Schlagwort-Archiv: sightseeing

Shimonoseki to Miyajima, 6 August 1893

Prior to embarking on „Yaeyama“ I had the opportunity to meet the Japanese prime minister, the often mentioned Count Ito Hirobumi, and express my most vivid sympathies as he had arrived during the night to visit his son who was ailing due to a heavy fall. The son of the count had also been assigned to my entourage but had had the misfortune during the trip to meet us to fall down from the gangway and sustain so heavy internal injuries that our doctor who had examined the patient declared that there was only a minor chance of recovery.

To the thundering salute of all warships we took leave from Shimonoseki, while our cruiser was slowly turning until it steered Eastwards into the much praised inland sea. The Japanese inland sea, Seto-no-uji-umi, that is the sea between the straits is enclosed in the South by the islands of Kyushu ans Shikoku, in the North by the main island of Hondo and is connected to the ocean by the strait of Van der Capellen, Bungo and Linschoten. High and low tide alternate in the inland sea just like in the ocean, but the depth of the inland sea is low and often barely 20 fathoms. Extending from Shimonoseki in the West to Osaka in the East, the inland sea is namely in the middle parts covered with volcanic islands whose number is given according to Japanese sources as being in the multiple thousands.

Just after we had exited through the narrow passage of Shimonoseki, the coasts of the islands of Kyushu and Hondo left us as they retreat here sharply an surround this part of the inland sea named after the province Suwo in a wide arc.

This day displayed an inclination to show everything in the best light. Without clouds the sky was smiling upon us in a friendly blue and a fresh wind brought agreeable cool air. The slightly moving sea was enlivened by countless vehicles built in the most adventurous forms and equipped with the strangest sails out to go fishing, as fish play an important role in the diet of the Japanese people as fish composes their main meat component. After the current regulations steamships do not have to evade the surrounding boats. It is upon the latter to make way for the steamships. But this is accorded with a certain carelessness, so that we had come all too close to some junks despite the frequent use of the steam whistle until we finally rammed one which however slid alongside our board wall with crunching sounds and survived with damages to its steering and masts — a collision that made no impression on our commander who continued his journey with a smile as if nothing had happened.

After about three hours we changed course and steered towards North-east to enter into a real labyrinth of islands on this course. Driving through this jumble of islands was truly enchanting and I can confirm with my own experience that the enthusiastic reports given in travel descriptions about the natural beauties of the island sea are not exaggerated.  The larger islands with their mighty mountains that are partly bereft of woods but still form a very effective background make a very imposing impression. Many of the smaller islands that are in very fantastic forms consist of only a single gigantic rock emerging out of the sea, others are covered with hills and pointy cones. Nearly all larger islands are inhabited. At the coasts village is followed by village, one fishing village after another. Everywhere it is apparent that the inhabitants rely either on agriculture or fishing for their living. On the slopes of the hills extend well cultivated fields and on the lightly curled surface of the sea danced complete fleets of boats. Even somebody with a very audacious imagination might have trouble inventing such a scenery that surpasses in diversity, movement and impressive greatness as well as charming intimacy  what is revealed in front of our eyes here.

Even though our full attention was already taken care of, the commander of „Yaeyama“ arranged exercises that happened quite precisely and quickly with the 12 cm Armstrong guns despite the long nearly endless Japanese orders. From time to time the ship band played some music pieces, among them the inescapable overture of „Tell„, a pot-pourri from „Mignon“ and various dances from home. For all the appreciation that I am read to accord the Japanese after all that I have heard and seen, I can not keep quiet about the fact that I have enjoyed much better performances than what was produced for our ears here. Some of the presented pieces could hardly be recognized in the manner played here and the programs too had no claim to reliability as they for instance declared the opera „Carmen“ to be a creation of our waltz king Strauß.

When we changed course again to steer northwards the mountainous coast of the province Suwo lay only a few miles away on port. Following this coast and later that of the province Aki we steamed until we came into sight of the island of Miya — our destination for today. After we still crossed a very narrow passage putting some fishing boats in danger but exited without accident, we entered into the bay of Miyajima where two warships, the cruiser „Chiyoda“ and the corvette „Tenriu“, greeted the arrival of „Yaeyama“ with thunder. To my not especially pleasing surprise we could already see from afar both on land and in boat the white uniforms of the overeager policemen.

The temple island Miyajima is remarkable in comparison to the other islands of this archipelago that its up to 457 m rising heights covered with splendid closed woods. The ground of the island is holy. That is why the humans are not allowed to lay hand on the trees and also the deer enjoy an undisturbed existence, so fully tame dear run around in the midst of pedestrians and eat out of the hands of a passer-by. Despite the religious dedication that distinguishes the island it is a much visited excursion place during the summer as the charming valleys that open up towards the sea are criss-crossed by numerous pleasant trails. A never too hot temperature as well as refreshing sea and freshwater baths are other attractive reasons for a visit. The island is inhabited by about 3003 people — priests, innkeepers, fishermen and wood cutters — whose houses are situated in charming seclusion along the bay at the foot of the green hills from which splendid conifers were greeting us. A very interesting contrast to this was formed by the province Aki on the opposite shore, as the sharply falling slopes of the mountains were bare and the light colored almost gleaming white stone and debris made it seem as if the mountains were covered by snow.

Also on Miyajima I had to undergo an entrée glorieuse, an introduction I would have gladly been spared but which was inescapable as the Japanese were very keen on creating the greatest ceremonies and the fullest pomp at any opportunity. At the landing bridge the high dignitaries and notables stood in great numbers. They were presented to me and bowed deeply when I passed them Then followed a cordon of the guardians of the law, behind them there was a crowd of the people curious to see the foreign prince who, followed by his own and the Japanese entourage, walked between the lifeguard in a green uniform and the doorman with the sword. I permitted myself a small deviation from the program.  When I noticed that the distance to our residence would be quite far away and covering it at the speed of a festive procession in the high temperature as well as the fact that the path was not covered with roses but a layer of fine sand not especially agreeable I started to walk at a double quick that soon brought me to my destination but the entourage was left breathless causing general hilarity.

While the residences on Japanese soil had already found our admiration, this was by far surpassed by the charming details of this residence prepared for us here as well as its scenic surrounding, the originality of the site. The path had led us through a narrow wooded gorge. Trees many hundred years old provided agreeable shade. In the base of the gorge a small crystal clear stream was flowing, enlivened by jolly goldfish and other species of fish swimming around.  Between the trees rose rocks on which there were very charming small houses distributed apparently randomly and only owe their existence to the fancy of good taste. Each of us was assigned to his own house.

At a few spots the ripply stream has been dammed to create a miniature pond in whose midst open kiosks with verandas stand on poles. In these mats as well as plushy pillows invite to rest and dream to the murmurs of the stream. All these enchanting buildings are connected with delicate paths, stairs, runways or bridges. Here and there a bubbling source splashes between the rocks, whizzes and sprays a water fountain whose jets fall back into the caves of the hollowed out stones that are surrounded by all kinds of water and climbing plants. Everywhere there are small stone temples covered in moss — similar to the chapels and votive pillars that stand on our country roads — that are intended to hold a light in the evening in order to provide illumination like niches cut into the rock. The wonders surrounding us here have been created by true artists whose brisk fantasies have been combined with a fine sensory for the beauty of nature and emotional poetry. Our astonishment about this idyllic retreat in the woods was loudly proclaimed and we rushed around everywhere closely discovering the magic place in all its details.

The individual houses were of a colorful diversity in their site and execution so that we could not cease to be amazed about the creativity of the Japanese builders. Still each of these small master works shared a common quality of cuteness. Here too the building material was only wood, namely bamboo, straw mats and paper but the artisans had shown their rare skills in such an excellent way that the most simple means created wholesome effects for the eye. Even the furniture of the living rooms was picturesque, consistent with the laws of beauty. While the decorative art of the related tribe of the Chinese is characterised by a preference for the colorful and flashy and sometimes even blatant, the Japanese, despite all variety of colors, are distinguished by their artistic moderation, the perfect harmony and the cosy intimacy as well as a tender understanding to create life as comfortable as possible. The principles of the Japanese character, the vivid hilarity, the attractive sensuality and notable sense for beauty are displayed in all areas of life of the people and make the people and the country equally sympathetic to any stranger who sets foot on Japanese soil.

After I had said good-bye to the dignitaries and notables who had escorted me and taken possession of our small house, I took a stroll in the neighborhood of my residence.

Miyajima is thanks to its famous temple a place of pilgrimage, a sort of Mariazell of Southern Japan; like in the proximity of our church of mercy there are in the area of the temple countless shops and stalls that sell souvenirs about the holy island to the pilgrims. These objects are mostly expert carvings or pictures of the settlement on the island, the temple, the deer etc. available for an almost ridiculous low price, a circumstance which might be explained that the island is still outside of the great tourist routes and the inhabitants are not yet spoiled by visiting Englishmen and Americans. In these shops I bought whole wagon loads of pretty objects especially small tables, vases and all kinds of copies of crippled wood, toys and hundreds of other things.

The government had also, by the way, made great efforts to make the enlargement of my collection as easy as possible. In one building whose rooms otherwise are used for pedagogical purposes they had arranged a formal display of the products of Japanese art industry which overall contained about the same objects sold in the shops but cost three times the price thanks to the official intervention. I limited my purchases there to an ancient Japanese suit of armor besides the matching grotesque mask with its martial moustache.

Climbing a steep stairs I arrived in a large temple-like hall built out of wood which is situated on a hill and had been constructed by Taiko-sama, the marshal and regent of the empire who had started out as a groom, in the spot where he had given orders in 1591 before the departure of the Japanese army under the generals Konishi Jukinaga and Kato Kiyomasa to the conquest of Korea. This hall in which the Taiko-sama is said to have held great festive banquets is decorated with large votive pictures hanging on the walls. The wood carvings on a pagoda constructed not far from the hall shows the honorable signs of old age.  A few steps above these buildings and near of a monument dedicated to a fallen soldier, on the dominant point of the island, I enjoyed the attractive panoramic view of the lovely Miyajima.

Dinner we ate to the sounds of two music bands in one of the pond kiosks. In that unusual dinning room there was very agreeable temperature so that it would be desirable that also in our country similarly built and situated rooms could be used for the same purpose during the summer months  if the mosquitoes permit this as they were noticeably disturbing the comfortable dinner at Miyajima. The dinner was attended, among other personalities, by the division commander of Hiroshima with a very vivid and jovial temperament as well as an admiral who had come from the port city of Kure — two gentlemen with whom I had a very inspiring conversation. The messages of the admiral strengthened my conclusion that the Japanese were carefully planning to expand their navy, a circumstance that not the least is shown by the excellent performance of the Imperial navy cadet school that had been set up on the island of Eta close to Kure.

The famous temple of the island, a Shinto shrine, we visited during the evening. Shintoism and Buddhism are both heathen religious systems practised by the Japanese population. Buddhism, currently split into seven main sects and devoted to the most crass idol veneration, is the actual religion of the people while the upper classes of society now are mostly religiously indifferent or lapsed into atheism. Beside the two religions noted the doctrine of Confucius has also taken hold. It has not penetrated very deeply but it has influenced many of the better educated classes and greatly namely the samurai of earlier times.

The Shintoism intends felicity during the mundane life and presumes that the spirits of the deceased assist in the achievement of this goal. That is way the believer clamp their hands and ring to call them. Characteristic for Shintoism or the Kami doctrine are the adoration of famous men as gods besides a multitude of gods apparently in the millions who are led by the sun queen Amaterasu. An apparent descendant of the latter, the Jimmu Tenno (660 to 585 BC), is the founder of the Japanese Empire and the ancestor of the Imperial House so that the respective Emperor of Japan is venerated as a son of heaven and thus as a god. To Shintoism actual dogmatic and ethical principles are alien but a well established ritual and a developed liturgy exist. Like Buddhism, Shintoism could not keep its original purity but has been influenced by the former in many ways.

It is interesting to note that at the beginning of the new era in 1868, the government tried to displace Buddhism in favor of Shintoism. This effort is explained by the understandable interest that the Emperor, or to use the more common title, the Mikado, has in this religion that connects him with the founder of the Empire as well as Heaven and thus must have been seen as suitable to strengthen the Imperial power restored by the great reform movement. In the year 1876, by the way, freedom of religion was declared and from this principle Christendom has profited too. At least Roman-Catholic bishops have been installed in Tokyo, Nagasaki, Kyoto and in Sandani a few years ago.

The temple on the island apparently built already in the 6th or 7th century and dedicated to received its form in the 12th century by Kiyomori which made it famous as a building in Western Japan. As a Shinto shrine the temple, that the Kannuschi, that is the Shinto priests, had illuminated in our honor even if only sparsely, is characterised by tall gallows-like portals called Torii that stand on poles and are attached to the sides.  The temple contains a multitude of rooms for the sanctuaries and connecting paths.

We were not allowed to enter into the actual temple rooms but we could at least take a look without seeing much that was remarkable beyond candle holders and images. In the center of the main temple one could see some kind of pedestal which was intended for festive processions on high holy days and flanked by two bronze dragons, true  metal master works. Strangely formed tall bronze vases I had noticed already at the temple entrance.

The priests clad in white silk clothes and equipped with strange headdresses reminding of a bishop’s escorted us and showed us in two chambers all the objects instruments used for their divine services, and among many other things also splendid cloth that would make many of our ladies envious, furthermore grotesque masks and various swords some of which of a bulky length of 4,5 m and probably are only demonstration objects for certain ceremonies.

The temple on Miyajima shows in its sumptuous decoration already the consequence of an important Buddhist influence, as a pure Shinto temple is distinguished by its simplicity and especially by its absence of metal decorations or lacquer ornaments. Also its symbols are restricted to a round metal mirror as an image of god’s splendor, the Gohei, a paper affixed to a small wooden stick of which it is assumed that the spirit of the god will sit down and a gemstone or crystal ball as a sign of purity and power of god.

The large number of hanging votive pictures, some of which have considerable artistic merit and are very old, in a gallery of the temple is remarkable. Some of those have been created by the hands of famous masters. We met here a great variety of illustrations with all kinds of good and bad gods and spirits,  some of which with grotesque faces, monkeys, deer as well as other animals and in a colorful mix scenes from life, partly painted, partly carved, partly in-laid.

Even though it had already been considerably late at night, we still were sitting around, clad in Kimonos, at one of the pond kiosks, smoking, chatting and sipping champaign enjoying the surrounding nature whose charms caused us to loudly lament the shortness of the stay in Miyajima allocated by the program.

Finally we took a cooling bath in the waves of the stream by jumping straight from the veranda of the kiosk into the water and happily splashed around in it under the shine of red lampions.

Links

  • Location: Miyajima, Japan
  • ANNO – on 06.08.1893 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 the opera „Cavalleria rusticana“.

Kumamoto, 5 August 1893

Soon after the break of dawn I fell into the hands of a barber who did complete his task in a very delicate manner with a great number of tiny knives but who put my patience to a hard test.

In the phaeton guided by Sannomiya we drove, in suffocating heat despite the early morning hour, to Kumamoto castle where I was received by prince Yoshihisa.

