, in which rich Chinese careen around approach towards us. Sidestepping is difficult, a collision unavoidable and a flood of mutual recriminations of the carriers the consequence. A heavily burdened coolie clears a path, the pedestrians are unable to move out of the way quickly enough in order to escape a collision with a box, a bale, a bucket containing water or worse.

Here a marriage procession is approaching, there a funeral cortege. The show-pieces carried in front, the deafening music generates general attention. The crowd rushes together and stops traffic so that only flight into a shop and a stay there is possible until the obstacle is no longer present. Furthermore, as in Hongkong, mobile kitchens and tables are set up alongside the houses. On the tables objects of daily activities are displayed in order to incite a sale even though there are shops upon shops in each of which is lively motion, a constant entering and exiting and no shop misses to have a house altar. In most shops, the goods for sale are also directly produced like in India. Noise of all kind escapes into the street out of these places of assiduous production. There is no end to the knocking, hammering, sawing, planing etc. The houses are covered by vertically hanging signboards of often considerable length and not rarely with an artistic decoration. Who proclaims that a bazaar in India is also an example of active street life has not see a street in Canton!

We guided our steps towards an institution where sick people are cared for ambulant and receive medicine for free while the cost are borne by rich persons. The courtyard of the building and the entrance hall were filled with sick people while two Chinese doctors were working on the balcony with incredibly important means. The art of the local curing artists is said to be at a very basic level and limited to feeling the pulse, bleeding etc. as well as prescribing and handing out quackery. We also saw how the very quick consultations happened. However different the illnesses might have been, the sons of Asclepius always felt the pulse of the patient, brushed some medicinal prescription on a paper and had the patient go away with a kind motion of the hand. The exterior wall of this Chinese general hospital is covered with numerous red papers with brush painted thanks so that here to one finds this color represented that one finds everywhere here besides yellow.

A painter had set up his studio next to the hospital and produces here in a very fine attractive manner natural and pleasingly executed scenes of Chinese lives, myths as well as ships, plants, animals etc. out on a material made out of plant fibers. As the son of the muses was very modest in what he asked for we plundered his studio and left it with a whole load of his productions.

Now we turned to the Chinese „glory grove“ Wa-lem-dsy (Hoa-lin-sy). This temple lies outside the circular wall in the Western suburbs and is said to be one of the wealthiest in Canton which is not difficult to explain as it contain no less than the representation of 500 gods or disciples of Buddha, apparently famous Chinese who have risen to superhuman status thanks to the esteem of their deeds by posterity. Here the believers have a rich choice of heavenly people whose blessings have to be bought. Many a Croesus of Canton might have had this or that reason to turn to one of the gods with a dedication and thus contribute to the wealth of the temple.

Seeing the actual large temple hall is at first glance almost surprising due to the imposing number of five hundred about life-sized and gilded statues that stare down on the intruder from the walls and their square pedestals in the middle of the room. The rich fantasy that has enabled to depict the five hundred beings in individual manner, sometimes drastically so, is astonishing and one encounters the funniest ideas while examining the artworks. Here is a god who is apparently in a very good mood and shows a very amused face. There another one threatens humanity with irate gestures. One, apparently the god of the jokers, whiles away his time by balancing a hat on his nose. Another one turns his attention in a very conspicuous manner towards a goddess positioned next to him who is, it seems, not unaffected. It goes on in a colorful turns in which even a gynecologist would feel very pleased as he would find opportunities to see the most difficult problems solved. Of greatest interest for a European is probably seeing that even the famous Venetian Marco Polo has been placed among Buddha’s disciples and is in a corner spot with an expression of proud dignity. Every god has its own incense cones in front of it.

Viewing so many statues I could not resist a smile. At first I had feared that my hilarity would be negatively interpreted as a profanity and was therefore quite a bit astonished that the accompanying natives joined in heartily in laughing too. In general religiosity in our sense seems not to exist in the Chinese and replaced mostly by all kinds of superstitions as well as fears about evil spirits, while good spirits from whose side nothing was coming were much easier to ignore. This low development of religious sentiment is apparently related that the temples lack the usual spirit of holiness practised at home and huge numbers of noisy playing children run around in them and rushing pedestrians use the temples as public traffic short cuts. Still one can see now and then deeply religious Chinese who murmur prayers in deep meditation, bowing repeatedly and touch the ground with their front and finally ignite incense cones or a strip of paper as a sacrifice to be burned. Or they burn some firework in front of the temple in order to shy away some demons. This display of a pious attitude „à la Stuwer“ which was quite surprising and entertaining to a clueless wanderer who suddenly was faced with whizzing firecrackers around his legs den a. According to the frequency this was occurring, this was a popular custom.

