ASIA AND ITS INHABITANTS
As soon as the sick had recovered and fresh provisions had been obtained the vessels set sail. A short stay was made at the Ladrone Islands, and the squadron then entered the Strait of Formosa, where it encountered stormy weather, and took refuge in Chusan Harbour. During this stay the map of this archipelago was rectified and an opportunity was taken to visit Tinghai, where the English excited as much curiosity as they felt themselves at the sight of the many things which were new to them.
Many of the facts which surprised them are familiar to us, the appearance of the houses, the markets and dress of the Chinese, the small feet of the women, and many other particulars to which we need not refer. We will only allude to the account of the method employed by them in cultivating dwarf trees.
"This stunted vegetation," says Macartney, "seems to be highly appreciated in China, for specimens of it are found in all the larger houses. It is an art peculiar to the Chinese, and the gardener's skill consists in knowing how to produce it. Independently of the satisfaction of triumphing over a difficulty, he has the advantage of introducing into rooms plants whose natural size would have precluded such a possibility.
"The following is the method employed in China for the production of dwarfed trees. The trunk of a tree of which it is desired to obtain a dwarfed specimen, is covered as nearly as possible where it separates into branches with clay or mould, over which is placed a linen or cotton covering constantly kept damp. This mould is sometimes left on for a whole year, and throughout that time the wood it covers throws out tender, root-like fibres. Then the portions of the trunk from which issue these fibres, with the branch immediately above them, are carefully separated from the tree and placed in fresh mould, where the shoots soon develope into real roots, whilst the branch forms the stem of a plant which is in a manner metamorphosed. This operation neither destroys nor alters the productive faculties of the branch which is separated from the parent tree. When it bears fruit or flowers it does so as plentifully as when it was upon the original stem. The extremities of the branches intended to be dwarfed are always pulled off, which precludes the possibility of their growing tall, and forces them to throw out shoots and lateral branches. These shoots are tied with wire, and assume the form the gardener chooses. When it is desired to give an aged appearance to the tree, it is constantly moistened with theriaca or treacle, which attracts to it multitudes of ants, who not content with devouring the sweetmeat, attack the bark of the tree, and eat it away in such a manner as to produce the desired effect."
Upon leaving Chusan, the squadron entered the Yellow Sea, never before navigated by an European vessel. The river Hoang-Ho flows into it, and it is from the immense quantity of yellow mud brought down by it in its long and tortuous course that the sea derives its name.
The English vessels cast anchor in Ten-chou-Fou Bay, and thence entered the gulf of Pekin, and halted outside the bar of Pei-Ho. There being only three or four feet of water on this bar at low tide, the vessels could not cross it.
The mandarins appointed by the government to receive the English ambassador, arrived shortly after, bringing numerous presents; whilst the gifts intended for the emperor were placed in junks, and Macartney went on board a yacht which had been prepared for him.The first town reached was Takoo, where Macartney received a visit from the viceroy of the province and the principal mandarin. Both were men of venerable and dignified aspect, polite and attentive, and entirely free from obsequiousness.
"It has been rightly said," remarks Macartney, "that a people are as they are made, and the English had continual proof of this truth in the effect produced upon the Chinese character by the fear of the iron power that ruled them. Apart from this fear they were cheerful and confiding, but in the presence of their rulers they appeared most timid and embarrassed."
In ascending the Pei-Ho towards Pekin, the course was retarded by the many windings of the river. The country through which they passed was highly cultivated, with houses and villages at intervals upon the banks of the river or inland, alternating with cemeteries and pyramids of bags of salt, producing a charming and ever varying landscape. When night approached, lanterns of every hue, fastened to the masts and rigging of the yachts, produced the fantastic effect of many-coloured lights.