The city of Kumamoto, capital of the department of the same name comprising the provinces of Higo and Chikugo and after the census of 1891 counting more than 54.000 inhabitants, is situated at the river Shiragawa, about 6 km upstream from the mouth of that river, and was destroyed by a fire in the year 1877 as well as severely damaged by a later earthquake. Newly rebuilt in part, the city’s structures offer a very regulated impression and are characterised by wide clean roads with planted trees. The houses are very small and equipped with characteristic roofs. They allow everybody an unrestricted view into the interior of the house as well as the family life. Apart from the tea houses and palaces of rich owners, The shops lining the streets are filled with vast quantities of original objects.

The castle was built by Kato Kiyomasa, one of the senior general of Japan’s war against Korea (1592) but was like the park destroyed so that today the wide area is occupied by a large number of military buildings, barracks, stables, magazines, ammunition depots etc. The extremely high walls formed out of huge rocks and the deep moats that can be detected despite their having been filled-in are remarkable. Even in the interior the fortress is criss-crossed by walls that are punctuated by gates. Today the walls are not in a condition to act as a defense. The former stronghold could not withstand a siege supported by modern guns all the more so as the higher surrounding hills are not protected by forts or batteries. Currently therefore the castle has no role as a fortress even though it still fulfilled its purpose in the year 1877.

During the Satsuma uprising a garrison commanded by General Tani, and reinforced by part of the garrison of Kokura,  that consisted of an infantry regiment, four batteries of field artillery, one company of engineers and two companies from Fukuoka, in total about 3000 men,  resisted for 52 days against the rebels who besieged the castle with about 16.000 men. At that time the city quarter close to the fortress was fully burned down by the garrison in order to have a sufficiently open field of fire.

The path that leads up to the command post at the highest point on the hill passes through all the former defensive works and is notable by its steepness so that finally the horses pulling the phaeton completely refused to go on. They did no longer pull which caused the wagon to fall back and caused Sannomiya much embarrassment. He beat the horses, tore forcefully at the sharp poles and expressed his displeasure with swearwords that he took alternating from German and Japanese. This did however not improve the matter and the journey could only be continued after some runners rushed in and rescued us by pushing the wagon by its wheels upward.

Prince Yoshihisa received us most obligingly in the not really large but comfortable apartments and showed me a picture of the former fortress which he presented to me as well as three charming porcelain figures of high artistic value. From a bastion in front of the house where some old guns were waiting to be decommissioned, we enjoyed a panoramic view open to all  sides on the castle, the long-winded city at its foot and its surrounding area.

Using maps and lists of dates the prince gave me a very interesting account of the rebellion of 1877, in which, as stated, Kumamoto had played an important role. This Satsuma rebellion that was only put down after seven months proved to be a severe test which the modernised Japan had to pass. The soul behind the dangerous movement  was General Saigo Kichinosuke who deserved much credit for the restoration of power of the mikado  but had retired to his home since 1873. Sulking and unhappy, Saigo founded private schools for samurai with like-minded friends in Satsuma. They were educated in Chinese literature and instructed in military exercises. In time the number of these samurai grew to 30.000, who formed an army blindly devoted to Saigo.

In January 1877 the long prepared movement broke out and Saigo marched at the head of 14.000 rebels whose numbers considerably increased by new arrivals on Kumamoto. It was besieged by a part of the rebels while about 9000 men went Northwards towards the Imperial troops approaching from Kokura led by Arisugawa-no-miya. The rebels were soon beaten at Tawarasaka and the siege of Kumamoto had to be lifted. After a number of smaller battles the strongholds of the rebels, the cities of Miyakonocho and Nobeoka, fell into the hands of the Imperial troops which however did not prevent Saigo to capture Kagoshima at the head of 500 faithful and take the ample stocks assembled there. Already on 24 September Saigo and his small band were surrounded on Shira mountain near Kagoshima by 15.000 men of Imperial troops. The brave rebels soon were killed or captured. Saigo died by the hand of one of his companions named Beppu who cut off his head and so provided his leader with a last friendly deed. Himself he killed by committing Harakiri, that is the ritual slitting open of the belly.

On the bastion tents had been set up in which cooling drinks and frozen treats were served and the native adjutants fanned cool air towards us — a common local and very welcome use of these officials given the tropical heat. The view of the city that presented itself, the smiling landscape, the surrounding mountain ranges as well as the fortress were incredibly picturesque and all the more attractive the longer the viewer absorbs the impression of the scenic image. About 100 m distant from the bastion rise the last remains of the earlier art of fortification, a tall pagoda-like tower made out of wood that has probably been left standing as a historic landmark and now is used as an observation platform. Climbing the three floors on the steep wooden staircase of the tower we looked down from its vertiginous height. As images show, all walls and protruding edges carried such towers in the good old times when powder was unknown and shooting weapons were restricted to bow and arrow. The important number of such towers must have given a very strange appearance to a fortress.

From a lofty height we could survey the imposing extent of the castle and the number of buildings that had been constructed. Apart from the remains of the former fortifications, there lay the barracks of the 13th and 23rd infantry regiments built in the modern pattern, that is according to the pavilion system and equipped with spacious courtyards where troop formations performed platoon and company exercises in their summer uniforms. At some distance are the cavalry and artillery barracks whereas especially the former one with its trooper pavilion, the long troop stables, the smithies and the quarantine stations resembled a home cavalry barrack and really looked almost nostalgic to a former commander of a cavalry regiment.

Even though a visit of the cavalry barracks was not on the program, I asked the prince to visit this military institution given my understandable interest for my own branch of service. I also asked to see a mounted formation perform exercises. I had no reason to regret the fulfilment of these wishes. What I was presented astonished me in fact justly.

As the formation of cavalry in the European manner has only happened recently, the achieved results must be called rather excellent. Even though there are still some defects that can not be denied, still my expectations were surpassed by far. According to the organization of the Japanese cavalry it was set to consist of 6 battalions of the line at 3 squadrons each and 1 guard battalion of 2 squadrons. Each battalion of the line had a total strength of 497 men and 459 horses.

The stables that offered space for two troops each are built out of wood and very airy. In the stall there is no permanent straw. The appearance of the horses, even though some are well nourished and have glossy hair, in general leaves much to be desired. Some of the animals are much too meager and a great number had saddle sores. Remarkably many were stallions. The feed provided three times per day consists of barley and rather bad reedy hay. The army command has replaced the saddle in use with a new one built according to a German model but it did not look practical to me which also applied to the newly introduced string belts. The storage packs are at the rear, the coat and two small bags that contain each two magazines with three bullets each. are carried in front tied to the horn. Earlier the bit was very similar to ours, which was true for all horse gear, but was replaced recently by an English bit with very long lower parts which in my opinion offers no advantage. Completely unusable are the much too thin grass green saddle blankets, folded eight times, that are probably the reason of the numerous and often quite considerable saddle sores.

The troop rooms are covered with wood and are airy and cleanly kept. I noticed the large number of uniforms and shoes with which the soldiers are equipped. Each man has besides the parade and exercise uniform, a summer uniform and three to four striped jackets, a very comfortable piece of clothing. On boards that are fixed above the sleeping places there are everywhere nice tea bowls. The troopers who look well and strong are fed three meals per day which consists mostly out of rice, the national dish, and sufficient complements of fish or meat.

As far as the arms of the cavalryman are concerned I noticed that the saber’s blade was slim and thin while the hilt offered little flexibility so that the weapon nearly gave the impression of being made for children. The carbine is not held by belt as it our practice and bounces around on the back of the trooper at any movement. The revolver of the NCOs are easy to handle and much more practical weapons than those we use.

While we were inspecting the rooms of the barracks, a mounted troop of 14 pairs had assembled in the large courtyard upon the order of the commander who made a fine military impression. This troop performed all evolutions of troop exercises in every gait. It completely resembled the movements of the cavalry troops of our army because the German had taken the German regulations as their prototype which in turn was formed after our own regulations, with the exception that at the reception the troops salute too with the saber held high holding the hilt in front of the face.

All movements, turns, pulls, deployments and departures in pairs or fours were performed quietly. At the end of the exercise the troopers rode individually in circles which allowed us to precisely judge the quality of each horse and rider. The Japanese government had bought a couple of years ago some Hungarian studs and sent them to different areas of the country. The products of these ancestors form the cavalry horse of the Japanese army today which at the first glance reveals its Hungarian blood. The choice of the studs, however, does not have been a happy one as the descendants had a faulty, too short neck with a very pronounced lower jaw and sometimes bad backs while the legs mostly looked very good.  I would classify the presented animals as equal to our transportation horses of a minor quality. The horses of the Japanese cavalry are bought at the surprisingly low price of just below 200 fl. in our currency per piece and directly trained by the troop if they are not supplied by remounts from the government foal breeding farms.

The riding of the troopers still left much to be desired according to our standards. Not the leas due to the requirement for the rider to hold his fist very high because the coat and the bags with the ammunition had been packed in front of him. This causes a rather uneasy lead. The people in general treated their rarely ridden horses harshly despite the very sharp horse gear with a stiff lower jaw. In contrast, the troopers have a smooth good seat and I believe that a troop such as the one we inspected with its natural ability and the good will of the people could be taught in a short time by an instructor educated in European methods to achieve full parity with a good European cavalry regiment.

In any case I have experienced continental cavalry formations exercise that performed far worse than the presented Japanese troop to whose honor I have to insist that the inspection was in no way planned but improvised so that they could not train the exercises beforehand as this is said to be the case elsewhere. With words of true praise and heartfelt thanks I left the barracks, congratulating the brave colonel about the performance of his troop, not without regretting that the short time frame did not permit to inspect the infantry and artillery.

Prince Yoshihisa led us to a park not fully 2 km distant from the city called Suisenji which was once the garden of the country retreat of the Hosokawa family. The Japanese are justly quite proud about this park that serves as a place for excursions. It is really a sightseeing spot of a very strange kind as it is typical for the Japanese art of gardening. It gives the impression as if one had taken small trees, bushes, flowers, hills, rocks, ponds and pools out of a toy box and tastefully arranged them in groups and colorful stops in order to create a garden installation in the most delicate dimension.

While there had been large crowds on both sides of the road, there was an army of dignitaries at the entrance of the park. The most prominent were introduced to me while the rest formed a well organized cordon through which we walked to arrive at a hut decorated with flags and flowers where refreshments and tea was served. The latter was offered in the manner the Japanese like to drink it that is as a bitter tasting green broth that resembled a garden sorrel sauce which I did not like at all.

Japan almost only produces green tea and for the cultivation of the tea bush are allocated only areas in the plains or on gently sloping grounds. The best qualities of the Japanese tea, powder or pearl tea is almost completely consumed by the country itself while in general only tea from leaves of minor quality are exported. While we were trying to paralyze the oppressive heat by the consummation of refreshing drinks, a brilliant daylight firework was ignited.

The smartly profit-oriented merchants of Kumamoto had set up an exhibition of all kinds of Japanese artistic and industrial products not far from the park in an open theater in order to tempt us. As there were splendid things, exquisite objects made out of bronze, lacquer paintings, artistically formed and worked objects made out of bamboo, porcelain, silk and namely armor as well as weapons, among them especially artistically decorated swords are worth a mention.  The prices demanded were enormous. Still out of honor I had to make some acquisitions which seemed to cause quite some entertainment for my princely cousin.

A breakfast served in our small house attended by some higher officers of the garrison completed our stay in Kumamoto. The friendly prince Yoshihisa accompanied us to the station through a cordon of troops where we left under the thunder of the gun in a special court train on the line of the Kyushu railway that connects the island of Kyushu from Kumamoto in a Northern direction to the terminal station of Moji.

This railway line stops at some larger places such as Kurume, earlier the residence of the daimyo of Arima and now the capital of the province of Chikugo. Then the win city of Hakata-Fukuoka divided by the river Naka. The former is the harbor of the latter and formerly contained the business quarter while Fukuoka served as a garrison quarter with houses for the many thousands of samurai and now is the capital of the province of Chikusen. Finally just shortly before the terminal stop is Kokura, the capital of the province Busen. The railway soon turns to the West and then continues for some time alongside the coast and then to the North only to turn from Hakata in a large curve to the East and North-east to Moji.

Not only in the stations of the larger villages but also on all the smaller stations and even where the train did not stop great crowds had turned out led by governors, commanders and other dignitaries of all categories to greet me. I did not attend, however, the planned receptions and speeches of the stops in order to enjoy the peace by pretending to sleep so that the visiting dignitaries were reduced to only drop of their cartes de visite in the wagon.

Alongside all the tracks there were measures taken by the police to guarantee our protection. Even in places where the track passed a road stood a saluting guard fully aware about his dignity and importance. I may, I believe, say with justice that Japan has never before seen such a police deployment in such a limited space and I have never in my life felt to be under so much supervision as here.

The special train was not exactly flying by on the narrow gauge track so that it was a real pleasure to stand on the platform of the wagon and observe the cheerful scenery. The character of the country is harmonically suited to their happy polite inhabitants even though it could also be said that the inhabitants had conformed themselves to the character of the landscape. Everywhere there were friendly valleys opening up and numerous small villages peeped out of the lush green. Mountains and hills are in many places heavily stocked with coniferes below which dense bamboo bushes are growing. Unfortunately there are also important areas which had been completely deforested which is no wonder given the intense demand for wood in this country. In these places grows a  weed-like bamboo. Now and then one could see quite suddenly rising hills of a semI-spherical shape emerge out of the plains on which grew rich vegetation among which aventurously twisted pines were common that we had already seen in many Japanese gardens in natura and on lacquered boxes, vases etc. in more or less successful reproductions.

At Kokura where the railway comes very close to the sea, we greeted the sea colorfully illuminated by the setting sun. Out of its depths the mirror images of the golden mountain tops were gleaming. Hundreds of snow-white egrets were escorting us in a long line.

At the terminal stop of Moji a festive reception was awaiting me. Three Japanese warships were moored there: „Yaeyama“, „Takao“ and „Manchu“ fired the gun and board salute despite the fact that the sun had already set. Moji, which actually forms a single harbor with Shimonoseki on the opposite shore, is a newer urban settlement whose growth dates only back to 1891, as since that year the Kyushu railway ended there. In a barge we crossed the one mile wide strait of Van der Capellen or Shimonoseki. After a short journey we landed in Shimonoseki and thus at the South-western-most point of the large island of Hondo. As much as I could distinguish during the dusk, we had set foot in a very charming spot on earth. In the North of the harbor city rise steep but not high wooden hill ranges that provide cover against the raw Northern winds and thus in combination with the Southern orientation of Shimonoseki ensure a very favorable local climate.

Sanyodo — that is the area on the sunny side of the mountain — is the name of the landscape in whose province Choshiu the city of Shimonoseki is located which actually only consists of an about 3 km long road. We walked through a cordon constituted out of a battalion of fortress artillery to the house assigned to us that was dominating the harbor in which the same niceties, the same local comforts were offered as in the other Japanese houses that we had seen earlier.

The entrance to the strait is strongly fortified. Already above Kokura begin the fortifications consisting of seven forts equipped with modern batteries which continue by the island of Hiki to Shimonoseki. These fortifications are the fruits of the experiences the Japanese made in 1864. In that year Shimonoseki was, despite the brave Japanese resistance, completely shot up by a fleet composed of English, French, Dutch ships and a single warship of the United States of America, so that the daimyo of Choshiu had to ask for peace and pay an indemnity of nearly 7,500.000 fl. in Austrian currency. This act of violence had been caused by the said daimyo who had started to fire on all foreign ships that tried to pass through the strait of Shimonoseki.

