LXXII (#70) Takao, Formosa, October 10th, 1873
While waiting at Amoy for a steamer to this island, I attended with Messrs. Kip and Rapaljee, American missionaries, a Chinese service at their chapel in that city. The chapel was well filled, there being a number of women in a little place separated by blinds from the body of the chapel. The services were much as at home; but the singing was peculiarly Chinese, though all seemed to enjoy it greatly, a class of boys belonging to the mission school, who sat just before me, opening their mouths and singing with all their might. One little fellow had his head shaved entirely clean, while the others had miniature pig tails down their backs.
The sermon seemed to be too long or too deep for them, and many times they would nod as if in danger of pitching off the high bench, from which their bare legs were dangling without being able to touch bottom; but they would awaken with a start, and listen again with a staid soberness that would well befit their elders.
The language used in China for communication between merchants and Chinese salesmen and between masters and servants becomes a matter of considerable interest and importance to foreigners just arriving, for it is the only way of making oneself understood, unless one goes to the trouble of learning Chinese itself, a work of several years. The language used is called pidgin English, or business English, pidgin being about as near business in sound as the Chinese ear can appreciate. This language, -- for it has reached an importance that deserves the name, -- is a literal translation of Chinese words and sentences into English, the peculiar Chinese idioms and forms of sentences being perfectly preserved. The person who wishes an orange at dinner says to the servant, "catchee my one piecee orange," and the servant, just married, tells you, "my have catchee one piecee wifee."
While stopping with the consul at Amoy, the servant came to my room one day, and said that -- "have got down side two piecee Englishman, wanchee see you." I finally got it through my head that "down side" was down stairs, and, going down, I found that the "two piecee Englishman" were the two American missionaries who had called to see me. The pidgin English expression for a bishop as currently reported is the following: "One piecee number one, top side, heaben pidgin, man." Servants and compradors, who have served many years with foreigners, never learn anything else, and the greater share of business in China is carried on through this medium.
After much waiting, the steamer Hailoong came along, having been delayed by a typhoon in one of the way ports, and I took passage for this place with two Chinese boys that spoke a little English, whom I had engaged to go to the island of Formosa to assist me in collecting. The channel was very rough in crossing, and I, the only passenger, kept my berth with sea sickness. Upon our arrival at Tamsui, the port at the north end of the island, I found that my boys had gone on shore at Amoy again, and had not come off in time and were left behind. I went on shore at Tamsui while the steamer lay there, and visited the tea establishment of Dodd & Co.
There is a good deal of tea raised at that end of the island, and after being picked and dried in the sun, it is brought to the foreigners, who put it through a process called firing[,] to prepare it for shipment. This is done in bamboo baskets over charcoal fires, and this dries it sufficiently to stand shipment, and it is then boxed and labeled. It is mostly or entirely of a kind called Oolongs, that are used almost exclusively by Americans.
The agents of the company showed me over the building where all the different processes of firing, boxing, painting, etc., were being carried on, all by Chinese, who have been brought from the tea regions of the main land, as tea raising is still a new enterprise in this island. The odor arising from the tea being fired was remarkable, and could be distinguished on board the steamer in the harbor.
Long, narrow boats were unloading coal, which they had brought from mines up the river, and the place had quite a busy appearance.
I took a stroll up to the old Dutch fort, a relic of the occupation of the island by them two hundred years ago. It still stands firm and solid, and is used by the English consul as a residence. A banyan tree, growing in the rubbish on its top, has long been a land mark for those entering the harbor. The Dutch were overcome by an independent Chinese pirate, and he in turn was brought under subjection by the Chinese authorities, and the greater part of the island, and all of it that is of value, has been for many generations in peaceable possession of the Chinese, and the only reasons for dispossessing them of it would justify European nations in conquering the main land itself, though foreigners in these parts often say they wish it was in the hands of the English or the Americans, that it might be opened fairly to commerce.
The mountains and hills about Tamsui are much greener than those on the main land, but the timber has long been cut away by the Chinese.
The voyage from Tamsui to this place was not so rough. We passed among the Pescadores islands, a group about midway between Formosa and the main land. They are all low and flat, not rising, apparently, more than twenty or thirty feet from the sea, from which they have apparently been lately raised. They contain several villages of fishermen, who probably get their living from the sea alone, as the islands seem to be barren.
The entrance to the harbor of Takao is marked by a peak called Apes' Hill, that forms part of a ridge of porous limestone, filled with coral and shells, that runs along nearly parallel with the coast here for several miles. The harbor itself is very secure but small, and filling up like all the other harbors on this side of the island. The main mountain ranges are in plain sight, where the aborigines still live, and where the country has not been stripped of timber by the Chinese.
Several trips to the fish markets and to the beach where the fishermen draw their nets, have already procured a large number of curious fish and crabs, while I have found a number of species of land and tree shells among the bushes that partly cover the limestone hills. The fresh water brooks and the ditches for irrigating rice fields have many melanias and other fresh water shells in them, and floating about in the rice fields, that are covered with several inches of water, are some fine limuli.
There seems quite a field here for collecting; but I have just got an invitation from one of the Scotch missionaries here -- the Rev. Mr. Campbell -- to accompany him upon a trip he is about making into the interior to visit some of his stations. It will take five days' walk to reach the stations, and we shall then be among the savages, and about as near as can be ascertained to the centre of the island. We expect to be gone a month, and return to this end of the island, where I leave affairs to be completed on my return. J. B. Steere
LXXIII (#71) Tamsui, Formosa, December 1st, 1873
Rev. Mr. Campbell, of the English Presbyterian mission in Formosa, Mr. Bullock, of the English consulate at Taiwanfu, and I, set out from Taiwanfu on the fourteenth of October, for a trip into the interior of the island, Mr. Campbell being on his way to visit the mission stations near the center of the island. Our company consisted of ourselves, two servants, five coolies -- for carrying our burdens -- and three chair coolies with a chair, in case one of us should get tired out or sick.
The Chinese coolie divides his load, hangs half to each end of a bamboo, and starts off at a slow, swinging trot that we found some difficulty in keeping up with at a rapid walk; but at the end of a mile or two, the burden is dropped at one of the little booths erected at the side of the path, and often under the shade of a spreading banyan, and the coolie takes a cup of weak but very hot tea, or a bowl of rice, rests a few minutes and goes on again, the day's work being made up of a dozen or more of these short and hurried marches. At these stopping places we would divide a huge pumelo, or shaddock, between us, or would eat a few plantains, or oranges, and would then hurry on with the rest.
The country was rather too high for irrigation for a few miles after leaving Taiwanfu, and was planted in sweet potatoes and sugar cane, the latter a purple kind, small and with short joints, but very sweet. Sugar raising is rapidly growing in importance in the south end of the island, the raw sugar being shipped to the main land and Japan, and, in some cases, to England.
After passing this, we came into immense level plains, extending as far as we could see, divided by banks into little fields, and all irrigated and planted in rice, that was now just ready for harvest. The fields were full of men, women and children, some of the former cutting off the hills of rice with very small sickles, and putting it together in bundles; others carrying them to the threshers who stood before a great wooden tub that was nearly surrounded by a cloth reaching up six or seven feet to keep the rice from flying off. Slats were put over the tub, and upon these the rice in the straw was struck, and one or two blows so thoroughly cleaned it of grain as to leave little for the women to clean. The tub was carried about by poles to different parts of the field, and, when full, the rice was carried away in baskets to the drying floors, -- spots of earth tramped hard and smooth -- where it was spread out to dry. All of this country produces two and some of it three crops of rice yearly. The only thing to break the monotony of mile after mile of these rice fields were little clusters of bamboos scattered over the plain, and each of these concealed a dirty little Chinese town, with mud houses crowded together.
The Chinese are essentially town dwellers, going to the fields to cultivate and to reap, but returning to the towns at night. The only shelters in the fields are little huts built of grass or straw, in which some one stops at night to watch the crops from thieves or wild animals. How it may be in other parts of China I do not know; but one can pass through the island of Formosa without seeing anything to remind him of our farm houses, where families dwell by themselves upon their lands.
The road we were traveling, though the main thoroughfare between two large cities, was nothing but a narrow path following the divisions between the fields and winding about, so that, after a hurried and tiresome day's march, we found ourselves scarcely twenty miles from Taiwanfu. We passed the first night, which was much of a piece with those that followed, at a Chinese inn or stopping place, in the town of Hoisiutiam. We were given a dirty little room with an earth floor, only separated by a bamboo screen from a pig sty, while the whole establishment was filled with the smell of opium from those who were smoking it. We were brought eggs and rice, and with preserved meats that we had brought along, we made a good supper, and went to bed too tired to mind the hosts of crawling things that are accustomed to take their toll from sojourners at Chinese inns.
The second day we passed through much such a country as the first, seeing in some places fields of pea nuts, which women were digging, sitting on the ground and using sharp sticks, droves of hogs were gleaning what were overlooked, and boys watching them that they should not trespass. The women wore over their heads a piece of blue cloth that was tied under the chin, looking much like old-fashioned hoods. They had curious, rough shoes of palm leaf, to keep their little feet from sinking too far into the mud which covered the fields. We saw a few fields of a large plant, from which a coarse hemp for ropes is made; but the staple crop as before was rice. I had seen frequently in the markets at Canton and Hongkong a curious nut, shaped almost exactly like a bull's head and horns, and found it growing here in ponds, it being the fruit of a water plant.
The second night we stopped near the walled city of Kagee, which is said to contain from thirty to sixty thousand people. It has walls of several miles in circumference, strongly built of brick and stone, and broad enough on top to enable four or five horsemen to ride abreast. The gates are fortified with a second wall and outer gate. Though probably built within the last century, it is not protected by cannon, nor planned for defense against them; but seems to be the exact model of walls built by the Chinese thousands of years ago.
Historians who wish to clear up doubtful points in regard to fortifications and defense in early and pre-historic times, would do well to visit China, for they would, in all probability, find the same style of fortifications now in use that Homer describes as surrounding Troy, though the Chinese soldiers carry firelocks, and, in some cases, are armed with rifles and sword bayonets; but their preferment does not depend upon skill in their use, but upon their skill in using the bow and the spear.
Kagee is back near the base of the mountains, and without canals or other means of communication, except foot paths, and why so many persons have gathered together in it is hard to say.
The third day we were on our way before daylight, the stars still shining, and morning gradually coming over the Eastern mountains. We left the road to Tamsui on the left, and turned to the north-east, and passed the third night at a village just at the foot of the mountains. We had now reached the neighborhood of the savages, and all the parties of Chinese we met were armed with knives and guns.
The fourth day we passed up a stream that led out from the mountains, and we were all day climbing up and down among the hills, part of the time among tree ferns and other tropical vegetation, and then on hill sides covered with tall grass, where the Chinese had cut the timber off to drive out the savages. Camphor stumps and logs became frequent, though the trees had been cut down generally for that portion which would make good planks. We were frequently pointed out places where the Che-whan, as the savages are called, had come down and cut off the heads of a few defenseless Chinamen, and again retreated to their forests.
Upon the morning of the fifth day's journey, we met a party of Tsuiwhan, a tribe of savages who have given up their head-hunting proclivities, and now live at peace with the Chinese. The poor fellows knelt down in the path before us, and looked as if they were ready to kiss the ground we stood on if we should wish it. They were clothed in poor, ragged hunting shirts of tanned skins that reached to the thigh, leaving their legs bare. They were armed, part of them, with old Chinese firelocks, and the rest with bows and arrows. They are small, but much finer featured than the Chinese, and are without the oblique eyes and inverted eyelids that characterize the Chinese proper.
