CHINA AND JAPAN
Arrival at Woosung -- At Shanghai -- More sufferings from Chinese pilots -- Chow-chow water -- Collision with a French ship -- Cholera and deaths on board -- Bearer of despatches sent with Japanese Treaty -- Visit to the Taou-tai -- Chinese collation -- Music -- Visit of the Taou-tai to the ship -- Departure for Woosung -- For Nagasaki -- Arrival at Nagasaki -- The Minnesota's arrival there with Minister Reed -- Donker Curtius, Dutch Minister -- Pic-nic to Mr. Reed -- Trip to the interior -- Japanese funeral -- Beautiful scenery -- Japanese honesty -- Long stay at Nagasaki -- Death of the Tycoon -- Temples -- Tea-houses -- Arrival of Baron Gros -- Russian frigate -- Return to Shanghai, or Woosung.
Fifty hours' steaming through a smooth sea in clear weather brought us to the old anchorage near Woosung, where we remained from the 18th to the 21st of August, awaiting the rising of the spring tide to enable the ship to cross the bar about a mile beyond, and ascend the river to Shanghai, her great draft of water rendering the passage over this bar, at ordinary tides, exceedingly difficult, not to say impracticable. Arriving off the city in charge of a Chinese pilot, we found the narrow river quite crowded with vessels, among which were seen several large and beautiful American clippers, and the only clear space remaining for our huge steamer was immediately opposite the point where the Whangpu river disembogues its muddy waters into the turbid Woosung, as it forms a considerable elbow just below the European part of the city. A perfect whirlpool is created by these interruptions to the ordinary course of the rapid tides, which here reach the velocity of five miles per hour at certain phases of the moon, and any vessel anchoring within the circuit of this ever-eddying and bubbling confluence, is said, in the expressive dialect of the country, to be "in the chow-chow water," that is, the eating water; and if it does not merit is name from any masticating process which it brings to bear upon the vessels that are so unfortunate as to anchor within it, yet the certainty of disaster in the shape of dragging into collision with other vessels in the vicinity, quite makes up for the absence of that power in the water itself. In this most dreaded and troublous spot, immediately over the "fifteen fathom hole," the stupid Chinese pilot, either through "malice prepense," or the most culpable ignorance, insisted upon dropping both the anchors, but even before the steam was blown off from the boilers, they were discovered to be but sportive toys in the mighty grasps of the whirling waves beneath, the shift drifting rapidly toward the vessels anchored below, in the smooth waters of the regular tide. Steam being up, the wheels were kept in motion with just sufficient force to enable her to keep her position, while the anchors were being weighed, and a terrible heave it was to get them up, for they both came together, the stocks lying side by side, and several fathoms of the chains wrapped around the anchors in such an intricate manner that we came to the conclusion the "Gordian knot" itself was but a child's puzzle in comparison with the horrible tangle we were expected to unravel. To make the matter worse, and as if all the river gods of the Chinese had conspired to punish us for our temerity in rushing so unceremoniously into their dominions, we no sooner succeeded in raising the two heavy anchors with the means ordinarily applied in lifting one, than a large French vessel, in endeavoring to pass the ship, was driven by the force of this "chow-chow water" -- broadside on -- directly across our bows, the mainmast of the Frenchman coming into contact with our jib-boom, and breaking it off with a terrible crash. It now became necessary to increase the power with which the wheels were revolving, in order to sustain the additional pressure of the tide against the broadside of the French vessel, and the resistance offered caused the ship to careen over so much that there appeared to be some danger of her being tripped up by the two contending forces, and swallowed entirely by the angry waves rushing madly and wildly around her. Both vessels were forced to remain in this position until the tide turned, some six hours afterwards, and then the unfortunate Frenchman was compelled to slip the anchor he had thoughtlessly dropped when he found the collision inevitable; and as this was done the vessel swung alongside of the Powhatan, doing some slight damage to her wheelhouse, but she was immediately forced away by the efforts of our crew -- to drift down with the tide to a favorable anchorage. Meanwhile, the Powhatan dropped down also with the stream, and was soon re-moored with the two sheet anchors. Four days of incessant labor were required to unravel the knotty entanglements of the cables around the bower anchors, and in the midst of this most harassing duty the cholera made its appearance among the crew, and carried off three valuable men within sixty hours. The labor would cease for a brief space while "all hands were called to bury the dead," and as soon as this solemn duty was concluded, the imperative and oppressive task would be resumed, every heart momentarily impressed with regret at the loss of a departed shipmate, and each mind filled with the anxious, though unspoken thought, "Whose turn will come next?"
