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like a porcupine; vast great eyes, sparkling
like a flint struck with a steel ; its nose like
a wild horse, always snarling ; the mouth of
a lion, and the teeth of a panther ; the fences
of an elephant, and the tusks of a wild boar ;
shouldered like a giant, with claws like an
eagle ; bodied and covered with shells like
a rhinoceros ; and the colour of a crocodile."

We do not know of more than one singing
fish, and that is the individual who was
celebrated in one of Master Autolycus's ballads,
and who " appeared upon the coast, on
Wednesday, the fourscore of April, forty
thousand fathom above water, and sung this
ballad against the hard hearts of maids. It was
thought she was a woman, and was turned
into a cold fish, for she would not exchange
flesh with one that loved her. The ballad is
very pitiful, and as true." (Winter's Tale,
Act fourth, Scene third.) The "truth" of
this narration, it appears, was attested by
"five justices' hands," besides a host of less
worshipful witnesses. The most extraordinary
sea-beast, however, of which we have
ever heard, is one which was beheld by an
old Mahometan traveller of the fourteenth
centuryIbn Batutain the likeness of
a ship illuminated by many torches, and
which made periodical visits off the coast of
one of the Maldive Islands!

With these " most delicate monsters " we
must conclude our list of marine and other
prodigies, or we shall be so addled as not to
be able to recognise common things for what
they are.


ACCORDING to the Shooking, one of the most
ancient of the Chinese classics, it was, about
four thousand years ago, a Chinese custom,
each year, at the opening of spring, for a
certain personage to deliver instructions to
the people, travelling up and down the
highways, and calling their attention thereto, by
striking on a wooden cylinder, or drum.
The object of the drumming was to rouse the
people, so that on the return of spring they
might bestir themselves, and go to work with
all their wits about them.

One or two thousand years later, under the
Chow dynasty, part of the first day of every
month was devoted to an expounding of the
Chinese laws; but the custom grew into
desuetude on the establishment, about two
hundred years since, of the Tartar dynasty,
now tumbling from the throne, the practice of
public lecturing was revived, and is now in
force twice a month, at new and at full moon.
Although in the provinces the preacher shirks
his work, in the chief towns one may often
have an opportunity of hearing him.

A few years ago I witnessed the ceremony
in the city of Shanghai, on the first day of
new moon, in the grand hall of the city temple.
Shortly after sunrise, the civil and military
authorities of the place met in full dress
at the public office of their chief official. At
a given signal, the procession moved ; the
officers in their sedans, servants on foot,
every man placed according to his rank. The
approach of the show towards the temple was
announced by gongs and the shouts of runners
calling on the public to keep silence and
retire. A salvo of three popguns announced
the arrival of the company at the gates of the
great hall that had already been duly
decorated for the occasion. After the officers
had left their sedans, the master of
ceremonies ordered them first to stand up, each
in his own place, and then to kneel three
times ; bowing their heads nine times, their
bodies directed, towards Peking, the
residence of the emperor, and before a small
tablet that bore an inscription in honour of
his long-lived majesty. They were next
called upon to rise and retire into a small
chamber ; where tea and refreshments were

The spectators, having nothing more to see
in this direction, gathered round a narrow
platform, on which stood the public reader,
with a desk and book before him. The crowd
consisted of mere saunterers, a few fishmongers
and other people from the neighbourhood.
When silence was obtained the public
instructor announced the maxim, or text,
appointed for the dayit was selected from
the book upon his deskand he proceeded to
explain its meaning.

The service being concluded, the authorities
moved off much in the same order in
which they came, and the assembled
multitude retired.

The book from which the expounder gave
out the lesson is the one universally used on
these occasions, and the only one sanctioned
by government for this especial purpose. It
is named the " Shing-yu," a book sometimes
known to foreigners as " The Sacred Edict,"
though more properly translated, The Book
of Sage Maxims, or wise sayings. It is large,
although not bulkya manual in clear print.
The ground-work consists of sixteen special
apothegms, originally delivered in an edict
by Kanghee, the second Tartar emperor, not
long before his death. These sixteen texts
bear upon the several duties of life, or what
his Imperial Highness deemed the points
most necessary to be punctually observed by
his subjects. Their intention, and of all
the preaching founded on them, was, of
course, political. They were copied out of
the imperial ukase in which they originally
appeared, and inscribed on slips of bamboo,
which were stuck up in public offices; some
of these slips, it is said, are extant at the
present day. Yoong-ching, son and successor
of the Emperor Kanghee, further to
carry out the designs of his father, drew up
a commentary on the sixteen texts. In
explanation of his object, he remarks: "We