Xiamen Harbor, China about 1870 by John Thomson (1837 – 1921) Scottish photographer

xiamen-about-1870

AMOY (XIAMEN) HARBOUR, CHINA.

THE little island of Amoy nestles close to the coast at the southern extremity of the Fukien Province of the Chinese empire. The native name of the island is ” Hia-mun,” and it forms one of a group of many such islets that stud the coast of Fukien.

Historically, this part of the province has a deep interest attached to it, in so far, at least, as European intercourse is concerned. If not the earliest, it was one of the first ports resorted to by European traders—a fact which may be gathered by an inspection of the ancient foreign gravestones bearing Latin inscriptions that are still to be found on the hills of Amoy, Kulangsu, and the adjacent islands. It was here, too, that Koksinga, the celebrated Chinese sea-king, is reported to have assembled his fleet, with which he crossed to Formosa, and in 1661 succeeded in expelling the Dutch from that island. The hardy islanders of Amoy, after the conquest of China by the Manchus, or Tartars, were the last to succumb to the foreign yoke, and, indeed, even to this day the Amoy men wear a dark turban to conceal the badge of disgrace, the tonsure and queue imposed upon the Chinese by their Manchu conquerors.

The harbour of Amoy is one of the safest and most accessible to be found along the coast of China, nor does its position lack picturesqueness, as it is guarded by an array of bold granite rocks, upon which the natives look with awe and reverence, while the hills around present a multitude of gigantic granite boulders, wearing the most grotesque shapes, and perched in strange disorder on their summits. These have been gradually left bare and exposed by the silent power of disintegration, which has been going on for ages. These rocks, many of them, are now shaded by the graceful bamboo or the wide-spreading branches of the banyan, while temples and shrines have been reared beneath them, and consecrated to the local guardians of the Buddhist faith.

One of the strangest and, to the traveller, most unaccountable objects to be encountered on those granite rocks, are rows of earthenware jars filled with human remains, and each one carefully labelled. These are the bodies of the poor, which are set there by their mourning relatives to await happier times, when the needy survivors, by some unexpected turn of fortune, shall be enabled to purchase for their beloved kinsmen the sacred mortuary rites, and consign their bodies to some peaceful resting-place.

JOHN THOMSON, F. R. G. S. (Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society)

(From Treasure spots of the world: a selection of the chief beauties and wonders of nature and art, 1875)

 

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