After the dinner at which I sat between two mute government officials as they only were able to speak Japanese an illuminated fishing trip in the sea was set to happen. In a large transport boat we drove alongside the festively illuminated city close to the shore until we reached a spot where about 50 fishing boats had assembled. Each of it carried at the fore a flash-light of lighter wood. The principle of catching fish here as apparently of the same kind as our brave boatswain Zamberlin used at Owa raha with the difference that the fish here were not staked by Zamberlin but instead caught in small scooping nets or more correctly intended to be caught. A large number of dignitaries had escorted us whose puffing barges driving up and down may have enlivening the image but disturbed the water very strongly and thus made all sea animals flee out of the surrounding area. An eel-like fish as well as a clueless squid formed our only catch. This, however, proved sufficient to witness the skill of the fishermen. They discovered their catch already at great depth an caught it fast as lightning in their net.

Links

  • Location: Shimonoseki, Japan
  • ANNO – on 05.08.1893 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 the ballet „Die goldene Märchenwelt“.

Nagasaki, 3 August 1893

Dense fog down to the sea level prevented any views and furthermore the rain was pouring down without a break. Jupiter Pluvius who had now been chasing me some time during my voyage did not want to step out of character here too. That the cranky weather god would open up the sluices of heaven just today, I took all the more personally as during the last six weeks not a drop had fallen on the landscape here, so that the inhabitants had already started processions to implore the gods for plenty of rain for the highly endangered rice harvest. If this demand could not have been satisfied earlier I would have preferred a slight postponement.

At least the bad weather did not prevent me to visit Nagasaki in the morning even if a pouring rain of audiences and official visits had to be endured.

Just after the standard had been hoisted with a flag salute, the harbor was filled with the echoes of the guns of the anchoring warships. Each of which offered its salute of 21 shots, a honorable salute that always creates a very lofty feeling in me as it performed in honor of our standard.

Right after these salutes our gangway was besieged by a fleet of barges and boats out of which emerged a nearly endless row of dignitaries: admirals and ship commanders, the governor of the Ken (department) Nagasaki, Takeaki Nakano; the bishop and apostolic vicar J. A. Cousin; the mayor of Nagasaki; the members of the consular corps and the Japanese entourage assigned to me. It consisted of the vice grand master of the Imperial department for ceremonies (Shikibu Shiki), Yoshitane Sannomiya who in general was in charge of such voyages as I was undertaking. Then the master of the Imperial kitchen (Daisen Shiki) K. Jamanouji; finally the captain of the line Kurvaka and the privy secretary of the war minister, Major M. Muraki. The gentlemen present were able to speak partly German partly French. Three of them had visited Europe and especially also Vienna in order to study the administration and the ceremonies of our court.

After the crowding of dignitaries came to an end during the afternoon, I drove on land to visit Nagasaki. For the first time I set foot on Japanese ground and found myself surrounded by all those delicate colorful scenes come to life,  even though the city no longer has a pure Japanese character but shows many effects of European influence, that constitute the content of our imagination of Japanese life that we form out of books and the images from their artistic and industrial products.

Walking along the narrow and still airy clear streets because the small houses are seldom more than a story high, we practised applied ethnography by „peeping into the windows“ („fensterlnd„). The houses made out of wood and paper offered views not only into the living rooms of the Japanese but also into life going on there. As every cover of the houses towards the street is made only out of movable walls that are often removed during the day so that the full interior is exposed to the glances of those passing by. The division of the interior rooms is formed by wooden walls covered with paper and often artfully painted. These walls can on demand be taken out and moved.

A small Japanese house thus is capable of being adapted to the space requirements of its inhabitants in a way that astonishes us used to the fixed immovable walls of our buildings.  A Japanese house thus is not an „immovable property“ in our native sense. What we saw of furniture is of the most modest kind. With the exception of a few appliances for the most necessary use, this is formed mostly by beautiful light yellow straw mats that cover the ground of all living rooms. All the more diverse are the genial productive craft activities that are done in workshops and shops and confirm the industriousness and artistry of the Japanese.

Continuing to walk in the streets we witnessed domestic activities common to the daily life of the Japanese people but also some charming family scene played itself out in front of us and not a few sons and daughters of Nippon we could observed in all kinds of phase of intimate life. While in our customs and manners at home there is a sharp division between domestic and public life, where the door is noisily locked, here a similar separation does not exist. Life within the house that is open to us passes indiscernibly into life on the street and vice versa the life on the street seems to sweep unimpeded into the homes.

Wherever we were looking we encountered cleanliness and neatness in a pleasant contrast to the dirtiness characteristic of the Chinese.

The European civilization which has established itself in Nippon in a surprisingly quick period is already expressed by the clothing, not particularly favorable to the Japanese whose figures and forms are not really suitable for European clothing. The upper classes of the Japanese society use nearly exclusively European clothing which are almost mandatory at court and for the officials while the mass of the people continues to hold on to the ancient way of clothing, inherited for generations, even though the lower classes too have made concessions to the new fashion and thus the local customs are breached more and more. As a dedicated friend of all national dresses I deplore the replacement of the very becoming Japanese costumes by our equalizing soulless clothing. So many Japanese who would make a good appearance in their local dress look strange, that is not to say hilarious if they are wearing a frock coat and ornamented with a top hat, walking majestically or bowing incessantly.

Men and women rush past us and namely, if they have remained faithful to the local tradition, always fanning, scuttling and rattling on sandals and wooden high heeled shoes (Getas). The men seemed to me, except for some individual sympathetic and even well-shaped ones, on average rather unattractive. In their faces, the features of the Mongolian race are to be found very pronounced, their size is small and their legs are conspicuously often bow-legged.

In comparison to the men, the female part of the population has to be called almost pretty. or more precisely, extremely delicate. All the Japanese women who we saw were of the same type and gave the impression of a charming porcelain figure come alive while they smiling and joking scuttled along the streets.

Now and then we met a girl with a noticeably regular and beautiful physiognomy that would have been fully appreciated if compared to the features of European beauties. The stroll through Nagasaki, however, already allowed me to form my opinion that the travel descriptions I have read and so many messages that I received that excessively praised Japanese women if they described the girls of this location as the most beautiful daughters of Eve. Such praise can only be upheld on account of truly individual tastes and special motives. The charming effect of the always cheerful girlish figures lies in their harmonic neatness and delicateness of their appearances that are however too doll-like for European beauty standards in order to claim to represent an ideal female type. Unfortunately the youthful freshness of the Japanese woman withers very fast so that only rarely one can spot a beautiful woman which is also increased by the for us incomprehensible custom of the women blackening their teeth and shaving their eye brows — disfiguring customs that are said, however, to be only rarely still practised among the upper classes of society but still common among the lower classes.

Even though Japanese women still are forced in popular opinion even today to sacrifice their exterior to their husband, the ladies here go even further than seems absolutely necessary as every Japanese woman, both adult and girl, devotes special care for her clothing and hairdo. We had the opportunity to collect experiences as we witnesses how so many a beauty prepared her styling. And we could appreciate this spectacle not only in a covert manner but frank and open, looking from the street into the boudoirs we became acquainted with the most intimate secrets of the arts that the Japanese women use to entrap. Our curiosity, by the way, was not in the least resented and none of the delicate paper walls were moved to provide cover from the unbidden glances, quite to the contrary the watched ladies waved friendly at us or burst into a bright laughter if they became aware about our astonishment about the unexpected liberal customs.

The most complicated part of the daily styling is the hairdo that is given the most attention and only redone every third or fourth day because the construction of such a miracle, similar to those of the Chinese women, requires enormous care and about two hours of time. I understandably did not have the patience to witness the creation of such an artful build-up from the beginning to the end but felt satisfied with the revelation that countless inlays made out of papier mâché provided the interior support for the audaciously rising arrangements that extend to the rear in coquettish lines as well as lavishly used hair grease and oils supplied the exterior smoothness and gloss. Pins, combs, flowers, feathers, bands and all kinds of gewgaw were attached to the hair and make a major contribution to the overall presentation.

Apparently there exist up to 60 different kinds of hairdos that even have special connotations for the insiders by revealing the status and the intentions of the wearer, so that Japan’s women can speak by using a „hair code“ while in our home countries the beauties only know how to speak with flowers and fans. A widow who was not disinclined to find new luck in a new marriage is said to wear her hair in a certain kind of way while a widow that had ceased to adhere to Hymen may express this by a simple hairdo, apparently a sign of resignation. This meaningful practical use of hairdos can not be denied which will be readily admitted at least by suitors. A single glance on the head of the desired one will instruct the wildly beating heart if there is hope of having a chance or not.

A really charming effect is produced by the national dress of the Japanese women. This consists of a Kimono, a dress that reaches down to the ankles and is somewhat open in front with wide baggy sleeves, that is held together by a broad sash called Obi that is knotted together on the back into a bow. The Kimono hugs the forms softly and effortlessly and provides it with an extreme graciousness and presents its in a most favorable way. I believe, however, that only the delicate, discretely shaped forms of the Japanese women are suitable for the Kimono. That is by the way also a piece of clothing for male Japanese if they are not yet wearing European clothes. It is just cut shorter and simpler than those worn by the women. The men’s Obi is a piece of linen repeatedly wound around the loins into which the samurai — the vassals of the shogun, the de facto ruler of the country who exercises the Imperial right to rule as well as the daimyo, the large feudal lords — pushed two swords during earlier times, while the belt now only has a peaceful purpose since the prohibition of bearing arms of the year 1876 and serves to hold besides the dress itself also the fan and the smoking tools.

At first it makes a strange impression on a European to see children dressed like adults but one soon gets accustomed to this sight and enjoys seeing these cute small humans who in their clothes seemed to be more than they actually are. As the physical and mental development of  the youth under Japan’s sky happens apparently very quickly we saw not a few children who, despite their tender age, made very precocious faces and acted so controlled that they often enough caused great hilarity among us.

Nagasaki, whose streets we were strolling through in constantly refreshed curiosity, is of the greatest historical interest for Europeans and especially for Christians. Still one of the most  important trading ports of Japan, Nagasaki rose quickly from a poor fishermen’s  village after the daimyo of Omura permitted the Portuguese in the middle of the 16th century to settle there. Christendom developed its deepest roots on Kyushu amidst the native population. Here the apostle of Japan, a disciple of Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Franz Xaver, set foot on Japanese soil in 1549 at Kagoshima. Within a relatively short time Christendom expanded to a surprising extent, favored by various circumstances; but probably this great success was the cause for a reaction that turned to ever more bloody persecutions that were happening in the whole country based on a proclamation of the shogun Ieyasu in the year 1614. The persecution of Christians might have dwarfed that of the Roman Empire as thousands upon thousands went to their most cruel death in admirable steadfastness to their beliefs. Glorious witnesses of the bloody acts arose for the church in that far away part of the world. While the newly created religion emerged strengthened from the blood baths in the Roman Empire, in Japan the creed of the salvation was successfully eradicated by the cruel actions against the believers.

In 1636, after two decades of continuous atrocities, 30.000 to 40.000 Christians of the principality of Arima and other areas on the island of Kyushu took up arms, set up a defense in the old castle on Shimbara and neighboring islands and put up a heroic resistance under the leadership of Nirada Shiro for three months in 1637 against Itakura Shigemasa sent to suppress them. Finally the castle was conquered and its brave defenders were butchered. Streams of blood flew, thousands of captured Catholics were carried to the island of Taka-boko rising more than 60 m out of the sea offshore to the Western entrance of Nagasaki’s harbor and there pushed into the sea from the dizzy heights. The Dutch called this island in memory of these horrible scenes „Hill of the Papists“ but did not themselves act honorably if the historical record is correct. Blinded by their hatred against Catholicism and their trading envy the Dutch are said to have supported with arms the shogun in his fight against the rebellious Catholics.

The blood bath of Shimbara was followed by the banishment of the Portuguese, the nearly complete suppression of Christendom, that survived only in parts and namely close to Nagasaki in the large community of Urakami up to the present day, and the start of the era of the most complete seclusion with which Japan isolated itself completely up to the present time. The Chinese and the Dutch kept up an nearly exclusive trade with the West and that only in a very limited fashion. The Dutch had to give up their factory in Hirado in 1641 and settle on Deshima (offshore island), an artificial mound of soil that was surrounded by a wall and a moat as well as only connected to Nagasaki by a stone bridge whose gate was under the protection of a Japanese guard. Thus under very severe lock, if not to say imprisonment, about twenty Dutch at a time kept up trade between Japan and the mother country from which at first only one ship was allowed annually to enter and later eight of them.

The advantages of this trade must have been in fact remarkable in order to compensate for all the truly not inconsiderable humiliations the Dutch had to endure for more than two hundred years. Thus the resident of Deshima had to undertake an annual voyage to Edo (Tokyo) at great cost and under most severe supervision according to a very precisely fixed ceremonial protocol in order to offer presents to the shogun and display their deference in a festive ceremony by crawling on all fours towards the shogun hidden behind a curtain, place the head on the floor and crawl back like a crab.

At a subsequent less festive presentation it was the duty of the Dutch companions of the resident to serve as entertainment for the women and the other members of the court by having to sing, dance and play drunk and other foolish things on the shogun’s order. What Homo sapiens is willing to do for filthy lucre! The old Deshima,  the eternally memorable place of commercial spirit and deep humiliation became a victim of a fire and has been replaced by a new settlement — as if the huge changes in the the relations of the present time had an effect on the past and wanted to spare the Europeans from coming to face with the inglorious warning about ancient Japan by reforming that place!

During the stroll through Nagasaki we often stopped to enjoy the scenery, as far as the somewhat better weather permitted. The view the harbor offers in its surrounding had already enchanted us during the entrance. The bay of Nagasaki is, as previously noted, delimited in the West by Taka-boko while the other sides are surrounded by gently inclining hills and mountains rising to up to 400 m, so that the harbor has a character of a snugly hidden mountain lake. These heights are filled with cultures of all kinds in their lower parts and now and then are small groves, villages, temples and tiny houses. The upper parts are in some places very picturesquely covered with pine trees, Japanese cedars and camphor trees. All shades of the color scale were lighting down from the mountain tops to the cultured, flower-covered regions and the blueish glittering sea. There on the sea smooth as a mirror lay moored mighty warships and large vehicles with a peaceful purpose. Numerous fishing boats were on the move and all kinds of barges were intermingled.

Even though Nagasaki, which counts 58.000 inhabitants, does not have a productive back country like the cities of Yokohama and Kobe it is still an important trading place thanks to its harbor which can be entered by ships of all sizes which exports tortoiseshell products, lacquer and earthenware as well as stone coal, rice, tea etc.

That they expect preferably to sell to foreigners is shown by the numerous shops filling the streets that offer Japanese products of all kinds, namely those that we are familiar with as curiosities. These shops marked by their English signs as the most advanced seemed to me to offer the most tasteful and solid articles. But the exorbitant prices are similar. The owner expresses them with a smile, only to offer a rebate at the right moment to incited the shopping mad foreigner to further acquisitions. The place of Kyushu, combining the island of the same name and its territory, is the seat of a very famous ancient porcelain and ceramic industry. Thus we saw everywhere Arita or Hisen porcelain, furthermore Amakusa porcelain with porcelain stones from the group of islands of Amakusa and Satsuma earthenware with its colorful and splendid paint on a yellowish foundation that might be highly esteemed in Europe but  is not especially to my taste.

