Thomson, J[ohn]. The Straits of Malacca, Indo-China and China or Ten years' travels, adventures and residence abroad. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low, & Searle. 1875.
A Chinese pilot, named Opium, came off to the steamer, and brought her to a secure anchorage about a mile from shore. There was a pretty heavy sea on at this time, rendering it dangerous, even in a surf-boat, to make for the mouth of the harbour; so Dr. Maxwell and I determined to go ashore with Opium, trusting to his local knowledge to land us safely somewhere along the coast. The pilot was a cool, imperturbable seaman, a daring specimen, who had been out in all weathers, and who was said to have earned his singular cognomen of Opium from his notoriety as a smuggler of that valuable drug. It is truly wonderful how in California the genius of the Chinese race has been times without number equal to the task of carrying on an untaxed opium traffic, and that too under a system of police surveillance that only falls short of submitting the Chinaman and his effects to a process of sublimation, which would leave the hidden juices of the narcotic behind. Nevertheless, their dodges have been detected one by one; a layer of opium glued in between the polished sides of a trunk will never reach the shore, nor pass unnoticed though wrought into the well-made soles of a silken boot, or stitched into the skirts of a padded robe. But we are now on the top of the breakers, plunging as if the boat were going bow-foremost to the bottom. Opium is looking calmly on the while, with a countenance at once soothing and reassuring. We soon roll over the last billow, and are swept into a small haven amid the rocks. These rocks are of igneous formation, and look like molten metal suddenly chilled while in a state of violent ebullition. We land, and scramble over a multitude of cell-like cavities, with edges hard as flint and sharp as splintered glass. Many of these cavities have the hollows filled up with a little sandy soil, in which luxuriant shrubs and a sort of dwarf date-palm grow. The wet sand along the beach was of a deep black hue.
As we made our way through the native town of Takow I was much struck with the tropical appearance of the place, and with the shady palms, which reminded us of the villages in the Malayan Archipelago. But evidently neither Mohammedans nor Malays dwelt here, for huge porkers roamed free about the settlement, or kept watch around the cabin doors. At length we reached the Mission Station, and met with a cordial welcome. Here the Rev. Mr. Ritchie gave me some notion of the lawless state which prevailed in this portion of the island. One day, when on a mission-trip inland, he fell in with the deputy magistrate (Chinese) of the Tung-shan district, returning to his 'Yamen' from a place called La-ma-kai, with a troop of armed retainers at his heels. Passing this official, and proceeding on to La-mah-kai, my friend there met a band of ruffians carrying spears, daggers, and firearms; and behind them followed an old woman, who besought the marauders to return her son's matchlock, which one of them had just stolen from her house. The first question asked of Mr. Ritchie, when he reached the Chinaman's hut where he proposed to sleep, was whether these armed men had been seen, as they were a band of highway-robbers that had been plundering the neighbouring settlements. The magistrate, it appeared, had been despatched by his superior officer to seize on a rich relative of one of the bandits, and to hold him as a hostage; but the crafty knaves had been forewarned of the threatened surprise, most probably by one of the servants in the mandarin's train, and had forthwith met their enemy with so overwhelming a force as to compel him to an undignified and speedy retreat.
A wholesome dread of Europeans, inspired by the vigorous action of Lieutenant Gordon at Tai-wan-fu, saved my friend from falling an easy prey into the hands of the gang.
Two or three of the European firms at Amoy have branch establishments in Takow, or had at the time I speak of (April 1871); and behind these foreign houses there rises a hill more than 1,000 feet high, and commonly known as Apes' Hill, from the large apes, its only inhabitants, which may be seen in great numbers about the crags. From this hill I obtained a commanding view of Takow harbour, and the observations which I made here, as well as closer inspections carried out from other points, led me to the conclusion that, in the hands of a civilised foreign power, a portion of the soft sandy lagoon, which is gradually invading and narrowing the available anchorage of the harbour, might soon be added to the now limited accommodation for shipping; while the bar at the mouth of the port might no less easily be removed. As the case now stands, with wind and tide favourable, a barque drawing twelve feet of water can find her way through the rocky entrance. Rapid physical changes have taken place within a recent period on this the western side of Formosa, as I shall be able to demonstrate conclusively when we get to a point further north. It struck me, however, that the natural formation of the harbour of Takow belongs to a modern date. Thus when the Dutch occupied the island a considerable river existed at the southern extremity, and the channel, now nearly dry, is still known as 'Ang-mang-kang,' or estuary of the red-haired race. The combined action of the sea silting up débris on the one side, and of the river on the other, has formed a natural barrier several miles in extent, now covered with a belt of most luxuriant tropical trees. This bar is joined at its northern extremity by a ridge of igneous rocks; and it is in this ridge that the break or flaw occurs which forms the mouth of the harbour. Much of the six or seven miles enclosed by this natural wall consists of a shallow lagoon, with a bottom of extremely soft mud. It is only towards the northern end that a depth of water is obtained sufficient for ships trading to the island.
Owing to the disturbed state of the country I deferred my visit to the aboriginal tribes of the south, and went with Dr. Maxwell to see Tai-wan-fu, the capital, twenty-five miles further north on the coast. Starting at daylight in the steamer 'Formosa,' we reached the outer roads at 8 o'clock. It is singular to observe that there is now no harbour at Tai-wan-fu. We could descry the old fort Zelandia, erected there by the Dutch in 1633, about two and a half miles from where we lay, and surrounded by water so shallow as to render any nearer approach impossible; and yet in the Dutch accounts of Formosa it is stated that Zelandia was an island where a spacious haven was formed; and further, that on April 31st, 1661, Koksinga's fleet appeared before Tai-wan-fu, ran into the spacious haven between Zelandia and Provincia, and came to anchor between the two forts. The two forts referred to are Zelandia and Provincia, separated by a distance of more than three miles; and the haven in which the Chinese invader anchored his fleet is now a dry arid plain crossed by a high road, and having a canal cut through it, communicating with the old port of Tai-wan-fu. A small portion of the plain is flooded at high tide, while off the fort the water is now so shallow that vessels have to anchor, as we did, two miles out to sea. Neither is it an easy or a safe business to cross these vast shallows, at least when the sea is rough; and if there is a strong south-west monsoon blowing, it cannot be done at all. As for ourselves, we went ashore in a catamaran, a sort of raft made of poles of the largest species of bamboo. These poles are bent by fire so as to impart a hollow shape to the raft, and are lashed together with ratan. A strong wooden block, made fast to the centre of this surf-boat, supports the mast, which carries a large mat sail. There is not a nail used in the whole contrivance, and the most curious feature about the strange vessel is the accommodation provided for passengers. This is nothing more than a capacious tub. I thought it possible at first that these were the boats of the local washerwomen; but, so far as washing is concerned, the natives of Formosa confine themselves to washing their customers occasionally ashore in the tub and mangling them on the beach-a very simple process, for the tub is in no way fixed to the raft, so that a heavy sea would, and does frequently, send it adrift. The tub into which we descended would hold four persons, and when we squatted down inside it we could just see over the top. Not feeling very comfortable, we came out and sat on the bare raft, to which we had at times to cling manibus pedibusque as the waves broke over us.
Tai-wan-fu, the capital of Formosa, is a fortified city of 70,000 inhabitants. The walls enclose a space of about five miles round, planted to a great extent with fields and gardens, and still showing traces of the ancient Dutch occupation, in the ruins of Fort Provincia and in the extensive parks shaded with fine old trees or groves of tall bamboo. The suburbs are intersected by a multitude of green lanes, which run between walls of cactus, interspersed with the brilliant flowers of the wild fuschia, and clusters of major convolvulus, or else shaded by bamboo hedges, which form a pointed archway above the path. The inhabitants of this part of the island are chiefly natives of the Fukien province, and the Hak-kas already described. These between them are daily carrying arts and agriculture further into the territory claimed by the aboriginal tribes.
