The party remained three days at Guangzhou. They rose early every morning, and went on excursions through and around the city, and it is fair to say that they did not have a single idle moment. Each of the boys made careful notes of what he saw and heard, and by the end of their stay both had enough to fill a small volume. They returned to Hong Kong on the fourth day, and on the morning after their return they sat down to write the story of their adventures. But before they began writing the projected letter a discussion arose between them, which was about like this:
Street Scene in Guangzhou

They expected the steamer to arrive from America in a day or two, and it would doubtless bring letters for them, which would determine their future movements. They expected to return home by way of San Francisco, as they had come, but it was by no means improbable that they would keep on to the westward, and so go around the world by way of India and Europe.

"What is the use of writing up our Guangzhou experiences," said Frank, "till we know what we are to do? If we go home by San Francisco, we will have plenty of time on the steamer, and if we go on to the west, we will have to go by steamer too, and then we will have time enough between Hong Kong and the first port we stop at. Why should we be in a hurry to write up our account, when, in any case, we shall have the time to do so while we are at sea?"

Fred admitted the force of the argument, but thought there would be an advantage in writing while the subject was fresh in their minds. While they were debating the pros and cons of the case, the Doctor came into the room, and the question was appealed to him. After careful deliberation, he rendered a decision that covered the case to the perfect satisfaction of both the disputants.

"It will be several days, at any rate," said he, "before we can leave Hong Kong, whether we go east or west. Now, I advise you to take an hour each day for writing up your story of Guangzhou, and you will then have plenty of time for sightseeing. You will have ended your writing before we leave, and then can devote your time at sea to other things which the voyage will suggest."

His suggestion was adopted, and they at once set about their work, determined to write two hours daily until they had described Guangzhou so fully that their friends would know exactly what was to be seen there. They divided the work, as they had done on previous occasions, one of them making a description of a certain part of their route, and the other taking another portion of it. When they were through with it, they put the two stories together, and found that they fitted to perfection. Here is what they wrote:
Five-Storied Pagoda

"Guangzhou is the capital of the province of Kwang-tung, and its name in English is a corruption of the Chinese one. The people who live there call it 'Kwang-tung-sang-shing,' and the Portuguese call it Kam-tom, and they write it that way. It is called the City of Rams, just as Florence is called the Beautiful City, and Genoa the Haughty, and the Chinese who live there are very proud of it. The climate is warm, the thermometer rising to 85° or 90° in the summer, and rarely going below 50° in winter. Occasionally ice forms to the thickness of heavy paper, and once in five or ten years there will be a slight fall of snow, which astonishes all the children, and many of the older people.

"The population is said to be about a million, on land and water. Those who live in boats are about sixty thousand. The city was founded more than two thousand years ago, according to the Chinese historians, but it was not surrounded with a wall until the eleventh century. The wall today is the same that was first built, but it has been repaired and changed a good deal in the time it has stood, and some new parts have been added. The circuit of the walls is about seven miles, but there are suburbs that now form a part of the city, so that it is a journey of not less than ten miles to go around Guangzhou.

"There are sixteen gates to the city, and each has a name that designates its position. There are two pagodas near the West Gate, and there are a hundred and twenty-four temples, pavilions, and halls inside the walls of Guangzhou. Then there are four prisons, and there is an execution ground, where many a poor fellow has lost his head. The prisons are like all such establishments in China, and a great many men would prefer death to incarceration in one of these horrible places.

"We don't know positively whether there are a million people in Guangzhou or not. We took the figures from the guidebook, just as everybody else takes them, and we want to acknowledge our indebtedness to it. The guidebook is very useful in a strange country, as it tells you in a few minutes what you might spend hours or days in learning. It gives you an outline which you must fill in for yourself by practical observation, and unless you have it with you, there is a great deal that you may miss, if your time is limited, and you are compelled to do your sightseeing rapidly.