In front of three large Buddha statues that were decorating also Wa-lem-dsy is a small tablet with inscribed wishes for the reigning Emperor that he may live countless years and reign over coming generations. The attention is caught by two pagodas one of which is made out of bronze the other is marble. The latter one has been donated by the Qianlong Emperor who does not meet the ideal of male beauty as the image of the noble donor in front of the Buddha altar revealed.

Continuing our pilgrimage we walked through the maze of small alleys to the temple of the five genii in the upper Tatar city. At the entrance hangs a large bell of a weight of 10.000 pounds in an archway. Its sound is said to announce calamity as it was heard in the whole city during the bombardment of Canton by the English and the French in the year 1857 when one of the first balls struck the bell and broken off a large part. The five genii in the temple hall are figurative representations of contemplative kneeling respectable Chinese in front of whom lay five stones, without doubt meteorites. There is a myth that the five genii had ridden across the sky on the backs of rams and had brought five grains as a symbol of wealth with them. The rams were then transfigured into those stones that are kept in the temple. That is why Canton is also known as the „city of rams“. The ride through the air seems to have been beneficial to the genii. They have a blooming and quite content air while the walls of the temple hall and namely the upper floor has again very evil looking life-sized companions, apparently horrible demons, look down upon the visitor.

As in the other temples the superstition here finds too its „highest fructification without risk“, as everyone is offered the opportunity to take a look into the future. The means for this are very primitive and the attempt is not as dangerous as lifting the veil of the image in Sais. Two of the Chinese methods to discover the secrets of the future are called Tsien and Kao-dsy. In the first one the fortune seeker is given a cup filled with sticks that have signs. The cup is shaken until a stick has fallen out of the cup to the ground. A bonze then presents an oracle saying for the sign, naturally for a high fee.

Kao-dsy is reserved for ladies that want to know whether they will be blessed with children about which they are reliably informed after they have thrown two sticks on  sacrifice table If the two sticks fall so that their ends point towards each other, then this is a clear sign that children will arrive soon while two ends turned away from each other will destroy all hope. As there are moments in the life of a human „where he is closer to the world spirit than otherwise — and will get a free question to ask fate“, I took heart and grasped the cup to throw my oracle. I was informed that I would have  — what a shock — 83 sons!

It is remarkable that the glass of the windows of the temple is replaced by thinly cut shells which are joined in the manner of Old Gothic glass roundels. While they are not transparent they nevertheless let in enough rays of light into the holy rooms. From the first floor of the temple one has a pretty panoramic view of the Tatar city out of which the core of Canton’s garrison is recruited.

Just next to the temple of the genii stands a smaller rather neglected temple which displays a foot print of Buddha impressed in a rock. He must have lived large as the trace was at least one meter long. All kinds of debris is heaped upon this „holy“ place that apparently is not highly respected.

What interests about a particular mosque is not its architecture but the circumstance that it stands at the foot of a hill ornamented by a pagoda and is said to have been the first Muslim house of prayer built in China already during the first half of the 7th century. Since that time, Islam has become the religion of a not inconsiderable part of the population of China that owes its propagation in China to the continuous trade relations between the empire and Arabia.  In the interior, the mosque shows the usual decorations with Arabic inscriptions taken from the Koran. It is connected to a school for boys where the Koran is read in Arabic. A 50 m high  leaning tower that is said to have been built in the year 900 by an Arab traveller met my approval — a feast for the eyes among the sea of houses — and was entwined by the most gorgeous ivy up to the top.