We had already strolled past a considerable number of shops and turned our steps now to one of the numerous tea houses which here serve as a replacement for restaurants. The tea houses are very delicately built and contain a number of rooms that can be made larger or smaller thanks to the movability of the walls according to the demands as well as open verandas. Here the guests come not only to sip the usual refreshments such as tea, sake that is rice wine that has a similar taste like sherry etc. but to eat a full dinner. As the local custom requires that such symposia are animated by productions by female singers and dancers we had given orders to ask for such female artists, Geishas, who are never staying in the tea house but are living nearby and have to be asked  to come.

We had just taken a seat in an open veranda on the soft mats when the hostess appeared with a flock of waitresses, — they are usually called with the word „Nesan“ — girls aged from 10 to 18 years, to serve the dinner in a myriad of small lacquered bowls, dishes, small cups and small plates. Even though the cooking was understandably to fully to our taste, I found the dishes nevertheless much more appetising than the Chinese cooking. Fish and rice constitute the main components of the menu to which we at first drank rice wine until I discovered the existence of bear whereas we refreshed ourselves with the noble  amber nectar („Gerstensaft“).

During the dinner the female singers performed first. They were young girls all clothed and coiffed in the same manner and strongly made up who took their seats at our side with numerous bows and started to sing accompanied by the sounds of a mandolin-like instruments, Gekin and Biwa, that were played with clappers. The singing spanned only a few notes and produced a very monotonous effect. The attempt to incited the ladies to a much funnier song or at least to an increase in speed of their presentation by the infusion of sake failed completely.

Very delicate and charming was the production of the female dancers whose choreographic movements were performed in a way that we could only admire their skill and flexibility, but in the main their successful pursuit of performing every figure in the most perfect form possible. Even though these female artists were educated in a school of dancing masters, their natural grace in the character of the Japanese people is still unmistakable in the way it makes the dancers stand out.  The manner in which they stepped forward and backward, turn, bow and rise, hold their fan and move, creating folds in their clothing and play with their long sleeves — all this breathes the perfect grace. Hour upon hour the Japanese manage to enjoy this spectacle sitting quietly on the mats and sipping tea. In all admiration for the artists I would not have the patience to enjoy myself during such long-winded productions that might be very interesting but especially for a foreigner who is not completely familiar with the matter becomes monotonous in time. The dances were meant to illustrate particular actions that naturally remained totally incomprehensible to us.

At the end of the show a prodigy was presented, a girl of 13 years, the prima ballerina of the quarter and the pride of her dancing instructor. This artist showed a number of difficult dances and evolutions with the help of masks, flowers etc. in a truly excellent manner. A Japanese in our company was truly enchanted and smiled blissfully in view of such a perfect display of art. I however could not desist, perhaps not taking the Japanese situation fully into account, from a home-grown feeling of opposition to putting children on display for whatever purposes.

From the veranda of the tea house we enjoyed the rewarding view on Nagasaki’s surroundings and the city itself. Like colorful bands the small house gardens extend from one part to the other, some real miniature installations that had in very narrow delimited space all kinds of decorations, furthermore blooming flowers in large numbers and small trees cut in a baroque style.

In the narrow streets the fleeting djinn rickshaws are rolling up and down. I entrusted myself, having well enough tasted the different culinary and artistic delights offered in the tea house, into the care of one of these vehicles and so took a drive through the city and then return in the late evening on board where I was necessary to make preparations for my disembarkation and the voyage on land.

While I was in the city, the governor had sent on board a number of photographs that showed both parts of Nagasaki and its surroundings and all kinds of scenes and types, as well as a pair of lovely bantams — a consideration for which I thank the kind donor.

Links

  • Location: Nagasaki, Japan
  • ANNO – on 03.08.1893 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 the opera „Das goldene Kreuz“.
The Wiener Salonblatt No. 32 notes the safe arrival of Franz Ferdinand in Nagasaki.

The Wiener Salonblatt No. 32 notes the safe arrival of Franz Ferdinand in Nagasaki.

Macao to Hongkong, 27 July 1893

Early in the morning, Macao lay in front of us. We anchored next to a Portuguese warship and surrounded by a forest of junks and numerous other smaller vehicles — with a view on a city whose name forever will carry the glory of having been one of the oldest places of Christian culture in the Far East, a trading place that had had a splendid bloom only to taste its own bitter transience and having to witness the miraculous rise of Hongkong.

The foundation of Macao dates back to the Portuguese people’s age of glory — the city was born as a result of a deed with which the Portuguese earned their merit for the Chinese Canton.  Their participation freed Canton from the hard grip of pirates. The Chinese thank consisted in the permission allegedly in the year 1557 to found an establishment on the peninsula-like protrusion of the island Höng-tschan in the estuary of the Pearl river. Out of the harbor Ngao-Men oder A-Ma-Ngao well known to the Chinese mariners grew Macao or, as the colony’s full name was, „Cidade do Santo nome de Deos de Macao“. In the year 1628 the king of Portugal sent the first governor, Jeronimo de Silveira, to administer the blooming settlement that had grown into an urban community. The sovereign power and others were subsequently exercised by the motherland, but China too insisted successfully on such rights.

The resulting state of constitutional uncertainty has actually never been resolved but the further payment of annual tribute to China of 500 or 501 Taels (1 Hai-kwan Tael = 3373 fl. in our currency) has however been stopped in the year 1848 by the governor Ferreira do Amaral, who declared the full independence of Macao from China. This determination has led to the latter becoming the victim of assassins hired by the governor of Guangdong. The subsequent futile Chinese attempt to take Macao by force gave the small but courageous garrison an opportunity to distinguish itself in bravery. Since then Macao has been accepted as a Portuguese crown colony by all powers with the exception of China.

For a long time Macao held nearly a de facto monopoly of trade with China and prosperity, wealth and an unexpected growth of the colony were the consequence. The complete change that the trade relations took after the foundation of Victoria on Hongkong, the opening of the treaty ports and changes in the way of shipping brought first commercial ruin to Macao and then also a moral one. After the strict stipulations of the Chinese Passengers Act of 1855 the shipping of coolies to foreign countries on English ships stopped to be profitable, Macao became the center for the business of this human trade of the worst kind. The government of Macao proved to be too weak to manage the horrors staining the name of Macao that were connected to this mischief, so that only in 1874 there had been a turn towards improving the situation. Currently the shipping abroad of coolies is in fact governed by laws.

Today Macao has almost totally lost its important as a trading place as shipping is limited to Chinese coastal vessels and some other smaller and a few larger ships that keep up the connection mainly to Hongkong and Canton. The revenues of the colony mainly consist of the lease of gambling halls, of the revenue from monopoly objects, especially opium, of various taxes and other dues. Macao’s financial relations are described as very desolate. The chronic deficit the financial affairs is enduring is in no small part caused by the expenses for Macao’s dependency, namely the Portuguese part of the island of Timor.

The great majority of the population of Macao consists of Chinese, nearly 70.000, and, a few foreigners excepted, partly of full-blooded Portuguese and partly of mixed-bloods between these and the Chinese.

The city presented itself viewed from the harbor as much more advantageous and propitious than I had expected based on so much of what I had heard. Macao had been described to me as nearly a wasteland to which it should have sunk after the dreadful typhoon of 1874 and from whose damages it would have been unable to recover.

Sent by the governor to serve as our guide in the city, first lieutenant Richetti came on board. I was quite a bit astonished when this officer kissed my hand during the introduction probably according to the local customs and also obligation. Showing his respect for my person, the small Portuguese kept on endlessly bowing and curtsying with a Southern vivacity. We only had three hours for the visit of Macao but nevertheless gained a complete overview of the city and its surroundings thanks to Richetti’s guidance and the quick rickshaws that took us to all the interesting points despite the short time frame.

Alongside the Southern harbor which actually is only a gently curving bay of a roadstead lies the European part of the city and continues to the quay, the Praya, in whose Northeast rise the fortress of Säo Francisco and in the South-west the small fort of Bomparto. On the Praya stands a front of densely packed and in part very imposing buildings that are ornamented in vivid colors and in the literal sense produce a picturesque effect. Some gardens with beautiful trees can be seen too. In irregular terraces the houses fill the hill behind the Praya. The sun was burning hotly in the narrow and steep streets which we passed through and that carried proud names — flaunty illusions — such as „dos Embaixadores“, „do Rei“, „do Sol“ etc., while I believe that there will never be Embaixadores who will have strayed into this alley. We arrived here at numerous massive buildings, past monasteries and churches that showed signs of decay and probably revealed the damages of the typhoon. Evidently the means as well as in part the interest to maintain these in part remarkable building in fair conditions are not available.

At a proud height, dominating the city and the colony, towers Fort Säo Paulo do Monte, above of which is still another battery on the Guya heights. Individual fortifications are said to be equipped with Krupp guns but they have no defensive value any more as they have not been replaced despite having already celebrated the 150th anniversary of the original installation. First Lieutenant Richetti assured us, however, that he had been specifically sent b the king to study the fortifications of Macao.

To the West of the European city lies the Chinese part of the settlement which resembles that of Victoria. Offering similar views like it and the streets of Canton, even if at a much more limited scale. There extends the Western harbor with its junks where everything assembles what remains of Macao’s maritime and commercial life. But it seems that even the declaration of Macao as a free-port, a last measure to stop the threatening decay, seems to have contributed little to revive the trade.

Richetti also led us into the officer club whose rooms looked more, in our view, like a staff canteen. A shaky billiard table is living a dust-filled existence. The portraits of some generals with long bodkin beards are hanging askew — voilà tout!

The armory did not live up to its name due to its glaring emptiness. Some bayonets and revolvers constituted to whole stock of weapons. Otherwise there were but empty stacks. Richetti excused this state of affairs in most vivid terms with the mention of the recently started great war in Timor — I and probably the greater part of humanity have never heard about this important event — which made the removal of all weapons from the armory necessary. In fact Richetti felt continuously obliged to excuse the state of the colony due to this or that reason. He would have preferred in his patriotic fervor to show it in the most bright light. Where our guide was no longer able to embellish things, he promised future corrections without end.

A pretty spot on earth, an equally great ornament for the pleasantness of Macao is the large garden that used to be owned by the Marques family and then became government property. With a true artistic sense, the complex unites her the magic of splendid vegetation that fully justifies the reputation that this garden has. A special dedication however has been given to this place because Portugal’s great son Camoens  who was born in Lisbon in 1524 and had been banned from Goa due to the publication of a satyrical poem, has spent five years here in Macao and is said to have written his famous epos „Os Lusiada“ here in a rock grotto, It remains for posterity to present the laurels to the poet that his contemporaries refused. Only after Camoens had expired in a hospital, has he been given the merited admiration for his poetic glorification of the Portuguese nation. In Macao, the place of the poetic activity was marked forever with some kind of temple that had been built into the rock grotto and contains a statue of the poet cast in ore.

Not without difficulties one arrives to the grotto as the paths are steep and tiled with smooth bricks so that the small Portuguese fell to the ground due to his vivacity which made him apologise endlessly.

The view from the top of the garden over both parts of the city and the Chinese hinterland, of the roadstead and the harbor, of the animated islands, of the endless ocean of a clear green and sky blue color during the day to which the Pearl river was continuously pushes new masses of water is truly fascinating. Automatically the thoughts direct themselves to a distant past due to a place that serves as a marker connecting Portugal’s boom period to the present day. A past where the Portuguese ships drove audaciously and proudly across the wide seas, discovering new sea passages and creating a colonial empire for the small home country. History has moved on from what the audacious entrepreneurial spirit of that time had created and Portugal rests but the memory of its former power. Without evidence the events have passed the eternally young nature which knew to maintain its charms during the times of change and thus is the reconciliatory, the uplifting element in the never-ending change of things — here too in Macao.

At the entrance to the barracks I was received by the colonel of the infantry regiment and the officer corps. He also kissed me on the hand, a sign of honor that astonished me again even though I had been prepared about this custom by Richetti’s enactment of it. The music beat a festive march to whose sounds I entered the barracks, first to visit the soldiers‘ quarters which are airy and spacious and have good beds. The appearance of the soldiers left much to be desired as they were meager and sickly as was their dress. The uniform which we had encountered in various variants of the individual wearers is not beautiful and reminds of those of country firemen. The officer corps too did not make a very warlike impression. In one battalion of the regiment I met a good acquaintance from Austria, namely the Kropatschek repeating rifle. The other battalions, however, were still equipped with old Snider rifles.

While the music kept, without break, playing the most fiery pieces with commendable alacrity, I had also a look into the kitchen and warehouses of the barracks and then said good-bye to the colonel who again kissed my hand, and then we refreshed us with a glass of bear in the already visited officer club, where our talkative friend Richetti offered with great eagerness the strangest revelations about the military and other relations of his country.

The municipality’s building offered not much to see. More interest generated the steam operated silk spinning works where I had the opportunity to admire the skill of the girls employed here in lacing the cocoon thread. Everything moves at an astonishing speed and in just a moment, a whole bundle of cocoons had been unspooled and threaded, then turned into silk and delivered to a warehouse.

At the harbor I was expected by an English customs official who, it seemed to me, was very full of his own self-importance and spoke to me very condescendingly and announced „une petite visite“ on board. But I made do without this pleasure  and  said good-bye to Richetti with his outstanding vivacity and warm temperament. Taking leave he still offered the most beautiful bows and compliments. Then we hoisted the anchor. I left Macao with the consideration which we show all locations with an interesting historic development and changing fate but also with a sentiment of regret that wells up faced with an ageing and ailing once proud beauty. Will the city enjoy a second flowering even if it is only a second bloom ( Johannistrieb) of the former splendor? The closeness of Hongkong will always be fateful for Macao.

Towards 3 o’clock in the afternoon we entered the harbor of Hongkong. The sea was as smooth as glass, the weather splendid, and like a flower crest all the small islands that then had been covered in fog during our first arrival lay in front of us. I now fully understand why this harbor can be placed among the most beautiful sea havens.

On board of „Elisabeth“ it was time to say good-bye to our dear travel companions who had offered us so much entertainment, that is from our monkeys that were to be shipped on a LLoyd’s steamer to Trieste in order to reach their future destination of Schönbrunn from there. Fips made a rather sad face and Mucki too was not in the usual mood. It nearly seemed as if the animals had noticed that the hour of separation from the ship, the location of their merry pranks, had come.

In the evening I drove again to Victoria Peak accompanied by consul general Haas and his wife as well as our commander and enjoyed this time the full and incomparably beautiful view to all directions of the island so that we stayed for a long time on the platform at the signal station. Our „Tschuen-tiao“ we could see as a small point steering towards the Northern bays according to its purpose as a customs steam boat. In time dusk arrived, the moon sent down its magical light over the mountains, islands, the city and the sea and the temperature became so agreeable that we decided to make our way back to the city on foot. Long serpentines lead down from the Peak. Despite their steepness, this refreshing evening walk provided still incomparable pleasure.

Links

  • Location: Macao
  • ANNO – on 27.07.1893 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 „Rouge et Noir“ and more.

