In Whitman's Hand

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About this Item

Title: Dates referring to China

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: Around June 23, 1857

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00090

Source: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. Transcribed from digital images of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the marginalia and annotations, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note(s): At one point, this manuscript likely formed part of Whitman's cultural geography scrapbook.

Contributors to digital file: Ashlyn Stewart and Kevin McMullen



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Dates referring to China.—

Fo, a god, or divine being, ruler, lawgiver, and teacher—a god—2500 years before Christ.

Silk is plenty—[they?] have a kind of white coarse stuff of grass, that makes, ^for foreigners very good shirts, lasting much longer than cotton or linen.

The Americans are in very good repute in China—the English and French very bad.—


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June 23d '57

Talk with Elias Pierson, who was in China, in the rebel army, in Canton, and all through the country:

A religious building: There would be here and there in the cities a large long building, perhaps one or two hundred feet in length, perhaps even more, and fifty or sixty feet high.—Along the walls on both sides range the idols, gods, the "Joshes," mostly of wood, some of them small, some thirty feet high, carved, gilt, &c.—Some are devils—some on horseback—some monsters, deformed persons, half-animals, fish half fish, and so on.—The Chinese are around, with the priests, on their knees pattering, mummbling, &c.

The "Josh" is the Chinese idol, in wood or clay, in temples or dwelling houses.—It is the same, in general, as other pagan idols.—


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Tea.—This is the universal beverage.—It is cheap, of course.—It comes in cakes, (like ^chewing tobacco here,) and is boiled, not "drawn," as here.—

Slavery.—This exists in China.—It has no regard to color.—Nine tenths of the slaves are women and girls.—

Polygamy also exists, among rich persons.—


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Personal size and attributes.—The "fair Chinese" are of good size and proportions with brunette skin, and are generally light and nimble.—They have not the muscle of the beef-eating races.—They feed on rice, and greens, soups, and similar diet.—

Chinese Army.—Two contending forces, arranged against each other, take it quite easy, adjust their dresses, use their fans if the weather be hot, and are quite careful not to have their faces injured.—They are dandy soldiers.—Often An engagement may happen and not no killed or wounded [be?] the result.—


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Climate.—A large part of China has about the same climate as New York, with snow and ice in winter and warm some very hot days in summer.

Executions.—Criminals are executed in several ways.—A common mode is to set the victim in a sort of box which tightens around his neck and ankles, and compresses his body by degrees, with a ^special screw against his breast; thus squeezing him to death.—Sometimes may be seen twenty or thirty such victims, in rows dead or dying, with their eyes protruded and their tongues hanging out of their mouths.


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Pekin.—Away in the interior is Pekin, the great city, the "Chinaman's heaven."—Here is the Emperor, and the imperial government.—

Lascars.—Once or twice a year, the Lascars have a characteristic spree.—They attire themselves fantastically, one has a chain around his neck, one around his waist, another around his ankles, and the others lead them through the streets, with dances and music.—And such music!—There are perhaps fifty or sixty primitive instruments, reeds, gongs, shells, &c., all keeping in a wild sort of uniform rythm.—The Lascars in


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this way go march to and fro all, eating, drinking, making merry, and collecting money in a vessel which the proffer to everybody.—But [the?] strangest destiny awaits this money!.—At night the Lascars all go together out upon the water, some very deep place, and pour this money into the sea! This is a gift to the Chinese Neptune, or to Pluto—that they may have grace at the hands of those deities in their voyages, or after all voyages are over.—


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