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engaged to chant masses for the dead, offerings of food presented, and large quantities of paper representing clothes are burned, in order that they may pass into the other world for the use of the departed. On these occasions may be seen representations of the future state of the Budhists, with the torments of the damned, and the various gradations of misery and happiness in the life to come. These celebrations being calculated to bring large numbers together, appear to consist in a great measure of feasting and entertainment; and they are said to have arisen from some tradition of a young man who went down to the nether world to bring back, not his wife, but (what is much more suitable to Chinese sentiment) his mother. According to the story, this Asiatic Orpheus was more successful than the Thracian.
We proceed now to their ordinary usages in social intercourse. The importance which the Chinese attach to ceremonies might perhaps be supposed to produce in them a constrained stiffness and formality of manner ; but, notwithstanding the apparent incumbrance of ceremony prescribed on solemn occasions, our embassies have proved that persons of high authority and station are distinguished generally in their address by a dignified simplicity and ease. This does not, however, prevent their laying a great stress on precedence, especially on public occasions, where the spectators are numerous ; and in the case of foreign embassies they will always do their utmost to maintain (as they think) the superiority of their own court by placing themselves before their guests. The following extract, from Sir George Staunton's unpublished journal of the last embassy, is in point : A
had come from the legate to say, that as the passage of the next sluice on the canal was attended with some risk, the ambassador had better go on shore, and that he should be ready to receive his lordship in a tent on
the following morning. To this it was returned for answer, that if it was proposed to meet on any particular business, the ambassador would attend; but that otherwise he begged to decline it, having observed that the legate always assumed the highest seat, although in his visits to the ambassador the first place had invariably been given to him. Kuâng Tajin replied by saying, that he did this merely because his situation obliged him : word was accordingly sent that his Excellency would be glad to meet the Pooching-sse, or treasurer, whose station did not oblige him to assume the highest seat. In the morning, after breakfast, three chairs arrived for the ambassador and commissioners, and on their way they crossed the sluice, which was to be passed by their boats, over a temporary range of boards. Immediately on the other side stood the tent, a neat structure of coloured cloth in stripes, which we were requested by the attendants to enter, and take our seats. The legate, attended by the treasurer, soon came in, and after conversing for a short time on their legs, the ambassador requested that Kuâng-Tajin would sit down, saying he would wave all claims as a guest to the first place. The legate upon this proceeded to the first seat, and the treasurer, without the least ceremony, walked towards the second. On this the ambassador desired it might be intimated, that though he was ready yield to the one, he would not consent to sit below the other; and the treasurer, rather than take the third place, marched out of the tent.”
This incivility to Europeans is the more unpardonable, as among themselves it is the rule in general, during visits, to contend for the lowest seat, and they would be heartily ashamed of the opposite ill-breeding towards each other; but they view strangers as an inferior caste altogether. Their arm-chairs are always ranged in regular order, and being very bulky and
solid, like our old-fashioned seats of former times, they are not easily removed. In Chinese apartments there is placed a broad couch, in size approaching to a bed, called a kâng. On the middle of this is planted a little table about a foot in height, intended to rest the arm, or place tea-cups upon.
On either side of this little table, on the couch, sit the two principal persons, fronting the entrance; and from the ends of the couch, at right angles to it, descend two rows of arm-chairs for the other guests, who sit nearest to the couch, according to their rank.
When any one proceeds in his chair to pay a visit, his attendants present his ticket at the gate, consisting of his name and titles written down the middle of a folded sheet of red paper, ornamented with gold leaf; and there is sometimes enough paper in these, when opened out like a screen, to extend across a room. If the visitor is in mourning, his ticket white, with blue letters. According to the relative rank of the parties, the person visited comes out a greater or less distance to receive his guest, and, when they meet; their genuflexions, and endeavours to prevent the same, are also according to rule. These matters are all so well understood by those who are bred up to them, that they occasion no embarrassment whatever to the Chinese. The ordinary salutation among equals is to join the closed hands, and lift them two or three times towards the head, saying, Haoutsing, tsing ; that is, “ Are you well ?—Hail, hail !” Hence is derived, we believe, the Canton jargon of chin-chin.
Soon after being seated, the attendants invariably enter with porcelain cups furnished with covers, in each of which, on removing the little saucer by which it is surmounted, appears a small quantity of fine tea-leaves, on which boiling water has been poured; and thus it is that they drink the infusion, without
the addition of either sugar or milk. The delicate aroma of fine tea is no doubt more clearly distinguished in this mode of taking it, and a little habit leads many Europeans in China to relish the custom. Though the infusion is generally made in the cup, they occasionally use teapots of antique and tasteful shapes, which are not unfrequently made of tutenague externally, covering earthenware on the inside. At visits, a circular japanned tray is frequently brought in, having numerous compartments radiating from the centre, in which are a variety of sweetmeats or dried fruits. These are taken up with a small two-pronged fork of silver. On the conclusion of a visit, the host conducts his guest, if he wishes to do him high honour, even to his sedan, and there remains until he is carried off; but on ordinary occasions it is deemed sufficient to go as far as the top of the stone steps, if there are any, or merely to the door of the apartment.
Only mandarins, or official persons, can be carried by four bearers, or accompanied by a train of attendants : these are marshalled in two files before the chair. One pair of the myrmidons carry gongs, on
which they strike at regular intervals; another pair utter, likewise at intervals, a long drawn shout, or rather yell, to denote the approach of the great man; a third pair carry chains, which they jingle in concert, being in fact gaolers or executioners, with high caps of iron wire, in which is stuck a grey feather. Then come two fellows with the usual bamboo, or bastinade; and the cortège is made up by the servants and other followers, some of whom carry red umbrellas of dignity, others large red boards, on which are inscribed in gilt characters the officer's titles. The populace who meet such a procession are not to denote their respect in any other way than by standing aside, with their arms hanging close to their sides, and their eyes on the ground. It is only when called, or taken, before a tribunal, that they are obliged to kneel; and these are occasions which most Chinese are not very willing to seek.
English residents at Canton have occasionally had opportunities of taking a part in the formal dinners of the Chinese; but few have witnessed a solemn feast conferred by the Emperor, which may be described from an unpublished journal of the last embassy. “The ambassador informed the gentlemen of his suite, that he was going to perform the same salutation of respect, before the yellow screen, that he was accustomed to make to the vacant throne of his Sovereign in the House of Lords. We were directed to keep our eyes on him, and do exactly as he did. A low, solemn hymn of not unpleasing melody now commenced, and at the voice of a crier, the two imperial legates fell prostrate three times, and each time thrice struck the floor with their foreheads; a cranio-verberative sound being audible amidst the deep silence which prevailed around. The ambassador and his suite, standing up in the mean while, made nine profound bows. Thus far we had got