Across China on Foot eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 397 pages of information about Across China on Foot.
all the others had been made in the prison.  Tailors rose as one man when we entered their shop, where Singer machines were rattling away in the hands of competent men; and opposite were a body of pewter workers, some of their products—­turned out with most primitive tools—­being extremely clever.  The authorities had bought a foreign chair, made of iron—­a sort of miniature garden seat—­and from this pattern a squad of blacksmiths were turning out facsimiles, which were selling at two dollars apiece.  They were well made, but a skilled mechanic, not himself a prisoner, was teaching the men.  Bamboo blinds were being made in the same room, whilst at the extreme end of another shed were paper dyers and finishers, carrying on a primitive work in the same primitive way that the Chinese did thousands of years ago.  It was, however, exceedingly interesting to watch.

As we passed along I smelt a strong smell of opium.  Yes, it was opium.  I sniffed significantly, and looked suspiciously around.  The governor saw and heard and smelt, but he said nothing.  Opium, then, is not, as is claimed, abolished in Yuen-nan.  Worse than this:  whilst I was the other day calling upon the French doctor at the hospital, the vilest fumes exuded from the room of one of the dressers.  It appeared that the doctor could not break his men of the habit.  But we remember that the physician of older days was exhorted to heal himself.

Just as I was beginning to think I had seen all there was to be seen, I heard a scuffle, and saw a half-score of men surrounding a poor frightened little fellow, to whom I was introduced.  He was the little bogus Emperor of China, the Young Pretender, to whom thousands of Yuen-nan people, at the time of the dual decease in recent Chinese history, did homage, and kotowed, recognizing him as the new emperor.  The story, not generally known outside the province, makes good reading.  At the time of the death of the emperor and empress-dowager, an aboriginal family at the village of Kuang-hsi-chou, in the southeast of Yuen-nan province, knowing that a successor to the throne must be found, and having a son of about eight years of age, put this boy up as a pretender to the Chinese throne, and not without considerable success.  The news spread that the new emperor was at the above-named village, and the people for miles around flocked in great numbers to do him homage, congratulating themselves that the emperor should have risen from the immediate neighborhood in which they themselves had passed a monotonous existence.  For weeks this pretense to the throne was maintained, until a miniature rebellion broke out, to quell which the Viceroy of Yuen-nan dispatched with all speed a strong body of soldiers.

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Across China on Foot from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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