. . .
. Elul N O
The Baldwin Lbrar)
"Prohibition prohibition I"
TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN
FROM THE FRENCH OF JULES VERNE
-_ -: -t f- s -- <--- ---- -
BY VIRGINIA CHAMPLIN
WITH FIFTY ILLUSTRA TONS
LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS
CHARLES T. DILLINGHAM
By LEE AND SHEPARD.
All rights reserved.
Electrotyfed and Printed bu
Rand, Avery, & Co..
Stbi e tanIlation
IS GRATEFULLY DEDICATED
MR. FRANCIS A. NICHOLS,
WHO AS AN EDITOR
GAVE ME MY FIRST LITERARY OPPORTUNITIES.
CHAPTER I. PAGR
In which the Peculiarities and Nationality of the Personages
are gradually revealed I
In which Kin-Fo and the Philosopher are more fully de-
scribed. ... 14
In which the Reader, without Fatigue, can glance over the
City of Shang-hai 26
In which Kin-Fo receives an Important Letter, which is
Eight Days behind Time 36
In which Le-ou receives a Letter which she would rather
not have received 49
Which will, perhaps, make the Reader desire to visit the
Offices of the Centenary" 58
Which would be very Sad if it did not treat of Ways and
Customs peculiar to the Celestial Empire 69
In which Kin-Fo makes a Serious Proposition to Wang,
which the Latter no less seriously accepts 82
The Conclusion of which, however Singular it may be, per-
haps will not surprise the Reader 89
In which Craig and Fry are officially presented to the New
Patron of the Centenary Io
CHAPTER XI. PAGE
In which Kin-Fo becomes the most Celebrated Man in the
Central Empire Io9
In which Kin-Fo, his Two Acolytes, and his Valet start on
an Adventure 121
In which is heard the Celebrated Lament called "The Five
Periods in the Life of a Centenarian" 136
In which the Visitor, without Fatigue, can travel through
Four Cities by visiting only One 49
Which certainly contains a Surprise for Kin-Fo, and perhaps
for the Reader ..164
In which Kin-Fo, who is still a Bachelor, begins to travel
again in earnest 177
In which Kin-Fo's Market Value is Once more Uncertain 188
In which Craig and Fry, urged by Curiosity, visit the Hold
of the Sam-Yep .202
Which does not finish well, either for Capt. Yin, the Com-
mander of the Sam-Yep," or for her Crew 215
In which it will be seen to what Dangers Men are exposed
who use Capt. Boyton's Nautical Apparatus 229
In which Craig and Fry see the Moon rise with Extreme
Which the Reader might have written himself, it ends in
so Surprising a Way 258
THE TRIBULATIONS OF A
CHINAMAN IN CHINA.
IN WHICH THE PECULIARITIES AND NATIONALITY OF
THE PERSONAGES ARE GRADUALLY REVEALED.
"IT must be acknowledged, however, that there
is some good in life," observed one of the guests,
who, leaning his elbow on the arm of his chair
with a marble back, sat nibbling a root of a sugar
"And evil also," added another, between two
spells of coughing, having been nearly strangled
by the prickles of the delicate fin of a shark.
"Let us be philosophers," then said an older
person, whose nose supported an enormous pair of
spectacles with broad glasses affixed to wooden
bows. "To-day one comes near strangling, and
to-morrow every thing flows smoothly as the fra-
grant draughts of this nectar. This is life, after
After these words, this easily pleased epicure
TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
swallowed a glass of excellent warm wine, whose
light vapor was slowly escaping from a metal
"For my part," continued a fourth guest, "ex-
istence seems very acceptable whenever one does
nothing, and has the means which enable him to
"You mistake," quickly replied the fifth: "hap-
piness is in study and work. To acquire the
greatest possible amount of knowledge is the way
to- render one's self -happy."
"And to learn, when you sum it all up, that you
"Is not that the beginning of wisdom ?"
"But what is the end ?"
"Wisdom has no end," philosophically answered
the man with spectacles. "To have common sense
would be supreme satisfaction."
Upon this the first guest directly addressed the
host, who occupied the upper end of the table, -
that is, the poorest place, as the rules of polite-
ness require. With indifference and inattention
the latter listened silently to this discussion inter
"Come, let us hear what our host thinks of this
rambling talk over the wine-cup? Does he find
existence a blessing, or an evil ? Is it yes, or no ?
The host carelessly munched several water-
melon-seeds, and for answer merely pouted his
lips scornfully, like a man who seems to take
interest in nothing.
PECULIARITIES AND NATIONALITY.
Pooh! said he.
This is a favorite word with indifferent people,
for it means every thing and nothing. It belongs
to all languages, and must have a place in every
dictionary on the globe, and is an articulated pout.
The five guests whom this ennmuy was entertain-
ing then pressed him with arguments, each in
favor of his own proposition; for they wished to
have his opinion. He at first tried to avoid an-
swering, but finally asserted that life was neither
a blessing nor an evil: in his opinion, it was an
"invention," rather insignificant, and, in short, not
"Ah now our friend reveals himself."
"How can he speak thus, when his life has
been as smooth as an unruffled rose-leaf ?"
"And he so young!"
"Young and in good health!"
"In good health, and rich."
"More than very rich."
"Too rich perhaps."
These remarks followed each other like rockets
from a piece of fireworks, without even bringing
a smile to the host's impassive face. He only
shrugged his shoulders slightly, like a man who
has never wished, even for an hour, to turn over
the leaves in the book of his own life, and has not
so much as cut the first pages.
And yet this indifferent man was thirty-one
years at most; was in wonderfully good health;
4 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
possessed a great fortune, a mind that did not
lack culture, an intelligence above the average;
and had, in short, every thing, which so many
others have not, to make him one of the happy
of this world. And why was he not happy ?
The philosopher's grave voice was now heard,
speaking like a leader of a chorus of the early
"Friend," he said, "if you are not happy here
below, it is because, till now, your happiness has
been only negative. With happiness as with
health: to enjoy it, one should be deprived of it
occasionally. Now, you have never been ill. I
mean you have never been unfortunate: it is that
which your life needs. Who can appreciate hap-
piness if misfortune has never even for a moment
And at this remark, which was stamped with
wisdom, the philosopher, raising his glass, full of
champagne of the best brand, said, -
"I wish some shadow to fall athwart our host's
sunlight, and some sorrows to enter his life."
Saying which, he.emptied his glass at one swal-
The host made a gesture of assent, and again
lapsed into his habitual apathy.
Where did this conversation take place? In a
European dining-room, in Paris, London, Vienna,
or St. Petersburg?
Were these six companions conversing together
PECULIARITIES AND NATIONALITY.
in a restaurant in the Old or New World? And
who were they, who, without having drunk more
than usual, were discussing these questions in the
midst of a repast ?
Certainly they were not Frenchmen, because
they were not talking politics.
They were seated at a table in an elegantly
decorated saloon of medium size. The last rays
of the sun were streaming through the network
of blue and orange window-panes, and past the
open windows the evening breeze was swinging
garlands of natural and artificial flowers; and a
few variegated lanterns mingled their pale light
with the dying gleams of day. Above the win-
dows were carved arabesques, enriched with varied
sculpture, and representing celestial and terres-
trial beauty, and animals and vegetables of a
strange fauna and flora.
On the walls of the saloon, which were hung in
silken tapestry, were shining broad, double-bev-
elled mirrors; and on the ceiling a "punka,"
moving its painted percale wings, rendered the
The table was a vast quadrilateral of black
lacquer-work, and, being uncovered, reflected the
numerous pieces of silver and porcelain as a slab
of the purest crystal might have done. There
were no napkins, only simple squares of orna-
mented paper, a sufficient supply of which was
furnished each guest. Around the table stood
chairs with marble backs, far preferable in this
latitude to the'covering of modern furniture.
6 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAAN.
The attendants were very prepossessing young
girls, in whose black hair were mingled lilies and
chrysanthemums, and round whose arms bracelets
of gold and jade were coquettishly wound. Smil-
ing and sprightly, they served or removed dishes
with one hand, while with the other they grace-
fully waved a large fan, which restored the currents
of air displaced by the punka on the ceiling.
The repast left nothing to be desired. One
could not imagine any thing more delicate than
the cooking, which was both neat and artistic; for
the Bignon of the place, knowing that he was
catering to connoisseurs, surpassed himself in the
preparation of the five hundred dishes which com-
posed the menu.
In the first course there were sugared cakes,
caviare, fried grasshoppers, dried fruits, and oys-
ters from Ning-po. Then followed, at short inter-
vals, poached eggs of the duck, pigeon, and lap-
wing; swallows' nests with buttered eggs; fricasees
of "ging-seng;" stewed sturgeons' gills; whales'
nerves with sugar sauce; fresh-water tadpoles; a
ragout of the yolks of crabs' eggs, sparrows' giz-
zards, and sheeps' eyes pierced with a pointed bit
of garlic for flavoring; ravinolil prepared with
the milk of apricot-stones; a stew of holothuria.
Bamboo-shoots in their juice, sugared salads of
young roots, pine-apples from Singapore, roasted
earth-nuts, salted almonds, savory mangoes, fruits
1 TRANSLATOR'S NOTE. An Italian dish, a compound of vermicelli,
eggs, cheese, and green herbs, prepared in the form of fritters.
The attendants were very prepossessing young girls.
PECULIARITIES AND NATIONALITY.
of the "long-yen" with white flesh, and "li-tchi"
with pale pulp,, water caltrops, and preserved Can-
ton oranges composed the last course of a repast
which had lasted three hours, -a repast largely
watered with beer, champagne, Chao Chigne wine;
and the inevitable rice, which, placed between the
lips of the guests by the aid of chop-sticks, was
to crown at dessert the wisely arranged bill of
The moment came at last for the young girls to
bring, not those bowls of European fashion which
contain a perfumed liquid, but napkins saturated
with warm water, which each of the guests passed
over his face with extreme satisfaction.
It was, however, only an entr'acte of the repast,
- an hour of far niente, whose moments were to be
filled with music; for soon a troupe of singers
and instrumentalists entered the saloon. The
singers were pretty young girls of modest appear-
ance and behavior. What music and method was
theirs !- a mewing and clucking without measure
or tunefulness, rising in sharp notes to the utmost
limit of perception by the auditory nerves. As
for the instruments, there were violins whose
strings became entangled in those of the bow,
guitars covered with serpents' skins, screeching
clarinets, and harmonicas resembling small porta-
ble pianos; and all worthy of the songs and the
singers, to whom they formed a noisy accompani-
The leader of this discordant orchestra pre-
8 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
sented the programme of his repertoire as he
entered; and at a motion from the host, who gave
him carte blanche, his musicians played the
"Bouquet of Ten Flowers," -a piece very much
in the mode at the time, and the rage in fashiona-
Then the singing and performing troupe, having
been well paid in advance, withdrew, carrying with
them many a bravo, with which they would yet
reap a rich harvest in the neighboring saloons.
The six companions then left their seats, but
only to pass from one table to another, which
movement was accompanied with great ceremony
and compliments of all kinds.
On this second table each found a small cup
with a lid ornamented with a portrait of B6dhid-
harama, the celebrated Buddhist monk, standing
on his legendary raft. Each received a pinch of
tea, which he steeped in the boiling water in his
cup, and drank almost immediately without sugar.
