Canton (properly Quang-chow-foo, pearl city of commerce), a city of China, capital of the province of Quang-tung, in lat. 23° 7' N., Ion. 113° 14' E., about 45 m. from the sea, on the Canton river, near the junction of the Se-kiang and Pe-kiang; pop. about 1,300,000. It is about 7 m. in circumference, or 10 m. including the suburbs. It is built nearly in the form of a square, surrounded by a brick wall 15 to 20 ft. thick at the base and narrowing toward the top, pierced by 12 gates, at each of which is a guard house. The city is divided into two parts, separated by a wall with four gates. The old town is inhabited by Tartars, and is the residence of the commander of the troops. The new town, on the south, contains the residence of the viceroy. On the S. E. and S. W. are the suburbs, with four forts and the foreign warehouses with spacious gardens. Most of the streets are short, and are irregularly laid out, branching at all angles, and often continued through narrow gates or mere doorways. They are from 7 to 10 ft. wide, the houses often meeting across to keep out the sun. Unlike other Chinese and eastern cities, the streets are paved with flat granite blocks, and the sewerage is concealed. The houses are generally built of dark brown brick, one or two stories high.
They are without veraudas, and entirely open in front, closed only by suspended bamboo screens. The windows are small and rarely furnished with glass, paper, mica, and other transparent substances being substituted. The roofs are of unequal height, from a Chinese superstition that ill luck follows eaves which connect with each other in a continuous line. The roofing invariably consists of thin tiles laid in rows alternately concave and convex, the latter overlapping the former, and cemented with mortar. The houses contain from three to six apartments. The dwellings of the poorer classes are seldom more than mud hovels, containing but a single apartment. Stone is seldom used except about gateways. The shops are commodious and well stocked with goods. In the busy part every house is a shop; but there are two streets, China street and New China street, mostly resorted to by foreigners, where goods from nearly all parts of the world are to be found. Eating houses are numerous, and furnish a great variety of made dishes, in which rice, pork, puppies, cats, rats, and geese are the staple ingredients.
About 4 m. from the city is anchored the "boat town," or the 40,000 covered river boats, which are the constant homes of 300,-000 people called Tankia, a strange, amphibious, pariah race, who subsist by fishing, carrying goods and passengers, and various singular occupations, such as the rearing of ducks, puppies, and other favorite animals of the epicures of Canton. They also recruit the piratical sampans which infest the mouth of the Canton river and almost every portion of the coast.
Canton, from the Temple of the Five Genii.
New China Street.
The Tankia fleet is a home for the city's swarm of prostitutes. Between this floating city of outcasts and the point of landing at the foreign quarter is the anchorage of the great junks engaged in foreign Asiatic trade. - When a stranger of note arrives here with letters of introduction, he is generally received and hospitably entertained at the mansions of the merchants, especially the English and American, who have commercial and dwelling establishments at Macao and Hong Kong. For the accommodation of less fortunate travellers there are a couple of hotels, conducted on semi-European principles; that is, Chinese in service and filth, and European in diet. Though the Cantonese have been represented as being of all Chinese the most hostile to strangers, yet it has been the experience of intelligent travellers that a courteous and cheerful deportment has always secured immunity from insult in visiting portions of the city distant from the foreign quarter; and even rambles with ladies in company have been extended without molestation through the country, around the fortifications of the walled city proper. Goods are carried by coolies by means of a pole stretched across the shoulders of two or more.
The narrow streets being impassable for carriages, the only vehicles are sedan chairs, carried likewise by coolies. These are found in immense numbers, and offer their services at very low rates. The city is divided into quarters for the accommodation of divers kinds of business, almost every trade or occupation having its own separate quarter. The proprietors of the various shops are noted for their suavity. When not engaged within, they are seen standing in the doorways of their establishments, and, in an amusing jumble of mongrel English and Portuguese, most pertinaciously solicit the attention of the passing foreigner. The Cantonese shopkeeper extends a liberal hospitality to his customers; he generally has a refreshing cup of tea to present, or wine and other refreshments; and if his civilities fail to secure a purchaser, he parts with his visitor with the same politeness with which he received him. Provisions of all kinds are abundant and cheap in Canton; and few large cities can compare with it in point of salubrity.
Canton sends forth annually about 1.0,000 trading adventurers and laboring coolies to differ-ent parts of Asia, and of the latter lately to Australia, California, South America, and the West Indies. The temperature ranges from 75° to 90° F. between June and August, and 50° to 30° in January and February. Most of the rain falls in May and June, but in much less quantity than during a rainy season in the same latitude on the Indian peninsula. The S. W. monsoon causes a clear sky, and brings a refreshing and invigorating air from October to January. A good deal of unhealthiness is complained of in the foreign quarter, especially among the women; but this must be attributed to their luxurious and heavy European diet, and to the entire absence of suitable exercise. - There is no local police, but the city is divided into numerous districts or compartments with gates, which are closed at night as well as the city gates. Each community within these compartments is held responsible to the authorities for peace and order; but a police force is kept on the river. Thus the Cantonese seldom or never go out visiting or to places of public amusement in the evening, but spend their leisure time at home.