That we didn’t pass a temple of Confucius without visiting is natural. The place devoted to the memory of the sage who started out of humble beginnings and became the archetype of human perfection in the eyes of every educated Chinese, so that his philosophy has become the official philosophy of the government. The display of idols that are in part over-abundant in the up to now visited temples are completely missing here. There are only panels that remind about Confucius and his disciples. They have to be venerated twice a year which is paid by the state. Within certain areas and in larger cities there has to be a temple of Confucius which has to be built according to fixed instructions. In these temples there are no priests employed in contrast to their large number in the places of worship of other religions. It is rather the duty of the highest official to perform a honorable service during certain festive occasions in memory of Confucius and his disciples. The temple we visited also had a practical function as its pillar hall and side buildings served to house poor students for free in order to prepare for their examinations. As elsewhere beggars of all kinds approached the visitors in a very obnoxious manner and only by offering alimony freely one is able to get rid of them.

In order to do all exotic creeds justice we had us carried in our palanquins also to a Taoist temple. This consists of a row of buildings and makes an impression of careful maintenance, as numerous idols were spotlessly clean and beautifully gilded. In astonishing variations we were faced here with the never missing demons one of which was squashing a dog while others threaten humanity with ridiculously formed weapons. Truly artistically executed and of high value are the gorgeous bronze vases and urns that stand on pedestals. They have the purpose to receive the burning sacrificial papers. I was told that these bronzes are produced in a city to the North of Canton that supplies all of China with these master-works. In front of the temple extends a terrace with blooming potted plants among them the rose-red lotus flower is most conspicuous. Walking here I entered into a row of small rooms where numerous idols, apparently of a secondary rank, were located with their altars. The room was fragrant with the burning smell of the incense cones. I enlarged my collection by quickly taking incense cones, fortune telling sticks and sacrificial papers away from a bonze. The priest was at first quite astonished about the sweeping process but then completely reconciled after a corresponding sacrificial offering.

In the Middle Kingdom there apparently does not seem a closure of the nunneries which I concluded after our guide proposed to visit such a convent which I gladly accepted and this project did not meet any resistance. At the entrance of the convent we were received by the abbess and accompanied to the temple where we were offered horrible tea that reminded vividly of chamomile decoction. Around the temple there was a group of tiny, semi-derelict and very dirty houses in which the nuns lived. Curiosity had led some of these women out of their houses. They wore blue clothes and had their heads shaved and made quite a bad impression given the reigning lack of order. The nuns are generally not respected and have a rather low social rank. They buy children of poor people whom they expose to a rather questionable education. Me too the pious women asked to buy some of these children. I could get 25 to 30, 3 to 4 dollars per „piece“. But I declined to enlarge my ethnographic collection like this and left this location after the abbess had asked for alms for the monastery. I had not only not felt uplifted but rather disgusted.

Caring to find a favorable place of burial that promises good fortune is in Chinese thinking a very important activity in which soothsayers play an important role to decide about the suitability of a spot for the peace of the deceased. If somebody dies before the place of rest has been decided, it is necessary to find an interim resting place. The same applies if a Chinese dies outside his homeland. Burying him simply in the place where he died would mean to deprive him of the necessary participation and honoring by the family members during the mourning and funeral procession.

The level of importance assigned to the burial in home ground is shown by the circumstance that the Chinese are very often only willing to work abroad if they are contractually guaranteed that their dead bodies are transported home for burial in case of death abroad. By the way, one also helps oneself by burying those who died abroad in earth that has been brought from home. This lessens the dead’s sad fate of having to rest abroad. For the temporary keep of the dead there are dedicated buildings called Kun-tsoi-tschöngs (Goantsaitschang), that is „hall of caskets“,  which has grown in Canton in numbers and area to the size of a village called the „city of the dead“, Wing-sching-dsy (Jöng-tscheng), situated close to the Eastern gate of the Tatar city. It is surrounded by a wall, has neatly kept paved alleys and is decorated with flowers.The city’s small, narrow houses built out of stone contain one or more chambers in which the bodies are provisionally buried with the usual ceremonies. In each of these chambers that remind of bath changing rooms there is a low frame for the casket in the rear and an altar in front of it on which a tablet with the name of the dead is placed. Tables, chairs and candleholders complete the equipment of these chambers whose walls are draped in white and blue cloth. Depending on the wealth of the families of the dead waiting here for their grave, the equipment and the decoration of the burial chambers is more or less luxurious. The caskets are all lacquered in black and decorated with similar round forms at the corners as we have to come to see them on pagodas. In consideration of the sanitary requirements the caskets are made out of thick wood, filled with quicklime and well closed off with tar pitch.

