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There are four great inventions for which the world are indebted to China: the mariners' compass, manufacture of porcelain, printing, and gunpowder. The use of gunpowder was known in China about the time of the Christian era ; but cannons have only recently been introduced among them.
AGRICULTURE. AGRICULTURE is patronized by the imperial court, in the annual ploughing ceremony, which takes place at the vernal equinox, when the Emperor in person guides the plough. The agriculturists of China may rather be termed gardeners than farmers; and their success is more owing to their tedious and minute attention to the details than to any knowledge of cultivation as a science.
All the land professedly belongs to the Emperor; but the occupiers so hold it that as long as the taxes are kept regularly paid he cannot dispossess them. The occupier, however, cannot alienate the land from his family : if he dispose of it, his sons, after his death, can reclaim it. The daughters have no share in the patrimony. When land is mortgaged, the mortgagee is responsible for the taxes. Land is registered in the district-office, where also the titles are deposited. It is estimated that there are 596,000,000 acres of arable land, of which a greater proportion is under cultivation for food than in any other country.
Three-fourths of all the grain sown is rice. Before sowing, the seed is soaked in liquid manure; and it is sown so plentifully that its sprouts come up as thick as grass. It is then taken up and transplanted, and the ground put under water. Where there is no stream or river at hand, the contrivances for irrigation are very numerous and ingenious. The first crop ripens in April, and the second in November. Wheat and buckwheat are both grown, and are sometimes transplanted, as rice : indeed nearly everything is transplanted by the Chinese. They commonly manure the seed rather than the land; and are entirely ignorant of the art of improving the soil by rotation of crops.
The Chinese excel almost all other nations in the cultivation of flowers, for which there is great demand.
They have no hedges nor fences, the land being separated by dikes. Their agricultural instruments are very simple. The principal animals used in agriculture are buffaloes and asses. In the northern parts of the country they use also cows and camels; and sometimes a buffalo and an ass, or a cow and a camel, may be seen yoked together.
The practice of cultivating the hills in terraces is not so common as has sometimes been represented : it prevails to no great extent, except in the vicinity of large towns, where the ground is valuable. The wages of a labourer in the country are about thirteen cents a day, in towns about twenty cents.
WEAVING, ETC. Weaving is all done by hand-looms. The Chinese have no extensive manufactories; six or eight looms being as many as are commonly seen in one room. Two persons attend at each loom : the treadles are worked by a boy at the top. They never employ steam-power in their manufactures : the only use they ever make of steam is to cook rice. The yellow cotton fabric called nankeen is not dyed ; it being the natural colour of the material of which it is made.
The embroidered shawls brought to this country from China are manufactured at a place about eight or ten miles from Canton, entirely for exportation. The Chinese themselves use no such article of dress.
PORCELAIN. The porcelain all comes from a single town, King-tu-ching; but the common stone and blue ware is made in many provinces. The people are exceedingly fond of household ornaments of porcelain; some of which are imported into this country. These are sometimes elegant, but more often grotesque; as the Chinese never imitate nature, always preferring to make something odd. The common earthenware of the country is very cheap: a whole establishment for a family may be bought for five or six shillings.
METALS. The Chinese have a method, unknown to us, of making copper white by means of alloys. In the manufacture of
gongs and bells, experience has taught them to mix the metals in about the same proportion as we do. Their iron utensils, and also locks, &c., are always cast. In gold and silver work they are probably equal to any people ; and in carving and chisel-work they take the lead in many respects. Gold-leaf is extensively used in China, and they also export a considerable quantity : they make it in the same way that we do.
LANTERNS, ETC. LANTERN-MAKING is a very extensive business, and the Chinese display their fancy more in the manufacture and adornment of this article than in anything else. They have one kind called the horse-racing lantern, the framework of which is so constructed that the heat of the lamp sets in motion a variety of small figures which keep moving as long as the lamp continues to burn. Lanterns of very elegant patterns are made expressly for their religious festivals. Some of these are very high, and cost as much as one hundred dollars; but they are generally about a foot high, and sold for five dollars.
