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These Hongkong coolies are the strongest-looking men that we shall see in China : on the quay we often notice a couple of them carrying a full-sized bale of Manchester goods, weighing 600 lbs., suspended from a bamboo which rests on their shoulders. At the first sight of these men, with their broad shoulders and well-developed calves, we almost wonder how it is that John Chinaman always proves such an unequal match for John Bull in fighting. But the explanation may easily be found in the fact of the former fighting entirely by routine, being wretchedly armed, worse officered, and possessing little genuine pluck. It is said that when a Chinaman was asked why he and his fellow-soldiers bolted from the Bogue Forts with such alacrity when the redcoats appeared over their walls, he gave the following phlegmatic reason—“How can Chinaman stay when Inglisman come in? No hab got room for two piecey man: number one man come in, number two man go out.' And here we have stumbled across another of the
peculiarities of Hongkong which are among the first to strike a stranger: the dialect, namely, which is current between Englishmen and Chinamen, when neither has mastered the language of the other. This dialect goes by the name of 'Pigeon English,' and sounds like so much honest Saxon put all out of joint, its pronunciation debased to suit the Chinese tongue, and an addition made of various words of Portuguese, Malay, or nondescript origin.
If you have only been on Chinese soil for a couple of days you will be confounded, on calling on your friend at mid-day, to hear him call out to his Chinese servant,
Boy, you go topside; tell that cook, all same that number one China boy, he makee chow chow, chop chop.' You will require an interpreter to make you understand that your friend is merely ordering lunch for you. .
While on the subject of ‘Pigeon English,' we must not forget an anecdote told us by a Shanghae friend, which illustrates both the eccentricities of the jargon and also the observant powers often found among Chinamen. Our friend had left his office one day for an hour, and on returning was informed by one of his servants that a gentleman had called to see him, whereupon a dialogue took place between master and servant as follows: ‘What name that gentleman ?' ‘My no savey' (i.e. I don't know). * Where belong that gentleman?' 'My no savey; but my can tell what fashion he makee look
One tallo man; no too muchee stout: hab got one nose all same that Mellican chicky.' Perhaps one versed only in the Queen's English will have some difficulty in making out that the servant was describing the visitor, in the last sentence, as tall, rather thin, with a nose resembling in outline that of the noble bird, holder of Jove's thunderbolts, and favourite emblem with our Transatlantic cousins of the free and soaring spirit of their nation.
We have fortunately brought with us to Hongkong a letter to a leading British merchant there, and are consequently received with all that free-hearted and lavish hospitality for which Englishmen in China are famous even above their hospitable countrymen in India.
Our friend's house, like those of most of the English residents, is situated a short distance up the hill-side, and from its verandah we have a fine view over the town, the harbour, and the mainland opposite. The greater part of the shipping lies in a cluster near the town; but there are a few vessels lying farther out, and we can see some anchored close to Kowlung, a promontory on the mainland. This harbour affords good holding ground and deep water in every part of it, and these advantages combine with the shelter of the surrounding hills to render the shipping lying in it perfectly secure. Occasionally, however-once a year or so—a typhoon bursts in upon the harbour from the east, drives the vessels from their moorings, and scatters up and down those that have not gone in behind the Kowlung Peninsula, defying the best of seamanship and the strongest of cables, and not unfrequently wrecking large vessels within sight of the town.
Though the hills of Hongkong Island, as seen from out at sea, present a bare and uninviting appearance, yet if we wander from the town up their northern slopes, we shall find that they possess some pretty gullies, where there is a plentiful supply of azaleas, ferns, and other small vegetation, and through which run the fresh watercourses which have given the island its rather fanciful Chinese name—Heang-Keang—'the fragrant streams.' Perhaps the prettiest part of the island is the Wongnei-chong, or as the English call it, the Happy Valley, lying to the east of the town-a flat grass valley enclosed by well-wooded hills, and divided, with little regard for the difference between grave and gay, into a race-course and a cemetery.
In the native quarters of Hongkong we have good opportunities of seeing thoroughly Chinese costumes, pursuits, and customs; but as we shall see these in, if possible, a more thoroughly native mould in Canton, we will only take the opportunity afforded by our host of partaking of a dinner à la Chinoise at a Chinese restaurant, and going afterwards to a Chinese 'sing-song,' or theatrical performance.
At the appointed hour we are landed by our chair coolies at the entrance of the Celestial Vefour's,' and enter a room well lighted with paper lanterns, and adorned with baskets of fresh flowers suspended from the ceiling. Three musicians and three singing-girls are in attend
DINNER À LA CHINOISE.
ance, but their monotonously shrill notes fail to soothe the European rugged breast, and we are fain to request them to let us dine without musical honours. To correspond to 'sherry and bitters, we are served, before beginning the feast, with tea and dried melon seeds. The tea is of a fine Oolong kind, and has a flavour reminding one of apricots. It is one of the rare kinds which seldom if ever find their way to Europe, the flavour being too delicate to stand so long a voyage.
Apropos of this fine beverage, our host tells us that he once had a present from a mandarin of a box containing 4 lbs. of tea, of four different kinds, which he found out afterwards must have cost the Chinaman 151. or 161. At home we imagine that in its native country tea of all kinds must be extremely cheap; but there are certain kinds which grow wild, and cannot be cultivated without losing their peculiar flavour, and are therefore rare and limited in quantity, even in China. For these kinds many of the mandarins, who are fond of making cumshaws, or presents, to their friends of anything rare and curious, will often give extravagant and fanciful prices.
As soon as we have sipped our tea, we can sit down to the table, which is already spread with a variety of China cups, saucers, and dishes, and has, running down its centre, a line of tasteful little dishes, containing ginger, preserved fruits, chestnuts, almonds, and other relishes, destined to remain on throughout the dinner. One or two Chinese merchants sit down with us: on our left hand is a Mr. Fan Wye, who speaks very fair English, and explains the otherwise incomprehensible dishes which are served up in succession.
The menu opens with birds’-nest soup, which tastes very like gelatine, but seems to have its own taste much modified by the introduction into it of slices of
ham. Then follow pigeon stew, seaweed soup, pigeon eggs, minced quail, stewed peas, black seaweed, stewed lotus root, sea moss, ducks' feet, shark's fin; and we begin to think we must be getting near the end of the landlord's resources. Not at all! The cry is still they come !' and after these eleven courses follow twenty more, whose names had better be given to make the list complete : duck and bamboo, Japan sea snails, meat and seaweed, sturgeon jelly, bêches de mer, mushrooms, quangsi mushrooms, guarapoo fish, lotus seeds, sweet cakes, fowl and ham, shark's fin with fish balls, frogs, fish maw, pigeon, quail, bamboo omelette, pork fritters and rice, congee and rice, tea. Blush not for us, kind reader, nor think we have out-epicured Epicurus, when we confess that we at least tasted each one of the alarming series. At any rate, let us explain that the courses are served up in small basins of the size of an ordinary tea-cup, and a mere morsel, for curiosity's sake, is the amount generally taken of each.
The viands are accompanied by cups containing thimblesfull of a Chinese wine made from the pear, and also by champagne, which, with bread, forms the only non-Chinese element of the whole dinner. The dishes, as a rule, taste much like each other, owing to the mixture in nearly all of them of slices of ham, but they are all excellently cooked. We have no implements' beyond china spoons and chop-sticks : the latter, after some awkward experiments, we can wield with tolerable success before the dinner is finished.
After dinner we make our way to a large wooden theatre, also in the native quarter of the town, where we find a theatrical performance going on. On the
there we pass, close by the roadside, a large shed, in which are collected a number of Chinese listening to the monotonous