HANGCHOW CONFUCIAN TEMPLE SACRED TORTOISE House-boat Trip to Bing-oo, Hangchow, &c.—Sketching Confucian Temple at Bing-oo — Crockery Purchase — Sacred Tortoise — Widows' Monument — My Friend's Efforts to Photograph—On to Kashing—Gramaphone.
I gladly accepted a friend's kind loan of his house boat, and proceeded to make arrangements for an excursion through some of the waterways round Shanghai. Another kindly friend, who was to accom pany me for the first week or so, fitted up electric fans, with accumulators strong enough to work for some weeks, a very great boon for the hot nights we were now get ting. The Scout was a roomy house-boat. The lawdah (skipper) engaged his crew of six coolies. My boy agreed to add to his other duties that of cook, and laid in many stores, solid and liquid the ice chest was filled up, and a further store put under the fore-deck, with many bottles of filtered and distilled water—and we were ready.
A beautiful evening at the end of May saw us all on board, and my relatives waving adieus from the Boat Club platform, as we moved slowly out of the Soochow Creek. Then we fastened on to a train of native boats, behind a steam launch, and away we went up. the Whangpo on our journey. There was a call to the boy for tea, and after this my friend and I sat on the deck, watching the landscape as we moved along in the quiet evening hours. We met many craft on this busy water way, all going to and fro from the great centre of com merce with their loads of exports or imports. The extent of the imports the traveller soon gathers as he goes along ; and even in small villages one sees bills in Chinese characters advertising So-and-so's cigarettes—in which I believe there is enormous trade—or somebody else's cocoa, or soap, or sewing-machines. One need not read the statistics to realise the importance of the catering for this teeming population of thrifty people. Thrifty they are in all ways : nothing is wasted. On the native boats to which we were attached there seemed to be crowds of passengers, some lying about smoking, some preparing their evening meal, and some gambling : never can you see a large number of Chinese together without gambling. It is the spirit of the dealer, the longing for hazard, which is inherent in this people.
Early the next morning we reached, and anchored at, Bing-oo, a quaint and purely Chinese small town, walled in, of course, as all Chinese towns are. Here I soon
found subjects for my brush, chief being the Temple of Confucius near by the water gate. The only place from which I could see my subject, and could hope to get peace to work, was a small projecting piece of land against the Creek, and surrounded partly by buildings. By judicious " palm oil " I got possession of this, and after my coolies had cleared it I got to work. But oh the crowds ! Hundreds came — I could see them streaming across the bridge lower down, and making their way round ; and when they found they couldn't get close to me, they crowded on to my foreground opposite me and practically blocked out my subject.
Then my lawdah came in ; he procured a rope, and stretching it from a wall near me, right across for 3o or 4o yards, made all the people get outside it, and, by stationing coolies along, kept the crowd there. Each day when finishing work I turned my picture round for them to look at—an act which, I was told, was much appreciated.
Near by me, beside the Temple, there was a large tank surrounded by a fine stone balustrade, and con taining a very large sacred tortoise ; we threw food in, and he graciously came to the surface and exhibited his length to us—about 32 feet.
I had to purchase some crockery for use on the boat in this town ; and after much bargaining, in which it appeared to me half the population of the street took part, as they crowded into the shop and round the door, I bought for little over a Mexican dollar various dishes of nice china, of quaint and artistic design and colour. The same number of dishes at home would have cost me five times as much, and not been nearly so pretty. I found, however, my boy was not overpleased, as he seemed to think that things of European character would be more suitable for my use ; but his only remark to me was, as he pointed to the articles, " All same Chinee, no b'long foleign man." In this neighbourhood I saw good specimens in stone of what are known as Widows' Monuments. They are erected by the relatives to the memory of the widow who has remained faithful to her husband ; and some are very beautiful — great blocks of stone set up, and the horizontal pieces put in with tenons, as we would do with woodwork.