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bridge of stone and wood, from which a very fine view of this remarkable thoroughfare is obtained.
Amongst the side-streets are some that are specially devoted to particular trades. Thus, there is one street chiefly given up to booksellers. The centre is as crowded as elsewhere, and in the shops are seen piles of books, paintings, maps, caricatures, and placards. Here the Pekin Gazette or other journals are sold or lent to read. In some shops the place of honour is occupied by old coloured books, or paintings on leaves of trees; in the latter, which are very high-priced, the pulpy portion of the leaf has been removed, and replaced by a preparation of powdered talc, upon which, when dry, designs in bright colours are painted very skilfully.
Some of the covered passages are very curious-narrow lanes covered with ill-fitting planks, unpaved, and badly lit in the day-time with smoky lamps. Some of these passages are famous for dealers in bric-à-brac, or koutoung, as the Chinese call it, and upon rough stalls are heaped up vases, porcelain cups, bronzes, arms, pipes, and all sorts of old relics. The dealers are very clever at making new crockery into old; and by using a particular kind of reddish clay, and by burying the object for a few months, they manage to produce splendid counterfeits of the old porcelains of by-gone days, so sought after by amateurs. The passages we are describing are very foul, the floor a mass of mud and nameless débris, the wood-work of the shops seems perspiring with nauseous moisture, and the smell of the smoky lamps seems positively agreeable in contrast with the fætid air in which they struggle.
The Cabbage-market at the cross-roads just now described is the common executionground of Pekin. When executions are to take place, some of the stalls are cleared away, and on a pile of rubbish in the street the criminals are beheaded; then, on short poles stuck in the earth, small wooden cages are slung, in which the heads are exhibited. As soon as the executioner has done his work, market goes on as usual, and it is not at all uncommon to see a dozen fresh heads in the cages among the vegetable stalls, and the buying and selling going on, and nobody apparently taking any notice of these ghastly trophies. Here in autumn the great execution takes place, to clear the gaols before the Emperor makes his annual sacrifice to Heaven at the winter solstice.
This spot is the usual scene of political executions, for it is customary to put to death ex-ministers when they have not succeeded in carrying out the plans of the Government satisfactorily. In December, 1861, the ex-Regent of the Empire, Su-shun, was beheaded here. He had abused the Imperial confidence, and, as proprietor of several banks in the city, had issued vast numbers of bank-notes, which he afterwards refused to redeem. Contractors and shopkeepers and bankers who had lost heavily by these notes stood in the streets and jeered at him as he passed to execution at the Cabbage-market. Here also was executed, one morning before sunrise, the governor who unsuccessfully defended Suchan against the Taeping rebels.
The Tien-tan, or Altar of Heaven, is situated in the south-eastern part of the Chinese City, and is surrounded by a wall twenty feet high and three miles in extent, within which is a large park, with broad avenues of trees, and in the middle another enclosure in which steps and terraces with marble balustrades form two large circular altars. Upon the centre of the
THE ALTAR OF HEAVEN.
northern altar or platform rises the beautiful Pagoda of the Vault of Heaven, with three projecting roofs of a deep blue colour, and ninety-nine feet in height. All the host of heaven are represented on tablets in this pagoda, and are here worshipped to secure favourable seasons.
The southern altar, approached from the first by a stone causeway, is the Altar of Heaven. It also is large and circular, and its broad surface is level and open to the heavens, no pavilion or building rising from it. Near by is a huge furnace, for consuming a whole bullock; there are also magnificent copper censers. Here, once a year, on the night preceding the winter solstice, after spending some hours in humiliation in the Palace of Penitence, in another part of the park, the Emperor comes to offer adoration to Shang-Ti, the Pearly Emperor Supreme Ruler, who has been thus worshipped by Emperors of China from time immemorial. The present altar was built in 1430 by Yung-lo, of the Ming dynasty, on the removal of the Court from Nankin to Pekin. It was much beautified by Kin-lung. In the worship that is carried on here the Emperor acts as high priest; he alone worships, and no subject, however high may be his rank, can join in his adoration. On the lower terraces of the altar stand his officers, and while oxen are burnt upon the furnace-altar close by, the Emperor kneels and offers incense. Certain prayers are recited by an official, and a song of praise goes up from a large band of musicians and singers. Of Shang-Ti there is no idol, picture, or other representation, and many Europeans who have studied the subject assert that in this worship we see the remains of a traditional monotheism, derived from Jewish sources in remote ages. Shang-Ti would thus be the true God, or Jehovah, although the Chinese idea of him may be a very low one.
