The Far East
New Series, Volume 2
March 1877

 

Rambling Notes, Adrift and at Anchor, No. 3.

Formosa and Liu-Kiu.

 

 
Black, John Reddie:
The Far East: Monthly Journal, Illustrated with Photographs, Rambling Notes, Adrift and at Anchor, No. 3. - Formosa and Liu-Kiu., New Series, Volume 2, March, 1877, text at pages 51-4, no accompanying photograph, Shanghai, "Printed for the Proprietor, at the Far East Printing Office, 18 Nanking Road," Published Simultaneously in Tokio, Japan; Shanghai, China; and Hongkong.


Rambling Notes, Adrift and at Anchor, No. 3.

Formosa and Liu-Kiu.

It was on a very hot morning, the 27th August 18--, that H. B. M. S. ---- heaved up the anchor in Pagoda Anchorage, Foochow, and started on a cruise. We were a11 heartily glad to put to sea; the more so as it was generally known that we should visit Formosa and Liu-Kiu--or as foreigners ordinarily write it Loochoo, and we looked forward to a pleasant run ashore at these islands. We passed the White Dogs* (Rocks at the mouth of the river Min), at 10 A.M., and when well clear of the land, made sail and left off teaming. A delicious light breeze carried us on at the rate of about 5 1/2 knots an hour until 3 A.M. on the following morning. We then backed he fore-topsail, and lay to until daylight, when, as we expected, the highland of Formosa was in sight. At 6 A.M. made sail, but the wind died away at 9 o'clock, and we furled sails and proceeded under steam, shaping a course for Keelung harbour, in which we dropped our anchor at 1 P.M. It is a very pretty place, surrounded by hills. At this time, on the left hand side going in, were three European houses, a which the Custom house officers resided. The only article of commerce was coal: obtained from a mine about two or three miles from he anchorage. I landed with a messmate on the morning of the 30th, for a stroll; and we took with us our guns and a dog, in case we should fall in with any game. We first traversed a long valley, and then mounted one of the highest hills. Pfeugh! What a hot climb we had! The remembrance almost makes me wipe my forehead now. We saw a few birds, though not sufficiently near to get a shot at them; but we ticked five good-sized lemons from the numerous lemon-trees which grew on the hill-sides; and, but for the trouble of carrying them, we might have had as many hundred. The scenery was very lovely -- the valley strikingly beautiful. Certainly the island richly deserves its name. Returning to the beach, we found several of the officers and many of the crew fishing with a seine. W e did not join them, as we were too tired, and were glad to get on board. The next day I again landed with the paymaster. We took a different direction, and walked some distance into the country. The grass was so luxuriant that in many places it was over our heads. On one of the hills we came to a house -- a solitary shieling, without, so far as we could see, another near it for miles. The native occupants gave us a drink of nice cold water, and offered us tea: but we preferred the water. They examined our powder and shot flasks, and asked, by signs, to be allowed to fire off my gun. I let one of them do so; and the concussion nearly knocked him down. On being asked to try again he refused. In this isolated dwelling were two men, two women, and two children. None of them shewed any signs of timidity; and they were very much pleased by our giving the children some cash which we happened to have about us.

On the 3rd of September at 6 A.M, we again weighed anchor; and leaving Keelung harbour, sailed with a nice steady breeze behind us along the coast, until we reached Sowo Bay; where we anchored at 6 P.M.

The next day landed with a comrade, and this time we took our guns more for protection than for game. We ascended one of the highest hills, that we might have a good view of the country, and make up our minds in which direction we should proceed. Along the beach we saw several villages, with flat land between the shore and the hills. We determined therefore to turn our steps in that direction; as it would not only enable us to see something of the people and there dwellings, but also afforded us a probability of getting some snipe or plover. After walking about two miles along the flat land we started a flock of plover, and managed to induce six of them to occupy our bag. We trudged on for several miles, keeping outside the villages; but feeling thirsty, we determined to visit one and ask for some water. It was readily produced; but it was quite clear that they had seen very few, if any, Europeans before. For they flocked around us and were particularly impressed and not a little surprised at our double-barreled fowling pieces. We created quite a sensation among them. Finding them so peaceably disposed, we did not hesitate to pass through other villages; and although there was plenty of curiosity on the part of the natives, there was no rudeness or any kind of hostility.

Leaving the flat land, we again took to the hills and shot several pigeons, pheasants and some other smaller birds. Coming to the summit of a very high hill we saw a lovely valley which lay in the direction of the Bay; and into this we descended with a great deal of trouble, for it was densely wooded. We observed several herds of cattle feeding quietly, each with two or three men tending it; and the men all carrying long spears. They were quite well-disposed and pointed us to places where we should be likely to find game. I ought to mention that all those people were of Chinese descent; and I learnt afterwards that they are often attacked by the aboriginal savages; who think nothing of slaying as many as they can, and carrying off their cattle. T he Formosa savage who succeeds in slaying a Chinaman, always cuts off his head and carries it away as a trophy. Indeed I was assured that there is a rule among them, that none can take a wife who has not first possessed himself of such a trophy.

