The Chinese call Canton the "City of Rams" from a fable regarding its origin. This relates that a century or so before Christ travelers from the basin of the Yellow River, journeying southward, de cided to settle there. Then from the north came five fairy men riding on the backs of goats, each of them bearing a stalk of grain and bidding the people live in peace. The fairies disappeared, but the goats turned to stone, and may still be seen in the Temple of the Five Rams.
" So that the pawnbrokers can easily throw down stones upon the heads of approaching robbers," is the answer.
Homes and shops form solid walls along the road ways. Even the river is a great street of floating homes. For miles along the waterside are massed thousands of boats, in which live several thousand citizens of old Canton. Many of them are born, live, and die without ever having a home on land.
The river dwellers form a complete community, with their own tradespeople, priests, teachers, and work men. The number living in these houseboats and along the swarming streets is vaguely estimated at a million and a quaister persons.
One of the most interesting structures is the hall in which the official examinations were held which admitted the successful contestants to appointments under the government. The building accommodated at one time nearly 9,000 persons in individual stalls.
Success in these examinations depended on the memo rizing of the Chinese literary and philosophical clas sics, but in 1905 this system was abolished and the great hall is now deserted.
As for temples, the city has more than 500, the most famous being the Buddhist temple on Honan, the island suburb. This institution covers seven acres divided into courts, and requires the services of 175 priests. Others of great fame are the Temple of Five Hundred Gods, so called from the numerous statues of Buddha and his followers, and the Temple of Longevity. In the tower of another old temple stands the ancient water clock, which for 20 centuries has indicated the hours, with its simple arrangement of copper buckets and tiny troughs. Though now and then one or another temple is restored in full splendor, most of them bear marks of neglect.
" Everything new originates in Canton," is a Chinese proverb. It was the first Chinese city to be opened up to trade. Arab traders journeyed thither by caravan as early as the 9th century. The Portu guese opened trade relations in 1517, and were soon followed by the Dutch, and a little more than a century later by the English. In the closing decades of the 18th century the speedy clipper ships of New York, Boston, and old Salem began making their hazardous trips to Canton by way of Cape Horn.
Stirred by this contact with foreign life and thought, the Cantonese have always been the most progressive and adventurous of their countrymen.
Most of the Chinese emigrants to Hawaii, the Philip pines, and America have come from Canton, so that the Cantonese has come to stand abroad as the typi cal Chinese. Returning to their birthplace after saving up modest fortunes abroad, these adventurous spirits have brought back ideas strange to their con servative fellow-citizens, thus making Canton the seat of political as well as commercial progressiveness.
It was in the streets of Canton that were heard the first whisperings which resulted in the revolution of 1911, and Canton has also been the center of later revolutionary movements.