"When we came in sight of Guangzhou, we saw some buildings that rose far above all others, and very naturally we asked what they were. We were somewhat taken aback when told that they were pawnbrokers' establishments, and of course they were among the things we went to look at. They were filled from top to bottom with clothing and other things, and our guide explained to us that the Chinese are in the habit of pawning everything they are not using, for the double reason that they get money which they can use, and at the same time they save the trouble of taking care of the property. At the beginning of winter they pawn their summer clothes, and at the beginning of summer they pawn their winter clothes. All other things on which they can borrow money they take to the pawn shop, even when they are not obliged to have the cash. It saves the trouble of storing the goods themselves, and running the risk of having them stolen.

"We went through one of the pawn shops, climbing stairway after stairway, and being almost stifled in the narrow and musty places we were obliged to go through. The goods were done up in packages, each one of them being labelled and ticketed, and there was a register downstairs, so that any desired package could be found when wanted. Diamonds and other articles of great value were kept in safes near the basement, and the least costly goods were near the roof. There must have been many thousands of things stowed away in this pawn shop. The building was said to be fireproof, and its great height was intended to secure it against thieves.

"Close by the door of this establishment there was an opium den, where a dozen or more men were intoxicating themselves with opium, or sleeping off the effects of what they had already taken. We just looked in for a moment. It was so much like the place of the same kind that we saw in Shanghai that we did not care to stay, and, besides, the smell was very bad and the heat almost stifling. The Guangzhouese are said to be just as inveterate smokers of the deadly drug as the people of the North. In fact, it is about the same all over China, and with all classes that can afford to indulge in the vice. Only the middle and poorer classes go to the shops to smoke opium. The rich people can enjoy the luxury at home, and some of them have rooms in their houses especially fitted up for it.
Horseshoe or Omega Grave

"We saw a good many temples, and went through some of them, but, on the whole, they were rather disappointing, as they were not so fine as those at Beijing, and far behind those of Japan. The most interesting of the pagodas is the one known as the 'Five-storied Pagoda,' so called because it is five stories high. It stands on a hill that overlooks the whole city on one side, and a large cemetery on the other, and when you have climbed to the top, the view is very fine. The roofs of the houses are of all shapes and kinds, and the streets are so narrow that you can see very few of them as you look down from the top of the pagoda. On the one hand you have a densely peopled city of the living, and on the other an equally densely peopled city of the dead. Our guide said the cemetery had more inhabitants than the city, and when we asked him how many people lived there, he said 'Many millions.' You have to come to China to learn that the people in a cemetery are supposed to live there.

"And yet the guide was not so far out of the way, according to the Chinese idea. The Chinese bring food to the graves of their friends, and leave it there as an offering. The spirits of the dead are believed to linger around the spot and to eat this food, but it is really devoured by the priests and others who stay around the cemetery, and what they do not eat or carry away is consumed by the birds. At certain seasons they have grand festivals, when many thousands of people go to the cemeteries with offerings for the dead, and good things for themselves. The affair is more like a picnic than a ceremony of mourning, and when it breaks up, the mourners go to the theater or some other place of amusement. The best burial place is on a hillside, and the tomb is made in the form of a terrace, or rather of three terraces, with steps leading up to them. As you look at it from a little distance, the tomb has the shape of a horseshoe, or, better still, of 'Omega,' the last letter of the Greek alphabet.

"Our guide said that not only do they make offerings in the cemeteries to the spirits of the dead, but they have shrines in their houses where the dead are worshipped. To prove what he said was true, he took us into a house and showed one of these shrines with bowls of rice and fruit, cups of tea, and other things, on a table. He explained that when the offerings were made they sent for a priest, who came with two men to assist him, and while the priest stood behind the table and repeated his prayers, one of his attendants pounded on a drum, and the other rang a bell. There was a fire in front of the shrine, and during the time the priest was performing the man who gave the feast knelt before the fire and burned some mock money, made out of silver paper in imitation of real coin. When the affair was over, the priest took all that he wanted from the table, and the remainder was eaten by the company who had been invited.
Presenting Food to the Spirits of the Dead

"Not a great distance from the five-storied pagoda we saw the leprosy hospital, where the unfortunate people who suffer from leprosy are compelled to live, and soon to die. The sight was a horrible one, and we did not want to stay long among the sufferers. We had expected to find a large building, like a hospital in America, but instead of this there were several small buildings, grouped together in a little village, some of the houses having garden patches near them. The people were lying or sitting around in the sun, and some few of them were at work in the gardens. The most were not able to do anything, as they were suffering from the disease, which was slowly killing or crippling them.