After two or three hours' walk we came to a large valley, with a lake two or three miles in length in its midst. This valley and lake had been the exclusive property of the Tsuiwhan, and they have several villages about it; but the Chinese are steadily encroaching and buying the best lands for a song of the poor savages, who have the genuine Indian love for strong drink, and will part with anything to get it. As we came down to the bank, we could see a solitary savage fishing with a net among the pond lilies. Upon the promise of some tobacco he paddled slowly and cautiously to the shore, and we had a chance to examine his boat and fish. The boat was a large camphor log hollowed out, apparently by fire, and seemingly some centuries old. There were no ends to it, and to keep the water from flowing in he had put in clay. Five or six small cat fish or bull heads, much such as are found in western mill ponds, lay in the bottom of the boat, with a few shells, apparently anodons.
When news arrived at the other end of the lake of our coming, the old chief sent up a canoe much as the first, but some thirty or forty feet in length, and we embarked with our baggage. The lake is very pretty, being surrounded on all sides with mountains, those on the east still covered with virgin forest, while those on the west have been encroached upon by the Chinese and robbed of much of their timber.
The principal village of the Tsuiwhan is upon the west side, and there we landed, the old, white-headed chief and all the tribe -- men, women and children -- turning out to welcome us, shaking our hands and saying "penan," as near as they come to the Chinese pengan -- peace. The Chinese never shake hands, and this is either an old custom of the aborigines of Formosa, or learned from the Christians.
We were immediately conducted to one of their houses, a large barrack of bamboo covered with grass, and with four or five fires upon the earthen floor in different parts, and as many low bamboo platforms, serving for beds and homes for as many different families. About the post that supported the roof in the center were placed the firelocks, bows and arrows, and other paraphernalia of war or hunting. There were also strings of skulls of monkeys, wild boars, deer, and other game, carefully preserved and hung up.
Mr. Campbell left us here, and went on to the mission stations, while Mr. Bullock and I remained for a few days to hunt and collect about the lake. We were somewhat troubled for a place to stop; but an old Chinaman, the principal man of the place, took us in and cared for us. I employed the boys, both Chinese and savages, to collect for me, and was soon filling the cans of spirit I had brought all the way from Taiwanfu, with fish, snakes, crabs, etc. We often paddled about the lake, but got little else besides a small species of grebe, that was in great plenty. We also got a few fine butterflies, the little boys of the village accompanying us, and bringing in large quantities of grasshoppers, mantis, and other insects.
The whole race, from the chief down, proved to be great beggars, and were continually at our room; but as we wished to see as much as possible of them, and I was trying to write some of their language, this did not matter. They have a curious custom of knocking out the upper teeth on each side the two middle ones, leaving these to stand alone like those of a squirrel. This seems to be only done with the boys, and when they are about reaching man's estate.
It was the time of the rice harvest, and most of the Tsuiwhan were engaged in helping the Chinese in the harvest, probably to pay up some debts made before. Men and women were engaged in cutting and threshing, while several of the men were carrying the threshed rice on their backs to the village. As they tramped along under their burdens, they kept up a monotonous but musical oh--ho--oh--ho-- that sounded far off over the hills and lake. I heard a company of boys at one time singing a wild, strange roundelay, that would make Barnum's fortune, if he could transport them and their music to the United States. They seem to be a very musical race, and the contrast is great between them and their Chinese neighbors and masters. J. B. Steere.
LXXIV (#72) Tamsui, Formosa, December 1st, 1873
After an unsuccessful hunt after wild boars with some of the Tsuiwhan, we concluded to move on, and our departure was somewhat hastened by news arriving of the death of one of the sons of our host, when the whole household went into mourning, and Chinese mourning is too demonstrative to be pleasant to those near.
We sent word to the old chief, that we wished to go on, and would need men to carry our baggage, and the next morning eight or nine came to carry what three Chinese had brought in.
The Tsuiwhan have not yet learned to carry burdens like the Chinese, with a pole across the shoulder; but each had a little flat, wooden frame that was fastened upon the back, and upon this the load was secured. Each was armed with an old firelock, or with bow and arrows, and the old chief accompanied the party to attend to the pay, and to any little perquisites that fell to his office.
We left the old Chinaman, who had been so kind as to take us in, weeping for the loss of his son, and we could hear the loud wailing of the family long after we had left their roof.
Our escort were savage enough in appearance to please the most ardent lover of wild life. The chief's eldest son, bare-headed, and with long hair knotted together behind, clothed in buckskin shirt, which covered only the body down to the thighs, leaving legs and arms free, led the troop, while the rest, alike in clothing and arms, followed in Indian file, the old chief bringing up the rear, and, on account of his dignity, carrying only his fire-lock, and a huge Chinese umbrella belonging to Mr. Bullock, which he carried spread above his head in true savage style, though there was neither sun nor rain. He had received a gash in his thigh when a young man from a wild boar, which had apparently severed the muscle to the bone. This had healed without surgery, leaving a gap I could lay my hand in; but in spite of this and his eighty years of age, he still seemed as young as any of the lot.
As we were just leaving the little lake and valley of Tsuisia behind, and everything seemed progressing fairly, the savages suddenly dropped or crouched to the ground, and some began groaning, while others pounded with their great knives on the butts of their guns. When we inquired the meaning of this, we found that a bird famed for its foretelling powers had called out on the left hand side of the path, and this was considered an omen of evil. After a little stop they started on, but still groaning and beating their gun stocks. This bad omened bird stopped our march twice in the same way, but was then heard on the right hand, and we went on again.
We passed through a wooded country, there being much camphor, and pretty valleys shaded with wild plantains and tree ferns. By keeping in advance with my net I made quite a fine collection of rare woods butterflies and moths, as they rose up from the path and the bushes at the side.
We were shown one or two places where within a few years small parties of Chinese had been cut off by the Che-whan, who seem to be in the habit of watching some such wild path as this until some defenseless persons come along, when they dash out from their cover, cut off as many heads as they can, and hurriedly retreat to their villages in the mountains.
In the afternoon we broke out from this wooded, hilly country into a large plain known as Posia or Polisia. It is from five to seven miles in diameter, and contains over thirty villages, mostly of Sek-whan. A great share of it is under cultivation; but we could easily soon see that we were beyond the reach of the careful and thorough Chinese.
We soon came to a broad, shallow stream, which a dozen or so of women and boys were fishing after a novel but very successful process, which was to dam up and turn into a narrow channel the water of the stream, leaving most of the bed dry for a good distance, and then catching the small fish, shrimps, lobsters, etc., from the little holes and from beneath the stones. They all left their work as we came along, and came to the path to give us a good hand-shake [hyphen at end of line], and to say peng-an -- Chinese for peace, -- a salutation they seemed to have learned from the missionaries, and it has become one of the peculiar institutions of these wild Christians. They seemed very hearty in their welcome, and likely never dreamed that there could be white men wearing beards[,] who were not missionaries, or at least good Christians and, therefore, brethren.
Following the stream down and crossing it several times, the water being cold and clear from the mountains, we climbed up a hundred feet, and found ourselves upon a plateau of a mile in diameter, too high for irrigation and cultivation, but with the village of Ogulan, and one or two others, built upon it. As we entered the straggling mud-built town of Ogulan, the whole of the people turned out to greet us, and our hands were shaken, and we were peng-and by every man, woman and child of the place. After the cold, suspicious treatment of the Chinese, who had often followed at our heels through their villages, shouting "ichan-a,"[word not clear] -- barbarian, -- we were hardly prepared for such a greeting. We were led to the little chapel just being completed, where we found Mr. Campbell, and settled down for a two weeks' stay.
The chapel, built like two others in the valley mostly or entirely by the Sek-whan themselves, without help from the missionaries, was of adobes, with facings of stone and wood work of camphor, which only requires the cutting here. The floor was the earth, while it was seated with rough, camphor-wood benches, where twenty or thirty girls and boys were studying until our entry broke up the sitting. Upon one side a little mud-built, grass-covered building was occupied by the helper, who officiates as minister and school teacher, while upon the other was the manse, as Mr. Campbell called it, of the same construction, in which we took up our lodgings.
Our many visitors raised quite a dust from the earthen floor, and the two little windows of oiled paper were punched in many places by curious fingers; but, with these little drawbacks, I, at least, enjoyed my stay among this hospitable people.
Mr. Bullock had crippled his feet on the march in, and while we were waiting for them to get well, Mr. Campbell spent his time visiting the different stations in the valley, while I opened the cans of spirit I had brought with me, and soon had quite a lively market in fish, land and fresh water shells, snakes, turtles, and whatever else the people found of interest on their hunting and fishing excursions.
The results of the trip in serpents was nearly eighty, nearly all from this place. There were several poisonous species, among them a very pretty green one, and one day they brought a large one lassoed to the end of a long pole. They claimed that it was very poisonous, and as we approached to examine it, it flattened its neck and showed two spectacle-like spots that made me think of the descriptions I had read of the cobra de capella, and since my arrival here it has been examined by competent authorities, and proved to be one.
Whatever the hunters found of interest, they brought to me, and I had generally plenty to do without hunting myself. Nearly the first capture was a large, brown deer, with a fine set of antlers, that was shot by old Kisanhia, the elder of the church. The deer was brought in after night, the men lighting their way back by torches, and bringing it to the old shed before the chapel, where they set to work to skin it, the whole village standing around[,] and some of the old women and men thanking God for sending it to them. The little boys crowded around, and dipped up the blood in their hands, and drank it as if it were honey. After the deer came a fine, large monkey, and then two or three flying squirrels as large as cats, and then a magnificent pheasant of a rare species, and plenty of minor captures.
The little girls and boys contented themselves with bringing in beetles, crickets, grasshoppers and various other insects, and receiving their dole of cash, which they immediately laid out in sweets from the baskets of the Chinese peddler, who was ever close at hand.
The Sek-whan seem to have come from near Chung-wha originally, and there are still several settlements of them near that place. They claim to have migrated to Polisia some thirty years ago, fleeing from Chinese debts, and griping two days' journey into the wilderness among the savages. There has been likely a continual emigration since of distressed families, and they now number in this valley about four thousand. They are a finer and stronger race than the Chinese, and are without the inverted eyelids, except in cases where it can be accounted for by intermarriage. They also differ much from the Chinese in their large, wide mouths, and some of them were almost European in their features. They, without much doubt, represent a part of the aborigines who possessed the fine lands along the western side of the island; but having little of the economy and industry of the Chinese and their keenness at a bargain, they have gradually been driven back to the hills. They still have the savage love for hunting and fishing, and spend much of their time at it that would be better spent in their rice fields. They still speak their native language, which seems to be Malay in its derivation. With this the young people all speak, and many of them read Chinese; but many of the old people can understand but little of the language of their masters.
At the coming of the missionaries among them they had tablets and idols in their houses, after the Chinese custom, and they also had wild dances and singing of their own, and they seem to have had some sort of worship of a deer's head.
They received Christianity through Ki-sanhia [hyphen at end of line], an elderly man, who was suffering from an ulcer, and strayed down to Taiwanfu, and got into the missionary hospital, where he was cured, and also learned something of the Gospel, and returned over a hundred miles to his people, threw his idols and tablets away, and began Christian worship with his family, were soon joined by his neighbors, and, before the missionaries heard of the movement, there were over a hundred that had destroyed their idols and were keeping the Sabbath -- on Saturday -- as the old man had lost his count on the way home.
