Termination of the Great Wall of China.
The Gulf of Pecheli during a Typhoon.
In a previous description of the Great Wall of China, the particular view here given is alluded to and described. There the only genuine drawings of this extraordinary work of art, that have ever been brought to Europe, are distinctly spoken of, and, from that description, the peculiarities of the present, the most interesting because the least known and most authentic, may be gathered.
Our readers are aware, from a comparison of the ponderous volumes themselves, which detail the circumstances of the embassy, with the published notes of Lord Jocelyn, that Lord Macartney was misled as to the exact terminus of the Wen-li-tchang-tching; and, the accompanying illustration, taken by a draughtsman attached to one of the exploring expeditions, that visited the embouchure of the Pei-ho, previous to the war with China, not only places the fact beyond doubt, but. gives the real position of the sea-extremity of the wall. From the deck of the war-steamer that navigated this savage sea, the “Traitor’s Gate was distinctly seen, midway between the mountains and the shore; and this gratifying discovery is auxiliary to the settlement of a disputed point in Tartar history.”
The rude fierce aspect of the mountains, with their broken breasts and shattered pinnacles, is in accurate keeping with the stern character of the stormy sea that seems eternally struggling to approach their feet. Navigation here, by well-found barks, would not be attended with more than the common dangers of the sea; but with such clumsy, ill-constructed vessels as the trading junk, the lottery of a sailor’s life is filled with blanks.
Exposed by their great height above the water, their sides invite the hurricane to invade them; and, aided by the incompetence of the mariners, the elements obtain an easy victory. When a vessel leaves a port in the Gulf of Pe-che-li, it is usually concluded that her loss or her return is about equally probable; so that if fortune favour her, a general rejoicing takes place amongst the owners of the cargo and the relatives of the crew, for an event so prosperous. It has been concluded, upon the most authentic information, that ten thousand mariners from the port of the Pei-ho perish annually in this boisterous gulf.
Nor is this misfortune viewed with indifference by the natives; they use increased energies in giving strength to their sails of bamboo cloth; they erect still stronger bamboo, holds with more impenetrable bamboo matting; and they pay the utmost reverence to the sanctity of the magnetic needle. Believing that a divine influence dwells within the compass, they erect a small altar behind it, on the deck, and there a spiral taper, composed of wax, tallow, and sandal-wood, is kept continually burning.
The holy flame is doubly useful; it ministers to the pious intentions of the crew, and, by the successive disappearance of its twelve equal divisions, marks just so many hours of fleeting time. But it is in vain that the childish industry of this ancient people, and still more vain that their idle superstitions, are employed to contend with or conquer the merciless whirlwinds that agitate the Waters of this northern gulf. “Were it possible to blow ten thousand trumpets, and beat as many drums, on the forecastle of an India man, in the height of a ta-fung, neither the sound of the one nor the other would to heard by a person on the quarter-deck of the same vessel”.
Of all the winds that seem to conspire against human labour, and would almost despoil nature herself of her fairest products, the typhoon is the most terrific in northern latitudes. The Egyptians recognized a wind which they called typhon; the Greeks called a particular species of hurricane, either from the giant of their mythology, or from a participle of a verb which signifies “to swell with pride, or power, or greatness;” and the Chinese term, ta-fung, is not unanalogous, for it means great wind. The prognostics of a typhoon are, the swelling of the waters, and their rolling, with a majestic volume, in upon the shore.
For several hours previous to its incidence, the mercury falls slowly in the barometer, and continues to descend during its prevalence, but, when the rage of the elements begins to abate, it rends steadily, and more rapidly than it fell. Instinct being often more provident that treason, the sea-birds are observed to bocome unquiet, rising to the skies, and then wheeling and circling and screaming with more than wonted wildness; perhaps they perceive the influence to the dusky cloud that generally appears in the horizon, as if driven forward by the advancing tempest.
The magnitude of the mischief done to shipping may be estimated by a comparison with the destruction committed on land, and a recollection of the velocity at which the angry elements travel under such circumstances.
In northern latitudes, or temperate climes, the storm moves do the rate of sixty feet in a second of time; in the torrid zones it proceeds often with five times that velocity. Corn, rice, vines, canes, are scattered as chaff; houses are unroofed, forests torn up, whole towns inundated, ships carried in upon the quays and streets, and there deserted by the waters. Having raged for about thirty hours, the typhoon subsides, accompanied in its dying momenta by repeated peals of the loudest thunder, and innumerable flashes of vivid lightning.
These dreadful visitations occur more frequently during the changes, than at the full of the moon; and prevail seldom lower than 10° of north latitude. They are felt as far east as 130° of longitude, and are most violent during the south-west monsoon, especially in the month of July. Though dreadful at all times, and blowing from all points of the compass, the terrors of the typhoon are heightened, and its destructive powers considerably augmented, when it happens to blow in the same direction with the monsoon.
Source: China, in a series of views, displaying the scenery, architecture, and social habits, of that ancient empire. Drawn, from original and authentic sketches, by Thomas Allom. With historical and descriptive notices by the Rev. G. N. Wright. Publisher: Fisher, Son, & Co. publ. 1843.