Page:Inside Canton.djvu/228

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INSIDE CANTON.

Alas! "these imperfect verses," as the poetical mandarin calls them, resemble all the verses hatched for ages in the Flowery Land—those of the master as well as those of the pupil: they all reproduce, without intermission, the same images and the same thoughts. Poets and prose-writers in China have only one idea—that of servilely copying the models which their classic orthodoxy holds out for their imitation as perfect. In their judgment, originality would be a fault. This literary system, weighing continually upon all education, has produced the most deplorable results. Under the guidance of the sien-seng minds lose their individuality; they become materialised, and resemble machines which always execute the same round of motions, and throw off uniformly the same results. Let us learn from this that the exaggeration of even the best of human feelings has its dangers; too much respect for ancient forms begets monotony; literary conservatism may be carried to excess.

I have endeavoured, in this brief sketch, to give the reader an idea of the capital of the two Kuangs, and to familiarise him with Canton in its different phases. This is a work not yet attempted in our country. I hope I have been successful, so far as the difficulties of the task permitted. I have not said anything in this attempt of the country houses of the mandarins, of Chinese festivals, of their restaurants, of their pagodas, or of their theatres; but the omissions are intentional. For the last thirty