The object of this visit to Shanghai, was to enable the Commodore to send a bearer of despatches to the United States, to convey to the State Department a copy of the important Treaty which had recently been concluded with the Japanese government; upon which duty Commodore Tattnall employed his secretary, Paulding Tattnall. This treaty was ratified in the last session of Congress; and it was to exchange its ratification at Washington, in conformity with one of its stipulations, that the Japanese Embassy came to the United States; Commodore Tattnall having voluntarily, and upon his own responsibility, as Commander-in-Chief of the naval forces in China and Japan, placed at their disposal, through Mr. Harris, one of the vessels under his command, to convey them to Panama or to Washington, as they might prefer.
A few days after our arrival at Shanghai, the Commodore expressed to the Taou-tai, or Governor of the city, through Mr. Glover, the acting consul, his desire to pay him an official visit; and all the preliminaries in the way of sedan-chairs, bearers, etc., having been arranged, we assembled at the Consulate at the appointed time, prepared to make this novel and interesting call. The Commodore had been compelled by indisposition to deny himself the pleasure; and the party consisted of Captain Pearson of the Powhatan, attended by five officers of the ship (of whom I was one), Mr. Glover, the acting consul, and his interpreter. The day was excessively warm, and we were buttoned up to the chin in all the "fuss and feathers" of full uniform; so that I must confess to something of a shudder when I was requested to take my seat in the highly decorated chair provided for my conveyance, especially when I was informed that at least three miles of the filthy lanes peculiar to the native city were to be traversed before reaching the Yamun, where the Governor resided. However, we had gone too far to retreat, and curiosity soon overcame all obstacles, real and imaginary, making willing victims even of those who had entertained the greatest aversion to the undertaking. Placing ourselves in the chairs in the order of our respective military rank, the party sallied forth from the Consulate at the appointed hour, each one borne by four sturdy Chinamen trained to this vocation with quite as much care and attention, as is generally bestowed on carriage-horses in our own country. They were all arrayed in blue frocks bound with red, and immense blue trousers, while their heads were protected from the blazing sun by straw hats, resembling an inverted bowl, and having a large red tassel dangling from the top.
Passing in procession through the city, the populace crowded the narrow streets in such a manner that it was not without difficulty we were borne through their compact masses; and the odors with which our suffering nostrils were assailed at every turn, made the most speedy locomotion an object of breathless anxiety. After a penance so severe in this respect, that had we been Catholics we should have felt assured that many a long score of sins was blotted out by its endurance, we reached the abode of the high functionary to whom we were indebted for the unwelcome tribute to our olfactories; on the threshold of which, another sense was assailed, and we were almost deafened by the shrill discord of what seemed to be a thousand flageolets, combined to destroy the sweet soul of music; something like the bagpipes, sending forth a wail occasionally, as if in agony at the murderous perpetration. In the midst of these distracting demonstrations of respect for the distinguished visitors who were entering the gates, three guns were fired as a salute to the Captain, being the usual number accorded even to the highest dignitaries in China.
The Taou-tai, or Governor, attended by three or four high Mandarins, received their guests at the entrance, and conducted them to large arm-chairs ranged on each side of the hall of reception, while the Governor and his Vice occupied similar seats at the upper end of this range; all the Chinese dignitaries clasping their own hands, and shaking them in the most cordial manner from the moment we entered until all parties were seated. A small table was placed beside each chair, on which was a cup of hot tea, without milk or sugar, and covered over to prevent the escape of the steam, or vapor arising therefrom. Conversation was immediately commenced through the Interpreter, consisting of numerous questions and answers relative to the geography, population, etc., of the United States -- the Mandarins evincing equal curiosity and ignorance on these school-boy topics.
