Page images

miniature kitchens, in which roasting, frying, and other culinary opera tions were constantly carried on, at ridiculously low prices.

But let us turn from these material matters to the more exalted sphere of learning and industry. Shoe, hat, and cap shops, glass manufactories, tin, iron, and knife-warehouses stood in long rows; silk, linen, and cotton goods occupied large numbers of the shops ; the porcelain and tea maga. zines were to be found in another quarter, and the curiosity shops had also their peculiar locality. There were several streets in which smokingcaps were exclusively sold. Every Chinese, of every age, wears a smoking-cap, and they are to be had of the simplest as well as the most magnificent materials. Books were exposed for sale, some under a shed;

a some in the very street itself alongside of the houses. As they are almost all stereotyped, and printed upon such thin paper that the leaves are generally double, the cost of literary productions is a mere trifle ; there fore the Chinese is a very reading nation, and its authors well known and appreciated. The women read an immense number of romances.

One wandered, as it were, through an enchanted spot; at every step one stumbled upon something new. Strange as it may seem, I can aver that amidst the Chinese articles exhibited for sale, I have seen things the equal of which scarcely any country could produce; and when it is remembered that these are manufactured by a people who, for thousands of years, have possessed the same skill and accomplishments, one is lost in astonishment, and can scarcely believe one's own eyes. What luxury and refinement must there not be in the community which absorbs all these things, or rather, among whom they become distributed. Only the refuse of these productions go to the rich and the great of Europe. We look with surprise at the power which the voluptuous Romans possessed of surrounding themselves with all that could please the eye, the taste, in fact, every one of the senses, and we must acknowledge that we are bat tyros in comparison with them. Among the Chinese alone do we find their equals in these respects. And what shall we not further know of them when their career shall be more freely revealed to us ?

Behind the commercial quarter were to be found wider streets, which were appropriated to the private dwellings of the Chinese. None of the windows looked to the street, and the gate, lighted by the well-known Chinese paper lanterns, was always so closely shut, that not a glance could penetrate to the sanctuary within. That many of these houses contained large establishments, might be supposed from the number of servants who loitered about, as indolent and idle as many of their colleagues in Europe.

The Chinese are a religious people at, least externally so, for they have numerous rituals and ceremonies. There is no boat however wretched, no hut however poor, in which will not be found a little temple with a pot-bellied, grinning efoss," before which coloured lights and pastilles are burned. At the dawn of day, the lamps were lighted with gold paper, and the noise of the gongs commenced. Peeping out of my boat, where I generally passed the night, I beheld, at that early hour, the families in every little craft around on their knees before their gods, making offerings of gold, ineense, and myrrh, represented by gold paper, joss-sticks, and gunpowder-smoke ; and when a little later in the morning I strolled up to the town, I saw everywhere Chinese with folded hands before their household gods, mumbling prayers, which, I doubt not, were as little comprehensible to themselves as to me. It is only in the "joss-houses,” however, that the ministers of religion are to be found, not at certain periods alone, but at all hours of the day. These joss-houses are distinguished by a great deal of decoration, and they are filled with all sorts of idols. The oft-mentioned “Honan Temple” was the most remarkable that fell under my observation. After having passed through an outer court, planted with alleys of fig-trees—not such as are known to us, but of a gigantic size-one perceived four temples with an area of about fifty paces. In the first of these temples, which resembled a large portico, were to be seen two, and in the second four, idols. They were colossal, almost as high as the houses, and were represented in the most extraordinary attitudes. One looked very mild and quiet, and was white in the face; another was seemingly amusing himself by playing on a lute, and the music appeared to have stirred his blood, for his cheeks were of the deepest red; a third had his fist clenched, as if in a fearful rage, and looked as if he had been engaged in a fray with the terrible Titans, and as if his face had turned blue in the struggle. After having passed through these idol-barracks, one arrived at the inner temple, in which were rows of gilded idols enthroned in uniform majesty. They reminded me of the Egyptian idols and sphynxes. Altars, that resembled shopcounters, were covered with large vases of flowers, chafing dishes, josssticks, lamps and candles, while long red curtains, written over with religious mottoes, hung before them. The fourth temple was like the third, except that besides the large hall, with its gilded gods in ranks, there were also side tabernacles, in one of which I observed a colossal figure, very like the Madonna of the Roman Catholics, holding a babe in swaddling clothes in her maternal arms.