And what tea! It was not to be feared either
that the house of Gibb-Gibb & Co., who furnished
it, had adulterated it with a mixture of foreign
leaves; or that it had already undergone a first
infusion, and was only good to use in sweeping
carpets; or that an unscrupulous preparer had
colored it yellow with curcuma, or green with
Prussian blue. It was imperial tea in all its
purity, and was composed of those precious leaves
of the first harvest in March which are similar to
the flower itself, and are seldom gathered; for loss
PECULIARITIES AND NATIONALITY. 9
of its leaves causes the death of the plant. It was
composed of those leaves which young children
alone, with carefully gloved hands, are allowed to
A European could not have found words of
praise in number sufficient to extol this beverage,
which the six companions were slowly sipping,
without going into ecstasies, like connoisseurs
who were used to it; but, it must be confessed,
they were really unable to appreciate the delicacy
of the excellent concoction. They were gentle-
men of the best society, richly dressed in the
"han-chaol,"- a light under-waistcoat; the "ma-
coual," a short tunic; and the "haol," a
long robe, buttoning at the side. They wore
yellow sandals and open-work hose; silk panta-
loons, fastened at the waist with a tasselled sash;
and a plastron of fine embroidered silk on their
bosom, and a fan at their waist. These amiable
persons were born in the same country where the
tea-plant once a year produces its harvest of
fragrant leaves. This repast, in which swallows'
nests, fish of the holothurian species, whales'
nerves, and sharks' fins appeared, was partaken
of as the delicacy of the viands deserved; but
its menu, which would have astonished a foreigner,
did not surprise them in the least. But what did
surprise them was the statement which their host
made to them, as they were at last about to leave
the table, and from which they understood why he
had entertained them that day.
IO TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
The cups were still full, and the indifferent
gentleman, with his eyes fixed on vacancy, and
his elbow leaning on the table, was about to empty
his cup for the last time, when he expressed him-
self in these words :-
"My friends, listen to me without laughing.
The die is cast. I am about to introduce into
my life a new element, which perhaps will dispel
its monotony. Will it be a blessing, or a misfor-
tune ? The future only can tell. This dinner,
to which I have invited you, is my farewell dinner
to bachelor life. In a fortnight I shall be married,
"And you will be the happiest of men," cried
the optimist. "Behold! all the signs are in your
In fact, the lamps flickered, and cast a pale light
around; the magpies chattered on the arabesques
of the windows; and the little tea-leaves floated
perpendicularly in the cups. So many lucky
omens could not fail.
Therefore all congratulated their host, who
received these compliments with the most perfect
composure. But, as he did not name the person
destined to the r6le of "new element," and the
one whom he had chosen, no one was so indiscreet
as to question him on the subject.
But the philosopher's voice did not mingle in
the general concert of congratulations. With his
arms crossed, his eyes partly closed, and an
ironical smile on his lips, he seemed to approve
PECULIARITIES AND NATIONALITY.
those complimenting no more than he did the one
The latter then rose, placed his hand on his
friend's shoulder, and, in a voice that seemed less
calm than usual, asked, -
"Am I, then, too old to marry ?"
"No: neither too young nor too old."
"Do you think I am doing wrong ?"
"But she whom I have chosen, and with whom
you are acquainted, possesses every quality neces-
sary to make me happy."
"I know it."
"It is you who have not all that is necessary to
make you so. To be bored single in life is bad,
but to be bored double is worse."
"Then I shall never be happy ?"
"No: not so long as you do not know what
"Misfortune cannot reach me."
"So much the worse; for then you are incur-
"Ah these philosophers! cried the youngest
of the guests. "One should not listen to them.
They are machines with theories. They manu-
facture all kinds of theories, which are trash, and
good for nothing in practice. Get married, -get
married, my friend I should do the same, had I
12 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
not made a vow never to do any thing. Get mar-
ried; and, as our poets say, may the two phoenixes
always appear to you tenderly united Friends, I
drink to the happiness of our host."
"And I," responded the philosopher, "drink to
the near interposition of some protecting divinity,
who, in order to make him happy, will cause him
to pass through the trial of misfortune."
At this odd toast the guests arose, brought
their fists together as boxers do before beginning
a contest, and, having alternately lowered and
raised them while bowing their heads, took leave
of each other.
From the description of the saloon in which
this entertainment was given, and the foreign
menu which composed it, as well as from the dress
of the guests, with their manner of expressing
themselves, perhaps, too, from the singularity of
their theories, the reader has surmised that we
have had to do with the Chinese; not with those
"Celestials" who look as if they had been un-
glued from a Chinese screen, or had escaped from
a pottery vase where they properly belonged, but
with the modern inhabitants of the Celestial Em-
pire, already Europeanized by their studies, voy-
ages, and frequent communication with the civil-
ized people of the West.
Indeed, it was in the saloon of one of the flower-
boats on the River of Pearls at Canton that the
rich Kin-Fo, accompanied by the inseparable Wang
the philosopher, had just entertained four of the
PECULIARITIES AND NATIONALITY. 13
best friends of his youth, Pao-Shen, a mandarin
of the fourth class, and of the order of the blue
button; Yin-Pang, a rich silk-merchant in Apothe-
cary Street; Tim, the high liver; and Houal, the
And this took place on the twenty-seventh day
of the fourth moon, during the first of those five
periods which so poetically divide the hours of the
14 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
IN WHICH KIN-FO AND THE PHILOSOPHER ARE
MORE FULLY DESCRIBED.
THE reason why Kin-Fo gave a farewell dinner
to his Canton friends was, because he passed a
part of his youth in the capital of the province
of Kuang-Tung. Of the numerous comrades a
wealthy and generous young man is sure to have,
the only ones left him at this time were the four
guests who were present on the flower-boat. It
would have been useless for him to have tried to
bring the others together, as they were scattered
by the various accidents of life.
Kin-Fo lived in Shang-hai, and, being worn out
with ennui, was now for a change spending a few
days in Canton. This evening he intended to take
the steamboat which stops at several points along
the coast, and return quietly home to his yamen.
The reason that Wang accompanied Kin-Fo was
because the philosopher could never leave his
pupil, who did not want for lessons; though, to tell
the truth, he paid no heed to them, and they were
just so many maxims and wise sayings lost. The
"theory-machine," however, as Tim the high liver
called him, was never weary of producing them.
KIN-FO AND THE PHILOSOPHER.
Kin-Fo was a perfect type of the northern Chi-
nese, whose race is being transformed, and who
have never united with the Tartars. He was of a
stamp differing from that usually found in the
southern provinces, where the high and low
classes are more intimately blended with the
Mandshurian race: he had not a drop of Tartar
blood in his veins, neither from father nor mother,
whose ancestors kept secluded after the conquest.
He was tall, well built, fair rather than yellow;
with straight eyebrows, and eyes following the
horizontal, and but slightly raised towards the
temple; with a straight nose, and a face that was
not flat. He would have been distinguished even
among the finest specimens of Western people.
Indeed, if Kin-Fo appeared at all like a China-
man, it was because of his carefully shaved skull;
his smooth, hairless brow and neck; and his mag-
nificent braid, which started at the back of his
head, and rolled down like a serpent of jet. He
was very careful about his person, and wore a deli-
cate mustache, which made a half-circle over his
upper lip; and an imperial, which was exactly like
a rest in musical notation. His nails were more
than a centimetre long, a proof that he belonged
to those fortunate men who are not obliged to
work. Perhaps, too, his careless walk and haughty
bearing added still more to the come il faut
appearance of his whole person.
Besides, Kin-Fo was born at Pekin, an advan-
tage of which the Chinese are very proud. To
I6 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
any one who would have asked him where he came
from, he would have answered proudly, I come
His father, Tchoung-Heou, was living at Pekin'
when he was born ; and he was six years old when
the former settled at Shang-hai.
This worthy Chinaman, who came from a fine
family in the northern part of the empire, like all
his compatriots, had a remarkable capacity for
business. During the first years of his career, he
bartered and sold every thing that the rich and
populous territory produces; such as paper goods
from Swatow, silks from Soo-Choo, sugar-candy
from Formosa, tea from Han-kow and Fou-chow,
iron from Ho-nan, and red and yellow copper from
the province of Yunnan. His principal business-
house, his Hongg," was at Shang-hai; but he had
branch establishments at Nankin, Tien-sing,
Macao, and Hong-Kong. As he was a close fol-
lower of European progress, he shipped his goods
on English steamers, and kept himself informed
by cablegram of the state of the silk and opium
market at Lyons and Calcutta. He was not op.
posed to these agents of progress, steam and elec-
tricity, as are the majority of the Chinese, who
are under the influence of mandarins and the gov-
ernment, whose prestige is gradually being les-
sened by progress.
In short, Tchoung-Heou managed so shrewdly
in his business in the interior of the empire, as
well as in his transactions with Portuguese,
KIN-FO AND THE PHILOSOPHER.
French, English, or American houses, in Shang-
hai, Macao, and Hong-Kong, that, when Kin-Fo
came into the world, his fortune exceeded four
hundred thousand dollars; and, during the years
that followed, this capital was doubled, on account
of the establishment of a new traffic, which might
be called the "coolie trade of the New World."
It is well known that the population of China is
in excess, and out of all proportion to the vast
extent of the territory, which is poetically divided
into the various names of Celestial Empire, Cen-
tral Empire, and Empire or Land of Flowers.
Its inhabitants are estimated at not less than
three hundred and sixty million, which is almost a
third of the population of the earth. Now, little
as the Chinaman eats, he nevertheless eats; and
China, even with its numerous rice-fields, and
extensive cultivation of millet and wheat, does
not provide enough to nourish him. Hence there
are more inhabitants than can be cared for; and
their only desire is to escape through some of the
loopholes which the English and French cannon
have made in the moral and material walls of the
This surplus has poured into North America,
and principally into the State of California, but in
such multitudes that Congress has been obliged
to take restrictive measures against the invasion,
which is rather impolitely called "the yellow pest."
As was observed, fifty million Chinese emigrants
in the United States would not have sensibly
18 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
diminished the population of China, and it would
have brought about a blending with the Anglo-
Saxon race, to the benefit of the Mongolian.
However this may be, the exodus was conducted
on a large scale. These coolies, living on a hand-
ful of rice, a cup of tea, and a pipe of tobacco, and
apt at all trades, met with remarkably quick suc-
cess in Virginia, Salt Lake, Oregon, and, above
all, the State of California, where they greatly
reduced the wages of manual labor.
Companies were then formed for the transporta-
tion of these inexpensive emigrants; and there
were five which had charge of the enlisting in the
five provinces of the Celestial Empire, and a sixth
which was stationed at San Francisco. The for-
mer shipped, and the latter received, the merchan-
dise; while an additional agency, called the Ting-
Tong, re-shipped them.
This requires an explanation.
The Chinese are very willing to expatriate them-
selves to seek their fortune with the Melicans,"
as they call the people of the United States, but
on one condition, that their bodies shall be faith-
fully brought back, and buried in their native land.
This is one of the principal conditions of the con-
tract, -a sine qua non clause, which is binding on
these companies with regard to the emigrant, and
cannot be eluded.
Therefore the Ting-Tong-or, in other words,
the Agency of the Dead, which draws its funds
from private sources--is charged with freighting
KIN-FO AND THE PHILOSOPHER.
the corpse steamers," which leave San Francisco
fully loaded for Shang-hai, Hong-Kong, or Tien-
Sing. Here was a new business, and a new source
of profit, which the shrewd and enterprising
Tchoung-Heou foresaw. At the time of his death,
in 1866, he was a director in the Kouang-Than
Company in the province of that name, and sub-
director.of the Treasury for the Dead in San
Kin-Fo, having neither father nor mother, was
heir to a fortune valued at four million francs,
invested in stock in the Central Bank in Califor-
nia, and which he had the good sense to let
When he lost his father, the young heir, who
was nineteen years old, would have been alone in
the world, had it not been for Wang, the insepara-
ble Wang, who filled the place of mentor and
But who was this Wang? For seventeen years
he had lived in the yamen at Shang-hai, and was
the guest of the father before he became that of
the son. But where did he come from ? What
was his past ? All these somewhat difficult ques-
tions Tchoung-Heou and Kin-Fo alone could have
answered; and if they had considered it proper to
do so, which was not probable, this is what one
would have learned from them :-
No one is unaware that China, is, par excellence,
the kingdom where insurrections last many years,
and carry off hundreds of thousands of men. Now,
20 TRIBULATIONS 'OF A CHINAMAN.
in the seventeenth century, the celebrated dynasty
of Ming, of Chinese origin, had been in power in
China three hundred years, when, in 1644, the
chief, feeling too weak to resist the rebels who
threatened the capital, asked aid of a Tartar king.