The makeshift burial in the city of the dead extends for considerable time, even many years but is linked to the condition that an inscription fee and rent are paid. The amount for these services is said to depend on the wealth and the rank of the deceased. Often however the dead are not transferred to the funeral institution but kept in a coffin at home in the house of the deceased for a long time, namely in case if the bereaved are unable to separate themselves from the body of the dear departed. The family sense of the Chinese active beyond the grave plays an important role in the cult of the dead with its high piety for the memory of the dead family members and is the most attractive trait of the yellow people’s character.

From the city of the dead we cast a glance on the „cemetery“ of Canton, as I’d like to call the hill to the North of the city. The Chinese diviners indicate hills, especially if they have views on flowing or standing waters as auspicious grave sites. Therefore the hills rising to the North of Canton are peppered with graves up to the white mountain clouds — in fact it is a cemetery over a huge extended area. Thousands upon thousands of gravestones are glittering towards us, scanty green tufts sprout out of the dust of generations and an eternal melancholy wafts down the hill towards the living, reminding them that they will have to atone  in death for their life.

Along the crown of the city wall we undertook a mountain hike to the Northern part of the city to the five story pagoda of the wall. The value of the wall for defense is, as already mentioned, very low. The bastions and the towers make a very infirm impression and the guns positioned on the walls were part of the most varied systems. These guns are never cleaned and have become rusty and the playground for artfully weaving spiders so that these cannons will be highly unlikely to be used in their original purpose.

At the gate through which the path led to the city wall stood Chinese military. The soldiers wore an inscription of their unit on the front of their dirty uniforms. On the back there was some assurance about the great bravery of the soldier which was probably intended to creat fear in the enemy. It was, however, not clear to me how the brave Chinese will expect a result from this testimonial of bravery as it is applied to the back side of the warrior which an enemy also in China will usually only see when the end of bravery is reached. By the way, such inscriptions on flags, weapons etc. are said to be a common practice in the Chinese army. Halfway on our journey we came to a small Manchu barracks connected to the city wall into which I naturally immediately ventured in. In one room of this military building I surprised the troops at exercising at shooting in the room „with arrow and bow“. A NCO was just instructing recruits in adopting the most funny positions for this „shooting battle“ as a part of the Chinese army seems to be still equipped with the ancient bow and arrow.

Whether and if the command apparently included in a Chinese regulation that the soldiers should display fierce faces to the enemy to support the effects of their weapons is still in effect, I could not resolve. An exercise we observed I found quite puzzling: It was indoor gymnastics with „barbells“ but not with the instruments according to our understanding but with some that consisted of a thick peg at whose end was stuck a stone that reminded me in form and dimension of a millstone. The considerable weight had to be lifted, swung and finally made to turn in circles on the naked neck without the help of the hands — feats of strength worthy of an athlete.

Having finally reached the heights for which we had to climb a steep wooden stairs of the five stories of the pagoda which owed its existence in the 14th century not to religious but to military purposes and now serves as an observation tower. Still there are on the top floor idols and an altar. The traveler visits this pagoda for the panoramic view that is offered. The city lies at its feet. The city offers an impression of a compact mass with its sea of houses of the barely perceptible alleys, surrounded and criss-crossed by the arms of the Pearl river like bands of silver. Endless rice paddies extend in the plain. At a far distance the blue heights and mountain ranges wave towards us. Behind us rise the sad hills of the graves towards the white mountains of clouds. The panorama developing in front of us is missing in light, vivid colors and saturated tones that are produced by luxurious vegetation, in captivating contrasts and still it makes an impression. The eye glances from point to point attracted by the strangeness, by the newness of the image of the city and its landscape. The matt colors that are used to produce this image create a strange attraction of a harmonious image whose elements unite.

The caring Mr. Drew had foreseen the moment when the interest for the sights of Canton would step back behind the closer desire to appease one’s hunger and had us served breakfast in a side building of the Kun-jem temple. In intimate closeness to various Buddhas we rested and drew new force from our snack.

