William and Robert Chambers,
Text on page A-48
* 48 MALCOM'S TRAVELS.
through a vestibule, attended by porters, we were ushered into a large and handsome hall, where the old gentleman soon joined us. His dress was negligent, but costly, and resembled that of the mandareen figures in our tea-shops. He saluted us in English, and the conversation was so maintained. After a little, lie invited us to see his establishment, and kindly accompanied us. I was soon bewildered in passing through lialls, rooms, and passages; crossing little courtyards and bridges ; now looking at scores of gold-fish in a tank, and now sitting in a rustic summer-house on the top of an artificial cliff; now admiring whole beds of china asters in full bloom, and now engrossed with large aviaries or grotesque bee-hives. Here were miniature grottoes, and there were jets of water. Here were stunted forest-trees and porcelain beasts, and there was a lake and a fancy skiff. Yet the whole was compressed into a space not larger than is occupied by some mansions in the middle of our large cities.
There was not that quaint absurdity about all this, that books and pictures had led me to suppose. True, it was exceedingly artificial, and thoroughly Chinese ; but there were taste and beauty in it all. Why should we break down all tastes to one standard? He that can only be pleased in a given way, is ill fitted to travel ; and I am sure any one not predetermined to contemn, would admire and enjoy the grounds of Tinqua.
The style of the rooms pleased me less. They were numerous, but all furnished in the same manner, and most of them small. Besides gorgeous Chinese lanterns, hung Dutch, English, and Chinese chandeliers, of every size and pattern. Italian oil-paintings, Chinese hangings, French clocks, Geneva boxes, British plate, and c. and c., adorned the same rooms, strewed with natural curiosities, wax fruits, models, and costly trifles, from every part of the world.
There are 124 temples in Canton, besides the numerous public altars seen in the streets. I saw the principal ones without the walls, which are said not to be inferior, on the whole, to those within. They strikingly resemble the monasteries of Europe. The handsomest is one of the Boodhists, in the suburb of Honan, on the opposite side of the river. Being accompanied by Messrs Bridgman, Parker, and Morrison, who were acquainted with the superior, I was not only shown every part by his order, but had the pleasure of his society for an hour. Cloisters, corridors, courtyards, chapels, image-houses, and various offices, are scattered, with little regard to order, over a space of five or six acres. Priests, with shaven crowns and rosaries, loitered about ; but I never saw common people come to worship either at this or other establishments. Some of the priests occupied small and mean apartments ; but those of the superior are spacious, and furnished not only with the ordinary conveniences, but with chandeliers, mirrors, pictures, and c., and with an extensive library. The buildings are chiefly of brick, one story high, the walks handsomely flagged, and the courtyard ornamented with large trees, or beautiful parterres of flowers. The printing-office contains stereotype plates enough to load a small vessel, so arranged as that every I
work is readily accessible. The principal apartment or temple is about 100 feet square, with the usual images, and c. We attended here to witness the regular evening service. ^ It seemed to create little interest, for out of 160 resident priests, there were but fifty present; and these uttered their repetitions with the most obvious indifference. Their prayers are in Pali ostensibly, but I am told not truly, as their mode of writing renders it utterly unintelligible to any one. They keep time by striking a wooden drum, and occasionally a bell. At a certain stage of the process, the whole company formed into single file, and marched round the hall, without ceasing their repetitions. This gave us a full view of their countenances; and so far as these indicated, a more stupid set could not be picked out in all Canton. I have already remarked this characteristic of the Boodhist priesthood in other countries, and am confirmed in the belief of its being attributable to the character of their religion, and the nature of their duties.
Instead of the humble dress of Burman and Siam priests, these wear as handsome as they can get, with shoes and stockings. What is worse, some are in rags, barefoot, and squalid, with apparent poverty. They have, however, a common refectory, where I presume all fare alike. The buildings were erected at different times by the munificence of individuals, and by the revenues of the establishment, which amount to about 8000 dollars per annum.
While we walked over the premises, the superior had prepared us a repast of sweetmeats and fruits, to which he sat down with us. His manners were easy and elegant, his dress unostentatious, and his countenance full of intelligence and mildness. His age is but thirty-eight. We of course endeavoured to make the visit profitable to him. My heart yearned over him ; and when he assured me that he meant to visit America in a year or two, I was happy to promise him a most cordial reception. Priests may leave the country and return, without the restraints which make it dangerous to others.
The whole number of priests in Canton is estimated at 2000 ; of nuns, 1000. The annual expense of the 124 temples is 250,000 dollars. An equal sum is required for the periodical festivals. Half a million, annually paid in one city for religion, by pagans ! And the whole amount which all Christendom gives for pagans in a year is but six times as much !
I saw no pagodas at any of these establishments. They generally stand on some hill alone. Unlike the cones or pyramids of Burmah, these rise like shot-towers, with successive stories, marked by a cornice or
Chinese Pagoda, narrow pent-house. The top is often covered deeply with earth, from which shrubs shoot up, and form a romantic finish, as is the case with that here repre-Chinese Pagoda, narrow pent-house. The top is often covered deeply with earth, from which shrubs shoot up, and form a romantic finish, as is the case with that here repre-