The king, who did not need to be entreated,
hastened to his assistance, drove out the- rebels,
and profited by the situation to overthrow him
who had implored his aid, and proclaimed his own
son, Chun-Tche, emperor.
From this period the Tartar rule was substituted
for that of the Chinese, and the throne was occu-
pied by Mandshurian emperors.
The two races, especially among the lower
classes, gradually came together; but among the
rich families of the north they did not mingle.
Therefore the type still retains its characteristics,
particularly in the centre of the western provinces
of the empire. There the "irreconcilables" who
remained faithful to the fallen dynasty took refuge.
Kin-Fo's father was one of the latter; and he
did not belie the traditions of his family, who re-
fused to enter into compact with the Tartars. A
rebellion against the foreign power, even after a
rule of three hundred years, would have found him
ready to join it. It is unnecessary to add that his
son, Kin-Fo, fully shared his political opinions.
Now, in 1860, there still reigned that emperor,
S'Hiene-Fong, who declared war against England
and France, a war ended by the treaty of Pekin
on the 25th of October of the same year.
ii ',, '!'.
,1 ,' ,I
'IIr' I''i i
KIN-FO AND THE PHILOSOPHER.
But before that date a formidable uprising
threatened the reigning dynasty. The Tchang-
Mao, or the Tai-ping,-the "long-haired rebels,"
- took possession of Nankin in 1853, and Shang-
hai in 1855. After S'Hiene-Fong's death, his son
had great difficulty in repulsing the Tai-ping.
Without the Viceroy Li, and Prince Kong, and
especially the English Colonel Gordon, he, per-
haps, would not have been able to save his throne.
The Tai-ping, the declared enemies of the Tar-
tars, being strongly organized for rebellion, wished
to replace the dynasty of the Tsing for that of the
Wang. They formed four distinct armies, the
first, under a black banner, appointed to kill;
the second, under a red banner, to set fire; the
third, under a yellow banner, to pillage; and the
fourth, under a white banner, to provision the other
There were important military operations in
Kiang-Sou; and Soo-Choo and Kia-Hing, five
leagues distant from Shang-hai, fell into the power
of the rebels, and were recovered, not without
difficulty, by the imperial troops.
Shang-hai, which had been seriously threatened,
was also attacked on the I8th of August, 1860, at
the time that Gens. Grant and Montauban, com-
manding the Anglo-French army, were cannon-
ading the forts of Pei-ho.
Now, at this time, Tchoung-Heou, Kin-Fo's
father, was living near Shang-hai, not far from the
magnificent bridge thrown across the river by
22 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN
Chinese engineers at Sou-Choo. He disapproved
of this rebellion of the Tai-ping, since it was
chiefly directed against the Tartar dynasty.
This, then, was the state of affairs when, on
the evening of the i8th of August, after the rebels
had been driven out of Shang-hai, the door of
Tchoung-Heou's house suddenly opened, and a
fugitive, having dodged his pursuers, came to
throw himself at the feet of Tchoung-Heou. The
unfortunate man had no weapon with which to
defend himself; and, if he to whom he came to
ask for shelter had given him up to the imperial
soldiers, he would have been killed.
Kin-Fo's father was not the man to betray a
Tai-ping who sought refuge in his house; and he
closed the door, and said, -
"I do not wish to know, and I never shall know,
who you are, what you have done, or whence you
come. You are my guest, and for that reason only
will be perfectly safe at my house."
The fugitive tried to speak to express his grati-
tude, but scarcely had strength.
"Your name ? asked Tchoung-Heou.
It was Wang indeed, saved by Tchoung-Heou's
generosity, -a generosity which would have cost
the latter his life if any one had suspected that he
was giving an asylum to a rebel. But Tchoung-
Heou was like one of those men of ancient times
with whom every guest is sacred.
A few years later the uprising of the rebels was
KIN-FO AND THE PHILOSOPHER.
forever repressed. In 1864 the Tai-ping chief,
who was besieged at Nankin, poisoned himself to
escape falling into the hands of the Imperials.
Wang, ever since that day, had remained in his
benefactor's house. He was never obliged to say
any thing about his past; for no one questioned
him. Perhaps they feared they might hear too
much. The atrocities committed by the rebels
were frightful, it was said; and under what banner
Wang had served, -the yellow, red, black, or
white, -it was better to remain in ignorance, and
to fancy that he belonged only to the provisioning
Wang, however, was delighted with his lot, and
continued to be the guest of this hospitable house.
After Tchoung-Heou's death, his son, being so
accustomed to the amiable man's company, would
never be parted from him.
But, in truth, at the time when this story be-
gins, who would have ever recognized a former
Tai-ping, a murderer, plunderer, or incendiary from
choice, in this philosopher of fifty-five years, this
moralist in spectacles, playing the part of China-
man, with eyes drawn towards the temples, and
with the traditional mustache? With his long
robe of a modest color, and a waist rising towards
his chest from a growing obesity; with his head-
dress regulated according to the imperial decree,
- that is to say, with a fur hat with the rim raised
around the crown, from whence streamed tassels
of red cord, -did he not look the worthy professor
24 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINA IAN.
of philosophy, and one of those savants who write
fluently in the eighty thousand characters of
Chinese handwriting, and like a litterateur of the
superior dialect receiving the first prize in the
examination of doctors, with the right to pass
under the grand gate at Pekin, which is an honor
reserved for the Sons of Heaven ?
Perhaps, after all, the rebel, forgetting a past
full of horror, had improved by contact with the
honest Tchoung-Heou, and had gradually branched
off to the road of speculative philosophy.
That is why, on this evening, Kin-Fo and Wang,
who never left each other, were together at Can-
ton, and why, after this farewell dinner, both were
going along the wharves to seek a steamer to take
them quickly to Shang-hai.
Kin-Fo walked on in silence, and even some-
what thoughtfully. Wang, looking round to the
right and to the left, philosophizing to the moon
and the stars, passed smilingly under the Gate
of Eternal Purity, which he did not find too
high for him, and under the Gate of Eternal Joy,
whose doors seemed to open on his own existence,
and finally saw the Pagoda of the Five Hundred
Divinities vanishing in the distance.
The steamer Perma" was under full steam.
Kin-Fo and Wang went on board, and entered the
cabins reserved for them. The rapid current of
the River of Pearls, which daily bears along the
bodies of those condemned to death with the
mud from its shores, carried the boat swiftly
KIN-FO AND THE PHILOSOPHER.
onward. It sped like an arrow between the ruins
made by French cannon, and left standing here
and there; past the pagoda Haf-Way, nine stories
high; and past Point Jardyne, near Whampoa,
where the large ships anchor, between the islands
and the bamboo palisades of the two shores.
The one hundred and fifty kilometres that is
to say, the three hundred and seventy-five leagues
which separate Canton from the mouth of the
river were travelled in the night.
At sunrise the Perma" passed the Tiger's
Mouth, and then the two bars of the estuary.
The Victoria Peak of the isle of Hong-Kong,
eighteen hundred and twenty-five feet high, ap-
peared for a moment through the morning mist,
when, after the most successful of passages, Kin-Fo
and the philosopher, leaving the yellowish waters
of the Blue River behind them, landed at Shang-
hai, on the shores of the province of Kiang-Nan.
26 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
IN WHICH THE READER, WITHOUT FATIGUE, CAN
GLANCE OVER THE CITY OF SHANG-HAI.
A CHINESE proverb says, -
When sabres are rusty, and spades bright;
When prisons are empty, and granaries full;
"When the steps of the temples are worn by the feet of
worshippers, and the court-yards of the tribunals are 'cov-
ered with grass;
"When physicians go on foot, and bakers on horse-
The empire is well governed."
It is a good proverb, and might be applied to all
the States of the Old and New World. But, if
there is a single one where this desideratum is
still far from being realized, it is precisely the
Celestial Empire : for there it is the sabres which
are bright, and the spades rusty; the prisons
which are overflowing, and the granaries empty.
The bakers rest more than the physicians; and, if
the pagodas attract worshippers, the tribunals, on
the contrary, lack neither criminals nor litigants.
Besides, a kingdom of a hundred and eighty
thousand square miles, which from north to south
measures more than eight hundred leagues, and
THE CITY OF SHANG-HAL
from east to west more than nine hundred, which
counts eighteen vast provinces, not to mention
the tributary countries, Mongolia, Mandshuria,
Thibet, Tonking, Corea, the Loo-Choo Islands, &c.,
-can be but very imperfectly governed. If the
Chinese have a faint suspicion of this, foreigners
are not at all deceived. The emperor, who is
called the Son of Heaven, the father and mother
of his subjects, who makes or unmakes laws at
his pleasure, and has power of life or death over
every one, and to whom the revenues of the
empire are a birthright, the sovereign before
whom brows are bowed to the dust, shut up in
his palace, which is sheltered by the walls of a
triple city, alone, perhaps, considers that every
thing is for the best in the best of worlds. It
would be unnecessary even to try to prove to him
that he is mistaken. A Son of Heaven is never
Did Kin-Fo have any reason to think that it
would be better to be governed in the European
than in the Chinese manner? One would be
tempted to think so. Indeed, he lived, not in
Shang-hai, but out of the city, in a part of the
English concession, which preserves a sort of
freedom that is highly prized.
Shang-hai, the city proper, is situated on the left
shore of the little River Houang-Pou, which, unit-
ing at a right angle with the Wousung, flows into
the Yang-Tze-Kiang, or Blue River, and from
there is lost in the Yellow Sea.
28 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
It is an oval, extending from north to south,
and surrounded by high walls, with an outlet of
gates opening on its suburbs. An inextricable
network of paved lanes, which would soon wear
out sweeping-machines, were they to clean them;
gloomy shops, without shutters or any display of
goods in their windows, and in which the shop-
keepers perform their duties naked to the waist;
not a carriage, not a palanquin, and scarcely any
horsemen; here and there a few native temples or
foreign chapels; for promenades, a "tea-garden,"
and a rather pebbly parade-ground, built on an
embankment, filled with ancient rice-fields, and
subject to marshy emanations; a population of
two hundred thousand inhabitants in the streets
and narrow houses,- all compose this city, which,
though as a place of residence is hardly desirable,
is, nevertheless, of great commercial importance.
In this city, after the treaty of Nankin, for-
eigners for the first time possessed the right to
establish stores, and here was the great port
opened in China to European traffic: therefore,
outside of Shang-hai and its suburbs, the govern-
ment ceded, for an annual sum, three portions of
territory to the French, English, and Americans,
who number about two thousand.
Of the French concession, there is little to be
said, it being the least important. Nearly the
whole of it is within the northern enclosure of the
city, reaching as far as the Brook Yang-King-Pang,
which separates it from the English territory.
THE CITY OF SHANG-HAI.
There stand the churches of the Lazarists and
Jesuits, who, four miles from Shang-hai, own the
college of Tsikave, where they confer bachelors'
But this little French colony does not equal its
neighbors : far from it. Of the ten commercial
houses founded in 1861, there remain but three;
and they even preferred to establish the discount-
broker's office on the English concession.
