Abbildungen der Seite

facility and advantage, it seems that, on comparing the plants actually sent with those which reached Kew alive and in a healthy state, this gardener was not more fortunate than private adventurers. It must be observed, however, that he did not attend the plants home, but remained in China to procure new ones. They accordingly fell victims to the ignorance or the neglect of those on board the ships, who either gave them too much water or none at all, and who exposed them to the spray of the sea in bad weather, or denied them a needful supply of fresh air in fine. The gardener himself, in the mean while, leading a solitary life in China, gave way to habits of intoxication, and became unfit for his business. Since that time no other attempt was for many years made; but it seems obvious that all the care and attention in selecting or preparing rare plants in China could be of little avail, unless they were under proper skill and management during the long voyage home. Mr. Livingstone calculates that not more than one plant in a thousand reached England in safety; but if we take only half the proportion, it will be very lamentable to those who appreciate the advantages of enriching this country with the useful or beautiful productions of foreign soils.

Since the war, however, great acquisitions have been made by the agency of Mr. Fortune, originally despatched to China by the Horticultural Society. He penetrated to the interior, and has successfully brought home many trees and plants to enrich our plantations and gardens. Among the former are the Cryptomeria Japonica and Cupressus funerea ; and among flowers the Dialætra and Weigela, both of them hardy and beautiful garden plants..

As animals are, for obvious reasons, more generally diffused over continents than plants, it follows that the number of cases in which the zoological productions of China have been found peculiar to that country, or not known in other parts of Asia, are extremely rare in comparison with the botanical ones. It has been always remarked that in either instance, whether of plants or animals, they are such, in general, as characterise a temperate, and not a tropical climate. For this reason the larger and more ferocious descriptions of carnivorous quadrupeds are neither numerous nor common. In the forests of Yun-nân, to the south-west, the Bengal species of tiger is said to exist ; indeed the numerous representations of that animal, and the stories connected with it in Chinese books, are proofs that it is sufficiently well known in the empire. At Canton, however, which lies so nearly in the latitude of Calcutta, it is quite a stranger, as well as in those provinces to the north through which our embassies passed. Some smaller animals of the same genus were seen by Père Gerbillon when he went with the emperor on his hunting excursion to the north of the Great Wall, as well as bears, and an abundance of deer. Lions are almost a fabulous animal among the Chinese. Specimens may have reached Peking from some of the neighbouring countries to the south and west ; but the Asiatic lion is quite a different animal, and much inferior in power, to the African species. The woods of Southern China abound in a fierce and untameable, though small description of wild-cat. With a taste that is quite unaccountable to ourselves, this animal is considered by Chinese epicures as an exquisite species of game, and served up in stews at table, after being fed for some time in a cage. By way of a great compliment, some European gentlemen were asked to partake of the flesh of one of these wild grimalkins; but they of course declined the flattering invitation.

The domestic dog of China cannot be better described

than in the words of that accurate observer, Mr. White of Selborne : “My near neighbour, a young gentleman in the service of the East India Company, has brought home a dog and bitch of the Chinese breed from Canton ; such as are fattened in that country for the purpose of being eaten. They are about the size of a moderate spaniel, of a pale yellow colour, with a coarse bristling hair on their backs; sharp upright ears, and peaked heads, which give them a very fox-like appearance. Their hind-legs are unusually straight, without any bend at the hock or ham, to such a degree as to give them an awkward gait when they trot. When they are in motion, their tails are curved high over their backs like those of some hounds, and have a bare place each on the outside from the tip midway, that does not seem to be matter of accident, but somewhat singular. Their eyes are jet black, small, and piercing ; the insides of their lips and mouths of the same colour, and their tongues blue. The bitch has a dew-claw on each hind leg; the dog has none. When taken out into a field, the bitch showed some disposition for hunting, and dwelt on the scent of a covey of partridges till she sprang them, giving tongue all the time. The dogs in South America are dumb; but these bark much in a short thick manner like foxes, and have a surly savage demeanour like their ancestors." The account goes on to state that these dogs are “ not domesticated by the Chinese, but fed in sties.” This, however, is a mistake, for, although often eaten, they are very generally domesticated as guards, and a vigilant watch is called shen-kow, “an accomplished dog.” The food on which they subsist is principally vegetable, and consists mainly of rice. This race of animal closely resembles the breed represented in the plates to the Arctic voyages, and seems to extend along the whole of northern Asia and America, being perhaps the original of the species.

Bears are quite common in the hilly parts of Shensy, west of Peking. They have often been seen in cages at Canton, whither they had most probably been brought from the westward, perhaps from Yun-nân or Sze-chuen. The paws of these animals, which abound in fat, are eaten by the Chinese as a delicacy. The country upon the whole is too well cultivated and thickly peopled to afford lodging and entertainment to many of the larger wild animals, however much they may have abounded originally. Similar reasons may account (besides climate) for the paucity of the quadrumanous tribes of apes and monkeys. Some of these animals exist on the island of Lintin, near the mouth of the Canton river; but it is most probable that they are descended from a few individuals of the

[graphic][merged small]

genus which may have got loose upon the island from the numerous junks and ships perpetually arriving from the seas to the south.

Dromedaries are much used as beasts of burthen be

tween Peking and Tartary; but in China itself the reasons which cause human labour to supplant every other have prevented their being adopted ; nor did we see one of these animals between Peking and Canton throughout the whole empire. Chinese horses are but rare, and of a very poor and stunted breed, probably from the same cause that renders their horned cattle so extremely diminutive—the deficiency of food and care. For their bulk, however, the horses are bony and strong, about the size of, or a little larger than, Shetland ponies, and at the best very rough and ill kept, with their fetlocks overgrown with hair. There is a white spotted species, often represented in Chinese pictures, and which might be considered as the produce of imagination had it not been verified by the actual observations of our embassies. The whole equestrian establishment of a mandarin, or person of wealth, is ragged and beggarly in the extreme: they have no idea whatever of either condition or neatness in the turn-out of their horses. Asses and mules are common in the north of the empire. The mules are generally of a good size, and said to bear a higher price than horses, as being capable of more labour on less food.

Of the common ruminant animals, the Chinese possess several species of deer, particularly a spotted kind, which is sometimes kept about their residences. Gerbillon describes a variety of antelope abounding on the borders of Mongol Tartary, and called by the Chinese Huâng-yang, “ yellow-goat.” This animal is found towards the sandy desert of Shamo, together with vast numbers of hares and a peculiar sort of birds styled in Chinese “sand-partridges,” perhaps without being a true variety of that species, for they are not very exact in their nomenclature. The sheep of China are the large-tailed kind, so common in Africa; and this extraordinary determination of fat to

« ZurückWeiter »