Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

7. LAOS.

Laog is bounded N. by China ; E. by Tonquin ; S. by Cambodia and W. by Siam It is intersected by the large river Cambodia, which is here called the Mecon or Menan-kong. There are few countries in the world respecting which we have so little accurate information. The accounts which have been published contradict each other even in the most important particulars, some recent writers denying that there is any large river in the country,

8. TONQUIN.

Tonquin is bounded N. by China ; E. by the gulf of Tonquin ; S. by Cochin-China ; and W. by Laos; It is separated from China by an impassable barrier of mountains, which are covered with vast forests, and filled with elephants, tigers and other wild animals, while the rest of the country is beautifully variegated with fertile hills and valleys, and intersected by a great number of rivers. It forms now an integral part of the new kingdom of Anam.

CHINESE EMPIRE.

Situation and Extent.] The Chinese empire is that immense triangular country lying between the Altay mountains on the north, and the Himmaleh mountains on the south ; and between lodependent Tartary on the west, and the Pacific ocean and sea of Japan on the east. It is bounded by Asiatic Russia on the N. and by Hindoostan and Farther India on the S. In extent of territory it is the second, and in population the first empire on the globe. The number of square miles is estimated by Hassel at 4,320,000.

Divisions.] This empire consists of China proper, Tibet, Corea, and several other countries which go under the general name of Chinese Tartary.

CHINA PROPER.

Situation and Extent.] China is bounded N. by Chinese Tar. tary, from which it is separated by a great artificial wall ruoning along the whole frontier, a distance of 1.500 miles; E. by the Yellow sea and the Pacific ocean ; S. E. by the China sea : S. by Farther India ; and W. by Tibet. It extends from 20° to 41" N. lat. aod from 98° to 122° E. Ion. The area is vaguely computed at 1,300,000 square miles.

Divisions.] China is divided into 15 provinces, as follows : 1. Pechele. 2. Shantung. 3. Kiangnan. 4. Tchekiang. 5. Fochen. 6. Canton. 7. Kiangsee. 8. Honan. 9. Shansee. 10. Shensee. 11. Sechuen. 12. Houquang. 13. Koeitchoo. 14. Quangeee. 15. Yunnan.

Face of the Country.] The surface appears to be agreeably diversified with hills and vallies, plains and mountains. One chain of mountains, running from west to east, through the southern provinces, seems to be a prolongation of the Himmaleh range. In approaching the sea, it turns to the north-east, and terminates on the coast a little to the south of the great river Yang-tse-kiang. The north of China is also intersected by several chains of mountains, but their direction is unknown, as that part of the country has never been explored by Europeans.

Rivers.] The principal rivers are the Hoang-ho or Yellow river and the Yang-ise-kiang, both of which rise in the unknown regions of central Asia, and after pursuing an easterly course through the whole breadth of China discharge themselves into the sea between the parallels of 329 and 34° N. lat. In one part of its course the Hoang-ho makes a great bend to the north and passes beyond the great wall, but afterwards returns to the south and then resumes its original easterly direction. The Yang-tse-kiang makes a similar bend to the south. Besides these rivers and their tributaries there are two other considerable streams; the Peiho in the north, which rises in Tartary and after passing by Pekio, falls into the Yellow sea; and the Canton river in the south, which, after a course of nearly 700 miles, falls into the China sea near Canton.

Climate.] The climate is very different in different parts of the country. The heat in the southern provinces is greater than in Bengal, while in Pekin, near the northern frontier, snow lies on tbe ground for three months of the year, and the climate is colder than under the same latitude in Europe.

Productions ] Owing to the variety of climate, China, in its different parts, is capably of producing all the fruits both of the torrid and temperate zones. The principal coltivated production is rice, which is the general food of the people. In the northern provinces, however, where the severity of the climate prevents the cultivation of rice, its place is supplied by wheat, barley, and other European grains. Next in importance to rice is the tea-plant, of which vast plantations are found in the provinces to the south of the Yang-tse-kiang. In the southern provinces also large tracts are covered with the white mulberry, for the productions of silk, which has long been one of the staples of the empire. The forests produce the camphor tree, from the roots of which camphor is obtained by distillation; the tallow tree, from the fruit of which a green wax is procured and made into candles; and the paper mulberry tree, from the bark of which a species of paper and cloth is made.

Agriculture.) Agriculture is prosecuted with much care, yet in point of science and skill, it can bear no comparison with ihe

highly improved husbandry of Europe. There are no large farms, few families cultivating more than is necessary for their own subsistence ; there is no rotation of crops; the plough is a wretched instrument; and in many places the spade and the hoe are the chief means of cultivation. The most remarkable circumstance in Chinese agriculture is the care taken to bring every spot under cultivation ; even steep hills and mountains being converted into terraces, one above another, each supported by a mound of stone, while reservoirs are made at the top, in which rain is collected, and conveyed down the sides to water the plants. Great pains are also taken to collect manure ; and in some parts of the country old men, women and children are constantly seen, with a basket in one hand and a small rake in the other, collecting from the roads and canals every particle of tilth.

