so. Na mi mi ta fuhr '
' I can scarcely hear half you say,' said Pennicuick. ' ^\Tiat
an infernal row those drums and bells make I ' Besides the smaller
instruments that kept up a perpetual concert within the building,
an immense drum was being struck at intervals outside the temple,
as outside our booths in the old Fair times.
^The bells are said to be finer than any we have in England,
* Veiy likely : I am sure I wish they vjere in England : then
we should have them mellowed by distance : as it is, I believe the
drum of my ear has given way. I also find some difficulty in
' It is only the clouds of incense. We have the same thing in
Europe in our Eoman Catholic churches.'
' Yes, but as I am never in them that doesn't concern me. — By
gad, there's a sensible fellow I '
' Grood Heavens, what are you going to do, Pennicuick ? '
' I am going to have a cigar. This excellent man has just lit
his pipe at yonder altar — I never knew the use of candles there
before ; and I mean to do the same.'
The next moment Pennicuick had suited the action to the word ;
and without, as it seemed, exciting much comment. The Chinese
30 BY PROXY.
religion is a curious mixture of devotion and irreverence, and a
man will prostrate himself flat before an idol, and then light a
pipe at his taper.
^Now they may make what noises and smells they like,' said
Pennicuick triumphantly. ' I have got my consoler. You may
depend upon it, if folks were allowed to smoke in church in
England, it would set our respectable Establishment on its legs
again. The men would go — because with a cigar one could stand
even a sermon — and then of course the women would go even more
than ever. When I get home, I mean to go into Parliament upon
His tobacco, for which he had been craving — for to make such
a man give up, or even postpone, an accustomed enjoyment is to do
him a grievous wrong — put Pennicuick in high good humour. If
he took no great interest in the proceedings around him, he showed
no signs of boredom. Some things even amused him. One very
pious pilgrim struck his forehead upon the paved floor of the
temple no fewer than nine times, each time causing a distinct
reverberation, notwithstanding the drums.
' Why don't he go on ? ' enquired our cynic of his friend. ' Has
he cracked it ? '
' No, no. You are most grossly ignorant of the rudiments of
his religion. Nine is a sacred number. Nine prostrations, nine
ablutions, nine repetitions of a formula, and so on, are necessary for
everything important. You have to burn nine joss sticks, for
example, before you can see, even with the eye of faith, the sacred
' Who is he ? '
' It is not a " he " at all. It is one of the most precious relics
THE JOSS-HOUSE. 31
of Buddha, and supposed to be what the poets call one of the
*' pearls that adorn the brow of labour : " in other words, a drop of
' Nonsense, you must be joking. This is too absurd even for
' I am perfectly serious : the Buddhists say that there are
84,000 pores in a man's body, and that after transmigration he
leaves behind 84,000 particles of dust. In the case of Buddha,
by resisting evil and reverting to truth, he left instead 84,000
relics " as hard and as bright as diamonds." Of these, many have
disappeared, but there is one in this very temple of Ay-tum-foo,
said to emit the most brilliant colours, if you only look at it in
the right light — that is, from a devotional point of view.'
' Let us see it, by all means,' cried Pennicuick.
• That is quite out of the question. Xo Christian need apply,
I do assure you.'
' You may depend upon it, you can see it, like any other exhi-
l^ition, Connie, if you choose to pay the entrance-fee.'
' I know that one of the preliminaries is to burn nine sticks of
incense to Buddha.'
' I will bum ten as soon as look at him — I mean, rather than
not look at his relic,' exclaimed Pennicuick enthusiastically.
' Well, I confess I shouldn't like to do that,' answered the other
' Why not ? Your scruples astound me. For my part, I
should have been a universal worshipper — aPolytheist — if anything
could be got by it. I leave gone in for one or two religions. I
shall never forget confessing to a good priest at Rome — just to
see what it was like, you know ; by jingo, T astonished him. All
32 BY PROXY.
the hair on his head stood up, till his tonsure looked like a pool
in a forest. I have not the least objection to being a Buddhist,
or anything else, for half an hour. Indeed, it is just possible —
everything is possible — that Buddha may be worth cultivating.