Armed with an official introduction I paid a visit to the 'Taotai' (or governor) of Tai-wan (Formosa). Waiting in my chair outside his yamen while my card-a red one, the size of a large sheet of note paper-was sent in, I found myself surrounded by the idle crowd that is always certain to collect about a stranger in China-whence the gazers came, and whither they go would be difficult to tell-and all sorts of conjectures being thrown out as to the nature of my business. A little naked boy, with a face full of perfectly untutored innocent curiosity, ventures a trifle too near, so I leaned slightly forward and frowned at him. Bursting into a fit of screaming terror, he fled from the yamen, while the mob looked grave, and wondered what devilry I could have practised on the child. Soon an officer appeared, and behind him followed a train of yamen attendants, who wore the usual conical hats with red feathers that suggested the idea of flames burning through the top of an extinguisher. Thus escorted, I was ushered into the yamen. Passing through the hall of justice, I noticed various instruments of torture, the substitutes for our sacred oath, to extract truth from a witness, or confession from the lips of a prisoner. Here I met a more venerable official, dressed in a long silk robe, a stiff girdle, and heavily-soled satin boots. By him I was conducted through a court, and along a series of corridors, and finally presented to the Taotai, with infinitely greater official ceremony and pomposity than when I was introduced to Prince Kung, or Li-hung Chang [sic]. Indeed it seems to me that the Chinese are not exempt from the peculiarity which makes small officials everywhere self-important, and fearfully exacting in all matters touching their personal dignity. The private quarters of the Taotai and his retainers were prettily laid out, the open courts being shaded with palms, and decked with flowers in vases, besides shrubs, ferns, and creepers; and the whole interior was surrounded with saloons or pavilions.
Into one of these last I was led, and there presented to a full-faced pleasant-looking Chinaman who, to my surprise, held out his hand, and addressing me in perfect English, said, 'Good morning, Mr. Thomson, I am glad to see you here; when did you come over?' I recognized the speaker, after a time, as a man whom I had met in Hongkong as a compradore, or a schroff in a bank. He told me he was the nephew of the Taotai, and I have a strong suspicion that that functionary himself had at one time been engaged in trade, and that he had somehow obtained this post, out of which, if report spoke true, he was making a very good thing indeed. After partaking of tea and fruit, my friend, whose mind was evidently imbued with the notion that I had come to the place on some secret mission, tried all he could to gain exact information as to my intentions. I told him plainly that my purpose was to go into the heart of the island to see the aborigines. He wanted to know why I should take the trouble to trudge so far on foot, through a region where no proper roads existed, merely to see the place, with the chance perhaps of being killed. 'Depend upon it,' he assured me, 'you will never get near them; you will be shot with poisoned arrows, or lose yourself in the forest paths. But come and see the Taotai.' This gentleman was rather a good-looking man, of middle age, and said to be remarkable for his administrative ability. At any rate, although apparently affected with suspicions as to my design in visiting the aborigines, he showed me some kindness, and, in return for a portrait which I took for him, he sent me a small box of tea and some dried lichees. The tea unfortunately spoiled before I reached Hongkong, but the lichees were very good.
A curious incident occurred in this town during the rule of the preceding Taotai. When the fort of Anping had been stormed by Lieut. Gordon and his party, the military mandarin in command of the troops at Anping was supposed in some measure to have failed in his duty. To this charge was added an accusation of treason; for it was known that he had saluted Mr. Gibson, the late British Consul, with three guns when that functionary left for Amoy. This unworthy commander, then, was dining one night with the Prefect when a message was sent from the Taotai, directing the Prefect to detain his military guest until morning. At daybreak a second messenger arrived, who brought instructions for the Prefect to repair with his prisoner to the Taotai's yamen, and forthwith, as the business was urgent. When they reached the yamen, a servant came out to say that the Taotai would not receive the military mandarin, and ordered him to prepare for instant death. The unhappy officer insisted on an interview, and with his men forced his way into the yamen, where he demanded an appeal to the Emperor. The Taotai informed him that the edict had been received from Peking, had him stripped of his official clothes, hurried off, and put to death on the spot. In another such instance of summary vengeance a wealthy mandarin, who had aided the government with loans of money, determined, as he saw no probability of repayment, to withhold a certain proportion of the land taxes. Shortly after he had taken this step an official was dispatched by the Governor-general to inquire into the matter. The district governor hereupon invited the defaulter to a quiet dinner to meet the governor-general's emissary, and during the course of a convivial evening the host and his friend between them so managed to outrage the feelings of the guest that a quarrel finally ensued. Then the 'yamen runners' were called in, the expostulating guest was cut down, and this was the new way in which an old state debt was paid.
A large tract of land outside Tai-wan-fu is known as the execution-ground, and this spot I visited in company with Dr. Maxwell. I tried to make a picture out of it, but there was nothing to lend pictorial grace to the scene; for the plain here is a perfectly flat one, whence the grand old trees of Tai-wan may be seen crowding away into the background, as if they shrunk from rooting themselves in unhallowed earth. Hardly a shrub relieves the monotony of this gloomy place of death; and yet with what a fearful interest it must have been gazed on by that band of Europeans, 160 in number, who were led out there to execution one morning in August 1842! The mob of the city followed behind them with yells of exultation; but before the terrible massacre had closed, their savage laughter was changed into panic terror, for the sky became overcast, and a dire storm burst upon the scene. The watercourses were filled with impetuous torrents that flooded the land, sweeping trees, houses and produce before its swollen streams, while the cries of perishing people were drowned in the fierce tumult of the tempest. Thus, say the thoughtful and superstitious natives, God wiped out the bloody stain from the ground. It is alleged that about 2,000 persons perished on that eventful day. A tragic history attaches to Tai-wan-fu, apart both from the incident which I have just related, and the storming of Anping fort, more recently still-an event too full of details to permit description here.
In olden times the city was the scene of the fierce struggle which ended in the expulsion of the Dutch from Formosa in 1661, after a nearly twelve months' siege. Koksinga, who drove the doughty Hollanders from this beautiful island, must have been a bold adventurer. He was indeed a sort of Chinese sea-king, levying black mail from all the surrounding islands. China now-a-days needs just such an admiral to command her new steam fleet. With resources so great at his command, he would teach the ambitious inhabitants of the small kingdom of Japan that their safest policy is to keep their troops at home. As the case now stands we see 2,000 Japanese soldiers actually landed at Lang-kiau in southern Formosa, while the authorities of China are looking on from the mainland, in a sort of dreamy amazement at the audacity of the enterprise. But when I took my rambles through the sylvan lanes of Tai-wan-fu, no feature so much struck me as their perfect repose; not a sign or a sound recalled the fearful conflicts which they too often witnessed. The languid air was filled with no noise more warlike than the hum of insects, the creak of produce-laden carts on their way to market, or the merry prattle of children at play. Alas! the quiet glades of Formosa may soon be stirred once more with the din of a vital struggle for supremacy, between two races who for the first time will confront each other with modern weapons in their hands. The conflict, if it ever takes place, will without doubt be protracted and severe; and its issue may lead to important results in opening up the vast continent of China; or perhaps the Chinese, in the flush of victory, may be hurried into a final attempt to close their country for ever against the hated intrusion of foreigners. The latter, however, is not a probable contingency, for China will find that her only safety lies in keeping herself always fit to cope on terms of advantage with her restless Japanese rivals.