The priests reside in chambers in side buildings. They seem to be the laziest, dirtiest pack that can be. Clad in wide, steel-coloured garments, with a large cowl and yellow scarf, and sandals under their naked feet, they have great difficulty in holding up the rags which are continually twisting round their legs; and their nasty dwellings also bear witness to their indolence and want of cleanliness. In a corner of the lofty building I perceived a walled enclosure in which the sacred swine, disgusting creatures, scarcely able to move from fat, lay grunting. These swine are left to die a natural death, and their bones are burned like those of the priests. I saw also the kitchen, with its enormous pots, and the refectory, with its long, narrow tables; but all-provisions and arrangemeuts

-were equally repulsive. The priests are not permitted to eat either flesh or fish, or anything that has had life, only vegetables ; and abstention, even from work or anxiety of mind, is a rule among their order. Processions are very common in China. I did not witness any of the grandest ones on the festival days, but in those on ordinary occasions were introduced grotesque figures of dragons, fish, oxen, and idols made of pasteboard, and gaudily painted. These tasteful productions are renewed from time to time, the old ones being burned.

The state religion in China, as is well known, is the doctrine of “Kong-fu-tsés" (Confucius)—a moral philosophy quite as sagacious and efficient as those of many other founders of religion-resting upon the

and may

principle of paternal authority and power as the groundwork and tenure of the existence and integrity of the Chinese Empire. This has prevailed for upwards of 2500 years,

last for thousands of

years to

come, as its leading dogma is one adapted to the ideas of mankind in general, and consequently finds favour among them. However, the doctrines of Buddha have the most disciples, and no religion on earth can boast of so many. One of the rulers of China dreamed once upon a time, says tradition, that a new spiritual light had appeared in the West, and on awaking, he sent envoys to inquire about and to introduce this new faith into his kingdom. In India they met with Buddha, and thus arose Buddhaism, which, with amazing rapidity, spread itself over immeasurable tracts. And that was to be expected. What Roman Catholicism is in the West, Buddhism is in the East-a worship full of feeling, fancy, and ease of conscience; flattering the external senses, and lulling the inind into a trance of comfort and contentment, in which everything is allowable. The affinity between them is striking. Monastic life, and gormandising monks, celibacy, begging of alms, fasting and long prayers, rosaries, holy water, lamps always lighted, incense, masses for the souls of the dead, and remission of sins in the old well-known form--all these blessings the Chinese as well as the Catholics enjoy.

History shows that when the Jesuits, some centuries ago, commenced their labours in China, they found the soil so well prepared, that they converted the emperor himself, and one of the princesses ; they speedily seized on the principal offices of the state, and lived in magnificent style, until the whole fabric of Catholicism was suddenly upset by their too daring schemes. Christianity is now no longer tolerated, and the missionaries labour under heavy disadvantages. It is now, however, believed that the Jesuits are beginning again to raise their heads, and it is not improbable that they will gradually recover some influence.

There is also in China another religious sect, founded by “ Laotse," a sort of religion of reason, and yet full of mysticism, alchemy, and other absurdities, but admitting the immortality of the soul. The, to the lower classes, incomprehensible doctrines of this sect, are not popular; the priesthood are opposed to it, and it is also deemed, in a political point of view, a suspicious and dangerous party.