Some of the aborigines have been converted by the missionaries; and others have become by marriage intermixed with the Chinese, and they are really better looking than the Chinese.

On reaching the beach, we found the ship almost surrounded by boats some of which were crowded with the islanders of both sexes. They were amusing our people by diving for cash and empty bottles; for the latter of which they were particularly eager. The females were expert both as swimmers and divers; and they obtained far more of the spoil than did the men. Before going on board we took another walk through well-cultivated rice-fields, and shot several snipe of large size. We also gathered plenty of beautiful mushrooms. About a mile from the beach, at the foot of the hills, we came to a clear spring, the water from which oozed and bubbled up from the ground over a large space. We tasted it; and found it was a mineral spring. It was delightfully cool. We returned to the ship at 6 P.M., rather tired after a long day's ramble -- pleasant in every respect but the heat.

At 6 A.M. on the 5th, we found ourselves once more under sail, but with very little wind. The calm weather continuing, we made no progress; so on the 9th., we got up steam and shaped a course for the Liu-kiu islands. In the evening dolphins were playing gaily around us, and we succeeded in harpooning one, and hauling him on board.

At daylight on the 10th we got our first view of the Liu-kiu group. Steaming about 7 knots an hour, through the islands, the scenery was charming. At 3 P.M. we dropped anchor in Napa Kiang (Barnpool) harbour. It is a most delightful looking country all so green, fresh and fertile. T he inhabitants were on the beach and on the rocks by thousands watching our movements. Looking at them through the telescope, at first sight they appeared very much like Japanese. The crowd seemed to increase every minute until nightfall. About 5 P.M. two men were rowed off to us, and invited to come on board. They turned out to be chiefs; and we were greatly surprised to hear one of them address us in English.

On entering the Captain's cabin, they politely enquired the object of our visit? And how long we proposed to remain? They received correspondingly polite answers, and partook of some tea, wine, and other refreshments. Their boat's crew and attendants also came on deck, and seemed much astonished with everything but most of all with the spy-glass. In about half an hour, they went on shore with the captain. The crowd on shore though very eager to see our boat and our commander, were perfectly well-behaved: and made way for the latter to pass with every token of respect. The next day, September llth, was rainy and gusty throughout. The ruler of the islands sent off a present to the officers and men, consisting of 100 lbs. of beef, a pig weighing about 100 Ibs., 11 goats, 70 fowls, 3 cwt. of sweet potatoes, 3 large melons or pumpkins, 100 eggs, and over a cwt. of rice.

In the afternoon with five of my shipmates I went ashore to have a look at the place.

The people flocked to the waterside to see us land -- the boys being particularly numerous. I do not think there were any specimens of feminine humanity present. At any rate, we didn't see any. In the appearance of the people there is a good deal that reminds one of the Japanese as they used to be when I first saw them, and before they adopted foreign modes in whole or in part. The hair of the Loochooans (I had better revert to our old-fashioned way of spelling the word) is tightly drawn from the sides of the head, and fixed in a knot at the top by means of long hair pins, sometimes of tortoise-shell, but generally of metal with an ornamental flower at the end. I observed that some of the pins were either silver or silver-plated, whilst all of the inferior people had brass or copper. The dress of the people, both male and female, was very similar to that of the Japanese -- loose flowing robes, folded over in front; but the men only had theirs closed by a zone of thick silk or cotton tied tightly round the waist.

As we walked along we saw a number of women, whose dress appeared to be much the same as that of the men. They were of the poorer class and wore no stockings. Many of the men had both socks, divided at the great toe like the Japanese, and on their feet well-made straw sandals, laced on by means of a straw ligature - which, winding round the heel, over the instep, and through a loop that passed up the division between the great toe and its neighbour, was drawn tight and made fast by twisting it and tucking the twisted end into the cord at the side of the foot. Of course everyone carried a fan, sometimes in the hand, sometimes in the waistband; and, like the Japanese, no man thinks himself quite comme il faut, without his pipe and tobacco pouch, suspended from the girdle. On observing them more closely there is one thing in which they differ widely from the Japanese: and that is in the cultivation of beard and mustaches. They evidently make this their peculiar vanity; and some of them are very long and silky. We were particularly struck with the cleanliness universally prevailing. I do not think I exaggerate when I say it even surpassed that of Japan. The Loochooans were quite as polite as their urbane neighbours. Naturally their curiosity was great to see the foreigners, of whom they must have heard much during recent times, for they are in constant communication with Satsuma, whose prince was at that time their suzerain; and the battle of Kagosima was not so very remote an occurrence as to be altogether out of their remembrance. But we met with no kind of rudeness.