I cannot leave Tai-wan-fu without noticing the medical mission over which my friend Dr. Maxwell presides, and expressing my regret that hospitals of the same kind are not more numerous in other quarters of China. One who lives at home in an English city-where the poor are always with us, but where they are tended and cared for in an infinite variety of ways, quite unknown to the ancient civilisation of the 'Flowery Land'-cannot picture the train of miserable diseased wretches who daily drag their way to the Mission hospital. Many who have heard of the fame of the good foreign medicine-man, accomplish long weary pilgrimages; almost believing, poor souls, like the women of old, that they have but to touch the hem of the physician's garment, to be cured of diseases that have made their lives, for years, one prolonged cry of pain. Sometimes the maladies are simple in themselves, though beyond the power of native skill, and a single probe of the lancet will send such a heaven of relief, as almost to tempt the poor sufferer to fall down and worship his deliverer. The scenes I myself witnessed in a single day at that hospital made me feel perfectly appalled when I reflected on the groans of unalleviated pain which must constantly rise from the poverty-stricken millions who swarm over the plains of China. Here, in this small sanctuary, it is but the faint echo of the great unheeded wail which we hear rising from the breasts of sufferers that find relief at last. Much of the sickness common in this quarter is due, directly or indirectly, to poverty, insufficient or unwholesome food, and to neglect. The medical missionary thus enjoys many opportunities for spreading a knowledge of Christianity, for gaining converts, and for doing good in a variety of ways-which, let me assure my reader, are seldom left untried. In a place like this the life of such a man is no enviable one, and the only pleasure he can enjoy must come of the consciousness of doing good work. His is a lifetime devoted to self-sacrifice and systematic toil. Day after day crowds of fresh patients flock to the hospital, and their cases are treated in rotation, leaving little leisure to the missionary save what is stolen from mealtimes, or from the hours of rest by night.
Dr. Maxwell and I determined to make an excursion into the interior, and to visit the outlying mission-stations, where my friend hoped, if possible, to open new ground among the mountain savages. Accordingly on Monday, April 11, we left Tai-wan-fu for the village of Poah-be, and were carried in native sedans ten miles across the plain. I hired a number of coolies to convey my instruments, as I had determined to photograph the objects of interest which we might fall in with en route. The plain, a highly cultivated one, was dotted with Chinese farms, and with hamlets overshadowed by groves of bamboo. The chief products here were rice, sweet potatoes, earth-nuts, and sugar-cane. Many of the women were out at work in the fields; most of them had the compressed feet so much in vogue among the females of the Fukien province, and hence they seemed to limp about uneasily over the furrows. They generally wore pretty dresses of white calico, edged with pale blue. As for the men, they were bronzed and fat; and they wore a lazy, loutish appearance, seemingly leaving the women to do the bulk of the field-work. There were children to be seen too, but their attire consisted simply of a small charm hung on a string around the neck. As at Tai-wan-fu, we passed along some beautiful sylvan lanes, shaded by areca-palms and bamboos, and leading to settlements which were truly enchanting when viewed from a distance, but less attractive, and thoroughly Chinese, on a closer inspection. The near approach to one of these hamlets was always known by the conflicting odours of garlic and manure, mingled with the fragrance of some sweet smelling flowers, of which the Chinese are very fond, and which quite overpower the soft perfume of the white wild-rose that grows in profusion in the hedges. In the wild flowers which bloom hereabouts we discover the delicate hues of our more temperate climes blending charmingly with the vivid primary colours of the tropical flora. It was pleasant, too, to listen to the songs of the field-lark, a bird common to certain districts of the mainland both in the north and south of China; and, so far as I can recollect, to some parts of Siam.
Halting at the first range of hills, we send back the chairs, and await the arrival of my boy Ahong and the coolies, who were far in the rear. Ahong, unaccustomed to walking, was already foot-sore. Against my advice he had put on straw sandals, and so blistered the soles of his feet that the remaining eight miles of our journey tried him severely. The heat was intense. Even now I feel hot, uncomfortable, and inclined to cast off my coat, when I think of it. The road, if our route could be dignified by such a name, was a broken track, over dry hills, constantly interrupted by blocks of hard clay, and by pitfalls six or eight feet deep. But these were trifles to what lay before us. Slowly we progressed, now wending our tortuous way along the verge of a clay chasm more than 200 feet deep, now diving down into the recesses of a huge clay-pit, where the flat surface was so heated with the sun that it almost blistered the hands when we touched its bare walls. The soil became the more broken the further we progressed inland; the pits, too, grew wilder and deeper. At the bottom of some of these we actually found cultivated fields, and traces of the mountain torrents that force a subterraneous passage, during the wet season, through the soft clay formation beneath, and thus effect the drainage of the central range of mountains, while at the same time they render farming in this hill region an enterprise full of peril. For the squatter tills treacherous ground, and is liable to find his fields and his dwelling swept away by the sudden subsidence of the soil. But the Hak-kas, who cultivate this shifting clay, are prepared for such emergencies, and are quite accustomed to a hasty change of abode, cheerfully resuming their agricultural labours wherever they may happen to settle. At times, indeed, the sudden disappearance of their whole property may lead to very desirable results. They emigrate, perhaps, to a healthier or more settled neighbourhood, or else to one where the trees and débris brought down by the torrents will furnish them with fuel during the winter months. All this will, no doubt, seem strange to those who have only heard of houses being removed form one quarter of a town to another by means of powerful hydraulic engines. But I venture to suggest that what happens in Formosa is an illustration of hydraulic power on a much more extended scale. I need hardly say that the Imperial Government has not seen fit to send a geographer to lay down a map of this ever-changing region; and it will be a matter of difficulty, I should think, for the farmer, at the end of each wet season, to find out exactly where he and his neighbours have settled. Poah-be was reached by about 4 p.m. This place is the first settlement of a tribe of aborigines whom the Chinese call 'Pepohoan,' or 'foreigners of the plain.' These people have a lively and warm recollection of their Dutch masters. They still cherish traditions of their kind-hearted red-haired brothers, and for this reason they receive foreigners with a cordial welcome. Once, in the times of the Dutch, they lived down in those fertile plains which we had just been crossing; but they have long ago been driven back out of the richer land of their forefathers, by the advance of the ruthless Chinese. Higher up, in the mountain fastnesses, their hardy kinsmen have held their own, defying all the forces of the Imperial conqueror.
Let the Japanese make friends of those wild mountaineers, and the Chinese will find it a hard task to drive the intruders from the island. The natives came out in great numbers to meet and welcome Dr. Maxwell, whom they had not seen for a considerable time. They were a fine, simple-looking race, and had a frank sincerity of manner which was refreshing after a long experience of the cunning Chinese. These Pepohoans had acquired the Chinese arts of husbandry and house-building. Their buildings were even superior to those of the Chinese squatters, and the people themselves were better dressed. It struck me, as I have noticed elsewhere, that they resembled the Laotians of Siam both in features and costume, while their old language bore undoubted traces of Malayan origin. (See Appendix.)
