Page:Inside Canton.djvu/129

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known that mineral substances of the same nature, reduced to a paste by means of a liquid, have a tendency to settle in lumps on the same spot before they have been fixed by baking. This is caused either by the attractive properties of the atoms, or simply by their obeying the laws of gravitation; and the Chinese have not found a way of preventing this. We paid but little attention to this coarse enamel. We unanimously agreed that this art, almost peculiar to the workmen of the Celestial Empire, will first be usefully applied when it replaces tin in our kitchen utensils. This mineral layer, interposed between the copper and the food, would at least guarantee our intestines from the fatal verdigris, which is guilty of sporadic cholera oftener than we think. Yet it seems that formerly, in China, the enamellers were real artists. All Paris has admired the antique vases which M. de Montigny, the consul at Shanghai, brought back from his travels; but like many other things in this world, on becoming popular and mixed up with the coarse habits of life, enamelled copper has lost its delicacy and distinction.

I will not detain my readers any longer at old Talkee-True's. Further on, I will make them acquainted with other artistic and industrial curiosities in the Empire of Flowers, but I shall communicate to them these wonders of Chinese art gradually, as I discovered them myself.