A Mountain Road, Hong - Kong.
An Easy Descent.
A Chinese Road.
A Chinese Vehicle.
There is now in China a small progressive party which favors building railroads, as the Japanese have done, but the immense majority are against it. Some years ago a foreign company built a railroad near Shanghai, but the Chinese speedily bought it up at a great cost, transported the rails and locomotives to the sea, and left them to rust upon the beach. This opposition to railways is principally due to the belief that the use of them would deprive millions of people of their means of gaining a livelihood, and that they would, moreover, disturb the graveyards of the country. This latter objection seems at first incredible; but it must be remembered that Chinese cemeteries are strewn broadcast over the land, "Thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks In Vallombrosa."
One sees them everywhere, usurping valuable tracts of territory needed for the living. Outside the city of Canton, for example, there is a graveyard thirty miles in length, in which are buried fully one hundred generations. Yet the Chinese insist that not one grave shall be disturbed, lest multitudes of avenging ghosts should be let loose upon them for such sacrilege. In fact, the permanence and inviolability of graves lie at the very foundation of Chinese life and customs, which is ancestor- worship. From childhood to old age the principal duty of all Chinamen is to propitiate the spirits of their ances tors, and to make offerings to them regularly at their tombs. This custom cripples the colossal empire of China as paralysis would a giant, and fear of doing violence to their dead holds China's millions in an iron grasp.
Hong - Kong.
An Elaborate Tomb.
The Foreign Cemetery, Hong - Kong.
A Fellow Passenger.
The discussion of this theme, as we were descending the mountain, suggested to us the idea of visiting the foreign cemetery in Hong-Kong. In this, as in the public garden, charming results have been obtained by care and irrigation. We were accompanied by a gentleman who had resided on the island nearly thirty years. "In spite of the beauty of this place," he said, "I dread to think that I shall probably be buried here - unable to escape from China even after death. For notwithstanding many pleasant friends, my life, like that of many here, has been at best a dreary banishment from all that makes your Occidental life so stimulating to the intellect and so rich in pleasures. The world at home," he added, "'sometimes blames us for faults, the cause of which is often only an intense desire to counteract the loneliness of our existence; and foreigners in the East deserve some sympathy, if only from the fact that in these cemeteries, kept with so much care, the graves of those we love increase so rapidly." After a few days at Hong-Kong we embarked on one of the American steamers which ply between Victoria and Canton. These boats are modest imitations of the Fall River steamers on Long Island Sound. We found the one that we took clean and comfortable and its American captain cordial and communicative. During the trip he related to us many incidents of his life in China. This he could easily do, for there were only two other foreign passengers on board, and hence, so long as we remained upon the promenade deck, the spacious vessel seemed to be our private yacht.
On The Canton River.
On passing, however, to the deck below, we found a number of Chinamen, likewise going to Canton. Most of them were smoking, lying on their backs, their heads supported by a bale of cloth. At first we thought these constituted all the passengers; but presently we learned, to our astonishment, that farther down, packed in the hold like sardines in a box, and barricaded from us by an iron grating, were more than a thousand Chinese coolies. A sentry, heavily armed, stood by the padlocked grating constantly; while in the wheel-house and saloon were stands of loaded muskets ready for emergencies. The danger is that Chinese pirates will come on board in the disguise of coolies, and at a favorable moment take possession of the ship. One naturally thinks this an impossible occurrence; but only a few years ago this actually took place on one of these boats. A well- armed band of desperadoes swarmed up from the hold, shot down the captain in cold blood, and also some of the passengers who tried to interfere. Then, taking command of the ship, they forced the engineer and crew to do their bidding, steered to a lonely point where their confederates awaited them, unloaded the valuable cargo into their boats, disabled the engine so that the survivors could not give the alarm, and finally made their escape. Such are the indisputable facts. Yet, sailing up this peaceful river, reclining in our easy chairs, and soothed by the soft, balmy air, the tragedy seemed so incredible that we were obliged to put our hands upon the guns, in order to realize that precautions were still needed.