There was a small Christian chapel at Poah-be1, built and supported by the natives themselves, the mission having only to pay the salary of a native helper. I visited several of the houses, and found them clean, well arranged, and comfortable. Their mode of construction is as follows:-A bamboo framework is first set up; this is then covered with a lathing, or rather wattle-work, of reeds or split bamboo, and the whole is afterwards plastered over with the clay that abounds in the neighbourhood, and finished when dry with an outer coating of the white lime made out of the limestone rock which is plentiful in these hills. The dwellings usually form three sides of a square; but I will describe the interior accommodation in more detail further on in my narrative. Only two articles in any of the Pepohoan settlements bore tokens of ingenuity and mechanical skill; these were the butts of their matchlocks and a native rat-trap, which was very curious indeed. The rat is esteemed a great luxury among the mountaineers-so great that the invention of this trap must have been a most important event in the history of their race; but the mechanical genius who discovered it seems to have accomplished nothing greater for the civilisation of his countrymen; resting for ever, after this crowning achievement of his skill, a contented rat-eating Pepohoan.
Friday, April 11.-We left Poah-be at 7 a.m. today to walk to Baksa, twelve miles off. It was a beautiful morning, and the scenery became gradually so interesting as to warrant the belief that we had now got clear of the broken shifting lands through which our yesterday's journey had extended. By about ten o'clock the heat became intense, and Ahong was fairly knocked up. We had to reduce our pace, too, on account of his sorely blistered feet, so that it was twelve o'clock before we reached Baksa valley. Here, again, the people rushed out to welcome us. Troops of pretty little children came trotting along the road, shouting 'Peng-gan,' 'Peace be with you,' while many a horny hand was stretched out from its toil to grasp the doctor's as we entered the village, or rather as we passed through the lanes, and beneath the palms that shaded the scattered dwellings in this Pepohoan paradise. I could now understand what the Portuguese meant when they named the island Formosa; and yet what we saw here was but the first foreshadowing of the wilder grandeur of the mountain scenery inland. A crescent of limestone hills sweeps round Baksa valley, presenting in many places a bare rocky front in striking contrast to the foliage which luxuriates elsewhere. Perhaps the bamboos were the most remarkable feature in the scene, for these plants here attain exceptional proportions, and are some of them more than 100 feet high. In the history of Tai-wan it is stated that there are 'thirteen varieties of Bamboos'2 (a species of grass) known in Formosa, one being reported to attain to the enormous girth of two feet. I will here give a brief account of the many uses to which the bamboo is applied-a plant which figures extensively in the social economy of the people throughout the length and breadth of China. Were every other means of support withdrawn, except rice and bamboo, these two plants would, I believe, supply the necessaries for clothing, habitation, and food; indeed, the bamboo alone, as I propose to show, would bear the lion's share of the burden. No tending is needed for this hardy-natured plant, nor is it dainty in the choice of its locality; and, although it probably reaches its highest state of perfection in the rich valleys of Formosa, yet it grows with nearly equal vigour on the thin soil of rocky hill-sides. It is first used to hedge the dwelling around with an almost impenetrable barrier of prickly stems, and to cast a cool shade over the abodes with its lofty pale-green plumes. The houses themselves may be constructed entirely of its stems, and thatched with its dried leaves. Within, the couches and chairs are made of bamboo, and so is the table, except its deal top; so, too, are the water-cans, the drinking-jugs, and the rice-measures. Hanging from the roof are a number of prickly bamboo stems supporting dried pork, and such like provisions, and warding off rats with their chevaux de frise. In one corner we may see the proprietor's waterproof coat and hat, each made out of leaves of the plant, which overlap like the plumage of a bird. The agricultural implements are many of them made of hard bamboo stems; and, indeed, the fishing-net, the baskets of divers shapes, the paper and the pens (never absent from the humblest Chinese abodes), the wine-cups, the water-ladles, the chop-sticks, and finally the tobacco-pipes, are all of bamboo. The man who dwells there is feasting on the tender shoots of the plant; and if you ask him he will tell you that his earliest impressions came to him through the basket-work of his bamboo cradle, and that his latest hope will be to lie beneath some bamboo brake, on a cool hill-side. The plant is also extensively used in the sacred offices of the Buddhist temples. The most ancient Buddhist classics were cut on strips of bamboo; the divination-sticks, and the case which contains them, are manufactured out of its stem; while the courts outside the temple are fanned and sheltered by its nodding plumes. There are a variety of different sorts of paper made from the bamboo, but the kind which struck me as showing a new property in the fibre of the plant was that commonly used by the Fukien gold-beaters in the production of gold-leaf, and thus occupying the place of the parchment employed for the same purpose in Europe. Fans and flutes are also made of bamboo; and even the looms on which the Chinese weave their silken fabrics are chiefly made out of the plant. Indeed, it is impossible to estimate its value to the Chinese. This much, however, I may unhesitatingly affirm, that so multifarious are the duties which the bamboo is made to discharge, and so wide-spread are the benefits which it confers upon the Chinese, as to render it above all others the most useful plant in the Empire.
We spent the night at the Baksa mission-station, and left early next morning to walk to Ka-san-po, a distance of twenty-six miles. The first hill we got to after quitting Baksa gave us some faint notion of the journey now before us. We had to climb a steep ridge, where the soil had been completely broken away on either side; and thus, along the sharp edge of a wedge, we made our way upwards to the summit of the hill. It was with no feelings of ease that I kept looking back upon our baggage-bearers (six strong Pepohoans from Baksa), who, had they slipped their footing, would have been precipitated several hundred feet on whatever side they chanced to fall. At last we reached the summit safely, and were rewarded with a view of a splendid valley surrounded by a circle of hills, while the central mountain ranges of the island could be descried towering heavenwards in the distance beyond. The little settlement of Kamana could just be made out at the eastern extremity of a long glen. Resting for a short time in a Pepohoan hut, where the people were glad to see us, and where we had a refreshing draught of spring-water, we then pushed on to Kamana, and were there met by a sturdy old native helper named Tong, a man of good Chinese education, who had formerly held a post in a yamen. He was a fine-looking fellow, and had suffered a good deal of persecution for having embraced the Christian faith. At about one o'clock, under the guidance of Tong, we left this station, and commenced another toilsome ascent beneath a blazing sun, and without a breath of wind to temper the intense heat. At length, after surmounting the first range, we fell in with a buffalo herd, and found an old man living in a rude shed in the centre of a parched wilderness. He received us kindly, and gladly shared with us his supply of water, which he held in a bamboo tube. Our arrival evidently afforded him great pleasure, and he was anxious we should remain for a smoke and a chat. Off again to climb another hill, or rather to scramble up deep fissures in one, over a broken stratum of clay and slate, exhaling a noxious smell, and reflecting the hot sun to such a degree that I felt extremely faint, and nearly gave in before we had scaled the height. The Doctor confessed that he had never experienced any fatigue like this, in all his previous travels. Once on the top, we flung ourselves down beneath the scant shade of some shrubs in a rocky clift, at the same time dislodging from the roots and stores numerous tribes of centipedes, each about as long as one's finger, and of a rich chocolate colour, with bright yellow feet. These centipedes inflict a fearful sting, but we were too much exhausted to get out of their way, and fortunately they got out of ours. More than once I thought I could feel these creatures making their way up my back, but it turned out to be nothing more than a cold stream of perspiration trickling down. A steep descent on the other side of this ridge brought us to our next halting-place, where a brook was reported to exist. A channel indeed was there, but the waters had dried up long ago. Here, while at breakfast, our crowning trouble overtook us. One of the bearers incautiously broke off the green stem of a plant, which, in return for the outrage, sent forth a perfectly putrid odour. It was some time before we discovered the cause of the nuisance, for the Pepohoan nose seemed to account it a luxury rather than otherwise. This plant was known to them as the 'foul dirt' shrub, and is one which the Chinese ought dearly to prize, for its very breath might be sufficient to manure a whole region. As the reader may imagine, we made no long stay in this spot; but resuming our journey, marched on up and down great pits similar to those encountered in our first day's travel, and containing some of them great boulders rounded, probably, and left in position, at the bottom of the pits, by the denudations of the mountain torrents.