The movement is but a little over a year old, and the missionaries have made the place but three or four visits; but there are now over two hundred church members, and likely six or eight hundred regular attendants of worship, and the only reason that the whole people do not embrace Christianity at once seems to be from lack of teaching from the missionaries. They are connected with the mission at Taiwanfu, which consists of one minister and a medical missionary. They have twelve stations, with as many young men, who undertake to teach and preach, and these are often almost as little learned in the Gospel as the people they undertake to teach, and there is no wonder that they are not very powerful agents of spreading the work already begun. They have Testaments and hymn books printed in the romanized colloquial, which is Chinese spelled out in Roman letters, instead of written in Chinese characters, and the little girls and boys have already learned to read and write it; but with only the Testament and hymn-book as text books, the work becomes very monotonous for both teachers and children.
This romanized colloquial is a good medium for the teaching of geography, arithmetic, and the other studies so common in our schools and unknown among the Chinese, but there are no text books translated yet. Every night and morning there was worship in the little chapel, a drum being beat to call the people together. A chapter was read, each reading a verse in turn, and many of the girls and boys too poor to have anything but a shirt to cover them, read fluently from their colloquial Testaments, while part of their elders read the Chinese character. After a prayer from one of the elders, there would be a hymn or two sung, sometimes to a tune taught by the missionaries, but more often to tunes of their own that had been used in idolatrous dances, and were now made to do duty in a better cause. Their own tunes were curious but very melodious, and our composers who are searching for something new might certainly find it here. Their voices are pleasing, and they have a real love of music and a readiness in learning it. I wished to learn some of their music, and called them in several times, a little girl of six or eight years of age, and badly marked with small pox, acting as chorister and raising the tunes. After they had sung for me I repaid by singing some Sunday school hymns from home, and before I came away they had learned three or four of these, and were singing them to their own hymns.
Our clothes, persons, books, baggage and all were objects of a great deal of respectful curiosity, and there was nearly always quite a cluster about to see us eat, wash, etc. One funny old fellow, who was always around to see what was going on, made up for what his pants lacked in length and thickness by always carrying, nights and mornings, a basket of burning charcoal, and squatted on his heels, with his basket between his bare knees, he formed a characteristic figure. J. B. Steere.
LXXIV [sic] (#73) Tamsui, Formosa, December 1st, 1873
We began preparations for a trip to the savage country east of Posia, with high expectations of reaching the Pacific in that way, and thus crossing the island in the central and broadest part; but we were doomed to many disappointments from the first. Our only chance for an interpreter and guide was from among the few barterers and traders who had learned the language of the savages in their business with them. Mr. Campbell, on a former visit, had taken as guide one of these, a Sek-whan named Atun, an opium smoker and a great rascal, who had cheated him, and we concluded to get along without him, if possible; but there had been trouble between the Sek-whan and the Che-whan or savages, and the Che-whan had stolen a couple of buffaloes, and no one dared to go in but Atun, who, under the perpetual spur of his love for opium, was generally ready for anything that would pay. But we found that even he was not so anxious this time.
Finally, after a great deal of talk and several days' waiting, we got started, Atun leading the way with a short boar-spear, followed by a Che-whan woman, who had married a Sek-whan, and now went along as peacemaker; then there were two young men carrying our baggage, and Mr. Campbell's Chinese servant; then Mr. Bullock and I, with guns, and Mr. Campbell bringing up the rear, armed with a stout staff, the only weapon his ministerial capacity would allow of his carrying. As we turned the hill that hid from us the valley of Posia, and led up the little narrow valley toward the home of the savages, there was likely a little feeling of doubt among us all as to whether we should ever return; but we were of three races -- Scotch, English and American -- that do not generally back out when they have undertaken anything.
The path followed up a swift, cold mountain stream, that we were continually fording from side to side. The hills rose up steep on each side to a height of a thousand feet or more, those on the north covered with straggling dwarf pines and oaks, the open ground among them sparsely coated with coarse grass, while on the south side the hills were thickly covered with a tropical vegetation, among which there were tree ferns, and many species of trailing vines that wound about the trees, and hung in coils from them in almost Brazilian profusion. What should make such a great difference in the appearance of the two sides of the valley is hard to imagine, as the soil appears to be the same, the stream cutting across upturned strata of sandstone at first, but most of the way through slate, with veins of crystalized quartz.
After a couple of hours' walk, we saw several savages above us at one of the crossings of the stream, and Atun and the woman went on to parley. They were poor specimens of humanity, small, nearly naked, and with a cringing look that might belong to those accustomed to watching in the brush until some defenseless person falls into their clutches, but such as no man who has the courage to meet his enemy in open warfare carries. They were armed with old fire locks, and looked upon our guns with a great deal of curiosity and fear. About noon the valley widened a little, and we saw a little, rough clearing on the bank above us, where rice had been raised, and finally, after considerable noise, we roused a couple of boys that seemed to be stationed here to keep the few buffaloes belonging to the tribe from wandering farther down. They pointed out the path that here led for a long distance through high, coarse grass, and then down into the bed of the stream again.
We now came into a more settled country, the steep hills on the south side being rudely cleared in several places, with huts in these cultivated spots. We could see the people watching us from a distance; but they seemed suspicious of us, though, when we halted, several came around us. We supplied them liberally with presents, and tried to prevail upon them to lead to the villages farther on; but they seemed very unwilling to do this, and told several stories to prevent us from going on, -- one, that they were all drunk in the villages, and that we would not be safe in entering them; another, that they had just captured a Chinaman alive, and were having a great dance and feast over him previous to cutting his head off. Atun came to a stop, and would go no farther that day; so we accepted the reluctant invitation of an old lame fellow to pass the night at his hut, which we could see several hundred feet above us on the hill side. We had a hard scramble to get up, hanging on with our hands to the stumps of trees, roots, etc., to help us up, and this is the soil the aborigines of Formosa are compelled to cultivate. They cut down the smaller trees, burn the larger ones to death, and then pile up the little bits of slate, with which the ground is covered, into small terraces, to keep the soil from washing away, and then plant sweet potatoes, taro -- a kind of rice that grows without irrigation, -- and millet. The soil seemed to be good, judging from the rank stubble of the rice that had just been cut.
The hut, when we reached it, did not promise much in the way of accommodation, being a hole, some eight feet square, dug in the side of the hill, with stones piled around it, limbs of trees over them, and then a roof of grass. A fire was built, and a broad, shallow cast-iron pan put over with rice and taro for our supper, the Chinese servant telling us that we had better not watch the cooking if we wished to eat, though our hunger had already overcome our finer sensibilities of taste, cleanliness, etc. As we stood around waiting for the mess to be cooked, we found ourselves being covered with a multitude of fleas, from the dogs and old straw around, and we hastily removed to the granary, the only other shelter the place afforded. This was a curious little building, made of grass and bark, and raised up on four posts some four feet from the ground, there being wooden caps over each post to keep squirrels, etc., from climbing up. This gave us cover, but no other protection, and the night promised to be cool; but we hung up a blanket on the windward side, and laying down a Chinese mattress, were prepared for the night, and waited for supper, which was brought out to us. There was a good peck of rice and taro served in the dish in which it was cooked, and in spite of dearth of table furniture we made a good meal. We were visited in the meantime by several boys and young men, and three or four strapping, tattooed Che-whan women, who examined our clothing and persons a little more minutely than would have been considered proper in civilized society. They were great beggars, and would not leave until we had supplied them with needles, combs, etc., when we rolled up in our blankets and went to sleep.
Morning found our friends, the savages, ready enough to receive new supplies of presents, but as far as ever from offering to lead us farther.
While waiting for breakfast, I strolled into the edge of the timber with my gun, and found the woods filled with strange birds and animals, but almost impossible to get at, as the whole ground was so steep that I was continually climbing up or sliding down. In the edge of the clearing I found fifteen or twenty species of land and tree shells in as many minutes, and then crawled down to the granary to breakfast, which was the same as the supper, with the addition of a chicken, the broth in which it was boiled being brought us in a rattan basket.
Atun finding that his pay would be badly reduced if we went no farther, finally led on up the valley toward the villages, though stopping to talk to every old savage we met, and to ask permission to go on.
As we went up the valley, it grew narrower, and some fine little waterfalls fell over the cliffs at the side. We had been going nearly east since we had left Posia, but we now turned north east up a little branch stream, and following this to near its head, we began to climb steep hills, either in rude cultivation with sweet potatoes, or having been cultivated in years past, the little terraces being covered with alder trees twenty or thirty feet in height. After a couple hours of this hard climbing, we came out upon the top of the hills, and into a straggling village of perhaps forty dwellings and as many granaries, the latter of the same type as the one that had sheltered us during the previous night. As we entered we could see a few women and children running out at the opposite side, and were finally met by a man who, like our last night's host, seemed to be ailing, but who led us to a house which he put at our disposal.
This house, a model of the rest, was about thirty feet in length and fifteen in width. The ground seemed to have been excavated where it stood, so that we went down to get into it, and it seemed damp as a cave, and as there was no opening but the door, it was so dark we could not see, though it was the middle of the afternoon. It was built by piling up a thick stone wall for a height of three or four feet, and then interweaving limbs of trees between posts secured in the stone wall, and then all covered with a grass roof. We preferred to sit on the projecting wall outside to entering this dark place, and were soon surrounded by a crowd of men, women and children, though nearly all were ailing either from wounds upon the feet and legs, or from other troubles, and there was a great demand for medicine, though we had nothing with us but tincture of iodine, which I proceeded to put on for all sorts of diseases, and nearly every one had some dark brown spots of iodine on his skin before I had done with it.
We had now started for a walk, and were passing through the town, when we found that something was wrong, and Atun told us we had better keep quiet for the present. We then saw some human skulls displayed before one of the houses near, and we proceeded to examine these. There were twenty-four in a row upon a little platform, and there had evidently been some ceremony over them lately, as there were bamboo branches and streamers over them. The most of them were white with age; but several near the center had the skin and flesh upon them, which dried down until it gave them a most horrid scowl, one not lessened by the custom of the savages to knock out the teeth for necklaces. Several had large [ill.] cut in them, as if with an axe or a heavy knife. I took out a note book, and was trying to sketch the lot, when Atun again interfered and said, that we were making the people angry by examining their skulls, and we had to back out again, and the skulls were soon removed to a less conspicuous place.
After there seemed to be a little lull in the excitement, Mr. Bullock and I took our guns and strayed around the edge of the village, shooting a few birds. I got into a dense grove of small bamboos, where the birds went for shelter; but when I returned to the village I found that I had done something terrible, for the people motioned me away with their hands, and I could not come near any one again until old Atun had brought a gourd of water, and sprinkled my face, hands and breast, and thus cleansed me from the evil influence, whatever it was. All that we could find out in regard to the trouble was, that this was a burial place, and not to be entered for fear of spirits. From what we could gather from this and a few other incidents, these savages are living under as great a weight of superstition and taboos as the Sandwich islanders were before they were christianized, and as some of the tribes of the Malay Archipelago still possess.
As it was now near dark, we went into the house provided for us, where we found our boys and servants in such a state of fright, that they had done nothing toward getting our supper. The room had a fire upon the ground at each end, the house serving for two families, and at each fire were a couple of low bamboo platforms for sleeping and sitting. Light was given by a pine torch, which one of the women attended to, putting it out every few minutes, and hacking it with a knife to improve it. The furniture of the house consisted of another cast iron pan, and a few gourds for holding water. Opposite the door hung several hooks from the rafters, supporting the family arms and accoutrements. These were a couple of old fire locks, that seemed to be used principally for hunting by this tribe, the arms for war being a couple of long bamboo spears, and a couple of large, curved knives, the scabbards of which were ornamented with long tresses of Chinese hair. There were also a couple of red bags highly ornamented with beads and Chinese hair, as to the use of which we were somewhat doubtful until Atun informed us they were carrying Chinese heads after their capture. I thought that these things would be a good investment for me, and immediately made proposals for purchase; but, for some reason or other, I could not make out to buy, though I made quite a display of red cloth, beads, etc. The only things we could buy of them were articles of clothing, mostly made of a species of nettle that is very strong, and, when pains is taken, makes fine, beautiful fabrics. This is often ornamented by embroidery of red wool, made from English flannels, or something of that sort, that are bought of the Chinese, and raveled up and respun, and then sewn in. The only article of men's wear is a coarse shirt, made of this hemp, which is perhaps the (ramil) plant that has figured in the agricultural papers so much. The women's dress is not so easily described, it appearing to be made up of strips of this cloth wound around the body.
