National Geographic : 1934 Nov
COASTAL CITIES OF CHINA BY W. ROBERT MOORE AUTHOR OF " 'LAND OF THE FREE' IN ASIA," "COSMOPOLITAN SHANGHAI," "THE GLORY THAT WAS IMPERIAL PEKING," "MOTOR TRAILS IN JAPAN," ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE A ERICA'S first foreign trade as a new-born Republic was with China. From Amoy, aboard British vessels, had come the tea which was dumped over board at the famous Boston Tea Party. But within six months after England had ac cepted the independence of the Thirteen Colonies our own first merchant vessel, the newly christened Empress of China,was al ready on the high seas, bound for Canton and tea. One can picture the feverish activity of New York harbor during those early days of 1784 when the little 360-ton ship was reaching the final stages of her overhaul ing and was being loaded with 30 tons of ginseng (China's "dose of immortality"), 2,600 fur skins, 1,270 camlets, and small quantities of cotton, lead, and pepper. Then came sailing day, Washington's Birthday. The departing Empress of China voiced a salute of 13 guns; the battery responded with 12. In his pocket Captain Green carried a sea letter, penned by the young Congress and addressed to the "Most Serene, Most Puissant, High, Illustrious, Noble, Honor able, Wise and Prudent, Lords, Emperors, Kings, Republicks, Princes, Dukes, Earls, Barons, Lords, Burgomasters, Councillors, as also Judges, Officers, Justicians, and Regents of all good cities and places, whether ecclesiastical or secular, who shall see these patents or hear them read." Thirteen months later, after four months at Whampoa, anchorage for Canton, the sturdy ship was back in New York, her holds filled with 403,000 pounds of tea, 962 pieces of chinaware, 490 pieces of silk, 42 nankeens, and 2,790 pounds of cassia. THE BIRTH OF OUR MERCHANT MARINE Her successful voyage signaled the ex pansion of our merchant marine. Tiny ships, manned by youthful American sail ors, were soon prowling the Eastern seas, beating the monsoons up the China coast, and cluttering the Canton harbor. The China trade was on. Homes in Salem and Boston, and, to a lesser degree, in New York and Philadel phia, became veritable museums of Chinese goods and curios. In 1790 the China trade represented approximately one seventh of our foreign imports. Within another fifty years our vessels were bringing home about 15,000,000 pounds of tea annually. This trade also gave birth to the swift clipper ships. American enterprise, however, came to China much later than that of European nations; for, be it remembered, the disap pointing New Continent's wildernesses, in habited by savage redskins, appeared on the horizon when Old World adventurers sought China's riches by sailing westward. But what of the China coast to-day, the lodestar which attracted those early ex plorers? To seek its answer I cruised the greater portion of the 2,000-mile arc of its indented coastline on local steamers that ply between the several ports. Ocean liners from the chief world ports touch China at cosmopolitan Shanghai and British Hong Kong, 90-year-old products of occidental commerce with China. For sen timent's sake, however, let us take a four hour steamer ride across to Macao (Macau) from Hong Kong and there begin our coastal visit. By so doing we shall catch the beginning of the thread in the network of sea trade and land grants that foreign nations have woven along the China coast. A PATCH OF MEDIEVAL EUROPE IN CATHAY Macao is a transplanted city, a bit of medieval Europe tucked in a Chinese set ting. The pink, blue, and other pastel colored buildings that line the water front and dot the hills up to the walls of historic Monte fortress, the weathered churches, and Government offices are Portuguese. True, the majority of shops are hung with chro matic signs bearing Chinese ideographs, for the city's population is 97 per cent Chinese, but the banner that floats over the tiny area of little more than 11 square miles is the red and green emblem of Portugal.* Here it was that early in the 16th century Portuguese traders, extending the oriental sea route which Vasco da Gama had carved around Cape of Good Hope to India, first opened commercial relations with opulent * See "Flags of the World," by Gilbert Grosve nor and William J. Showalter, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for September, 1934.