CHAPTER XXI. THE SHAN TOWN OF SANTA, AND MANYUEN, THE SCENE OF CONSUL MARGARY'S MURDER.

It was market day in Santa, and the accustomed crowd gathered round me as I stood in the open square in front of the Sawbwa's yamen. I was hot and hungry, for it was still early in the afternoon, and the attentions of the people were oppressive. Presently two men pushed their way through the spectators, and politely motioning to me to follow them, they led me to a neighbouring temple, to the upper storey, where the side pavilion off the chief hall was being prepared for my reception. My quarters overlooked the main court; the pony was comfortably stabled in the corner below me. Nothing could have been pleasanter than the attention I received here. Two foreign chairs were brought for my use, and half a dozen dishes of good food and clean chopsticks were set before me. The chief priest welcomed me, whose smiling face was good-nature itself. With clean-shaven head and a long robe of grey, with a rosary of black and white beads hung loosely from his neck, the kind old man moved about my room giving orders for my comfort. He held authority over a number of priests, some in black, others in yellow, and over a small band of choristers. Religion was an active performance in the temple, and the temple was in good order, with clean matting and well-kept shrines, with strange pictures on the of elephants and horses, with legends and scrolls in Burmese as well as in Chinese.

Towards evening the Santa Sawbwa, the hereditary prince (what a privilege it was to meet a prince! I had never met even a lord before in my life, or anyone approaching the rank of a lord, except a spurious Duke of York whom I sent to the lunatic asylum), the Prince of Santa paid me a State call, accompanied by a well-ordered retinue, very different indeed from the ragged reprobates who follow at the heels of a Chinese grandee when on a visit of ceremony. The Sawbwa occupied one chair, his distinguished guest the other, till the chief priest came in, when, with that deep reverence for the cloth which has always characterised me, I rose and gave him mine. He refused to take it, but I insisted; he pretended to be as reluctant to occupy it as any Frenchman, but I pushed him bodily into it, and that ended the matter.

A pleasant, kindly fellow is the Prince; even among the Shans he is conspicuous for his courtesy and amiability. He was a great favourite with the English Boundary Commission, and in his turn remembers with much pleasure his association with them. Half a dozen times, when conversation flagged, he raised his clasped hands and said "Warry Ching, ching!" and I knew that this was his foolish heathen way of sending greeting to the Chinese adviser of the Government of Burma. The Shan dialect is quite distinct from the Chinese, but all the princes or princelets dress in Chinese fashion and learn Mandarin, and it was of course in Mandarin that the Santa Sawbwa conversed with Mr. Warry. This Sawbwa is the son-in-law of the ex-Wuntho Sawbwa. He rules over a territory smaller than many squatters' stations in Victoria.

He is one of the ablest of Shans, and would willingly place his little principality under the protection of England. He is thirty-five years of age, dresses in full Chinese costume, with pigtail and skullcap, is pock-marked, and has incipient goitre. He is polite and refined, chews betel nut "to stimulate his meditative faculties," and expectorates on the floor with easy freedom. I showed him my photographs, and he graciously invited me to give him some. I nodded cheerfully to him in assent, rolled them all up again, and put them back in my box. He knew that I did not understand.

We had tea together, and then he took his leave, "Warry Ching, ching!" being his parting words.

As soon as he had gone the deep drum - a hollow instrument of wood shaped like a fish - was beaten, and the priests gathered to vespers, dressed in many-coloured garments of silk; and, as evening fell, they intoned a sweet and mournful chant.

The service over, all but the choristers entered the room off the gallery in which I was lying, where, looking in, I saw them throw off their gowns and coil themselves on the sleeping benches. Opium-lamps were already lit, and all were soon inhaling opium; all but one who had rheumatism, and who, lying down, stretched himself at full length, while a brother priest punched him all over in that primitive method of massage employed by every native race the wide world over.

In the City Temple some festival was being celebrated, and night was turbulent with the beating of gongs and drums and the bursting of crackers. Long processions of priests in their yellow robes were passing the temple in the bright moonlight. Priests were as plentiful as blackberries; if they had been dressed in black instead of yellow, the traveller might have imagined that he was in Edinburgh at Assembly time.