We also purchased a few curious musical instruments, made by cutting a tongue in a strip of bamboo. This is put between the teeth, and vibrated by jerking a string attached, the sound being very much that of a jews-harp. Several of different calibre are generally strung together, and I heard quite a concert made by several playing in time. This seemed to be one of the especial belongings of the girls and young women of the tribe, and they would bring them and twang away to show their music, and then try to trade for beads, scissors, etc.
These young beauties were tattooed in a curious way, which made them look anything but pretty to us, but likely enhanced their value very much among the young men of the tribe. There were three narrow, parallel lines tattooed -- with soot, as I understand -- from the ears to the upper lip, three more from the ears to the corners of the mouth, and three more from the ears around the point of the chin. The two intervening spaces between these sets of lines were tattooed with cross lines, so drawn that they made small diamonds with each other. Beside this extensive tattooing that gives the lower part of the face a decidedly black look among the young women, fading to blue with the old, there were horizontal, oblong patches -- four or five -- upon the forehead, and several more of the same on the forepart of the leg below the knee. The men were content with a perpendicular patch upon the forehead, and another on the chin. Some are said to tattoo a line upon the breast whenever a head is taken, so that a brave is known by the number of his marks; but I saw nothing of this. The women were all decked out with bands of broad shell heads over their heads like white coronets, and pendant ear rings of the same material.
Our supper was another panful of pudding, made by boiling rice and millet together, and quite like corn meal pudding in appearance and taste. Our friends kept about us until late, when we finally got to bed; but found that our bunks were not long enough for Europeans, and we were continually waking up in the night to find either our heels or our heads hanging over, but with something of a feeling of thankfulness that we were still long enough to hang over. We were wakened to a cold, raw morning by the savages again crowding in to see us.
We were now within a short distance of a large number of villages, and had reached the dividing line where the water ran to the Pacific; but we could get no one to lead us farther, and Atun utterly refused to proceed, so we had nothing to do but return. After we had done a little more bartering, and I had exercised my artistic abilities in painting their wounds again with iodine, we set out on the return, the man in whose house we had stopped accompanying us with his firelock as a sort of guard. We made much faster progress down hill than up, and were soon in the valley of the main stream again, where at one of the crossings we met a band of fifteen or twenty of the savages, in full war costume of coarse hemp shirt, their heads, arms, legs and feet being perfectly without protection, and their flat feet almost as hard as horn from long climbing the rocky and thorny hills. Their arms were bamboo lances, eight or ten feet in length, and large knives, while two or three, who seemed to be head men, were decked out with long tresses of Chinese hair, and carried head bags at their sides. All had small net bags over their shoulders, in which were the rations of rice and millet cakes for the campaign. They seemed to be waiting for us, and fell in behind in single file, and trudged along with us for a mile or so, when another party of six or eight, who were waiting beside the path, also fell into line, and another party still brought the number up to thirty or forty; but whether they meant to serve us as a sort of guard of honor, or had some other design, we could hardly tell. They followed us to the last of their cultivated lands, where we stopped a few minutes to eat, when a young fellow, fancifully decked out in beads with great disks of white shell, two inches in diameter, in his ear, came forward, and told us that Aweatan, the chief of thirty villages, was behind and wished to see us; but as we could find nothing certain of his whereabouts, and there was no time to spare if we should reach Posia that night, we went on, and got in all safe before dark to a great handshaking and penganing from the Sek-whan, who seemed very glad to see us back safe.
This head-hunting propensity of the Che-whan may be at present increased by a feeling of revenge against the Chinese, who have driven them back from the rich lands below into these wild and almst [sic] inaccessible mountains; but it is hardly probable that the custom is caused by this spirit of revenge, but rather that it is an old national love for the heads of their enemies, the possession of which gives them rank and importance in their tribe[.] From what we could gather of their language it seems to be Malay in its derivation, and their love for human heads can likely be traced to the same origin as that of the Dyaks of Borneo. That it is not wholly a feeling of revenge, the case of the Sek-whans shows. They pay the Che-whan a yearly tribute of rice and cattle for the sake of peace; but there are yearly from fourteen to twenty people -- men, women and children, indiscriminately, missing, and their relatives know that their heads are ornamenting some Che-whan's dwelling.
From what we could learn of this people, any nation would be justified in exterminating them, as the Chinese are to blame for not doing so long ago. Several European crews who have escaped to land from wrecked vessels, are known to have been killed by them, from survivors who have escaped to the Chinese, and the Chinese government is having trouble with Japan at the present time, from the murder of the crew of a Japanese junk wrecked on the east coast, for which the Japanese government hold the Chinese responsible, as they claim to possess the island of Formosa.
At the present rate of progress the Chinese will be several hundred years more in getting entire possession of the island, as they make no decided advance, only a system of slow encroaching from one hill to another, as they can cut the timber down, and thus drive the savages from their shelter. There are probably tribes in Formosa yet who never heard of the Chinese, and have not been influenced by them, unless indirectly; perhaps, by other tribes being crowded back upon them. The general name for all of them, though there are many tribes and nations, is Che-whan, given of the Chinese, and signifying unripe or uncivilized barbarians, as Sek-whan means ripe or civilized barbarians. J. B. Steere.
LXXV (#74) Tamsui, Formosa, December 1st, 1873
After more than two weeks' stay among the Sek-whan at Posia, we finally got ready to move out toward the coast. Our stay had impressed me at least with the Christian kindness and hospitality of this rude people. Without the crafty and niggardly spirit of the Chinese, we could hardly prevail upon them to take pay for what we bought of them, poor as they are.
As we left them, one peng-an and shake of the hand was not sufficient; but old men and women would run on before us, and take a new turn at it blessing us and asking us to remember them when we got back to our own Christian lands, and to tell the Christians there that they were trying to do right. Quite a party of men and women accompanied us a couple of miles, wading the river, to bid us a last farewell. It is a two days' march through the territory of the Che-whan before the cultivated country of the Chinese is reached, and the Sek-whan only pass through in large bands, that they may be safe from attack. Our party numbered about seventy, most of them armed with firelocks.
All of the first day we followed down the river, now quite a stream, with all the branches from the valley of Posia united; so that we found it difficult to ford, though we had to do so several times during the day. About noon we heard a deer bleating near the path, and several men dashed off after it, thinking it was caught in a snare, such as the Sek-whan often use for the purpose; but it happened that the deer -- one of a small species -- had been caught in the claws of a large eagle that was not able to fly off with it. The eagle, on seeing the men, flew away, and the deer, dazed at first, ran to the men who, not expecting anything of the kind, were not prepared to shoot, and after striking at it with a knife, lost it. When they returned and told the story, they gave as a reason for not capturing it, that their Heavenly Father had not given it to them.
Just before stopping for the night, we passed through a fine valley, where several hundred Sek-whan once settled, the walls of the houses, and the ditches and terraces for irrigation still existing, but overgrown with bushes and wild grass. After losing a hundred men from repeated attacks of the Che-whan, they had to give the settlement up and retreat to a safer place. Crossing the river at this place for the last time, we came to a number of grass covered huts under a wooded bank, where such parties as ours were accustomed to pass the night, and there were soon a dozen camp fires burning, while several of the party took their guns and went off to hunt, and others turned the little brook, that ran near, out of its course, and got a good supply of shrimps and small fish. After supper, all gathered together for worship, and then several hymns were sung to their own wild music, and the camp gradually settled down to sleep.
The next morning we crossed a steep mountain and down into the valley of a small stream, that had cut a channel a hundred feet deep in some places, through drift, leaving perpendicular walls on either side. In some places this channel was but five or six feet in width, so that we walked in single file. The drift was often very coarse, and there were many trunks of trees that had partially or entirely turned to coal. We could tell when we had reached nearly to the boundary of Chinese settlement, by seeing the hills bare of trees and covered with coarse grass. Several of these hills had little watch houses built upon them, from which to warn the people of the approach of the Che-whan, and we could see men upon these watching us, and could hear them call to others beyond to let them know of our coming. These little stations are often the scenes of bloody encounters between the Chinese and savages, and we were pointed to one where the Che-whan had stolen up at night, with dry grass, and burned the Chinese to death.
We could now begin to see the Chinese at work, cutting timber and grass on the hills, and soon after we came out into the great plain east of the large walled city of Chungwha. That night we stopped with a very hospitable Chinaman, though an opium smoker, and owner of a large estate, much of it planted to sugar cane, a part of which was already being ground, and made up into a rather dark grade of sugar. We understood that the little watch towers we had seen were supported by this man personally, as his estate borders upon the savage territory. He treated us to a genuine Chinese supper of a dozen or more little bowls of fish, flesh and fowl, with vegetables, cooked in different ways. He sat down with us, and was very polite, putting bits of whatever he considered especially nice upon our plates, using his chop sticks as a means of conveyance.
Three hours' walk the next morning brought us to Toasia, a town of the Sek-whan, and, as near as we could find out, the original home of the tribe. The lands about it are very rich, and were covered with a very heavy crop of rice that was just being harvested; but the most of the fields have fallen into the hands of the Chinese, and those still held by the Sek-whan are covered with debt.
The Tungson, the head man of the Sek-whan, who has bought a small mandarin-ship of the Chinese, lives in this place, and he immediately set about making a great feast in honor of our arrival, killing a cow, a couple hogs, fowls, etc. Three or four great kettles were set up near the little chapel, and filled and set to boiling, and there was an immense amount of preparation. The table was spread in the chapel, and there were some forty or fifty to dinner, and enough for twice as many. There were no toasts, but the Tungson told some of the grievances of the Sek-whan, from their grasping neighbors, the Chinese, with the hope, perhaps, that Mr. Bullock, being connected with the English consulate, could help them out.
We parted company at this place, Mr. Bullock returning to Taiwanfu, by way of Chungwha, while Mr. Campbell and I went on north twelve or fifteen miles, to the Sek-whan settlement of Laisia. This is a very pretty valley among the hills, containing two villages and, perhaps, eight hundred people, -- all Christians, or, at least, all worshipers, as there is not an idol or tablet in either of the villages. They received their first ideas of Christianity from the old hunter Kisanhia, who had been treated at the missionary hospital at Taiwanfu, and they threw away their idols and received Christianity almost in one day. They received us very kindly, and, as in Posia, they had a little house built for the missionaries when they should visit them, and in this we proceeded to make ourselves comfortable.
I was very much amused with the salutation we received every day as we came from dinner at the house of the helper near by. There were generally half a dozen old women who cried out: "Chiah-pah-la?" -- have you eaten until you are full? -- this seeming to be the nearest complete happiness that this poor people can think of attaining on this earth.
They were expecting to begin their harvest the next week, and were busy preparing for it by distilling a weak spirit from rice. The missionaries are not Americans, and have only counseled them to moderation, instead of enjoining entire abstinence. There were large hunting parties out, also, that brought in three wild hogs, one of them very large and with enormous tusks. They are black, and probably only the ordinary Chinese breed run wild, though there is a curious and very small species found upon the island.
