Schlagwort-Archiv: July

At Sea to Nagasaki, 31 July 1893

Early in the morning we were on the same height as Amoy. The weather remained in our favor and an only partially agitated sea indicated that a cyclone must have moved a short time ago through the Formosa Strait. This feared passage was recently the place where the horrible typhoon had „Bokhara“ into a catastrophe while our small „Fasana“ knew to survive the storm almost unharmed.


  • Location: In the Formosa Strait
  • ANNO – on 31.07.1893 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“ and more.

At Sea to Nagasaki, 30 July 1893

Apparently we succeeded to evade the depression that moved West thanks to the foresight of the commander as the results of our weather observation were favorable and the horizon showed itself clear.

Towards 6 o’clock in the morning the course was reversed to the direction of the Formosa Strait at the small rock Pedro bianco emerging out of the sea and we sailed as quickly as possible to our next destination of Nagasaki, sailed in the true meaning of the word as we set our only sail for the first time during this journey — the wind blew from aft. This however made more an impression as a gadget than actually increasing the speed of our journey. In a modern warship, the rigging is completely in the background and the sail is replaced completely by the machine. A part of sailor poetry gone that became the victim of our inventive century! The machine, by the way, wanted clearly to show what it was able to do compared to the sail. It worked so hard that we achieved the highest number of sea miles driven per day and made good quite some part of the time lost caused by reversing our course. During the night we entered the Formosa Strait.


  • Location: In the Formosa Strait
  • ANNO – on 30.07.1893 in Austria’s newspapers. The Neue Freie Presse reports that the King of Siam has accepted the French ultimatum and will cede territories to the French.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing a ballet „Wiener Walzer“ and more.

At Sea to Nagasaki, 29 July 1893

At the time of departure from Hongkong we enjoyed the splendid weather, so that we could hope for a good journey through the Chinese Sea, which is feared for its frequent and very intense typhoons, even though the air pressure had a falling tendency for two days. But we had barely reached the open sea when all the signs of approaching bad weather appeared. The horizon turned, in sailor speech, „ugly“. Light cirrus clouds ran from North to South. From the East came an increasing groundswell the closer we approached the Strait of Formosa.

The sunset was nothing less than beautiful. In the evening the air pressure dropped rapidly and the groundswell began to run crossed from East-North-east and East-South-east. The sea grew stronger and „Elisabeth“ pitched mightily. There was no doubt that a cyclone was approaching. The commander first ordered the speed of the journey slowed down in order to observe the further developments but then decided, when the barometer again had fallen and the groundswell increased again, to evade the approaching cyclone. We thus turned, having reached Shantou, a region often visited by typhoons, at a quarter past 9 o’clock in the evening and steered back towards Hongkong. The more we drove towards the West the more the drop of the air pressure stopped, a fresh Western wind turned up and the ship was still for a short time pitching in the groundswell coming from the aft but this calmed down soon.

The Wiener Salonblatt notes FF's departure from Hong Kong to Nagasaki,

The Wiener Salonblatt notes that FF could not visit Bangkok due to the French-Siamese conflict and FF’s departure from Hong Kong to Nagasaki,


  • Location: At Sea near Shantou
  • ANNO – on 29.07.1893 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“ and more.

Hongkong, 28 July 1893

Today’s stay in Hongkong is considered an extension of the program. But we were so busy with the packaging and sending of the objects bought in Canton that a delay of the time for departure seemed inevitable. In the morning I stayed on board, occupied with all kinds of business and received our so late arrived consular agent, a German named Kramer who excused himself as he had gone to pick up his sick wife in Japan.

In the afternoon I „strolled“ again in the streets of the city, taking my leave from Hongkong, and in the evening I hosted a dinner on board to which I had invited the Austrians, namely consul general Haas and his wife, Coudenhove and the Lloyd’s agent as well as Mr. Kramer. „Bismarck“, the German speaking Chinese, had presented me with a flower bouquet as table decoration. After the meal, the wonderful moonshine enticed all dinner participants to undertake, in our barge, a tour of the harbor.


  • Location: Hongkong
  • ANNO – on 28.07.1893 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 „Coppella“ and more.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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“.