Page:Inside Canton.djvu/114

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113
INSIDE CANTON.

lain. At the risk of fatiguing the reader by a too minute examination, I will endeavour to give an idea of the graceful fantasies and charming inutilities in which Chinese artists have from time immemorial luxuriated. This sketch will give a better idea of the scope of the civilisation of the Celestial Empire than any other details. In my opinion, the value which the enlightened classes of a nation attach to luxurious delicacies, to costly rarities, fixes the hierarchic rank they should occupy in the world. The rajahs of Malasia and the pachas of the Ottoman Empire possess, it is true, in the shape of sparkling gems and magnificent tissues, objects of great price; but they are incapable of appreciating the thousand little nothings which Westerns and the Chinese will pay for with their weight in gold.

The children of the Empire of Flowers are very profuse, in their poetry, with cascades of precious stones, rivulets of pearls, and rivers of metallic waters. In this literature, derived from the vocabulary of a jeweller, there is a mineral, the name of which is constantly recurring, both in the essays of the pupil and the works of the master. The name of this stone is, with the Chinese, "yiu;" we barbarians call it "jade;" and the learned of the West, more barbarous still, designate it by the name of double silicate, of alum, and magnesia. In all ages, the men of letters of the Academy of the