There are numerous public buildings, such as pavilions, halls, and religious edifices, few of which deserve special notice, though some are not destitute of elegance. There are also a large number of temples, mostly dens of vice, in which there are about 3,000 priests and nuns. Two pagodas are conspicuous. One, called the Kwang-tah (plain pagoda), about 1,000 years old, rises in an angular tapering tower to a height of 160 ft.; the other, about 1,300 years old, is an octagonal nine-storied edifice, 170 ft. high. There are several prisons, the largest of which is capable of containing 1,000 prisoners, and a foundling hospital, the children from which when grown up are sold, often for the worst purposes. The temple of the 500 gods, or "flowery forest," is remarkable for the great number of colossal wooden figures of all colors, with grotesque or hideous faces, arranged in close order round the walls of the saloon, which are the guardian genii of China. The hall of worship is 60 ft. square, with a lofty ceiling. In the centre is a gigantic triple-carved statue, in a sitting posture, representing Buddha. Another temple, dedicated to longevity, contains a colossal idol of wood representing an, obese old man. Here is kept a family of storks which are daily fed by the attendants.
The examination hall contains about 9,000 stalls, where sit students and candidates for government offices, to pass their examination. - The number of foreign residents in Canton is estimated at 130, mostly English and American. In 1846 there were 357 foreign residents, exclusive of the families belonging to several of them. Up to 1856 the foreigners- resided at the factories, chiefly built by the East India company, which on the bombardment and capture of Canton at the end of that year were burned and levelled by the Chinese; and after the proclamation of peace the merchants had to rent native tenements on the Ho-nan side, while the consular and other authorities were scattered over the city and western suburbs. The English obtained from the Chinese authorities a concession of the destroyed Sha-meen forts, situated in a salubrious part of the western suburbs on the river bank. The area allowed for foreign settlement has an extent of 24 acres. On the river side it is protected by a granite wall, and there is sufficient depth of water for a vessel of 1,000 tons burden to lie alongside. On the land side it is separated from the Chinese dwellings by a canal with stone embankments, across which there are three stone bridges.
Good roads have been constructed along the margin of the concession, and that part facing the river is planted with trees and shrubs, forming a pleasant promenade. Streets were laid out and houses built, and the residents have formed themselves into a committee for municipal purposes. There are 30 or 40 large factories or hongs, an Episcopal church built of white marble, a clubhouse, and a good library. Some of the American houses, finding that the acquisition of title by Americans within the British concession was attended with uncertainty, have rebuilt their old factories. - Industry is active at Canton. The weaving of silks and other stuffs, and the manufacture of porcelain, fancy tables, screens, umbrellas, children's toys, jewelry in the precious metals, ivory, cranes' beaks, and other materials, ivory fans, etc, employ thousands of hands; and the products are sold at the lowest prices. The number of weavers is estimated at 50,000, including the embroiderers, the barbers at 7,000, and the shoemakers at 4,000. The printing and book trade is also considerable. There are no large manufacturing establishments, the craftsmen working either singly at home or in small companies. Each trade or calling is united into guilds for mutual protection and support.
Canton is the chief entrepot of the commerce of China with Japan, Siam, Cochin China, and the islands of the Malay archipelago. The great junk fleet at Canton, composed of vessels ranging from 500 to 1,000 tons burden, contributes more to the wealth of the city than the European fleets which anchor at Wham-poa. There are several millionaire Canton merchants at Batavia, Singapore, and Bang: kok. When we regard the position of Canton, we find that, though more remote from the sea than its northern commercial rivals, Shanghai, Ningpo, Foo-choo, and others, it is very favorably situated to take advantage of the monsoons that waft its junks to the ports of S. E. Asia. Its position for internal trade is also highly favorable. The river Pe, or North stream, and the Yuh, or Western stream, with their confluents, which have deep waters and a gentle current, are navigable throughout the whole extent of the rich provinces of Quang-see and Quang-tnng. The products of the rich valley bounded by the Mei-ling, Yung-ling, Ya-shan, and Lo-feu-shan ranges of mountains, with an area of 150,000 sq. m. and a population of 60,000,000, have no other market but Canton. Before the establishment of Shanghai as a port of foreign entry, the products of the Yang-tse valley and the populous Po-yang lake basin were brought down the Kan river to Nan-ngan; thence by portage through a pass in the Mey-ling mountains, 24 m., to Nan-hiung, a considerable town at the head of navigation of the Pe, and thence down to Canton. The natural waterways of the rich valley which forms the background of Canton are tapped at innumerable points by artificial conduits, forming a network of irrigation and water communication, far surpassing anything of similar character in any other country.