Canton, 26 July 1893

According to the original plan I should have departed for Macao already during the night but the great interest about Canton that had developed in me, made me ask Mr. Drew to extend his hospitality for another day, especially as I had not fully completed my shopping. As I could easily add a day in Canton from my point of view because we were in advance of our official plan due to the cancellation of Bangkok and as our dear host showed himself very pleased with our intention, our stay was in fact extended for a day.

My first action was to rush into the Chinese city, again in palanquins, to devote my time to furniture dealers and again to painters. We had split into two parties in order to complete all the intended purchases. Until the late afternoon we negotiated, bargained, haggled and bought in the city. And even shortly before our departure we could not stop doing business as a merchant of lace and namely of silk clothing came to visit us on Shamian.

When heaven granted us a friendly sun shine in the afternoon, we drove to a college situated at a side arm of the Pearl river. The college had been built by the previous governor in order to foster Chinese higher education. The foundation consisted of numerous temple-like buildings in a row that were connected by halls and corridors and contained large examination, lecture and conference halls whose walls were covered with sayings out of the writings of sages. One wing of rooms is intended to take in students.

Not far from the college was a village, actually a suburb of Canton with large institutions for the artificial hatching of ducks. In low rooms, the duck eggs are stored in layers in baskets that are stuffed with paper and exposed for about three weeks to a high but regular temperature. After this delay the chirping of the young in the eggs is audible — I have checked this personally — and soon the small ducklings break out of the shell and look astonished out to the world. Quickly placing in a wet environment, they immediately feel at home. The Chinese palate is strangely very keen on nearly hatched eggs and just hatched ducklings so that these hatcheries make good business. Our native cicerone added to their profit by buying some nearly hatched eggs during the visit for his supper.

As Mr. Drew told me during the farewell dinner, during my stay in Canton, there were many questions asked about the foreign prince. In the grilling that Mr. Drew had to endure for my sake the questioners mostly wanted to know how many women I had and having been told that I did not have a single dear wife, they left shaking their head in disbelief.

We said a heartfelt good-bye to our hosts whose efforts I owe that our stay in Canton was so very satisfying and embarked on the „Tschuen-tiao“  in order to steer downstream to Macao at a gorgeous full moon — China’s best fireworker. Illuminated by magical light, the landscape lay in front of us which I enjoyed for a long time on deck, swimming on the shaky, glittering Guangzhouwan, and apreciating the joy of breathing in fresh air.

Links

  • Location: Canton
  • ANNO – on 26.07.1893 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 „Die goldene Märchenwelt“.

Canton, 25 July 1893

Passing through many corridors and halls, we arrived at the courtroom of the courthouse. Here the judge sat, surrounded by the members of the tribunal, at a table in front of which the defendant was kneeling in order to be interrogated. He had to remain in this position to show respect to the court. Smoking and drinking tea, the judge chaired the process and started the interrogation for which he used an interpreter. The principle that public officials of certain categories should not serve in their home province but in another province in connection with the circumstance that the Chinese language is divided into an important number of different dialects  leads to the consequence that the public officials often can not understand directly the population of the district they are assigned to.

The defendant was accused of having stolen a cow and always proclaimed his innocence when answering the insisting questions of the judge, even though he was an individual with a long criminal record. This fact was proved by the welts covering his back. When the judge realized that his words would not produce an admission of guilt, he waved at one of the henchmen, a fat soldier with a hard face whose physiognomy stood in stark contrast to his tiny shepherd’s hat made out of straw, and had the defendant be struck hard with a split cane on his naked back. The unfortunate started to cry and lament. Then the judge repeated his question whether he would admit the theft. As the defendant again lied, the procedure was repeated. This continued like this as long as we stayed in the room.

Chinese law does not actually allow torture to produce confessions, which however — laws here too are but dead letters — does not impede the use of torture in the most extended and cruel way to get to confessions which a Chinese judge considers to be the Regina probationis. The men of the law thus are not only very harsh but also notable for their arbitrariness and venality so that the conviction of a wealthy man is one of the greatest rarities.

While the first judge was still tormenting the defendant regarding the theft of the cow, another, very corpulent disciple of Themis was confronted with a policeman accused of not having prevented a theft. The defendant was an old, fragile man whose body was covered in wounds from prior examinations and incurred punishments so that one felt pity with the miserable man even though his deceptive insolent face gave off a criminal air. The process was over quickly and ended summarily. The fat judge asked the defendant a few curt questions which he answered with the front of his face touching the ground by insisting on his innocence and accusing the judge of injustice. This made the judge especially angry who without replying dictated 100 strokes with the cane that were promptly executed. The unfortunate man wailed and cried horribly while two men held him and two more alternated in applying the strokes. Moaning after the end of the torture, he turned to the judge and insisted on his innocence which made the judge, laughing cynically, award a further 100 strokes. After this horrible treatment the unfortunate man, covered with blood, collapsed and then was led out, swaying and supported by police soldiers. The stamina of the old man whose organism had to tolerate this horrible torture caused great astonishment.

On the wall of the courtroom hung, besides canes, other instruments of torture, especially one called Kia-dsy, a square board to be applied around the neck and a spoon-like shoe leather with which only women are hit on the mouth. Two to three strikes are sufficient to make the mouth swell so that the tortured woman may neither eat nor talk for days. We had seen enough examples of Chinese justice and the horrors seen here and left this place that scorned humanity.

Shopping is in Canton even is even less easy than elsewhere. After we had passed through a labyrinth of alleys and lanes and found the desired shop, the bargaining with the sellers took considerable time as the asked prices started at an exorbitant level. Curiosity was also intruding. As soon as we had entered a shop, a crowd assembled in front of it, entered too and could not be sent away. At first I turned to those shops that sold objects that are known as Chinoiserie at home and bought a large number of beautiful objects made out of wood as well as bronze and formally plundered a porcelain shop nearby so that my catch filled 14 large boxes. I was quite surprised at the relatively low prices we managed to complete our deals but we had Clam as our companion who was very skilled in bargaining. From here we turned to ivory carvings and brass casters who create beautiful temple vessels. Then it was the turn of the painters and decorators and I passed through all the shops that had objects which interested me until I had assembled almost the complete collection I desired.

A special mention is deserved for the wealth of fantasy and humor as well as the masterful skill that the Chinese apply in carving ivory and wood for the depiction of all kind of grotesques and monsters.

Repeatedly I had the chance to witness the primitive way how the objects were produced manually without the assistance of any machines. Everything here is produced by manual labor as the Chinese create today like they might have produced it centuries or even millennia ago. Labor, however, is available in abundance. This reason as well as the enormous frugality of the Chinese is why it is so cheap.

One only has to turn from one shop to the next as in each one there are original things to be found that increases the shopping lust. The number of shops in Canton’s streets is truly astonishing. Even in the most narrow lanes that follow one upon the next there are shops upon shops. Each one is filled with goods, clean and neatly decorated. The Chinese are very good at keeping their shops clean and giving them a tasteful exterior appearance and group the goods in an inviting manner.

As far as cleanliness is concerned, there is a stark contrast among the sons of the Heavenly Kingdom. As far as their external appearance, their rooms and shops are concerned, the Chinese are very dedicated to cleanliness, while we have otherwise been exposed to a state of neglect and fixed dirt at a level that we found disgusting. These clashing contrasts are found all too often during our journeys in Canton’s streets.

The artisans of the same trade or merchants offering the same articles often are found close together and open their shops next to each other without fearing their mutual competition. Thus I came to a long lane in which only fan makers were visible. Another only had shoemakers in it. A third one saw only the sale of fireworks etc.  As the house altars in Canton play an important role, it occupies the population of a full city district to produce gods, paint and decorate it with glittering ornaments and all the stuff required for equipping an altar. Also the fantastically formed things such as fixtures, flags, lanterns etc. are made here and are carried through the streets during festive processions with loud music.

Among the shops the food stores are represented in great numbers. The documentation of all that is offered and that is eaten by the Chinese could be the object of an interesting special study that offers here even more opportunity of observation than in Hongkong. All the ingredients that we were served on the flower boat could be observed in natura besides many other things such as rats that made a really despicable impression or such things whose origin was completely alien and did not always look inviting. The Chinese are not close-minded in the choice of what they eat. He is an omnivore in the word’s most audacious interpretation.

Favorite dishes seem to be pigs and ducks. We could observe them  appetizingly grilled brown hang everywhere in shops and kitchens. Fish too play a role in Chinese cooking as they are often offered and namely still alive, swimming in a small container filled with fresh water. I was happy to find here numerous brothers of our common carp but have to insist pour l’honneur du drapeau that our carps are bigger and better nourished than the slim Chinese ones.

Unfortunately the sense of smell is continuously deeply offended in the streets of Canton. Smells of the worst kind and of all sorts and undetectable origin waft through the air and unite into an all penetrating, all blanketing and sticking to everything, places, things and humans as an Odeur de Chine whose least quality is its loveliness. And still I would prefer this perfume to that of the burnt Hindus and sandalwood oil, a speciality of India.

Heavily laden we returned to Shamian to eat a silent dejeuner with Mrs. Drew and to visit a silk depot of a German company of which our consular agent in Hong Kong owns a part. The importance of silk production for China is not best exemplified by the fact that the origin of silk-weaving has become an object of myth and a goddess of the silkworm is said to be venerated but instead that silk is beside tea the first product among Chinese exports. Shanghai and then Canton are the main silk export places as the province Kiang-(Gjang-)su, whose most important place is Shanghai, and the province to the South of it, Tsche-kiang (Dsche-gjang) in its Northern parts and finally the province of Kwang-tung supply the largest quantities of best quality silk. In the latter province it is namely the surrounding of Canton, actually the area of the estuary from the West of Canton up to Macao which produces valuable silk in important quantities.

Not only the raw products of these regions but also the finished goods have a good reputation. Most famous in the whole of China are the silk manufacture of Su-tschöu in the province of Kiang-su, so that the Imperial Court orders its supplies only from Su-tschöu. In Canton too, Schan-tschün-(dschoein-) Street there are renowned silk manufactures. In the depot I visited the silk is formed into braids and packages into bales, each of which has a considerable value, and then sent on their way mostly to France and Switzerland. I admit that despite my interest for silk production that also plays a role even if a very limited one at home and which has seen many efforts to improve it during the recent years, I accepted a glass of quite well cooled champaign not with minor satisfaction as this provided an agreeable if temporary refreshment given the oppressive heat.

During a rainstorm we crossed the river to the island of Ho-nan in order to observe a tea depot. China is the cradle of tea culture and still is dominant in its production even though for some time the Chinese products are in notable competition with those from other territories, especially those out of India, Ceylon and Japan. But still today the taste of fine Chinese tea is by far considered superior to the products of the other countries. A point in favor of the products of India, Ceylon and Japan is that these countries are able to produce cheaper in part because tea is taxed with all kinds of fees in China that do not exist elsewhere or not to the same extent. Furthermore there is a belief that the sinking prices in China had made them lower the quality of their product while the quality of the products from other regions has been increasing due to careful handling.  In fact the export of tea from the treaty ports out of China has seen a certain stagnation.

Black and green tea do not differ, as is often assumed, in their provenience from different plants but in the way they are treated. The great waste of tea power that is created during the manipulation of the tea leaves led to production of tea in brick form that can be packaged and shipped easily and finds its way on land mostly to Russia. This is also known at home as caravan tea transported in part by camels that is falsely counted among the best qualities. The regions of China best suited for the production of tea are the provinces of Kiang-su, Tsche-kiang, Fu-kien, Ngan-hwei and Kwang-tung where tea is produced mostly on slopes but not in plantations but from individual bushes between fields or in clusters of bushes close together like an aerie.

The Chinese had also developed a legendary origin for this plant. But I have learned nothing about the existence of a tea god or goddess.

We then saw two other productions done at grand scale, namely the production of brushes made out of pig bristles by very tender young girls and weaving straw mats. The latter one was of special interest not only due to its size but also due to its art-industrial character. Mats in the form of rugs and carpets in the most tasteful color combinations and the most delightful designs are woven with straw and really astonish the buyer by the low level of the prices asked. We all gave large orders to create some surprises at home.

In a artistic plant nursery at a smaller arm of the Pearl river all kinds of flowers are grown in large volume and in splendid exemplars, a highly desired object in Canton. A speciality of that establishment was growing trees and bushes in strangely turned, twisted or crippled forms. en. These products that might be said to be the output of the late rococo style are used to decorate gardens and demonstrate the strange Chinese taste for the grotesque that is still not bereft of humor. We saw here in relatively small pots rather strongly developed trees that are continuously cut and bound into the most adventurous forms such as dragons, lions and even human forms. A whole row of trees that formed human bodies had heads, hands and feet made out of porcelain which gave them a very comic appearance. The paths of this garden establishments were laid out with mirror-like, glazed tiles which caused some falls among my companions.

The wife of our consul general Haas also participated in the dinner of Mr. Drew. She had accompanied her husband from Shanghai to here. A firework burned in the garden lasted for two hours and included the following numbers:

1. A feast at His Majesty the Emperor; 2. the giant plum blossom; 3. the golden duck in the middle of the lily pond; 4. out of the unicorn’s mouth jumps a piece of jade, indicating the birth of the holy man of China; 5. a pagoda with the names of famous scholars; 6. the rising moon; 7. a torchlight procession; 8. illumination on the Emperor’s birthday; 9. a carp jumps over the dragon gate, a sign of the highest success; 10. a large feu de joie; 11. five phoenix in view of the sun, a sign of forthcoming good fortune; 12. Fung-wu (Hong-u), the founder of the imperial Ming dynasty as cowherd.

Despite all these grandiloquent and sometimes funny names, one act looked exactly like the next one. Originally was only the fireworks that rose up into the sky after ignition and produced full sheaves of beautifully colored lampions that were illuminated from within and were visible from afar. The pride of these Chinese Stuwer was a numero where the leaves of a pyrotechnic tree glittered first blue and then red with great cracking sounds.

Links

  • Location: Canton
  • ANNO – on 25.07.1893 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 „Excelsior“.

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“.

Hongkong to Canton, 23 July 1893

Every European staying in Hongkong intends to visit the city on the Pearl river or Tschu-kiang which has still kept its original true-Chinese character and thus offers a couple of new and interesting impressions. The realization of my desire to see this strange city was made possible by the Chinese maritime customs service that kindly offered their steamer, the customs cruiser „Tschuen-tiao“ for the trip. Without this favor we could not have undertaken this excursion today as no passenger steamboats are operating on Sundays. In the pouring rain and thick fog I embarked with our commander as well as the gentlemen of the staff, Scala, Ramberg and Dr. Plumert.

The captain of the tax cruiser, an English trade ship captain, who had taken three steamboats according to the pattern of „Tschuen-tiao“ in the incredibly short time of 28 days from England to Hongkong — a performance of seamanship he can be justly proud of. The captain had repaired the ship so splendidly that it looked as new as „out of the box“. Everything was gleaming and shiny that it was a pleasure to see. The tax cruiser of 500 to 700 t displacement are tasked to prevent the very active smuggling going on in the Chinese waters, especially with opium and salt, and are therefore equipped with excellent machines and suitably armed. Our „Tschuen-tiao“ carried two  9.5 cm Armstrong guns and two rapid-fire cannons . A quite pretty salon served as a dining room while I used the captain’s cabin that he had ceded to me.