MESSERE's Hôtel d'Angleterre is a large, clean, and comfortable house, situated in perhaps the liveliest part of Pera, at the confluence of four great thoroughfares; those from Tophanah and Galata being the most crowded. The arrangements in it are different to those of other hotels; the charge for each person is eighteen francs a day, exclusive of wine, beer, and candles, and for this only two meals are provided: one a breakfast, well furnished with meat, fish, eggs, honey, &c., but with execrable bread-and-butter, begins at eight o'clock in the morning, and remains on the table till noon; the other, a very fair dinner, takes place at half-past six. Besides these, except in cases of illness, Messeri allows no food to be had for love or money; and although while we were there we found him civil and obliging, he has the character of being very much the reverse to those who in any way venture to oppose his will. The room we occupied had a large bow-window, furnished with cushions, and from it the view of the Turkish population was strange and varied. Amongst the many figures constantly passing, the hamals or porters are the most striking; by them every species of luggage, from a lady's carpet-bag to packing-cases large enough to contain the furniture of a small house, is carried. Scarcely anything seems too much for the back of a hamal. Where the burden is really too heavy for one to carry it is slung on poles, the ends of which are poised on the shoulders of the hamals; sometimes two, sometimes four, are necessary to convey very heavy burdens. They go along the narrow filthy streets in a sort of trot, making way for no one, and giving an authoritative shout if the passage through the centre of the street be not cleared for them as soon as they arrive. But the ever-flowing tide of passers by Messeri's does not consist only of hamals. A guard-house is just opposite, and through the open window a Turkish officer is seen, unwillingly rising from a very dirty sofa to receive a detachment of soldiers, who come to relieve a couple of sentinels keeping watch beneath an hour-glass. They have already taken it down and shaken it well once or twice while I have been looking, whether for something to do, or from an idea of so shortening the term of their guard, I know not. The water-carriers, with their tinkling bells to attract notice, the melon-vendors, and men with delicatelooking cakes made of rice and curd, beggars exhibiting every kind of deformity and misery by which they can hope to elicit charity—these mingle with groups of grave Armenian priests and Turkish dervishes, whose sombre robes contrast well with the gay-coloured ferigees of the women, who, wearing a yashmak so transparent that it only softens, not conceals, their general ugliness, shuffle ungracefully along in their yellow boots and slippers. Suddenly rude cries are heard, and the crowd is dispersed by the arrival of a train of mules or donkeys tied together, and bearing baskets of bricks and sand, or long planks of wood, one end trailing on the ground, the other just high enough to knock down any one who does not get quickly out of their way; or perhaps a most extraordinary carriage, like nothing one has ever seen in England, except



[ocr errors]


in the toy Lord Mayor's procession, which delighted one's childhood, when the civic dignitary and his lady were seated in a chariot of bright pink ornamented with gold; much such a carriage as this, drawn by a single horse, which is led, not driven, by a blaek servant, jolts over the stones. It has dark-eyed ladies within, sitting on cushions ; but they must make


for fat pasha, in his red fez, who comes on horseback, with his servant running at his side. And frequently, amid this throng of the living, the low chant of the priests in a funeral procession is heard, and the corpse, dressed in its ordinary apparel, and lying with its face and hands exposed on a sort of sofa, is carried along. This is, generally, a most unpleasing spectacle ; but once, while I was at Messeri's, there passed the corpse of a young fair girl, who, dressed in white, with lilies and other flowers strewed over her, was borne as if in a soft sleep to the grave. The bodies are lowered without any coffin into the grave, and a board is placed slantingly over them to prevent the earth from pressing upon them.

Galata may be called the Wapping of Pera; here the merchants of Constantinople have their warehouses, the European custom-house is here, and a large portion of the population appears to consist of dirty boatmen and sailors. It would be difficult to describe the filth and confusion of the streets which lead from Pera to Galata. Constantinople is said not to have been cleansed, except by the dogs, within the memory of man; and I can vouch for the sojourn of a dead kitten, not, I suppose, tempting to the palate of these canine seavengers, in one of the most crowded thoroughfares, during the three weeks of my stay in Pera. The dogs of Constantinople, although much thinned by the French during the war-time, are still too numerous a part of its population not to have a little said of them. They are nearly all alike in size and colour-a sort of mongrel dun-coloured mastiff. All bear traces of the “might makes right” life they lead. They are covered with old and recent sears. During the day they lie sleeping about the streets, and scarcely take the trouble to move out of the way, till a tread from a horse or a kiek from its leader sends them howling off; they are gentle, too, and thankfully receive seraps of food that are given them; at night, however, their energies are fully developed, the noise they make then is terrific; and any one who has once heard a nocturnal dog-concert in Constantinople, can well account for the lassitude and wounded state of the combatants the next morning.

Soon after leaving Messeri's, on the way to Galata, the remains of the convent of dancing dervishes is passed; the greater part of it has been destroyed by fire, but the tombs of their sheiks if the word tomb may be given to a wooden box in the shape of a large dog-kennel covered with green baize have been preserved, and stand in a room with windows towards the street. About midway between Messeri's and Galata an old Genoese gateway crosses the street ; above this the shops on either side of the way are European, principally French and Greek. Below the gateway real Turkish life begins : 'shops disappear; the road, which has before been steep, narrow, and uneven, becomes all these in a superlative degree; the stones seem as if they had designedly been placed at every angle but the right one with each other. The crowd thickens. Hamals,


« PreviousContinue »