The American territory occupies that part of
the country extending to Wousung, and is sepa-
rated from the English territory by the Soo-Choo
Creek, which is spanned by a wooden bridge.
Here are the Hotel Astor, and the Church of the
Missions, and the docks erected for the repair of
But, of the three concessions, the most flourish-
ing is indisputably the English. Here are sump-
tuous dwellings on the wharves, houses with
verandas and gardens, palaces of the merchant
princes, the Oriental Bank, the Hongg" of the cele-
brated house which bears the name of the firm of
Lao-Tchi-Tchang, the stores of the Jardynes, Rus-
sels, and other great merchants, the English club,
the theatre, the tennis-court, the park, the race-
course, and the library. Such is that wealthy
creation of the Anglo-Saxons, which has justly
merited the name of Model Colony."
That is why, on this privileged territory, under
the patronage of a liberal administration, one will
not be astonished, as M. Leon Russet says, to find
30 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
"a Chinese city of an especially individual charac.
ter, which has not its counterpart anywhere."
In this little corner of the earth, the foreigner,
arriving by the picturesque Blue River, sees four
flags unfurled by the same breeze, the three
French colors, the "yacht" of the United King-
dom, the American stars, and the cross of St.
Andrd, yellow with a green background, of the
As for the environs of Shang-hai, they are a flat,
treeless country, cut up by narrow, stony roads
and footpaths, laid out at right angles, or hollowed
out by cisterns and "arroyos distributing the
water through numerous rice-fields, or furrowed
by canals conveying junk-boats, which start in the
middle of the fields, like the canal-boats through
Holland. They are a sort of vast tableau, very
green in tone, a picture without a frame.
"The Perma," on her arrival, anchored at the
wharf of the native port, before the eastern
suburbs of Shang-hai; and it was there that Wang
and Kin-Fo landed in the afternoon.
The coming and going of business people cre-
ated a traffic that was enormous on the shore, and
beyond description on the river.
The junk-boats by hundreds, the flower-boats,
the sampans (a kind of gondola managed by the
scull), the gigs, and other boats, of every size,
formed a kind of floating city inhabited by a mari-
time population, which cannot be reckoned at less
than forty thousand souls,--a population main-
The two friends sauntered along the wharf.
THE CITY OF SHANG-HAI.
trained in an inferior situation, and the wealthy
part of which cannot rise to the rank of the liter-
ary or mandarin class.
The two friends sauntered along the wharf
among the strange, motley crowd, which comprised
merchants of every kind; venders of arachides,
betel-nuts, and oranges, with some from the Indian
orange-tree; seamen of every nation, water-car-
riers, fortune-tellers, bonzes, lamas, Catholic
priests clothed in Chinese fashion with pigtail
and fan, native soldiers, "tipaos (the town-bailiffs
of the place), and "compradores," or deputy-
brokers, as they might be called, who transact busi-
ness for European merchants.
Kin-Fo, with his fan in his hand, cast his usual
indifferent look over the crowd, and took no inter-
est in what was passing around him. Neither the
metallic sound of the Mexican piasters, nor that of
the silver taels and copper sapeques, which sellers
and buyers were exchanging with considerable
noise, could have disturbed him. He had the
means to buy out the entire suburbs for cash.
As for Wang, he opened his immense yellow
umbrella, which was decorated with black mon-
sters, and constantly faced the east as every high-
bred Chinaman should, and looked around every-
where for objects worthy of his observation.
As he passed before the eastern gate, his eyes
fell by chance on a dozen bamboo cages, from
which the faces of criminals who had been be-
headed the evening before grinned at him. "Per-
32 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
haps," said he, "there is something better to do
than to cut off people's heads; and that is, to
make them stronger."
Kin-Fo, no doubt, did not hear Wang's reflec-
tion, which, on the part of a former Tai-ping,
would have astonished him.
Both continued to follow the wharf, winding
around the walls of the Chinese city.
At the extremity of the outskirts, just as they
were about to set foot on the French concession, a
native in a long blue robe, who was striking a buf-
falo-horn with a small stick, which produced a
harsh, grating sound, attracted quite a crowd
"A sien-cheng," said the philosopher.
"What is it to us ?" added Kin-Fo.
"Friend," answered Wang, "ask him your for-
tune. This is a good time, when you are about to
Kin-Fo started on his way again; but Wang held
The "sien-cheng is a sort of popular prophet,
who for a few sapeques makes a business of fore-
telling the future. His only professional appara-
tus is a cage, enclosing a little bird, which he
hangs on one of the buttons of his robe, and a
pack of sixty-four cards, representing figures of
gods, men, or animals. The Chinese of every
class, who are generally superstitious, make noth-
ing of the predictions of the sien-cheng, who,
probably is not in earnest.
"A 2e-C g" so g 32-
U --- cz
"A Sien-Cheng," said the philosopher.
THE CITY OF SHANG-HAI.
At a sign from Wang, he spread a piece of cot-
ton cloth on the ground, placed his cage on it,
drew out his cards, shuffled, and placed them on
this carpeting in a manner to display their figures.
The door of the cage was then opened; and a little
bird came out, selected one of the cards, and went
back again, after having received a kernel of rice
as a reward.
The sien-cheng turned over the card. It bore
the face of a man, and a device written in kunan-
runa, the mandarin language of the north and an
official language used by educated people.
Then, addressing Kin-Fo, the fortune-teller pre-
dicted what those of his profession in all countries
invariably predict without compromising them-
selves, -that, after undergoing some near trial, he
would enjoy ten thousand years of happiness.
"One," answered Kin-Fo, "one only, and I
won't insist upon the rest."
Then he threw a silver tael on the ground, which
the prophet scrambled for as a hungry dog does
for a bone. Such windfalls did not come to him
After this, Wang and his pupil proceeded to the
French colony, -the former thinking of the predic-
tion, which accorded with his own theories about
happiness; the latter knowing well that no trial
could come to him.
They passed the French consulate, and as-
cended as far as the culvert thrown across Yang-
King-Pang, and crossed the brook; then went in
34 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
an oblique direction across the English territory,
in order to reach the wharf at the European port.
It was just striking twelve; and business, which
had been very active throughout the morning,
stopped as if by magic. The business-day was
ended, we may say; and quiet took the place of
bustle, even in the English city, which had become
Chinese in this respect.
At this moment several foreign ships were
arriving in port, most of them under the flag of
the United Kingdom. Nine out of ten, we must
state, were laden with opium. This brutalizing
substance, this poison with which England encum-
bers China, creates a traffic amounting to more
than two hundred and sixty million francs, and
returns three hundred per cent profit. In vain
has the Chinese government tried to prevent the
importation of opium into the Celestial Empire.
The war of 1841 and the treaty of Nankin gave
free entry to English merchandise, and yielded the
day to the merchant princes. We must also add,
that, if the government of Pekin has gone so far as
to proclaim death to every Chinaman who sells
opium, there are arrangements that can be made,
through a financial medium, with the treasurers of
the ruler; and it is even believed that the manda-
rin governor of Shang-hai lays up a million annu-
ally by merely shutting his eyes to the acts of his
We need not add that neither Kin-Fo nor Wang
were addicted to the detestable habit of smoking
THE CITY OF SHANG-HAI. 35
opium, which destroys all the elasticity of the sys-
tem, and quickly leads to death. Therefore not
an ounce of this substance had even entered the
costly dwelling which the two friends reached an
hour after landing on the wharf at Shang-hai.
Wang (the remark is still more surprising be-
cause it is that of an ex-Tai-ping) did not hesitate
to say, "Perhaps there is something better than
importing that which brutalizes a whole nation.
Commerce is well enough; but philosophy is
better. Let us be philosophers before all! let us
be philosophers !"
36 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
IN WHICH KIN-FO RECEIVES AN IMPORTANT LET-
TER, WHICH IS EIGHT DAYS BEHIND TIME.
A YAMEN is a collection of various buildings
ranged along a parallel line, which is cut across
perpendicularly by a second line of kiosks and
pavilions. Usually the yamen serves as a dwelling
for mandarins of high rank, and belongs to the
emperor; but wealthy celestials are not forbidden
to have one. It was in one of these sumptuous
hotels that the opulent Kin-Fo lived.
Wang and his pupil stopped at the principal
gate, which opened on the vast enclosure surround-
ing the various structures of the yamen, and its
gardens and court-yards.
If, instead of being the dwelling of a private
individual, it had been that of a mandarin, a great
drum would have occupied the best place, under
the carved roof of the porch over the door, and
where, in the night as well as in the day, those of
his officers who might have to ask for justice
would have knocked. But, instead of this "com-
plainers' drum," huge porcelain jars ornamented
the entrance of the yamen, and contained cold tea,
which was constantly renewed by attendants.
AN IMPORTANT LETTER.
These jars were at the disposal of passers-by, a
generosity which did honor to Kin-Fo. So he
was thought a great deal of, as they say, "by his
neighbors in the East and West."
On the master's arrival, the servants ran to the
door to meet him. Valets-de-chambre, footmen,
porters, chair-bearers, grooms, coachmen, waiters,
night-watchers, and cooks, and all who compose the
Chinese household, formed into line under the
orders of the intendant; while a dozen coolies,
engaged by the month for the heaviest work, stood
a little in the rear.
The intendant offered his welcome to the master
of the house, who made a slight acknowledgment
with a motion of his hand, and passed rapidly on.
"Soun ?" said he simply.
"Soun !" answered Wang, smiling. "If Soun
were here, it would not be Soun "
"Where is he? repeated Kin-Fo.
The intendant had to confess that neither he
nor any one knew what had become of him. Now,
Soun held no less important a position than that
of first valet-de-chambre, and was in particular at-
tached to Kin-Fo's person, and was one whom the
latter could by no means do without.
Was he, then, a model servant ? No: he could
not possibly have performed his duties in a worse
manner. Absent-minded, incoherent in speech,
awkward with his hands and tongue, a thorough
gourmand, and somewhat of a coward, he was a
true Chinese-screen Chinaman, but faithful on
38 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
the whole, and the only person, after all, who pos.
sessed the gift of moving his master. Kin-Fo
found an occasion to get angry with Soun twenty
times a day; and, if he only corrected him ten,
there was just so much the less to rouse him from
his habitual indifference, and stir his bile. A
hygienic servant, it is plain to be seen.
Besides, Soun, like the majority of Chinese ser-
vants, came of his own accord to receive punish-
ment whenever he merited it, which his master
was not sparing in bestowing. The blows of the
rattan rained down on his shoulders, but he hardly
minded them. What caused him to show infinitely
more sensibility was the successive cuttings of his
braided pigtail, which Kin-Fo made him undergo
when he was guilty of any grave fault.
Probably no one is unaware how much the
Chinaman values this odd appendage. The loss
of his pigtail is the first punishment offered to a
criminal. It is a dishonor for life : therefore the
unhappy valet dreaded nothing so much as to be
condemned to lose a piece of it. Four years
before, when he entered Kin-Fo's service, his braid,
one of the most beautiful in the Celestial Empire,
measured one metre and twenty-five. Now there
remained only fifty-seven centimetres.
At this rate, Soun in two years would be en-
However, Wang and Kin-Fo, followed respect-
fully by the servants, crossed the garden, in which
the trees, that were mostly set in porcelain vases,
Wang and Kin-Fo, followed respectfully by the servants, crossed the
AN IMPORTANT LETTER.
and trimmed in an astonishing but lamentable
style of art, assumed the form of fantastic ani-
mals. Then the friends walked around the reser-
voir filled with "gouramis" and red fishes, and in
which the limpid water was hidden from view
under the broad, pale-red flowers of the "nelum-
bo," the most beautiful of the native water-lilies
in the Empire of Flowers. They saluted a quad-
ruped in hieroglyphics, painted in violent colors
on a wall ad hoc, like a symbolical fresco, and
finally reached the entrance to the principal dwell-
ing in the yamen.