I always thought the gentleman who took off his hat to the fallen
statue of Jupiter a very sagacious fellow. " If your turn ever
comes round again, Mr. Jove, please to remember this salute." —
Where is this blessed relic ? '
' It is kept in the shrine at the back of the tqpaple, and can
only be seen on application to the high-priest. You might as well
ask to see His Celestial Majesty the Son of Heaven himself. Let
us come into the garden.'
The garden of a Chinese temple is always worth a visit. If
the natives of the Flowery Land can boast of no other art, they
excel in that of landscape gardening. They select as picturesque
a spot as they can, and then improve it after their fashion, which,
whatever its faults, never interferes with the beauties of nature.
These they preserve, while adding those of art — grottoes, bridges,
fancy ruins, and pagodas. Their taste for crowding every variety
of picturesque object into a small space reminds one (though, it
must be allowed, with a difference) of the pictures of Claude. It
also reminds the Englishman — or at least it reminded Pennicuick —
of the place in which the natives of London are adjured per
advertisement, throughout the summer, to pass a Happy Day,,
namely, Rosherville Grardens.
' It's deuced like Eosherville, is it not, Connie ? '
' Very much,' said Conway, laughing ; ' a sort of cross between
the scenery of that establishment and the willow-pattern plate.'
The grounds were extensive, and made to appear much more
THE y OSS-HOUSE. 33
so by the manner in which they were laid out. You walked up
and down, and round and round, and sometimes through and
through (where there were caverns) without much progression.
Presently, towards the rear of the temple, the two friends came
upon a wooden edifice, which contained a fasting monk.
* This is the Hermit of Cremome,' observed Pennicuick.
' Hush, hush I he is a most sacred personage,' whispered Con-
way. ' He has been in these close quarters for nearly three years ;
and observe how uncomfortable they are. These long nails driven
through the planks project on the inside, to prevent him leaning
against the walls. For every thousand cash paid by any pilgrim
a nail is taken out, and the old gentleman is made a little more
easy. There have been a good many removed to-day, you may be
The Englishmen came up to the little pigeon-hole through
which the inmate of this dog-kennel received the contributions of
the pious, and likewise his scanty supplies of food, and looked in.
The saint was seated tailor-fashion on a board, the upper part of
his body being upright as an idol. There was a shelf before him
with some books — works, probably, of the eternal Confucius. Not
only did the pleasures of literature still remain to him — he was
taking snuff. With these trifling exceptions, however, he was sup-
posed to be quite dead to the vanities of the world. His face
was blank and cadaverous ; his long black hair, parted in the
middle, flowed down to his waist ; his nails, also, were very long
and very black. He had been in his present place of residence for
nearly three years, the full time appointed for his voluntary im-
prisonment ; but he showed no signs of ' breaking up and going
VOL. I. D
34 BY PROXY.
away,' at least in its holiday sense. He looked J very much like
breaking up from a physical point of view.
'This is the biggest fool I have seen yet,' observed Pennicuick,
critically. ' Do you think he would have a cigar ? ' The scene
was exactly such as one sees every day in the monkey-house in the
' I don't think you'd better try him,' said Conway ; ' he may
take it as an insult, and ring his alarm bell.' A huge bell was
just outside his cell, which he could sound by pushing a piece
of wood against it, that was thrust through a hole for that
* I didn't see his bell,' ^aid Pennicuick ; ' that's clearly an article
of luxury. If he rings for everything he wants, where is his merit ? '
' He never rings for hot water for shaving — nor, to look at him,
for any other purpose,' observed Conway, always] maintaining a
respectful air. ' I think you'd better let him be.'
' No, no : he shall have a cigar. He takes snuff, therefore he
can't belong to the Anti-Tobacco Association. Hi, old gentleman !
Have a weed ? '
The ascetic lifted his heavy eyes, from which all meaning
seemed to be expelled, and then protruded a shrivelled hand, into
AVhich Pennicuick dropped a cigar. The next instant he was im-
mersed in pious meditation.
' I apologise,' observed Pennicuick to this inanimate object ;
< you are not such a fool as you look ; though that is not a high
compliment, after all. I would have given five pounds, Connie,'
added he, grimly, as they pursued their way, ' if that cigar had
been a Surprise one.'