The prevalent hue of their dress was blue, and all were quietly clad: the children only rejoicing in coats of many colours. Where a stronger is met with such civility and good humour, one is apt to feel a more than usual interest in all he sees, and to yield a larger degree of admiration than he otherwise would be inclined to. Making all allowances for this, the impression produced by the appearance of the Loochooans and by their behaviour, cannot fail to be good.

The people, I should say, are rather below the average stature; but remarkably well-limbed. The men too, walk with a stateliness very becoming to them. I had seen them described as having a peculiarly sweet and placid as well as intelligent expression of countenance; and this I decidedly confirm. I may add that their teeth are generally very white and regular. No one who has not seen the Japanese before spoilt by foreigners can realize the sympathy I was going to say the love -- which their genial, pleasant manners awaken; and I really think the Loochooans equal them in this respect. In Japan, doubtless, much is due to the simple, pretty, natural manners of the womankind, and here we saw nothing of the interior household life, nor did we speak to any female. I am judging therefore solely by the demeanour of the men and the children. Their deportment is not in the least degree cringing or sycophantic. On the contrary it is quite manly and independent, but accompanied by modesty approaching to apparent timidity, and a respectful bearing which arises at once from good breeding and self-respect.

I have said that only the men wear girdles round the waist. This is so, as far as we saw. In Japan, I know that a respectable woman does not think -- of allowing herself to be seen without an obi (or broad girdle), except in the house and in the family. But here we saw no woman with such an article of apparel. The dress was rather open in the upper part, and had to be held to keep the lower fold closed. There was an under dress or petticoat, sometimes reaching to the knees only, but generally to the ankle, and this was made without the opening in front.

We visited a burying ground of some extent. The tombs were well-built, whitewashed, and kept in good repair. Many were in the shape of a horse-shoe so commonly seen in China; others were built like small square houses, with low sloping roofs tiled or thatched. All was neat and tidy.

On landing our route lay along a good road, bounded by a wall on one side and a canal on the other. And I ought to mention that most of the houses in the town were surrounded either by walls or hedge -- the latter very nicely trimmed. Crossing a bridge which might have been constructed in the English provinces, so like was it to such as are seen there, we passed through several villages, and pine and bamboo groves. The houses are so completely shut in that they cannot be seen except when quite close to them through the gateways. Arbours and trelliswork covered with creepers are almost universal. In the villages, some portions of the roads were like the walks in a well caved-for flower-garden. The curiosity of the villagers brought them all out of their cottages to look at us; and the children were multitudinous. We came now to a town of some size, the name of which I could not ascertain. The road to it and through it was wide, and remarkably clean. By the entrance was an archway, under which we entered a court-yard in which stood a house by itself, and looking in though the grated door, we saw that it was a temple, in which were two large ugly-looking stone images, in separate cages. Of course we took these to be gods. Walking some distance further, the crowd now numbering thousands, we came to another archway; and supposing this to be the opposite end of the city, we turned to the left, and, found ourselves in one of the chief streets. All this time the walls, the roofs, the roads were crowded with the natives, eager to catch a glimpse of us; some running ahead of us and staring round all the time. But still there was no annoyance offered us, and whenever we turned to look about us, the people in that direction would immediately make way.

The news of our approach had evidently gone far ahead of us; for as we advanced we found that, as in Yenoshima in Japan in days past, the people shut up their shops and houses, and we saw them peeping through cracks and holes, as best they could.

We came to a market. Here were stalls for fruit and vegetable sellers, earthenware, and other things most affected by the inhabitants. But the most striking and extraordinary thing we observed was, that directly we appeared not a sound was to be heard; all business appeared to be stopped; and all eyes to be turned upon us. If we went to a stall or a shop the proprietors beat a hurried retreat, and it seemed as if we might have helped ourselves to anything we pleased.

At last we got quite through the town and into the bright green fields once more; but here we quite lost our way. I climbed a high pine-tree, however, and so took the bearings, and we got safely and without any trouble back to the boat.

The cattle we saw, were of a small black breed. The horses are also small. They are used for conveying goods on packs, wheeled vehicles of any kind not coming at all under our notice.

Pigs, goats, poultry, rice and a great variety of vegetables, form the chief food of the people. Milk is never used; and we saw neither sheep nor geese in our walk.

Our stroll had extended to many miles, and occupied several hours. We struck the beach along way from our boat, and the natives were much amused to see us picking up shells and examining them as we went along the sea-shore. It was quite dusk when we finally stepped on the ship's deck. We were very much interested with all we had seen; and our visit has left a favourable and an indelible impression on our minds.

We left next day, and steered for Tamsui in Formosa, where we arrived on the 17th September, but met with little there worthy of being recorded.

(The Far East, Volume 2, March 1877, at pages 51-4).


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