Crossing the harbor of Hongkong we came past a steam ship sunk a few days ago whose sad masts and smokestack rose out of the water. This steam ship, „Amigo“, had a strange tragic fate. It had left Yokohama with a full load and set the course for Hongkong. After only two days the telegraphic message arrived that „Amigo“ had been rammed by another ship during a typhoon and had sunk. But the message proved to be false as after three more days the ship arrived safely at the harbor of Hongkong and was just on the way of mooring to clear its load when it was in fact rammed by another ship within the harbor and sank within a few minutes. This accident led also to the loss of life as many children drowned.

Close to the spot of the accident is also a very heavily damaged large sailing ship that had lost all four masts in a heavy typhoon and had been driven around on the ocean until fortunately a steamship met it and towed it to the harbor.

The course first led us between  the mainland and Lantao and then took us through a maze of other islands until we reached the mouth of the Pearl river but we could not really see much of it or the mainland, as the rain and fog reduced our sight to almost nothing.

At the mouth of the river, called Bocca Tigris, rise on both shores two dark bare rocky mountains only partially covered with sparce moss. They had been equipped with fortifications said to be armed  with modern guns, namely from Krupp. Whether these fortifications could really resist an energetic attempt to enter for long, I will not discuss, but consider from my distant point of observation the design of the batteries to be outdated and neglected. The same impression I received from a number of fortifications further upstream that are placed on hills that rise out of the ground.

Beyond Bocca Tigris the region is flat. rice paddies cover the plain — not a picturesque view. From a hill a seven story pagoda — the first we have seen — looks down upon the river and we greeted it as a familiar symbol of the Heavenly Kingdom known from Chinoiserie. Now and then we could see small settlements.

In some of the places the river is blocked by pole barricades  that only leave a narrow opening — a learning from the experience China has made in conflicts with European powers. Since the erection of these river blockades, Whampoa, in former time the anchorage of all ships but later become desolate and derelict, has grown again in importance as vehicles whose depth and tonnage surpasses a certain limit are unable to pass the river blockade and are forced to anchor in Whampoa.

The captain chose not the usually selected Whampoa Canal to reach Canton but the more Southern Blenheim Passage, and finally the great city lay in front of us after the more frequent appearance of settlements and the increased traffic on the river had clearly announced its proximity.

Canton, Guangzhou, as is generally known a Anglo-French possession during the years of 1859 to 1861 is said to be the most populated city of the Chinese Empire as the number of inhabitants surpasses 1.5 million. Situated on the Northern shore of the Whampoa canal, an arm of the Pearl river, Canton is the capital of the province of Guangdong and the seat of the governor general of the two Guang provinces. In the history of trade with East Asia, Canton plays a predominant role and through centuries trade with the West was concentrated in this city which had been opened by the Portuguese and grown tremendously under the English. But only the treaty of Nanking of 29 August 1842 had liberated commercial trade with China from the burdening limitations and the strange form that had developed in Canton and given it a new constitution. It opened multiple harbors — subsequently other harbors were added — for foreign trade and permitted the installation of foreign merchants in dedicated „concessions“ and consuls etc. Since that time Canton was no longer the unique spot for trading with the West and lost importance. The growing rise of Hongkong also had quite a negative impact on the commercial importance of the place.

The city is surrounded by a 16 km long, 12 m high circular wall whose broad crowns are said to be armed with numerous guns. But these fortifications and their condition can not really cause concerns to European soldiers. On the flat terrain between the city wall and the river are numerous huts partly on firm ground partly on poles. They constitute part of the water city that is continued in a floating part in which countless ships are moored close together. The population of this water city is estimated at 80.000 to 100.000.

While on the one hand Canton offers a very original and interesting view from the riverside which is not missing attractions as the river is filled with constant motion of the most diverse vehicles, on the other hand the view of the enclosure of the city wall has few merits. It rises in the North towards hills laying there and divides into two parts that are separated by a wall with a moat running parallel to the river:  In the one, much larger area is the old Tatar town in the North and in the smaller area toward the river is the actual business district of New Canton. The circular wall is broken by eight, the interior separation wall is broken by four gates while two water gates are intended for boats which enter and leave the main canal. All these gates are closed during the night and open during the day, protected by the military.

The Tatar city contains only in part groups of houses of an urban character. The rest is agricultural land and open areas on which stand dispersed temples as well as big public buildings among them the governor general’s palace, that of the Tatar general, the examination halls the temple of the five genii and in the rising part the five story pagoda. Close to the Northern gate a mint has been built in the year 1889.

In contrast to the Tatar city, New Canton is filled with closely packed seldom more than one story high houses. Next to the pagodas the godowns attract the attention already from the ship. These buildings overtop the houses and serve according to their purpose as warehouses and are built to resist burglars and fire. Narrow alleys run between the labyrinth of houses.

West of the city, outside the circular walls extend the newer suburbs. South of it lies the mud island of Shamian, the seat of the foreigners‘ colony that had been made habitable at considerable expense of shared costs by the English and French government money as the concession stipulated during the years between 1859 and 1861. Three bridges that were under strict military observation connect the island with the mainland but are locked of at 7 o’clock in the evening as after this hour no European is allowed to be in the city and no Chinese is permitted to set foot on Shamian with the exception of the palanquin carriers.

Already the first impression that the visitor — just arrived, still on board — receives from Canton leaves no doubt that he is faced with Chinesedom in its full originality and genuineness. All the more a contrast is the effect of seeing the Roman Catholic cathedral whose twin towers in the South-western part of the business district is surpassing all the other buildings of Canton. The building costs were paid in part by the war indemnities China had to pay according to the Peking peace treaty of 24 October 1860, in part out of funds of the French mission. It is likely that the Chinese are displeased by this proud building and it remains questionable whether it would not have been politically smarter to be satisfied with a less conspicuous building. As experience teaches, the yellow brothers too can be disgruntled if they realize its intention. At the moment their very own remarkable skill of self-deception and their also very keenly developed sense of superiority means that they seem to have accepted the cathedral by the fact that they interpret the two towers as the ram’s horns, Canton’s animal in its coat of arms and thus see in the church only a  glorification of the city of Canton by the „foreign devils“.

Mr. Drew, the secretary general of the Chinese maritime customs service, came on board to invite me to be his guest during my stay in Canton. I would have preferred a hotel, on the one hand in order not to disturb others, on the other hand not to be forced by necessity to wear a dress coat. As Canton does not possess a hotel that matches European taste even halfway I accepted Mr. Drew’s friendly offer with many thanks.

Soon we arrived at the home of our host on the island of Shamian where his wife, an American, welcomed us and offered us hot tea. Unfortunately I could not make conversation with the lady who seemed to be a very kind woman, as she only spoke English. Mr. Drew however not only speaks a bit of French but knows quite a bit of vocabulary of German words — a skill due to his longer stay in Vienna where Mr. Drew acted as Chinese commissary during the world exhibition of 1873 and felt very comfortable so that he speaks of that time with satisfaction.

Shamian island offers the eye a delightful resting place: friendly villas surrounded by gardens with trees that provide shade cover the small island. Beautiful avenues run along the shore and well kept roads cross the settlement which offers a quiet impression in the midst of the activity of river life even though there are not only private dwellings but also the establishments of great merchants whose businesses keep millions in circulation. But the creaking and rustling of bills of exchange, the turning and sound of the coins stay beyond the hearing of the tourist.

Mr. Drew’s villa lies at the river shore. Two qualities distinguish the dwelling positively: namely very good cooking and a cool bath. Worth a special mention are also the beds that promised a quiet sleep, not the least due to the dense nets that prevented the ambush of the bloodsucking mosquitoes on the sleeping person.

As it was only 5 o’clock in the afternoon we wanted to visit the Buddha temple on Ho-nan island. We had already had a general impression of the water city but found during the journey to that island the opportunity to see probably one of the strangest settlements of humanity up close. Boats of all kind, form and size lay here moored one next to the other: Junks, sampans and slipper boats full of young and old people, men, women and children who have al they possess in this swimming homes. They are born here, live here, strive here, love here and die here.

My curiosity made me look at a number of the smaller vehicles in which to my surprise reigned an unexpected cleanliness and cosiness. The boat have vaulted mats that form two rooms, a kind of cabin and anteroom both decoratively equipped with colored paper and all kinds of images. A larger stone or a clay layer serves as the hearth where the frugal meal made out of rice, beans and tea is cooked. The barrel of Diogenes seems to me surpassed by these domiciles. As the sage was the only owner of his home, the individual boats, however small a space they offer, are mostly populated with many as the families living on the water are no less blessed with many children as those living on the mainland. The jobs these boat occupants seemed to be able to find are said to be very poor and only barely reaches the level of „starvation wages“ of a European worker for a whole family.

The use of the space of the boats is imaginably perfect. Except for the babies who usually find their place on the back of their mothers, the younger generation is kept in small sheds covered with a top on the floor or at the aft where they keep mostly quiet in contrast to our noisy youth. If one opens one of the tops of these „children container homes“, one looks at some tiny naked Chinese already equipped with a pig-tail who immediately start to climb out skilful like monkeys.

Only Chinese modesty can accept conditions of living such as we found here as still satisfactory and it seems even comfortable.

Between the moored boats all kinds of ships moved without rest so that it was very difficult to find a path for one’s own boat through the throng. Among all the strange vehicles on the Pearl river the most strange probably are the passenger boats who resemble steam boats, have a wheel on the side which however is not propelled by steam but by human force. About 25 sweating coolies  move it by their steps. When the first steamboats of the Europeans appeared upriver, the surprised Chinese are said to have tried to copy this invention but they only partially succeeded. The construction of the machinery proved difficult. The yellow brothers found a way out by replacing the machinery by coolies which allowed the use of a simple mechanism and was also very cheap as a coolie who will work eight tiring and hard hours daily cost apparently only 75 fl. in our currency per month! In order that the work looked also from the exterior like the invention of the „barbarians“ the ship was equipped with a tall smokestack out of which rose thick smoke as they burned types of wood below that produced much smoke. Thus the Chinese steamboat was complete. Later the burning smokestack was dropped, the wheel with the treadmill was kept.

With some effort numerous sampans were pushed to the side to allow our boat to land on the island of Ho-nan. After a few steps we stood in front of Hoitschong-dsy (Hai-tschoang-sy), one of the 125 temples of various cults in Canton.

These number may not astonish us much as the population is so large and China has three religious systems: the philosophy of Confucius that represents government rule and thus the court. The officials are overall part of the educated classes. The Buddha or Foh service to which the lower classes and the great majority of the Chinese declare allegiance. Finally, a relatively small number of adherents of Lao Zi that sees every human being as its own end in itself and are faced with the task of seeking inner perfection in order to return to the highest being, called Dao. As the system of Confucius has the character of a government institution its observance seems mandatory for each official. But he may also be Buddhist or Daoist.

Hoi-tschong-dsy is the largest Buddha temple in Canton and extends over an important area with a number of buildings and courts. Gardens and burial places complete the site. Furthermore a monastery is linked to the temple where apparently 175 monks are dedicating themselves to the service of Buddha. The entrance to the temple is guarded by four grotesque larger than life statues whose task it is to instil fear in the devoted pilgrim. They can apparently be appeased by votive papers that are glued to the feet of the monsters. Following a path on granite plates in an avenue of Ficus trees providing shade, one reaches a pavilion where a mystic semi-obscure reigns. Three gilded Buddha figures made out of clay are in the middle of the room while on the wall to the right and left stand a bit smaller figures made out of the same material which represent the 18 disciples of Buddha

He is shown here in a manner different from the one common in India as the Buddha of the Chinese is a portly god whose well-nourished smiling face expresses complete satisfaction. The considerable embonpoint the Chinese equip their Buddha signifies in their understanding that portliness means wealth and that fat people are highly regarded. In front of the images of the gods are large altars with drums, bells and sacrificial vessels the latter made out of silver and lesser noble metals but mostly artfully created and have a form of tall candle holders or urns with dragon heads that are intended to hold burning incense cones.

The next room of the temple contains an image of the god Kun-jem (Goang-in), a very beautiful marble pagoda in front of which lay holy books that are used by the bonzes to perform their services. The pagoda reaches up to the ceiling and is decorated with delightful small bronze bells on some ledges and thanks to its slim form and the elegant line creates an artful effect.

As a break, we were shown four free holy pigs that are so fat due to their life without sorrows that they are barely able to move. One of the bonzes accompanying us beat one, without consideration for their holiness, with a diabolical grin without producing another effect than a vivid grunting.

A third room we saw included a figure of a god about whose true life style there seemed to be contradicting opinions among our guides. In any case the audacity of the Chinese fantasy has not been limited in the imagination of this god.

Next to the temple buildings follow the dwellings of the priests, a true labyrinth of dirty small houses in which the dining room and the kitchen give a special impression of neglect. The end of the temple are is formed by a large garden with rich flower decorations where we were led to a grave of a holy man as well as that of a notorious Tatar general who has made sure that he is remembered with sadness as he arranged a massacre that killed 60.000 humans.

The Buddhist priests accompanying us had shaved heads and had a deprave exterior. In their means they had a canny, sly look and their begging was for charity with very great insistence and bereft of all dignity. The religious activity of these temple assistants is limited to a thrice daily prayer while the other part of their daily activities is dedicated to doing nothing, hanging around and begging. It is thus no wonder that the educated Chinese scorn Buddhist priests and regard them as hypocrites who seek an easy life and succumbing to their vices. On me the bonzes active in Ho-nan temple have in any kind created a highly unfavorable impression.

The evening was devoted to the visit of a speciality of Canton, the famous and often described so called „flower boats“. The purpose of these junks moored like the other vehicles in the river in the water city is to serve as restaurants and establishments where Canton amuses itself and the pig-tail wearers grow merry.  Here much is happening as feasts are celebrated and music played, songs rang out and the eternal female presents its higher charms. The flower boats are present in higher numbers but naturally very different depending on the class of the population that constitute its visitors in terms of what they offer and the wealth of their decorations. The boats we visited had multiple rooms among them a salon for opium smokers and separate rooms for small groups that celebrate a joint dinner, thus Chinese chambres séparées. The furniture is very rich, beautifully carved pieces of furniture covered with stitched cloths are filling the establishments. There are valuable tea sets and tables for opium smokers decorated with mother of pearl and delicate stones. On the walls are gilded  ornaments in meandering patterns and clear light that is mirrored by numerous glasses and mirrors floods the rooms.

While merry symposia were celebrated in the dining rooms so many were enjoying the fateful pleasure of opium in the salon. We met one of the smokers who had already lost his conscience and thus had reached the climax of pleasure. But the man was twisting and turned so strongly that it was difficult to interpret this as an expression of blessed dreams. In order to form my own judgement I smoked two pipes of opiums that an old Chinese prepared for me with pleased alacrity, but did not find to develop an appetite for it. The smoke reminded me of very strongly perfumed tobacco and did not like it at all. Trying to smoke opium apparently made the Chinese considerably increase their appreciation of me, as all hastened to offer me tea, fruits and all kinds of refreshments. Unfortunately, I can not make friends with the way tea is drunk here — very hot and without sugar.