' What do you mean by a Surprise Cigar ? '
THE JOSS-HOUSE. 35
' One of those with a cracker in it, that goes off when you are
half way through it. Imagine the effect upon a pious ascetic who
has never stirred out of a box like that for three years, or been ac-
customed to any sensation beyond what is covered by a pinch of
' The effect upon us, also, would be rather serious,' observed
Conway : ' our lives would not be worth an hour's purchase.'
' I don't believe a word of it. I think it would all be put
down to Buddha, and would give that old gentleman — if he lived
through it — a higher reputation with the faithful than ever.'
' Well, I am glad you were not in a position to try the experi-
ment. Come, we have got to the end of our tether; there is
nothing more to be seen, and it is time to get back to the boat
and our dinner.'
' Very good : but what is that queer-shaped house standing all
alone, at the back of everything, with the gentleman in the yellow
robe apparently keeping guard over it ? '
' Oh, that is the sancturrt sanctorum, in which the Shay-le, or
blessed relic of Buddha, is kept. It is so sacred, you see, that
nobody comes near it.'
' I mean to see it,' said Pennicuick, confidently ; ' so here goes.'
' Good Heavens, man, it's the chief-priest himself.' But before
he had finished his sentence, Pennicuick had already presented
Jiimself before that august individual.
36 BY PROXY.
It was Arthur Conway's habit on touching foreign soil to begin-
to make himself acquainted as far as possible with the language of
its inhabitants, and he had given all the greater attention to the
Chinese tongue on account of its supreme difficulty ; perhaps he
now knew nearly as much about it as an Englishman expensively
educated at one of our public schools knows of the Continental
languages when he returns from his first tour ; he could ask a few
questions — after the fashion of the dialogue-books— and procure
for himself the necessaries of life, and he could understand what
was said to him pretty well. He exceedingly disapproved of his
friend's having anything to say — or rather to gesticulate — to the
high-priest of Ay-tum-foo, but he was too loyal to leave him in the
lurch; and therefore he hastened to the spot where that enormously
important ecclesiastic and his friend were by this time standing
together ; the former bowing slightly in the urbane national man-
ner, and the latter pronouncing the word ' Shay-le, Shay-le,' in as
insinuating a tone as he could compass.
There is always this difficulty in dealing with the Buddhist
priest (which cynics may say is not wholly confined to ecclesiastics of
that persuasion), namely, that although he may be one of the most
THE SHAY-LE. 37
venerable and pious of human beings, it may also happen that he
may be very much the reverse of all this, and indeed a most super-
.lative scoundrel. The reason of this is that some persons embrace
the sacred profession from the most secular of reasons. The com-
pletely shaven head, the burns and bruises that are generally to be
seen sprinkled over them in plentiful patches, and the austerity
which distinguishes their lives and keeps them apart from other men,
offer great opportunities for disguise. So that before now very
considerable criminals have escaped punishment, and even lived for
the rest of their lives in the odour of sanctity, by assuming the vovrs
and habit of the priesthood. Imagine the case of one's meeting
the Archbishop of Canterbury, and not being quite sure that his
Grrace of Lambeth had not at one time experienced the gaol discipline
of neighbouring Millbank. However, the probability of the high-
priest of Ay-tum-foo's being all that he should be was of course
far greater than the reverse : though the fact of his having a finger
or two burnt off (in excess of zeal), as well as his other self-inflicted
injuries, was perhaps a suspicious circumstance: ('for being so
particular religious, why that, you see, puts persons on their guard ;')
he had a sort of beadle's mace in one hand, and a human skull in
the other, and in his gown of yellow silk looked altogether a re-
' Lawya-lawya,' commenced Conway, not of course that this
individual was a lawyer, but because that is the mode of address
used to a high-priest; 'we are two Englishmen who have come
from far to see this famous temple.' Here Conway had uncon-
sciously placed the good priest in a position of much embarrassment,
for the polite way of the Chinese is to underrate anything of their
own, and to exaggerate the possessions of their interlocutor. If
38 .BY PROXY.
the temple had been the priest's private mansion he would, for
example, have answered, ' You have given your honourable selves
unnecessary trouble in coming to see my wretched hovel.' But as
it was the house of his god he could scarcely speak of it in a
depreciatory way. Upon the whole he judged it better to take a<
general view of matters.
^ After all, oh Christians, your religion and that of Buddha are
alike as melons.'
