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China Marvel and Mystery the Artists Task

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CHINA MARVEL AND MYSTERY THE ARTIST'S TASK I undertook this journey to China solely to paint pictures of a country I had during all my life heard a great deal of, and, in my book, I try to convey my impressions as an artist. I had occasionally heard of and seen sketches made by residents in and visitors to China, but I am not aware that a concerted attempt has ever before been made to produce and show to those at home a series of pictures which might illustrate, at any rate, some parts of China known, or of interest, to Europeans.

If to a certain extent I restricted myself to ing these better-known parts, it was because I felt that the less-known places, though equally picturesque, would not, as yet, appeal to the public ; and also I knew well beforehand that the difficulties I should have to face, to work even where I did, would be very great. And, deed, I found I had not underestimated these difficulties. The Chinese are, naturally, very artistic ; but, in most places where I worked, they have never before seen any one attempting to paint outside from nature. One has only to think of how the crowd would gather if a man, in national costume, were to set up an easel and V begin to paint in one of our own streets, to realise a little of what I had to put up with. I had great crowds of curious natives to manage and to humour, and in other cases I had to persuade the officials to allow me to sketch. Their whole idea, it seemed to me, was that a foreigner sketching meant making maps and plans for some ulterior purpose.

The difficulty I experienced, and the long, patient, persistent efforts I had to make, before I could persuade those most highly educated and placed officials immedi ately in touch with the Throne even to petition the Empress Dowager to grant me that permission which I ultimately obtained—to work at the Summer Palace— was only one, though the most determined, effort to keep me outside. But once I had obtained that, and become known (and, I flatter myself, rather liked), and conse quently favoured by those officials, my difficulties were smoothed over as far as possible.

Then I had to contend with the climate, a very serious matter ; to work in extreme heat and extreme cold ; at times in very moist heat, and again in great dryness ; the mere keeping of my paper and materials in fit condition was quite a serious matter.

Of the places I visited and illustrated the chief were, in the order of my journey : Hong Kong, Canton, Macao, and the neighbourhood of these places, in the south.

Shanghai was another centre, and from there I visited vi and worked ill the Soochow and Tahu or Great Lake district, and at Bing-oo, Kashing, and Hangchow, with its famous West Lake. In the north I visited Pei-tai-ho, Shan-hai-kwan, Tientsin, and finally Peking, with its world-famous palaces and temples.

China is such a vast country, and holds such wealth of beauty and interest, that an artist might spend years and then only have taken the cream from each place. My visit was only for one year, and therefore I had to cut my coat according to my cloth, and leave for a possible future visit many notable scenes which might well be depicted and shown to the world. I venture to think that if Europeans could but see more pictures, realistically painted, of the natural and created beauties of that great Empire, they would form a better opinion, not only of the country, but of the civilisation and very high artistic sense of the people.

I trust that, in issuing my work to the Public, it will be understood that to all intents I have acted the difficult part of a Pioneer in this direction, and have at any rate overcome some of the scruples of the Chinese, as well as returned home with a very high opinion of, and a great liking for, them.

My visit to Japan was but a short one, a holiday after a long spell of hard work in very great heat ; but I could not help comparing the two countries artisti cally, very much (from my point of view) in favour of China, which, with increased facilities for travelling, will become a great holiday ground for, at any rate, the wealthier traveller.

I owe a debt of gratitude to friends at home and in China, who by their help and advice enabled me to undertake this journey, and I take this opportunity of expressing my grateful thanks. Also to my hosts at Hong Kong, Canton, Shanghai, and Tientsin, for their great kindness and hospitality ; to our Minister and the Staff of the British Legation at Peking, and my many friends in China, for all their kindness ; and last, but not least, to express my thanks to those Chinese gentlemen who were themselves so helpful to me, and so apprecia tive of the efforts I made to depict some of the beautiful scenes in their country.

In the production of this book I owe much to my wife, whose aid has been invaluable.