Page:Inside Canton.djvu/182

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181
INSIDE CANTON.

"sighing" willows (as they are called in China), and the variously-shaped garden-plots are crowded with azaleas, chrysanthemums, and peonies. Hither comes the chief wife of the mandarin to take her walks, sheltered from the sun, and attended hy twelve companions. It has been pretended that Pan-se-Chen has a house for every one of his wives, but nothing is more incorrect; wives of the second class, the "tisé," being in reality servants, living in the same house with the wife, and under her authority.

One must have penetrated into this house, or rather have almost lived in it, to comprehend what constitutes luxury and elegance in Chinese domestic life. I went over every section of this mansion, visited every room, from the private cabinet of the master, to the interior apartment of the legitimate wife. The old household gods no doubt trembled with indignation at my presumption, and I was particularly struck with the magnificence of the furniture, the splendour of the decorations, and—the niggardly provision for comfort! The little chamber of Madame Pan-se-Chen, for instance, is an admirable boudoir—sofas, chairs, toilet-tables, and the rest being made of beautiful wood, chiselled with infinite art—but her bed, lying underneath a network of gauze, is fitter for a nun's penance than to rest the soft limbs of a delicate lady. A few strips of bamboo in a nankin palliasse serve for a mattress, and the