William H. Seward's Travels around the World

By Olive Risley Seward; William Henry Seward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI.
CANTON (Continued).

A Chinese Villa.--The Hall of Ancestors.--A Chinese School-Room.--Another Villa.-- An Opium-Den.--Extent of Opium-Smoking.--The Chinese Chronometer.--The Street of Malefactors.--The Place of Execution.--A City of the Dead.--Canton at Night.

Canton, December 30th.--This morning, without previous invitation or notice, our reverend guide ushered us into the villa of a Chinese gentleman, Poon-ting-gua. It covers several acres, enclosed with a solid granite wall. Chinese ladies with their children received us graciously. The mansion has a spacious theatre, tastefully arranged, for private entertainments, many pretty boudoirs, and a spacious banqueting-hall. After this, we visited the still more ambitious dwelling of the mandarin Lee, now exercising the office of Taou-tai in the province of Chin-Kiang. This residence contains a noble Hall of Ancestors, which, although it opens on one side to the sky, resembles very much the old Representative Hall in the Capitol at Washington. The Ancestral Hall is the chapel used for daily family worship of the gods, as well as of the ancestors. The hall is purely Confucian in idea. A shrine in the centre supports a tablet on which the names of the ancestors are inscribed. Large crimson banners are suspended from the walls, which contain, in embroidery, their likenesses, as well as those of the family, with heraldic insignia or emblems. The Ancestral Hall, moreover, is the judgment-chamber or tribunal in which family courts are held. At these courts all births are recorded,

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