Tallow is procured from the tallow-tree, which in appearance resembles the aspen-poplar. The seeds of this tree are boiled in water, which causes a fatty substance to exude, which is run into moulds; but as this very easily melts, it is commonly covered with a coating of wax, and coloured with vermilion. Their lamp-oil is made of pea-nuts: they use no whale-oil.
ORNAMENTAL WORK. The Chinese are very ingenious in carving ivory and wood, and specimens of their skill in this work are frequently seen in this country. They will sometimes cut and carve a number of ivory balls, sometimes as many as twenty, one within the other. It will take a man about a month to finish one of the largest of these elegant but useless toys.
Chinese lackered work owes its beauty to the juice or sap of the lacker-tree, which somewhat resembles the sumack. It is very poisonous; and the workmen who use it have to be very careful, and keep the face covered. They make their lackered work more generally black than we do. It is first
finished plain ; and the ornamental gilding is put on after it is sold, according to the direction of the purchaser.
The paintings on rice-paper, such as are imported into this country, employ thousands of persons in Canton. The paper, however, is not made of rice at all, but from the pith of a plant.
GLASS. Articles of foreign manufacture are not much used by the Chinese ; for as soon as the demand for an article is sufficient to justify it, they begin to make it themselves. Glass was formerly imported into China, but now they manufacture nearly all they use. They do not commonly use a diamond to cut glass. They mark the line to be cut with a piece of tallow; a piece of incense-stick is then run along the line of tallow, and this being set on fire causes the tallow to melt, and cracks the glass. Their glasses for spectacles are made entirely of quartz crystal. They are very ingenious in uniting broken glass and china, by means of rivets. Without using any cement, they fit the broken edges so closely together that water cannot penetrate.
MEDICINE AND SURGERY. Os anatomy and physiology the Chinese Physicians are almost utterly ignorant; and their books on these subjects contain some strange notions. They suppose that the human body has five principal passages, all meeting in the centre; and that the food goes through the heart into the stomach. In practice, however, they are more proficient than in theory.
The people are generally pretty healthy, and there is no great call for Physicians. When taken sick, they will stop eating, and go to bed, and generally soon recover ; but if this plan does not succeed, they call in a Doctor, tell him the symptoms, and inquire how long it will take, and what it will cost, to cure them. A bargain is made with the Doctor, who agrees to cure the patient within a certain time, say ten days, for two dollars, or some other sum. The Doctor administers as much medicine as he thinks proper; the more of it the better the patient likes it. If the cure be not effected within the specified time, the sick man reproaches the Physician for not having fulfilled his contract; and he, on the other hand, will perhaps charge the patient with deception, affirming that he has half a dozen ailments more than he had told him of, and that the medicines did not suit them all. The Doctors generally take the precaution of securing about two-thirds of the pay in advance. Of all medicines, ginseng is most approved, and people like to have some of it in every dose they take.
The Doctors may often be seen selling their medicines and herbs in the streets. When one of them can succeed in getting two or three persons around him to listen, he becomes quite eloquent; and he attracts the more notice if his accent betokens him to be a foreigner, or from some other province.
The surgical skill of the Chinese does not extend much further than cupping and drawing teeth. A Doctor will sometimes wear a string of teeth around his neck as trophies of his skill. In cases of outward pain they always apply the actual cautery. Inoculation has been practised among them for centuries; the part operated upon being the nose. Vaccination has been but lately introduced.
Diseases of the eyes are very common, and are caused in a great measure by the practice of having the eyes cleansed by the barbers. After a man has been shaved, he will ask the barber to clean his eyes. The barber turns up the eyelids, and rubs the eye with a small instrument, on the end of which is some down on a piece of feather rolled in the shape of a ball. Inflammation frequently ensues, and the person not knowing the cause will sometimes seek relief in a repetition of the operation. · The general diseases of China are much the same as in other countries. Consumption is not so common as with us. The cholera raged as much in China as it did here. Leprosy is confined to the southern part of the country: it is not known in Chusan, but is very common in Canton.
THE AMUSEMENTS of the Chinese are peaceful: they have no duels, nor horseracing; and fighting and boxing are unknown. They are