A Woman's Journey Round The World, From Vienna To Brazil, Chili, Tahiti, China, Hindostan, Persia, And Asia Minor By Ida Pfeiffer

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The finest of all was certainly that belonging to the Mandarin
Howqua.  The house itself was tolerably spacious, one story - Page 61
A Woman's Journey Round The World, From Vienna To Brazil, Chili, Tahiti, China, Hindostan, Persia, And Asia Minor By Ida Pfeiffer - Page 61 of 185 - First - Home

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The Finest Of All Was Certainly That Belonging To The Mandarin Howqua.

The house itself was tolerably spacious, one story high, with very wide, splendid terraces.

The windows looked into the inner courts, and the roof was like those in European buildings, only much flatter. The sloping roofs, with their multitude of points and pinnacles, with their little bells and variegated tiles, are only to be found in the temples and country-houses, but never in the usual residences. At the entrance there were two painted gods: these, according to the belief of the Chinese, keep off evil spirits.

The front part of the house consisted of several reception rooms, without front walls, and immediately adjoining them, on the ground floor, elegant parterres; and on the first floor magnificent terraces, which were also decorated with flowers, and afforded a most splendid view over the animated scene on the river, the enchanting scenery around, and the mass of houses in the villages situated about the walls of Canton.

Neat little cabinets surrounded these rooms, from which they were only separated by walls that in many cases were adorned with the most artistic paintings, and through which the eye could easily penetrate. The most remarkable of these walls were those composed of bamboos, which were as delicate as a veil, and plentifully ornamented with painted flowers, or beautifully written proverbs.

A numberless quantity of chairs and a great many sofas were ranged along the walls, from which I inferred that the Chinese are as much accustomed to large assemblages as ourselves. I observed some arm- chairs most skilfully cut out of a single piece of wood; others with seats of beautiful marble-slabs; and others again of fine coloured tiles or porcelain. Among various objects of European furniture, we saw some handsome mirrors, clocks, vases, and tables of Florentine mosaic, or variegated marble. There was also a most extraordinary collection of lamps and lanterns hanging from the ceilings, and consisting of glass, transparent horn, and coloured gauze or paper, ornamented with glass beads, fringe, and tassels. Nor was there any scarcity of lamps on the walls, so that when the apartments are entirely lighted up, they must present a fairy-like appearance.

As we had been fortunate enough to reach this house without being stoned, we were emboldened to visit the Mandarin Howqua's large pleasure-garden, situated on a branch of the Pearl stream, about three-quarters of a mile from the house. We had, however, hardly entered the branch of the river, before the crew wanted to turn back, having observed a mandarin's junk, with all its flags hoisted, a signal that the owner himself was on board. They were unwilling to venture on conveying us Europeans past the vessel, for fear they should be punished, or stoned to death, along with ourselves, by the people. We obliged them to proceed, passed close by the junk, and then landed, and continued our excursion on foot. A large crowd of people soon collected in our rear, and began pushing the children up against us, in order to excite our rage; but arming ourselves with patience, we moved quietly on, and reached, without any accident, the garden gates, which we instantly closed behind us.

The garden was in a perfect state of cultivation, but without the least pretension to taste in its arrangement. On every side were summer-houses, kiosks, and bridges, and all the paths and open spots were lined with large and small flower-pots, in which were flowers and dwarfed fruit-trees of every description.

The Chinese are certainly adepts in the art of diminishing the size of, or rather crippling their trees, many of which very often scarcely attain a height of three feet. These dwarf trees are very prevalent in their gardens, and preferred to the most magnificent and shady trees of a natural size. These lilliputian alleys can hardly be considered in good taste, but it is most remarkable with what a large quantity of beautiful fruit the tiny branches are laden.

Besides these toys we also observed figures of all descriptions, representing ships, birds, fish, pagodas, etc., cut out of foliage. In the heads of the animals were stuck eggs, with a black star painted on them to represent the eyes.

There was also no scarcity of rocks, both single and in groups, ornamented with flower-pots, as well as little figures of men and animals, which can be removed at pleasure, so as to form new combinations, a kind of amusement of which the Chinese ladies are said to be very fond. Another source of entertainment, no less popular, as well among the ladies as the gentlemen, consists in kite-flying, and they will sit for hours looking at their paper monsters in the air. There is a large open spot set apart for this purpose in the garden of every Chinese nobleman. We noticed an abundance of running water and ponds, but we did not observe any fountains.

As everything had passed off so well, Herr von Carlowitz proposed that we should go and see the garden of the Mandarin Puntiqua, which I was very anxious to do, as the mandarin had ordered a steam-boat to be built there by a Chinese, who had resided thirteen years in North America, where he had studied.

The vessel was so far advanced that it was to be launched in a few weeks. The artist showed us his work with great satisfaction, and was evidently very much pleased at the praise we bestowed upon him for it. He attached great importance to his knowledge of the English language, for when Herr von Carlowitz addressed him in Chinese, he answered in English, and requested us to continue the conversation in that idiom. The machinery struck us as not being constructed with the usual degree of neatness for which the Chinese are famous, and also appeared far too large for the small vessel for which it was intended.

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