Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

in some measure from the blows of the sea; but with the least stern-way on the vessel it seems calculated to prove fatal. In lieu of pitch, they caulk with a putty composed of burnt gypsum and oil,* mixed sometimes with bamboo shavings for oakum. Their flat unyielding sails of mat enable them to lie much nearer to the wind in light weather than our ships can do with canvas sails : but then, on the other hand, the flat bottom, without any keel whatever, occasions their falling fast to leeward, and gives the advantage altogether to our vessels. The clumsy anchors of the junks are made of a very heavy and hard wood, called by the Chinese teih-mo, “ iron-wood,” and they have only a single arm in some cases.

[graphic][merged small]

It has been objected to the accuracy of Marco Polo, that he mentions junks having more than one sail to a mast, on the ground that “ Chinese vessels do not carry

* Extracted from the Tung-shoo, or Dryandra cordata.

any kind of topsail.” The fact, however, is that they do very frequently, in light weather, and with the wind right aft, carry a topsail of canvas or cotton. These, with a view to holding as much wind, with as little perpendicular strain on the mast, as possible, are stretched to only about half the actual height of the sail ; and they accordingly belly or bulge very much. It seems to have been proved, by the experiments of Mr. Edgeworth on the resistance of the air, that a curved surface of the same perpendicular height holds more wind than a flat one; or that the pressure of the wind is increased by augmenting the surface on which it acts. Admitting this to be the fact, it seems to be in favour of the sagacity of the Chinese in this particular instance.

As long as their junks confine themselves to the neighbourhood of the coast, their course is pretty certain. They generally stand boldly across between the most prominent headlands, and are guided along the whole line of coast by a tolerably accurate directory, in which are noted the harbours, currents, shoals, and other particulars. The courses are pointed out by means of the figures, already described, on the circumference of their compass. They can take no observatious of the sun themselves ; but it sometimes happens that a junk sailing as far as Batavia will engage a Portuguese of Macao, who is just able, with an old rusty sextant, to take an altitude of the sun and work out the latitude in a rough way. This, however, is never done in short voyages, where they steer by their compass without any chart, and judge of the distances by the last promontory or island in sight; a practice in which long experience makes them very ready.

Mr. Gutzlaff was passenger in one of these junks from Siam to the north of China, and has given a very full and interesting account of the voyage, as well as of the management and internal economy of a Chinese trading-vessel. Besides perpetual offerings to an image of the “ Queen of Heaven," whom we have before mentioned as the sailor's deity, they worship the compass itself. This is covered with a stripe of red cloth, some of which is also tied to the rudder and cable, the next objects of consequence to the sailors. Incense-sticks are burnt, and gilt paper, made into the form of a junk, is kindled before it. The compass likewise constitutes head-quarters on board. Near it some tobacco, a pipe, and a burning lamp are placed, and here the crew adjourn to enjoy themselves. In a dead calm, a quantity of gilt paper shaped like a junk is set adrift, and offerings made to the goddess and sundry. demons: but if all this proves ineffectual, the offerings cease, and they await the result in patience.

The account which Mr. Gutzlaff gives of the manning and discipline of these trading-junks serves to explain in part the loss of so many at sea, when combined with the other imperfections attendant on their construction and management. They seem to be filled with the scum and off-scourings of the Chinese population-abandoned and desperate characters who have nothing to lose, and who cannot subsist on shore. Besides the principal owner of the cargo, or agent for those who own it, there is the captain or pilot. He sits constantly on the weather-side of the vessel, observing the shores and promontories as they are approached, and from habit seldom lies down to sleep. Though he has the nominal command over the sailors, these obey him or not, according to their pleasure; and sometimes scold or brave him like one of their own number. Next to the pilot is the helmsman, who manages the steering and sails. Besides clerks for the cargo, there is a purchaser of provisions, and another whose express business it is to attend to the offerings and to burn incense. The crew consists of two classes: the able seamen, who are called Tow-mo, “heads and eyes ;” and the ordinary seamen, or “comrades.”

All these, with the exception of the last class, have sleeping-berths, just large enough to hold one person. Every one is a shareholder, with the privilege of putting a certain quantity of goods on board. The principal object of all is trade, and the working of the junk would seem to be a subordinate point. The crew exercise full control over the vessel, and oppose every measure which they deem injurious to their own interest; so that the captain and pilot are frequently obliged to submit to them. In time of danger the men often lose all courage; and their indecision, with the confusion that attends the absence of discipline, not unfrequently proves the destruction of the junk. Mr. Gutzlaff adds that, although they consider our mode of sailing as something better than their own,* they claim the superiority upon the whole for their native vessels, and would consider it as an imitation of barbarians to alter them. We are persuaded, however, that the risk of trouble and extortion on the part of the government is the chief obstacle to improvement in these respects. The Siamese have already adopted many things from our ships, and two copper-bottomed vessels came lately from Siam to Canton. On this very ground, the local government would not permit them to ascend the river much beyond Whampoa, the European anchorage.

* He was requested by the captain and others to explain the method of finding the latitude and longitude. When he had endeavoured to make them understand the theory, the captain wondered that he could bring (with the sextant) the sun on a level with the horizon; and insisted that by the same process he could “also tell the depth of water." But, being disappointed in this, which would have better suited his purpose, he exclaimed that observations “ were entirely useless and truly barbarian !"

The ingenuity of the Chinese is best displayed in their arts and manufactures on shore, and in nothing more conspicuously than the ready and simple modes in which they contrive to abridge labour, and occasionally to avail themselves of a mechanical advantage, without any of the aids of scientific knowledge. “Chance" (says Dr. Abel) “ led me to the shop of a blacksmith, the manufacturer of various iron instruments, from a sword to a hoe. This man well understood the modifying properties of heat, and took the fullest advantage of them in all the practical concerns of his business. He was forming a reaping-hook at the time of my visit. A large pair of shears, having one blade fixed in a heavy block of wood, and the other furnished with a long handle to serve as a lever, stood beside him. Bringing a piece of metal of the necessary dimensions from the forge at a white heat, he placed it between the blades of this instrument, and cut it into shape with equal ease and despatch.”

In exemplification of the same point, we may quote another instance from the journal of Dr. Abel, who was a very intelligent observer. “A quantity of oil, recently taken from the mill (where it had been pressed), and contained in a wide shallow vessel, was continually agitated by a large copper pestle, with which a lad, for some particular purpose, gently struck its surface. The fatigue that would otherwise have arisen from the weight of the pestle, and uniform motion of the arm in using it, was prevented by the following very simple contrivance : a small bow of bamboo being fastened to the ceiling immediately over the vessel containing the oil, the pestle was attached to its string, and, thus suspended, it received from the slightest touch an adequate impulse, while the elasticity of the bow gave it the necessary recoil.” In this manner it was worked by a young boy,

« ZurückWeiter »