This interesting prelude being brought to a judiciously speedy conclusion, we were conducted through a small court into a commodious dining-hall in the rear, where a table was spread with all the display of ornament, for which the Chinese are distinguished, although in this instance, there was an evident desire to gratify their peculiar taste at as small an expense as possible; the furniture of the table being by no means of a costly character. Fancy confectionery intermixed with flowers, filled sundry small stands distributed over the table, and as soon as we were seated, the army of grave domestics, who were awaiting our coming, and received us with affrighted aspect, made a sudden movement in solid phalanx toward a side door through which they vanished, but returned immediately, bearing small saucers which they placed before each of the guests, containing the much talked of "bird's-nest soup" -- a very slight taste of this seemed to be considered by our attendants sufficient for the "Barbarian" guests, and the little saucers were soon whisked away, and replaced by others of the same diminutive proportions, in the bottom of which appeared an infinitely small quantity of something so much resembling fiddle-strings, that I at once felt sure that I was partaking of the dish so highly prized by the Chinese -- shark's fin; then came in rapid succession such a variety of nice little abominations that it would be folly to attempt to describe them; and, indeed, we found it necessary at the time to think as little as possible of the nature of the viands placed before us, lest our failing appetite should refuse to sanction a polite compliance with the custom which requires that each course should be tasted in its turn. The Taou-tai seemed to be a jovial character, and to think that the best way of contributing to the enjoyment of his guests, was to press upon them a variety of strong drinks, most of which were entirely foreign to their palates, and to ply them constantly with champagne. I regarded this fact as conclusive evidence that he had been informed by some particular friend of Americans that they were a nation of tipplers, especially as he seemed to be greatly astonished at our temperance. Although the visit was extremely interesting, though it could scarcely be called agreeable in any other respect than as affording an opportunity of witnessing the style of living among the higher classes of Chinese officials.
The dress of the Governor resembled that of two other high Mandarins who were present on this occasion, and consisted of a long blue silk robe reaching to the ankles, having on the breast and back a square foot of black ground covered with gold embroidery, beautifully designed and executed. The head dress was the usual Mandarin hat, with a crystal ball (if my memory serves correctly) in the centre of the crown, from under which a peacock's feather extended down the back to the length of a foot, this being the essential ornament and insignia of high rank, civil and military, among these singular people, who toil for a life time, and spend thousands of dollars to acquire the right to wear a peacock's feather, and a ball of red, blue, yellow, or white glass, on the top of their heads; and yet strange and childish as this may appear, the custom is not without a parallel among the more highly educated and enlightened men of Europe, who prize a scrap of ribbon, or a silver star from their ruling powers, as an adequate reward for any amount of mental and physical labor. After spending an hour at the table in studying the science of gastronomy as practiced among the Celestials, and indulging, sotto voce, in humorous remarks on the bird's-nest soup, sharks' fins, stewed dog, and such like delicacies, which had been introduced for the first time to our palates, the party adjourned from the dining-hall to the front entrance, where we bade adieu to our hospitable entertainers, they shaking their own hands as before, and we being compelled to depart without the satisfaction of grasping a single "flipper" -- a serious disappointment to a thorough-bred Yankee. We returned in the same manner that we had come, and by dint of some little spurring, administered to our biped horses in the shape of "Spanish quarters," managed to reach the European settlements in much better time than we had made in going to the city, stopping at the hospitable mansion of Heard & Co., to imbibe a small portion of their excellent brandy by way of destroying the ill effects anticipated from the extraordinary mélange of which we had just partaken.
By previous appointment, the Governor, with a large suite, returned this visit on board the Powhatan, two days subsequently, where they were received with all the honors usually accorded to officials of high rank. The party were entertained with a collation in our style, by the Commodore, and inducted into the mysteries of the knife and fork exercise, at which they evidently required considerable drilling, although they managed to dispose of no small portion of the solids, and a larger quantity of the fluids provided. This terminated the visit, and our intercourse with the Mandarins; but we soon afterward learned that the Taou-tai, whose name was Sieh, had been appointed secretary to the Commissioners to confer with the foreign Ambassadors, relative to the regulation of the tariff agreed upon in the treaties concluded at Tientsin, in the month of June previous.
