« НазадПродовжити »
[Old Stco« u Pco-too ]
home on the small and solitary island where their remains are now reposing.
Having made copies of the characters, I went onwards down the hill, in the direction of a large group of temples. At the bottom of the hill, and in front of the temples, there is a pretty lake filled with the Nelumbium, which was now in full bloom. As I came near, I observed a Chinaman fishing in the lake. This rather surprised me, as the Buddhists in this part of China do not take the life of any animal, and never eat animal food,—at least such is their proChap. XX. A TRESPASSER. 349
fession. The man evidently knew he was doing wrong, and was hiding behind the pillars of a bridge which is here thrown over the lake. His occupation, however, was soon put a stop to in a most laughable manner. At a little distance on the other side of the bridge stood a group of men whose long flowing garments and shaved tailless heads denoted that they belonged to the Buddhist priesthood. They were evidently watching the movements of the angler with considerable anxiety and interest. At last one of their number, with a bamboo in his hand, left the others and moved towards the bridge by a circuitous route, so as not to be observed by the man who was fishing. The priest managed this so cleverly that he was on the bridge and by the side of the angler before the latter knew that he had been observed; indeed the first intimation he received of his being discovered was from the bamboo, which the priest did not fail to lay pretty smartly over his shoulders.
This scene was now most laughable to all except the trespasser. He seemed at first inclined to turn upon his assailant, but the priest, who was a stout young fellow, laid the bamboo on without mercy. The other priests were also fast coming upon the scene of action. When the delinquent observed them, he evidently considered that "discretion was the better part of valour," and took to his heels, running up the hill with the whole party of priests in full chase after him. He would most likely have been caught, had not my appearance on the scene attracted the notice of his pursuers.
As soon as the priests saw me they gave up the pursuit, and, coming up to me, received me with much politeness, and asked me to visit the temples. In the mean time the unfortunate angler was making the best of his way over the hills in the direction of the sea. Having returned the salutations of the priests, I asked them to explain the cause of the extraordinary scene which I had just witnessed. They informed me that the man I had seen was a thief and a pirate, who had come from some of the neighbouring islands to fish in the sacred lake and kill their fishes!
I now walked down to the lake accompanied by the priests. No flower could be more beautiful or more majestic than the Nelumbium was at this season. As I stood on the little romantic bridge I looked to the right and left; my eye rested on thousands of these flowers, some of which were white, others red, and all were rising out of the water and standing above the beautiful clear green foliage. The leaves themselves, as they lay upon the smooth surface of the lake, or stood erect upon long footstalks, were scarcely less beautiful than the flowers, and both harmonized well together. Gold, silver, and other kinds of fishes were seen swimming swiftly to and fro, and apparently enjoying themselves under the shade of the broad leaves, in happy ignorance of the encounter between their protectors and their piratical enemy.
The surrounding scenery was strikingly picturesque. On all sides of the lake were well-wooded hills, whose summits were about fifteen hundred feet
Chap. XX. THE NBLUMBIUM. 351
above the level of the sea. The ancient pile of temples, which covered many acres of land, was situated on the northern side of the lake, while others of a less pretending character were seen peeping out from amongst the trees on every hill-side.
The lake, covered with flowers, the wooded mountains, the ancient temples, and the glorious flood of light which was scattered over the scene from a clear sky, made one almost fancy oneself in some scene of enchantment.
In the garden of a mandarin at Ning-po I once observed a very beautiful variety of the Nelumbium, different from the red and white kinds already noticed, and which I may distinguish by the name of N. vittatum, its flowers being finely striped. It was evidently extremely rare in that part of China, so rare indeed that I could not succeed in procuring a plant to send to England.
Although these plants are generally grown in the stove when their cultivation is attempted in this country, they are fitted by nature to endure a very low degree of temperature in winter. They are abundant in all parts of the province of Kiang-nan, at Shanghae, Soo-chow, and Nanking, where the winters are very severe. The ponds and lakes are often frozen up, and the thermometer frequently sinks to within a few degrees of zero. During the spring and summer months the plants form and perfect their leaves, flowers, and fruit; in autumn, all the parts which are visible above water gradually decay, and nothing is left in a living state except the large roots, which remain buried deep in the mud, and they continue in a dormant state until the warmth of spring again calls vegetable life into action. This is the treatment which Nature gives this beautiful plant, and we shall never succeed with its cultivation in this country unless we follow her example. Our summers are probably not hot enough for it to succeed if planted out in our lakes and ponds, but, if we find it necessary to give it artificial heat in summer, we must not forget that it requires a period of rest during winter. In China the lotus-ponds are generally nearly dry in winter, when the plants are in a state of rest; this is another point for our consideration when we cultivate them artificially.
The Nelumbium, or Lien-wha, is cultivated very extensively in China for the sake of its roots, which are esteemed an excellent vegetable, and are much used by all classes of the community. The roots attain their largest size at the period when the leaves die off; and are dug up and brought to market during the winter months in the north of China. The stalls of the greengrocers are always loaded with them at that season of the year. Although in high repute amongst the natives, being served up with many of their dishes and forming part of others, I must say that I never liked them, nor are they generally liked by foreigners. An excellent description of arrowroot is made from them, which is considered equal in quality to that which we import from the West Indies. The seeds are also held in high estimation; they are commonly roasted before being served up to table.