"The guide said there were two kinds of leprosy, the 'wet' and the 'dry.' In the wet leprosy the body of the victim abounds in running sores, while in the dry there is nothing of the sort, and the appearance of the skin is not greatly different from what it is in health. The disease generally attacks the joints of the hands or feet, particularly those of the former, and the sufferer loses the first joint of the fingers and thumbs at about the same time. Then, in a few months, he loses the second joints, and in two or three months more the third joints go. We saw people in all the stages of the disease, some with the first joints of the hands gone, others who had lost the second joints, and others the third. While others, again, had lost the hands at the wrists. There seems to be no cure for most of the forms of the leprosy, and when a man is attacked with it, he must go at once to the hospital, no matter whether he is rich or poor. And when he has gone there, he generally remains until death relieves him from his sufferings.
A Literary Student

"One of the curious places we saw was the Hall of Examinations. This is a large enclosed space, having rows on rows of little cells, where the candidates for the literary degree are examined once in every three years. There are eleven thousand of these cells, and each cell is just large enough for one man to occupy. The candidates are put in these cells, and each man is furnished with a sheet of paper and a pen. He must write on the paper any given page of the Chinese books called 'The Classics' without mistake or alteration, and he is not allowed to try a second time until the next examination comes around. There are men who keep on trying all their lives for the degree, and they tell of one man who succeeded after he was eighty years old. The candidates try all sorts of tricks to smuggle in copies of the books on which they are to be examined, and also extra sheets of paper, but they are carefully searched, and everything of the sort is taken away from them.
A Literary Graduate in His Robes of Honor

"There is a story in Pidgin-English verse of how a Chinese student befriended an American, who was a photographer by profession. The American believed that one good turn deserved another, and so, when the examination time came around, he photographed 'The Classics' on the fingernails of his Asian friend. The student was allowed to wear spectacles during his examination, and so he bought a pair of magnifying glasses that enabled him to read every word that he wanted. He came out at the head of his class, and was no doubt very thankful that he had done a kindly action towards a stranger.

"But the great sights of Guangzhou we have not yet mentioned. These are the streets, and they are by all odds the finest we have seen in the country. They are very narrow, few of them being more than six or eight feet wide, and some of them less than the former figure. Not a single wheeled carriage can move in all Guangzhou, and the only mode of locomotion is by means of sedan chairs. We had chairs every day with four bearers to each, and it was strange to see how fast the men would walk in the dense crowds without hitting any one. They kept calling out that they were coming, and somehow a way was always made for them. Several times, when we met other chairs, it was no easy matter to get by, and once we turned into a side street to allow a mandarin's chair to pass along. We did knock down some things from the fronts of stores, and several times the tops of our chairs hit against the perpendicular signboards that hung from the buildings. There are great numbers of signs, all of them perpendicular, and they are painted in very gaudy colors, so that the effect is brilliant. Sometimes, as you look ahead, the space between the two sides of the street is quite filled with these signs, so that you cannot see anything else.
A Sedan-Chair with Four Bearers

"The streets are not at all dirty, and in this respect are vastly different from those of any other city we have seen in China. The authorities evidently pay some attention to keeping them clean and preventing the accumulation of dirt. The fronts of many shops are fully open to the street, and the merchants know how to arrange their wares in the most tempting manner. You see lots of pretty things, and are constantly tempted to buy, and it was very well for us that we agreed not to buy anything until the last day, which we were to devote to shopping.