It was a house composed of a ground-floor and
one story, raised on a terrace which was ascended
by six marble steps. Bamboo screens were hung
like awnings before the doors and windows, in
order to render endurable the excessive heat by
airing the interior. The flat roof contrasted with
the fantastic roofing of the pavilions, scattered
here and there in the enclosure of the yamen,
whose embrasures, many-colored tiles, and bricks
carved in fine arabesques, were extremely pleasing
to the eye.
Inside, with the exception of the rooms espe-
cially reserved for the occupancy of Wang and
Kin-Fo, there were only salons surrounded by cabi-
nets formed of transparent walls, on which were
traced garlands of painted flowers, or inscriptions
giving those moral aphorisms with which the
Celestials are profuse. Everywhere were to be
seen seats oddly fashioned in pottery or porcelain,
40 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
in wood or marble, to say nothing of some dozens
of cushions of more inviting softness; and every.
where were lamps or lanterns of various forms,
with glasses shaded in delicate colors, and more
encumbered with tassels, fringes, and top-knots
than a Spanish mule; and the little tea-tables called
teha-ki, which form an indispensable complement
to the furniture of a Chinese apartment. One
would not have wasted, but have well employed,
hours in counting the ivory and shell carvings, the
dead bronzes, the censers, the lacquer-work orna-
mented with filagree of raised gold, them ilky-
white and emerald-green objects in jade, the vases
(round or in the form of a prism) of the dynasty
of the Ming and Tsing, and the still rarer porce-
lains of the dynasty of the Yen in veined enamel-
work of translucent pink and yellow, the secret of
whose manufacture is unknown. All that Chinese
fancy, added to European comfort, could offer, was
to be found in this luxurious home.
Indeed, Kin-Fo it has been alluded to before,
and his tastes prove it -was a progressive man,
who was not opposed to the importation of each
and every modern invention; and he might be
classed with those Sons of Heaven, still too rare,
who are charmed by the physical and chemical sci-
ences. He was not one of those barbarians who
cut the first telegraph-wires which the house of
Reynolds, wished to establish as far as Wousung
with the intention of learning sooner of the arrival
of English and American mails; nor one of those
AN IMPORTANT LETTER.
behind-the-times mandarins, who, in order not to
allow the submarine cable from Shang-hai to Hong-
Kong to be secured at any point whatsoever of the
territory, obliged the telegraph-workers to fasten
it on a boat floating in the middle of the river.
No : Kin-Fo joined those of his compatriots who
approved of the government building arsenals and
ship-yards in Fou-Chao under the direction of
French engineers; and he was also a stockholder
in the Chinese steamers which ply between Tien-
sing and Shang-hai on government business, and
was interested in those boats of great speed, which,
after leaving Singapore, gain three or four days
over the English mail.
It has been affirmed that material progress
found its way even into his home. Indeed, the
telephone gave communication between the differ-
ent buildings in his yamen ; and electric bells con-
nected the rooms in his .house. During the cold
season he built a fire to warm himself without a
feeling of shame, being more sensible in this re-
spect than his fellow-citizens, who froze before an
empty fireplace under four or five suits of clothes.
He lighted his house with gas, like the inspector-
general of the custom-house in Pekin, and the
immensely rich Mr. Yang, the principal proprietor
of the pawn-shops in the Central Empire. Final-
ly, disdaining the superannuated custom of hand-
writing in his familiar correspondence, the pro-
gressive Kin-Fo, as one will soon find, adopted
phonography, recently brought to the highest de-
gree of perfection by Edison..
42 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINArMAN.
Thus the pupil of the philosopher Wang had, in
his material as well as in his moral life, all that
was necessary to make him happy; yet he was not
so He had Soun to rouse him from his daily
apathy; but even Soun did not suffice to bring
It is true, that, at the present moment at least,
Soun, who was never where he ought to be, would
not show himself. He, no doubt, must have some
grave fault with which to reproach himself, some
awkward act done in his master's absence; or if
he did not fear for his shoulders, accustomed to
the domestic rattan, every thing led one to believe
that he was trembling particularly for his pigtail.
"Soun! called Kin-Fo, as he entered the hall
into which opened the salons on the right and left;
and his voice indicated an ill-repressed impatience.
Soun !" repeated Wang, whose good advice
and reproofs had produced no effect on the incor-
"Let some one hunt up Soun, and bring him to
me," said Kin-Fo, addressing the intendant, who
set all his people to find the unfindable.
Wang and Kin-Fo remained alone.
Wisdom," then spoke the philosopher, com-
mands the traveller who returns to his fireside to
"Let us be wise," simply answered Wang's
pupil; and, after having clasped the philosopher's
hand, he went to his apartments. Kin-Fo, when
at length alone, stretched himself on one of those
AN IMPORTANT LETTER.
soft lounges of European manufacture which a
Chinese upholsterer would never have been able
to make so comfortable.
In this position he began to meditate. Was he
meditating on his marriage with the amiable and
pretty woman he was to make the companion of
his life ? Yes; but that is not surprising, because
he was about to visit her. This charming person
did not reside in Shang-hai, but in Pekin; and
Kin-Fo thought that it would be proper to announce
to her both his return to Shang-hai, and his inten-
tion of soon visiting the capital of the Celestial
Empire. Even were he to show a certain desire
and slight impatience to see her again, it would
not be out of place; for he really had a true affec-
tion for her.
Wang had demonstrated this to him by the
most unanswerable rules of logic; and this new
element introduced into his life might, perhaps,
call forth the unknown, that is, happiness, -
who, which, of which -
Kin-Fo was dreaming, with his eyes already
closed; and he would have gently fallen asleep,
if he had not felt a sort of tickling in his right
Instinctively his fingers came together, and
seized a slightly knotty, cylindrical body, of tol-
erable thickness, which they undoubtedly were
accustomed to handle. He could not be mistaken:
it was a rattan, which had slipped into his right
hand, while at the same time were heard, in a
resigned tone, the following words:-
44 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
"When master wishes."
Kin-Fo started up, and instinctively brandished
the correcting rattan.
Soun was before him, presenting his shoulders,
and bending half double in the position of a male-
factor about to be beheaded. Supporting himself
on the floor by one hand, he held a letter in the
"Well, here you are at last! cried Kin-Fo.
"Ai, ai, ya!" answered Soun. "I did not ex-
pect master till the third period. If he wishes "-
Kin-Fo threw the rattan on the floor. Soun, al-
though he was naturally so yellow, managed to
"If you offer your back without any other ex-
planation," said his master, "it is because you de-
serve something more. What is the matter?"
"Well, what of it ? Speak! cried Kin-Fo, seiz-
ing the letter which Soun presented to him.
I very stupidly forgot to give it to you before
your departure to Canton."
"A week behind time, you rascal! "
I did wrong, master."
I am like a poor crab that has no claws, and
cannot walk. Ai, ai, ya !"
This last cry was one of despair. Kin-Fo, having
seized Soun by his braid, with one clip of the well-
sharpened scissors cut off the extreme tip.
It is to be supposed that claws grow instantane-
"Ai ai yal'
" I t'
', M,",, '.-'
AN IMPORTANT LETTER.
ously on the unhappy crab; for this one, having
first snatched from the carpet the severed part of
his precious appendage, scampered hastily away.
From fifty-seven centimetres, Soun's pigtail had
become reduced to fifty-four.
Kin-Fo, who was again perfectly calm, had thrown
himself once more on the lounge, and was examin-
ing, with the air of a man whom nothing hurries,
the letter which had arrived a week ago. He was
only displeased with Soun on account of his care-
lessness, not on account of the delay. How could
any letter whatsoever interest him ? It would only
be welcome if it could cause him an emotion. An
emotion for him! He looked at it, therefore,
somewhat vacantly. The envelope, of heavy linen
paper, revealed on the front and the reverse side
various postmarks of a chocolate and a wine
color, with the printed picture of a man under-
neath the figure 2, and "six cents," which showed
that it came from the United States of America.
Good said Kin-Fo, shrugging his shoulders,
"a letter from my correspondent in San Fran-
cisco." And he threw it in a corner of the lounge.
Indeed, what could his correspondent have to
tell him ? That the securities which composed al-
most all his fortune remained quietly in the safes
of the Central Bank in California, or that his stock
had risen from fifteen to twenty per cent, or that
the dividends to be distributed would exceed those
of the preceding year, &c.
A few million dollars more or less really could
not move him.
46 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
However, a few moments later, Kin-Fo took the
letter again, and mechanically tore the envelope;
but, instead of reading it, his eyes at first sought
only the signature.
It is truly from my correspondent," he said.
"He can only have business-matters to tell me of;
and business I won't think of till to-morrow."
And a second time Kin-Fo was about to throw
down the letter, when inside, on the right-hand
page, a word underlined several times caught his
eye. It was the word "indebtedness," to which
the San Francisco correspondent wished to draw
the attention of his client at Shang-hai.
Kin-Fo then began the letter from the beginning,
and read every word from the first to the last line,
not without a certain feeling of curiosity rather
surprising on his part. For a moment his eye-
brows contracted; but a rather disdainful smile
played round his lips when he finished reading.
He then rose, took about twenty steps around
his room, and approached the rubber tube which
placed him in communication with Wang. He
even carried the mouth-piece to his lips, and was
about to whistle through it, when he changed his
mind, let fall the rubber serpent, and, returning,
threw himself on the lounge.
"Pooh !" said he.
This word just expressed Kin-Fo.
"And she!" he murmured. "She is really more
interested in all this than I am."
He then approached a little lacquered table, ou
AN IMPORTANT LETTER.
which stood an oblong box of rare carving; but,
as he was about to open it, he stayed his hand.
"What was it that her last letter said?" he
Instead of raising the box-cover, he pressed a
spring at one end, and immediately a sweet voice
"My little elder brother, am I no longer to you
like the flower mei-houa in the first moon, like the
flower of the apricot in the second, and the flower
of the peach-tree in the third ? My dear, precious
jewel of a heart, a thousand, ten thousand greet-
ings to you!"
It was the voice of a young woman, whose ten-
der words were repeated by the phonograph.
"Poor little younger sister said Kin-Fo.
Then, opening the box, he took out from the
apparatus the paper on which were the indented
lines which had just reproduced the inflections of
the absent voice, and replaced it with another.
The phonograph was then perfected to such a
degree, that it was necessary only to speak aloud
for the membrane to receive the impression, and
the wheel, which was turned as by the machinery
of a watch, would stamp the words on the paper
Kin-Fo spoke in it for about a moment.
By his voice, which was always calm and even,
one could not have learned whether joy or sorrow
influenced his thoughts.
No more than three or four sentences were
48 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
spoken. Having ended, he stopped the machinery
of the phonograph, drew out the special paper on
which the needle, acted upon by the membrane,
had traced oblique ridges corresponding to the
words spoken; then, placing this paper in an en-
velope which he sealed, he wrote from right to left
the following address:-
An electric bell quickly brought the servant
who had charge of letters, and he was ordered to
take this one immediately to the post-office.
An hour afterwards Kin-Fo was sleeping peace-
fully, pressing in his arms his "tchou-fou-jen,"-a
kind of pillow of plaited bamboo, which maintains
a medium temperature in Chinese beds, and is
very much prized in these warm latitudes.
LE-OU RECEIVES A LETTER.
IN WHICH LE-OU RECEIVES A LETTER WHICH SHE
WOULD RATHER NOT HAVE RECEIVED.
