Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

dust complexions, clear blue eyes, and auburn whiskers of the pur sang Anglo-Saxon. But whether the theory be true or false, or true and false in part, it is certain that in Hong-Kong we see no wildness or savageness in the people ; in no other of our oriental possessions is the native so polite, civilised, and bien réglée, though after a fashion of his own. True, the streets swarin with patives, but all decently clothed, the better classes in long decorous robes which conceal even their finger ends; all indeed have shaven heads and pigtails, but all have white faces, polite, quiet, ceremonious manners, and literary habits and tastes, in their respective grades ; all speak more or less English, while the English who speak Chinese are indeed rara aves in terris ; over all flies the Union Jack, and though the gulf between the two peoples has not yet been bridged by any competent architect, still over all is some impress of that great nation of which may be written with greater truth the distich made of other men in other times,

Die Nuremberger's Hand

Gelt durch alle Land. and of which, with all her faults, we are justly proud of being citizens. Fur, despite the pig-tails, junks and joss-houses, who can deny that we are on English soil? The Great Briton is here in all his ugly glory, stately, starched, uncomfortable and respectable, black chimney-pot on head. The immature Britisher, in his native stuck-up and overdressed ‘swell' variety, or his colonial underdressed impudent—or, rarer still, the quiet gentlemanly species, in whom the land trusts for the obliteration of the evil effects of the other two. On the cricket-ground swarms all day the golden youth, producing as end and aim of much study, expense and toil - the recoil of a stuffed ball from a wooden bat! yet earning health and enjoyment, if it were not for the too-frequent hovering between the wickets and the inevitable drink-tent, which latter, I think, has not yet come in for its due share of consideration at the council-fires of muscular Christianity." There is, in a valley to the eastward, level ground enough for a race-course, and here, in this rocky little island, where horses are kept only for show and "racing," have we at due

" seasons a miniature Goodwood or Epsom, where for the time concentrates the whole British interest of horse-lovers, money-lovers, fashion-lovers, idlers, and blacklegs; where poor gamblers are ruined, unscrupulous ones enriched, and good horses spoiled, even as at home! But it is unlike Britain, that though foxes have been seen in the Happy Valley, and horses and dogs might be imported, the sporting fancy has done notbing in this direction at Hong-Kong, though pigeon matches, with glorious slaughter of tame blue-rocks, do occasionally come off and are highly betted on.

The chief, and, as far as Europeans are concerned, the only, town in the island, where almost the entire population is concentrated, lies along the beach and slopes of the hills on the northern side. With the usual unfortunate official toadyism, it has been

[ocr errors]

named “ Victoria," adding another item to the confusion caused by the long list of places similarly designated; but it really seems unnecessary to call it by any other name than that of the island itself, and such indeed is the colloquial practice; it is only in official

. manifestoes that the inhabited town is named differently from the half-dozen barren hills of which it is capital. Indeed, in this point of naming places, we have been as unfortunate here as elsewhere, and from the same national vice, the village known as Chichu, locally pronounced Chikchu, on the south, has been transformed into

Stanley," a word diflicult for Chinese to utter, and by no means as distinctive as the native appelation ; She pai hwan," Stone tablet bay ” has been altered, but not improved, into " Aberdeen,” even as the irish Cove and Dunleary have been compelled by what snobs mistake for loyalty, to abandon their old appelations and become merged into the undistinguishable multitude of Kingstowns and Queenstowns. The European houses of this town of Hong-Kong are very different to the normal street architecture of our native land. The only real climatic enemy to be withstood is heat; the houses are consequently built separately, instead of side by side, with spacious verandalis, large doors and windows, and generally as many openings as possible for ingress and egress of air. The rooms are few in number, but lofty and spacious, and generally cooled by swinging punkahs. Many are on an almost palatial scale externally, but being built of slight brick work and stuccoed over, are less strong and imposing than they seein.