We were now on one of the spurs that lie at the foot of the central range, and could enjoy a splendid view of a valley that stretched out in front of us, half cultivated and half in its pristine grandeur, while the mountain sierras rose up pile behind pile, Mount Morisson lifting its deep blue peak on high above them all. A river flowed far down beneath our feet, and we could hear the distant boom of its waters, as they rushed onward through dark ravines and over a rocky mountain bed. This river was now at its smallest, but was still a broad stream, and was spanned by a number of bamboo bridges, if such these rude structures might be called. Far away, at the northern end of the valley, the village of Pau-ah-liau could be descried peeping out amid a mass of foliage; and high above this settlement rose mountains wrapped in the gloom of primeval forests, the haunts of wild beasts and savage men. These mountain tribes just referred to exact a heavy black mail from their more civilised kinsmen in the valleys below; and not content with this, they will at times swoop down in troops of sixty or seventy to waylay travelling parties, whom they plunder and put to death, or else to make a raid on some village in their vicinity.
We had now reached the banks of the stream, and had to cross it to gain the village; but the bridge here, which possessed the great merit-from an engineering point of view-of extreme simplicity, was about the most crazy, break-neck contrivance it has ever been my lot to see. The whole structure consisted of one or two poles of bamboo, stretched from bank to bank some twelve feet above the river, which was here quite deep enough to drown even the giant Chang. These poles rested on stone piers, jutting out beyond the banks, and made out of the boulders near at hand. To me this bridge seemed the very thing for a reckless man who might wish to tempt Providence, and yet just escape a watery grave. But the natives walked easily over it Blondin fashion, using their burdens to sustain their equilibrium; and so there was nothing for it but to cross, if we would reach our journey's end. The Doctor, who had seen these pieces of architecture before, managed with comparative ease: as for me, we had been walking in straw sandals, so I damped mine to make them more elastic, and then, throwing out my arms and squaring my feet, crossed like an acrobat, looking back with no small satisfaction when I had overcome the difficulty, and was safely landed on the other side. These elegant structures are the common property of the natives, and suffice for the purposes of trade and intercommunication in this benighted region. They are understood to be rebuilt, or kept in repair, by the man who happens to break them, should he survive the accident, or by the next comer should he not. Providence had supplied a bountiful stock of raw material for their construction in the surrounding vale, and along the river's bank. There we may see the boulders for new piers, and ratans growing in the thickets, wherewith, if need be, to bind the cross-poles to the piers; and there are bamboos everywhere.
About half a mile from Pau-ah-liau we passed beneath the spreading branches of the 'Png-chieu' tree, as the natives term it, whose roots spread along the ground in curious writhings and contortions, now forming an inviting chair, now a couch on which one might pass the hot nights with comfort; or elsewhere a small shrine connected with the fetishism of the village. These spirit-shrines were encountered at the roots of many of the finest trees, and consisted commonly of one basement stone, and four other slabs together forming three sides, and a roof. Within, in the centre, was a tiny stone altar, on which the offerings reposed. The trunk of this 'Png-chieu' tree was six feet in diameter, and the spread of its branches was ample enough to shade the inhabitants of the adjoining village. The news of our arrival had somehow preceded us, as it invariably did, but how we could never tell; and mysterious figures were seen darting out from the hedgerows and thickets to have a look at the 'red haired men,' as foreigners are politely termed.
Our path was along a pleasant shady road, on the margin of a stream that had been made use of for irrigation. On our left hand was a hedge adorned with numerous wild flowers-fuschias, roses, guavas, wild mint and convolvulus-besides a profusion of wild raspberry-bushes that had lately been laden with fruit as sweet as our own English raspberries, if we may judge from what little still remained. Again we had to cross a bamboo bridge, and thence to follow a foot-road by the edge of the rice-fields, where the young blades rose in vivid green above the water, just high enough to obscure the reflection of the mountains on its glassy surface. We now entered the village of Pau-ah-liau, and made straight for the house of an aged blind Pepohoan named Sin-chun. We were followed into his enclosure by troops of savage-looking women and children; the latter some of them ten years old, and without a rag to hide their youthful proportions. A number of the villagers had a warm recollection of a visit from the Doctor eighteen months before, and of how he had kindly ministered to their wants. Carefully did they examine our baggage and clothes, and finally awarded the palm of beauty to my checked flannel shirt. Here the men, women, and children were all provided with bamboo tobacco-pipes, of which they made a vigorous and unceasing use. I had not long to wait before a haggard old dame came up to where I stood, and offered me her pipe for a smoke. When I accepted the courtesy, she went on to ask for my cigar, from which she took one or two hearty pulls, and then her face disappeared in a compound series of wrinkles, denoting delight at the unusual piquancy of the weed. After this the cigar was passed from mouth to mouth through the crowd, and carefully returned to me when they all had a pull. The villagers were most of them tall and well formed, with large brown eyes kindling at times with a savage lustre that told of a free untamed spirit, born amid the wild grandeur and solitude of these mountain lands. And yet the race, from all accounts, is a gentle and inoffensive one, in spite of a sort of haughty savage swagger not wanting in dignity and grace.
The women wear a profusion of dark brown or black hair, combed straight back from the forehead, and caught up and folded in behind the head. Then the long tresses are twisted into a sort of cable, into which a strip of red cloth is entwined, and the whole is then brought over the left ear, passed like a diadem across the brows, and firmly fixed up at the back of the head. The effect of this simple head-dress is very striking, and contrasts well with the rich olive skin of its wearer.
The Chinese say the women are extremely barbarous, because even the finest of them never paint. Time appears to deal hardly with them as they advance in years; toil and exposure rob them quickly of the attractions of their youth; but yet their hair is dressed neatly and carefully to the last, and they fight a stubborn battle against the encroaching hands of fate. The oldest crone in the lot would scorn to shield her weakness and infirmities from the enemy behind the earthworks of paint and powder, false fronts, or dye. The bronzed and furrowed cheek, and the grey locks of age, meet everywhere with respect, and would even command a safe passport through the territory of a hostile tribe.
The men now came trooping home in greater numbers from the fields; tall, erect fellows, wearing an air of perfect good-will, frankness, and honesty. In spite of their horny hands and poor clothing, there was a manly nobility in their demeanour, and a perfect gentleness, a heartiness, and a simple hospitality, which it was truly touching to observe.
In these respects there was a marked difference between the different villages. Thus where the Pepohoans had come into closer contact with the Chinese, they were better dressed but less friendly than in those villages where we encountered the aborigines alone. Sin-chun invited us into his cabin, and there I lay down on a mat to rest, and soon fell fast asleep. I awoke again with a start, as a gust of fetid air passed across the apartment. These natives, I must tell you, have a way of salting their turnips, and placing them in a jar of water, where they are kept till they decompose, after which they eat them as a relish to their rice. The truth was dinner was ready, and young Sin opened this domestic treasure, so that I got a full blast of the imprisoned gas as it escaped from the jar-a blast which sent me flying to my feet, and out to the open air to make my dinner there. As for the Doctor, he finished his repast within, while I enjoyed a hearty meal off a bowl of rice, two hard-boiled eggs, and a piece of fowl. While travelling I made it my rule, as far as possible, to live on the food that could be purchased most readily on the spot. When dinner was concluded Dr. Maxwell as usual commenced to attend to his patients; and a very numerous, though pretty healthy-looking, train they were. Some had fever; other cases were more or less grave; while not a few discovered pains and aches in different parts of the body which required to be treated with iodine. A feather was needed therefore to make a brush, and a fowl had accordingly to be secured. But fowls are more difficult to lay hold of than one would have supposed, and half the village was engaged in chasing first one fowl and then another before one could be caught and robbed of a plume. A few minutes afterwards a dozen bare legs, arms, and backs, had been painted and exposed to dry. Quinine also was eagerly sought for and distributed.
