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was much colder than Canton, that the Tartar general's home was in Pekin, that he had been so long in Canton that his health was affected, and he wanted to be recalled. This talk ran on for fifteen minutes, and tea was passed around in Chinese fashion, and the consul led the way to another room. Here
were refreshments, mainly sweetmeats and wine. Ten minutes more were spent over the candies and cakes, and the Tartar general, filling his glass with champagne, drank our health. Then tea was served again, and the Tartar general arose, took his leave, and went off amid the beating of gongs, the waving of banners, and the cries of his retinue.
The sounds of the gongs had scarcely died away when the
A CHINESE STATE BANQUET.
sounds of other gongs announced the coming of the Viceroy, Lin Kwan Yu. He came in a little more state than the Tartar general, but the ceremonies of the reception were about the same. Then came other officials, all of whom had to be received, and given tea and sweetmeats and wine, so that the morning had gone before the last visit.
before the last visit. At one o'clock there was a luncheon party, to which Mr. Lincoln invited the members of the American Mission. The American missionary work in Canton has been long established, and the ladies and gentlemen engaged in it seemed to be contented and hopeful. Among those present were Rev. D. A. P. Hopper and his. family, Rev. Mr. Noyes and family, Rev. Mr. Henry and wife, Rev. Mr. Van Dyke and wife, Rev. Mr. Graves and wife, Miss Wilden and Dr. Kerr, Commander Perkins, and several of the officers of the “ Ashuelot.” Mr. Borie and some of the members of General Grant's party had broken away in the morning from the unending ceremonies, and were over in the Chinese city buying curiosities. Mr. Borie came back in time to shake hands with the missionaries, and converse with them on the progress of the Gospel in China. The luncheon party was pleasant, because there were no speeches, because it was pleasant to meet so many fellow-countrymen away from home engaged in the stupendous work of trying to bring China to Christianity.
It was at Canton that we had our first experience of a Chinese state banquet. The Viceroy. had arranged for the dinner at six, and as it was a long journey to his palace, we were compelled to leave the Consulate at five. Those who went to the dinner were General Grant and his party, and Mr. Holcombe, Mr. Lincoln, Judge Denny, Commander Perkins of the
Ashuelot,” and Messrs. McEwen, Dearing, Fitzsimmons, and Case, naval officers of the same ship. Our journey to the dinner was made in the same state as on the occasion of our call of ceremony.
The hour was later, and it was pleasant to ride in the cool of the evening. There was the great crowd, the same ceremonies, the same parade, the same firing of guns, and—if anything—even more splendor than when we made our first visit. On arriving, the Viceroy, the Tartar general, and the splendidly-embroidered retinue were in waiting. We were shown into an audience chamber and given tea.
The hall was illuminated, and the gardens were dazzling with light. After we had sipped the tea and exchanged compliments with our host, a signal was given by the ringing of silver chimes, and we marched in procession to the dining-hall. It was something of a march, because in these Oriental palaces space
well considered, and if you dine in one house you sleep in another and bathe in a third. The dining-room was open on the gardens, apparently open on three sides. Around the open sides was a wall of servants, attendants, soldiers, mandarins, and if you looked beyond into the gardens, under the corruscating foliage, burdened with variegated lanterns, you saw crowds all staring in upon you. How much of this was curiosity or how much ceremony I could not tell, but the scene reminded me of what I had read of the French court under the old régime, when the king and royal family dined in public,
A CHINESE STATE BANQUET.
and it was among the recreations of a Versailles mob to go to the palace and see a most Christian king over his soup and wine. The sensation of being under observation always—of being stared at by hundreds, thousands of eyes—the thought of taking food in public like the animals in the zoological gardens, the consciousness that you are contributing to the information and amusement of the public—the menagerie or comedy feeling, if I may so call it—annoying at first, passes away, and in turn you regard the curious chattering throng which incloses your dining-hall as you would hangings in tapestry.
I had always heard of a Chinese dinner as among the eccentric features of their civilization. I have never made up my mind as to whether, in so important a question as dining, and one which has so much to do with our happiness, we have anything to boast of. The time wasted, and the fair, blooming hopes wrecked in dinners might well be added to the startling catalogue of the calamities of civilization; but in splendor and suggestions to the appetite, and appeals to a luxurious taste, the Chinese have surpassed us. I can imagine how a Chinaman might well call us barbarians as he passes from our heaped and incongruous tables to his own, where every course seems to have been marked out minutely with a purpose, and the dinner is a work of art as ingenious as the porcelain and bronze ware, over which you marvel as monuments of patience and skill. Our dining-room was, I have said, an open hall, looking out upon a garden. Our table was a series of tables forming three sides of a square.
The sides of the tables that formed the interior of the square were not occupied. Here the servants moved about. At each table were six persons, with the exception of the principal table, which was given up to General Grant, the Viceroy, the Tartar general, Mr. Borie, and Mr. Holcombe. Behind the Viceroy stood his interpreter and other personal servants. Attendants stood over the other tables with large peacock fans, which was a comfort, the night was so warm. The dinner was entirely Chinese, with the exception of the knives, forks, and glasses. But in addition to the knives and forks we had chopsticks, with which some of the
party made interesting experiments in the way of searching out ragout and soup dishes. At each of the tables were one or two of our Chinese friends, and we were especially fortunate at having with us a Chinese officer who spoke English well, having learned it at the mission school. The dinner began with sweatmeats of mountain-cake and fruit-rolls. Apricot kernels and melon-seeds were served in small dishes. Then came eight courses, each served separately as follows : Ham with bamboo sprouts, smoked duck and cucumbers, pickled chicken
and beans, red shrimps with leeks, spiced sausage with celery, fried fish with flour sauce, chops with vegetables, and fish with fir-tree cones and sweet pickle. This course of meat was followed by one of peaches preserved in honey, after which there were fresh fruits, pears, pomegranates, coolie oranges, and mandarin oranges.
Then came fruits dried in honey, chestnuts, oranges, and crab-apples, with honey gold-cake. There were side dishes of water chestnuts and fresh thorn-apples, when the dinner took a serious turn, and we had bird's-nest soup and roast duck. This was followed by mushrooms and