Abbildungen der Seite

who otherwise would not have had strength to manage the pestle.

With regard to some of their industrious arts, it may be a question whether they are original and indigenous, or borrowed from India ; though, with the known ingenuity of the Chinese, the presumption is in favour of the former. In cleaning cotton, they make use of a double process, in most respects similar to that known in India. The machine for freeing the cotton from its seed consists of two wooden cylinders, placed horizontally one above the other, and very nearly in contact. These are put in motion by a wheel and treadle, and the cotton, being applied to one side of the crevice, is turned over by the revolution of the cylinders or rollers to the opposite; while the seeds which are too large to enter between them fall to the ground. The cotton is then freed from knots and dirt by the same process as in Hindoostan. A very elastic bow with a tight string is held by the carder over a heap of cotton-wool. Pulling down the string with some force under a portion of the cotton, by means of a wooden instrument in his right hand, he suddenly allows the bow to recoil, and the vibration thus continually kept up scatters and loosens the cotton, separating it into fine white flocks, without breaking the fibre.

In some other instances, and indeed in most, no doubt can exist of the originality of invention ; and the chief of these are the manufactures of silk and porcelain, which will presently be noticed. Their mode of making candles from the seed of the croton sebiferum is peculiar. This seed, which is contained in a three-lobed berry, is surrounded by a white substance not unlike tallow in consistence. It is first of all ground or crushed in an iron rut, which forms the arc of a circle, and in which a heavy wheel, suspended from a beam above, works back


wards and forwards. When ground, it is heated over a fire to melt the vegetable grease, and then subjected to. the press. The object is sometimes gained by boiling the

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

bruised seed in water, and skimming the grease from the top. As this substance easily melts, the candles made from it are coated on the outside with wax. They burn rapidly, having a large wick, and give a very bad light

with a great deal of smoke. The mode of procuring the oil from the berry of the Camellia oleifera is nearly the same as in the case of the croton. The seed is first crushed by pounding or grinding, and then put over the fire in bags, which are afterwards removed to the press. This oil is of a rather fine and delicate quality, and used in cookery, like olive-oil in the south of Europe.

In various branches of the manufacture of metals the Chinese possess considerable skill. They have the art of casting iron in very thin plates, and of repairing vessels thus constructed, by means of a small furnace and blow, pipe with which an itinerant workman goes his rounds. Their wrought-iron work is not so neat as our own, but extremely efficient. In point of cheapness, too, we excel them in this article; and it seems likely that if Chinese models of iron implements, and tools of every kind, were brought home and exactly imitated at Birmingham and Sheffield, without any attempts at improvement in the general shape or adaptation, they might become an article of commerce. As it is, the Chinese only import our iron in bars, and work it up themselves. A conformity to their own native models should guide the preparation of nearly all articles for the Chinese market. They will scarcely look at what has a foreign fashion about it, even though it should be better than their own; always excepting, of course, clocks and watches, of which they admit the utility, but which they have now begun to manufacture for themselves, importing the springs and some other portions of the works from England.

Their white copper, which has much of the appearance of silver, has a close grain, and takes a good polish. It is an alloy of copper, zinc, and iron, with a little silver, and occasionally some nickel. When in the state of ore, it is said to be powdered, mixed with charcoal-dust, and placed in jars over a slow fire, the metal rising in the form of vapour in a distilling apparatus, and being afterwards condensed in water. It is sufficiently malleable to be converted into boxes, dishes, and various household utensils. The most singular application of this metal, however, is to the manufacture of certain teapots, which are formed in a very puzzling manner over an earthen vessel of the same shape, which appears as an interior lining. The handle and spout are commonly of the stone called jade, to which the Chinese give the name of yu. The outsides of these teapots are generally cut with inscriptions and devices on the metal, and a specimen of one is given below.

[graphic][merged small]

The highly sonorous nature of their gongs arises from the large proportion of tin in combination with copper. In the most considerable Budhist temples is always suspended a great cylindrical bell, which, however, is not rung like our bells, by swinging with a clapper, but struck on the outside with a large wooden mallet. The great bell of Peking, measured by one of the Jesuits, was fourteen feet, and a half in height, and nearly thirteen feet in diameter. This, as well as most others of the kind, is very ancient; and with such antique specimens we may include the vases and tripods of bronze and other metals, on which the Chinese place great store, but which are generally rather too clumsy to possess much elegance. Another of their antiques in metal is the circular mirror, the speculum of which is formeil apparently of a mixture of copper and tin, with perhaps a portion of silver. Some of the round metal mirrors sold in Mr. Salt's collection of Egyptian antiquities, and now in the British Museum, are surprisingly like these.

But there is a puzzling property in many of the Chinese mirrors which deserves particular notice, and we may give it together with the solution furnished by Sir David Brewster :-“ The mirror has a knob in the centre of the back, by which it can be held, and on the rest of the back are stamped in relief certain circles with a kind of Grecian border. Its polished surface has that degree of convexity which gives an image of the face half its natural size; and its remarkable property is, that, when you reflect the rays of the sun froin the polished surface, the image of the ornamental border, and circles stamped upon the back, is seen distinctly reflected on the wall,” or on a sheet of paper. “ The metal of which the mirror is made appears to be what is called Chinese silver, a composition of tin and copper, like the metal for the specula of reflecting telescopes. The metal is very sonorous. The mirror has a rim (at the back) of about 1-4th or 1-6th of an inch broad, and the inner part, upon which the figures are stamped, is considerably thinner.

“Like all other conjurors (says Sir David Brewster), the artist has contrived to make the observer deceive himself. The stamped figures on the back are used for this purpose. The spectrum in the luminous area is not an

« ZurückWeiter »