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Mr. Abel had the fortune to pass the first night in this farfamed empire on the bare boards, among myriads of mosquitoes; and found in the morning that his perambulations were to be confined to a spot of ground about one hundred yards square, guarded on every side by soldiers. This early specimen of suffering and restraint was not calculated to put him in the best possible humour with the 'heavenly empire/ and accordingly we are presented with the following sketch.
'No country in the world can afford, I imagine, fewer objects of interest to any species of traveller, than the banks of the Pei-ho between Ta-koo and Tien-sing. The land is marshy and sterile, the inhabitants are poor and squalid, their habitations mean, dirty, and dilapidated, and the native productions of the soil aje few and unattractive. The scenery had only novelty and strangeness to recommend it; but had it possessed the attractions of Arcadia, they would have been polluted by miserable objects of wretched and naked men, tracking our boats and toiling often through a deep mire under a burning sun. These poor fellows were attended by overseers, who kept them to their work, and prevented their desertion, but did not, as far as I could observe, exert their authority with cruelty. Scarcely had our eyes become in some degree familiarised with their appearance, when they were offended by the sight of a dead body frightfully swollen, lying on his back, and floating down the river. Our boatmen passed it without regard. I must confess, that in turning from the contemplation of such objects, 1 recovered with some difficulty that state of mind which was necessary to an unprejudiced examination of the country through which I was passing.'—pp. J5,76.
The feast of the Yellow Screen at Tien-sing tended to augment rather than allay the disappointment and dissatisfaction felt on the first landing of the embassy. That curious scene, having been fully described by Mr. Ellis, need not be repeated here. The store of ice, which the party was able to procure at Tien-sing for cooling their wine and fruit, appears to have been the first pleasurable object that presented itself;' and it is admitted that' no people understand better the refreshing qualities of ice, during hot weather, than the Chinese.' Every fruiterer had it in abundance, and every Chinese almost was seen carrying it about in his hands.—The thickness of it, Mr. Abel thinks,' sufficiently testified the severity of the cold which must prevail in these parts during the winter:'—it rather testifies the knowledge which the Chinese possess of the art of making and filling ice-houses, and of ramming down and breaking the material into small fragments, so as to form one solid mass; the preservation of ice having no reference to its original' thickness.'
Squalidness and filth continued, we are told, to be the leading characteristics from Tien-sing to Tong-cheu. In the latter city,
mud and stench predominated, and received an increase of of
s 4 fensiveness fensiveness from the peculiar odours which were thrown off by numerous cook-shops that lined our road, aided perhaps by the dead animals too closely resembling cats and dogs, which hung in their front.' We suspect Mr. Abel to be possessed of peculiarly delicate nerves;—iEneas Anderson bestows great praise on the savoury relishes which he used to procure at the Chinese cook shops; Sir George Staunton too, if we mistake not, speaks favourably of Chinese cookery. Even Van Braam, who was a perfect gourmand, limits his grievance to the scanty supply of his table, complaining of quantity rather than quality, and grumbling that they gave him only the bones to pick. We recollect too that the gentlemen of Lord Macartney's embassy were particularly struck with the fine carcasses of broad-tailed sheep, that hung in front of the butchers' shops of all the towns and villages in the neighbourhood of the capital. On a change tout cela, it seems, since their time, for the horses were as, f miserable looking animals' as the supposed ' dead dogs and cats.'
'That on which I rode was about thirteen hands and a half high, of a bay colour, having alt his bony points extremely prominent. Accustomed to follow en train, and of an obstinate temper, he would seldom pass any of his kind; and always chose his own pace, which was something between a trot and an amble. His equipment perfectly harmonised with his personal propensities. Two pieces of board forming the saddle, met at so acute an angle, that his bare spine would have afforded a more pleasant support. Behind and before it had two high projections, on the former of which I occasionally sat, to relieve myself from the effects of its central portion. A piece of scarlet cloth was indeed thrown over; but as this was continually slipping, jt rather increased than remedied the inconvenience arising from the bare boards. A piece of old cord formed the girt, and permitted the saddle to turn, when I endeavoured to mount. The stirrups were suspended by strings, so short, that they scarcely hung beneath the animal's body, occasioning some danger of collision between my knees and nose. The bridle was of no better materials, and had a bit which the animal totally disregarded. A piece of cord attached to the reins served as a whip. Such an outfit would not have excited dissatisfaction, had it been similar to that of equestrians of respectability in the country; but I did not witness an instance of the poorest Chinese being more miserably mounted. Remonstrance was in vain; the mandarins insisted that no better means of conveyance were to be obtained, and many of the gentlemen preferred any other mode of travelling to that of the carts.'—p. 98.
