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And yonder by Nankin, behold!
The tower of porcelain, strange and old,
And roofs of tile, beneath whose eaves
ISLANDS OF THE CHINESE EMPIRE.
BRIEF glance at some of the islands belonging to China may not prove uninteresting. They may be set down at about forty in number, with an area of 35,000 square miles and a population of 4,500,000. Hainan, Formosa, and the islands of the Chusan Archipelago, are the most important.
Hainan, in the China Sea, between 18 deg. and 20 deg. north latitude, and between 108 deg. and 111 deg. east longitude, has an area of 12,000 square miles and a population of 1,500,000. It is but fifteen miles from the mainland of China, the inhabitants being principally people of that country. The interior is very mountainous, and is said to be a desolate, barren region. The shore country, however, is very fertile, and is cultivated with all the skill of the Chinese agriculturist. Unlike Formosa, there are many good harbors indenting its shores. The products of the land are similar to those already mentioned, ranging from the tropical to those of the more temperate climes.
Formosa, somewhat larger than Hainan, having an area of 15,000 square miles, lies between 21 deg. 58 min. and 25 deg. 15 min. north latitude, and east longitude 120 deg. and 122 deg.; is separated from the mainland by a channel nearly ninety miles in width. The inhabitants, some 2,500,000 in number, are of the Chinese and Malay types.
The island is of evident volcanic origin, many traces of former eruptions being found, but wholly inactive at present. Mountain ranges traverse the land, many of whose peaks are covered with perpetual snow. There are no good harbors, making commerce and navigation to and from Formosa, exceedingly dangerous. The lands, where cultivated, are very productive. Nearly all the fruits of the tropics are grown, with rice, coffee, sugar and tobacco as staples. The forests abound in camphor, cinnamon, ebony and other valuable trees.
Formosa was first made known to Europeans by some returning Spanish seamen who had lost their vessel on the island's rocky shores in 1582.
The fisheries of these two islands are of great value, as also those of the Chusan Archipelago. Immense quantities are taken, cleaned, dried and sold in the markets of China. This valuable interest is not confined alone to these islands, but is of great commercial importance in nearly all of the island groups described.
Like Australia, in the surrounding seas, as many as thirteen hundred species of fish are known.
Dai Niphon, the Japanese Empire, we know of, through history and tradition, as far back as 680 B. c. The island empire is embraced between latitude 23 deg. and 50 deg. north, and longitude 122 deg. and 153 deg. east. Thousands of islands (the official number is stated to be 4,000), stretched over the Asiatic seas, make a landed area of about 250,000 square miles, inhabited by 34,000,000 people.
The island chains and clusters are divided into groups, the more important being named Kurile, Kiushiu, Niphon, Riukiu, Sado, Shikokiu, Yezo, Goto, Oki, Iki, Oshima, Awaji, Hirado, etc.; the most noted cities on which are Tokio (formerly Yedo), Kioto, Ozaka, Nagoya, Hiroshuma, Sagii, Kagoshuma, Kanagawa, Samoda, etc.
Our first knowledge of Japan was through the celebrated Venetian traveler, Marco Polo, who visited the empire in the thirteenth century. At a more modern period we hear of them through the efforts of the Catholic missionaries, and again from the Dutch explorer, Kaempfer. It remained, however, almost a terra incognita until 1854, when the United States, through the efforts of Commodore Perry, succeeded in making a commercial treaty that opened up the isolated empire to the trade of the world.
The islands of Japan were probably peopled by the Chinese in 1ooo B. C.—many traces of whom are to be found in the language, manners, religion, customs and agriculture of the Japanese to-day. The art of navigation, also, was well understood by them for many centuries.
As early as the sixteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Suizin, 81 B. c, merchant ships and ships of war are spoken of as being built in Japan.
In the early periods their vessels must have been greatly superior in form and build to those of the present day. In fact, they were and are mariners of no mean order, and through this circumstance alone, if we add the storms, favoring winds and the ocean currents of the Kuro Shiwo in the north, and the Peruvian currents in the south, the peopling of North and South America can be traced back to the Japanese and Chinese.
The disappearance of Japanese vessels off of their coast, with their crews, never to return, whether through accident or design, have become so frequent as to require an imperial decree to check it. Under the reign of Shogoon Irzemitsu, about 1639, an edict was issued commanding the destruction of all boats built on any foreign model, and forbade the building of vessels of any size or shape superior to that of the present junk. By the imperial decree of 1637, Japanese who had left their country and been abroad were not allowed to return, death being the penalty for traveling abroad, studying foreign languages, introducing foreign customs or believing in Christianity.
About this time all junks were ordered to be built with open sterns and large square rudders, unfit for ocean navigation, as it was hoped thereby to keep the. people isolated within their own islands. Once forced from the coast by stress of weather, these rudders are soon washed away, when the vessels naturally fall off into the trough of the sea and roll their masts out. The number, of which no record exists which have thus suffered during the last nineteen centuries, must be very large, probably many thousand vessels.
(Brooks on Japanese Wrecks.)
The topograpical features of Japan must of a necessity vary a great deal. Being a country wholly composed of islands, large and small, the physical features of mountains, valleys, lakes and streams, have not that extent and grandeur of older and larger countries. The rivers for this reason are not long, broad or of very great depth, and therefore inland navigation is not much in vogue. However .some of the mountain ranges are very prominent, notably the volcanic peak of Fugisan, with an altitude of 14,000 feet, in the regions of perpetual snow.
Geologically, the position of most of the islands is of so uneasy a foundation that a popular tradition of the Japanese, locates their empire on the back of a huge catfish. To the uneasy and angry