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unbroken plain, divided up into gardens, rice-fields and burial-grounds; southwards and eastwards, at a distance of a dozen miles, rises a handsome chain of mountains, in the recesses of which is said to be some very pretty scenery.
Descending from the Tien Fung Ta, or House of the Heavenly Winds, as the natives of Ningpo style their pagoda, we pass through some tortuous streets and reach the entrance of the Tien How Kung, or Temple of the Queen of Heaven, the most celebrated shrine in Ningpo, built by the merchant mariners of the Fokien province, and dedicated by them to their favourite goddess. It is probably one of the best specimens of Chinese architecture extant. Its elaborate porticoes, and the quaint outline of the roofs of its many halls, render its style extremely picturesque, while the carving and other decoration which covers it at every point is often executed with consummate care and minuteness. The stone pillars supporting the porch of the central hall, round which runs a profusion of carving representing dragons, serpents, and other strange creatures, intertwined with lotus-leaves, are especially handsome. Indeed, Ningpo seems to excel as much in stone carving as in inlaid furniture, for in various streets of the city are stone archways, erected in memory of distinguished citizens of Ningpo, the carving on which is remarkable for its boldness of design and the clearness and depth of its execution.
During our visit to the Tien How Kung, every court and corridor in it is filled with a crowd of natives, who are variously occupied in talking, making bargains, listentening to the harangue of a soothsayer, or the strange narrations of a professional tale-teller, eating, drinking, gambling; in short, holding a perfect Vanity Fair.
The day is the anniversary of some festival, and with
THE TIEN HOW KUNG.
that curious mixture of superstition and irreverence which seems to be a part of the Chinese character, they are celebrating it in this secular manner in the precincts of their most highly-esteemed temple; and if we waited a short time, we should see the strange anomaly of a play being enacted in the hall of a much-revered temple.
On our way back to the European Settlement we pass through the fish-market, redolent with Billingsgate odours, and can see the quantity and variety of the fish caught in the Ningpo river. Not that much of it looks of a tempting kind : perhaps the two best species are a pomfret, and a fish called "Sam-li, very similar to one known in Calcutta as the hilsa.'
Near the fish-market are a number of vegetable and cooking-shops. Cooking-shops seem very numerous in all Chinese towns; fuel is in that country such a scarce and dear article, that the poorer classes can only afford to have their food cooked at shops established for the purpose ; and a common object in a Chinese street is a man carrying a small cooking-stall, which he will put down at any promising corner, and offer to supply from it a most extensive, and not expensive, assortment of dishes. In the vegetable-shops we may notice that among the most common articles exposed for sale are young bamboo shoots, which from their name might be judged to be both hard and tough, but in reality are by no means unpleasant, having a taste very similar to that of parsnips.
The bamboo seems as useful a production to a Chinaman as the palm-tree to the Pacific Islander; he can build and thatch his cottage with it, make his furniture and most of his domestic utensils, rig up a boat-sail, plait for himself a hat or a rain-coat, and get food from it; and when he misbehaves, it does for the mandarin to flog hinn with.
Those hills which we saw from the top of the Tien Fung T'a, lying to the south and east of the city, inust not be left unvisited by us, seeing that one or two of their most picturesque spots are easily accessible from Ningpo. We must go thither by a canal, which crosses the plain towards their foot, and then penetrate their recesses on foot or in travelling-chairs.
Starting with two English residents of Ningpo in two boats furnished with small cabins near the stern, we leave the European Settlement after dark, and with a strong flood-tide glide quickly up the river, past the larger portion of the town, till we reach the point where the canal leading to the hills leaves the river. The level of the canal is some feet higher than that of the river, so we have to be hauled from the latter into the former over a weir; for the system of locks is unknown in this country, where there are more canals than in all the rest of the world put together. Once in the canal, our boatmen begin to ply their sculls steadily, while we resign ourselves to sleep. Awaking at daybreak, we find ourselves at the end of a branch canal, close to the foot of some fine hills which stand round us in a beautiful amphitheatre.
There are a few houses near the canal, chiefly occupied by small farmers. From one of them we hire some travelling-chairs (which look like skeletons of the HongKong chairs), and coolies to carry them.
We then start off for the monastery of Tien Tung, situated some six miles away, further in among the hills. Our route lies first over a low saddle between two hills, then up a flat valley containing a number of rice-fields and a few small tea-plantations, together with a moderatesized village, and finally up a branch valley to the thicklywooded gorge at the foot of which the monastery lies.
The hills around us are of various heights, up to 1,500
feet, clothed to their summits with a bright green covering of ferns, grass, and low underwood, which is just bursting into all the freshness of summer; here and there are clumps of the Chinese pine, or of the beautiful Mow Chu, the most graceful of the bamboo tribe; occasionally we may recognise a sturdy camphor-tree, with gnarled trunk and angular branches, while the Cryptomeria Japonica, the hemp palm, and a fine evergreen tree, just losing its clusters of red berries, assist to vary the scene. Among the long and thick grass are bright purple patches marking where the azalea is growing in all its native luxuriance; and among the other floral beauties here displayed are the clematis, the wild rose, and the well known Westeria.
Down in the valley are paddy-fields, freshly ploughed up, or submerged under a few inches of water, with the young rice plants, set out in long straight rows, just showing their delicate green stalks above the surface. Here and there is a native, with his broad bamboo hat, loose jacket, and bare legs, moving about up to his knees in the ooze of earth and water, setting out the young plants and manuring them, or driving a plough, lazily drawn by a sleepy-looking water-bullock, through the yet unprepared ground.
Between the low-lying rice-fields and the uncultivated hill-sides are a few sinall tea-plantations, mere fields hedged in, with the famous shrub planted in rows across them. There is no good tea grown here, and the plants are of a small kind, and apparently still young. To see the fine teas grown in any quantity, we should have to go up into the interior from Foo-Chow, or from Hankow on the Yang-tse.
The village in the valley is probably an average sample of Chinese villages in general; the houses or cottages, of one or sometimes two storeys, run in a single row on
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