Conway translated this would-be compliment to his friend, who
took it in a more literal sense than the good priest had probably
' Quite right : tell him he's a very sensible fellow, and that I
quite agree with him. And then ask him to show us the relic'
Conway accomplished this with much delicacy and caution, but the
high-priest lifted up both staff and skull in shocked negation. Such
a proposition was impossible : even his own people, as the English-
man might have observed, had not ventured within the sacred
precincts of the Shay-le, which had been exhibited to the Faithful
at sunrise that morning, positively for the last time until next
feast-day. The precious casket which contained it could never
be opened without an act of adoration in the form of a burnt offer-
ing; and even if it were, it could not be seen by white devils — he
apologised for having no other name for them — because it was
only visible to the eye of Faith.
^ Look here, Connie : I mean to see it,' persisted Pennicuick..
' Tell the old beggar that I am a convert to the Buddhist faith-
Here are my joss sticks, which I am prepared to sacrifice as the
law directs : it will be a hona-jide transaction. And, I say, just
TBE SHAY-LE. 39
add that I should like to give five pounds or so to the keeper of
This audacious speech Conway transiated as insinuatingly as his
slender knowledge of Chinese enabled him to do, and, much to his
surprise, the priest took it in good part. Five English pounds
represent a very considerable sum in the Flowery Land, and no
doubt he recalled to mind how much could be done with them to
the glory of Buddha. In the great hall of gods, adjacent to the
temple, there was more than one deity from whom very literally
the gilt was a good deal rubbed off ; and who had scarcely enough
in his inside to maintain the ' vital principle,' or, as we say, to
keep body and soul together. There is nothing so distressing to a
high-priest — wounding at once his aniour-'propre and his esprit
de corps — as to see his gods out of repair. Of course there was a
difficulty as to the genuine adhesion of Mr. Ealph Pennicuick to
Buddhism ; the unyielding and somewhat contemptuous expression
of his countenance did not, it must be confessed, impress one
with the idea of a devotee ; but there he was, at all events, a pro-
fessing believer, with one of his joss sticks already lighted ; and
does not Confucius himself lay it down as an axiom that we are
to believe in a man's professions until they have been shown to be
false ? Moreover, at this supreme moment, Pennicuick produced
his purse, which, being of network, showed the glint of sovereigns.
' Heaven forbid,' said the good priest, ' that I should quench
any man's pious zeal.' And with a grave inclination of his head he
led the way to the little bell-shaped edifice in which the precious
Shay-le was deposited. Conway remained where he stood, not al-
together at his ease. Without having the good nature that belongs
to high spirits, his friend had a turn for mischief, which in his
40 BY PROXY,
younger days had led him into some serious scrapes, and which
even now occasionally exhibited itself; his remark about the ' sur-
prise cigar ' showed the way his thoughts had been tending, and it
was just possible that he designed to play some absurd trick upon
the high-priest to recompense himself for having let the hermit
slip so easily through his fingers. Above all it puzzled Conway to
account for his friend's giving so large a sum to see a relic — things
for which he always expressed the utmost contempt — unless he had
some whim of Ms own to serve at the same time.
It was, therefore, with no slight sense of relief that after a few
minutes he saw Pennicuick emerge from the shrine, and part com-
pany with the priest, apparently on the best of terms.
' Well, Penn, and what was it ? Or are you bound to secresy
upon a subject so tremendous ?' enquired Conway, laughing.
' My dear fellow, there are a dozen of them, and all rubbish,
was his friend's reply. ' Let us get home, for I am downright sick
of Buddha and all his works.'
There was something strange in the speaker's manner that
convinced his hearer that sondething had happened within the last
few minutes of an unexpected or surprising kind. If the other had
had the least grain of superstition in him, Conway might have even
supposed that he had been impressed by some seemingly super-
natural incident ; so grave and serious was his air. However, after
a few minutes, Pennicuick proceeded to tell what had happened
without further importunity ; and as it certainly appeared that he
had got very little for his five pounds, perhaps, thought Conway, it
was that which made him look so serious.
What Pennicuick had seen at the shrine of Ay-tum-foo appeared
to have been much the same as is seen at similar institutions nearer
THE SHAY-LE. 41
home : the small bones of a saint or two, and even the shavings
of a toe-nail of Huang Ing Huk, the goddess of mercy ; which is
all that is left of her in China.