Mr. Campbell and I, while at Laisia, made a trip to a town inhabited by Hakkas, called Twalam, some ten miles south east, where we expected to see more Che-whan, as it is a point where they frequently come to trade. This was the first place where I had seen Hakkas, though the northern part of the island has almost as many of them as of other Chinese. They are supposed to come from the province of Canton, though they do not speak Cantonese. They do not bandage the feet of their women, generally live apart from the other Chinese, and are called Ke-lang, or strangers, by them. They are a hardy, industrious race, and seem to be braver than the ordinary Chinese, as they generally occupy the frontier next to the savages. We saw no savages but two or three women, who, by similarity of tattooing, would seem to be closely allied to those we saw east of Posia. Their villages are very near those of the Chinese here, as they pointed out brown patches on the mountain sides a few miles back, where their settlements were.
The country about Twalam was much of it high table land, without water for irrigation, and hence uncultivated and grown up to a tall feather grass. These table lands were likely, at no very distant time, part of the valleys, but the streams have cut down to another level and left them high and dry. The streams cut through badly tilted strata of coarse sandstone, in which I found quite a number of fossils.
The Sek-whan had bought, by general subscription, four dollars' worth of fish poison, a root raised by the Chinese, and one morning twenty-five or thirty men and women, the men all with fire locks, for we were going into the country of the Che-whan, set out up the little stream upon which the villages are built. We must have gone five or six miles over the worst road possible, fording the stream every few minutes, and then climbing steep banks through the thorns, until we had finally reached a spot deemed favorable, where there was a deep pool. Men and women now sat down upon the rocks, and began beating the roots they had brought for poisoning the fish. This mess was then put into the upper end of the pool, gradually going down with the current, and turning the water to a milky whiteness. While waiting for this to have its effect upon the fish, the people gathered in little groups to take their dinner, a blessing being reverently asked in each group over the little basket of rice and pickled cabbage that formed their simple fare. They brought me of the best they had, and one of them whittled out a stick to serve me for a spoon. By the time dinner was over, the fish began to rise to the top of the water, and to go swimming about on their sides, coming out to the banks as if in search of purer water. The Whans now began spearing them, and taking them in nets, following the poison down stream; but, though two or three quite large fish were caught, the affair turned out rather a failure for some reason that I could not find out.
Mr. Campbell now turned back toward the south end of the island, while I hired three young men of the Sek-whan to carry my baggage and collections, and with my boy Onga to act as interpreter, I started for Tamsui. From Laisia we traveled some fifteen or twenty miles over hills and rolling lands, mostly of reddish clay. They were thinly inhabited, from lack of water; but they had been cleared of timber generally, and were now covered with coarse, high grass. Wherever this was burned off, it showed stumps and trunks of huge camphor trees. In one place I saw one standing of seven or eight feet in diameter, while in places a little sheltered from the fires there was plenty of wild tea growing, I noticing in one place a tree in full bloom, thirty feet in height and a foot or more in diameter. From these hills we struck out toward the sea, coming out at the port of the city of Oulan, where there were quite a number of junks lying, and a large number of emigrants from the main land were just landing and starting off to find employment, each with his bag or basket of clothing and a huge Chinese umbrella.
From this port we again went inland, and left the rice fields, crossing high plateaus, uncultivated, with little valleys intersecting them, that were carefully irrigated, and we stopped for the night in the little town of Tung Kiang, where I passed the night in a dirty little inn filled with fleas and other creeping things.
The second day was mostly spent in traveling over high plains, with the wind blowing strong in our faces, as the north east trade wind, or monsoon, had set in. We passed several villages and the walled city of Tekcham, a large part of the population being Hakkas. The second night I stopped at a little town in the hills, and the next day made our way to Sinchin upon the river, and taking a small boat, we arrived here in the evening.
The northern part of Formosa does not seem so fertile as the southern and middle portion, and is much more too high for irrigation; but the soil of these high plains and hills seems well fitted for tea, and the cultivation of this plant seems capable of almost any amount of extension here. If these high lands were cultivated with better implements than the little Chinese plow, drawn by one cow, that only cuts a furrow two or three inches in depth, they might raise other crops during the rainy season; but the Chinaman makes irrigation do much of his work for him, letting on the water to soften the soil before he plows, and then irrigating again to soften the clods made by plowing the ground when wet, and when he can not irrigate, his cultivation is necessarily poor. J. B. Steere.
LXXVI (#75) Takao, Formosa, January 2d, 1874
I had brought letters to the Rev. Mr. Makay, a missionary sent out by the Canadian Presbyterians, who has his headquarters at Tamsui, and I went to his house immediately upon landing, following through the dark, narrow streets of the Chinese town for quite a distance. I did not find Mr. Makay at home; but three or four young men -- Chinese -- who were studying with the expectation of becoming helpers in the mission, received me very kindly, and did their best to make me comfortable. It was already so cool, that a fire they built of Kelang coal seemed very pleasant, and a few American papers that I found lying about added to the pleasure of again getting out within reach of civilization.
The next morning -- Sunday -- I went up the river in a small boat to Bangkokee, where I found Mr. Makay at one of the stations he has opened, and the little chapel was very well filled with quiet listeners. In the afternoon we visited another station a few miles away in the same valley, which is one of the richest I ever saw, the rice being just now harvested. We passed through fine avenues of bamboos with orange groves, and there were a few fields of wheat, the first I have seen upon the island, just beginning to ripen. The worshipers at the second chapel, like those at the first, were all Chinese, being mostly independent farmers, owning the rich rice fields about them.
Mr. Makay has now two stations north, near Owlan among the Pepowhan, and three in this valley, near Tamsui, with a fourth in process of erection, the work spreading faster than he can well attend to it. The chapels are built by the people themselves, who throw away their idols and tablets, and ask for a teacher from the mission. Mr. Makay has been from home but two years, and in that time has learned sufficient Chinese to teach the people and preach to them, preaching his first sermon nine months after his arrival, and he now has over two hundred regular worshipers, and other places opening up before him continually.
Formosa seems just now especially open to missionary work, and there are reasons why the people of the island should be more easily influenced by Christian teaching than those of the main land. They are emigrants who have, to a great extent, left behind them those peculiar surroundings that make them so difficult of approach in China proper, such as temples, family clans, etc.
Mr. Makay is an old school teacher, and beside training the young men now studying with him in theology and the Christian religion, he is trying to teach them something of the elements of that scientific knowledge to which European nations owe their power, and the walls were hung with maps that, for lack of better, Mr. Makay had drawn from memory, and with diagrams showing the cause of eclipses, etc. They all showed commendable zeal in their studies, in one case sitting up all night, that they might copy some elementary work of science. Chinese education seems to consist almost wholly in learning a great number of thousands of characters, and committing to memory the sayings of their sages, so that a student, who has received his degrees and is considered fit for the highest positions in the land, is absolutely ignorant of geography, arithmetic and history. The Chinese maps that are now in circulation show China in the center, with a few little dots and specks about the borders, where the barbarians are supposed to live. In spite of all this ignorance, the literati of China look with supreme disdain upon Europeans and European learning, and they seem to be the class that are keeping their country from sharing in modern improvements.
I spent a few days in Tamsui packing the collections I had made in the interior of the island, and in putting them on board a tea ship which I found there fortunately, loading direct for New York, and then set out up the river to Kelung. The boats used for this business are long and narrow and very light, that they may be easily lifted over the rapids. We started at midnight, but as the officers of the Chinese customs had kindly furnished me their boat, I slept until morning, when we were near the foot of the rapids. The scenery through which we passed was quite pretty, the country being too mountainous for much cultivation, though the most of the timber had been cut off.
There are a great many rapids in the little river, and when we came to one of these the boatmen would jump into the water, and by a large bamboo lashed across the boat fairly lift it over the rapids, and carry it up stream to where the water was quieter, when they would again take to their poles. Boats of the same class loaded with coal were dashing past us frequently, on their way down, and the rushing of the water and the cries and noise of the boatmen made quite an exciting scene. No people but Chinese would even think of navigating a river that has twenty rapids within ten miles.
Late in the afternoon we found ourselves at the end of the river, among quite a fleet of boats loading with coal, and within two or three miles of Kelung, the river almost making a smaller island of this end of Formosa. A few minutes' climbing up a steep hill side covered with many species of ferns brought us to the top, where there was a pretty little joss house among some banyan trees, from which we could get a good view of Kelung and its pretty harbor, with the great jagged rock called Kelung island beyond. The foreigners in Kelung do not number half a dozen all told, and they have built upon the south side of the harbor, and near that part of it now used as an anchorage, while the Chinese town is situated among mud flats at the upper end of the harbor, where there may have been anchorage a few years ago, for nearly all the harbors of Formosa seem to be rapidly filling up, and, perhaps, this effect is increased by a gradual rising of the land. This seems more reasonable at Kelung, as upon palm island, at the entrance of the harbor there are ledges of coral, that seem to be of no very ancient origin, that are now entirely above water.
Through the kindness of Messrs. Tituschkin & Land, of the Chinese customs, I received much assistance in collecting, and set about visiting the different fishing villages about the harbor, inquiring for shells, coral, etc. The little Chinese boys had generally a store of such things, and there would quite a crowd gather about me, each with his basket or a joint of bamboo to serve for one, filled with shells, most of them worn and worthless; but there were enough of value to pay for examining them all, and I spent hours in sorting over these collections, and in paying them in the curious Chinese copper cash. In the shallower parts of the harbor we passed over beds of living coral, of many different species and colors, with schools of bright-colored fish swimming about them. The Chinese finding that I was interested in this, began diving and tearing off these masses of coral and bringing them up, and I soon had quite a trade opened in coral, there being three boat loads at once waiting at the landing to be bought. I kept buying until I had the verandah of the custom house full and my room beside, getting about twenty species in all. Many beautiful fish, crustaceans and shells also dropped from the coral, and were added to my collections.
Just before leaving, I made a trip to Coal harbor, a few miles south of Kelung, about which most of the coal is procured, though the hills all about Kelung have coal, also. The hills of loose sandstone are cut up with ravines, and in these the seams of coal appear. They are worked entirely by Chinese, who lay out very little capital in the business, running in holes that look like fox holes, too small for a person to stand up in, and when these fill with water they are abandoned and new mines opened. The coal is carried out to the entrance of the mines in baskets, or in a sort of boat that slides in the water and mud along the bottom of the mine, and then it is carried in the usual way in baskets to the port, sometimes for a distance of several miles. We met great numbers of coolies stripped nearly naked, and toiling along under loads enough for a mule. There seems to be great abundance of coal, and it is probably all near enough the surface to be easily worked. The coal is of very good quality; but it is said to burn too fast to be economical for steamers when used alone.
Having done about all that was possible for me to do at Kelung, I packed up and went back to Tamsui, getting there in time to send these collections by the tea ship upon which I had shipped the first. I made several trips about Tamsui with Mr. Makay, visiting some large tea plantations, the tea being planted upon the hills, where rice can not be grown for lack of water. The tea plant, from continual picking, is kept down to a low, thick bush from two to four feet high, and it is planted in rows about three feet apart each way. The leaves are a very dark green, and those plantations that are in a flourishing state are beautiful, the plants having the large white, fragrant flowers scattered over them. Only the young leaves, just as they are opening, are picked, but I was too late to see the method.