The aspect of the landscape, beheld from the fortifications in the rear of the city, is exceedingly picturesque. Far away among the beautiful verdure and shrubbery of the plain you behold the gilded masts of junks gliding in all directions, intermingled with the pointed roofs of villages and the spires of pagodas. This beauty of distant Chinese scenery does not appear in the approach to Canton, and the traveller who for the first time passes through the great delta or archipelago below the city, is disappointed by the aspect of the sluggish stream, the low mud banks, and the dead treeless level lying beyond. Formerly the whole of the foreign trade was carried on by sailing ships, but since the establishment of the colony of Hong Kong there has sprung up a line of river steamboats, chiefly of American build, which ply daily between Canton, Macao, and Hong Kong, and convey the greater part of the produce and merchandise for foreign and native consumption, as well as passengers. The mouth of the river, or rather the gulf of Canton, unlike other Asiatic rivers, is not blocked by sand banks, and the channels separating the islands present no serious danger to shipping; but in consequence of the strong eddies and intricate navigation in the estuary and inner waters of the Canton river, it is necessary to take a pilot as far as the Boca Tigris, whence another pilot conducts to the anchorage at Whampoa, 12 miles from the city.
From the rise of the tide and the nature of the ground it has been found advantageous to construct several docks for repairing ships. From these facilities a number of vessels enter which have no traffic at this port, so that the shipping returns are in excess of the commercial tonnage. - According to Chinese authorities, Canton has existed as a city for 40 centuries, and was originally called Nan-keao. Whether those accounts are correct or not, traces arc found of Nan-wo-ching (the martial city of the south) 1,200 years before our era. Its name was changed several times, and its population and importance rapidly increased. Commercial relations were formed with the merchants of India, and toward the 8th century it had an extensive trade. At the end of the 9th century it was besieged by the Cochin Chinese. Canton distinguished itself, about 1650, by an obstinate resistance to the Mantchoo Tartars, who then established the dynasty which now rules China, which was followed by a fearful massacre after its capture. Chinese writers estimate the number of those killed during the siege and subsequent massacre at 700,000. In 1839 a fire destroyed about 10,000 houses.
The first intercourse of Europeans with this city was in 1517, when Emanuel of Portugal sent eight ships of war to accompany an ambassador, who went to Peking and obtained permission for his government to establish a trading post near Canton, which was ultimately fixed at Macao. In 1596 the English failed in an attempt to open trade there. In 1634 they made another attempt with a greater number of ships; but the expedition was abortive through the machinations of the Portuguese. In 1680 an English factory was established at Canton. The perseverance of the English finally gained for them a superior position in the European trade with Canton, which they still maintain. Their imports in 1842, before the opening of other ports to foreign trade, were about $17,500,000 of British manufactures, and $13,000,000 of colonial produce; with exports valued at $19,000,000, of which $15,000,000 was of tea. The United States rank next to Great Britain in commercial importance at Canton. The enterprising merchants of Salem were pioneers of this trade, commenced at great risk amid the dangers and vicissitudes of the war of the revolution.
Raw silk has become the most important article of export from the province of Canton to the United States. In the summer of 1871 the value of raw floss and woven silks shipped from the port of Canton to this country amounted to $1,222,911. The value of the other exports to this country, as tea, drugs, cassia, lacquered ware, and other Chinese manufactures, amounted to $1,178,599. The total quantity of silk exported in 1871 from Canton was 2,153,300 lbs. Up to 1850 Canton was the chief foreign emporium in China, when it began to be surpassed by Shanghai. - On May 26, 1841, the British, failing to obtain redress for certain grievances, captured the forts which command the city, and compelled it to pay a ransom of £6,000,000 to save it from bombardment; and by the treaty of Nanking on Aug. 26 of the following year it was opened to English commerce. In 1847 the British again took possession of the outer fortifications of Canton. Again, in combination with the French, they commenced hostilities in October, 1856, against the city, which they captured without much loss, Dec. 29,1857. The place was occupied as a material guarantee for the payment of an indemnity of £666,000 in equal proportions to the English and French. It was evacuated by the allies on Oct. 21, 1861, and possession handed over to the viceroy of the province.
Since this last capture by the allies, the opening of other ports for foreign trade has diminished the relative importance of Canton. Its import trade has also suffered from the levy of additional imposts to defray the expenses caused the government by the Taeping rebellion. The Canton merchants are getting more and more of the trade into their hands, going to Hong Kong to purchase, and carrying the goods to the various ports in native junks. In consequence there has been a great falling off in cotton and woollen manufactures, and also in opium, the value of which in 1866 was $1,322,866, against $2,290,234 in 1863.