Minerals. The large peninsula which juts into the Yellow sea in the province of Shantung is almost entirely composed of rocks of the coal formation, which supply the greater part of China with fuel. Copper abounds in the southwestern provinces. The mines of gold and silver are said to be copious, but these metals have for centuries been continually imported from Eu

rope. ti Chief Towns.] Pekin, the capital, and residence of the em

peror, is situated near the N. E. corner of the kingdom, within 50 miles of the great wall. Like most other Chinese cities it is regularly laid out. A street four miles long and 120 feet broad reaches from one gate to the other, and is crossed by another of similar length and breadth. The other streets are narrow, and many of them can only be considered as lanes. They are all unpaved, and covered with sand and dust ; but they are kept very clean and frequently watered. The principal streets consist alınost entirely of rows of shops, which are painted, gilded, and adorned with much inagnificence. Blue and green mixed with gold are the prevailing colors upon the walls. The regular form of the streets, the flat roofs and the various signs with which they are decorated, give Pekin very much the appearance of a large encampment. The streets are peculiarly crowded, in consequence of the number of trades that are carried on in the open air. The numerous moveable workshops of tinkers and barbers, cobblers and blacksmiths; the tents and booths where tea, fruit, rice and other eatables are exposed to sale ; the troops of dromedaries laden with coals from Tartary, and the hand-carts stuffed with vegetables leave only a small space unoccupied

Pekin, according to Chinese ideas, is strongly fortified. It is surrounded with walls about 30 feet high and 25 feet thick at their base, with square towers placed at every interval of 70 yards. The imperial palace is an inclosure within the city formed by what is called the Yellow wall. The space included within it, about a mile long and three-fourths of a mile broad, is artificially forined into an imitation of rude and romantic nature.

The palace without the city presents the same scene on a much more extended scale, the grounds here covering an area of 100 square miles. The population of Pekin is estimated at 3,000,000. Lon. 116° 28' E. Lat. 39° 55' N.

Nankin is advantageously situated for trade or the S. bank of the great river Yang-tse-kiang near its mouth. It was formerly the capital of the empire, but since the removal of the seat of government to Pekin it has much declined. The city is still distinguished, however, for its manufactures and commerce.

Its principal ornaments are the gateways, which are very lofty and splendid ; and the porcelain tower, which is of an octagonal form, 9 stories high, and mounted by 884 steps. The population is estimated at between 1 and 2,000,000.

Canton is situated at the southern extremity of the empire, near the mouth of a river of the same name. The river for four or five miles is covered with innumerable boats, containing whole families that have no other residence and seldom visit the land. They are ranged in parallel rows, with a narrow interval between each line to admit the passage of other vessels. The city is a place of very great trade, and the only port of the whole Chinese dominions which is open to Europeans. Vast quantities of merchandize are continuallv exported and imported by the Chinese themselves, in the traffic with various eastern nations, and a very extensive commercial intercourse is now carried on by Europeans, especially the British. The population is variously estimated from 1,500,000 to 2,000,000.

Canals and Roads.] No nation can produce a parallel to the great canal, which runs in a continuous line from Pekin for 600 miles in a southerly direction, and meets the Yang-tse-kiang a little below Nankin. By means of the Yang-tse-kiang and one of its tributaries from the south, the navigation is continued to the frontier of the province of Canton. It is here interrupted by a range of mountains which runs across China, and which must be passed by land, but on the opposite side of the range travellers embark on another river, which falls into the sea near Canton : so that between that city and Pekin, a dis. tance of 1,000 miles, the water communication is uninterrupted, except by a land journey of a single day. Smaller canals, connecting the rivers and larger canals with each other are said to be almost innumerable. The great roads and bridges of China are likewise very magnificent.

Great wall.] The most stupendous of all the public works of the Chinese is the great wall. This mighty rampart runs along the whole northern and part of the western frontier, and is car ried over rivers upon arches, over plains, vallies and mountains, through a distance of 1,000 miles. It is built of brick and stone, usually 25 feet high and so thick that 6 horsemen can ride abreast on the top. It is provided with towers at every little interval, and was designed as a barrier against the incursions of the Tartars. The period of its erection is variously stated from 600 to 2000 years ago.

Population.] The population of China has been a subject of much speculation. The number of 333,000,000, which was given by a mandarin to Lord Macartney, as founded on official data, seems abandoned on all hands as an empty vauni. Geographers now generally place it somewhere about 150,000,000. This amount, compared with the dimensions of China, does not much exceed the proportion of 100 to the square mile, no very extraordinary density, when compared to districts and even kingdoms in Europe ; yet probably no other continuous extent of land throughout the globe contains so great a population. Certainly no number nearly so great is any where upited under one government.

Government. The government is an absolute despotism, but is administered with much of the patriarchal spirit. The emperor regards himself as the father of his people, and watches over their welfare with unremitting care and anxiety. All the public proclamations and reports are filled with this sentiment. He is represented as incessantly employed in devising the means of promotiog the happiness of the people, and in times of suffering, as mourning over them with the deepest sorrow. That this is the real spirit of the government, appears from the vast and useful public works which have been executed, and the immense population which is maintained in a state of profound tranquillity. Perhaps, upon the whole, China may be given as the example of a despotism administered in the best possible manner.

Army and Revenue. The army is estimated at 810,000 men, of whom 210,000 are cavalry and 600,000 infantry.

The revenue is reckoned by Barrow at £66,000,000.

Mandarins.) The officers of government are called Mandarins, and are divided into nine orders, the lowest of which are entrusted with the collection of the revenue, others are governors of cities, and the highest class are governors of provinces or viceroys. Each mandarin exercises over those placed under him an absolute authority. Great precaution is taken against the abuse of power. No mandarin can hold an office in his native city or province. Care is taken that no one be connected in office with his father, brother, or other near relation, and that he do not remain long in any one place. From time to time also a species of official spies proceed incognito through the provinces to collect the reports of the people respecting their rulers.

Literature and Education.] The Chinese are a reading people, and novels, tales, books of proverbs and other light publications are daily issuing from the press. Standard works on history, law and philosophy are also compiled under the direction of the sovereign. Education is carefully attended to, every town and village having its school. The highest rewards and honors are bestowed on the acquisition of knowledge, proficiency in learning being made the sole test of admission to all offices in the state from the highest to the lowest. An annual examination is

« AnteriorContinuar »