We also visited the sulphur springs, one of the natural curiosities of the place, which are nine or ten miles distant, and it requires considerable climbing to reach them. They are in a valley several hundred feet above the river below, and the vegetation for quite a distance about is killed by the noxious vapors that arise. The springs cover an acre or more, some of them being blow holes, where hot steam rushes out with such force as to blow stones as large as walnuts into the air; others are hot water springs, the water bubbling up and flowing off at boiling heat. Large amounts of pure sulphur are deposited about these springs, and the ground all about, which is smoking and steaming, is filled with it. The Chinese have manufactured sulphur here at some time, and large quantities of slag from their kettles lay about. We passed down along the stream flowing from these springs, and through large fields of pine apples, which were, unfortunately, now out of bearing. Formosa is noted for this fruit, and it is sent as far as Hongkong. Over half a mile below the springs the stream, now ten or twelve feet across and three or four deep, was steaming, and too hot for comfort at first; but after being in it a few moments it became delightful, and it was more pleasant from a cold wind blowing at the time. The water is most highly charged with mineral matter, and a mouthful of it almost strangled me. The Europeans have used it for bathing, with good results; but I think no one has analyzed the water yet. If it proves to be of value, its great abundance and its temperature are items of consideration, for all the European population of China could find a water cure here.
Christmas found me still at Tamsui, and Mr. Makay and I were invited with the rest of the foreigners to a genuine English Christmas dinner at the house of Mr. Dodd, one of the merchants there, there being plum-puddings, roast beef and turkey, and all the other good things that remind us of home in these far off lands.
Another stormy passage down the channel, and another few hours of sea sickness; but with the consolation of company, -- as there were several passengers on board, on their way to Amoy, -- and we all took our turn at feeding the fish, -- brought us to this port again, after three months' absence. J. B. Steere.
LXXVII (#76) Taiwanfu, January 10, 1874
After passing the New Year at Takow, I came up to this place overland with the missionaries.
Takow is situated at the foot of Ape's Hill, a mountain of some twelve or fourteen hundred feet in height, that forms a good landmark for this part of the channel. It is composed of curious, rough, jagged limestone, filled with caves and crevices. To the north-east, connected with Ape's Hill by low ridges, is Whale's Back, another curious hill of the same formation; it stands up out of the level plain around it like a great piece of ice that has been upturned and frozen fast. It dips at an angle of about 45¡ to the south-east, while the greater portion of the rock on the west side of the island dips to the west.
We passed the first night at Koosia, a walled city, six or eight miles north of Takow. Since the settlement of Formosa, this city has had time to flourish and decay, as it is now, a great part of it, in ruins. Mr. Ritchio has a mission here and we had a very pleasant place to stop, free from the crowd of curious Chinese who are generally so bold, and so many that, as far as privacy is concerned, one might as well eat and sleep in the middle of the street. The next day we reached Taiwanfu, through the usual scenery of level fields of sugar cane and rice, and paths shaded with the rough, thorny masses of screw pine. As we came near this city we passed a large, open square with a little temple at one end, and a mast for hoisting a mandarine's banner, and I was told this was the execution grounds, the place where nearly a hundred Englishmen and East Indians who had been taken from two vessels that were wrecked on the Formosan coast some thirty of forty years ago, were beheaded. Only one, an Irishman, who pretended to be insane, and who threw himself on his face before the mandarine, and chin-chinned lustily, escaping to tell the story.
The city wall was visible from quite a distance. It is from eighteen to twenty-five feet in height, and twelve or fourteen feet broad on top. It is built of brick, is seven miles in circumference, with eight gates. Little watch towers are built on the top of the wall at frequent intervals, and pagoda-like buildings of two or three stories are built over the gates for their defense, and there are generally a few soldiers kept in these. A narrow wall, four or five feet in height and a foot and a half in thickness is built along the outer edge of the main wall, and this is cut full of little narrow embrasures for firing with muskets or bows and arrows. Each one of these embrasures is numbered that the defenders may know their places. There is no arrangement for defending the wall with artillery, and the first discharge of cannon would level this slight upper wall and leave the defenders entirely exposed. Though the wall has probably been built within a hundred years it is the exact copy of Chinese walls of a thousand years ago, and it is probably a good representation of the walls before which Homer's heroes fought, and behind which they retreated when the battle was done.
On each side of the gate through which we entered, there was a huge warrior twelve feet in height, armed with a battle axe, painted on the wall, in the ordinary fantastic Chinese style. In an open park within the walls several military mandarines were practicing with the bow and arrow, and military preferment in China, in this day of breach-loaders and rifled cannon depends upon skill in archery and in the use of the sword.
There are already six or eight cities in the island of Formosa that are defended by walls of this kind, though the Chinese have only possessed the island about two hundred years. The population of Taiwanfu is estimated at from forty to eighty thousand, but a large part of the space within the walls is occupied by fields and groves of bamboo, though there is a large suburb outside the walls on the side toward the sea. An old fort built by the Dutch still stands near the center of the city, and a long street much too straight for a Chinese street, leads through the town, and is said to be the old Dutch cart road.
I made a trip a few days ago from here among the Pepo-whans, the remains of the aborigines of the plains, who have been driven by the Chinese to the barren hills at the foot of the mountains, to the east of Taiwanfu. We passed for eight or ten miles through a well cultivated country devoted to the culture of rice, where it could be irrigated, and to sugar cane where too high for this. The sugar cane was just ready to cut, and the fields were full of men, women, and boys, cutting the cane and stripping it of leaves, and carting it off to the great tent-like structures where it is crushed. These are made by planting long bamboos in a circle and bending them and uniting them at the top, and then thatching them with grass. They are often forty feet in diameter and thirty in height, and can be seen at great distances over the level country. In these the cane is crushed between large stone cylinders churned by buffaloes. We stopped to take our lunch near a temple in the shade of some fine old banyans, and soon after we reached the hills. These seem to be nothing more than strata of friable sandstone that have been tilted by the elevation of the mountains behind the dip to the west, seeming to gradually increase as we neared the mountains. We soon found ourselves in a perfect sea of these hillocks, some of them rising to a height of two hundred feet. What little soil there is over them is too thin for cultivation, only producing coarse grass and a few brushes, with large numbers of mango trees, that seem to find this a favorable location. We walked for several hours over these hills, seeing no houses nor signs of cultivation, and only a few men and boys scattered here and there, gathering brush wood and grass for fuel. Toward evening we came out to a little valley between the hills, where some women and children were digging pea nuts and tending pigs, and we could tell by their peculiar dress and by their hastening to shake hands with us and to salute us with peng-an, that we were among Pepo-whans and Christians. A little farther on we came to a few rude houses and the chapel, and we were at Kongana, though there was nothing worthy the name of a village, the houses being scattered here and there among the hills wherever there was cultivated land.
The Pepo-whans are without doubt the ancient inhabitants of the rich plains of Formosa, the name Pepo-whans signifying in Chinese, "savages of the plain." Those who have settled east of Taiwanfu may number six or eight thousand, and of the aborigines under the names of Pepo-whan, Sek-whans, Pak-whan, etc., who have adopted Chinese customs and have submitted to Chinese rule, there may be twenty-five or thirty thousand in various parts of the island, though villages of them are continually discovered where they were not previously known to exist, entirely surrounded by Chinese settlements. The Pepo-whans still seem to have some remains of Tribal government, and are pretty free from admixture with Chinese, they having laws that compel a fine for intermarrying. They are larger and finer formed than the Chinese proper, and some of the younger women before they have been broken down with hard work and hardships are quite pretty. The dress of the women is large, wide trowsers, with a close fitting jacket, and a turban made by winding a long piece of blue cloth about the head and drawing out the ends at the sides of the head like wings. It seems much prettier than the loose, ill-fitting garb of the Chinese women, and the Pepo-whan women have not yet adopted the custom of cramping their feet. The Pepo-whans have little of the economy and industry of the Chinese, and before the introduction of Christianity among them they were in the habit of mortgaging their land and crops to get means to make idolatrous feasts and weddings. Loans of this kind in the hands of Chinese money lenders increased with more than compound interest, and they are all now in a terrible state of poverty and debt, while the unknown east side of the island holds several thousand of them, who at different times have migrated to get rid of their merciless creditors, leaving houses and lands and families, and disappearing among the savages of the mountains never to be heard of again.
When the Protestant missionaries arrived among them, three or four years ago, they seemed in a fair way to all become Christians, and the missionaries baptized in some cases eighty or ninety in a day; but they were compelled to leave the work in the hands of half-taught helpers, unfitted both morally and mentally for the charge, while the Pepo-whans, who seem to have had a hope of assistance from the missionaries in their law suits with the Chinese, and in their pecuniary difficulties were soon undeceived in this, and the work has been almost at a stand still for the last year. With well trained helpers and a large missionary force, there seems to be no difficulty in making Christianity general among them, as they all seem to be well disposed toward it. The missionaries tell some curious stories, showing the mental calibre of their helpers. One who had heard the missionaries pray for the spread of the Gospel through the different countries of the earth, always concluded his prayers with a petition for Formosa, the Pescadores (small islands between Formosa and China), Egypt and Scotland, this comprising his list of the different parts of the earth. Another took as his text the words: "An ass's colt," from the description of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. He claimed that there was a very profound mystery connected with these words, and then wandered off from his text, to return after a few moments, and to repeat the words, "An ass's colt," and to again say, that there was a most deep and important mystery connected with these words, but that he did not feel capable of explaining it, and this was the sum and substance of his sermon. Another took as his text "Jonah and the whale," and wound up with the startling announcement that Jonah came off victorious and shot the whale.
The Pepo-whans have lost their own language, and speak only Chinese, but I heard of an old woman a couple of miles away who knew some words of it, and I set out over the steep hills to find her. Though over eighty years of age, she was sitting on the ground and digging pea nuts. She gave me a long list of words that seem to connect the Pepo-whans with the savages of the island and with the Malays. The old woman with all her family were Christians, and she had gone on foot over the hills to the little chapel at Kongana to attend service; but after every trip she had to lie in bed three days to rest up. She was very poorly and thinly dressed, though the weather was quite cool, and when I gave her a dollar for her trouble she seemed very much pleased, and blessed me when I went away.
The missionaries had told me of the existence of manuscripts among them, and I was fortunate enough to procure several of these. They were dated in Chinese, and extend through the reigns of three Emperors, nearly a hundred years of time. They are in the Pepo-whan language, written in Roman letters and Arabic numerals, and are, without doubt, effects of the teaching of the Dutch missionaries, and as there must have been books and remains of Christian doctrine among them as long as they kept up this written language, these documents seem to prove that there were Christians in these hills for a hundred years or more after the Dutch were driven out, and the readiness with which the Pepo-whans gave up what little of Chinese idolatry they had adopted and received Christianity, probably depends upon their still having traditions of the true religion among them. The documents that I have, and the most that I have seen, seem to be contracts for payment of money, and deeds for land, etc.; but there probably still exist among them proofs of their ancient Christianity, and there may be accounts of their persecutions that would be of great interest.
Every evening during my stay at Kongana the people would gather in from the country about, lighting their way along the paths with torches, and would have a service in the chapel, reading a chapter in the New Testament, and singing a few hymns to their own music and that of the Sek-whans, which has been brought down from the north by the helpers. Music has a great influence over them, and long after the service was over they sat and sang these Christian hymns, forgetting their poverty and debts and hard work.
After getting a fair collection of fossils from the sandstone at Kongana, I bid farewell to my new made friends among the Pepo-whans, and returned to this place yesterday. I shall go to the small islands called Pescadores, between this and the main land, as soon as I can find an opportunity. J. B. Steere.
