Exhausted by exertion and anxiety, I was fast asleep within half-an-hour after stepping up the junk’s side. I slept far into the day, and when I emerged found that she had been successfully floated off the bank, and got out to sea without so far attracting the notice of the Japanese ships.
A very queer craft is a Chinese junk. Few Europeans have any defined idea what they are like. They are of different sizes, most of them suited to the numerous rivers and canals which intersect the country in every part. The largest are of about one thousand tons burden. The whole mode of building is most peculiar. Instead of the timbers being first raised as with us, they are the last in their places, and the vessel is put together with immense spiked nails. The next process is doubling and clamping above and below decks. Two immense beams or string pieces are then ranged below, fore and aft, and keep the other beams in their places. The deck-frames are an arch, and a platform erected on it protects it from the sun, and from other injuries otherwise inevitable. The seams are caulked either with old fishing-net or bamboo shavings, and then paid with a cement called chinam, consisting of oyster-shells burnt to lime, with a mixture of fine bamboo shavings, pounded together with a vegetable oil extracted from a ground nut. When dried it becomes excessively hard; it never starts, and the seams thus secured are perfectly safe and water-tight. All the work about her is of the roughest kind. The trees when found of a suitable size are cut down, stripped of their bark, and sawn into convenient lengths; the sides are not squared, but left just as they grew. No artificial means are resorted to for any bends; a tree or branch of a tree is found with the requisite natural curvature. There is not in the building, rigging, or fitting-up of a Chinese junk one single thing which is similar to what we see on board a European vessel. Everything is different; the mode of construction; the absence of keel, bowsprit, and shrouds; the materials employed; the mast, the sails, the yard, the rudder, the compass, the anchor—all are dissimilar.