This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
During my sojourn in this place, I had an opportunity of witnessing a novel mode of taking honey from bee-hives. The Chinese hive is a very rude affair, and looks very different to what we are accustomed to use in England; yet, I suspect, were the bees consulted in the matter, they would prefer the Chinese one to ours. It consists of a rough box, sometimes square, and sometimes cylindrical, with a movable top and bottom. When the bees are put into a hive of this description, it is rarely placed on or near the ground, as with us, but is rained eight or ten feet, and generally fixed under the projecting roof of a house or outbuilding. No doubt the Chinese have remarked the partiality which the insects have for places of this kind when they choose quarters for themselves, and have taken a lesson from this circumstance. My landlord, who had a number of hives, having determined no day to take some honey from two of them, a half-witted priest, who was famous for his prowess in such matters, was sent for to perform the operation. This man, in addition to his priestly duties, had the charge of the buffaloes which were kept on the farm attached to the temple. He came round in high glee, evidently considering his qualifications of no ordinary kind for the operation he was about to perform.
Curious to witness his method of proceeding with the business, I left some work with which I was busy, and followed him and the other priests and servants of the establishment to the place where the hives were fixed. The form of the hives, in this instance, was cylindrical; each was about three feet in height, and rather wider at the bottom than the top. When we reached the spot where the hives were placed, our i operator jumped upon a table placed there for the purpose, and gently lifted down one of the hives and placed it on its side on the table. He then took the movable top off, and the honeycomb, with which the hive was quite full, was exposed to our view. In the meantime an old priest, having brought a large basin, and everything being ready, our friend commenced to cut out the honeycomb with a knife made apparently for the purpose, and having the handle almost at right angles with the blade. Having taken out about one-third of the contents of the hive, the top was put on again, and the hive elevated to its former position. The same operation was repeated with the second hive, and in a manner quite as satisfactory. But it may be asked, "Where were the bees all this time?" and this is the most curious part of my story.
They had not been killed by the fumes of brimstone - for it is contrary to the doctrines of the Buddhist creed to take away animal life - nor had they been stupified with fungus, which is sometimes done at home; but they were flying about above our heads in great numbers, and yet, although we were not protected in the slightest degree, not one of us was stung, and this was the more remarkable, as the bodies of the operator and servants were completely naked from the middle upwards. The charm was a simple one; it lay in a few dry stems and leaves of a species of Artemisia (Wormwood) which grows wild on these hills, and which is largely used to drive that pest, the musquito, out of the dwellings of the people. This plant is cut early in summer, sun-dried, then twisted into bands, and it is ready for use. At the commencement of the operation which I am describing, one end of the substance was ignited and kept burning slowly as the work went on. The poor bees did not seem to know what to make of it. They were perfectly good-tempered, and kept hovering about our heads, but apparently quite incapable of doing us the slightest injury.
When the hives were properly fixed in their places, the charm was put out, and my host and his servants carried off the honey in triumph. - Fortune's China.