After a three-days' voyage from the Japanese coast, we began to meet, in constantly increasing numbers, large, pointed boats, propelled by huge sails ribbed with cross-bars, like the wings of bats. Upon the bow of each was painted an enormous eye; for of their sailing craft the mariners of China, in elementary English, say: "If boat no have eye, how can boat see go?" We were assured that these were Chinese sailing craft, and that our destination was not far away; but it was difficult to realize this, and I remember looking off beyond those ships and trying to convince myself that we were actually on the opposite side of the globe from home and friends, and in a few brief hours were to land in that vast Eastern empire so full of mystery in its exclusiveness, antiquity, and changeless calm.
The Harbor Of Hong - Kong.
That night the agitation that precedes one's first arrival in a foreign land made sleep almost impossible. It seemed to me that I had not closed my eyes when suddenly the steamer stopped. To my astonishment, the morning light had already found its way into my state-room. We had arrived! Hurrying to the deck, therefore, I looked upon the glorious harbor of Hong-Kong. A hundred ships and steamers lay at anchor here, displaying flags of every country on the globe. Although the day had hardly dawned, these waters showed great animation. Steam-launches, covered with white awnings, were darting to and fro like flying-fish. Innumerable smaller boats, called sampans, propelled by Chinese men and women, surrounded each incoming steamer, like porpoises around a whale. On one side rose some barren-looking mountains, which were a part of the mainland of China; but for the moment they presented little to attract us. It was the other shore of this magnificent harbor that awoke our interest; for there we saw an island twenty-seven miles in circumference, covered with mountains rising boldly from the sea.
The City Of Victoria.
The Public Gardens.
Along the base of one of these elevations, and built in terraces far up on its precipitous slopes, was a handsome city.
"What is this?" we inquired eagerly.
"The town itself," was the reply, "is called Victoria, but this imposing island to whose flank it clings, is, as you may suppose, Hong-Kong."
The first impression made upon me here was that of mild astonishment at the architecture. Almost without exception, the prominent buildings of Victoria have on every story deep porticoes divided by columns into large, square spaces, which from a distance look like letter-boxes in a post-office. We soon discovered that such deep, shadowy verandas are essential here, for as late as November it was imprudent not to carry a white umbrella, and even before our boat had brought us from the steamer to the pier, we perceived that the solar rays were not to be trifled with.
A Street In Hong - Kong.
As soon as possible after landing, we started to explore this British settlement. I was delighted with its streets and buildings. The former are broad, smooth and clean; the latter, three or four stories high, are built of granite, and even on a curve have sidewalks shielded from the sun or rain by the projection of the roof above. Truly, the touch of England has wrought astounding changes in the fifty-five years that she has held this island as her own. Before she came it was the resort of poverty-stricken fishermen and pirates.
Deep Porticoes And Colonnades.
But now the city of Victoria alone contains two hundred thousand souls, while the grand aqueducts and roads which cross the mountains of Hong-Kong are worthy to be compared with some of the monumental works of ancient Rome. Along the principal thoroughfare in Victoria, the banks, shops, hotels, and club-houses, which succeed each other rapidly, are built of the fine gray granite of the adjacent mountains, and show handsome architectural designs. Everything looks as trim and spotless as the appointments of a man-of- war. Even the district of the town inhabited by Chinamen is kept by constant watchfulness immeasurably cleaner than a Chinese city; although if one desires to see the world-wide difference that exists between the British and Mongolian races, he merely needs to take a short walk through the Chinese quarter of Victoria. But such comparisons may well be deferred until one reaches Canton. There one beholds the genuine native article.