A group of young girls took care of serving us and entertaining the guests with music and singing. Some of these ladies are not bad looking according to our tastes but they completely defaced themselves — even though they believe to thus fulfil the Chinese ideal of beauty — by painting their faces completely face and applying a red spot on the lower lip as well as replacing the shaved-off eye brows with  highly arched artificial ones. This metamorphosis gives the girls an unnatural and chronically puzzled expression and makes them look similar to the dolls in the wax figure museums. The hair of the beauties is most artfully composed. Their hairdo requires extreme care and eats up considerable amounts of time, so that the girls use some kind of fixative to increase the consistency for a stylish composition in order not to undergo the arduous process. Thus the hairdo retains its form for multiple days. The finger nails which are especially taken care of the ladies let grow to clunky lengths. Thus, long nails indicate for both sexes that the wearer of the finger ornament is wealthy as he does not have to work with his hands for his living. The girls are clad in gorgeous costumes. Extremely beautiful and tasteful fabrics have been used to create the dresses of the nymphs of the flower boats.

The dolls that surrounded us were quite pretty and funny to watch as long as they walked around us silently, fanning without interruption — but „beware when they are let go“ and started to sing and make music.  The singing was at a truly dizzying pitch and could only be qualified as a wailing, ear-shattering  „squeaking“. The musical instruments were a full match for them as gongs, zithers and guitars produced awful sounds. This does not mean that such a music is not seen as pleasant by the Chinese as they gave their full attention to it and vividly expressed their satisfaction about the art. One of the artists offered an especially lyrical and much praised love song that never fails to create such feelings in the Chinese. If such a dainty beauty tried such a crooning soon in a similar lyrical melodious way in our country she would obtain a very different effect to her feeling as the target of her song would certainly seek his salvation in flight.

My amusement was produced in the first flower boat we visited by a mossy but very jovial head  — a 72 years old noble Chinese whose love of life made him seek the jovial place every evening where he was a regular with his dignified companion, a high mandarin.  The jaunty greybeard distinguished himself with his virtuosity in imitating the rooster’s crowing and the hens‘ cackling. A skill the old sinner seems to perform to the delight of the visitors of the flower boat. Apparently I had attracted his special attention. Without fail, he asked the interpreter to make us stay for longer, offered me tea, took his seat close to me and crowed and cackled happily under the roaring laughter of all people present. „The old butterfly“ was invaluable in his comical air and insisted that I return during the following days when we had to say good-bye after endless salutations and bows.

The walk over to other boats took some equilibristic skills as the connection was made only by narrow planks under which the river rushed by. At the beginning the visitors of these establishments were quite a bit astonished about our appearance but we greeted them with a friendly „Tsing-tsing“ — the usual Chinese formula — which broke the ice so that the regulars not only calmed down but invited us to take a seat and drink tea. In a short time, everywhere a complete entente cordiale was established.

Much satisfied by the day’s impression we returned at a late hour to our cosy villa in Shamian.

Links

  • Location: Canton
  • ANNO – on 23.07.1893 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 „Ein Tanzmärchen“.

 

Hongkong, 22 July 1893

In the morning we were greeted by the usual rain which did not stop me to go on land where I happened to come to an anatomical museum by chance. I soon was convinced that these presentations are as abhorrent as similar ones in Europe. The sight of all these horrors that are presented to the visitor in these museums creates as an after-effect the releasing good feeling when seeing the most common things as long as they are not hideous or abominable.

To improve my affronted aesthetic sensibilities as quickly as possible by pleasant impressions I stepped into a shop which offered artful and all kinds of other products from Japan. Even though the visit of this interesting country was still pending, I already bought here a nice collection of characteristic objects among them namely vases, lacquerware and bronzes and not to be forgotten, the delightful kimonos that we are used to see in the operetta „Mikado„. The shop owners, the brothers Kuhn from Hungary, had soon discerned who we were and seemed to find it repeatedly necessary to assure me that they would not try to take advantage from me.

The deeply felt need for a bit of fresher air made us climb Victoria Peak. At first we visited a Chinese managed bar modelled on the American type and then weaved in palanquin on the spry shoulders of rushing coolies to the station at St. John’s Cathedral from where a funicular railway led to Victoria Peak.

The English spare no effort or cost to improve the comfort of life where ever they own colonies in order to make the stay as agreeable or at least as tolerable as possible. Thousands of the sons of Albion venture out each year for a long time, sometimes forever, into the colonies where relief from the sometimes quite bleak territory, assistance against adverse climates, the possibility of recovery after a day’s toil has to be provided. English energy has been known for being triumphant in ameliorating and refurbishment. Hongkong is in more than one way an excellent example for it, so too is the colony created on the heights of Victoria Peak that owes its existence and development to such a healthy understanding and practical endeavor. The governor and other dignitaries have their domicile here for a good part of the year in comfortable villas. Members of the armed forces recover in a military sanatorium built in 1883 and large hotels offer the possibility to the inhabitants of Victoria to stay in airy heights during the hot season or to breathe in fresher air in the evening after the daily work has been completed. When dull mugginess is laying over the city, all who can will drive to the Peak during the evening hours to partake in the enjoyment of the difference in temperature of about 10° C in comparison to Victoria.

Victoria Peak has extremely steep slopes and drops abruptly down to the city. The funicular railway’s tracks are laid as audaciously as this situation demands and has to surpass great terrain obstacles even if not such slopes as on the Pilatus railway. It therefore can be justly called a marvel of technology. The railway ascends the slopes of Victoria Peak through the villa quarter where the richer Europeans have created agreeable places to live in their tasteful country mansions surrounded by delightful gardens. From the station next to a small Anglican church the trace is extremely steep up to the Peak. During the journey one has a panoramic view of rare beauty which increases in splendor in scope and picturesque beauty the higher we ascend. It nearly seemed like the sea of houses of Victoria was vertically below us and muffled, finally barely perceptible the accompanying noise of a pulsating life of the great city reaches our ear.

We ascended ever higher up until the city and the harbor with its countless ships lay below us like a Liliputian world and the proud „Elisabeth“ seemed to have been reduced to the dimensions of a small ship model. From the heights our glances swept far over the infinite sea and all surrounding islands of Hongkong, the harbor, the city and the Chinese mainland which was plastically highlighted in front of a dark wall of clouds. The fantastic picturesque landscape we were marvelling about here looked in their attractive strangeness like those audaciously imagined images that contain the fancy allure that Chinese  and Japanese artists know to weave into their rugs.

Unfortunately we could not enjoy the view of this splendid panorama for long as a rainstorm was growing. Pushing fog and rain toward us, it soon made the magical images at our feet disappear, and we were in the midst of the rainstorm. Despite the bad weather we felt quite comfortable up there as we could for once breathe in mountain air! Only somebody who has spent months in the tropical seas may appreciate the full greatness of the delight offered by mountain heights and fresh air. „Freedom dwells in the mountains“ — the freedom from the oppressive, tiring mugginess of the low lands, of the cities. But homesickness too which never fully leaves a traveller on such a long journey also dwells on the mountains and stronger than for a long time it affected me in these airy heights.The mountains of home rose in front of me out of the ocean and it seemed to me that no landscape was more gorgeous than our Austrian mountains.

The funicular railway ends at Victoria Cap, but not at the highest point of the Peak whose top still extends 70 m higher and is crowned by a signal station. Halfway there lies Mount Austin Hotel whose giant dimensions and equipped with all comforts does not only host permanent guests but also numerous Europeans in the evening who drive down to the city in the morning to engage in their professions. We celebrated our mountain trip with a Lucullan meal which was quite tasty, even if produced from English cooking, and made the return trip in a happy mood to Victoria which was illuminated in a sea of lights.

In Singapore I could not visit a Chinese theater due to my tropical fever that had taken hold on me. I therefore wanted to make good this lapse in Hongkong. But we found all art houses, we drove to one after another, unfortunately closed. We plainly did not consider that it was Saturday, a day the severe English police instructions prohibited any theatrical performances.

We therefore used the time to visit one of the numerous opium dens. In contrast to India where opium is generally consumed in forms of pills or as a liquid solution, in China it is customary to smoke opium. While it is proclaimed that the usual consumption of opium in India is said to increase the body’s performance and courage and prevent diseases — if at all, these effects must be due to the low dosage and only at the beginning — only negative effects are known about the smoking of opium. When we entered into the selected den it was still to early to observe the actual opium intoxication. At least the smokers were already in the preparatory stages. The opium smoker requires multiple pipes to obtain the desired state of intoxication which he smokes in certain pauses filled with smoking tobacco or dreaming idleness.

The narrow room contained wooden beds — „cots“ — each of which had a low mount made out of wood or clay to serve as a pillow.

Half-naked men lay extended on the no less than luxurious daybeds and each had the tools for smoking opium at his side, especially the pipe which always consists of a bamboo tube and the conical pipe head that has a small opening for putting the opium inside. In front of each smoker also sits a vessel filled with viscous opium and a small lamp. The smoker puts a portion on the opening of the pipe which he lights up with the lamp in order to breathe in the intoxicating scent in long puffs. This is repeated until the desired effect is achieved and the smoker is carried away from reality with all its worries and all its misery and caught in a dream world, surrounded by delightful illusionary images in which he enjoys pleasures of all kind and all his desires are fulfilled. But at which price does this short flight from earthly misery into a land of sweet dreams come? Like ghosts with haggard bodies, fixed stares, pallid cheeks and lips the opium smokers stumble to an early death. The smokers laying in front of us had only reached their third or fourth pipe but their facial expressions showed without exception the mark of a horrible aberration, one of the miserable men had even reached the desired Elysium — he lay unconscious on the balcony of the house.

There exist by the way also opinions that not all smokers will suffer the fatal consequences from consuming opium that one is used to accept as a general rule and that we could witness in front of us. The level of negative effects is said to be considerably dependent on the passion with which the victim gives in during the consumption of opium, to the pleasure of this narcotic agent. From this it is concluded that the promotion of the opium trade and the fiscal exploitation of opium is not worse in terms of morality than the promotion of trade of spirits and its use as a source of tax income. Whether this is right, what I have seen in this den, gave me the impression that smoking opium is one of the most lamentable human aberrations. The prevalent temperature in the dull room, the horrible perspirations of the penned up humans, physical disgust and moral repugnance soon drove us out into the open air.

Another tour of these dens of vice in these active night life quarters proved soon so nauseatic that I quickly returned on board.

Links

  • Location: Hongkong
  • ANNO – on 22.07.1893 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 „Die goldene Märchenwelt“.

Hongkong, 21 July 1893

During the night the wind had relented so that we saw the light beacon of Gap Rock at 2 o’clock in the morning without having been caught by a typhoon. In order to „Elisabeth“ arriving at the entrance to the harbor of Hongkong not before daybreak, the third boiler was taken out of operation and we thus only entered into East Lamma Channel past Green Island when it had already dawned. Still there were complications as thick fog lay over the sea and rainstorms were pouring down which obstructed the view so that we could barely see 100 m in front of us and had to drive at half speed. The mountains surrounding the harbor were not visible. Only when we could see the forest of masts of the anchoring ships and in the background the houses of the city we were no longer doubting that we had actually entered into the harbor of Hongkong.

Despite the bad weather, the harbor — the third largest in the world in terms of entering and departing number of ships as well as tonnage — offered an imposing view. We saw here vehicles from all around the world. A mighty fleet of great steam ships that handle the trafic between all the regions of the world, and here load and unload goods as well as stock coal for their onward journey. Between them all kinds of sailing ships from huge four-masted ships to tiny coastal ships. A number of warships among them multiple English ones, namely the gunboats „Daphne“ and „Plover“ as well as harbor guard ship, the hulked ship of the line „Victor Emanuel“ that once carried as an imposing battle ship the flag of Great Britain across the seas but now, unrigged and covered with a wooden roof, sees the end of its service in calm harbor duty. Also there were the Portuguese transport ship „Africa“ that is awaiting here the end of the typhoon season before starting a longer journey, some smaller Chinese gunboats and the customs ship. A similar monster like the harbor guard ship, the ship of the line „Melanie“ that was also hulked up served as a garrison hospital.

Usually the number of warships moored in Hongkong is considerably larger but due to the complications between France and Siam multiple ships had been ordered into the Gulf of Siam had steamed away a few days prior to our arrival.

An as strange as original background is presented by the many hundreds of Chinese junks that fill the harbor with their bulky ship hulls and the triangular and mostly already quite damaged and torn sails only to bunch together into a real wall of ships at the quay. Their disproportionally high fore and the decorated and also very high aft castle remind one of illustrations of ships from the time of the Great Armada. The skill with which these junks are steered and maneuvered through a labyrinth of moored ships despite their seeming sluggishness  is remarkable to a high degree. It is quite a pleasure to observe the lively activity of the junks. It looks as if one would ram one of the large steam ships or another ship in any moment, but a quick maneuver undertaken in the last moment undoes the peril and the journey continues without interference. The junks that are devoted first to the trade along the coast and for fishing still venture out wide into the open sea, even though their build will not resist heavy typhoons, so that if such a storm suddenly arises, then the junks surprised by it will usually perish.

Like mosquitoes countless small sampans and „slipper boats“ race around in the harbor, while numerous steam barges diligently handle the trade between the ships and the land. On the quay, there lay, besides a legion of junks, also moored the large wheel steamboats that transport passengers twice a day to  Canton.

Used to see the natives of the countries we visited to perform every activity with great shouting we were no less astonished about the complete quiet with which the crews of the Chinese ships performed their duties. Thanks to the pouring rain we also saw for the first time the strange rain gear of Chinese sailors which consists of a long „Waterproof“ made out of reed that reaches down to the knees and repels even the heaviest rain. A large round tubular hat about the size of a wagon wheel performs the duty of an umbrella.

The crown colony consists of the island of Hongkong itself, the small surrounding islands (Stone Cutters, Green, Applechow or Aberdeen, Middle, Round Island etc.) — ceded 1841 by China to England — and the small piece from the mainland of the Southern half of the Kowloon peninsula to the North of the island of Hongkong that had been transferred to England in 1861. This is separated from the island of Hongkong by an estuary that is about a mile wide at its Eastern end called Lyemoon Pass, but grows narrower to a width of only a quarter mile. The estuary is about six sea miles long and forms the three sea miles wide harbor of Hongkong.

The island of Hongkong is a steeply rising granite mound with narrow valleys and gorges that is deeply cut in on all sides, especially on its Southern coast where the bays cut deeply into the land. The highest elevation of the mostly bare and craggy island is found at Victoria Peak (556 m) in the West; at its foot and on the Northern end of the island lays the city of Victoria, usually called Hongkong.

The commercial, financial and political importance of Hongkong, the most Eastern possession of Great Britain in Asia, especially the role which the free harbor play not only for the Chinese but for all East Asian trade attests the long view of England in recent times for the acquisition of bases for its maritime trade. Here too, as in Gibraltar, the British have managed to secure themselves a position whose acquisition had far-ranging consequences for the development of its trading fleet.

Whether Hongkong is comparable in matters of landscape to Gibraltar or, as many want to claim, Naples, I am unable to decide as I am not familiar with either harbor. In any case, the harbor of Hongkong seemed to me one of the most beautiful that I have yet touched on my journey.

The city of Victoria rises like an amphitheater at the foot of Victoria Peak. Along the beach one first sees the about 7 km long line of imposing building on the crowded quay called Praya. Beyond it the remaining parts of the well laid out city rise in terraces on the slopes of Victoria Peak. The lower terraces are filled with large blocks of houses. Further up villas and garden mansions rise. The unfortunately frequent fog clouds the Peak which is connected with the city by a mountain railway and looks majestically down upon the green of the city of villas, the glittering white of the palace-like buildings, upon the wide quay and the life in the harbor.

