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TRAVELLING BY WATER,
tage of no small consequence, if considered by itself. It is a moving power, precisely on the principle of a fish's tail, from which it is well known that the watery tribes derive nearly all their propelling force, as the fins do little more than serve to balance them. The composition of the two lateral forces, as the tail or the scull is worked to the right and left, of course drives the fish, or the vessel, forward in the diagonal of the forces, according to a well-known principle in mechanics. Although, in the Chinese river craft, there is always a rudder to steer with in sailing, the scull will at any time serve in its stead, by merely shifting
the balance of impulse to either side as required. These sculls are sometimes thirty feet in length, and the friction is reduced to the least possible amount, by the fulcrum being a tenon and mortice of iron, working comparatively on a point.
The track-ropes, made of narrow strips of the strong siliceous surface of the bamboo, combining the greatest lightness with strength, are very exactly described by Marco Polo :-" They have canes of the length of fifteen paces, such as have been already described, which they split in their whole length, into very thin pieces, and these, by twisting them together, they form into ropes 300 paces long: so skilfully are they manufactured that they are equal in strength to cordage made of hemp. With these ropes the vessels are tracked along the river by means of ten or twelve horses to each, as well upwards against the current, as in the opposite direction.” It is remarkable that the very instance, where the practice of the present day differs from this faithful traveller's narrative, may be considered as an additional proof of his general correctness. Horses are not now used to track the Chinese boats, although it may have been the practice under the first Mongol conquerors; but the Emperor's
warrant to each officer specifies a certain number of horses, according to his rank, and men are supplied as trackers, in lieu of horses at the rate of three for each horse. Du Halde gives a very correct account of this in his second volume. The oars which they occasionally use towards the head of their boats, besides the scull abaft, are rather short with broad blades. These are suspended with a loop on a strong peg at the side of the boat, and there is an advantage in its not being always necessary to unship them, as, when useless, they are drawn by the water close to the vessel's side, without any retarding effect. There is, besides, no friction nor any noise in a rullock, and no encumbrance of oars within the boat.
Accominodation-Barge. The travelling barges, used by mandarins and opulent persons, afford a degree of comfort and accommodation quite unknown in boats of the same description elsewhere; but it must be repeateil, that
TRAVELLING BY WATER.
speed is a quality which they do not possess. The roof is not less than seven or eight feet in height, and the principal accommodations consist of an anteroom at the head for servants, a sitting-room about the centre of the boat, and a sleeping apartment and closet abaft. All the cooking goes on upon the high overhanging stern, where the crew also are accommodated. There are gangways of boards on each side of the vessel, which serve for poling it along the shallows, by means of very long and light bamboos, and which also allow of the servants and crew passing from head to stern without incommoding the inmates. The better boats are very well lit by glass windows at the sides, or by the thin interior laminæ of oyster-shells. Others have transparent paper or gauze, on which are painted flowers, birds, and other devices, while the partitions, or bulk-heads, of the apartments are varnished and gilded. The decks or floors of the cabins remove in square compartments, and admit of all the baggage being stowed away in the hold. Every thing in their river-boats is kept remarkably clean, and this habit presents a strong contrast to their general neglect of cleanliness in their houses on shore, which have not the same ready access to water, and are besides often very illdrained. In short, their travelling barges are as much superior to the crank and ricketty budgerows of India, as our European ships are to the sea-junks of the Chinese, who seem to have reserved all their ingenuity for their river craft, and to have afforded as little encouragement as possible to maritime or foreign adventure.
Where the expense is not regarded, Europeans often travel between Macao and Canton in the large Chinese boats, of some eighty tons' burthen, which are commonly used in unloading the ships, but fitted up when required with partitions, glass windows, and
other conveniences for travelling. The charges of the mandarins, under the denomination of duties and fees, at length grew to be so oppressive, that the thing was brought to the notice of the Viceroy in 1825, and a considerable abatement made in the expense. Still, however, this is so considerable, and the delays interposed midway in the passage, for the purposes of scrutiny and examination, are so tedious and harassing, that most barbarians prefer going up and down by the ship’s passage in European boats. In this, as well as many other instances, the cupidity of the mandarins has defeated its own purpose.
Nothing could more strongly characterize the busy trading character of the Chinese among themselves, and the activity of their internal traffic, than the vast numbers of passage-boats which are constantly sailing along the rivers and canals, crowded both inside and out with a host of passengers. The fare in these vessels is, quaintly enough, termed shuey-keě, “ water-legs," as it serves in lieu of those limbs to transport the body. None, however, above the poorer classes avail themselves of these conveyances, as a small private boat can always be engaged, by natives, at a sufficiently cheap rate. That the company on board the public transports is not of the most select order, is plain from a caution generally pasted against the mast, “Kin shin ho paou," "Mind your purses.” There is a species of tavern, or publichouse, a short way above the European factories in Canton, at the point whence all these passage-boats are obliged to start by the regulation of the police, and where the crowd and concourse is sometimes really surprising. Regular passports are always required, and the whole system appears admirably ar. ranged to promote the objects of a very cautious and vigilant government, in the maintenance of order, without impeding the general circulation of industry.