LXXVIII (#77) Taiwanfu, February 1, 1874
Soon after my return from Kongana to this place, I went on board the German schooner "Fairlee," the captain of which had promised to drop me at the Pescadores. We sailed at two o'clock in the morning with very little wind, but by daylight it was blowing a gale and we were already driven down to the south of the Pescadores. After trying in vain to beat up against the wind, the captain turned about and ran for Formosa, the next morning finding us opposite Takow. Another day was taken up in beating up to Taiwanfu again, and the third day we again started for the Pescadores. This time we were fortunate enough to reach them, and just at night after beating up against the wind for several hours we got near enough to one of the islands so that a Chinese fishing boat came out and took me off and I landed at Sayson on Fisher's Island, among a lot of piratical fishermen, my only means of communication with them being through my Chinese boy, Onga. A foreigner seemed to be a great curiosity among them, and I was soon surrounded by a great share of the village. The promise of a little money led one of them to open his house to me, and after three days of sea-sickness and being tossed about the Formosan channel, it seemed very welcome, humble as it was. The next morning I opened a market, and though the wind and sea were still high these fishermen would dive through the waves and bring me bunches of living coral for a little cash each.
The most of the houses and walls are built of coral, and during the summer the people must be amphibious. After a days rest I took a stroll over the island and visited the little light-house on the south end. This is peculiarly a Chinese institution and unique. It is built solidly of granite from Amog, and is a pagoda of four stories and about thirty feet in height. In every face of each story there is an image of the goddess of sailors carved in the granite in bas-relief, and in the lower story there is a wooden image of the goddess with joss sticks continually burning before her. The light-house keeper is a priest, (Buddhist, I believe,) and is said to abstain from meat and other worldly pleasures. A pair of divining stones lay before the image, and the sailors are said to come here to pray for lucky voyages. The light that seems to be rather a secondary matter is a huge lamp fed with pea nut oil, but the glass around it was so dimmed by the clay that had blown upon it that I could hardly see the sea through it.
The island itself as well as the others about it, seems to be one mass of basaltic rock showing in columnar form in the cliffs along the coast. This basalt is gradually pulverized on the top of the island by the weather, forming a thin soil that hardly hides the rock beneath. During the north-east monsoon the islands are almost bare of vegetation, but many were plowing their little fields, and in one place a small footed woman was hobbling along holding plow and driving the buffalo with reins, though the wind was blowing so that it seemed as if it would pick us up and blow us into the sea. During the other monsoon nearly all the islands are planted to sweet potatoes and pea nuts, and many hogs and fowls are raised and sent to Amoy and Fachau. The inhabitants of all the islands number some eighty thousand, though from the deck of a vessel passing through them they appear to be barren and almost uninhabited. After passing a few days at Sayson and getting quite a collection of corals and shells, I took a native junk and sailed across to the harbor and town of Makang on the island of Ponghou, though the wind was still very high and we came near capsizing. Makang is quite a large town, and has the appearance of being fortified, though, as in most other cases of Chinese fortifying, the cannon were filled with rust and the carriages so rotten that they had to be propped to hold the weight of the guns. Makang has perhaps twenty thousand inhabitants, with a large market where most of the merchandise of Formosa and Amoy can be procured. I hired a room and was busy in collecting corals, fish, shells, and all the wonders of the seas, getting among the rest an immense polypus or devil fish, that spread ten feet, and is certainly large enough to be the brother of the one described by Victor Hugo in the "Toilers of the Sea." The islanders say that they are dangerous, and that they frequently draw pigs into the sea, and have in some cases destroyed children in the same way. Two fishermen attack them that they may help each other and by catching beneath them with a boat hook and tearing off an arm or two they cripple them so that they can get them into a boat, when they are helpless, though they live and move slowly about for several hours. They are an article of food and I tried eating them though they do not seem particularly pleasing to a civilized palate. My boy had been so careless as to leave my knife and fork behind at Taiwanfu, and several days I ate with a pen knife and a little Chinese spoon as I could not eat with chop sticks, and there was not a knife and fork on all the islands; but fortunately after I was nearly starved and had become pretty much savage in my method of eating, a Chinese gunboat came into the harbor, and this happened to have a knife and fork on board which I borrowed, and was again able to eat. There was a great feast about this time, and a sing-song at one of the temples, this consisting of a sort of open air theatre, a platform being built before the temple and a number of boys dressed as high ladies and gentlemen acted plays that I could tell but little about from the acting itself. Chinese plays seem to partake something of the sacred character of the old Greek plays, at least in the fact that they are often performed in or before the temples, and upon religious festivals. A large number of animals, life size, made by stretching colored paper over bamboo frames were also placed before the temple, a tiger with open mouth, a buffalo, a dragon, and stones were hung beneath them by strings to keep the wind from blowing them over. A large number of pretty mandarins were present and they all formed in line when the performance was over, and as the highest one got into his chair and went off the rest all bowed to the ground, and then the next in authority took his chair, and the remainder got down on their hands and knees and put their foreheads to the earth, and so on until it came to the more common herd who were content to take their chairs without so much ceremony. I made a trip to the further end of the island of Ponghou, which is the largest of the islands and some ten or twelve miles in length. It is nearly all under the plow, and we passed several houses that appeared to be farm houses, though, as elsewhere, the people here mostly live in villages. A few cabbages and turnips under the shelter of high walls were almost the only green things visible, the cold north-east trades having destroyed everything. At the north end of the island we saw a few orange trees that were raised by planting them under the shelter of a high wall of coral, and these were in bearing, though away from the shelter alpine plants would hardly have existed. We found a Christian in one of these villages at the north end of the island, who took us into his home and treated us very hospitably. He had been at Takow and belonged to Mr. Ritchies' mission.
From this end of the island we could see many small islands and rocks to the north and west, where no vessels but Chinese junks ever navigate, unless by accident. Many ships have been lost here and never heard of. The Chinese islanders, genuine wreckers and pirates by nature, would think it foolish to save human life while there was valuable cargo floating about. I saw something of this practical tendency while at Sayson. I saw many men rushing to their boats one day with hammers and axes, and other such implements, and inquiring the cause, found the look-out perched on one of the higher points of the island had brought word that there was a junk upon the rocks with men and cargo in the water, and they were gathering in their funny little boats from all directions like vultures to the carrion.
After nearly two weeks of life upon these islands, I got my collections, consisting of nearly half a ton of coral of nearly thirty species, a couple of bushels of shells, and a twelve gallon case of fish with several hundred specimens on board a little junk bound for Taiwanfu, and we set sail at two o'clock in the morning and by daylight we were out of sight of the low, flat islands of the Pescadores, while the high, central range of mountains of Formosa, showed in front, covered for fifty or sixty miles of its length with snow. We were rolling and pitching well, and I cramped in a little cabin too small to sit upright or lie at full length in, though it was the best the craft afforded, and the captain staid on deck to give me room. A little old besmoked and begrimmed idol was on a shelf above me and a couple of joss sticks before it. Now and then one of the sailors would come down and light a new joss stick and fold his hands and chin-chin the idol, and then go up to his work again. Chinese junks are very strongly built, and they are divided by thick plank partitions, into many narrow compartments, and these are all made water tight so that a junk will float when it appears to be nearly to pieces. They use a cement for caulking the seams that makes pitch and turpentine useless. This is made of quick lime and oil, and is very durable, and might be made use of by more civilized nations. The junks all have a pair of huge eyes painted upon the prow that the vessel may not run into danger. The masts have no rigging to support them, and the greater share of losses seem to arise from the masts being broken and the vessels drifting helpless to sea. The sails are huge mat ones, and are raised by means of a rude windlass. We were in sight of the island of Anping, and the old Dutch fort, Zelandia, at noon, and at three o'clock we crossed the bar and the sail was lowered, and the men poled the vessel to its anchorage near the shore, and I had concluded my trip to the Pescadores. J. B. Steere.
LXXIX (#78) Canton, China, April 10th, 1874
On the 16th of March I set out from Takao toward the east side of the island for another visit to the savages, accompanied by Mr. Budd, a young New Yorker in a business house at Takao, who wished to see something of savage life, and by my old traveling companion, Mr. Bullock, who was going back to the foot hills to shoot pheasants during the Chinese New Year. We started late in the afternoon, and after crossing the bay at Takao Ð a walk of five or six miles through a low, rich country of rice fields Ð brought us to the walled city of Pitao, where we found clean and quiet quarters for the night in the Christian chapel, though the city was full of the noise of gongs and fire crackers, and all the other ear-cracking sounds the Chinese can invent, preparatory to the New Year festival of the next day.
The next morning early we passed the gates, and entered a rich and highly cultivated country again, much of the higher lands being planted in sugar cane, which was not yet all harvested. The lower lands were covered to a depth of five or six inches with water, and were being planted with rice. Bullocks were dragging the rake like harrows through the mud and water, the final preparation of the soil, while in other plots of ground the planters were already at work. The rice is first sown very thickly in small plots of ground, where it is allowed to grow to a height of four or five inches, and it is then taken up and put into small bundles, and the leaves are clipped off to an equal length. The planter floats these bundles of plants before him in the water, while he plants three or four rows at a time about eight inches apart, and in such a way that the hills of three or four plants face each row both ways. The planting is done very rapidly, the plants being barely crowded with the fingers into the soft mud, and still with care enough so that many of the fields appear to have been planted by line. The water is left upon the young rice that soon roots strongly, and is ready for the first hoeing within a few days, and we saw this operation in the same fields a week after, upon our return.
This is done entirely with the bare feet, the laborer grasping a stout staff to support him, and plastering about in the mud and water, using his feet almost as trowels in covering up the small water plants that have already sprung up, and to draw the mud about the roots of the young rice. In one place I saw a woman at work in this way, while carrying an umbrella over her head to keep off the sun.
At a distance of ten or twelve miles from the coast, we passed the river Tamsui with a bed a mile in width, and channels flowing here and there through it. During freshets the whole bed is covered with water, and as there had been a little rain already in the mountains, we found some of the channels rather deep for fording; but the coolies, by dividing the baggage and carrying it across on their heads, brought everything across safely.
We now passed through several small towns, where all were celebrating the New Year, and, for a great wonder, we could buy nothing to eat, this being the only festival of the year when the Chinese are too busily engaged to think of turning a penny.
When we were within a few miles of the mountains, which are always in sight in Formosa unless covered with clouds, we came into villages of Hakkas, and then into those of the Pepo-whans at the foot of the mountains themselves. These Pepo-whans seem to differ somewhat from their brethren a little further north, and the women, instead of wearing turbans, wear broad conical bamboo hats, ornamented with bits of glass and tinsel. They have been crowded, like those further north, to the poorer lands next to the mountains and savages, and like them are in debt for the poor fields they now hold. Quite a chare of them are Catholic, and many of the women had crucifixes about their necks.
When we arrived at the village of Ban Kimseng, where we expected to make our headquarters, we found the Catholic mission house already occuppied by several officers of the English gun boat lying at Takao, with the commissioner of customs from Amoy, and the little Spanish Dominican priest, who could not speak a word of English, trying to make out with gestures and grimaces.
The mission has been established at this point for about ten years, and there are several hundred converts among the Pepo-whans. The Catholics in Formosa at least do not equal the Protestants in the hard labor they endure for the sake of spreading the Gospel. They generally keep quietly to their chapels and establishments, working through their Chinese agents, while the Protestants are climbing the mountains and wading the streams.
