The New Student's Reference Work/Canton (China)

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Can′ton, called also Yang-Ching, "the city of rams," a large city in the south of China and capital of the province of Kwang-Tung, lies on the bank of the Shu-Kiang or Pearl River. The city is surrounded by walls from twenty-five to forty feet high, twenty feet thick and six miles around. A wall running east and west divides it into the old and the new city. There are many gates shut and guarded by night, named Peace Gate, Eternal Rest Gate, etc. Across the river are the hongs or European quarter, separated from the river by a quay, 100 yards wide. There are more than 600 streets, generally less than eight feet wide and very crooked. Ancient barricades inclose each street, and in the principal streets night watchmen in watchtowers, proclaim the hours and sound fire-alarms. Property is so insecure that every shop which contains anything valuable must be barricaded at dusk, so that it can stand a siege, and all business must cease at sunset. There are two pagodas, one erected ten centuries ago, the other over thirteen centuries ago, and nearly 150 other temples or joss-houses. One of the largest temples covers with its grounds seven acres and has 175 priests attached, and the temple of "Filial Duty" has 200 priests. The priests and nuns together in Canton number over 2,000, most of them being Buddhists. The "Temple of Five Hundred Genii" has 500 statues in honor of the Buddha and his disciples. Examination Hall covers sixteen acres, and has 8,653 cells. Nearly half the craft on the river are utilized as fixed residences, with a floating population estimated at 200,000. Tea, silk, sugar and cassia are the chief articles of export, and the chief imports are cotton, wool, metal goods, food stuffs, opium, kerosene, etc. Over 3,000 ships enter and clear the port yearly. Canton has long been a favorite port with foreign merchants. Its earliest annals date back to 200 B. C. In 700 A. D., a regular market was opened and a collector of customs appointed, and 200 years later the Arabs made regular voyages thither. The Portuguese found their way to it in the 16th century, and the Dutch 100 years later. These in turn were overtaken and overthrown by the English before the close of the 17th century, and an immense trade was carried on by the agents of the East India Company. The city was captured by French and English forces in 1857, and was garrisoned by them until 1861. The exports of Canton (chiefly of tea, silk and sugar) were valued in 1905 at 37 million taels. (The tael is about $1.40.) Estimated population, about one million.

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