It was now 3 p.m., and we were still six miles from Kasanpo. Pursuing our way by the river-side, we arrived at that village by five o'clock, and proceeded to the house of one Ah-toan, an old man with whom the doctor was acquainted. Ah-toan was not at home; but he soon appeared, driving his cattle before him into the pen. He, too, was very pleased to see us, and quickly made an apartment ready, in which we deposited our things. On the verandah behind his dwelling a narrow space had been screened off for bathing, and of this convenience we at once took advantage. Our arrival was the signal for the villagers to crowd in and have a look at us; but I could not make out why the male portion of the community appeared to treat our visit as a highly humorous incident, and why, they had lost the erect and dignified bearing peculiar to their race. One old savage, more than six feet high, got hold of my pith hat, turned it round, looked into it and over it, and finally burst into a broad grin. I noticed, too, that he had abandoned all control over his facial muscles; and though he evidently meant to be civil, that he could not bring back the normal expression of sober gravity to his countenance; his features, in spite of him, would dissolve into a grin. At last I smelt sam-shu, and it transpired that the villagers had been thatching a neighbour's house, and, as is customary, had been entertained at a wine-feast. The Pepohoans, you must know, distil a very strong spirit from the sweet potatoe, which they cultivate as a staple food, like rice.
Tong after a long time addressed the people on the foolishness of idolatry, and on the advantage of worshipping the one true God; he gained a few attentive hearers; but as for the drunken part of the community, they could make nothing of his sermon. I will now endeavour to describe our bedroom; but in the first place I must tell you that the Pepohoan huts are infested with rats, and the chamber we occupied did not escape their forays. This apartment measured about eight feet each way, one half of which area was taken up by a platform of bamboo raised about eighteen inches above the hard clay floor. This platform formed our bed; and the only other articles of furniture to be seen within were two billets of wood, which served the purpose of pillows. On this unyielding couch, then, I stretched myself till supper was ready. Our repast consisted of a fowl, which cost us half-a-crown, and which Ahong was now making ready in the next apartment. He was very tired, poor fellow; but he liked cooking, more especially when hog's lard was abundant. Nothing marks the savage more conspicuously than his utter unconcern about those minor social arrangements, without which civilised races would hardly find life endurable. Thus these Pepohoans, with the most eager anxiety to make us comfortable, yet managed to kindle a great fire of reeds, to boil our servants' rice, in such a position that the thick smoke poured in upon us in volumes as we lay at rest. No doubt it never occurred to them that smoke could be a nuisance at all. By way of a lamp we had a small cup of oil, in which floated a few shreds of burning pith; and by this flickering light I could see that the clay walls were blackened, and the rafters glazed, with sooty smoke. In a corner above my head were a bundle of green tobacco, one or two spears, a bow, a heap of arrows, a primitive matchlock, and lastly-an object which I had not hitherto noticed-a huge bin of unhusked rice at the side of the bed. I fain hoped that there the rats might find occupation during the night more profitable than worrying our slumbers.
Ahong informed me, in strict confidence, that the dexterity of the savages hereabouts in the use of the bow and poisoned arrows was no less wonderful than the cool way in which they boiled and ate their tender-hearted but tough-limbed Chinese foes. He besought me not to venture much further into the mountains, as the hill men never show themselves when they attack, but discharge their arrows high into the air, with such unerring precision that as they fall they pierce the skulls of their victims and cause instant death. I strongly advised Ahong to keep his head well protected. When he served up the fowl we found it as tough as any Chinaman could well be, even when boiled down for a cannibal's repast; and as for our tea-pot, it had contained sam-shu.
These Pepohoan dwellings, almost all of them, form three sides of a square, and enclose a yard in front, wherein produce is dried, and where the family conduct their 'at homes.' In the evening, at about nine o'clock, the natives assembled in force around a blazing log fire, which they kindled on this open space in front. The aged men and women, and the children, squatted round, smoking their pipes and talking, while a herd of long prick-eared curs sat intently watching the crackling embers. As the fire blazed up the flare edged the dark forms of the adjacent palms, and sported fitfully among the quivering leaves of the overhanging bamboo, while the strange figures gathered around the fire, now burst into strong relief against the dark background of the night, now vanished into impalpable shadows as the flames flashed up or sank before the varying breeze. Wood and reeds were piled on; the fire grew brighter and brighter, and the spirits of the party seemed to rise as the heat increased. At last the young men and women cleared a space, crossing arms and joining hands, till they formed a crescent, and commenced a plaintive native song, marking the rhythm the while in exquisite time, with a graceful tripping dance. First one man led off with a solo, and was followed by the band with a chorus of interrogation always ending with the exclamation Hai! To this the women responded with another chorus, and the time and words changed to a strophe in which each stanza ended with Sakieo! The movement became gradually faster, and the nimble feet of the dancers quickened as the measure increased, but still the time was marked with perfect precision. The graceful and intricate step set off the fine forms of the dancers to good effect in the weird light. Quicker and quicker grew the time, until at last it became furious; in place of 'Sakieo' the air was now rent with fierce savage yells, and the flitting forms could only be dimly seen amid a cloud of luminous dust, like wild phantoms hovering in space. The dance was kept up until a late hour, the hostess wisely supplying her guests with nothing more intoxicating than tea-a discretion due most probably to the presence of Europeans. Had the beverage been sam-shu, there is no knowing how the scene might have ended. As it was, I had never before, not even among Scotch Highlanders, witnessed such a wild display of animal spirits. We did not sleep much, as we found that rats were by no means the only vermin we had to entertain, and once or twice I woke up to find the rats making short tracks across my body for the rice-bin.
Next morning we started for Lalung, about eleven miles distant, through some of the grandest scenery I have ever beheld. Old Atuan furnished us with an armed guide-a good-looking young fellow named 'Teng-Tsai.' The path was an unsafe one, leading as it did through the lower hunting-grounds belonging to tribes of savages higher up in the hills. Teng-Tsai called a friend, who joined our party with his matchlock, and both carried small priming-flasks of stag-horn suspended round their necks with strings of glass beads. They had also cord fusees coiled on bamboo rollers or bracelets round their left arms. These cords will keep alight for twenty-four hours, and when kindled the burning end is attached to forceps, which bring the light down into the powder-pan when the trigger is pulled. All the savages hereabouts use English powder for priming, when they can get it supplied them by the Chinese. As soon as our guides lost sight of the village, they lighted their fusees and enjoined us to keep together and make our way in silence. For the first half of our journey we were marching along the bed of a stream, but at length we ascended a narrow defile, where mighty rocks towered high above our heads, arched over in places by great forest-trees or giant ferns. A clear rill leapt from ledge to ledge, or rested now and again in some great stone bason, where with its glassy surface it mirrored the bright reflection of the ferns as they flung their fronds from the mossy rock to form a frame around the pool. Here we halted awhile to admire the intense loveliness of the mountain gorge, and to obtain a photograph of the scene, regretting all the time that the picture on glass would, after all, give us but the bare light and shade, with none of the varied tints of the hoary bearded rocks, their mossy nooks and crannies, the colours of the pendant climbing plants, or the play of the bright sunshine through the canopy of leaves, and among the dark rocky masses beneath. Apart from the natural beauty of this spot, its rocks and plants would afford a rich field for any geologist or botanist who might find his way so far from the haunts of civilised man. An armed party of six friendly Pepohoans came upon us as we were enjoying a bath and a swim in a clear deep pool. They were out on a fishing excursion; and one old fellow was cleverly shooting his fish with an arrow, while the others were hunting for crabs among the rocks, twisting off their legs, and devouring them shell and all alive. The younger members of the party caught fish by beating the water with a bamboo rod, and thus stupifying their prey. A tedious climb over a mountain path, that wound its way through the forest, brought us at last to a change of scene.