"Nearly all the vast crowd in the streets consisted of men. Now and then a woman was visible, but only rarely, except near the riverside, where there were some of the class that live on the water. We met some of the small-footed women, and it was really painful to see them stumping about as if they were barely able to stand. Double your fist and put it down on the table, and you have a fair resemblance of the small foot of a Chinese woman, and if you try to walk on your fists, you can imagine how one of these ladies gets along. Some of them have to use canes to balance themselves, and running is quite out of the question. The foot is compressed in childhood, and not allowed to grow much after five or six years of age. The compression is done by tight bandages, that give great pain at first, and sometimes cause severe inflammation.
A Peasant Woman with Natural Feet

"We were rather impatient for the last day, when we could do our shopping and buy the things for our friends at home. There are so many fine things for sale in Guangzhou that it is hard to determine where to begin and where to leave off. A great many people keep on buying until their money is all gone, and some of them do not stop even then.

"The first things we looked at in our shopping tour were silks, and we found them of all kinds and descriptions that you could name. There were silks for dresses and silks for shawls, and they were of all colors, from snowy white to jet-black. Some people say that white and black are not colors at all, but if they were turned loose among the silks of Guangzhou, perhaps they might change their minds. It is said that there are fifty thousand people in Guangzhou engaged in making silk and other fabrics, and these include the embroiderers, of whom there are several thousands. Chinese embroidery on silk is famous all over the world, and it has the advantage over the embroidery of most other countries in being the same on one side that it is on the other. We have selected some shawls that we think will be very pretty when they are at home. They are pretty enough now, but there are so many nice things all around that the articles we have selected look just a little common.

"One good thing about going on a shopping excursion in Guangzhou is that most of the establishments for the sale of different articles are grouped together, just as they are said to be in the bazaars of Cairo and Damascus. Thus we find most of the silk-dealers in Silk Street, those who sell mirrors and similar work are in Looking-glass Street, and the workers in ivory are in a street by themselves. Then there is Curiosity Street (or Curio Street, as it is generally called), where you can buy all sorts of odds and ends of things, old and new, which come under the head of Chinese curiosities. Lacquered ware and porcelain have their especial quarters, and so when you are in the region of any particular trade, you do not have to walk about much to make your purchases. In the vicinity of the river there are several large concerns where they have a general assortment of goods, and you may buy lacquer and porcelain, silk and ivory, and nearly everything else that is produced in Guangzhou, under one roof.

"We have already described lacquer and cloisonné work in writing from Japan. The Chinese productions in the same line are so much like the Japanese that a description of one will do for the other. Some of the shapes are different, and it is not difficult, after a little practice, to distinguish the Chinese from the Japanese, but the modes of working are essentially the same. All things considered, we like the Japanese lacquer better than the Chinese, as it has more variety, and the Japanese seem to be more cunning than the Guangzhou people in making those bewildering little boxes with secret drawers and nooks and a great variety of shapes. But when it comes to ivory carvings, we have something else to say.
A Tablet Carved in Ivory

"You can hardly have dreamed of the beautiful things we found in Guangzhou cut out of ivory. There were combs and brooches so delicate that it seemed as if they could be blown to pieces by a breath, and there were boxes and card-cases with representations of landscapes, and men and animals on them so small that we needed a microscope to see them distinctly. In one shop we saw the whole tusk of an elephant carved from one end to the other so closely that you could hardly put a pin on it without hitting some part of the work. They told us that the tusk had been sent there by the gentleman who killed the elephant in India, and he was having it carved to keep as a trophy. The carving had cost six hundred dollars, and if it had been done in America, it would have cost nearer six thousand. Skilled labor is cheap in China, just as unskilled labor is, and it is astonishing for how little a man can be employed on the kind of work that would bring a high price in Europe or America.

"Then there were carvings in tortoiseshell of a great many kinds, and all the forms you could think of, together with many you could not. The Chinese tortoiseshell work used to be the best in the world, but those who know about it say that it is now equaled by the productions of Naples and Florence, both in fineness and cheapness. Then they had some beautiful things in silver filigree and in bronzes, and we bought a few of each, so as to show what Guangzhou can do in this line.