"You have no letter for me yet ?"
"Eh! No, madam."
"Time seems so long to me, old mother !"
Thus for the tenth time that day spoke the
charming Le-ou in the boudoir of her house in
Cha-Coua Avenue, Pekin. The "old mother" who
answered her, and to whom she gave this title,
usually bestowed in China on servants of a re-
spectable age, was the grumbling and disagreeable
Le-ou had married at eighteen a literary man
of the highest distinction, who had contributed
to the famous "Tse-Khou-Tsuane-Chou." This
savant was twice her age, and died three years
after this unequal union.
The young widow was left alone in the world
when she was only twenty-one years old. Kin-Fo
met her on a journey which he made to Pekin
about this time. Wang, who was acquainted with
1 This work, begun in 1773, is to comprise one hundred and sixty thou-
sand volumes, and at present has reached only the seventy-eight thousand
seven hundred and thirty-eighth.
TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
this charming person, called the attention of his
indifferent pupil to her; and Kin-Fo gradually gave
himself up to the idea of modifying the conditions
of his life by becoming the husband of such a
pretty widow. Le-ou was not averse to the propo-
sition: so the marriage, which was decided upon
to the great satisfaction of the philosopher, was to
be celebrated as soon as Kin-Fo, after having made
the necessary arrangements at Shang-hai, should
return to Pekin.
It is not common in the Celestial Empire for
widows to marry again,--not that they do not
wish to as much as those of their class in West-
ern countries, but because their wish is shared
by few of the opposite sex. If Kin-Fo was an
exception to the rule, it was because he was ec-
centric, as we know. Le-ou, if married again, it
is true, would no longer have the right to pass
under the commemorative arches, which the em-
peror has sometimes erected in honor of women
celebrated for their fidelity to a deceased husband,
-such as that in honor of the widow Soung, who
never would leave her husband's tomb; of the
widow Koung-Kiang, who cut off an arm; and of
the widow Yen-Tchiang, who disfigured herself as
a sign of conjugal grief. But Le-ou thought she
could do better in her twentieth year. She would
resume that life of obedience which constitutes
the whole rdle of woman in a Chinese family,
give up talking of outside matters, conform to
the precepts of the book "Li-nun" on domestic
LE-OU RECEIVES A LETTER.
virtues, and the book "Nei-tso-pien on marital
duties, and again find that consideration enjoyed
by the wife who, in the upper classes, is not the
slave she is generally believed to be. So Le-ou,
who was intelligent and well educated, under-
standing what place she would hold in the life
of the rich ennuyd, and feeling herself drawn
towards him by the desire of proving to him that
happiness exists on the earth, was quite resigned
to her new fate.
The savant had left his young widow in easy,
though moderate, circumstances; and the house in
Cha-Coua Avenue was therefore unpretentious.
The intolerable Nan was the only servant; but
Le-ou was accustomed to her deplorable manners,
which are not peculiar to the servants of the Em-
pire of Flowers.
The young woman preferred to spend most of
her time in her boudoir, the furniture of which
would have seemed very plain, had it not been
for the rich presents which, for two eventful
months, had been arriving from Shang-hai. A
few pictures hung on the walls; among others a
chef-d'aeuvre of the old painter' Huan-Tse-Nen,
1 The renown of the great masters has been handed down to us by
traditions, which, though anecdotical, are none the less worthy of atten-
tion. It is recorded, for example, that in the third century a painter, by
the name of Tsao-Pouh-Ying, having finished a screen for the emperor,
amused himself by painting flies here and there, and had the satisfaction
of seeing his majesty take his handkerchief to brush them off. No less
celebrated was Huan-Tse-Nen, who flourished towards the year one thou-
sand. Having had charge of the mural decorations in one of the palace-
halls, he painted several pheasants on it. Now, some foreign envoys who
52 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
which would have attracted the attention of con.
noisseurs among other very Chinese water-colors
with green horses, violet dogs, and blue trees,
the work of native modern artists. On a lacquer
table were displayed fans, like great butterflies
with expanded wings, from the celebrated school
of Swatow. From a porcelain hanging-lamp
drooped elegant festoons of those artificial flow-
ers, so admirably manufactured from the pith of
the Arabia papyrifera of Formosa, and rivalling
the white water-lilies, yellow chrysanthemums, and
red lilies of Japan, which crowded the jardinikres
of delicately carved wood. A soft light filled the
room, as the screens of braided bamboo at the
windows excluded the direct rays of the sun by
filtering them, as it were. A magnificent screen,
made of large sparrow-hawks' feathers, on which
the spots of color, artistically disposed, represented
a large peony, that emblem of beauty in the
Empire of Flowers,- two bird-cages in the form
of a pagoda, real kaleidoscopes of the most bril-
liant birds of India, a few oaolian "tiemaols,"
whose glass plate vibrated in the breeze, and a
thousand objects, in fact, which recalled the ab-
sent one, completed the curious adornment of this
brought several falcons as a present to the emperor, having been introduced
into this hall, the birds of prey no sooner beheld the pheasants painted on
the walls, than they flew upon them to the injury of their heads more than
to the satisfaction of their voracious instincts. THOMPsoN's Voyage to
LE-OU RECEIVES A LETTER.
"No letter yet, Nan ?"
"Why no, madam, not yet!"
A charming woman was this young Le-ou, and
pretty even to European eyes: for she was fair,
not yellow, and had soft eyes, but slightly raised
near the temples; black hair, which was orna-
mented with a few peach-blossoms, fastened by
pins of green jade; small white teeth, and eye-
brows faintly defined with a delicate line of India
ink. She put no cosmetic of honey or Spanish
white on her cheeks, as the beauties in the
Celestial Empire generally do, no circle of car-
mine on her lower lip, no small vertical line be-
tween her eyes, nor a single layer of the paint
which the imperial court dispenses annually for
ten million sapeques. The young widow had
nothing to do with these artificial ingredients.
She seldom went out of her house at Cha-Coua,
and for that reason could scorn this mask which
every Chinese woman uses outside of her own
As for her toilet, nothing could be more simple
and elegant. A long robe, slashed on four sides,
with a wide embroidered galloon at the hem, and,
underneath this, a plaited skirt; at her waist a
plastron embellished with braid in gold filagree;
pantaloons attached to the belt, and fastened over
hose of Nankin silk; and pretty slippers orna-
mented with pearls, composed her attire. We
can mention nothing more to make the young
woman charming, unless we add that her hands
54 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
were delicate, and that she preserved her nails,
which were long and rosy, in little silver cases,
carved with exquisite art.
And her feet? Well, her feet were small, not
in consequence of that barbarous custom of de-
forming them, which, happily, is being done away
with, but because nature had made them so.
This custom has already lasted seven hundred
years, and probably arose from the deformity of
some club-footed princess, and not, as has been
believed, from the jealousy of husbands. In its
most simple application, the flexion of the four toes
under the sole, while leaving the calcaneum intact,
converts the leg into a sort of conical trunk, abso-
lutely impedes walking, and predisposes to anemia.
The custom had extended day by day from the
conquest by the Tartars; but now one cannot find
three Chinese women out of ten who have been
forced to submit at an early age to a succession of
those painful operations which causes the deform-
ity of the foot.
It cannot be possible that a letter has not come
to-day," said Le-ou again. "Go and see, old
"I have been to see," answered Miss Nan very
disrespectfully, as she left the room, grumbling.
Le-ou tried to work to divert her mind : yet she
was thinking of Kin-Fo all the same; since she was
embroidering for him a pair of cloth stockings,
whose manufacture is confined to women in Chinese
households, to whatever class they may belong. But
'I have been to see," answered Miss Nan very disrespectfully, as she
left the room.
LE-OU RECEIVES A LETTER.
her work soon fell from her hands. She rose, took
two or three watermelon-seeds from a bonbon-
box, crunched them between her little teeth, then
opened a book entitled "Nushun,"-a code of
instructions which it is the habit of every worthy
wife to read daily.
"As spring is the most favorable season for the farmer,
so is the dawn the most propitious moment of the day.
"Rise early, and do not yield to the wooing of sleep.
"Take care of the mulberry-tree and the hemp.
"Spin silk and cotton zealously.
"A woman's virtue is in being industrious and economi-
"Your neighbor will sing your praises."
This book was soon closed; for the fond Le-ou
was not thinking of what she was reading.
"Where can he be?" she questioned. He
must have gone to Canton. Has he returned to
Shang-hai? When will he arrive at Pekin ? Has
the sea been smooth for him ? I pray the goddess
Koanine may watch over him."
Thus spoke the anxious young woman; and her
eyes wandered absently over a table-cover, which
was artistically made of a thousand little pieces
patched together in a sort of mosaic, and of a ma-
terial of Portuguese fashion, on which were de-
signed the mandarin duck and his family, the sym-
bol of fidelity. Finally she approached ajardinidre,
and plucked a flower at random.
"Ah!" said she, "this is not a flower of the
green willow, the emblem of spring, youth, and
56 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
joy: it is the yellow chrysanthemum, the emblem
of autumn and sorrow "
To dispel the anxiety which now possessed her,
she took up her lute, and ran her fingers over the
strings, while she softly sang the first words of the
song, "Hands United;" but she could not con-
His letters always came promptly," she said to
herself; "and what emotion they caused me as I
read them! Or, instead of those lines which were
addressed only to my eyes, it was his voice itself I
could hear; for in that instrument it spoke to me
as if he were near."
Le-ou glanced at a phonograph which stood on
a small lacquered table, and which was exactly like
the one that Kin-Fo used at Shang-hai. Both could
thus hear each other speak, or rather the sound of
their voices, in spite of the distance which sepa-
rated them. But to-day, as for several days, the
apparatus was silent, and no longer spoke the
thoughts of the absent one.
The old mother now entered.
"Here is your letter," she said; and she handed
Le-ou an envelope postmarked Shang-hai, and
then left the room.
A smile played about Le-ou's lips, and her eyes
sparkled with a more brilliant light. She quickly
tore open the envelope, without taking time to
look at it, as was her habit. It did not contain a
letter, but one of those pieces of paper with ob-
lique indented lines, which, when adjusted in the
The paper was placed on the roller of the phonograph.
LE-OU RECEIVES A LETTER.
phonograph, reproduce all the inflections of the
"Ah! I like this even better!" she cried joy-
ously; "for I can hear him speak."
The paper was placed on the roller of the phon-
ograph, which the machinery, like clock-work, im-
mediately made revolve, and Le-ou, putting her ear
to it, heard a well-known voice, which said, -
"Little younger sister, ruin has made way with my
riches, as the east wind blows away the yellow leaves of au-
tumn. I do not wish to make another wretched by having
her share my poverty. Forget.him on whom ten thousand
misfortunes have fallen.
"Yours in despair,
What a blow for the young woman! A life
more bitter than the bitter gentian awaited her
now. Yes, the golden wind was carrying away
her last hopes with the fortune of him she loved.
Was Kin-Fo's love for her gone forever ? Did her
friend believe only in the happiness which riches
give ? Ah, poor Le-ou she now resembled a kite,
which, when its string is broken, falls to the ground
and is shattered.
Nan, whom she had called, entered the room,
and, with a shrug of her shoulders, carried her
mistress to her "hang." But, although her couch
was one of those stove-beds artificially warmed, it
seemed cold to the unfortunate Le-ou; and how
slowly passed the five parts of that sleepless
58 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
WHICH WILL, PERHAPS, MAKE THE READER DESIRE
TO VISIT THE OFFICES OF THE "CENTENARY."
