An Historical, Geographical, and Philosophical View of the Chinese Empire. 2
On the morning of the 11th we approached the city Tyen-Sing. The banks
of the river here presented fields of millet and rice, and the number of
spectators that, met us, both in vessels and by land, was as great as
before. For nearly two miles we observed a range of salt heaps, disposed
in columns, and covered with matting; but whether manufactured on the
spot, or for what purpose such a prodigious quantity was collected, we
were not able to ascertain.
The noise and shouts of an innumerable multitude of people attended our
entrance into the city, which is a very populous and extensive place.
The houses are built of brick, and are in general two stories high,
covered with tiles; but the want of regularity offends the eye; and the
streets are so uncommonly narrow, that not more than two persons can
walk a breast.
Soon after our arrival, the Ambassador, who was received with military
honours, went in full form to visit the chief mandarin. His palace is in
the centre of a garden; it is large and lofty, palisadoed in front, gilt
and painted in a very fanciful form. Even the external walls are
decorated with paintings; and the roof is coated with that bright yellow
varnish we have often noticed. Here the ambassador and suite partook of
a cold collation, at which all the dainties of the country were
collected, particularly confectionary.
A play was also performed as a mark of respect and attention to Lord
Macartney. The theatre is a square building, built principally of wood,
and erected in the front of the mandarin’s palace. The stage is
surrounded with galleries; and the whole was decorated with a profusion
of ribands, and silken streamers of various colours. The theatrical
exhibitions consisted chiefly of representations of imaginary battles,
with swords, spears, and lances; in which the performers acquitted
themselves with an astonishing activity. The scenes were beautifully
gilt and painted, and the dresses of the actors were ornamented in
conformity to the scenery. The exhibition was varied with an agreeable
variety of very curious deceptions by flight of hand, theatrical
machinery, and that species of agility which we call tumbling; wherein
the performers executed their parts with superior address and activity.
A band of music, confining of wind instruments, enlivened the scene. The
novelty of which pleased the eye, rather than delighted the ear. The
female characters were performed by eunuchs, for the delicacy of the
Chinese would be shocked at the public exhibition of their women.