We do not think it necessary to repeat the miseries of the granite pavement between Tong-cheu and Pekin, which have already been described with such feeling and eloquence by Mr. Ellis; suffice it to say, that whether on horsebackj or foot, or in a covered cart, (and Mr. Abel tried (hem all,) tbiS superb causeway is equally far
nounced uouuced as execrable. The party were permitted, however, to enjoy a short respite from the excruciating fatigues of a Chinese ' cart,' when within about five miles of the capital, in a sort of shed, in which were stowed the ambassador, his suite, ' and some of the horses.' Here they remained about an hour; and setting forth again in the dark, in the most scrambling manner that can be imagined, they arrived before the gates of Pekin at midnight—but they were closed against them. Chinese curiosity however was fully awake. * Thousands of people crowded the road, holding up their small oval lanterns to gain a view of the procession.'
The pleasant airing which their conductors gave them round the walls of Pekin, over deep miry roads, through narrow lanes and along the brink of deep ditches, in ' a procession' which terminated only with the dawn, formed an appropriate introduction to the extraordinary farce that took place at the palace of Yuen-min-yuen, which Mr. Ellis, who had the advantage of being behind the scenes, has so well described. The room into which the representative of the king of England, with the few that attended him, (for the Chinese contrived to drive off the greater part of his suite,) was rudely thrust was scarcely twelve feet by seven, with holes on every side, furnished with shutters, like the port-holes of a ship, and a sky-light of tattered paper:—in short, it forcibly brought to the recollection of the few who were crammed into it, the exclamation of Van Braam. 'Nous voila done, a notre arriv6e dans la c61ebre residence imperiale, loges dans une esp^ce d'ecurie.' •
The disgraceful scene that followed is described pretty nearly in the same terms as those employed by Mr. Ellis, but the rudeness, it seems, went beyond even what the Commissioner thought proper to state. The duke, as he is absurdly styled, ' caught his lordship by the arm, beckoning at the same time to some surrounding mandarins to assist him. They obeyed the signal, and stepped forward; but before they reached the ambassador, we started up, (says Mr. Abel,) and advanced towards him, when in the act of shaking off his unmannerly assailant. This sudden movement stopped the duke, and alarmed his attendants; the former quitted his hold, and the latter fell back, with countenances full of astonishment.' Lord Amherst behaved with that dignified composure, which all who know him would expect on so trying an occasion, and cautioned his suite on no account to use their weapons in resisting the violence that had been offered to him and that might again recur. But it was not necessary. They were speedily removed to a residence at a little distance, where they hoped for some rest after their long and tiresome journey; but in this also they were disappointed. The emperor had issued his mandate for their immediate departure, and the summons was as speedily brought to them by
a most a most consequential gentleman who, on making his appearance, called out in a loud voice and imperative gesture, ' I am a messenger from the Keu-mun-te-tien, governor of the nine gates of Pekin, the greatest military officer of the empire; the commander of a million of men; he orders the ambassador instantly to quit the limits of his command.' All was now bustle and confusion; and our jaded countrymen were once more doomed to the Chinese cart and the causeway, in travelling along which, says Mr. Abel, ' we telt the sensation of continual dislocation and replacement in every joint of our bodies.'