"But such fans! such fans! They were so pretty that we couldn't keep our eyes off them, and we bought more of them, perhaps, than we needed. In one shop we would find something so nice that we couldn't see how it could be surpassed, and so we would buy it, and in the next we found something nicer yet, and so we had to buy that. Anybody who has a liking for fans, and hasn't a mint of money, had better keep out of the stores of Guangzhou, or he will run a risk of being ruined. The varieties are so great that we cannot begin to name them. There were fans on silk, and fans on paper. Fans carved in ivory, tortoiseshell, sandalwood. Fans of feathers from various birds, with rich paintings right on the surface of the feathers, and a great many other fans besides. There was one with frame and sticks of sandalwood, beautifully carved, while the body was of painted silk. There were groups of figures on each side of the fan, and each figure had a face painted on ivory which was afterwards glued to the silk. It was the prettiest thing to be found for any price we could afford, and you can be sure that it was secured for somebody at home.

"We had a long search among the porcelain shops for some blue china plates of what is called 'the willow pattern.' We must have gone into twenty shops at least before we found them, and, finally, when we did get them, the dealer was as anxious to sell as we were to buy. He said he had had those plates on hand a very long time, and nobody wanted them. We did not tell him how rare they are at home, and how anxious people are to get hold of them.

"The variety of porcelain in the Guangzhou shops is very great, and a simple list of what there is would fill several pages. They showed us some of what they call eggshell porcelain. It was so thin that you could almost see through it, and so delicate that it had to be carefully handled. The varieties of cups and saucers we could not begin to tell. They make them suited to every market in the world, and it is said that the greatest part of what they make is of the shapes that are not used in China. Of vases there was no end, and they were of all sizes, from a tiny cone for a small bouquet up to a huge one capable of holding a barrel of water, with plenty of room to spare. The trade in vases must be very great, if we are to judge by the quantities and variety that we saw. Many of them were very elaborate, and must have cost a great deal of money.

"But there is danger that you will get tired if we keep on much longer about the sights of Guangzhou, and particularly the shopping part of it. Besides, we want to go out and see what there is in Hong Kong, and perhaps we may run across something new in the Chinese part of the city that we shall want to buy. A good many people say that you can buy Guangzhou goods just as cheaply in Hong Kong as in the city they come from. That may be so, but then it is more satisfactory to get them there and have the pleasure of buying them on the spot.

"We'll stop now and say goodbye. We have seen China and Japan, and had a splendid time. We think we have learned a great deal about the two countries, and hope that what we have written about them has been interesting to those for whom it was intended. We have tried to see things, and think of them without partiality or prejudice. We believe that the people of the East have the same claims to respect that ours have, and that it is only a narrow mind that sneers at the ways of others because they are not like its own. We know that we have some advantages over Asian countries, but we also know that we have weaknesses as well, and might be profitably instructed by these patient and industrious people. We are soon to leave China, perhaps never to see it again, but both China and Japan will always be pleasant recollections to both.

"Frank and Fred."

In this occupation we will leave the Doctor and his young companions, with the assurance that in due time the Bassett and Bronson families, and all their friends, Miss Effie included, will be fully informed of the adventures that befell...



Study the chapter for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the chapter.
  • Review the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Capital: A city designated as a legislative seat by the government or some other authority, often the city in which the government is located.
Population: A count of the number of residents within a political or geographical boundary such as a town, a nation or the world.
Pavilion: A light roofed structure used as a shelter in a public place.
Pawnbroker: A person who makes monetary loans at interest, taking personal property as security – which may be sold if not redeemed.
Opium Den: A place where opium is bought, sold, and smoked.
Leprosy: A disease caused by bacterial infection by Mycobacterium leprae.
Curiosity: A unique or extraordinary object which arouses interest.
Tortoiseshell: The horny, translucent, mottled covering of the carapace of the hawksbill turtle.


Activity 1: Narrate the Chapter

  • Narrate the events aloud in your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Chapter Pictures

  • Study the chapter pictures and describe how each relates to the story.

Activity 3: Observe the Modern Equivalent

  • Examine the chapter setting in modern times: The city of Guangzhou, China.

Activity 4: Map the Chapter

  • Find the countries of China and the United States of America on the map of the world.
  • Trace the boys' potential paths back to the United States both west and east from Guangzhou to San Francisco.

Activity 5: Map the Chapter on a Globe

  • Repeat the mapwork from Activity 4 on a three-dimensional globe.