The native houses are fitted for the most part with moveable frames glazed with split oyster shells or glass, which fit in between the posts of the permanent frame work and are removable at pleasure. In the suminer time these edifices, which are often of two or three stories bigh, and handsomely decorated in Chinese style, have all their moveable windows dismounted, till the house is little more than an open-work sunshade. It may hence be conceived that the mean temperature of Hong-Kong is high, and cold almost unknown. There is a tradition that show was once seen on the Peak some twenty years ago; but the fact that the common people do not colloquially distinguish between it and ice, is pretty conclusive evidence of what the usual climate must be. The short winter is enjoyable enough, though warm for our idea of a cold season and at times recalling to mind our croaking proverb that “a green Christmas makes a fat church-yard.” But a summer's dav in Hong-Kong! whew! The sky like a shell of glowing red hot metal, the air motionless, thermometer steady at 95° in the shade – a dazzling glare from the pale yellow streets, the coinbined tortures of prickly heat and excessive perspiration, the noisy ear-rending skirl of the knife-grinder, beetles in the parched trees that line the main thoroughfare or "Queen's Road," converting the ill-humour of the parboiled foreigner into ferocity and making the oppressive leat more palpable -all this, combined with the impossibility of

a

taking sufficient exercise (except to a few demirbashes, cast-iron heads," and teetotallers) so weaken and enervate the foreigner, more especially if he attempts to combat the depressing influence by the seductive but deadly expedient of tippling, as is but too often the case – that his worn-out frame becomes speedily unable to resist the comparative chills and inore active malaria of the autumn, he is seized with intermittent fever or bowel disease, and too frequently in the end adds another denizen to that “silent city," of European dead who sleep so calmly in what is not unfelicitously denounivated the “ Happy Valley."

Hong-Kong has its statistics, no doubt. Are they not written in the many Blue Books, where Dryasdust may find thein, if he looks? Nevertheless, a few general items of useful knowledge" relative to its circumstances and condition may not be altogether irrelevant or uninteresting. It is a little island about twelve iniles long, and six broad at its widest part, situated on the south coast of China, in the province of Kwangtung, and about seventy miles south of the provincial city we call Canton. Its area is under thirty square miles, but practically much less from its billy character. Its population consists of 60 or 70,000, of whom perhaps 5,000 are Europeans, including military and officials, and a few Parsees and other Easterns. The Chinese population is however, of a most unstable and nomadic kind; its number probably remains constant or nearly so, but the individuals composing it are in a state of constant change. About £500,000 worth of English produce is annually consumed in the island, but its value to us arises from its being an entrepot for our trade with China, and not from this cause. Its affairs are managed by a Governor with Executive and Legislative Councils; there are nearly forty Justices of Peace! The number and subdivision of Governmental and other Departments is most remarkable when contrasted with the size and population of the colony ; but with all these and a very large police force, the amount of disorder and unchecked crime is very great. The Chinese, of whom a certain number are respectable colonists, intelligent and responsible, have no representation or share in the Government; though this class of householders are in every respect superior to the “mear whites, grog-shop keepers and such like, who infest the colony and form the larger part of its European population. The Government does not even pretend to rule for the benefit of the Chinese or other settlers; the object of all HongKong institutions is simply the maintenance of well-paid officers out of the taxes, and the aggrandizement of individuals. No public spirit exists, and no attempt has been made to check any of the sources of immorality or vice, their existence being too pecuniarily profitable to the Treasury and the shop-keepers. Hence it does not surprise one that in the business part of the town of “ Victoria” almost every other shop is a licensed grog or opium house, and that the place contains over a hundred registered brothels; since no settler,

[ocr errors]

Chinese or English, proposes to himself to live and die in JongKong; he is there simply to amass money, and that done, he hopes to return to his family, if he survives the uphealthy climate and dissipated habits of the place.

