ASIA AND ITS INHABITANTS

Chinese magic-lantern
Chinese magic-lantern.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

Tieng Tsing signifies "heavenly spot," and the town owes this name to its agreeable climate and clear blue sky, and the fertility of its neighbourhood. In this place, the ambassador was received by the viceroy and a legate sent by the emperor. From them Macartney learned that the emperor was at his summer palace in Tartary, and that the anniversary of his birthday was to be celebrated there upon the 13th of September. The ambassador and his suite were therefore to go up by water as far as Tong Schou, about a dozen miles from Pekin, and thence proceed by land to Zhe Hol, where the emperor awaited them. The presents might be sent on afterwards. Although the first intimation was pleasant, the latter was singularly disagreeable to Macartney, for the presents consisted for the most part of delicate instruments, which had been taken to pieces for safety and packed separately. The legate would not consent to their being left where they would be free from danger of being disturbed. Macartney was obliged to obtain the intervention of the viceroy for the protection of these proofs of the genius and knowledge of Europe.

The cortège reached Tien Tsing, a town which appeared as long as London, and contained not less than seven hundred thousand inhabitants. A vast crowd assembled on the banks of the river to see the English pass, and the river swarmed with junks teeming with natives.

The houses in this city are built of blue with a few red bricks, some are two stories high, but that is unusual. Here the English saw the employment of those carriages with sails which had long been considered fabulous. They consist of two barrows made of bamboo, with one large wheel between them.

When there is not sufficient wind to propel the carriage, says the narrative, it is drawn by one man, while another pushes behind and keeps it steady. When the wind is favourable, the sail, which is a mat attached to two sticks placed upon either side of the carriage, renders the help of the man in front unnecessary.

The banks of the Pei-Ho are in many parts protected by breastworks of granite, to arrest inundation, and here and there dikes, also of granite, provided with a sluice, by means of which water is conveyed to the fields below. The country, although well cultivated, was often devastated by famines, following upon inundations, or resulting from the ravages of locusts.

Thus far, the cortège had been sailing through the immense alluvial plain of Pe-tche-Li. Not until the fourth day after leaving Tien Tsing was the blue outline of mountains perceived on the horizon. Pekin was now in sight; and on the 6th of August, 1793, the yachts anchored within two miles of the capital, and half a mile from Tong-Chow-Fow.

In order to leave the presents which could not be taken to Zhe Hol, at the palace, called "The garden of eternal spring," it was necessary to land. The inhabitants of Tong-Chow-Fow, who were already greatly excited by the appearance of the English, were still more amazed at the first sight of a negro servant. His skin, his jet black colour, his woolly hair, and all the distinguishing marks of his race, were absolutely novel in this part of China. The people could not remember seeing anything at all like him before. Some of them even doubted if he could be a human being at all, and the children cried out in fear that it was a black devil. But his good humour soon reconciled them to his appearance, and they became accustomed to look upon him without fear or displeasure.

The English were especially surprised at seeing upon a wall the sketch of a lunar eclipse which was to take place in a few days. They ascertained among other facts, that silver is an article of commerce with the Chinese, for they have no coined money, but use ingots bearing only a sign, indicative of their weight. The English were struck with the extraordinary resemblance between the religious ceremonies of Fo and those of the Christians.

Macartney states that certain authors maintain that the apostle Thomas visited China; while the Missionary Tremore contends, that this is merely a fiction palmed upon the Jesuits by the devil himself.

Ninety small carriages, forty-four wheelbarrows, more than two hundred horses, and over three thousand men, were employed in the transport of the presents of the British government to the emperor. Macartney and three of his suite accompanied the convoy in palanquins. An enormous crowd followed them. The English ambassador was greeted at the gates of Pekin by volleys of artillery. Once beyond the fortifications, he found himself in a wide unpaved street, with houses on either side, one or two stories high. Across the street extended a wooden triumphal arch in three partitions, each with a lofty and highly decorated roof.

The embassy afforded ample material for the tales which at this time filled the imagination of the people. It was declared that the presents brought for the emperor consisted of everything that was rare in other countries and unknown in China. It was gravely asserted that among the animals, there was an elephant not larger than a monkey, but as fierce as a lion, and a cock which was fed upon coal. Everything which came from England was supposed to differ from anything hitherto seen in Pekin, and to possess the very opposite qualities to those usual to it.

The wall of the imperial palace was at once recognized by its yellow colour. Through the gate were seen artificial hills, lakes and rivers, with small islets, and fantastic buildings amidst the trees.