Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/125

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87
THE CHIEN-CH'ANG

north, and from this time on, we found the village population everywhere chiefly occupied as carrier coolies.

Our first day from Li-chou was a short stage, and we had a long, leisurely tiffin at Sung-lin, where there was an exceptionally good inn. The proprietor was away, but his wife, who was in charge, seemed very competent and friendly, and took me into their private rooms, fairly clean and airy, and quite spacious. In one was a large, grave-shaped mound of cement-like substance. On inquiry I learned that it enclosed the coffin and body of the mother of the proprietor. She had been dead a year, but the body could not receive final burial until his return. The Chinese custom of keeping unburied their dead awaiting a propitious moment strikes one as most unpleasant and unwholesome, but the worst consequences are usually avoided by hermetically sealing the ponderous coffin. In Canton the House of the Dead is visited by all travellers. It is a great stretch of small buildings set in flower gardens, each room commanding a definite rent, and usually occupied by the waiting dead, whose fancied wants are meantime carefully supplied. The dead hand rests heavy on China. Not merely is much valuable land given over to graves, and the hills denuded of forest to make the five-inch coffin boards, but the daily order of life is often unduly sacrificed to the departed.