THE next day Kin-Fo, whose disdain for things
of this world did not lessen for a moment, left
home alone, and, with his usual regular gait, de-
scended the right shore of the creek. Having
reached the wooden bridge which connects the
English concession with the American, he crossed
the river, and proceeded to a rather handsome
house, which stood between the mission-church
and the consulate of the United States.
On the front of this house was displayed a large
copper plate, on which was engraved, in raised
letters, this inscription, -
"THE CENTENARY LIFE-INSURANCE COMPANY.
Guaranteed Capital, $20,000,000.
Principal Agent, WILLIAM J. BIDULPH."
Kin-Fo pushed open the door, which was pro-
tected by another one inside, and found himself in
an office divided into two compartments by a simple
balustrade, as high as his elbow. Several paste-
board boxes for papers, some books with nickel
THE OFFICES OF THE "CENTENARY." 59
clasps, an American safe, two or three tables
where the agent's clerks were working, and a
complicated secretary reserved for the Honorable
William J. Bidulph, comprised the furniture of this
room, which seemed to belong more to a house
in Broadway than to one on the shores of the
William J. Bidulph was the principal agent in
China of the life and fire insurance company
whose head was in Chicago. It was called the
Centenary,--a good title, which must draw pa-
trons. The Centenary, which was very popular
in the United States, had branches in the five
divisions of the world. It carried on an enormous
business, -thanks to its by-laws, which were very
boldly and liberally framed,- and was thus able
to take every risk.
The Celestials were beginning to follow these
modern ideas which filled the coffers of com-
panies of this kind. A large number of houses
in the Central Empire were insured against fire;
and the contracts of insurance in case of death,
with their complex combinations, did not lack
Chinese signatures. The advertisement of the
Centenary was already posted on doors in Shang-
hai, and, among other places, on the pillars of
Kin-Fo's costly yamen. Therefore it was not
with the intention of insuring against fire that
Wang's pupil was paying a visit to the Honorable
William J. Bidulph.
"Mr. Bidulph ?" he asked, as he entered.
60 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINA.MAN.
William J. Bidulph was there "in person," like
a photographer who is his -own operator, and
always at the disposition of the public. He was
a man fifty years old, correctly dressed in a black
coat and white cravat, with a full-grown beard,
but no mustache, and with peculiarly American
"To whom have I the honor of speaking ?" he
"To Mr. Kin-Fo of Shang-hai."
"Mr. Kin-Fo! one of the patrons of the Cen-
tenary, policy number twenty-seven thousand
"Am I to have the good fortune of having you
desire my services, sir ? "
"I would like to speak to you in private," an-
Conversation between these two could be the
more easily carried on, since William J. Bidulph
spoke Chinese, and Kin-Fo spoke English.
The wealthy patron was then introduced, with
the respect due him, into an inner office, hung
with heavy tapestry, and closed with double doors,
where one might have plotted the overthrow of
the dynasty of Tsing without fear of being heard
by the most cunning tipaos in the Celestial Em-
"Sir," said Kin-Fo, as soon as he had seated
himself in a rocking-chair before a fireplace heated
by gas, "I desire to negotiate with your company
"You desire to die only at a very advanced age, do you not?"
THE OFFICES OF THE "CENTENARY." 61
for the insurance of my life for a sum, the amount
of which I will give you presently."
"Sir," answered William J. Bidulph, "there is
nothing more simple. Two signatures -yours
and mine-at the bottom of a policy, and the
insurance is effected after a few preliminary for-
malities. But, sir, permit me to ask this question:
you desire to die only at a very advanced age, do
you not ? quite a natural desire."
"Why should I?" asked Kin-Fo. "Usually,
when one insures his life, it indicates that he fears
"0 sir!" answered Mr. Bidulph in the most
serious way in the world, that fear is never enter-
tained by the patrons of the Centenary. Does not
its name indicate this? To insure with us is to
take out a patent of long life. I beg pardon; but
it is rare that those insuring with us do not live
beyond the hundredth year, very rare, very rare!
For their own good, we ought to deprive them of
life. But we do a superb business. So, I assure
you, sir, that insurance in the Centenary is a quasi
certainty of becoming a centenarian."
"Indeed!" said Kin-Fo quietly, looking at
William J. Bidulph with his cold eye.
The chief agent, serious as a clergyman, had by
no means the appearance of joking.
"However that may be," resumed Kin-Fo, "I
desire to get insured for two hundred thousand
"We say a policy of two hundred thousand
dollars," answered Mr. Bidulph.
62 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAAMAN.
He entered this sum in his note-book, and its
magnitude did not even cause him to raise his
"You know," he added, "that the insurance is
void, and that all premiums paid, whatever their
number, go to the company, if the person insured
loses his life through the act of the beneficiary of
"I know that."
"And against what risks do you pretend to in-
sure, my dear sir ?"
"Risks of travel by land or sea, and those of a
residence outside the limits of the Celestial Em-
"Risks of legal sentence ?"
"Risks of duel ?"
"Risks of military service ? "
"Then the premiums will be very high."
"I will pay what is necessary."
"It is agreed."
"But," added Kin-Fo, "there is another very
important risk, which you do not speak of."
"What is it?"
"Suicide. I thought the statutes of the Cen-
tenary authorized it to insure against suicide
THE OFFICES OF THE CENTENARY." 63
"Just so, sir! just so!" answered William J.
Bidulph, rubbing his hands. "Even that proves
a source of splendid profit to us. You under-
stand, our patrons are generally people who value
life; and those who, through exaggerated pru-
dence, insure against suicide, never kill them-
"For all that," answered Kin-Fo, "for personal
reasons, I wish to insure against this risk also."
"Bless me but it is a pretty big premium."
"I repeat that I will pay whatever is necessary."
"Of course we will put down, then," said Mr.
Bidulph, continuing to write in his note-book,
"risks of travelling by sea and land, and suicide."
"And on those conditions what will be the
amount to pay ?" asked Kin-Fo.
"My dear sir," answered the principal agent,
"our premiums are tabled with a mathematical
accuracy which is greatly to the honor of the.
company. They are not based, as they used to
be, on Duvillars' tables. Are you acquainted with
"I am not acquainted with Duvillars."
"A remarkable statistician, but already ancient,
- so ancient, even, that he is dead. At the time
that he established his famous tables, which still
serve as the scale for premiums in the majority
of European companies, which are very much
behind the times, the average duration of life
was less than now, thanks to general progress.
We form a basis on a higher medium, and, con-
64 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
sequently, one more favorable to the insured, who
pays a lower price, and lives longer."
"What will be the amount of my premium ?"
resumed Kin-Fo, desirous of stopping the wordy
agent, who neglected no occasion to mention this
advantage in favor of the Centenary.
"Sir," answered William J. Bidulph, "may I
take the liberty of asking your age ?"
"Well, at thirty-one, if you were- only insuring
on ordinary risks, you would pay in any company
two eighty-three per cent; but in the Centenary
it will only be two seventy, which, for a capital of
two hundred thousand dollars, would make five
thousand four hundred dollars per annum."
"And on the conditions that I desire?" asked
"Insuring against every risk, even suicide? "
"Suicide above every thing."
"Sir," answered Mr. Bidulph in an amiable
tone, after having consulted a printed table on the
last page of his note-book, "we cannot do this for
you at less than twenty-five per cent."
Which will make?"
"Fifty thousand dollars."
"And how will the premium be paid you?"
"All at once, or in parts monthly, at the pleas-
ure of the person insured."
"And what would it be for the first two
"Eight thousand three hundred and thirty-two
THE OFFICES OF THE "CENTENARY." 65
dollars, which, if paid to-day, the 30th of April,
my dear sir, would cover you to the 30th of June
of the present year."
"Sir," said Kin-Fo, "those conditions suit me.
Here is the premium for the first two months."
And he placed on the table a thick roll of bills,
which he drew from his pocket.
"Well, sir, very well," answered Mr. Bidulph.
"But, before signing the policy, there is one for-
mality to be gone through with."
"What is it ?"
"You must receive a visit from the physician
of the company."
"For what reason ?"
"In order to ascertain if you are soundly built,
if you have no organic malady of a nature to
shorten life, if, in short, you can give us guaran-
ties of a long life."
"Of what use is that, since I insure even
against duel and suicide ? observed Kin-Fo.
"Well, my dear sir," answered Mr. Bidulph,
still smiling, "a malady whose germs you might
have, and which would carry you off in a few
months, would cost us in all two hundred thou-
"My suicide would cost you that also, I sup-
"Dear sir," answered the gracious agent, taking
Kin-Fo's hand, which he gently patted, "allow me
to tell you that many of our patrons insure against
suicide, but they never commit suicide. But we
66 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
are not prevented from watching over them,-
but with the greatest discretion."
"Ah! said Kin-Fo.
"I will add this, which I have often said, that,
of all those insured by the Centenary, they are
the ones who pay premiums the longest. But, be-
tween ourselves, pray tell me, why should the
wealthy Mr. Kin-Fo commit suicide ?"
"And why should the wealthy Mr. Kin-Fo get
"Oh answered William J. Bidulph, "to ob-
tain the certainty of living to be very old as a
patron of the Centenary."
There was no use in discussing any longer with
the principal agent of the celebrated company, he
was so positive in what he said.
"And now," he added, "to whose profit is this
insurance of two hundred thousand dollars ? Who
will be the beneficiary of the contract ? "
"There will be two beneficiaries," answered
"In equal shares ?"
"No, in unequal shares. One for fifty thousand
dollars, the other for one hundred and fifty thou-
"For the fifty thousand, we say Mr. -- ? "
"The philosopher Wang?"
"And for the hundred and fifty thousand ?"
"Madame Le-ou of Pekin."
THE OFFICES OF THE "CENTENARY." 67
"Pekin," added Mr. Bidulph, finishing his entry
of the names of the beneficiaries. Then he re.
"What is Madame Le-ou's age ?"
"Twenty-one," answered Kin-Fo.
"Oh said the agent, "a young lady who will
be quite old when she receives the amount of the
"Why so, please ?"
Because you will live to be more than a hun-
dred, my dear sir. And how old is the philosopher
"Well, this worthy man is sure of never, receiv-
ing any thing."
"That remains to be seen, sir."
"Sir," answered Mr. Bidulph, "if at fifty-five I
were the heir of a man of thirty-one, who was to
die a centenarian, I would not be so simple as to
count on inheriting from him."
"Your servant, sir," said Kin-Fo, moving to the
"And yours," answered the Honorable Mr.
Bidulph, bowing to the new insuree of the Cen-
The next day the physician of the company
made Kin-Fo the regular visit.
Body of iron, muscles of steel, lungs like organ-
bellows," read the report. There was nothing to
prevent the company from dealing with a man so
soundly built. The policy was then signed under
68 TRIBULA TIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
this date by Kin-Fo, on his part, for the benefit of
the young widow and the philosopher Wang; and,
on the other, by William J. Bidulph, the represen-
tative of the company.
Neither Le-ou nor Wang, unless through im-
probable circumstances, would ever know what
Kin-Fo had just done for them, until the day when
the Centenary should be called upon to pay them
the policy, the last generous act of the ex-million-
WAYS AND CUSTOMS OF THE CHINESE. 69
WHICH WOULD BE VERY SAD IF IT DID NOT TREAT
OF WAYS AND CUSTOMS PECULIAR TO THE CE-
WHATEVER the Honorable William J. Bidulph
might think and say, the funds of the Centenary
were very seriously threatened. Indeed, Kin-Fo's
plan was not of that kind, which, on reflection,
one postpones executing indefinitely. Being ut-
terly ruined, Wang's pupil had thoroughly re-
solved to end an existence which even in the tie
of his prosperity brought him only sadness an
The letter which was not delivered for a week
by Soun came from San Francisco, and gave
notice of the suspension of payment of the Cen-
tral Bank of California. Now, Kin-Fo's fortune
consisted almost entirely, as we know, of stock in
this celebrated bank, which had previously been
so sound. But the situation was not to be
doubted. Improbable as the news might seem, it
was unhappily only too true. The suspension of
the Central Bank had just been confirmed by
journals received at Shang-hai. The failure had
been declared, and Kin-Fo was wholly ruined.