Here the trees, many of them, were of gigantic proportions; their great lateral branches striking out at a considerable altitude like the yards of a ship, from which hung a multitude of the bare stems of parasite plants, like cables and rigging flying adrift before the breeze. We noted a number of fine specimens of the camphor-tree, the largest about four feet in diameter, and rising to a great height straight as an arrow, with a slight taper and devoid of branches, till it reached the free air above.
Besides there were interminable ratan plants, passing in and out of the dense undergrowth; and in a comparatively open space we fell in with a splendid lily, of great size and in full flower, the entire plant standing about twelve feet from the root. Orchids, too, were there in abundance, filling the air with their perfume on every side. From the summit of this hill we got a view of the central mountain chain. In the foreground, like huge billows rolling in upon the shore, were a series of parallel ranges of forest-clad hills, like the one on which we stood. Lalung was still hidden from sight, in a valley six miles off. A vapoury haze obscured the distant landscape, transforming the mountains into broad masses of a deep blue, whose soft outlines gleamed beneath the rays of the now declining sun. A Pepohoan here joined our party; he had travelled over the mountains from the other side of the island, and was now homeward bound. From him we learnt the existence of a fine harbour on the eastern shore, and he added that the tribes granted him a free pass over their territory on the payment of three bullocks. It was about four o'clock when we entered Lalung; this village stands on the bank of a broad river, now reduced to narrow dimensions, and to be seen winding along some half a mile from its proper bank, which rose about sixty feet above the dry channel of the stream. But during the rains we were assured that the river swells to such a volume that it fills up this entire bed, and, as we have already seen, it is constantly forcing new passages for its overflowing waters through the lower hill lands near the western plain. This is evidently one of the great arteries of the drainage of the central mountains; and, if we take into account the vast altitude of those mountains, and the force of the torrents which make their way over the narrow plain, carrying with them, annually, immense quantities of débris that the sea continually throws back and deposits along the western shore, we shall probably get some insight into the way in which land is gradually being built up and redeemed from the ocean on the west, independently of the volcanic action still at work in certain quarters of the island. Thus probably we may account for the disappearance of the Taiwan harbour within the brief period of 200 years, as well as for the formation of Takow harbour further south. Perhaps no example can be found anywhere better than in Formosa of the power of water to transform the physical aspect of a country. In many places on that island no settled water-courses exist; and thus the torrents, in the fearful impetus of their headlong rush down the mountain steeps, attack weak positions in the rocks and soils, and form new passages for themselves.
On leaving the mountain top our course lay for an hour through the dry bed of a stream, cut through a black rock stratum, where we discovered traces of shale and coal. On reaching a small stream we found Mrs. Hong, who told us that her husband would put us up at the village. This lady was accompanied by a party of young savages, who carried tackle for fishing. Lalung village is only separated from the territory of the most purely savage aborigines by the stream which I have just described, and its inhabitants number about 1,000 souls. Hong we found from home; but he soon returned, and informed us that Boon, his eldest son, had lately lost his wife, and was off to his savage kinsmen in the mountains to secure another bride. He was expected to return that night, and would be accompanied by an escort from his partner's tribe. Here, in these Pepohoan villages, I found the only instance I encountered of Chinamen employing middle-men or brokers to deal with natives of the country. It seems that Pepohoans are very often used as go-betweens in the barter trade between the mountaineers and the Chinese; for the latter, though they are great and patient traders, yet as a rule possess but little of the bold spirit of adventure, and entertain a wholesome dread of these highlanders. They are not without good grounds for their fears; for in one village at least, a missionary, who lately repaired thither, found the men adorning their huts with skulls of their Chinese foes; and the report goes that they are cannibals too. Strangely enough the weapons and ammunition used by the hill tribes to destroy wild animals, and Chinamen, are supplied by the Chinese themselves.
Family ties, between the wild hill tribes and the Pepohoans, are kept up by constant intermarriage. The wedding ceremony is a simple one. The father of the lady merely takes his daughter by the hand and passes her over to her lord, and then there is a drinking-revel to conclude the rites3. In the old Dutch accounts of the people it is said that the offer of a present by a suitor, and its acceptance by the lady, entitles the giver to be esteemed the legal husband, according to the rule 'Nuptias non concubitus sed consensus facit:' and the marriage tie is with equal facility dissolved. Indeed it would almost seem as if the 'Free Lovers' of America had borrowed their creed of inconstancy, and their fickle practices, from the unchivalrous Formosan tribes.
Hong, having at length appeared, gave us a cordial welcome to his house, insisting on the sacrifice of a pig for the more perfect accomplishment of hospitable rites. The porker was therefore slaughtered before the door, and in the presence of a pack of half-starved hunting-dogs, that fought savagely over the drops of blood.
My boy Ahong set it down as his solemn belief that these people could not after all be classed as utter barbarians, for they clearly understood the use of roast hog. At this place I collected a number of old Pepohoan words, which appear in the vocabularies in the Appendix.
Next morning we resumed our journey under the guidance of Goona, the youngest son of our host. Goona was a pure young savage, full of laughter and frolic, wearing a crown of ferns on his head, and little else by way of clothing, so he could hardly have felt very hot. We were now descending a narrow path to the dry bed of the river, when our progress was arrested by a yellowish snake about seven feet long which shot out his head across our track. I struck him over the neck with a heavy bamboo staff which I had in my hand. On this the reptile rolled down the bank, and when we had completed the descent we found him again lodged beneath a boulder. Aided by one or two natives I managed to topple the mass over, and then our enemy made another dart forward, hissing, glaring with his fiery eyes, and quivering his forky tongue. I dealt another blow and dispatched him. I should have carried him off, but he was too big to be easily disposed of, so I left him to be devoured by the Pepohoans, who are said to be fond of snakes. I was anxious to cross the river, but was urged not to do so, as two men had been killed by a hostile tribe about a month before, just opposite where we stood.
I obtained some good types of the aboriginal tribes in this quarter, and managed also to photograph the scenery. About two o'clock we set out again to walk to Lakoli, which lay some twelve miles off. At one place we crossed a small stream of strongly alkaline water, and here on the banks some alkali, soda or potash, had crystallised in such quantities as to resemble a recent fall of snow. The banks of the main stream now towered more than 200 feet above the dry bed, and alternating strata of clay and boulders could be distinctly seen. Before us we had a panorama of surpassing grandeur. The mountains rose up range above range covered with dense forest, and bathed in the purple light of sunset, their gigantic forms softened, and beautified by the foliage of the ancient forests. The attractions of this spot were as varied as they were beautiful. At one place a mountain stream, leaping out of some dark chasm, tumbled in foam over the rocks, and was lost again in the forest; and everywhere around us we could see that the same Power who clothed the stupendous mountains with a mantle of evergreen verdure, embroidered by the sunset with purple and gold, had not left the minutest fissure in the rocks without some special grace of its own: there, too, in flowers, ferns, and mosses, we found a modest world of microscopic beauty.
