Page:Inside Canton.djvu/151

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an exchange or purchase; in a word, all the professions contributing to the pleasures and the wants of a great concourse of men, are here in boats, pushing, jostling, elbowing one another: it is, as it were, a regatta of petty commerce and trade! And yet from this struggle at one point, from so many different interests and from so many rivalries, no disorder, no dispute, no quarrel ever arises! The politeness so extolled by the philosophers of the Celestial Empire, has rendered the people the gentlest, and most obliging nation in the universe. The Chinese assist and never attempt to injure each other.

The population which is born, which lives, and which dies upon the river, is not so illiterate as might be imagined. All professions are represented on the Tchou-kiang, even that of the schoolmaster! It is no rare thing to meet tanka-girls who can read and write. I first heard this fact asserted by my friend Rondot, whose assertion, however, was not successful in convincing me. But some days afterwards, our worthy commercial delegate came to my lodgings, accompanied by his confidential agent, old A-Tchoun, a great Chinese original, whose profile I should certainly sketch, if I had time to tell everything. The old interpreter held in his hand a small pamphlet, one of those Chinese books which would put to the blush for cheapness our novels at four sous. He saluted me respectfully, and said in Portuguese:—