It is situated within the limits of the Chinese Hien or district of Sin Ngan, whose magistrate resides at a walled town about thirty iniles up the Canton river, known to us as Namlow, which, by the way, we assaulted and took in 1858. It is needless to say that one of the inconveniences of the want of permanence and fixiy in the Chinese population of Canton, all of whom hope one day to return to their native districts - is that they continue much onder the influence of this magistrate ; and this was felt in 1857, when an edict compelled all Chinese servants in the employ of English officers to leave their masters, and caused some little inconvenience. No trouble of the sort now exists, and we have even entered into some semi-official communication with the present magistrate; but nothing could be more wanted than an extradition treaty between ourselves and the “ Mandarins” of the neighbouring districts, as at present Hong-Kong is to no small extent peopled by fugitives from criminal justice at Canton and elsewhere, and hence much disorder and outrage occurs, as our police is most inefficiently worked, and an offender has but to cross the harbour in a boat to be - not out of our jurisdiction, for we seldom evince any compunction at outstripping our own limits or trespassing on those of the Chinese-but practically sure of not being pursued. It is very questionable if a Chinese police magistrate, judging according to his own country's laws, though perhaps subject to the Governor's veto or his decision, may not yet be found necessary, if the colony continues to increase, for the management and supervision of the Chinese immigrants; it is certain that our laws, with their delays, quibbles, uncertainties, and reservation of “points" are unfit to restrain Eastern criminals, however powerful their sanctions may be in the west. Some intercourse and co-operation does now and then take place between rur officials and the neighbouring " Mandarins ;" some gun-boat expeditions against “pirates” has been organised in conjunction with the Canton authorities, an officer from that city having visited Hong-Kong for the purpose; some other officers of rank have lately visited the colony unofficially, and a military Hieh-tai or brigadier, named Chang Yutang, who resides at Kaulung (vulgarly pronounced “ Kowloon”) or “the nine dragons” on the opposite side of the harbour (and who is celebrated for his skill in Indian ink drawings, in the native style) exchanges occasional courtesies with our officers; but this entente cordiale is far too limited at present.

The main difficulty in the establishment of such intercourse is one of

routine.It has been arranged (in our war-begotten treaties) that the Governor of Hong-Kong, is to be considered of equal rank with a Tsung-tuh or Chinese Viceroy. In all China there

[ocr errors]

are but eight of those officers, who generally govern two provinces, containing on an average, say forty millions of people. 'Now all the pens, ink and parchment in existence cannot equalize with an officer of this rank the governor of a colony of twelve miles by six ; the result is that the Tsung-tuh cannot and will not communicate more than he can help with the Governor, and the Governor mindful of bis high rank as laid down in treaty, won't communicate with anyone else-or with the inferior magistrates, ("inferior” though governing five hundred square miles on an average) who alone really know or can manage local work-coinmunications are therefore carried on between inferior officials on both sides in an unrecognised yet semi-official and necessary manner-though even then under difficulties, as few of the Chinese officials can speak the local dialect, and the colonial interpreters know no other, so conversation is strained and by no means purified by passing through native interpreters of low birth and no education or social position. This point of etiquette, or dignity, with the difficulty of establishing communications on "terns of equality” between the governors of

" what would be respectively a kingdom, and a small county in Europe, has been the real and ostensible cause of more than one of our many "little wars” in China. It may indeed be a question

" whether the attributing of such high artificial rank to the Governor of a place like Hong-Kong, has not a directly injurious tendency in setting him at too great a height above his people and his work, and may not be an indirect cause of some of the internal failures of adıninistration—the inefficient police, bad social condition, cliquedom and want of cohesion of the white inhabitants, the neglected state of the Chinese, and the incompleteness (so often complained of by the local papers) of the public works ;-when, after costing thousands of dollars, drains are burst, roads destroyed, and embankments washed away by every heavy rainfall. It is possible that the placing of the colony under our Minister at the Court of Peking in all respects, with a mere local chief-inagistrate and immensely reduced establishments and departments, would on the whole work better both as regards internal well-being and foreign relations--though it would no doubt be grievous to local potentates and disappointing to place-hunters and place-bestowers at home. A small foreign colony in the neighbourhood of a large country, weak or strong, is ever an apple of discord; witness Gibraltar, Vancouver's Island, Perim, Singapore, and the Ionian Islands; such outposts are ever aggressive, more especially (anomalous as it may seem) when under civil government.

For some few years little had been heard of Hong-Kong in England, when suddenly the report of the fearful mortality and sickness among the troops there stationed, again attracted public attention. The Island was formerly known as a sickly spot; that it should be so to some extent to unaccliinatised Europeans was not surprising, but the large percentage of deaths and invaliding last

U.S. MAG. No. 447, FEB. 1866.

т

« ПредишнаНапред »