Padre Jimenez was very much pleased to find that I could speak Spanish, and soon felt it his duty to inform me that all Protestants were on the direct road to Inferno. Every time I returned to the house he was ready for argument. At last, just as I was ready to return to Takao, he came to me, and in a style quite different from the dictatorial one he had used before, told me that he thought there might be, in the goodness of God, some hope for those Protestants who had lived for many generations in that faith, and knew no better; but that it was the duty of those who had seen something of the world, to reform and return to the Mother Church. I understood this as a direct attack upon me, and answered him by first telling him of the general order and quiet of my own country, of the churches and schools in every village, and of the general intelligence and moral character of the people and the rarity of crime, and then I told him of the gross immorality and wickedness I had seen in Brazil, the gambling among all classes, the ignorance of the people and the corruption of judges, and then I told him of Peru[,] with towns of eight and ten thousand inhabitants, where those who were living in marriage were counted by a few dozens; where bastardy was no dishonor, and decency found no countenance, -- and this all the work of several hundred years of strictly Catholic teaching. No Protestants had ever been allowed to interfere or mar their work, and I told him that I had not yet seen anything to make me think of changing the faith of my fathers for his; but I gratuitously promised him that, as I intended to visit Manilla, and might perhaps pass through Spain on my way home, I would examine carefully into the state of the people, and if I found them superior to my own in education and morality and piety, I would try to find out the cause of this superiority, and if I found that it was in their religion, I would begin to think of becoming a Catholic. This promise did not seem to give the priest much satisfaction, as he knew as well as I did that there are few places on this earth more corrupt and immoral than Manilla.
The Pepo-whans of the village are in the habit of holding a market with the savages every third day, and we employed several of them to act as interpreters and procure us a favorable reception. On the morning of the market day some twenty or more creaking carts, each drawn by two buffaloes and carrying two or three Pepo-whans, -- generally women, -- set out for the trading ground, which was in the mouth of a ravine three or four miles to the north. A well used cart road led to the place, showing that the market is regularly attended.
We arrived at the market ground about ten o'clock, and the buffaloes were untied and fed by the women, while the men, most of them armed with lances and firelocks, lay around in the shade of a great rock that formed one side of the ravine, waiting for the coming of the savages. It was after noon before we saw any of them, and then a few were seen far above us, following a path that led down the mountain, and soon after three or four came out of the ravine, armed with lances, and after looking about to see that there was no treachery, went back, and then thirty or forty came in, all loaded with bundles of wood and grass. There seemed to be some curious custom in regard to holding up a number of lances by both parties while the trading went on, and I noticed that no bartering took place without this. The savages had nothing to trade but wood and grass, and the Pepo-whans repaid in a little salt and rum and cloth.
There seemed to be considerable hesitation on the part of the savages about allowing us to their villages, either from fear, or hoping to get a larger bribe, and they said that they were just planting their millet, and that, if we went among them, it would make the sun shine so hot that it would burn up the young plants; but finally, after much talking and measuring off a piece of red cloth for each of the chiefs of the two villages, and another for the head men, they finally agreed to take us back with them, and they divided our baggage among them, and we started up the ravine. We soon came to a strong stream of water that here disappears beneath the ground before it reaches the plain. At the first crossing the savages threw down the baggage, and refused to take it farther until we paid them for it. They refused the cloth I offered, and seemed about to leave us, when I concluded that they would rob us at that rate of all we had, and it would be best to return, and ordered my boy to gather together the red cloth I had given them for their chiefs, as I was determined that if they did not allow us to enter, they should not profit by us; but they had sent part of the cloth in advance, and did not seem inclined to send for it until I had taken the chief's gun out of his hands, keeping my own ready for trouble meanwhile, when the red cloth was soon returned, and my Pepo-whans taking up the baggage, we started back. But the savages now finding that we really intended to return, followed us, and by signs tried to persuade us to go with them, and as they seemed ready now to treat us better, we turned about and followed them.
For half a mile we followed the stream, crossing every few minutes, and then we turned off up the mountain side, through grass and weeds higher than our heads. As we got away from the low lands, the grass was shorter, and we could soon see over all the country about us. The mountains here are almost destitute of timber, that has probably been cut off for sale, and then kept down by annual fires. The only trees we could see were mangoes, which were in large numbers, and had either been planted by the savages, or had been allowed to grow when they had sprung up. They were just now in full blossom and covered with bees. We soon came to cultivated spots much like those we had seen at the north, the bits of slate stones and the weeds having been drawn together in lines like little terraces, to keep the soil from running away at the first rain. The steepness of the land cultivated, assists considerable in its cultivation, and from the rudeness of the implements used, which generally consist of sharpened sticks, sometimes shod with iron, this is a matter of no small importance. Soil can be easily excavated, and moved on a steep mountain side, with a sharpened stick, that would require much better tools upon level ground.
After a couple of hours' climbing, we came to the almost perpendicular side of the mountain, and where the path wound around the side of this, a steep place had been built up, with a rude wall eight or en feet high, evidently for defense, and scaled by a ladder made of a notched bamboo, which would be drawn up in time of danger. After passing this, we came in sight of the village, that was nearly buried in bamboos and other trees. It was built on the steep mountain side, and almost the only part visible was the little grass-covered granaries perched upon posts, here and there. As we entered the village, we passed one little field, in which an old man as immovable as a statue, with his hands and eyes raised as if he was invoking a blessing upon his field, or was warding off some supposed evil influence we were supposed to carry with us, was standing. The houses proper were all long, low structures built and covered with slate, the roofs all running one way and up hill, so that at a distance they were hardly perceptible. The roofs were supported partly by timbers, some of them of considerable size and rudely carved, and partly by heavy walls that divided the houses into small rooms. Slabs of slate formed the windows and doors, and we had to stoop upon our hands and knees to enter. The interior, like a plat about the front, was paved with stone and quite clean, and low bunks of slate ran around the walls, and were covered with mats, and served for beds and seats. The outside slabs had been pierced in many places to give entrance to bees, and some of the houses must have had fifteen or twenty swarms in these bunks.
We found the people seated upon the little paved places in front of their houses, and with doors closed, and were told that for several days they had not entered their houses, there being some superstition of this kind connected with the new year, and with their time of planting.
We were taken to the house of the chief, who sat smoking before his door, dressed in his coat of tiger cat skin, the mark of office. He did not receive us very hospitably in spite of the red cloth we had sent him; but two or three of the young girls of the tribe, who were standing near, and dressed up in all the finery they could procure, with wreaths of green leaves and flowers upon their heads, began to sing for our benefit, as it seemed, and the chief made known to us through the interpreters that they were for sale at twenty dollars apiece in barter, and that we could take our choice. Though the savages could sell us their daughters, the peculiar tabu that they were under, forbid their furnishing us with food or fire, and if we had not had a supply along, we should have fared hard. When we had eaten and were ready to go to sleep, they told us that they could not let us enter the houses yet, but that we could sleep in a grass hut near until the tabu passed off, which would be before morning. We spread our camp beds and went to sleep, with the fair damsels who were for sale still singing outside. About midnight I was wakened by the rain dripping through the roof upon my face, and soon after some of the Pepo-whans and savages entered to tell us that the tabu had passed off, so that we could go into the house. They had already begun drinking and singing, and we concluded it would be best to stay where we were. I passed the rest of the night in turning from one side to the other, to get out of the way of the little brooks of water that were trickling through the roof, and in listening to their savage music. They seemed to be singing a sort of round, the women first singing the syllables "an-a-na--an-a-na," beginning in a low key, and gradually increasing in force until the breath was exhausted, and then all stopped with a loud inspiration, and after a few moments the men would begin in the same way, and this was kept up with but little variation until morning. The rain had ceased by daylight, and the savages seemed to be in better humor, though we were given to understand that the tabu had not yet passed on enough to trade, and when one old fellow offered to exchange his pipe for some cloth, the chief put a stop to all proceedings by pronouncing the word "parisi," that seems to contain in it too much of dread and danger for any savage to brave.
We wished to see a much larger town a mile above; but they refused us guides, until they found us determined to go without them, when they unwillingly followed after us. I found several rare ferns on the way, but found that the tabu extended even to plants, for when I picked some of these, the savages shouted "parisi!" in my ears, and when they found that this had no terrors for me, they tried to take them away; but finding that this would take some strength and might lead to trouble, they made the best of it.
We passed several ravines full of tree ferns, and other rank vegetation, and making an excuse to go into one of these, I looked about and soon found several rare and curious species of land shells; but my savage friends were soon on my track, and so beset me that I had to give it up, and be contented with the few I had hurriedly put in my mouth and my pockets.
The second village, or rather cluster of villages, was the same as the first, except in number of houses and inhabitants, there appearing to be toward a thousand here, while there were probably about two hundred in the first village. This seems to be the whole of the tribe, and we were told that they were at war with the savages to the east of them, and with those on the next mountain to the south. We could see a long ridge above us, and a few miles distant to the east, from which the told us the Pacific could be seen, as we could well believe, as we knew we were within twelve or fifteen miles of the sea; but they refused us guides, and there were no roads, and we knew nothing of their language nor of Chinese. So we gave up the hope of crossing the island, and prepared to return.
We entered the house of the old chief of this village, and found it full of all kinds of plunder. Along one of the beams were hung a half dozen or more of the iron rake, harrows of the Chinese, and these had probably been taken with the heads of their owners, who were suddenly attacked alone in their fields, and nothing left but their headless trunks to tell their story. There was also a harpoon that had probably belonged to some shipwrecked vessel, and a large chain that came the same way. Several women were seated around, knitting open bags for carrying upon the back, and one of these, at the chief's order, brought us a dish of boiled roots of the taro. My boy, knowing that I had some interest in skulls, made inquiries, and we were shown a few in niches in the walls, and were then taken to a grass-covered shed, where a heap of several lay in a corner. There were a number of small mats in this place, and several little fellows of ten or twelve years were lying and kicking up their heels, as if they were at home here, and I concluded that this place was used as a dormitory for the boys, according to some old custom to give them courage, and make them anxious to take the heads of their enemies by thus continually having them before their eyes. The skulls were old, and I think this tribe have nearly stopped taking them, having become so dependent upon their more civilized neighbors in the plain below, that they find it best to abstain from this species of sport. I did not see much signs of hunting either, and they are probably much more dependent upon the produce of their fields than those at the north. Their language shows them to be of the same race as the Pepo-whans of the plains, and as the savages to the north. They are very small, they ever hardly averaging five feet in height; but they are generally pretty well formed. They do not tattoo their faces, but the women tattoo three broad stripes across the back of their hands, a cross upon each knuckle, and a couple of narrow lines along the lower joints of the fingers. The men tattoo bands along the outside of the arm, crossing the upper part of the breast. In time of scarcity they sell many of their daughters to the Pepo-whans, who then use them as go-betweens in trading. Their custom of wreathing the head with leaves and flowers seems to be general among the women, and I saw many of the men decorated in the same way.
After a last look at the pine-covered ridge that separated us from the Pacific, we turned back, and gathering up our baggage, were soon on our way down. I stopped to examine the tools used by a couple of women, who had been digging near the path, but who had retired at our approach; but when they saw me pick up the sharpened sticks they had been using, they started back and snatched them from my hands, shouting "parisi" at me.
We got back to Bankinesing without incident, and prepared for the return to Takao. Sunday we passed at Bankinesing, and I got a glimpse of the Catholic Christians; but they had evidently been informed that I was an infidel and a heretic, and I got no such cordial reception as their brethren of the north had given me.
Monday we made a long day of it, and returned to Takao, where I prepared my collections, and took the Hailoong to Amoy, having a pleasant passage across the channel. I again stopped a few days with Mr. Henderson, our Consul, with whom I found the mail that had accumulated during my six months in the island. I left the most of my collections there to be forwarded by the first tea ship, and came on to Hong Kong and Canton, where I expect to make a small Chinese collection before going to the Phillipines. J. B. Steere.