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Vol. I.-SEPTEMBER, 1832.—No. 5.
ENCYCLOPÆDIA AMERICANA. A popular dictionary
of arts, sciences, literature, history, politics and biography, brought down to the present time; including a copious collection of original articles in American biography; on the basis of the seventh edition of the German Conversations-leci
Edited by FRANCIS LIEBER, assisted by E. WIGGLESWORTH. Philadelphia; Carey and Lea, 1830.
The article on Canton is the only part of this “popular dictionary," which we wish now particularly to notice. Few, if any works are so often referred to, or allowed to maintain such high authority, as encyclopædias. Written, as they usually are, by men of the greatest reputation for learning, --and embracing every variety of subject, they have, indeed, a very just claim to the rank they hold. It becomes the more exceedingly desirable, therefore, that such works should be kept free from incorrect statements; which, when they have once found a place on their pages, are not, usually, soon corrected, and are often the means of great injury. These remarks are applicable to every species of writing, but specially to those of the popular kind, such as tlie conversations-lexicon, travels, journals,
The editor of the Encyclopædia Americana, in perfect accordance with the spirit of the times, takes care to show, that his work is a little superior to anything of the kind that has ever been presented to the public, and that it will be "found satisfactory" where others have been "very deficient.” We have no digposition to question these pretensions, nor to practice
cut-and-dry system” of reviewing; nor yet to obtrude our own opinions and statements of facts, except where we can correct error, or add our mite to the general stock of useful knowledge.
“The last half century, particularly the latter part of it," Mr. Lieber very justly remarki, in his preface, “has probably been more fertile in memorable events, and important discoveries and inventions, than any equal period in history. How many extraordinary changes have we witnessed in both hemispheres, as well in politics, in the sciences and in opinions, as in the individuals who have borne a conspicuous part in the affairs of the civilized world during that time! How important have been the results of the numberless voyages of discovery, the revolutions of states, and the wars, which have excited so intense an interest during that period—an interest which has been the more constantly kept up, as the facility of communication between all the branches of the great human family seems, at the same time, to have gone on increasing in proportion to the multitude of events and circumstances which have thus influenced their destiny. Formerly, years would elapse before the most important facts could pass the barriers which an imperfect navigation of the ocean, or or a diversity of languages, had thrown between nations. Now, even the petty quarrels and frolics of students in a German or French university find their way, in the course of a few weeks, into the columns of an American newspaper. Then, a century would pass by, before even a Shakspeare was justly estimated beyond the contines of his native land ; while
now we daily find, on title pages, the united names
But the last half century, it should be remembered,
Nor is this all;-more correct accounts must be sent abroad, more just views entertained, and a deeper interest felt by Christian philanthropists, generally, before the desired changes can take place. What has caused the abolition of suttees in British India! What is now sweeping away other ancient usages, abhorrent alike to God and man? A wider and more general extension of knowledge, especially of that which has come down to us by divine revelation, will instrumentally accomplish what no physical force can achieve; and it may be relied on, when that knowledge shall have spread, like a flood of light over this hemisphere, changes will come in as bright and glorious a train, here, as in any other part of the globe.
We will only add, before proceeding to review the article in question, that we think the work in which it stands is fully equal to any of the class to which it belongs, and that the article itself is a fair specimen of what has been published by moderu writers on China : we speak of course, generally, and allow that there may be exceptions. As the article is brief, we quote it entire, that our readers may judge of it for themselves,
“Canton, principal city of the Chinese province of the same pame, otherwise called Quang-tong, or Koanton, is situated in 23 deg. 30 min. N. lat. and 113 deg. 2 min. 45 sec. E. lon., on the banks of the river Taho, which is here very wide. This city, distinguished for size, wealth, and a numerous population, is the only seaport in China open to the ships of Europe and America. I'he estimate of missionaries, that it contains 1,000,000 of inhabitants, is exaggerated. The number is probably nearer 750,000. The circuit of the walls, which are of a moderate height, is over nine miles. Only about a third part, however, of the space inclosed is covered with buildings; the rest is occupied with pleasure-gardens and fish-ponds. The neighboring country is very charming, hilly towards the east, and presenting, in that quarter, a beautiful prospect. The houses are mostly of one story; but those of the mandarins and prin. cipal merchants are high and well built. In every quarter of the town and the suburbs are seen temples and pagodas, containing the images of Chinese gods. The populous streets are long and narrow, paved with flat stones, and adorned at intervals with triumphal arches. Shops line the sides, and an unbroken range of piazza protects the occupants of the houses, as well as foot-passengers, from the rays of the sun.
At night, the gates are closed, and bars are thrown across the entrances of the streets.
“The traders express themselves with sufficient fluency in the languages of their European and American customers, with whom they deal almost exclusively, selling them porcelain, lackered wares, &c. The Americans trade here to a greater extent than any other nation: next to them come the English. The greater part of the silver, which is carried from America to Europe, eventually circulates through China, by means of the ports of Canton and Batavia, to which large supplies of the productions of the empire are transmitted. The principal articles of export are tea, India ink, varnish, porcelain, rhubarb, silk, and nankeen. A company, consisting of 12 or 13 merchants, called the Cohong, is established here, by order of the government, for the purpose of purchasing the cargoes of foreign ships, and supplying them with return cargoes of tea, raw silk, &c. This society interferes, undoubtedly, with private trade, but adds greatly to the security of the foreign dealer, as each member is answerable for all the rest.
Carriages are not used here, but all burdens are transported on bamboo poles laid across the shoulders of men. All the inhabitants of distinction make use of litters. Chinese women are never seen in the streets, and Tartar women but seldom. The European factories, to wit, the Dutch, French, Swedish, Danish and English, are situated on a commodious quay, on the bank of the river. Nearly a league from Canton is the boat-town, which consists of about 40,000 barks, of various kinds, arranged close to each other in regular rows, with pas
sages between them, to allow other vessels to pass. In this
“The following table gives the amount of imports from Can-
« The climate of Canton is healthy, warm in summer, but pretty cold in winter. Provisions, including various luxuries, are abundant."
To an individual perfectly ignorant of Canton, this account might be “found satisfactory;" but any one at all familiar with the place, might be reminded by it of the pictures of the cow and the horse,to which the master, when he had completed them, found it necessary to add, “this is the cow, and “this is the horse.' For if, by some accident, the name and figures which mark the situation of the place should be obliterated from the account, it would be difficult, not to say impossible, to recognize the city from the above quoted description,almost every sentence of which is more or less erroneous.
In the first place it is stated, that “the city is situated on the banks of the river Taho, which is here very wide.”—The river here is not called Taho (great river), but Choo keäng, or “Pearl river;” nor does it much, if at all exceed fifty rods in width,