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New to Wikisource November 2007. Based in Bangkok. First language - English. --Steve 14:13, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Notes on The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)[edit]

This was Kipling’s first published story, written at the age of 18 while working for The Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore. The Gazette printed The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows on 26 September 1884. Four years later, it appeared in the collected Plain Tales from the Hills, also printed in India. There are no line numbers in the online text, so headwords are given in order of appearance.


a small copper coin – a quarter of an anna – from the Sanskrit paisa Until the 1950s in India and Pakistan (and before 1947 in British India), the paisa was equivalent to 3 pies, 1/4 of an anna, or 1⁄64 of a rupee. Beggars implored a dole of pice – meaning small change. The epigraph hints that the story will be about opium; though a pipe of opium probably cost more than a few pice. Opium smoking was associated with vice, but Victorian doctors readily prescribed laudanum, or tincture of opium, for all manner of complaints and anxieties. Kipling took opium for stomach pains; Europeans lived with permanently irritated bowels and dosed themselves with quinine against malaria - which, until 1898, was believed to be literally 'bad air.'

This is no work of mine ... Gabral Misquitta, the half-caste, spoke these words …

Kipling suggests that he wrote down the story from dictation and was not a participant in the world of opium dens but merely an observer. The true narrator is a half-caste whose name is a mixture of Urdu (Gabral = Arabic Jibreel = English Gabriel) and possibly Portuguese. Misquitta may mean miscegenated, which reinforces the sense of a half-breed or mongrel. Kipling’s world was full of racial stereotypes who behaved in a manner according to the purity of their blood - as, presumably, they might equally be obliged to act according to their astrological signs? Mixed blood was bad blood. This 19th century world view justified colonialism by making it the duty of superior races to save the lesser breeds from themselves.

the Mosque of Wazir Khan

This is in Lahore where Kipling was working at the time of publication. Lahore is now the second largest city in Pakistan, after Karachi, and capital of the Punjab. Pakistan and Bangladesh (originally East Pakistan) were created after the partition of India in 1947.

the Gully of the Black Smoke

Here, Kipling means ‘opium alley’ and introduces the refrain of the story – black smoke.

a loaded donkey

The animal would have panniers or bags hanging at its sides and so would be wider than usual.


A cheap alcoholic drink distilled from fermented sugar-cane. A more modern spelling of bazar is bazaar: Kipling would have pronounced it with a long vowel and stress on the second syllable. It is a common word for a market in many languages and was originally Persian.


A colonial word that entered English from Hindi ‘pakka.’ It meant ‘the genuine article,’ the real thing, proper and permanent and of good class or quality. Kipling’s racial views were common in the late 19th century; they are the reason the author fell out of fashion and favour in the latter 20th century. For example, he used the word ‘nigger’ to mean anyone who did not have white, European skin. ‘To go native’ was probably the ultimate racial horror of decline and fall: “Nothing grows on you so much, if you’re white, as the Black Smoke.”


The equivalent of ‘madam’ – the respectful term of address for a white colonial woman, usually the wife of a British officer or colonial official; here, Kipling uses the word ironically as ‘lady’ when he means she is not pukka.


Chandoo is an extract or preparation of opium for smoking; khana is old Persian for a house, room or receptacle etc. It can also mean a tea-house or an inn.

touched by the Smoke

This means affected by opium and a similar phrase is ‘touched by the sun.’ A belief of the time was that white men could not endure the sun. To go out in broad day without a solar topee or pith helmet invited madness.

gone back to China

The Chinese would have the bodies of their dead shipped home for burial.


An image that represented a protective household spirit. The word is from the Portuguese Deos (God) via the pidgin dialect of the Portuguese ports. Europeans may have thought this to be Chinese. It is confused with the incense sticks, burnt in front of the image, that are called joss sticks. The Joss was not a god but the embodiment of a genius loci or the Latin lares et penates. Europeans would have referred to it as an idol.


Joss sticks or incense were familiar to Kipling’s colonial audience but would have sounded exotic and pagan in Europe. Hindus and Buddhists burn joss sticks in great quantities.

coffin “… whenever a new man came to the Gate he was always introduced to it.”

It is a memento mori. It is lacquered black. It is a fixture among the evanescent black smoke.

 “Fung-Tching never told us why he called the place ‘The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows.’”

To Fung-Tching, the name needed no explanation: it is a warning. The Gate is not a place of entertainment, it is an antechamber of Hell. The black smoke is the solace of the chandoo-khana’s clientele who are fallen and lost souls. The coffin is the consolation of the chandoo-khana’s owner.


Capital city of the Mughal emperors from 1526 to 1658, location of the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated on the Yamuna River in Uttar Pradesh, Northern India.


Bengali clerks


The unit of Indian currency. Gabral Misquitta receives a remittance of 60 rupees a month, which allows him to live in The Gate.


A quarter of Lahore below the city wall.


McIntosh Jellaludin who appears in the story To be Filed for Reference in Plain Tales from the Hills.


A person of mixed parentage – often a European father and an Indian mother – also called a ‘chi-chi.’ Again, this is a racially derogatory term.


Now called Chennai - a major industrial port in southern India, capital of Tamil Nadu, on the Bay of Bengal. In Kipling’s day it was the capital of the Madras Presidency.

three hundred and fifty rupees a month and pickings

A good income at the time. ‘Pickings’ is a slang term similar to ‘perks’ meaning perquisites or tips and bonuses and customary fees or peculiars (small bribes or tea money).


Now called Kolkata - the seat of government of British India from 1773 to 1912.

The Temple of the Three Possessions

Tsin-ling, the new owner, renamed The Gate after his uncle died. The Three Possessions may be the remaining captive audience – Gabral, the Eurasian, and the Memsahib. Originally there were ten people in the khana. This might be Kipling’s joke on the old nursery rhyme Ten little nigger boys went out to dine ...


Rather than husks of rice, it could be the bran-like poppy-trash which was used to pack the cakes of opium. (Opium coming from the latex of the poppy not from the seeds). It represents adulteration and degradation. The joss sticks are mixed with glue to make them burn more slowly and save money. The chandoo is mixed with bran for the same reason. Tsin-ling lets in niggers these days. “I wish Tsin-ling wouldn’t put bran into the Black Smoke.”

The coffin is gone ... with the old man and two ounces of Smoke inside it

The coffin, with the body of Fung–Tching, has been shipped back to China. An ounce was a British Imperial measure of weight, there being 16 ounces (oz) to the pound (lb). 2 ounces is a weight between 56 and 57 grams. The 2 ounces of opium were included in the coffin as grave goods. “... in case he (the old man) should want them on the way” is an example of Kipling’s humour.


In this context, 'best quality', indicated by the impression of a seal or brand. It may have come from the pidgin English dialect of the Chinese Treaty–ports via the Portuguese word chapa "a thin plate of metal”. The Chinese use of seals predates their invention of paper. A chop is a stamp.


Baubles, bangles and beads - rings of coloured glass worn on the wrist by women and applied to any such ornament worn on the ankle or leg. From the Hindi word bangri.

and watch the black and red dragons have their last big fight

This reflects the old expression ‘a pipe dream.’ The black and the red dragons represent a struggle for racial purity. The story is an illustration and a vindication of the author’s own sense of racial superiority.

ends --Steve 14:44, 28 November 2007 (UTC)