The vessel in which I now found myself, the King-Shing, was of about seven hundred tons. She was built entirely of teak, and her skipper, or Ty Kong, as he is called, alleged that she was more than a hundred years old, and said that one of her crew who had recently died, had served in her for fifty years. Her extreme length was one hundred and sixty feet; breadth of beam, twenty-five feet and a half; depth of hold, twelve feet; height of poop from the water, thirty-eight feet; height of bow, thirty feet. Her most attractive portion was the saloon, or state cabin, the beauty of whose furniture and decorations formed a curious contrast to the rude and rough workmanship of the cabin itself. Its carved and gilded entrance was protected by a sort of skylight, the sides of which were formed of the prepared oyster-shells so commonly used in China instead of glass, the latter being too expensive for general purposes. The enclosure was thirty feet long, twenty-five broad, and eleven in height. From the beams overhead were suspended numbers of the different kinds of lanterns used in China. They were of every imaginable form, size, and variety of material. The sides and deck-roof were of a yellow ground, and covered with paintings of flowers, leaves, fruit, insects, birds, monkeys, dogs, and cats; some of those latter animals were what in heraldic language would be called queue-fourchee. The place was filled with a vast assortment of curious and beautiful articles, gathered together during the long existence of the vessel. To give a list of them would require pages; brought to Europe they would have made the reputations of a dozen museums.
At the end of the saloon was the Joss-house, or idol-house, containing the idol Chin-Tee, having eighteen arms, with her attendants, Tung-Sam and Tung-See. The richly-gilt idol was made of one solid piece of camphor-wood, and had a red scarf thrown round it. An altar-table, also of camphor-wood, and painted red, stood in front of the Joss-house, with an incense burner placed upon it. The red ground of the table had gilt carvings of flowers and insects, and the imperial dragons with the ball of flame between them. On each side of the front was a square place painted green, with words in Chinese inviting worshippers to bring gold and agate stones as offerings.
The sleeping berths of the crew were all aft, on a lower deck. Close by these was the most astonishing part of the vessel, the colossal rudder, not hung with pintles and gudgeons, the vessel having no stern-post, but suspended to two windlasses by three large ropes made of cane and hemp; one round a windlass on the next deck, and two round a windlass on the upper deck of all, so that it could be raised or lowered according to the depth of water. When lowered to its full extent it drew about twenty-four feet, being twelve feet more than the draught of the vessel. It was steered on this berth-deck when fully lowered. It was also drawn close into the stern, into a kind of socket, by means of two immense bamboo ropes attached to the bottom of the rudder, passing beneath the bottom of the vessel, and coming over the bow on the upper deck, and there hove in taut and fastened. When let down to its greatest depth it required occasionally the strength of fifteen men to move the large tiller.