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Canton from the Walls

city, dead, gods, call and beauty

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CANTON FROM THE WALLS City of the Dead Temples—British Yamen—Canton Water—My First Attempt to Paint in a Village.

Going right across the city—a long walk on foot and mostly done in chairs carried by four coolies, who shout and call to clear the way, and when met by another chair push in against a shop to allow passage—the traveller reaches the city wall, and by following it comes to the well known five-storied Pagoda, near which is the best and most complete view of Canton, with the Flowery Pagoda rising out of it, whilst here and there one sees those square tower-like buildings, the pawnshops. And a lovely view it is Looking over this one cannot quite think of the overcrowding, the squalor, the dirt, which exists below ; here we look among trees over the roofs of temples, with God's sky above, and nothing but brilliant sunlight and beauty around.

It is curious that the Chinese think it necessary to attempt to repair the old walls, and even to renew the roofs over the ancient guns, as if they were of any use— old iron cannon lying rusting on the ground—a great and sufficient protection against an enemy in olden times, but of no use now.

On looking over the hilly country which lies out side this part of the city wall, I saw that it was one vast cemetery—hundreds, thousands of small stones marking the last resting-place of past generations of Cantonese. Here and there I could discern a more pretentious monument, mostly in semi-circular form, denoting the grave of a dead notability. A remarkable place is the City of the Dead. It is a series of temples and mausoleums, where those who can afford it lay their dead in wondrous coffins, sometimes enamelled and decorated, and they are left here until the soothsayer, or fortune-teller, declares where and when they shall be finally laid to rest. I am inclined to think that the wealth of the relative must be the chief thing which determines the length of time the coffin shall remain in these sacred precincts.

I saw a funeral procession on its way here , there were various articles of food fastened to the coffin. A live cock was one, and, by his lusty crowing, did not seem at all disturbed at his precarious position.

Another interesting place is the Temple of Five Hundred Genii. At the gates are great carved-stone

josses guarding the entrance, which is of considerable extent. In the central or main hall five hundred saints or genii are placed in rows, and in front of each is placed the small porcelain, and sometimes bronze, urn in which those who come to " chin-chin " their par ticular joss put the burning joss-sticks. The gods themselves are wonderfully varied in character, and apparently, from the number of joss-sticks in front of certain of them, some are greatly favoured beyond others. They are all lavishly gilded, some quite freshly gilt, others distinctly showing neglect—these, I suppose, being gods to whom there is no necessity for appeal, and therefore no call for devout worshippers to show their devotion by gilding. One in particular is pointed out to foreigners, Marco Polo ; if anything like this image, he was no beauty, though a great traveller.

Almost in the centre of the city stands the old British Yamen, once the house of a great Cantonese mandarin. When the British took Canton, they annexed this beautiful place as the residence for their repre sentative, and for many years it was occupied by our Consul and his staff. But these officials now live in modern houses built on the Shameen, and the old Yamen is the house of Consular students sent here to study the Chinese language. I went with a friend to call on them one Sunday, and was greatly taken with the quiet beauty of the place ; the grounds are studded with fine trees, and paved walks and terraces — it is like an oasis set in the midst of dirty, noisy Canton. The students, whom we wanted to see, were not at home ; but of course we were hospitably invited to go inside and have a cooling drink, and wait for their arrival. So we sat on the terrace, smoking and chatting, when along the entrance-way tore some of the roughest-look ing ponies I have seen. The riders were our friends— returning, to judge by the mud-bespattered appearance of horses and men, from a long and rough ride. The ponies were small, many-coloured and unclipped ; long manes and tails and varied accoutrements giving the whole quite a wild look as they galloped into this secluded garden.

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