The best oysters are those collected in January, February, and March. There are several species of oysters in China. The Bamboo Oysters are grown in the following manner. Old oyster-shells of two kinds are selected, thick and thin, each of the thick ones having a hole one and a half inches in diameter bored through the centre of it. Slips of bamboo about two feet in length, one and a half inches wide, and half an inch thick, are pointed and split to about half the distance down, a thin shell is inserted in each split near its bottom end, the two top ends of each split are pressed together and thrust into the perforated shell, which holds it securely. When a sufficient number of bamboos have been prepared, they are planted very closely together on the mud flats, much in the same way as a gardener plants cuttings. At the end of about a month, the spat, which had attached itself to them when planted out, has developed into small oysters. The bamboos are then taken up and transplanted about six inches apart. In four or five months the bamboos are almost hid by the oysters which cluster round them, and which are now collected and sold.* The shells of the oyster and murex were used by the Romans as tooth-powder, and oyster-shells are now used as manure. The Chinese use the shells, when ground down, in certain skin diseases; and the valves of Ostrea talienwanensis, and of other species of oysters, are calcined until quite white, pulverized, and then mixed with the juice of certain plants, as a dressing for ulcers.† In the crab traps in China, which are made of bamboo in the shape of a truncated cone, the bait is placed in the middle of the basket, and an oyster is generally used for that purpose.

* 'China: Imperial Maritime Customs.' Special Catalogue, International Fisheries Exhibition, London, 1833. † 'Flight of the Lapwing'.

Juan Francisco de San Antonio, in his 'Chronicos de los Eel. Descalzos de S. Francisco,' etc, 1738, mentions the use of great oyster-shells for "holy water," and speaks of one known to be ninety years old, by the layers of its shell. But I fancy he must mean the shell of the Tridacna gigas, as we know it is used for that purpose; and in the church of St. Sulpice, in Paris, are two of these shells resting upon rock-work in marble, by Pigalle; they were given to Francis I. by the Republic of Venice. In the 'Intellectual Observer,' vol. i., p. 483, is an account of an "oyster-shell" island, by M. Aucapitaine, on the east coast of Corsica, composed of layers of shells, bearing some resemblance to the shell-mounds of St. Michel-en-l'Herm, in La Vendée. This island is formed of still-living species, and is between three hundred and four hundred yards in circumference, the greatest elevation about thirty yards, and the mean elevation rather more than two yards above the level of the sea. The Romans are said by the fishermen to have deposited the shells of the oysters there, which they salted for exportation, but M. Aucapitaine does not believe in the artificial origin of this island.

* 'China : Imperial Maritime Customs,' etc.

† 'Essai sur la Pharmacie et la Matiere Médicale des Chinois,' par J. 0. Debeaux.

According to M. de Quatrefages, the shell-mounds of St. Michel-en-1'Herm are composed of oyster, mussel, and scallop shells, of the same species as those living now in the neighbouring seas. Many of them have their valves still connected by the ligament which forms the hinge, and they have not even changed colour. The three banks of St. Michel-en-l'Herm are about seven hundred and thirty yards in length, three hundred in width, and rise about ten to fifteen yards above the level of the surrounding marshes.

Mr. Buckland mentions a large heap of oyster-shells in Galway Bay, at a place called Creggauns; another south-west of Tyrone, and one at Ardfry Point. The Creggauns heap consists principally of the shells of the oyster, mussel, and common cockle, though the whelk, Pecten varius, periwinkle, limpet, Nassa reticulata, Helixnemoralis, Trochus, and Venerupis decussata (Tapes decussata?), are also found in it. There are layers of wood-ashes and stones, apparently used as hearthstones, showing the marks of having been subjected to fire, but no weapons. The heap occupies an irregular space of two hundred feet long, and sixty feet wide, and ranges from six to eight feet deep. There are various traditions as to the age of the heaps; and it is said, that ninety years ago a series of high tides cast up the heap of shells from adjoining beds.*

Dr. Schliemann found oyster-shells in large numbers in the ruins of all the five prehistoric settlements at Hissarlik, showing that oysters must have been a favourite food with all the early settlers, and their abundance in the first and oldest city is confirmed by Professor E. Virchow.†

In an old kitchen-midden, in the Andaman Islands, close to the landing-place at Homfray's Ghat, Mount Augusta, the valves of oysters Arcidœ and Cyrenidœ, are found in abundance, but the present race of Andamanese are stated by Mr. Ball not to eat oysters, which suggests the idea that possibly there were different inhabitants of this portion of the island at some former period.‡ Saint-Hilaire describes heaps of oyster and other shells, bordering the river Piriqui-assú, near Aldea Velha., which are without doubt hjöhhenmöddings. Similar shell-heaps, or Ostreiras, as they are called in Brazil, are found on the coast of Sao Paulo, and on the Ilha do Governador, in the Bay of Bio. They often contain human remains, pottery, etc.§

At the present day the Baltic appears to be almost the only sea where the oyster will not grow, a fact attributable to the very great influx of fresh water from the mouths of its many rivers, and the less powerful current from the ocean, so that, in the words of Sir Charles Lyell, "the Ostrea edulis cannot live at present in the brackish waters of the Baltic, except near its entrance". Yet, from the examination of the Danish Kjökhenmöddings, it appears "that the oyster flourished in places from which it is now excluded, attaining its full size".

* 'Field,' February 4th, 1865.

† 'Troja,' by Dr. Henry Schliemann, see note vi. p. 285. ‡'Jungle Life in India'.

§ 'Scientific Results of Agassiz's Journey,' by Charles Fred. Hartt. note,.

Oysters may be eaten in various ways, either cooked or raw: -

"The pepper-box, the cruet, - wait To give a relish to the taste; The mouth is watering for the bait Within the pearly cloisters cased.

"Take off the beard, - as quick as thought, The pointed knife divides the flesh; What plates are laden ! Loads are brought, And eaten raw, and cold, and fresh". *

The oddest way of cooking an oyster, of which we have any mention, is that recorded by Evelyn, who, in the year 1672, saw Richardson, "the famous fire-eater," perform wondrous feats, one of which was, "taking a live coal on his tongue, he put on it a raw oyster; the coal was blown on with bellows, till it flam'd and sparkl'd in his mouth, and so remained till the oyster gaped, and was quite boil'd". Who ate the oyster thus cooked, we are not informed.†

The Chinese seldom eat fresh oysters, they are usually dried. They are first boiled for a short time, and then either exposed to the sun, or dried over a slow fire until they look like mushrooms, and give off a nasty rancid smell. When they are eaten fresh, they are taken with ginger and vinegar, and a sauce is made by boiling down the water in which oysters have previously been boiled.*

* Hone's 'Every Day Book,' vol. ii. p. 1071. † 'Evelyn's Memoirs,' vol, i. p. 438.