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THE FLOWERY LAND.
hearing or reading accounts of the country, before actually visiting it, is rather that of a country filled with both natural and artificial beauties. The name of China brings up before our mind's eye pictures of lovely hills clad with vegetation of the richest colouring and form, or terraced from base to summit and converted into a succession of hanging gardens; of plains divided to the last acre into plantations of tea or gardens of mulberry; of rivers and canals, spanned by the most picturesque of bridges, and bordered by the most graceful of willows; of villages, made up of clean and pretty cottages, attached to each of which is a well-kept garden where the small-footed celestial maidens sit sipping the most delicate of teas; of cities surpassing in extent those of our own island, and adorned with houses and temples whose furniture and ornaments are all of the richest lacquer or the finest old porcelain ; of a country, in short, which is the favourite haunt of peace and contentment, of wealth and art.
But, alas for these illusive pictures ! when we compare them with the originals, we find that many bright colours have been added to them, and many blurs and blotches omitted from them. In fact, the contrast between them and the truth is almost as great as that between the grandiloquent names used by the Chinese, and the tawdry places and things to which these names are applied.
One native term for China is the 'Flowery Land,' and we might hence imagine that the country is thickly strewn with the sweetest and brighest specimens of the botanical kingdom, and that scented breezes blow into the traveller's face throughout the length and breadth of it; but when we go there we find that though scented breezes are indeed very general in the country, all the scents are alike, and that one scent is anything but lavender. Alas for English noses, if we ever follow the Celestial custom of utilising, without deodorising, our sewage.
We speak of the inventive genius of the Chinese, as shown in their discoveries of ink and printing, of the compass and gunpowder, in times when our own ancestors might have been legitimately styled by them barbarians; but there is disappointment here too, for the Chinese have uiterly failed to carry these inventions to their highest and most practical ends.
Examining their religion, we find that while the aristocratic classes profess to follow the pure moral doctrines of Confucius, the only effect on them seems to be the development of a hard stoicism or a cold fatalism; and while the mass of the people are nominally Buddhists, and Buddhism contains many pure and high-toned allegories and doctrines, yet with the Chinese these seem to have been overlaid or replaced by the grossest and most puerile superstitions, and the only strong form of religion among them is the worship of their deceased ancestors.
Test their government, and you will find that whilst that government is a most elaborate, minute, and theoretically excellent piece of machinery, the dirt and dust of corruption and treachery have rusted its springs, loosened its screws, and clogged its wheels, and it will not work.
Read their history, and you find that much of it is a record of one dynasty growing up in rebellion, established in blood, and supplanting a previous dynasty that had become rotten and powerless through apathy and luxury.
Look at the temples and pagodas, the canals and walls, on which China founds not a little of her fame, and you find that scarcely one of them is in repair, much less that there are any new works of the kind springing up to
supply the places of those which are gradually crumbling under the influence of time.
And so we might go on, finding rottenness and decay in every limb and member of this gigantic empire, till we had almost concluded that ‘from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefiying sores.'
The only remedy against such a despairing view of the country, is to consider the good points in the general character of the common people—their soberness and steadiness, their industry and contentedness, their respect for, and as a rule, their obedience to, law and order. These saving points may lead us to think that perhaps the most interesting and successful portion of the history of China is yet to be acted and written.
That great country cannot long remain in the state of oriental isolation and bigoted non-progression in which, owing to its distance and inaccessibility from western countries and ideas, it has so long continued.
When the change does come, whether it will be so violent as to shatter the whole social and political system of the country, and involve it in anarchy and ruin, or whether, in a more gradual process, the sterling points in the character of the average Chinaman will stand him in good stead, and conduce to the remodelling of himself, his manners, and his thoughts, we will not venture to prophesy. But there are surely some grounds for hoping that the latter alternative will prove the true one; and we may trust that, under the good guidance of the Ruler of Nations, better days than can be found in all the records of their past centuries are yet in store for China and the Chinese.
NAGASARI AND THE INLAND SEA.
JAPAN, the Land of the Sunrise, that mysterious unapproachable group of islands which, twenty years ago, had scarcely been visited by more Englishmen than Thibet has up to the present moment, can now be reached from an English settlement within a space of forty-eight hours. We leave Shanghae at daybreak on a May morning, in one of the large vessels of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and the next dawn but one finds us snugly anchored in the harbour of Nagasaki.
But though only 400 miles of ocean thus divide China and Japan, the gulf of separation in other than geographical points seems much wider. And perhaps between no two spots in the two countries could the difference appear more striking to a traveller than between Shanghae and Nagasaki. The recollections of the former place, with its flat and almost treeless surrounding country, the muddy waters of its river, and its dirty native town, are still fresh in our minds; but in the harbour of the latter, as we look round in the light of the early morning from our vessel's deck, what a contrast meets the eye! We are lying in the middle of a land-locked harbour, the extreme length of which is rather more than four miles, whilst its breadth varies from half a mile to nearly two miles. The water of the harbour is blue and sparkling, its surface broken by a number of native junks, and by nearly a score
of vessels of foreign rig, which can now visit freely the port which twenty years ago was only entered by two European ships annually.
Shutting in the harbour on all sides are some of the most picturesque hills imaginable. Of various heights, from 1,200 to 1,800 feet, their tops are for the most part smooth and grassy, while their bases are covered with rich woods, which combine apparently nearly all the luxuriance of tropical vegetation with all the varied hues of the leaves of colder climes.
Deep ravines and jutting shoulders lend variety to the sides of these hills ; in the former are frequently visible groups of gabled cottages; perched on the points of the latter are here and there neat temples and shrines; while the green of the hill-slopes is broken by gray patches which mark the situation of rustic graveyards.
The thick belts of wood are broken near their lower edges by strips of cleared and cultivated ground, and here and there, over the low ridges that lie between the various hills, may be traced a narrow winding line—a country path leading away to some neighbouring bay or valley.
At the north-eastern side of the harbour lies the town of Nagasaki, stretching over a flat piece of ground that spreads along the shore for nearly two miles and runs up into a recess among the hills. Southwards from the town, and dotting the lower hill-sides for some distance in that direction, are the white houses of the recent foreign settlers, chiefly English, German, and American.
Projecting into the harbour and built upon a flat, fan-shaped peninsula, is the little settlement of Decima, which, for upwards of 200 years, was the only spot in Japan where a European might live. Truly, those phlegmatic Dutchmen who were content to pass their years there, making much hard cash, doing at regular