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the building of the fountain, at a rough
calculation, rather over than under seventeen

              CHINAMEN AFLOAT.

SINCE China has a coast extending from the
frozen shores of Siberia to the hot Tonquin
Gulf, and since the Chinese are prolific and
commercial, the Chinamen of course make many
sailors. Coast alone, however much there may
be of it, does not make a seafaring people.
There must be good harbours; and the best
harbours in the world are to be found in China.
The Yellow River and the Blue River afford
havens in which a hundred navies might ride
without risk; and these rivers afford such means
of communication with the interior as can be
found nowhere else in Asia or Europe. These
enormous arteries, rising in the Thibeto-Tartar
mountains, have a clear course of more
than three thousand miles before they reach the
sea, and each of them is navigable for above
two thousand miles, the Blue River being a
mile and a half wide at the distance of a
thousand miles inland. Then, when we consider that
the same river is twenty one miles wide where
it flows into the sea, or equal in breadth to the
Straits of Dover, we have some idea of the
chances given by nature to the Chinese mariner.
Now, let us see what use he has made of them:

The merchants of Hong-kong show pictures
of China as it was when the Portuguese first
built their factories, and other pictures of the
harbour of Canton taken in the early part of
the last century. The first of these come
from Macao; the last were saved from the
Hongs burned by Yeh when the Canton
disturbances broke out. These pictures are not
worth anything as works even of Chinese art,
but their literal truthfulness makes them a
mirror in which we may look at a Chinese port
and its shipping, not only as it exists at present,
but as it existed in the days of our forefathers,
and of their forefathers. There are the same
tea-boats, and junks, and lorchas, and dragon
craft, and sampans, and gaudy mandarin boats
flaming with blue, crimson, and yellow, that we
may see any day at the mouth of any Chinese
river where commerce is flourishing. And such as
the Portuguese factors and the English founders
of the Hongs beheld them, such as we Foreign
Devils now behold them, even such did they
appear to Marco Polo and Tavernier, and to those
old Arab voyagers, whose word-pictures of the
unchanging race have been handed down since
a time earlier than the Crusades. There are
some slight alterations to be allowed for, it is
true, since these old perspectiveless daubs were
produced; but those changes are not of Celestial
origin. The difference is in the European
shipping sketched together with the junks. No
more high poops, no more round Dutch sterns
and flat sides; the broad stern, the forecastle
(really a castle in the old Macao pictures), the
roundhouse, and the trim of the rigging, have
all been transformed. The paddle and screw
steamers, the long black clippers, with their
giant spars and knife-like bows, are new. We
children of Europe have been awake and at
work since that departed artist drew the bustle
and stir of a Chinese harbour, but our friend
with the pigtail has been simply twirling round
and round in the same narrow circle, like a
squirrel in a cage. And this for no want of
experience. The crowd of shipping at one of
their great commercial ports is most notable,
not only for its quaint aspect, for the mass of
blended colours it presents, and the thick stir
of life upon it, but because it is really a vital
part of the whole Chinese system. The Chinaman
has lost ground in everything but his
marvellous industry and his keen mother wit. He
knows better than you can tell him that his
emperor is a blindfolded pedant, his mandarin a
cheat, his army a rabble of half-fed cowards,
his religion a bundle of hollow ceremonies
or a string of proverbs. He knows, too,
though he will not always confess it, that the
old and peculiar civilisation of China gives way,
when opposed to European skill, as porcelain
breaks against iron. But he still cares most to
be a producer and a trafficker; he wants the true
stuff of which patriots are made. Let us
suppose ourselves in such a scene at the mouth of
the Yang-tse, or of its yellow rival at Canton,
Amoy, Shanghaiall the ports alike in the main
features. Wherever men buy and sell, John
Chinaman knows how to pick up a living. We
do not attend much to the tall-masted American
clippers, the bluff "tea- waggons" of country
ships from Indian dockyards, the crowd of
steamers and sailing vessels that swim under
the English union-jack, though our eyes cannot
help resting a little on the square yards and
white decks, and whiter rows of hammocks, of
one of our gallant ships of war. The interest
of the scene centres in a fleet of deeply laden
junks of all sizes, and unlimited in number, that
lie moored together. At the first glance, they
seem to be mere burlesques of naval architecture,
with their flush decks, high sterns, preposterous
bows plastered with paint and gold leaf,
and with the queer sails and stumpy masts that
seem to be hardly suited for a fishing-smack.
Then, if the craft be small, or a fresh-water
vessel from some town in the far interior, the
anchors are very likely to be great stones, or at
the best an awkward hook made of three logs of
ironwood knit together with brass hoops, hard
enough certainly, and heavy enough, but unfit
to bite into any anchoring ground except the
deep mud of a Chinese river. When, however,
the eye loses its prejudices, we can own that
the "lines" in these vessels are very tolerably
laid down. A modern clipper's lines are better,
but the Great Harry, once the pride of our
English navy, and even the flag-ship Benbow sailed
in, were laid down on a worse principle. The
stem is sharper than we had supposed at first,
the counter cleaner, and the power of the helm
not small or slowly answered to. For moderate
weather and lightish winds, the junk answers
fairly enough. It is in a cyclone, when the