' But you surely saw the Shay-le, the relic of Buddha ? ' observed
' Well, I don't know whether I did or not,' answered the other
drily. ' The thing was in a small wooden pagoda, almost dropping
to pieces with age, which the priest unlocked for me with every
sign of reverence. I looked in and understood him to say that
the thing lay at the bottom ; I saw nothing for some time, and
then — whether it was fancy or not, T will not swear — I did seem to
see something sparkling. It may have been a bit of glass, or even
the sparks from one's own eyes that are struck out from too much
staring into darkness.'
' I am afraid you are still a sceptic, Penn. The received opinion
of the sacred Shay-le is that it emits coloured light, and that no
fire will burn nor diamond-headed hammer bruise it. It is also
sometimes surrounded by a halo " as big as a cart-wheel." '
' The last was not the case to-day, I will positively swear,' said
Pennicuick : ' and as for the rest of the Shay-le's attributes, I will
take your word for them.' And no more was said about the
The two friends dined in the boat, as usual, and afterwards some
cormorant-fishing was got up for their delectation. The rivers,
canals, and even the pools in China are alive with fish. Xothing
is more common than to see a native catching them with his hands,
not as we do when tickling trout, with infinite pains and caution,
but quite otherwise. He strikes the water sharply, the noise and
shock of which cause the fish to take refuge in the mud, where he
42 BY PROXY.
feels them with his feet, and then dives down after them. While-
the boat of the Englishmen lay at anchor, their rowers had provided
them with a fish course by this simple means ; but the cormorant
business was really a high-class performance. In the present case,,
there were no fewer than a dozen of these birds, which at a word
from their master left the small craft that carried them, and spread
themselves over the canal, the sea-green eyes of each fixed at once
upon its finny prey, and hardly had they cloven the water than they
reappeared with the prize in their sharp notched bills. Most curious
of all, if the fish was too large for one to convey to his master, the
others came to his assistance, and captured it by their united efforts.
A collar of straw, carefully arranged round the upper part of the
neck, prevented the thing, as the gossips say, ' from going any
farther,' and ensured his returns to the proprietor.
The sport was amusing even to Conway who had seen it be-
fore, while its ingenuity extorted Pennicuick's admiration.
' I am glad you find something to praise in China at last,' said
' I admire its cormorants, my dear fellow : which seem to be
' Still, however clever you allow the birds to be, their masters
who taught them must have a still larger share of credit. Besides,,
it is not so very clever to fish for other people, with a ring round
your neck which prevents your deriving any advantage from your
' How can you talk such nonsense, Connie, with the recollection
of what we have seen to-day so fresh in your mind ? The relations
between priest and people are here accurately symbolised, except
that the situation is reversed. The priests are the cormorants who^
THE SHAY-LE. 45
compel the people to fish for them, with a ring — or a rope — round
' It seems to me you are still sore at having spent those five
pounds upon the representative of Ay-tum-foo,' said Conway slily.-
' I don't think you got much for your money.'
' That's true,' said Pennicuick, with a grim smile.
' Yet, upon my life, I believe you got more than you bargained
for, Penn, up yonder.' And Conway pointed to the distant hill
crowned by the temple. ' Did they make you a real Buddhist after
some unpleasant form of initiation such as is said to prevail among
Freemasons ? '
' Perhaps,' said Pennicuick indifferently : ' also perhaps not.'
' Shall we stay where we are for the night or move along, Penn V
enquired his companion presently. ' The Mandarin to whom I have
got the letter of introduction lives about six miles up stream, and
it is too late — except for official visits — to make our call upon him.
It would be better therefore to stay here, and go on in the morn-
ing, especially as all the fun is to come over again at sunrise to-
' What fun ? ' interrupted Pennicuick.
' ^^^ly, the pilgrimage to the temple, and your sacred Shay-le.'
' Why, that old priest in yellow said it would not be shown till
the next feast-day ? ' exclaimed Pennicuick.
' Yes, but when he said that, his reverence had not given way
to your solicitations ; moreover, to-morrow is a feast-day, though
one of less importance than to-day. But you seem to be tired of
it all, and rather in a hurry to get away. Of course we can go on