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New and Old Kowloon First Experiences of Sketching

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NEW AND OLD KOWLOON FIRST EXPERIENCES OF SKETCHING New Kowloon might well be described as the military and commercial—and soon will be the railway—annex of Hong Kong. This is one end of the Canton-Kowloon Railway, now in course of construction and intended to be part of a great trunk line through China. At Kowloon many of the large vessels discharge and take on cargo. From here one gets perhaps the most comprehensive view of the Peak of Hong Kong and the town of Victoria, with its great and busy harbour. Two or three miles off, to the east, is the old native city of Kowloon. It lies on the slope of the hill, and the walls wind up and along, and are well seen from the water. The town has now few in habitants. I should think they have found it more profitable to migrate to the New Kowloon, or Hong Kong, and trade or work there. Old Kowloon is nearly opposite Sha-kai-wan, and its people, for piratical purposes, as far as situation goes, may have been, and I believe were, brethren in their nefarious trade.

I believe the former inhabitants of this place were amongst the worst characters of the district, and such a thorn in the side of peace and quietness that a few years ago it ended in our countrymen at Hong Kong rushing the place, turning the people out, and so dis mantling it that it could no longer be a menace to the quiet of our colony.

Now, as I walked round the walls, I found old iron cannon thrown on the ground and many signs of what had been ; but looking into the town I realised that its power to hurt was gone. It is almost deserted, and only on the outside of the old walls and nearer the water is there a small population left. It is difficult to realise that such a pirates' lair could exist in this century within sight of one of the greatest British colonies of the East. Think of this hotbed of crime only across the narrow waters from those palatial build ings and comfortable houses, to be seen from their windows. One wonders at the patience which allowed it to exist so long. No wonder it was considered unsafe to cross the harbour in a small boat after dark, and that there were mysterious disappearances while these pirates had a stronghold near by.

An artist need not be long in finding subjects here, or, in fact, throughout China ; but he must be prepared to put up with all sorts of troubles and interruptions, to sit or stand in most uncomfortable positions, and in variably with a big crowd round. Even in Hong Kong, a British cology, it is quite rare to see a painter work ing in the open air, and the natives are very curious and rather too appreciative. Once I found that certain of my spectators wished to approach much nearer than was pleasant, and even to stand in front of me. I remarked to a friend at dinner that evening that I was possessed with a great desire to pull their pigtails, to make them move out of my way. He gently re monstrated with me, and said I must be patient. I followed his advice and had my reward ; for next day a youth, to show his superior agility, attempted to jump across in front of my position near the edge of the wharf. But, alas ! he reckoned without his host ; for, as he jumped, one of my admirers near gripped his pigtail and down he came on his back, and was only saved from a ducking in the water by being held by his queue. I am afraid I could not help joining in the loud

laughter that followed.

The Sikh policeman of Hong Kong is a very important and stately individual, and one of them, finding me en sconced in a " ricksha " in one of the main streets, con sidered it his duty to take me under his special care. He in vain attempted to move the crowd on ; and, though it was quite necessary to keep the footpath clear, there was no real need for him to start a game of catch-who you-can round. my "ricksha." The younger members of the crowd in particular much enjoyed the fun of dodging their pursuer but, when I remonstrated, the only answer I got from the policeman was, " Dey too muchee bobherry my." The local press described me as " a man sitting in a ' ricksha' smoking cigars and attempting to paint the Flower Market." The poor painter has much to put up with I cannot finish my notes on Hong Kong without referring to the wonderful effects of what are commonly known as " mackerel " skies, which are here, I think, seen to more perfection than elsewhere, although they are the prevailing sky of Southern China, and to see a fine sunset from Hong Kong Harbour is something to remember all one's life.

The same may be said of the hospitality of the colonists. I shall never forget it. I had not been an-hour on land before I was taken by my host to the Club, and introduced to more than I can remember ; but they were all genial and kind, one after another asking me to tiffin or dine. I must mention that no doubt I owed a great deal of this to my host, one of the known men in the colony, and also to the fact that members of my family have long lived in the Far East. My time was too busily occupied for much social intercourse. But to those who have time, and like it, no place offers more than Hong Kong. I am afraid that, should this book fall into the hands of some who were my fellow-guests at a tiffin party, they will remark, if they remember me at all, that I was not strictly truth ful. I was a stranger to all but my host ; and in con versation one asked me if I were a Member of Parliament, and when I denied the soft impeachment and said I was only a Scotsman, another said, " Well, are you going to write a book ?" And to that also I said " No," at that time having no such intention. I hope he will forgive me for doing so. Everywhere I found kindness. Did I wish to sketch from the harbour, a launch was at my disposal, and a good tiffin put on board. I had only to express a wish to go anywhere, and I was taken there. One and all seemed to vie with each other to give me a good time, and they succeeded. I went to theatres and weddings and to farewell dinners, and to tiffins to those about to wed.

On my return visit I found, as I have said, that the delightful home of my friend had been partly destroyed by the typhoon ; but I was invited to stay at a splendid house of one of the most prominent colonists, a house famous for its architectural beauty, and its great collec tion of Eastern porcelain, which bids fair to rival the greatest. Here I spent Christmas in true British fashion.