When the court and country are not in mourning, the horses of the generals, high officials and eunuchs bear magnificent saddles, embroidered in red, green and blue; the ponies led by hand immediately in front of the King’s palanquin being also similarly decked out.
Curiously enough, when the first royal palanquin had gone past the procession repeated itself, almost in its minutest details, and another palanquin of the exact shape of the first, and also supported by hundreds of attendants, advanced before us. Puzzled at this strange occurrence, I inquired of a neighbour:
“In which palanquin is the King?”
“No one knows, except his most intimate friends at Court,” was the answer. “In case of an attempt upon his life, he may thus be fortunate enough to escape.”
If such an attempt were made success would not in any case be an easy matter, except with a gun or a bomb; for the King’s sedan is raised so high above the ground that it would be impossible for any one to reach it with his hands. Besides, it is surrounded by a numerous escort.
The sedans were constructed after the model of a large square garden-tent with a pavilion roof, the front side being open. The King—somebody closely resembling him is selected for his double—sits on a sort of throne erected inside.
On another occasion, when I saw a similar procession accompanying the King to the tomb of the queen-dowager, the two palanquins used were much smaller, and were fast closed, although there were windows with thick split bamboo blinds on both sides of each palanquin. The palanquins were covered with lovely white leopard skins outside, and were rich in appearance, without lacking in taste.
When the King’s procession returned to the palace after dark, the beauty and weirdness of the sight were increased tenfold. Huge reed-torches, previously planted in the ground at intervals along the line of route, were kindled as the procession advanced, and each soldier carried a long tri-coloured gauze lantern fastened to a stick, while the palanquins were surrounded with a galaxy of white lights attached to high poles. A continuous hollow moaning, to indicate that the King was a very great personage, and that many hundreds of men had undergone great fatigue in carrying him, was heard as the palace gate was approached, and a deep sigh of relief arose from thousands of lungs when he was finally deposited at his door. Propped up by his highest Ministers of state, who held him under the arms, he entered his apartments; after which the lights were quickly put out, and most of the crowd retired to their homes.
On such occasions as these, however, the men are allowed out at night as well as the women.
Fights—Prize fights—Fist fights—Special moon for fighting—Summary justice—The use of the top-knot—Cruelty—A butcher combatant —Stone-fights—Belligerent children—Battle between two guilds—Wounded and killed—The end of the battle postponed—Soldiers’ fights.