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Ranching, Sport and Travel by Thomas Carson

The Chinaman's pigtail calls for explanation


1st.--Arrived at Hong-Kong and admired its splendid harbour and surroundings. This is one of the greatest seaports in the world, with an enormous trade. The whole island belongs to Great Britain; unlike Shanghai, where different nationalities merely have concessions. In the famous Happy Valley I had several days' golfing with a naval friend, and we played very badly. A trip up the river to Canton, the southern capital of China, an immense city with 2,000,000 population, was full of interest. Half the population seemingly live in boats.

What indefatigable workers the Chinese are. They seem to work all night and they seem to work all day. They are busy as ants. If one cannot find employment otherwise he will make it! Barring the beggars, there are no unemployed and no unemployables. What a mighty force they must become in the world's economy. We estimate China's population by millions, but forget to properly scale their energy and industry. What is the future of such a people to be! Yet they seem to be incapable of any general national movement: each is absorbed in his immediate work and contented to be so; so unlike the Japanese, with equal energy and industry, plus boundless ambition and patriotism.[4]

[Footnote 4: Appendix, Note I.]

The Chinaman's pigtail calls for explanation. The Manchus, on conquering China in 1644, decreed that all Chinese should shave the rest of the

head but wear the pigtail. The Chinese would not submit to this; so the politic Manchu emperor further decreed that only loyal subjects might adopt the custom, criminals to be debarred. This ruse was so successful that now the Chinaman is even proud of his adornment, and little advantage is being taken of a recent relaxation of the decree.

Sailing for Singapore I was blessed with a cabin all to myself, and what a blessing it is! In all my travels I have been singularly fortunate in securing privacy in this way.

There is not much to interest in Singapore. It is one of the hottest places on earth, the same in winter and summer, purely tropical. It has, however, fine parks, streets and open places. The principal hotel is the "Raffles," which I should imagine is also the worst. The most notable feature of Singapore is the variety of "natives" domiciled there--Ceylonese, Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, Siamese, Hindoos and Malays. After leaving Singapore we looked in at Penang, where we had time to inspect a famous Chinese temple. An American Army General, D----, and his wife were among the passengers, and I found much pleasure in their company; indeed, we travelled thereafter much together in Burmah and India.

Rangoon, where we arrived next, is a large, well-laid-out city, as cosmopolitan as Singapore. The bazaars are well worth visiting, and the working of elephants in the great teak yards is one of the tourist's principal sights. But the great Shwe Dagon pagoda is of course the centre of interest, and indeed it is one of the most astonishing places of worship it has been my fortune to visit. The pagoda itself is of the typical bell shape, solidly built of brick, gilded from base to summit, and crowned with a golden Ti. The shrines, too, which surround and jostle it, hold the attention and wonder of the visitor. There are very many of these, mostly of graceful design, with delicate and intricate wood carvings and other decorations. The pagoda is the most venerated of all Buddhist places of worship, containing as it does not only the eight sacred hairs of Gautama, but also relics of the three Buddhas who preceded him. It is also from its great height, 370 feet (higher than St Paul's Cathedral), and graceful shape, extremely imposing and sublime.

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