Turning again to the city and what it offered we took a look at the water clock that dates back to the third century AD and is the pride of Canton’s inhabitants. Three metal vessels to which water is led out of a rock are arranged in stages above one another. The cascade from one vessel into the next is so regulated that the level in the lowest vessels indicates the hours.

As I wished to attend one of the notorious Chinese court trials we turned to the courthouse where we however found the hearings already finished so that we had to postpone this project to tomorrow and had to accept as a preliminary replacement to visit the prison next to the administrative building. This presents itself as a long rectangular low building with with connected wings that multiple courtyards in which the larger and smaller cells that resemble barns are situated. We first entered into the department for women who were locked in chains penned together in one cell. The room, the dirt in it, the horrible smells that wafted towards us, the depraved and neglected state of the prisoners combined to a truly horrible impression. The miserable beings asked for alms in real howls of lament. Male prisoners who were also chained we met in a courtyard where they pressed their hands out of the bars where they crowded to catch some gift. The physiognomies of some showed the mark of criminals, of crookedness per se. Hard criminals were placed in a nearly dark cell and were placed under more severe conditions as a punishment as they had to carry a rectangular neck weight made out of heavy boards called Kia-(Gja-)dsy on which the name of the prisoner and his crime were noted. This more severe punishment is a mean torture as the neck board prevents the wearer from lying down and sleeping so that the prisoner can only get some rest despite this torture instrument by using special tools. The impression a visitor receives here is no less repellent than in the women cell. The prisoners apparently also suffer the most from all the dirt that fills the cells, the pestilential smell and, like the women, the deficiency of food.

A strange observation we could make at the gate of the courthouse. The law strictly prohibits gambling in China, a prohibition that enjoys a peaceful coexistence on paper with the impassioned Chinese penchant for games of chance of all kinds and the corruption that rules among the officials. But that just the entrance to a courthouse has been selected as a suitable place for the booths where the games of chance are booming in view of the high officials entering and leaving every day is proof that the corruption of the administration is joined with shamelessness.

Passing the house of the vice king marked by two flag poles and crossing two streets we arrived at the temple of horrors.  Brisk activity, now and then a bad crowding was taking place in front of the temple that consisted out of a number of buildings of which some were dedicated for the use of the priests performing their duties here. Multiple tooth extractors had set up their booths here and decorated them in a neither appetizing nor inviting way by rows of hundreds of extracted teeth on strings. Food sellers and money changers were looking out for business. In rows up to the interior of the temple soothsayers have established themselves. They read the future partly from the face of their clients — physiognomy is booming in China — partly by casting dice into a tortoise shell bowl. The other forms known to us of divining the future are also very lively practised. Each telling of fortune is quickly brushed with ink on a colored paper and given to the client. To these very crooked frauds who do their business here and praise their art on large boards fixed above small tables the noisy people surges in great numbers. Beggars  of all kinds ask for mild alms in the crowd.

The temple owes its name to the images of the punishments used in the Buddhist hell that are shown in the background of the temple hall right and left in chapel-like niches that are closed off with lattice nad bathed in a mythical clair-obscure light. The sinner who is to be shocked and deterred by the presentation of the torture awaiting him is shown a row of very realistically painted images that show the boiling in oil, the crushing and breaking between boards, the sawing into parts, the transformation into animals etc. The developed quite uninviting perspective seems not to miss to have an effect on the  superstitious Chinese as might be concluded by the numerous visits that the temple garners and the votive and appeasement papers affixed everywhere.

From this place of demonstrated anguishes a path led to one of actual torture — behind the examination halls called Kung-jün (Gong-jüe’i’n). The different literary degrees are awarded by passing exams successfully which form part of the most important elements of Chinese government institutions as these grant also the qualification for a government post. The exam for the first degree is held every one and a half year in the whole empire and namely in the capitals of the prefectures. Those of the second degree are held every third year and only in the capitals of the provinces while the candidates for the exam of the third and and fourth degree have to pass them in the empire’s capital. On the eighth day of the eighth month in the respective year the exams for the second degree start for which sometimes up to 10.000 candidates are inscribed.