In the morning another escort of half a dozen men was ready to accompany me for the day's stage to Manyuen. They were in the uniform of the Santa Sawbwa, in blue jackets instead of green. They were armed with rusty muzzle-loaders, unloaded, and with long Burmese swords ( dahs). They were the most amiable of warriors, both in feature and manner, and were unlike the turbaned braves of China, who, armed no better than these men, still regard, as did their forefathers, fierceness of aspect as an important factor in warfare (rostro feroz ao enemigo!) - an illusion also shared in the English army, where monstrous bearskin shakos were introduced to increase the apparent height of the soldiers. The officer in command was late in overtaking me. As soon as he came within horse-length he let down his queue and bowed reverently, and I could see pride lighting his features as he confessed to the honour that had been done him in intrusting such an honourable and illustrious charge to the mean and unworthy care of so contemptible an officer.

The country before us was open meadow-land, pleasant to ride over, only here and there broken by a massive banyan tree. Herds of buffaloes were grazing on the hillsides. The mud villages were far apart on the margin of the river-plain, inclosed with superb hedges of living bamboo.

Thirty li from Santa is the Shan village of Taipingkai. It was market-day, and the broad main street was crowded. We were taken to the house of an oil-merchant, who kindly asked me in and had tea brewed for me. Earthen-Ware jars of oil were stacked round the room. The basement opened to the street, and was packed in a moment. "Dzo! Dzo!" (Go! go!) cried the master, and the throng hustled out, to be renewed in a minute by a fresh body of curious who had waited their turn.

Then we rode on, over a country as beautiful as a nobleman's park, to the town of Manyuen. Every here and there by the roadside there are springs of fresh water, where travellers can slake their thirst. Bamboo ladles are placed here by devotees, whose action will be counted unto them for righteousness, for "he that piously bestows a little water shall receive an ocean in return." And, where there are no springs, neat little bamboo stalls with shelves are built, and in the cool shelter pitchers of water and bamboo cups are placed, so that the thirsty may bless the unknown hand which gives him to drink.

Manyuen - or, to use the name by which it is better known to foreigners, Manwyne - is a large and straggling town overlooking the river-plain. It was here that Margary, the British Consular Agent, was murdered in 1875. I had a long wait at the yamen gate while they were arranging where to send me, but by-and-by two yamen-runners came and conducted me to the City Temple. It was the same temple that Margary had occupied. Many shaven-pated Buddhist priests were waiting for me, and received me kindly in the temple hall. A table was brought for me and the only foreign chair, and Laotseng was shown where to spread my bedding in the temple hall itself. And here I held levees of the townspeople of all shades of colour and variety of feature - Chinese, Shan, Burmese, Kachin, and hybrid. The people were very amiable, and I found on all sides the same courtesy and kindliness that Margary describes on his first visit. But the crowd was quiet for only a little while; then a dispute arose. It began in the far corner, and the crowd left me to gather round the disputants. Voices were raised, loud and excited, and increased in energy. A deadly interest seemed to enthral the bystanders. It was easy to imagine that they were debating to do with me as they had done with Margary. The dispute waxed warmer. Surely they will come to blows? When suddenly the quarrel ceased as it had begun, and the crowd came smiling back to me. What was the dispute? The priests were cheapening a chicken for my dinner.

The temple was built on teak piles, and teak pillars supported the triple roof. It was like a barn or lumber room but for the gilt Buddhas on the altar and the gilt cabinets by its side, containing many smaller gilt images of Buddha and his disciples. Umbrellas, flags, and the tawdry paraphernalia used in processions were hanging from the beams. Sacerdotal vestments of dingy yellow - the yellow of turmeric - were tumbled over bamboo rests. When the gong sounded for prayers, men you thought were coolies threw these garments over the left shoulder, hitched them round the waist, and were transformed into priests, putting them back again immediately after the service. Close under the tiles was a paper sedan-chair, to be sent for the use of some rich man in heaven. Painted scrolls of paper were on the walls, and on old ledges were torn books in the Burmese character, which a few boys made a pretence of reading. Where I slept the floor was raised some feet from the ground, and underneath, seen through the gaping boards - though previously detected by another of the senses - were a number of coffins freighted with dead, waiting for a fit occasion for interment. Heavy stones were placed on the lids to keep the dead more .securely at rest. The lucky day for burial would be determined by the priests - it would be determined by them as soon as the pious relatives had paid sufficiently for their fears. So long, then, as the coffins remained where they were, they might be described as capital invested by the priests and returning heavy interest; removed from the temple, they ceased to be productive.

