SHANGHAI LOONGWHA THE TEMPLES Drive to Loongwha—The Temples—Tea on a Grave—Objectionable Practice of Burial—Opium—Public Burning of the Fittings of an Opium Den—Prisoners in the Cangue—A Hailstorm.
A pleasant drive, and one often taken by visitors, is by the Bubbling Well Road or through the French Settlement, and across the Sicawai Creek past the Arsenal to Loongwha, where there is a fine pagoda and large temples. The latter show in a remarkable manner what I would call the roof architecture of Southern China. The ridges stand up above the tiling, and are most profusely decorated with openwork carving, &c. , the front temple in this case showing in the centre the two fish, emblem of plenty, and on the other side the dragon, and at the ends swans. The corners are most gracefully curved, and the points carried up high in a striking and quaint manner, giving most beautiful " lines " to the whole design. Under each point hang bells, which tinkle sweetly in the breeze. In this class of building, and, indeed, in most buildings in China, the roof is the great and outstanding feature.
While I was at work here one day my friends drove out to join me, bringing tea, and on my asking innocently "Did they propose to take it amidst my crowd "? " Oh, no," said a lady, " we will find a nice grave near." This, to me, sounded rather strange ; but obediently we went off in search of this delectable spot ; and, sure enough, a few minutes' walk and we saw an enclosure where, on a nice green mound, were trees giving pleasant shade. There we made our tea and took it, a few natives looking on and ready to seize the fragments left.
Perhaps the most objectionable practice in this part of China is the method the people have of disposing of their dead. Ancestor-worship in itself is to my mind a very beautiful idea, and, I think, one of the strongest points in the habits and character of the Chinese ; but I cannot see why they should drop the coffin down at any point thought fit—be it near human habitation or a public pathway matters nothing to them. There they lay it down, and are supposed to cover it with earth ; but in many cases this is not done, and the coffin with its grue some contents is:left exposed to the weather. Even if on occasion the earth is put over the coffin, it is generally insufficient.
This happens all over this part of China ; so that in the back, or even front, garden of a foreigner's house one may see a grave mound, although in these cases it has assumed a good covering of green turf, as in the case of the one on which we had tea.
On my way out one day to Loongwha I found just under a bridge crossing a small creek this notice : "The carriages must take care to pass this bridge, for it will be broken." The pony had to be taken out and led across, and then the carriage pushed over on planks.
All the world knows how the opium question is stirring China at the present time. I was present at one little incident in connection with this. Notices were posted that on a Sunday afternoon, at some tea-gardens on the Bubbling Well Road, there would be publicly burned all the furnishings, fittings, pipes, &c., of an
opium-den recently bought up and closed in Shanghai. My brother and I went to see this. There was a large crowd of Chinese as well as foreigners of all nations, and sympathy for the anti-opium movement was shown. Speeches were delivered in English and Chinese, and all the articles appertaining to opium-smoking were heaped into a sort of funeral pyre, and, being well soaked with paraffin or other inflammable stuff, were burnt. I may mention that most of the silver fittings of the pipes had been carefully removed—" Waste not, Want not." The treatment of native criminals in Shanghai did not appeal to me. It was not a pleasant sight, in the course of your walk or drive, to see the poor wretches beinz driven by uniformed native police slowly along the streets, with the cangue, a wooden frame which opens to allow it to be fastened round the neck. The cangue is very heavy, and the wearer cannot lie down, nor can he reach his mouth to feed himself. Besides, on the criminal is a notice describing his offence. The idea is, I believe, to show how he has lost " face," and to deter others from offending in the same manner. There are the chain-gangs, too, working on the roads and recreation-grounds, dragging heavy rollers, &c.
Fires are rather too frequent ; and, although there is a fine volunteer fire-brigade, it would seem as if the time cannot be far distant when the Council of this most progressive place will be obliged to have a paid professional brigade. The volunteer brigade is largely recruited from the younger foreigners, and their em ployers are large-minded enough to allow them to be called away from their business, or if out all night (as frequently happens), to overlook the unfitness for work next day. But this surely cannot continue, nor is it right that it should. In one week, during my stay, there were three considerable fires, which must have been not only a very heavy tax on the energies of the brigade but also on the patience of the employers. One fire I saw was of some native buildings and a small wood-yard. The whole thing went up like matchwood ; and but for the very smart work of the firemen, with their native assistants, it must have extended very much farther. The night before, we heard the fire-call and learned that some large oil-mills were destroyed ; and next night large wood-yards in Hongkew were burnt out.
The variations of climate are about the same, I fancy, as ours. I arrived in Shanghai early in April, to find it cold and wet, and that kind of weather prevailed throughout that month. On one occasion there was a great hailstorm. I was driving with my brother at the time, in a victoria, and so large were the hailstones that we were glad to hold the leather apron up in front to protect ourselves. When it ceased, we saw the small Chinese children running to collect handfuls of the stones, which were as large as hazel-nuts and did con siderable damage, breaking windows, &c. In May the weather improved and got warmer, and by the end of the month it was hot, but not unpleasantly. At this time I set off on my house-boat trip.