The prevalence of the cholera at Shanghai during this period, and the necessity for a short respite from the constant employment of the ship during the preceding ten months, made it desirable that she should be taken to some quiet anchorage, where the machinery particularly, and the ship generally, could be thoroughly overhauled and cleansed. The harbor of Nagasaki being admirably adapted to this purpose, the Commodore desired to sail for that place as soon as the bearer of despatches was prepared for his overland journey, and in pursuance of this idea, we left Shanghai on the 6th of September, and Woosung on the 8th, for our third visit to the beautiful bay of Nagasaki, which place we reached on the 10th, and anchored in the same secure and picturesque spot from whence we had first viewed this interesting city.
The Minnesota returned to Woosung from Nagasaki during our visit to Shanghai, for the purpose of receiving on board the Hon. Mr. Reed, and conveying him to Japan, his diplomatic engagements having prevented his departure from China at the time of the first visit of the ship to that country, and the health of the crew rendering it expedient that she should leave Woosung immediately. On the 20th of September, all hands on board the Powhatan were rejoiced to see this noble ship make her second appearance at Nagasaki, with the American minister to China on board, as indicated by the small ensign flying from the main trunk. The Dutch Commissioner, Donker Curtius, had been elevated to the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary, during our absence from Japan -- his government appreciating the necessity for investing his position with the same diplomatic rank which attached to the representatives of other foreign countries in Japan, and he received the first salute in honor of his new position from the battery of the Minnesota, when he called on board the day after her arrival, to pay his official respects to Mr. Reed.
A few days subsequently, Mr. Curtius arranged a delightful excursion into the interior, in compliment to our Minister, and invited the officers of both ships to join the party. So favorable and rare an opportunity of getting a peep at the mysterious interior which lay hidden beyond the beautiful hills surrounding this splendid bay, was not to be slighted; and there was not, of course, the least difficulty in finding guests among the officers for the pic-nic so kindly proffered, although, unfortunately, both Mr. Reed and the Commodore were compelled to decline on account of indisposition. All the arrangements being made, at 6 A.M. on the 27th, a party of thirty assembled at the Desima landing, equipped in walking trim, as it was understood that at least one half the number would necessarily be pedestrians, on account of a deficiency of norimons. I would observe, en passant, that these norimons are constructed and used in a manner similar to the sedan chair, with the exception that the occupant sits upon the floor, and the pole by which they are carried is placed lengthwise across the top, instead of having shafts at each end. These conveyances being appropriated to the elder and more dignified members of the party, the pedestrians took the lead in the order of march, and we passed along in gay humor and straggling procession, through the quiet streets of the city, to the charming valley in its rear; our appearance exciting the curious and smiling interest of the people, whom we met in great numbers, not only in the streets, but throughout the whole line of road over which we passed. After proceeding a mile or more beyond the limits of the city, along the roughly paved roads between the base of the hill on the left, and level rice-fields and vegetable gardens on the right, reached to the opposite hill-sides, we came to a little mountain stream, over which a substantial stone bridge afforded passage to two comfortable country-houses, built in the shadow of the rocky cliffs beyond. Their hospitable and genteel occupants received us with a cordial greeting, and insisted on our making a brief half in the shade of their spacious verandahs, while partaking of the brandy and claret so judiciously provided by our host of the pic-nic party; the short stoppage was particularly approved of by the bearers of the norimons, as it happened that they contained the heaviest men of the party in corporeal, as well as official weight. While here, I observed a procession consisting of about fifty persons, headed by two females in white robes, with cowls of the same material covering their heads, approaching a small graveyard which we had passed a few moments before; in the centre of the column a smooth white box, about three feet square, was borne on the shoulders of four men, by means of poles passing under its bottom; and learning from some of our Dutch companions that this was a Japanese funeral, I recrossed the bridge, and reached the cemetery just as the box was deposited near the small excavation which three stout laborers, in Nature's costume, (relieved by a narrow strip of cotton cloth around the loins,) were making in the hard ground for its reception. There was an air of nonchalance about the whole party, which divested the scene of any approach to the solemnity usual on such occasions, and as soon as the square yard of coffin, with its flaunting paper ornaments, had been removed from the shoulders of the "pall bearers," there was a general stampede of the mourners, each following the bent of his own inclination, without seeming to