The grandeur of this region during the wet season must baffle description. Then a thousand cataracts, veiled in vapour, and illumined with rainbow hues, leap from the mountain sides, roaring and tumbling in their downward course to the broad river.
Before us, as in a peaceful vale, we could see the settlement of Lakoli-a few rude dwellings, and a patch of tilled land, amid a jungle wilderness. In the fast-failing light we could just make out its hedges and areca-palms, its mango and langan-trees; but ere long the darkness closed in around, and left us groping our way forwards at the outskirt of the hamlet. We could hear the sounds of wild music, laughter, and dancing; but there was no one to be seen until we fell in with the hut of one 'Kim-Siang,' an old acquaintance of Dr. Maxwell.
Here we met but a cool reception. The old man was laid up with the effects of rheumatism and opium-smoking, and we found a slave girl fanning him in an adjoining hut. His son, a fellow over six feet high, stood in front of the doorway of the cabin, and beside him was his wife, a woman from a friendly mountain tribe. Outside this abode hung festoons of deer-skulls and boar-heads that had been taken in the chase. When the father had finished his opium-pipe, he consented to allow us to occupy an outer shed for the night.
Anxious to procure food, and a vessel in which to boil down my nitrate of silver bath to dryness (photographers will know what is meant by the bath having struck work, and obstinately refusing to produce a picture), I made my way by torchlight to the hut of one 'Li-liat,' an Amoy man, engaged here in barter traffic with the hill-tribes. We found little or no evidence of any goods in La-liat's abode. There was a table on the clay floor, and a taper flickering feebly in a cup of oil above it; and here, in this cheerless dwelling, a boisterous party had gathered themselves together, and were engaged in smoking and drinking. Our entrance was but little noticed, and less appreciated. They had nothing we wanted, not even a civil word. A drunken old woman staggered up with a teapot containing sam-shu, and offered to sell us the vessel, when she had first carefully exhausted its contents. Meanwhile La-liat, who had been sleeping on a sort of counter, woke up, recognised my friend and agreed to trade. Strange to relate, in grateful remembrance of his former acquaintance with the Doctor, he supplied us with a dozen eggs and a brown jar, and then positively refused to accept payment, so that finally we had to force our money upon him. He also showed us raw camphor, skins, horns, boars' tusks, ratan, and other wares, which he had obtained from a party of savages who had come down from their hunting-grounds to Lakoli the day before. In return for these goods he had supplied them with beads, turkey-red cloth, knives, and gunpowder.
Our armed guide slept on a mat in the hut beside us, while Ahong and I were engaged till about 2 a.m. boiling down my bath in the Chinese pot. It was a tedious job. First Ahong slept as we sat before the fire; then I slept; then we both slept, and the fire went low and had to be tended. I complained of my boy's sleeping, and immediately dozed off myself, and so on, until the whole liquid was evaporated. Once the alcoholic fumes, in passing off, caught fire; then I heard a terrible shriek, and started up to find the scared face of a savage old woman glaring close to mine. She must have been placed there to watch us, and she vanished instantly into the darkness whence she had appeared. Ahong, disturbed in his sleep, caught sight of the apparition, and declared that it was the-well, never mind what! But he did not rest quite so comfortably after that incident. I am not myself prepared to say what the old witch could have been, or how she vanished. She certainly looked haggard, hideous and unearthly; and her flight, too, was as sudden and as noiseless as the puff of smoke which she jerked fiercely out from her short bamboo pipe.
Four hours rest, and we were up again by daylight, and ready for the road. After the night's doctoring, my nitrate-of-silver bath gave every satisfaction; only the water which I used to dilute it was so extremely alkaline that I had to employ a goodly supply of Chinese vinegar to turn it-slightly, to the acid side.
As I must needs quit Formosa with this chapter, it will be necessary to summarise my experiences from this point, and to condense my narrative within narrower limits.
On the summit of the first range, on our homeward route, above Lakoli, in place of setting up my instruments to photograph, I felt I would much rather have lain down and slept; but there was no time for that, as we had by the route we followed between twenty and thirty miles to walk before night, and a day's work of photographing to overtake besides.
Dr. Maxwell was not feeling well; he had, however, promised to be at Baksa next day to conduct the service in the chapel there, so we pushed on. At the foot of another range, on the brink of a clear cool stream, I secured two more photographs, and waited for a short time to admire a sedgy pool and to bathe our feet in its clear cool water. At our approach a myriad of tiny fish dived for shelter beneath the pebbles. The surface was alive with strange insects, that shot like comets into the reeds; while, perched on a broad leaf, sat a lusty toad, watching our movements with gentlemanly self-possession and gravity, and looking as if he fully expected an apology for being thus interrupted at his morning toilet. The remainder of the day's journey was almost an uninterrupted toil over hill and dale.
At noon we halted at a small village in front of a hut, where an old woman was selling fruit. Here a large party of Pepohoans-in clothing that might have been decent, had it covered their nakedness-assembled to see us eat; and it must have been a very barbarous spectacle to them, for they groaned audibly and uttered strange ejaculations when they beheld us furiously devouring hard-boiled eggs and tea; but the prevailing expression on the faces of this cheaply-dressed crowd was that of low-bred animal curiosity. The satisfaction, however, of the bystanders could hardly have been excelled by that which we ourselves derived from the repast. The Doctor, as was his custom, conversed with the people, and prescribed for some who were sick.
We came upon a large sheet of water at the place where we next halted, and there we swam about for some time. It was probably an imprudent thing, but it refreshed us for the moment. A few hours after this my friend became very ill, and had to lie down beneath the shade of some shrubs, in a place where there was not a drop of clear water to be procured for miles around. At his request, I gave him a dose of quinine and iron, and after an hour's rest we resumed our march. I took a picture of one of the deep dry clay-pits of this region, and had to proceed ten miles farther on before I could get a drop of water to wash the plate and finish the negative. It turned out one of my finest picture nevertheless.
On the hill above Baksa we halted at a hut, and were there regaled with a cup of pure honey. Descending the ridge which I described at starting my foot slipped, but fortunately I saved myself from the fearful fall by clinging to the sharp edges of the rock, cutting my hands, however, badly in the accident. Need I say that when we reached the chapel at Baksa our rest that night was profound and refreshing. My friend, although feverish and ill, was still well enough to conduct the service next morning. All business at Baksa was suspended throughout that day, and there were more than three hundred apparently devout worshippers at the little mission chapel. There is a school attached to this edifice, and there children and even adults are taught to read and write in the Amoy dialect of the Chinese language.
One or two local airs had been adapted to our hymns, and there was something wild yet plaintive about them, like the sighing of the winds through their grand old forests, or the noise of the storms along their rocky coast. Apart from one or two such airs-simple ballads handed down from father to son-the Pepohoans have no music and no musical instruments, so far as I know. They are extremely primitive in their habits too, practising no art save the tilling of the soil, and that in its rudest form. But there is one great charm about these untutored tribes, and this consists in their artless good faith and honesty. During the entire journey my boxes were frequently left open and unprotected, and yet I never lost the value of a pin.
But I must now quit this island, remarkable no less for its beauty than for the hospitality of its simple inhabitants. I afterwards travelled overland to Takow, for the purpose of visiting the haunts of the savages farther south; but they were at war with the Chinese, and their territory could not be entered with safety.
1One of over a dozen mission-stations established by the Missionaries connected with the Presbyterian Church of England. There are about 3,000 natives constant attendants at the chapels. [Back]
2 Chinese Notes and Queries, ii. 135. [Back]
3See for further information Natives of the West Coast of Formosa, translated from an old Dutch work by Rev. W. Lobscheid. [Back]