In the North of the harbor, on the peninsula of Kowloon, are extended shipping facilities, docks, navy depots, shipyards, workshops, coal reserves, hawser houses and the observatory with the meteorological station which is of special importance here as it is a signal post for the very frequent typhoons in the East Asian Sea. It is connected by telegraph with the main points on the Chinese coast as well as with Manila. If a typhoon is detected, the storm signals visible from far away are raised whose form and color indicates the direction of the upcoming typhoon.  This is an extremely important navigational assistance for the departing ships. When we arrived, the signal „typhoon North-east“ had been hoisted and we thus had our assumptions during our journey to Hongkong confirmed.

Both the peninsula of Kowloon and the island of Hongkong are surrounded by steep heights with highly jagged forms. On the mainland one immediately notices the widely gleaming bare spots with red earth that are irregularly distributed on the ridges and slopes of the mountains The mountains of the island of Hongkong are naturally completely bare except for bushes and low grasses in the gorges and streams, but the English have managed to grow woods and create parks in part of their territory, namely in the villa quarter and in the „Happy Valley“ East of Victoria. This amelioration of the terrain required notable expenditures and labour but has been favored by the warmth and the humidity of the summer climate. In the winter, however, the fall in temperature had been detrimental to the effort. Here too systematic agricultural work has managed to overcome all obstacles, so that today a lovely ring of parks and gardens is ornamenting the villa quarter of Victoria. The creation of a still not very voluminous layer of vegetation has in part been undertaken to improve the sanitary situation. In fact the climate of Hongkong is rather unhealthy which results in a relatively high death rate.

Despite the elevated death rate, the number of inhabitants of the crown colony is constantly growing, accounted for by the Chinese who constitute the largest  part of the population while the others are only about 10.000 Europeans and a low number of mixed-bloods.

During our entrance into the harbor, there was an unsettling incident: we were driving quite fast between numerous junks and steamers when suddenly there was a failure in the steam steerage transmission that stopped so that the ship drifted to starboard and headed undirected towards a number of moored junks. Even though we were already dangerously close to the junks so that their crews cried for help, our crew still succeeded to prevent a severe accident by setting both machines into reverse and quickly setting an anchor at full speed. The anchor fortunately caught hold in the ground and held.

Soon after the damage to the steering mechanism had been repaired, a navy officer came on board to assign us our anchorage where „Elisabeth“ was moored at the buoy of the flagship of the English squadron.

Immediately afterwards we performed the territorial salute and after its reply, offered a salute to the English rear admiral Palliser with 13 shots.

Now happened a true assault on „Elisabeth“, as numerous Chinese businessmen and traders in their small boats closed in to the sea ladder in order to come on board as fast as possible. Each wanted to be in front of the next, to display his goods and do business. The yellow stream flowed upwards, the frowning stare and berating words of our First Lieutenant were unable to contain them. The first ones who had climbed up on deck of „Elisabeth“ were mostly older owners of laundries. Each of these had a group of six to eight young pretty assistant laundresses who were well washed and neatly dressed in black, acted quite cute and reminded me of dolls. These little ladies then developed astonishing skills in praising the services of their laundries and displayed as much energy as emancipation. They entered straight into all cabins and took the dirty linen with smiles and jokes from the occupants to bundle them and take them away in their sampans. Everywhere on board, this flock traipsed around and only after considerable time our rigorous NCOs managed to get the pretty ones to return on land.

Then it was the turn of the male gender and vendors of the most various Chinese products, tailors, shoemakers etc. swarmed over the deck. These avid pig-tailed brothers appeared equipped with a large bundle of favorable testimonials among them many from ships of our navy such as „Fasana“, „Saida“ and „Zrinyi“. All these businessmen were very impertinent which however proved entertaining as it was accompanied by an incredible gibberish of various languages. One of the merchants whose physiognomy resembled a fox and who was distinguished by his smartness was even able to speak German which he had learned by trading with German warships. A joker had named this linguistic Chinese „Bismarck“, a name he now preferred to use.

Artists too came on board — painters who performed their business in a quasi factory-style, by producing in the shortest time life-size portraits from photographs. They mostly caused general hilarity but some managed to achieve a surprising match to the original. We naturally all gave orders and some sailors followed our example so that soon many a „Carlo“ or „Beppo“ in Chinese interpretation will be the artistic ornament of Dalmatian fishermen’s huts.

The avid business that developed on board was only terminated by the sudden shock of a tropical rainstorm that poured down with in great intensity and continued during the whole day with short interruptions. The fog too had become more densely and reduced the view completely so that the stay on board was quite uncomfortable.

In this mean weather, the dignitaries came on board to pay their visits. Their uniforms and top hats had to endure much in the pouring rain. The first visitor was, as our consular agent himself was absent, the interim director of our consulate,  Mr. Ernst Goetz, then rear admiral Palliser and finally the governor Sir William Robinson who seemed to care about my health no less than his colleague in Singapore. The latter had sent a telegram to Calcutta warning about cholera in Singapore, the former had informed me via our ministry for foreign affairs in a message that a smallpox epidemic had broken out in Hongkong and advised us to cut our stay here short. I, however, was not willing to have my decisions influenced by whatever illness and even shorten our stay in Hongkong that I to the contrary decided to prolong. On the other hand and in consideration of the raging illness that one could not actually notice I declined with thanks all invitations to receptions and festivities in order to not endanger anybody or disturb the peace. I could not fully discard the impression that my presence here was somewhat uncomfortable to the governor, so that he wanted to prevent my visit by feigning concerns about smallpox.

As the visit required a return visit, I went on land despite the pouring rain to return Sir William Robinson’s visit after I had been carried around for some time in a palanquin — the coolies we used failed to understand where we wanted to go. A well-kept garden surrounds Government House which offers a splendid view of Victoria and the harbor full of ships. Tall Sikhs had taken up position at the gate of the palace. The English prefer to use Indians to perform guard and especially police duties in Hongkong. Clad in tall turbans and armed with a policeman’s baton their standing in the streets commands respect, and vividly reminded me of our friends from Jhodpur. When we told one of these policemen whose presence seemed especially remarkable that we had seen Jhodpur and met Pratap Singh and Harji Singh, his eyes lighted up with pleasure.

The police in Hongkong seems to perform its duties quite harshly as the batons of the policemen can often be seen to come into ungentle contact with the back or the shaved head of a Chinese.

One of the main duties of the police is keeping order at the Praya during the night because it happens all too frequently that Europeans who use a sampan to return on board of their ships have completely disappeared — probably murdered by Chinese rowers, robbed and then sunk to the bottom of the sea. In order to prevent the repetition of such crimes, the policemen supervise the nightly activity at the quay and note the number and the time of departure of each commissioned sampan.

The streets were filled with the local transport vehicles of which there are two, namely rickshaws we had already known in Singapore that are drawn by runners and palanquins or bamboo seats that are preferably used on steeper roads and shakily rest on the shoulders of coolies. While the runners in the rickshaws lagged behind those of their fellow runners in Singapore both in speed and endurance, the carriers of the palanquins and bamboo seats astonished us by their performance. Hour upon hour they carry , walking at a fast pace, their burden and transport it fleet-footed even to the highest points of Hongkong. It is remarkable that the carriers do not show especially strong muscles but their necks become instead extended to a comical length which is said to be related to the burden placed upon the shoulders for many hours day by day.

At each berth, the arriving people from the boats are greeted by a horde of coolies who praise their services with loud shouts. Has a choice been made, the runner or carrier departs immediately without having understood the destination of the passenger and drop off the passenger at an arbitrary place in the city. Tediously, the passenger then has to communicate with the coolie and inform the latter about his error. Finally it seemed to succeed and in a fast pace the journey continues, sometimes again in the wrong direction until the coolie finally is directed to the correct location. The dress of these runners and carriers is always the same: wide blue breeches, jackets of the same color and large hats. Wealthy people have their own runners and carriers in their personal service. These are mostly dressed in white and carry sashes in the colors of their masters.

The city of Victoria is divided into two parts. The Eastern part is European and the Western one Chinese, a division that is by the way not complete as there are houses and especially shops owned by Chinese in the European part as well as European houses and businesses in the Chinese part. A stranger first notices the wide beautiful streets that divide the city in parallel lines in the direction to the Praya and create terraces while the perpendicular streets that constitute the connections between the main streets can be at times quite steep. Surprising is the general cleanliness which shows the work of the police strongly led by the English and which is all the more necessary as cleanliness is not among the chief virtues of the Chinese.

In the European quarter the Praya developed alongside a whole row of imposing buildings that are mostly dedicated to business, thus the wholesellers‘ booths, the banks and all kinds of industrial activities and most of the consulates. Behind these buildings the wholesellers seemed to have concentrated themselves while in an interminable row of shops on both sides on Queens Road, the first parallel street to the Praya, retail trade is blooming offering luxury goods, art and industrial products. There, Europeans compete peacefully for business with the Chinese. Where Peddar Street meets Queens Road, a giant clock tower rises, a landmark of Hongkong. The number of barracks is high in whose courtyards soldiers in snow-white uniforms perform all kinds of exercises.

The Chinese quarter whose streets are sometimes so narrow that two humans can barely walk side by side is characterized by thousands of colorful company boards. These are narrow, often  3 long 4 m long boards that are painted in the most flashy colors and decorated and hung vertically and contain praise about the company in Chinese letters. Colorful family altars decorated with tinsel and artificial flowers are missing in none of the shops. Countless, big-bellied lanterns and lampions serve to cast clear light on the nightly activities in the Chinese quarter. This light is surpassed, regardless of its specific character, by the electric light which has been generally introduced in Hongkong and is severely disrupting the picturesque effect of the native illumination in the Chinese quarter. Everywhere, Chineseness is put forward and imprints itself in a unique way in public life. It is much more pronounced, vivid and plastic than for instance in Singapore, as the Chinese constitute the major part of the population even though other peoples complement the colorit of street life.

The wealthy Chinese can be recognized easily in the crowd by their white blouses with wide plaited arms as well as pants in blue colors and linen stockings and silk shoes. The poorer classes of the Chinese population content themselves with simpler clothing of mostly a dark purple perkail; many men of the lower classes leave their upper body naked and walk barefoot like the women of the poorer classes. The fan, indispensable for the Chinese, is in constant motion. Remarkable is the large number of sons of the Heavenly Kingdom who wear glasses which is explained in part, I was told, that numerous Chinese dandies use this instrument not in order to improve their sight but to look like literati and thus increase the attractiveness of their personal impression, thus out of foppishness. Such an expression of dandyism might only be possible in China.

Wealthy Chinese let their queues fall freely nearly down to the ground while the poorer ones bind it up. All, however, shave their hair up to the middle of their head. The queue forms every Chinese’s pride. Plucking in jest at what the English call „pig-tail“ would be a grave insult to the wearer. If mother nature had not favored the wearer with the necessary long hair, then artificial means assist —  tout comme chez nous— and long silk threads are woven into it. By the way each Chinese carries a thread in his pigtail, usually of black color and in the case of grief, white. Children use red that promises good fortune.

Chinese women whose daily activities preferably take place within the the walls of their homes can be seen only in relatively limited numbers in the streets. On members of the upper classes one can observe the strangely crippled feet that cause a nasty duck-like gait.

Everybody in Hongkong devotes himself to business. All the world rushes through the streets to do business, namely in the Chinese quarter. There is a never-ending rush here and there by the pushy crowd that is sometimes interrupted by festive processions, marriage and funeral corteges whose approach is from afar announced by shattering noises of the inevitable gongs.

In the smaller alleys crossing the parallel main streets the shops are as if stuck together and in the middle of these traffic veins mobile cookshops have established themselves that offer fruits and all kinds of undefinable dishes for a pittance.  The Chinese tend to eat everything and one could write a book about the diversity of Chinese ingredients and dishes as well as the respectful stomach of the pig-tailed brothers that tolerates things that are in a state very close to putrescence. The cost of life is extremely cheap in consideration of this frugality in terms of the quality of food which is beneficial to the numerous population. For about ten Kreuzer of our currency an adult man is able to get completely adequate daily nurture.

The further a walker advances to the the West the more numerous become beverage stands, opium dens and gambling houses and other entertainment venues of the most dubious nature. These are the places frequented by sailors and coolies as the stomping grounds of the wildest passions where ugly scenes are happening in the evening and during the night.

After the worst heat of the day is over, at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon the throng and crush in the streets takes on a bee swarm-like character. Everybody walks, pushes, moves, rushes and runs in shambles. A pedestrian is not infrequently in danger to be pushed over  by one of the rickshaw runners while crossing the street. Even though the coolies are very skilled in turning and evading, now and then a small accident happens as our as cherished as portly chief physician can attest. His rickshaw runner could not slowdown his vehicle at a very steep slope due to the not inconsiderable weight of the passenger and drove at full pace into a Chinese store where our worthy chief physician was dropped a bit unkindly amidst all the goods.

Soon here and there excited, attracted and enthralled by these strange vivid images and scenes, I finally entered many shops that offered articles of Chinese origin in order to indulge in my shopping habit. There the same play repeated itself. The haggling found no end as the sellers asked for exorbitant prices which they reduced to a third after a half hour of hard bargaining, thus completing the trade. Finally the problem about the total amount due was also solved after extended calculations with a computing machine and agreements made regarding the transport of the bought treasures to our ship. Satisfied, I could continue my journey.

Despite the rain there was an oppressive heat during the day that caused uninterrupted transpiration. The continuously high temperature that hardly relents even for a moment makes staying in these latitudes uncomfortable as even the night offers not only no relief but makes the dull heat more susceptible. The organism feels weak, without force. Even the most vivid interest for the new impressions offered weakens finally under the influence of the heat. Those who give in to the temptation of seeking relieve in drinking refreshing beverages will suffer all the more by a higher susceptibility to the high temperature.

The hot days which we also enjoy at home as „canicular days“  can not in the slightest be compared in their de-energizing effect to the glowing and very humid atmosphere of the tropical regions during the rainy season, so that it seems to be hard work for children of the temperate zone to live permanently in a tropical region. Our constitution, our being is not suitable for a tropical climate. Body and soul lose their vigor that is required to stay in good health and perform at the highest level. I at least would in time become very melancholic in these oppressive temperature of these latitudes. Everything on this earth can be borne but not a number of — hot days.

The evening I spent on board, unfortunately clouded by a major disappointment. We had been very confident that finally in Hongkong the much expected mail would be received as we had been nearly four months without news from home and had put all our hopes on this harbor, but we were informed that Coudenhove had taken along the voluminous mail that had already arrived on his journey to Bangkok where we had been expecting to meet him in the commendable intention for us to get the mail at the earliest moment.

Now we had to be patient again until the arrival of Coudenhove, which was easier said than done as the displeasure about our postal misfortune that was dogging us chronically had crushed the best resolutions and caused loud maledictions to be uttered. Namely one of the gentlemen from the staff, an exemplary tender husband who was writing a letter each day to his young wife, was very unhappy. We consoled him approving and admiring his endurance by making audacious assurances that the mail would certainly include a legion of new letters.

Links

  • Location: Hongkong
  • ANNO – on 21.07.1893 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 Viennese waltzes and a ballet „Sonne und Erde“.