The path leads trough multiple gates to a wide avenue at whose end are, in an open field, long rows of cubicles,  11.616 in numbers, made out of stone and brick and containing about an area of about 1,5 m2 where the candidates have to produce the written exams in strict seclusion for multiple days. Guards check that there is no cheating. A longer stay in these cubicles must be, even if one does not undergo to pain of writing an exam, not exactly part of the amenities of life. In the center of the area of the cubicle rows rises a hall where the exam commission is assembled. Among them are also two representatives sent fro Peking — a proof of the importance that is given to these examinations.

The candidates that have passed the exam are the object of excellent treatment. They are decorated and are honored in an official banquet. The achieved success is considered so high that the family and the relations of the candidate may participate in the glamor. The whole extended family is joyfully excited which is expressed in large feasts that are held after the return home of the successful candidate. Everybody may attempt to pass the examination for the literary grade whatever class or rank he may be —  except for the children of actors etc.  . This shows a democratic equality of all in terms of their relationship with the governmental institutions. But this comes quickly to an end. „As many are called but few are chosen“. The examination for the second degree in front of a commission pass always only about 100 candidates who are not always those with the best performance but those with the capability to gain the favors of the examiners.

In any case it is astonishing that the examinations about literature open the path to public service both in civil and military affairs. The required level of this knowledge does not go beyond the knowledge of the language, of writing and some acquaintance with the classical texts. What is considered the basics of education at home is considered in China the embodiment of wisdom and preparation for public service, an exception that may be reasonably explained by the difficulty of learning spoken and written Chinese. The number of characters is estimated at 40.000 to 50.000, or even 100.000.

At the end of our journey today it was the turn of visiting a place of execution, a place playing an important role in Chinese criminal justice as the Chinese criminal law is written in blood. Crucifixion and being cut into countless pieces — mitigating circumstances limited them to eight pieces — decapitation and strangulation are the capital punishments of the criminal law. But it seems they are satisfied in using the less cruel forms at present, namely hanging and beheading. Corporal punishments are used frequently and  in the form of strokes with bamboo canes and the form of a bastinado. These punishments can be applied in five levels of intensity.

Other punishments are exile in five levels in terms of duration and transportation for life in three levels of distance. During recent times the number of executions in Canton was 300 annually. In the year 1855, however, there are said to have happened 50.000 executions. During the month we were present there was no execution. Still the place of execution reveals its purpose in a ghastly way as the heads of the criminals are kept there in earthen pots which at least has a chilling effect for the Chinese devoted to Buddhist teachings as these fear any kind of mutilation in their belief that this will affect their appearance in the after-life. Also the common hasty burial of the executed must be horrible for the Chinese as the place of burial is important for the fortune of the dead in the next world.

The henchman approached towards me on his workplace. He was clad in black and seemed to mirror his shady trade in his dark hard face. The assistant judge removed the covering straw bundles from a few of the ominous pots that revealed the grinning heads of the executed, both very well preserved ones and bleached skulls. I had a man asked by consul general Haas whether he knew the number of his victims. He replied that this was not the case but that the number of those he had executed would be about 1000. The fellow smelled, steamed and dripped blood — at least it seemed to me — and offered his tool of the trade for sale, a short broad sword with which he had executed thirty pirates during the past month.

Quite tired and filled with a number of unexpected impressions we returned to Mr. Drew’s villa on Shamian where we met Coudenhove who, coming from Bangkok, finally delivered the mail for which we had longed for four and a half months. In great haste and in joyous expectation the letters were opened, the lines devoured and many a happy and some painful news learned. I found myself disappointed by the number of letters as I had expected more. Not a few friends and acquaintance may have refrained from sending messages in the belief that the wealth of experiences offered during the journey would not make me miss messages from home. How bad is the judgement of those who stay on homeground in regard to the power of home which keeps its attraction even very far away!  The memory of my homeland, of all those who had stayed behind remains fresh and vivid. No impressions may make me forget those and every page, every line, every word from my dear home country is a salute that enters deeply into my heart.

Unfortunately the mail had many sad messages for those of us on board of „Elisabeth“ that  touched our compassion. Thus both adjunct commissary Pietzuk and the oldest marine cadet Sternhardt were informed about the death of their fathers while our brave boatswain Zamberlin learned about the death of his oldest son into whom he had laid all his hopes. Only a few days ago I had promised the brave man that I would assist in getting his son admitted to a cadet school.

