An Authentic Account of the Embassy of the Dutch East-India Company. 3
We passed through several streets well paved, but narrow, and full of
shops of little consequence. Curiosity had every where assembled
prodigious crowds, and if care had not been taken to plant centinels at
the top of the cross streets, we most assuredly should not have reached
the place of our destination. We were desired to alight at a house near
the place they were pleased to call the Imperial court. About a quarter
of an hour afterwards a messenger was sent to conduct us to that
edifice, before which the troops were drawn up in a fine. We were
immediately conducted to the hall containing his Imperial Majesty’s
chap, opposite which we performed the usual ceremony of prostration. We
then paid our respects to the On-tcha-tsu and governor of the town. (The
Fou-yuen, who generally resides here, is absent.) They told us that the
Emperor had been very well satisfied with our Embassy, and found us
persons of so much sincerity, that he had given orders to prepare an
entertainment for us, to make us presents, and to treat us with all
possible respect; orders with which they were very happy to comply.
The Mandarins then begged us to seat ourselves upon cushions to see a
play acted, which was immediately ordered to begin. Scarcely had we set
down, when a little table was set before each of us, covered with fruits
and delicacies of all forts. These were afterwards removed to make room
for dishes of hot meat, dressed in the Chinese manner, which we did not
touch, because our cooks were preparing us a repast.
The actors were dressed as magnificently as any we had seen, and played
extempore, merely to amuse us, and without any settled plan. It was past
twelve when we rose in order to take our dinner in another apartment.
The On-tcha-fu had retired, but the Governor came and joined us. His
Excellency begged him, through the medium of our Interpreter, to favour
us with a sight of the public buildings, and whatever other curiosities
the city might contain. He answered that there was little worth seeing,
but that he would comply with our request as soon as we should have
dined. It is a custom among the Chinese, as well as the other nations of
the East, to depreciate every thing belonging to themselves, and to
speak of it as some thing very common, at the same time that they lavish
undeserved praise upon all that is shewn them by foreigners. We had
heard so much said of Sou-tcheou-fou, which is a place of great
celebrity, that we considered the Governor’s answer as mere words of
course, and during the whole of our repast were taken up with nothing
but the idea of the interesting things we were about to see. Our dinner
being over, we seated ourselves again in our palanquins.
After having passed through several streets of the city, we were carried
a great way off to a small convent and a pagoda, with a garden belonging
to it, in which a mount has been thrown up, in imitation of a rock. The
temple dedicated to the goddess Coun-yam was little deserving of our
attention, and all the rest was not worth the trouble of looking at.
Half an hour was more than sufficient to examine this beautiful edifice.
We were afterwards requested to take tea; but we thanked the bonzes for
their obliging offer, telling them that it was our intention to visit
some other curiosities.