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ing to its wants, or to the circumstances of the season ; and any unusual deficiency of water is of course fatal to a grain which, from its nature, the Americans of Carolina call “ swamp-seed.”
The fields are weeded and otherwise attended to between seed-time and harvest; and when the rice, by turning yellow, is known to be nearly ripe, the water is gradually drawn off; so that, by the end of June or beginning of July, when it is time to reap, the fields are nearly dry. The tufts of grain are cut singly near the ground, by means of a species of sickle or crooked knife, and then carried off in bundles or sheaves to be threshed. The floor employed for this purpose is of hardened earth, either with or without an admixture of lime. The grain has been said to be trodden out sometimes by cattle, but the most usual implement for threshing is the common European flail. They have a winnowing machine precisely like ours, and there seems to be the best evidence for the fact that we borrowed this useful invention from them.* To get rid of the tenacious husk of the rice, it is pounded in stone mortars, of which the cone-shaped pestles are worked by horizontal levers attached to them. A wheel moved by water turns a cylinder, to whose circumference are attached cogs, which, meeting the extremities of the levers, strike them down alternately, and thus raise the pestles at the other end.
For the second crop of rice the ground is immediately cleaned of the old stubble and roots and laid again under water. Fresh plants are inserted as before, and the harvest is gathered in November. When other grains are sown, it is not by broadcast, but by the drill method, with a view to economizing the seed. One drill-plough
* A model was carried from China to Holland ; and from Holland the first specimen reached Leith.
was observed by Mr. Barrow different from the rest.. “ It consisted of two parallel poles of wood, shod at the lower extremities with iron to open the furrows; these poles were placed on wheels ; a small hopper was attached to each pole to drop the seed into the furrows, which were covered with earth by a transverse piece of wood fixed behind, that just swept the surface of the ground.” The third annual crop obtained from the land consists of pulse, greens, and other vegetables, obtained during the dry and cold winter months. At this period the ricefields near Macao produce an abundance of potatoes, peas, and cabbages, for which the Chinese summer in that latitude would be too hot and rainy. In lieu of a spade, they use a large heavy iron hoe, which is a more expeditious but far less efficient instrument, as it barely turns the earth to half the depth of the other. This hoe serves them instead of every variety of tool, for weeding, trenching, digging, or whatever may be the operation required in the field or garden.
The tendency, which has already been noticed in the Chinese institutions, to reduce tenements in general to a very small size, is probably one of the causes of the simple and economic processes that prevail in their husbandry. The cultivator, being possessed of no superfluous capital, derives the most that he can from the soil by the cheapest method, and is lavish of nothing, except it be his labour. The land is never allowed to lie fallow, but its fertility is restored and maintained by an indefatigable system of tilth and manuring. This may serve partly to explain the diligence with which all putrescent substances are converted to this purpose, and especially the most disagreeable one for which the Chinese are so noted. The extreme paucity of every species of cattle for purposes of either food or cultivation deprives them of the principal source of European fertilization, and at the same time suggests the substitute ; to which may be added the circumstance of each tenement being in general a small patch of land immediately contiguous to the dwelling of the cultivator. But independently of both manuring and fallowing, there appears to exist some ground for the opinion that the absence of both expedients may be supplied to a considerable extent by repeated ploughings or exposures of the soil. The author has still in his possession a letter from the late Sir Joseph Banks, in which that distinguished person observed, with reference to a work on the agriculture of the Hindoos, as follows : “What astonishes me is, that no mention is made in any part of it of manures or of any fertilizing process, except repeated ploughings, of which, in the case of sugar, a great many are said to be necessary. We find in Europe that repeated ploughings increase the fertility of the soil ; but can it be that we, who seldom exceed four, are so ignorant as not to know that by a much greater quantity of labour the fertility may be proportionably increased ?”
In what has already been said of the social and agricultural state of China, enough may perhaps have appeared to account, in some measure, for the very numerous population which that country unquestionably possesses, though the actual amount is a point not so easily to be ascertained. There certainly never has been known a people that held out so many direct encouragements to the growth of population, or so completely set at nought all those prudential restraints which have been proposed to us by Mr. Malthus. But it must be admitted that they pay the penalty in the shape of a great deal of consequent poverty and misery, clearly resulting from those parts of their system which tend constantly to increase their numbers beyond the existing capability of the country to maintain
them; and prevailing in spite of circumstances favourable to a general distribution of the means of subsistence. It may be as well to review, in the first place, the principal causes which conduce to the unexampled population of China, and then to exhibit the different statements as to the actual amount.
We have already seen that the advantages with which the country has been gifted by nature have been improved to the utmost by itş industrious inhabitants, in the actual state of their knowledge and social condition ; that agriculture, the source of food, has been honoured and encouraged beyond every other pursuit; and that the culture of the land (even when divested of the exaggerations of early writers) and the nature of its produce are such as to afford the largest return, under the circumstances, to the labour employed. It has been remarked, too, that the prevalence of agricultural over manufacturing occupations must tend to prolong life, as well as to increase food. Excepting those of the emperor in the vicinity of the capital, there are no extensive parks or pleasure-grounds reserved from the operations of productive industry. In the prevailing absence of wheel-carriages and horses, the least possible ground is occupied by roads; and the only tracts devoted to sepulchral purposes are the sides of barren hills and mountains. There is no meadow-cultivation whatever; nothing is raised for the food of cattle, but all for man; and this is a more important circumstance than it may at first sight appear.
In China there exists, as we have observed, the smallest possible number of horses and of any animals for the purposes of labour, carriage, or draft; and these maintain themselves as they can on pastures unsusceptible of cultivation. Scarcely any domestic animals are kept unless for food. There is a very limited consumption of any kind of meat among even the higher orders; and the lower subsist almost exclusively on the productions of tillage.* Now it has been calculated that, in Great Britain, above a million horses are engaged in transporting passengers and goods, and that the support of each horse requires as much land as would feed eight men. Here then are eight millions supplanted ; and it is when this point has been reached that the maintenance · and use of horses become so comparatively costly as to give rise to inventions for superseding them, like steamcarriages. In China, whatever cannot be transported by water is borne on men's shoulders, and the very boats on their canals are tracked by men.
In no other country, besides, is so much food derived from the waters. The missionaries employed in constructing the map of the empire observed that a large number of boats were collected from various parts on the great Keâng, at a particular period of the year, to procure the spawn of fish. A portion of the river being dammed up with mats and hurdles, the water becomes charged with the spawn, which is carried in vessels to distant places, and distributed wherever fish can subsist. Besides the ordinary contrivances of nets and wicker-traps of all kinds, the Chinese have several modes of taking fish peculiarly their own. During moonlight nights they use long narrow boats, having wooden flaps at their sides, descending to the surface of the water at a particular inclination, and painted white. The fish, being deceived by the light reflected from these boards, leap upon them, and are turned over into the boat with a jerk. We have already had occasion to observe that the innumerable
* The present price of meat in England is about four times that of bread; or, where an acre of ploughed land will feed a given number of persons, it would require nearly four of pasture.