Matting. A fabric of some coarse material, as rushes, hemp, coir, bamboo, palm leaves, etc., used as a cheap covering for floors. Cocoanut matting is made of coir, especially that which is heavy and thick. [See Coir]. Russia matting is made from the inner bark of the linden tree. Napier matting is made of hemp. Can/on or China matting is of two kinds: "China" matting which is made in two-and five-yard pieces, and fastened together in one 40-yard piece; and "Japan" matting, which is made in one 40-yard piece, without a joint and can be reversed. The making of matting has been known to the Chinese from a very early period. Grasses from which the matting is made grow in great abundance throughout China, but the principal variety is grown mostly in the province of Canton. To perfect its growth, the plant requires a great deal of moisture, and this it receives lavishly in the lowlands of Canton, being adjacent to both sea and rivers. The excessive moisture makes the growth so rapid that "hearing the grass grow" is almost a truism. The grass requires little cultivation and grows from the root instead of from seed. The variety most used, which grows nowhere except in China and Japan, is three-cornered, and very strong and tough. It grows very rapidly in the wet lands, and usually there are three or four crops harvested in a year, but specimens will not thrive or live long in this country. Life in the districts where the matting is made is odd and picturesque. Every peasant is employed in the manufacture of matting, most of which is made in the homes of the workers. There are very few factories where numbers of workmen are gathered together, although the employer of the labor is usually a resident in Canton. Even children are enlisted in the work. They are employed in splitting the straw, which is the first operation after it is harvested. This is necessary because the straw contains considerable sap, which, if allowed to remain in it, would decompose and rot the straw. Little Chinese youngsters split the long straw with sharp knives. These almond-eyed children are constantly at work, and acquire- at an early age the knack required to properly cut the straw. The novice cannot do this, as it requires great care to prevent the straw from being cut too much. After the straw has been split in this way, and the sap has been removed, it is dried or cured in the same way that our -American farmer cures his hay. It is then very tough and strong. The colors in the mattings, which have of late years elicited so much admiration because of their beauty and varied shades, are obtained in a very simple and primitive way. Large pots of earthenware are filled with the dyes, in the composition of which both minerals and vegetables are used. The former (principally aniline dyes) make much the more satisfactory and lasting dyes, and are rapidly supplanting the latter altogether. When the dyes are ready the straws are taken and soaked in them. It frequently happens in the finer mattings that the same straws have different colors. One end may be blue the center red and the other end black. This is done by soaking the different parts of the straw in different dyes. But the same primitive and simple methods are followed in all cases. After being dyed the straws are taken out and spread to dry. There are different grades of matting, as of everything else, and one of the important features of making matting, is to get all the straws of a kind together. This sorting process requires more than ordinary intelligence, and usually has to be done under the supervision of an expert. The loom on which the matting is made is two yards long and one yard wide. The warp is either jute or cotton. In weaving ordinary matting, two men are usually employed. One handles the straw and the other keeps it even and in place. The straws are put in one at a time through a long hollow stick with a slit through the lower surface. The straw being too limber to stand the strain of being thrust through the warp, it is put into this stick, and the latter is forced through the warp strings. When it is in place, the hollow stick is pulled out. The other workman who has a heavy beam in his hand, forces down the straws so that there are no spaces between them. Sometimes after the matting has been woven and dried, the straws shrink, leaving open spaces. These are closed up by what is called the "palming process," in which the straws are crowded together so as to make a solid even surface.

In making what is called damask matting, it is necessary to manipulate the warp strings so as to drop certain colors at intervals. Practically the same process is observed in the United States and Europe in weaving figured cloths, where color effects are introduced at certain intervals by throwing a shuttle containing the colored yarns in between the warp-threads at different points. In cloths these are known as Jacquard spots, from the name of the loom used in producing them. This loom has been one of the most important factors in the production of high-class materials. [See Jac-quard, Loom]. Although it is worked by steam and is of the most complicated and intricate nature, the principle upon which it proceeds are much the same as those used in the hand-loom of the Chinese matting weavers. In the weaving of damask matting a Chinaman stands on top of the loom. He does what the mechanical contrivance in the Jacquard loom also performs; that is, he manipulates the warp strings, compressing them or lifting them, as is required to bring out the damask effects.

One of the most interesting features of the matting trade in China is the shipment of the matting from Canton to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is the port whence all the Chinese product is exported. The matting is sent down the river in the curious boats, and the manufacturer at Canton never knows until his steamboat returns whether his cargo has safely arrived at its destination or not. The river is infested with pirates, who every now and then swoop down on the steamers, slaughtering the crew and stealing the cargo. Because of this every boat is a floating arsenal. She carries a good-sized canon and has all the machinery encased in iron. The engine room is also protected by iron plate, and the engineer works with a brace of revolvers and a cutlass by his side. Officers relieve each other in standing guard at the engine room, always armed with loaded guns. The crew all go armed, and a vigilant guard is kept at all times. When the matting arrives at Hong Kong it is transferred to some of the harbor junks, which carry it out to the sailing vessels waiting for it. All the matting brought to this country is brought in American sailing vessels, and most of it is landed at New York City. Usually a trip takes from three to four months. The Chinese merchants look entirely different from the Chinamen seen in this country. They are refined, intelligent, and very neat in their dress They wear sober-colored suits and dress in silk altogether. They understand the principles of business very thoroughly and are great speculators. It is no unusual thing for a Chinese merchant of importance to go out through the country and buy up hundreds of acres of matting straw on speculation.