remember the sad occasion which had called them together. I walked up to the edge of the hole which the jolly-looking grave-diggers were making to receive the oddly-shaped coffin, and found they had already reached a depth of five feet, and were still digging away as if they were intent upon ascertaining, at least, how far Purgatory was from the surface of the earth, that they might afford their departed friend a reasonable chance of holding on their, instead of pursuing the downward course to a warmer region. As may be presumed, from the form of the coffin, the Japanese dead are buried in a sitting posture -- the males with their hands clasped in the attitude of devotion, and the females having them apart, with their faces turned as though looking over the left shoulder; but for what particular reason they are required to look "over the left," I could not ascertain. As I stood in this little road-side burial-ground, I remarked the neatness and simplicity, as well as the uniform character of the grave-stones erected over every spot where the remains of the departed had been laid. A square block of granite was imbedded in the earth, and upon the upper end was placed a small shaft of the same material, about three feet high, having sculptured upon it the name, etc., of the deceased. At the base of this were two small stone vases for the reception of bouquets of flowers, which are periodically renewed by surviving friends. Seeing, now, that my pic-nic companions were about to resume their journey, I hastened to rejoin them, and mingling again with the gay and cheerful living, I left "the dead to bury their dead."
With unflagging interest, and, so far, unwearied limbs, we pursued our winding course up the steep and rocky ascent of the hill, on the northern side of the smiling valley we had just left, the scenery along the entire route being beautiful beyond description; a bold and picturesque mountain-spur stretching occasionally to the centre of the highly-cultivated valleys, and the graceful undulations of the terraced hill-sides, whose summits were crowned with the dark-green foliage of the camphor and other majestic trees, lending a pleasing variety to the otherwise broken character of the country. An occasional farm-house, surrounded by domestic animals and industrious peasantry, gave animation to the view; and the numerous pedestrians we encountered on the road, greeted us with a never-failing smile, as they gazed in wonder upon the novel, and, perhaps, unprecedented procession of foreigners so far inland. At about 9 A.M., we arrived at the small fishing-village of Aba, situated on the splendid bay of Simabarra, and distant seven miles from Nagasaki. Here we were welcomed by the entire population, who turned out en masse to witness this extraordinary irruption of "outside barbarians," who strode as boldly into their defenceless hamlet as if they were "lords of the soil." A snug little house had been prepared for our reception, and we found a substantial breakfast awaiting us, of which all partook with the sharp appetite produced by the exercise we had taken, and the exhilarating atmosphere of the cool September morning. After the meal was concluded, we indulged in a refreshing lounge upon the soft matting, and the enjoyment of a mild manila, during which time four large boats were prepared for our embarkation, to continue the journey toward the village of Mogee, also on the bay shore of Simabarra, and some three miles nearer by land to Nagasaki. The American flag was displayed at the end of a pole erected in the stern of two of the boats, and the Dutch flag designated the two in which our host and some of his countrymen were conveyed. We got fairly under way again at eleven o'clock, and the water being smooth and the weather cool, the aquatic part of the excursion would have been extremely pleasant under much less novel and interesting circumstances, for it really seemed as if the elements had all combined to make the day one of the brightest eras of our eventful cruise.
The scenery along the coast was varied with hills and bluffs, and cultivated valleys -- the various shades of green on the terraced hills, which sloped gradually upward to the height of a thousand feet, presenting the appearance of cut velvet -- the trees, interspersed among the patches of cultivated ground, serving as sprigs to ornament the texture. In the midst of this lovely scene, a rocky promontory, crowned with a luxuriant growth of beautifully-shaped trees, would here and there raise its giant head perpendicularly from the clear, green water, seeming like grim sentinels, posted to protect the smiling fields beyond. Soon after leaving Aba, the boats approached a point of land on the right, immediately abreast of which, a small rock, about twenty feet square, rose abruptly from the wall, at the distance of fifty or sixty yards. One of the party discovered a human profile in the outlines of this rock, which he at once proclaimed to the others in the same boat, as bearing a strong resemblance to Captain N---n, of the steam-frigate Mississippi, with whom all were acquainted. The likeness was exceedingly striking, and continued so until we came quite up between the rock and the point of land, presenting one of the most extraordinary freaks of nature ever witnessed by any of us. In corroboration of the correctness of our judgment in the case, it may be remarked that the same peculiarity of outline, observed in this rock by those in our boat, was simultaneously noticed by all the others.