Mr. Abel of course is unable to give any account of Pekin, having only surrounded its walls twice by night; but he says 'we stepped from our carts to steal a piece of its walls, and had just time to observe that they were built of a sun-dried brick of a blue colour, resting on a foundation of blocks of granite.' This is a. mistake; the walls of Pekin are built of a remarkably hard and wellburnt brick, laid in so skilful and workmanlike a manner as not to be excelled in this or any other country. The bricks and tiles of China, like all their earthenware, are of very superior quality, and burnt with great care in close ovens or furnaces, heated with wood or culm. We know from a gentleman in Lord Macartney's embassy, who particularly examined the walls of Pekin, that the bricks of which they are constructed had a close compact surface capable of taking a polish; they were of a dull leaden bluish colour, and each contained about thrice as much matter as one of the standard size of England; and it is observed by Lord Macartney, that the only piece of brick-work worthy of being compared with that of the garden walls at Yuen-min-yuen, is that of the house of Lord Palmerston, in the south-west corner of Hanover-square—rwhich is unquestionably unrivalled in London.
The gentlemen of Lord Macartney's embassy encountered few or no beggars in the whole of their route through China. Those of Lord Amherst's were beset with them. The opposite characters of the two emperors Kien-lung and Kia-King, as suggested by Mr. Abel, can scarcely be considered as affording sufficient grounds to account for this difference. Lord Macartney's retinue confined themselves to the direct route, and were attended with more pomp and parade of civil and military mandarins, with their lictors and guards, who might have been instructed to remove all objects of 'deformity and penury' out of the way. Lord Amherst's party, it would seem, frequently ran riot, and rambled to considerable distances from the line of their route.
The country however is certainly not so tranquil and well governed as in the time of Kien-lung. Kia-king, it appears, is a weak and capricious ruler, little acquainted with the affairs of government, or
the the condition of his people. Mr. Abel may be permitted to speak contemptuously of him after the rude treatment experienced at his court; but the character which we have received of him from a resident in the capital fully justifies all that he has said. He is, in fact, vain, effeminate, and licentious—giving himself up to every species of sensuality—governed by favourites one day, whom, without reason, he disgraces the next. Song, his chief minister and bottle companion, (for among his other vices he reckons that of drunkenness,) being asked respecting a journey into Tartary, endeavoured to dissuade him from it, hinting that, as happened a few years before, the season of his absence might again be the season of revolt. This displeased the royal ear, and availing himself of an edict published by Kien-lung, which declared any minister guilty of high treason, who should attempt to dissuade his descendants on the throne from visiting the tombs of his ancestors in Tartary, Kia-king decreed Song to have merited death: in consideration, however, of the advice having been solicited by himself, he contented himself with stripping him of his honours and banishing him to Ely in Tartary— whither his son, as a mark of the royal favour, was permitted to accompany him.
We regret, on many accounts, the illness of Mr. Abel: the little which he saw of the peasantry of China, in his botanical excursions, is exceedingly favourable to their character, and we should have been glad of a fuller description of this most important class of people from his hands.
'They afforded,' he tells us, ' a pleasing contrast in their simple manners and civil treatment of strangers, to the cunning designs of the salesmen of Tung-Chow, and the brutal importunity of the courtiers of Yuenrrning-yuen. When they have accompanied me along the banks of the river, far in advance of ray boat, and have beheld me overcome by fatigue and heat, they have always appeared anxious to relieve my distress. One has hastened to the nearest house for a seat, another has brought me water, and a third has held an umbrella over my head to defend me from the sun, whilst their companions have at some distance formed a circle around me. We were to these people as the inhabitants of another world. 'Our features, dress, and habits were so opposed to theirs, as to induce them to infer that our country, in all its natural characters, must equally differ from their own. "Have you a moon, and rain, and rivers in your country?" were their occasional questions. Comprehending no other rational object for the collecting of plants than their useful qualities, and seeing me gather ail indiscriminately, they at once supposed that I sought them merely as objects of curiosity, and laughed heartily at my eagerness to obtain them. They pitied my ignorance, and endeavoured to teach me their relative worth, and wereanxious for me to learn the important truth, that from one seed many might be obtained. A young man having shaken some ripe seeds from