Not far from the Tien-tan is the Altar of Shêng-nêng, the founder of agriculture, with its extensive park. In the centre are three square altars, dedicated respectively to Shêng-nêng, the Fruits of the Earth, and the Seasons. In one part of the park is a piece of ground enclosed, which is nominally ploughed and sown by the Emperor. A gilt plough and sacred harrow are carefully kept for this occasion, and the Emperor dresses for the ceremony in a country garb of yellow hue and a broad hat a yard wide. But his labour is a mere sham; he just touches the plough and scatters a little grain, and then sits on a raised terrace and watches while the work is properly done. The harvest reaped from this Imperial field is kept for sacrifices. Near at hand there is a handsome stable-yard, where the beasts live which are reserved for the annual ploughing, besides a small model granary for storing the Imperial grain. Chinese agriculturists are thus made to feel that the Emperor is one of themselves, and that by joining in the labour of the field he has propitiated Heaven and done honour to their calling.
Having now glanced at the various quarters of Pekin and the principal monuments, we will, before turning to the environs, speak of two or three subjects concerning Pekin as a whole. The population is about 2,000,000 Manchoos and Chinese. The descendants of the Manchoo officers have mostly lost by dissipation and extravagance the fortunes they acquired at the conquest, and are now generally tenants in the houses they once owned. The Chinese have repossessed themselves of the estates in the Tartar City once given to the conquerors. The Manchoo officers are nominally members of the civil courts, but their clever Chinese secretaries do all the work for them.
Beggars swarm in Pekin. There is an official who may be called King of the Beggars, who looks after them, and is supposed to be responsible for their good behaviour. They roam about the city, and may clamour at a house or shop door until relief is given them, but they must move on as soon as they get a copper coin. The coin in ordinary
. use—the cash—is of very small value, so that five beggars can be relieved for the worth of an English farthing. During summer the beggars pass the nights in the streets and in doorways, but in winter they herd together in ranges of huts set up for them. No public provision is made for the destitute, but the shop-keepers acknowledge
their claims to relief, and in the cold weather subscriptions are raised to open kitchens for the gratuitous supply of gruel or porridge to the poor at the city gates and some of the temples. Between the two cities is the noted Bridge of Beggars, a magnificent marble structure, of which the central space between the two roadways is given up to the beggars. Here the most miserable of this class in Pekin assemble-half naked, leprous, diseased, and blind. The Marquis de Beauvoir says that “they are in such a state of starvation that they take the decomposing heads from the wicker cages at the executionground, salt them, and eat them !” Ile says he would not have believed it if he “had not seen it himself three several times.” We are afraid some of our readers will scarcely believe it still.
It might readily be supposed by any one surveying the teeming population in the main streets that amidst such a people disorders must be rife, but the fact is that in the capital, as in every town and city in China, the efficiency of the police is proverbial. In all the principal thoroughfares there are guards of soldiers, who are under rigid instructions to use their whips, without distinction of persons, upon any who are inclined to be quarrelsome or disorderly. Again, every ten houses are under the surveillance of one of the inhabitants as representative of the authorities. As soon as night falls every householder, rich or poor, has a lighted lantern before his door. Although the city has no public lights, the fact is almost compensated by the universal passion for lanterns, even on a bright moonlight night these are seen everywhere; the palanquin bearers, the police, even the beggars, carry lights about, and children are seen with little lanterns, proportioned to the size of the diminutive bearers. A night patrol may be seen making the rounds, the commanding officer on horseback having borne before him an enormous lantern, inscribed with his names and titles, and every man in the force bearing a small lantern of the shape of a fish, a bird, or a stag.
After a certain hour every side-street is closed with a barrier at each end, and the guards posted there on duty allow no one to pass unless carrying a lantern and able to assign a good
cause for being out. It is said, however, that a little money judiciously bestowed will always procure a passage for the benighted wayfarer. During the whole night the streets are patrolled by watchmen, who prove themselves on the alert by striking a bamboo tube every few minutes. Europeans find this dull monotonous sound very irksome at first. The Chinese seem to like all these and other minute regulations for their safety and good conduct-a paternal government suits them.
Of the manners and customs and social life of the Chinese we cannot say much in a sketch of Pekin, but to marriages and funerals we must just briefly refer, as the processions connected with these events so often form prominent features in the street scenes of the city. As regards marriage, to describe in full the preliminaries, formalities, and superstitions connected with it would fill a volume. Previous to the wedding-day the bride is deprived of her eyebrows by the painful process of pulling out the hairs, that she may henceforth be recognised as a married woman. On the morning of the “lucky day," which has been selected with great care for the auspicious event, she is carried from her home to the home of her future spouse in a highly decorated bridal chair, sparkling with crystal ornaments. The procession is accompanied by musicians playing noisy tunes,