Page:Inside Canton.djvu/174

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173
INSIDE CANTON.

never perfectly resemble the types produced by the sublime imaginations of our painters!"

So much for Chinese appreciation of beauty! For these men, blasés as they are, it is not beauty which is beautiful; it is something extraordinary foreign, extravagant, fantastical. The faulty exaggeration of an object, far from repelling, attracts them. A well-rounded hump is in their eyes almost a gem of loveliness. This perversion of the taste disquiets the fancy, and sets them dreaming of impossibilities; under the continual influence of unnatural stimuli, the senses are deadened, and the exhausted being, even while he may yet be called young, has to rouse his benumbed faculties by the use of shameful devices, of the very existence of which Western nations are happily ignorant. This demoralisation is more common in China than is generally supposed, and makes frightful ravages among the population, having to some degree passed into a custom. At this present time, men of all ranks are unblushingly obscene. Pan-se-Chen unrolled before us, appearing to look at them solely as objects of artistic interest, a series of pictures executed upon white satin, compared with which the celebrated picture of Parrhasius, bequeathed to Tiberius, according to Suetonius, by a Roman senator, would have been almost decent. Some of these roller-paintings cost more than a hundred and twenty pounds; and many of them, of a high anti-