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very well over the ground, without doing that which no representative of Chinese majesty ever condescended to do to a foreigner, until Genghis Khân first made them. They
here conceded to us the point on which they broke off with Count Golovkin, the Russian ambassador, though they yielded it to Lord Macartney.
“When the ceremony was over, the feast was brought in, and the theatrical entertainments commenced. The legates sat to the left, on an elevation of one step; and the ambassador and two commissioners on the same elevation to the right. The other Chinese grandees sat on the left, a little below the legates; and the gentlemen of the embassy to the right, below his lordship and the commissioners. The two lines thus faced each other down the room. As no chairs can be used where the Emperor is present, or supposed to be so, the whole party sat cross-legged on cushions, with sartorial precision; but the mandarins, being bred to the trade, of course had the advantage of us. The tables were low in proportion, and, when we were all seated, a number of attendants placed or each table, holding only two guests, a large tray which fitted it, and contained a complete course, of which four in all were served. The first consisted of a rich soup; the second of sixteen round and narrow dishes containing salted meats and other relishes; the third of eight basins of birds'-nests, sharks'-fins, deer-sinews, and other viands supposed to be highly nourishing; the fourth of twelve bowls of stews immersed in a rich soup. The guests helped themselves with chopsticks, small spoons of porcelain fashioned like a child's pap-boat, and four-pronged forks of silver, small and straight; and when they drank to each other, the warm wine was poured into little cups by the attendants, who at the same time bent one knee.
“ At the other end of the hall where we sat, so as to
be viewed by each person from his place down the two ranges of tables, proceeded the stage performances. The music was infernal, and the occasional crash of gongs might have roused Satan and his legions from their sleep on the sulphureous lake. technic monsters, breathing fire and smoke, were among the dramatis personæ; but by far the best part of the scene was the tumbling,-really superior in its kind. The strength and activity of one man were particularly eminent. Leaping from the ground, he performed a somerset in the air backwards, and, after the first effort continued to revolve in this manner with such velocity, that his head and feet, the extremities of revolution, were scarcely discernible.”
An invitation to a private feast is conveyed some days before, by a crimson-coloured ticket, on which is inscribed the time appointed, and the guest is entreated to bestow “ the illumination of his presence.” The arrangement of the tables is the same as at the imperial entertainment, but they are of the ordinary height, and the party are seated on chairs, two at each table, so as to see the performances on the stage. The material of the dinner is much the same as before described; but, previous to its commencement, the host standing up drinks to his guests, and then invites them to begin upon the dishes before them. At a certain period of the entertainment, towards the close, the whole party rise at once, and drink to their host. Before the dramatic performance begins, one of the actors presents to the principal guest a list of plays, consisting perhaps of fifty or sixty different pieces; but they have these so well by heart that they are ready to perform any one he may select. There is no scenery, and in this respect a great deal is left to the imagination of the spectators. The dresses, however, are extremely splendid, especially in heroical pieces, consisting of representations of
FEASTS AND ENTERTAINMENTS.
different portions of their ancient history. The most objectionable part is the terrible din kept up by the instruments of music and the gongs, during those portions of the play which represent battles and tragical scenes.
The females of the household, mean while, who cannot take a part in the festivities of the table, look on from behind a trellis-work at one of the sides of the stage, with such of their friends of the same sex as may be invited on the occasion. A particular description of the Chinese drama will be given in its proper place; but we may observe here, that dancing is a thing almost entirely unknown to them, either on or off the stage. On one occasion, indeed, in the interval or space between the ranges of tables, we saw two children, showily dressed, go through a species of minuet, consisting of a regular figure to slow time, accompanied by a motion of the arms and head not ungraceful in effect.
A formal dinner, which begins about six o'clock in the evening, is generally protracted to a great length, the succession of dishes, or rather bowls, which follow each other appearing sometimes to be interminable. So little, however, is eaten of each, that the guests often continue tasting the contents of one after another until the very end. There seems to be little regularity in the timing of the different viands, but after the birds'-nest-soup (which is, in fact, a strong chicken-broth, in which that substance is introduced in long strips, after the manner of vermicelli,) the peculiar delicacies which have already been mentioned, together with mutton, fish, game, and poultry, follow indiscriminately. The signal of the repast approaching its termination is the appearance of a bowl of rice for each person, and this is followed soon after by tea, in lieu of the wine.
The whole is crowned by a course of fruits and sweetmeals, very much in the manner of our dessert.
The greater portion of cups, bowls, and saucers (for they have no flat plates of their own), which constitute the dinner service, consist of fine porcelain ; but occasionally a few particular meats are served in silver or tutenague covers, under which is a spiritlamp to keep them hot. The wine-cups, too, are sometimes of silver gilt, and of rather elegant vaselike shapes. The extreme smallness of these cups, joined to the weakness of the wine, which is always drank warm, enables them to take a great number without being in the least affected, or at all exceeding the bounds of sobriety. On some occasions of peculiar ceremony, the feast is closed by a great cup scooped from the horn of the rhinoceros, which animal is said to exist in the forests of Yunnan and Kuâng-sy. We find in the works of Arabian writers that the same substance has often been used for the drinking-cups of Asiatic potentates, being supposed to sweat on the approach of poison, and therefore to be a safeguard against it. When the Mongols conquered the empire, they probably introduced its use into China.
The following description of a Chinese dinner, from the pen of our friend Captain Laplace of the French navy, although, rather a long extract, is given with so much of the characteristic vivacity of his countrymen, and so well conveys the first impression of a scene not often witnessed by Europeans, that it is introduced without further apology. “ The first course was laid out in a great number of saucers of painted porcelain, and consisted of various relishes in a cold state, as salted earthworms, prepared and dried, but so cut up, that I fortunately did not know what they were until I had swallowed them; salted
or smoked fish, and ham, both of them cut into extremely small slices ; besides which, there was what they called Japan leather, a sort of darkish skin, hard and tough, with a strong and far from agreeable taste, and which seemed to have been macerated for some time in water. All these et-cæteras, including among the number a liquor which I recognized to be soy, made from a Japan bean, and long since adopted by the wine-drinkers of Europe to revive their faded appetites or tastes, were used as seasoning to a great number of stews which were contained in bowls, and succeeded each other uninterruptedly. All the dishes without exception swam in soup. On one side figured pigeons' eggs, cooked in gravy, together with ducks and fowls cut very small, and immersed in a dark coloured sauce; on the other, little balls made of sharks' fins, eggs prepared by heat, of which both the sinell and taste seemed to us equally repulsive, immense grubs, a peculiar kind of sea-fish, crabs, and pounded shrimps.
“ Seated at the right of our excellent amphitryon*, I was the object of his whole attention, but nevertheless found myself considerably at a loss how to use the two little ivory sticks, tipped with silver, which, together with a knife that had a long, narrow, and thin blade, formed the whole of my eating apparatus. I had great difficulty in seizing my prey in the midst of those several bowls filled with gravy: in vain I tried to hold, in imitation of my host, this substitute for a fork between the thumb and the two first fingers of the right hand; for the cursed chopsticks slipped aside every moment, leaving behind
* To some of our readers it may be necessary to explain that this word is used in French to express host, from the following popular verse :
6. Le veritable Amphitryon est l' Amphitryon ou l'on dine."