Two hours' sculling brought us to the village of Mogee, which we found to be a place of much larger pretension than Aba, there being a large and handsome residence here for the Japanese official of the rank of Burgo-master, who had the government of the town. After spending an hour or two lounging through the place, and around the handsome grounds attached to this residence, we were all seated at a large table to partake of a sumptuous repast, at which the usual number of patriotic and sentimental toasts were drank with somewhat more than usual gusto, and a few impromptu speeches made -- keeping up the convivialities until sunset, when the return across the hills was commenced with unabated spirit, and terminated at about seven P.M., without a disagreeable incident to mar the pleasures of the day. Before leaving this subject, I must not omit to mention, as a remarkable instance of the scrupulous honesty which prevails among even the lowest order of Japanese, that one of the party, during the excursion, accidently dropped a valuable note-book in the boat coming from Aba to Mogee, and the following day, when he went on shore at Nagasaki, his book, with all its contents, including a considerable sum of money, was handed to him by one of the Dutch officers, who said it had been brought from Mogee by one of t he boatmen, by whom it had been found after the party left.
On the 7th of October, the Minnesota sailed for Shanghai, and as she was steaming away from the land the Mississippi came down from the northern port of Hakodadi, and met her off the western end of the island of Kiu-siu. The captain of the latter vessel having learned from a Yankee whaler touching at Hakodadi, that there was a probability of collision between the British and American forces on the island of San Juan, and being prevented by the haze of the morning from discerning the colors of the formidable looking steam-frigate approaching him, determined not to be "caught napping" by this suspected representative of John Bull's power, accordingly, he "beat to quarters," and prepared his ship for action, closely watching the movements of the suspicious stranger until the "stars and stripes" became visible at her peak, when the drums beat the retreat, the warlike elements on board the Mississippi quietly subsided into a more pacific frame, and the ship pursued the "even tenor of her way" to the anchorage in Nagasaki harbor.
We remained longer at anchor in this interesting place than in any other we had visited during the cruise, and during the period of our stay, every suitable opportunity was embraced for drilling the crew in their various exercises, and contributing to the efficiency of the ship as a man-of-war, the active service she had been required to perform hitherto, having precluded the possibility of devoting that degree of attention to a portion of those exercises which was universally desired among the officers. The routine of duties, however, did not interfere with the periodical recreation to which custom entitles even the subjects of naval discipline, nor were our exploring visits to the Bazaars altogether abandoned, the sunset boats usually returning to the ships with an undiminished supply of boxes, the dimensions of which, however, were much less than those purchased during our first visit to the place, the condition of the individual exchequer rendering necessary a considerable reduction in the value and number of articles selected.
The official announcement during this visit to Nagasaki, of the death of the Tycoon, caused a great sensation among the native population. There was no national mourning, it appeared, required on the occasion, but all business operations were ordered to be suspended for several days. This event had occurred some weeks previously, we were informed, but in compliance with one of the peculiar religious customs of the country, it could not be publicly made known until a certain period of time had elapsed; the length of which is only a matter of conjecture with foreigners, and I can, therefore, make no positive statement on the subject. I learned from my Dutch friends, that the deceased Tycoon had only reached the age of twenty-nine years, and that his successor was an adopted son of sixteen, whose extreme youth would necessitate the appointment of a Regent to superintend affairs of State until he should acquire his majority.