As is the case in so many temples, there is an opium-room in the temple at the back of the gilded shrine, where priests and neophytes, throwing aside their office, can while away the licentious hours till the gong calls them again to prayers.

In the early morning, while I was still lying in my pukai on the floor, I saw many women, a large proportion of whom were goitrous, come to the hall, and make an offering of rice, and kneel down before the Buddha. As time went on, and more kept coming in, small heaps of rice had collected in front of the chief altar and before the cabinets. And when the women retired, a chorister came round and swept with his fingers all the little heaps into a basket. To the gods the spirit! To the priests the solid remains!

It was in Manyuen, as I have mentioned, that Margary met his death on February 21st, 1875. He had safely traversed China from Hankow to Bhamo, had been everywhere courteously treated by the Chinese and been given every facility and protection on his journey. He had passed safely through Manyuen only five weeks before, and had then written: "I come and go without meeting the slightest rudeness among this charming people, and they address me with the greatest respect." And yet five weeks later he was killed on his return! Even assuming that he was killed in obedience to orders issued by the cruel Viceroy at Yunnan City, the notorious Tsen Yu-ying, and not by a lawless Chinese train-band which then infested the district and are believed by Baber to have been the real murderers, the British Government must still be held guilty of contributory negligence. Margary, having passed unmolested to Bhamo, there met the expedition under Colonel Horace Browne, and returned as its forerunner to prepare for its entry into China by the route he had just traversed. The expedition was a "peace expedition" sent by the Government of Burma, and numbered only "fifty persons in all, together with a Burmese guard of 150 armed soldiers."

Seven years before, an expedition under Major Sladen had advanced from Burma into Western China as far as Tengyueh; had remained in Tengyueh from May 25th to July 13th, 1868; had entered into friendly negotiations with the military governor and other Mohammedan officials in revolt against China: and had remained under the friendly protection of the Mohammedan insurgents who were then in possession of Western China from Tengyueh to near Yunnan City. "To what principles," it has been asked, "of justice or equity can we attribute the action of the British in retaining their Minister at the capital of an empire while sending a peaceful mission to a rebel in arms at its boundaries ?"

The Mohammedan insurrection was not quelled till the early months of 1874. And less than a year later the Chinese learned with alarm that another peaceful expedition was entering Western China, by the same route, under the same auspices, and with the identical objects of the expedition which had been welcomed by the leaders of the insurrection.

The Chinese mind was incapable of grasping the fact that the second expedition was planned solely to discover new fields for international commerce and scientific investigation. Barbarians as they are, they feared that England thereby intended to "foster the dying embers of the rebellion." No time for such an expedition, a peaceful trade expedition, could have been more ill-chosen. The folly of it was seen in the murder of Margary and the repulse of Colonel Horace Browne, whose expedition was driven back at Tsurai within sight of Manyuen. And this murder, known to all the world, is the typical instance cited in illustration of the barbarity of the Chinese.

China may be a barbarous country; many missionaries have said so, and it is the fashion so to speak; but let us for a moment look at facts. During the last twenty-three years foreigners of every nationality and every degree of temperament, from the mildest to the most fanatical, have penetrated into every nook and cranny of the empire. Some have been sent back, and there has been an occasional riot with some destruction of property. But all the foreigners who have been killed can be numbered on the fingers of one hand, and in the majority of these cases it can hardly be denied that it was the indiscretion of the white man which was the exciting cause of his murder. In the same time how many hundreds of unoffending Chinese have been murdered in civilised foreign countries? An anti-foreign riot in China - and at what rare intervals do anti-foreign riots occur in its vast empire - may cause some destruction of property; but it may be questioned if the destruction done in China by the combined anti-foreign riots of the last twenty-three years equalled the looting done by the civilised London mob who a year or two ago on a certain Black Monday played havoc in Oxford-street and Piccadilly. "It is less dangerous," says one of the most accurate writers on China, the Rev. A. H. Smith, himself an American missionary, "for a foreigner to cross China than for a Chinese to cross the United States." And there are few who give the matter a thought but must admit the correctness of Mr. Smith's statement.

On May 17th I was on the road again. The fort of Manyuen is outside the town, and some little distance beyond it the dry creek bends into the pathway at a point where it is bordered with cactus and overshadowed by a banyan tree. This is said to be the exact spot where Margary was killed.