The evening of the day was devoted to a culinary curiosity, an original Chinese dinner that Mandarin Ho, a rich Chinese official who was partially able to speak English, was hosting on a large flower boat. In a dining room on the first floor of a flower boat that distinguished itself by its luxurious furniture and rich decoration with flower garlands, the table was set where, apart from me and the host as well as Mr. Drew, also my gentlemen, commander Becker, the other gentlemen of the staff, consul general Haas and furthermore the gentlemen Lange and Goetz had assembled. Everything, the service, especially the cutlery, namely the famous ivory chopsticks, was Chinese originals. The menu too was genuinely Chinese. The use of the chopsticks with which we were not familiar caused much hilarity and we proved quite inept at using them only to finally turn to a much simpler tool — our fingers.

This very strange meal consisted of the following courses: 1. Fresh fruits; 2. dried fruits; 3. fruits with flowers; 4. preserved fruits; 5. candied eggs; 6. candied pears; 7. Mandarin bird nest soup; 8. snow morel soup; 9. pigeon egg soup; 10. grilled shark fins; 11. grilled pheasant; 12. fish stomach soup; 13. grilled wild duck; 14. grilled young bamboo; 15. various cakes; 16. kidney soup; 17. fresh mushrooms; 18. grilled fish; 19. roasted mutton; 20. shark fin ragout and bêche de mer (Trepang); 21. game ragout; 22. mushrooms with vegetables; 23. lily seeds, fresh and candied; 24. various small cakes and dessert. Vine and liquor naturally were not missing either.

As this menu shows, there were actually two complete dinners whose completion also required a suitably long time, namely three hours. Even though an outstanding meal was served according to Chinese ideas, we could not like the taste of East-Asian cooking, the swallowing of some of the dishes even cost some effort. The often praised bird nests and the shark fins, the two pièces de résistance of the dinner, tasted quite similar, namely sticky and like fish oil. The other more consistent dishes were remarkable by their one similar but undefinable taste however different the ingredients might have been. As original beverage tea without sugar was served and a so called wine that actually was a hot liquor and did not please us at all. Our host had in wise anticipation provided some bottles of champaign to add zest to the dinner.

About 20 richly decorated and richly made up young girls were serving us, that is they sat in a circle behind us and watched us, sometimes smiling about our clumsy use of the chopsticks. I had been assigned a „peach blossom“ (Tao-hoa) who was quite apathetic in regard to all activities and only took out a small mirror from time to time to look pleased at her face and renew her make-up. Even 12 cups of the strong Chinese wine that I had the peach blossom drink and a personal feeding of her with lotus flower pits did not change the mood of the beauty. Munching she sat there otherwise stock still like a pagoda until it was her turn to torture our ears, like the other ladies, with hideous singing accompanied by squeaking music.

In order to give the artists some information about the effect of their singing we imitated it and accompanied it with beats of the gong which at first made the Chinese speechless and astonished but they then erupted into a loud laughter that however soon returned to a phlegmatic quietness. The continued musical productions incited our nerves so much that I finally had our interpreter tell the singers that I appreciate their beautiful and even gorgeous performances but asked the ladies with hands held high to finally come to an end. They were probably very outraged internally about the barbarian who was not showing proper respect about their art, but we had achieved our purpose and could turn to the culinary dishes without further disturbances.

Very strange we considered at first the custom that after each course of the meal each participant was handed a hot towel from the girls to be placed on the head. Soon however we had to acknowledge the positive effect of this custom as this caused a very agreeable cooling effect, double welcome in these rooms without ventilation.

After our stomach had given a happy proof of its capability to absorb such a meal, I said good-bye to Peach Blossom who was still munching lotus flower pits in order to drive to the flower boat whose attraction was our crowing friend. Unfortunately he had not managed to separate himself from his penates and I did not meet him in the place where he enacted his show and thus returned to the friendly Shamian where I devoted myself to reading the mail until late in the night.

Links

  • Location: Canton
  • ANNO – on 24.07.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing a ballet „Sylvia, die Nymphe der Diana“.

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