The present population of Nagasaki is about 70,000, exclusive of several hundred Chinese, whose residence is restricted to a separate quarter, enclosed by a stone-wall, but who are permitted to enter the city during the day for the transaction of business. Indeed, latterly they have been allowed the same privileges extended to other foreigners, in pursuance of the more liberal policy recently adopted by the government. The number of Dutch residents on the island of Desima, at this time, did not exceed twenty-five, including the naval officers employed by the Japanese Government; and during our last visit to Nagasaki, these had all returned to Holland, the school for the instruction of Japanese youths in nautical science, having been removed to Yedo, as it was thought that the services of the Dutch officers were no longer required.
There are upwards of sixty temples of various sizes in Nagasaki for religious worship, and to accommodate the votaries of the Cytherean Goddess, seven hundred and fifty teahouses, which cluster on the hill-sides immediately around the city -- the most commanding and picturesque locations being always selected for these temples of sensual delights, and from nearly all of them may be seen glorious panoramic views of the bay and the surrounding country. These establishments are a government monopoly, and form one of the most remarkable features of the social and political economy of the country.
There are eighty streets running at right angles through the city, most of them being wide and paved in the centre with flag-stones. A canal extends from the upper end of the town to the bay, the banks of which are lined with a substantial stone-wall, affording a secure foundation for the dwellings which frequently overhang the edge. Bridges of wood and stone, span this convenient sheet of water at its intersection with all the principal streets, and crowds of busy people may be seen passing over them at all hours of the day. At night the quiet of a church-yard prevails throughout this populous city, excepting perhaps the revellings of a few debauchees at the tea-houses, where they have singing and dancing almost nightly. These establishments are always under the management of men, and are kept in the handsomest buildings in the city, apart from the government offices and the residences of the highest officials.
On the 16th of October, the harbor at Nagasaki presented a novel scene to the eyes of the inhabitants, in the display of the ensigns of three of the most powerful nations of the earth, from their respective men-of-war. The French Ambassador, Baron Gros, had been to Yedo for the purpose of negotiating a treaty with the Imperial Government, similar to that just concluded with the American, Russian and English diplomatists; and on his return toward Shanghai, he touched at this place, on board the screw corvette "La Place," having two similar vessels in company as an escort. The Russian Frigate "Askold," came in on the same day from China, having encountered a violent typhoon on the passage, in which several of her spars were sprung, and her hull seriously damaged, rendering extensive repairs necessary; for which purpose she had been brought to this unusually smooth and quiet harbor, in preference to returning to Shanghai. Thus the Russian, American and French flags were floating from the peaks of their national vessels in this harbor, for the first time together; and it was with no little patriotic pride that I regarded the appearance of the two noble representatives of the American Navy, and contrasted them with the other national vessels present.
The usual courtesies and ceremonial visits were exchanged between our Commander-in-Chief and the French Minister and the most cordial social relations were immediately established between the officers of the Russian frigate and ourselves, commencing by a jovial dinner-party on board the Powhatan, given in compliment to the Dutch officers stationed at Nagasaki, to which several of the Russians were invited. This was soon returned by the latter in elegant style, notwithstanding the necessary confusion prevailing on board their ship, as she was being prepared to "heave down" -- in technical language -- during which operations the crew were all to be removed into one of the temples on shore, where I have no doubt the style of their devotions caused great astonishment to the heathen priesthood, Saki being the idol of their worship -- in the performance of which their zeal was carried to the verge of fanaticism, so that it was with difficulty they could be prevailed upon to give a due proportion of their attention to the secular matters connected with their ship. The repairs of the "Askold" were executed entirely by her own mechanical force, under the direction of her officers, and comprised a new main-mast and main-yard, twenty-six knees, several beams, and many minor matters not now recollected; to complete which, however, she was detained at Nagasaki only about four months, although without any of the facilities ordinarily afforded at a Navy Yard, an achievement for which her officers certainly deserve great credit.
On the 20th of October, the Mississippi sailed for Shanghai, leaving us alone with the Russians, the French vessels having remained but a few days; and as the Commodore was anxious to send despatches to the United States, and also growing somewhat restless under this long period of inactivity, he soon determined to follow the Mississippi to Shanghai, for which place we sailed on the 31st of the same month.
>Go to top page of China and Japan material