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Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas

The captain of the losing boat then said that he had lost distance when the boats were at the beach; he complained that a lot of children had got in the way and impeded him.

The truth was, as we afterwards heard, that the boat had rushed into a lot of children and had killed one; but this was considered such a trifling circumstance that it was scarcely mentioned.

Otherwise it was a splendid race.

This race is a curious means by which the Chinese honour the memory of one of their statesmen who in the old days committed suicide rather than betray his country. It was supposed that he had drowned himself, and boats had put out hastily to try to save him. These Dragon Boats pretend that they are racing to his rescue. Canton’s Floating City

Just after sunrise our great river steamer steamed into the wharf at Canton City. Apart from a few big buildings on the river front, the city is a mass of low, brown-roofed houses, so like the thousands of brown, roofed-in boats along the bank that it is difficult to see where the houses end and the boats begin.

And these boats, although small, are the floating homes of no fewer than 300,000 men, women, and children. They are punted and sculled by the women and children, the women carrying their babies on their backs all the time. I believe this accounts for the flat faces of the Chinese, because when mother is rowing, if she “catches a crab” or misses the water and falls backward, she is liable to squash the baby on her back.

If you peep into one of these boats you find the cabin beautifully clean and brightly ornamented, however dingy the boat may seem outside.

The small children are tied up like monkeys on a long string fastened to the roof of the cabin. This enables them to run about, while it prevents them from falling overboard.

I was told that some of them, instead of being tied up, have two empty bottles strapped on to them to act as a lifebuoy if they fall into the river.

The families do all their cooking on board their boats, buying their firewood and fish and vegetables from traders’ boats which ply on the river selling their goods.

It is said that a large number of the boat people have never set foot on land, and are very proud of the fact. When lighting up in the morning a good many of the boats fired rockets. This they do to scare away the devil, especially if one of the family is ill.

Smugglers

An amusing sight to see was the smuggling that was going on on board our ship. Salt is very heavily taxed here, and the Customs officers were very strict in examining any packages landed by passengers which were heavy and might contain salt.

As the ship was closely surrounded by hundreds of boats, some Customs officers watched also the river side of the vessel. But it was not easy for them to see far among the mass of boats with high cabin heads, and thus they failed to see one very small dug-out which crept in right under the stern of the ship and received bags of salt which were lowered over the side by Chinamen on board the steamer whenever they saw no one was looking.

Sometimes, I believe, they send the salt out of the ship through the ash shoots. Among the larger boats are big houseboats which take lodgers, and on week-ends and holidays they often run up or down the river to get a little change of air and scenery without your having to pack up and leave your home.

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