70 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
Indeed, what remained to him outside of the
stocks in this bank? Nothing, or almost nothing.
The sale of his house at Shang-hai, which it would
be almost impossible to bring about, would give
him a sum insufficient for an income. The eight
thousand dollars premium paid into the Centenary,
a small amount of stock in the Boat Company of
Tien-sing, which, if sold that day, would furnish
him with hardly enough to carry on things in ex-
tremis, now comprised his sole fortune.
A Western man, Frenchman or Englishman,
would have taken this new state of things philo-
sophically perhaps, and would have begun life over
again, seeking to repair his fortunes by assiduous
labor; but a Celestial would think and act quite
differently. It was voluntary death that Kin-Fo,
as a true Chinaman, without compunctions of con-
science, and with that typical indifference which
characterizes the yellow race, was meditating as a
means of getting out of his troubles.
The Chinaman has only a passive courage, but
this courage he possesses in the highest degree.
His indifference to death is truly extraordinary.
When he is ill, he sees it approach, and does not
falter. When condemned, and already in the
hands of an officer, he manifests no fear. The
frequent public executions, the sight of the horri-
ble torments which are part of the penal laws, in
the Celestial Empire, have early familiarized the
Sons of Heaven with the idea of renouncing the
things of this world without regret.
WAYS AND CUSTOMS OF THE CHINESE. 71
Therefore one will not be astonished to find
that in every family this thought of death is the
order of the day, and the subject of many conver-
sations, and has an influence over the most ordi-
nary acts of life. The worship of ancestors is
also observed by the poorest people. There is
not a wealthy home where a sort of domestic
sanctuary has not been set apart, and no hut so
wretched but some corner has been kept for the
relics of ancestors, in whose honor a day is cele-
brated in the second month. That is why one
finds in the same store where are sold babies'
cribs and wedding-gifts, a varied assortment of
coffins, which form a staple article in Chinese
The purchase of a coffin is, indeed, one of the
constant occupations of the Celestials. The fur-
niture of a house would be incomplete if a coffin
were wanting; and the son makes it a duty to offer
one to his father in the latter's lifetime, which is a
touching proof of tenderness. This coffin is
placed in a special room. It is ornamented and
taken care of, and generally, when it has received
mortal remains, is kept with pious care for years.
In short, respect for the dead is the foundation
of Chinese religion, and tends to bind family ties
Kin-Fo, owing to his temperament, was consid-
ering, with more perfect tranquillity than another
would have had, the thought of ending his days.
He had insured the fate of the two beings to
72 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAiMAN.
whom his affections turned. Therefore what had
he now to regret? Nothing. Suicide coul( not
even cause him remorse. What is a crime in
civilized countries of the West is only a lawful
act, we might say, with this strange people of
Kin-Fo's decision was then made; and no influ-
ence could turn him from carrying out his project,
not even that of the philosopher Wang.
But the latter was absolutely ignorant of his
pupil's designs. Soun was no better acquainted
with them, and had observed but one thing, that
since his return Kin-Fo showed himself more tol-
erant of his daily stupidities.
Positively Soun was coming to the conclusion
that he could not find a better master, and now his
precious pigtail wriggled on his back in unwonted
A Chinese proverb says, -
"To be happy on earth, one must live at Canton, and die
It is indeed true that at Canton one finds every
luxury of life, and at Liao-Tcheou the best coffins
Kin-Fo did not fail to leave an order with the
best house that his last bed of repose might ar-
rive in time. To have a proper couch for the
eternal sleep is the constant thought of every
Celestial who knows how to live.
Kin-Fo at the same time bought a white cock,
WAYS AND CUSTOMS OF THE CHINESE. 73
whose part, as one knows, is to embody departing
spirits, and seize in their flight one of the seven
elements of which a Chinese soul is composed.
One sees that if the pupil of the philosopher
Wang showed himself indifferent to the details of
life, he was much less so to those of death.
That being done, he had only to arrange the
programme for his funeral; and that very day a
beautiful sheet of paper, called rice-paper, -in
whose composition rice is entirely foreign,-re-
ceived Kin-Fo's last will.
After having bequeathed his house in Shang-hai
to the young widow, and a portrait of the Tai-
ping chief to Wang, which the philosopher had
always looked upon with pleasure, and having done
this without injury to the policy of the Centenary,
Kin-Fo traced with a firm hand the order of march
of the persons who were to attend the obsequies.
First, in default of relations, of which he had
none, a party of friends, which he had, were to
appear at the head of the corttg-e, dressed in
white, -the color of mourning in China.
Through the streets, as far out as the country
about the old tomb, a double row of servants,
charged with the burial, would file. They would
bear different symbols, -blue parasols, halberds,
sceptres, silk screens, written documents with the
details of the ceremony, and be dressed in a black
tunic with a white belt, and wear a black felt cap
with red aigrettes on their heads. Behind the first
group of friends would walk a guide dressed in
74 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
scarlet from head to foot, beating a gong, and pre-
ceding the portrait of the deceased, which would
be lying in a sort of decorated shrine. Then a
second group of friends would follow, whose part
it is to faint at regular intervals on cushions
prepared for the occasion. Finally, a last group
of young men; screened under a blue and gold
canopy, would strew the road with little pieces of
white paper, pierced with a hole like sapeques,
which were intended to lure away the evil spirits
that might be tempted to join the funeral proces-
Then the catafalque would appear, an enormous
palanquin hung in violet silk, and embroidered
with gold dragons, which fifty valets would bear on
their shoulders between a double row of bonzes.
The priests, clad in robes of gray, red, or yellow,
would follow, reciting prayers in the intervals be-
tween the thunder of gongs, the shrill tooting of
flutes, and the noisy din of trumpets six feet long.
At last the mourners' carriages draped in white
would bring up the rear of this gorgeous proces-
sion, the expenses of which must exhaust the last
resources of the opulent corpse.
There was really nothing extraordinary in this
programme. Many funerals of this class pass
through the streets of Canton, Shang-hai, or Pekin ;
and the Celestials see in them only a natural hom-
age rendered to the remains of him who is no
On the 20th of October a box, expressed from
Y U j ''
Then the catafalque would appear.
WA YS AND CUSTOMS OF THE CHINESE. 75
Liao-Tcheou and addressed to Kin-Fo, reached his
house at Shang-hai. It contained the coffin he
had ordered, which was carefully packed. Neither
Wang, nor Soun, nor any of the servants in the
yamen, felt any cause for surprise; for, we repeat,
there is not a Chinaman who does not long to pos-
sess in his lifetime the bed in which he will be
laid to rest for eternity.
This coffin a chef-d'anuvre from the manufac-
tory of Liao-Tcheou -was placed in the "ances-
tors' chamber." There, after being brushed,
waxed, and polished, it would usually, no doubt,
have waited a long while for the day when the
pupil of the philosopher Wang would have utilized
it on his own account. It was not so ordained,
however; for Kin-Fo's days were numbered, and
the hour was near that would add him to the list of
his family ancestors. Indeed, this was the very
evening when he had determined to die.
A letter had arrived that day from the afflicted
Le-ou, who offered him the little that she pos-
sessed. Fortune was nothing to her: she could
do without it. She loved him; and what did he
wish more? Could they not be happy in more
modest circumstances? This letter, which ex-
pressed the most sincere affection, did not modify
"My death alone can enrich her," he thought.
It now remained to decide where and how this
last act should be performed; and Kin-Fo experi-
enced a sort of pleasure in planning the details,
76 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
for he hoped that at the last moment an emotion,
however fleeting, would make his heart beat.
Within the enclosure of the yamen rose four
pretty kiosks, ornamented in the fanciful manner
characteristic of Chinese decorators. They bore
significant names, the Pavilion of Happiness,
which Kin-Fo never entered; the Pavilion of For-
tune, which he scorned; the Pavilion of Pleas-
ure, whose gates had long been closed to him;
and the Pavilion of Long Life, which he had
resolved to destroy.
It was this last one that instinct led him to choose,
and he resolved to shut himself up in it at night-
fall; and it was there next day they would find
him happy in death. This point being settled, in
what manner should he die ? Stab himself like a
Japanese? strangle himself with a silken girdle
like a mandarin? open his veins in a perfumed
bath like an epicurean in ancient Rome? No:
these methods would seem brutal, and painful to
his friends and servants. One or two grains of
opium mixed with a subtle poison would be suffi-
cient to take him from this world to the next.
While unconscious, perhaps, he would pass away
in one of those dreams which convert slumber into
The sun was already beginning to sink below
the horizon, and Kin-Fo had only a few moments
more to live. He wished to take a last walk, and
see once more the country around Shang-hai,
and the shores of the Houang-Pou, on which he
Here was the vast flat country.
WAYS AND CUSTOMS OF THE CHINESE. 77
had so often walked away his ennui. .Alone, with-
out having even caught a glimpse of Wang that
day, he left the yamen to return once more, and
never leave it again.
He crossed the English. territory; the little
bridge over the creek, and the French concession,
with an indolent step, which he did not care to
hasten in this last hour. Passing along the wharf
of the native port, he wound around the Shang-hai
wall as far as the Roman-Catholic cathedral, whose
cupola overlooks the southern portion of the coun-
try. Then he bore to the right, and quietly as-
cended the road to the pagoda at Loung-Hao.
Here was the vast flat country which extends to
the shadowy heights which bound the valley of the
Min. It was an immense swamp, which agricultu-
ral industry has converted into rice-fields. Here
and there were a network of canals filled by the
tide, and a few wretched villages in which the
reed huts were cemented with yellowish mud;
and two or three fields of wheat, banked up above
reach of the water. The narrow paths were fre-
quented by a large number of dogs and white
goats, ducks and geese; and, whenever a pedes-
trian disturbed their sport, the former would
scamper off on all fours, and the latter flap their
wings and fly away.
This richly cultivated country, whose aspect
could not astonish a native, would, however, have
attracted the attention of a stranger, and perhaps
repelled him; for everywhere were seen coffins by
78 TRIBULATIONS OF A CHINAMAN.
the hundreds, to say nothing of the mounds ivhose
turf covered the dead buried at last forever. One
saw only piles of oblong boxes, and pyramids of
biers in layers, like planks in a shipbuilder's yard;
for the Chinese plain on the outskirts of the towns
is only a vast cemetery, where the dead, as well as
the living, encumber the ground. It is asserted
that the burial of these coffins is forbidden so long
as one dynasty occupies the throne of the Son
of Heaven; and these dynasties last centuries.
Whether the prohibition be true or not, it is a fact
that corpses, lying in their coffins, some of
which are painted in bright colors, some sombre
and modest, some new and smart looking, and
others already falling to dust, wait years for the
day of burial.
Kin-Fo was by no means astonished at this
state of affairs, and he walked on without looking
around him; so that two strangers, dressed like
Europeans, who had followed him from the time he
left the yamen, did not even attract his attention.
He did not see them, although they seemed desir-
ous of not losing sight of him. They kept at
some distance, following him, walking when he
walked, stopping when he stopped. At times these
two men exchanged peculiar looks and a couple of
words, and it was very evident that they were there
to watch him. Of medium height, not over thirty,
active, and well set, one would have called them
two pointers with sharp eyes and fleet limbs.
Kin-Fo, after walking around the country for a
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