Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
When a Chinaman dies a very important question arises as to when and where he should be buried. Professional fortune-tellers and priests have to be consulted, and they study the stars in order to find out what would be a good day and which would be the best place.
As all this takes a long time, the body is brought to this City of the Dead to await their decision, the relatives meantime paying rent for the cell.
If the dead man was very rich it often takes years before the priests can find a lucky day for burying him. One coffin which we saw had been there for over sixty years, so we guessed that the occupant or his relatives must have been very rich indeed!
The coffin is usually a very solid affair, made of massive slabs of wood and polished by hand- rubbing or lacquer. At a certain time of the year it is the custom for the people all to go and visit the graves of their relatives, and this was going on while we were at Canton.
It was very interesting to see thousands of people going off in excursion junks with flags flying, just as if they were going for a holiday outing. They were on their way to distant cemeteries up the river to offer a few flowers and to burn a few sticks of incense on the graves of their ancestors.
It was pleasing to see that these people do not forget their dead. Executions
I had often heard of the executions which were so common in Canton, and horrible photographs of them can be bought anywhere. So I asked my guide, a Chinaman who spoke English fairly well, whether execution, still went on. He said:
“Oh no, since the revolution all executions have been stopped.”
So I asked if he could show me the prison, as I had heard many stories of the enormous prison of Canton and of the awful lives led by the prisoners, and I thought I should like to see for myself how they were now treated under the new form of government.
But my guide, who was evidently a strong supporter of the revolution, said:
“No more prisons now. The new Government he make the prison all same house for soldiers to live in.” “But,” I said, “if you have no prisons and no executions, what do you do with criminals? What do you do, for instance, if a man steals something?”
“Oh! shoot him,” was the reply. Then I said: “What do you do with women? You surely don’t execute them?” “No,” he said, “not women; we cut them up in one hundred and eight pieces.”
I don’t quite know what was the difference that he made between being executed and being shot or cut up. But I soon had proof that he was not altogether untruthful, because we went and saw the execution ground, a very ordinary little back alley where a potter did his work close to the wireless telegraphy station of the Admiralty, an odd contrast of the most up-to-date invention with the most ancient methods of brute power.
The executioner came to see us and called to his little granddaughter to bring his sword. He willingly showed its how he cut off criminals’ heads, but when we asked him how many he had executed he was puzzled to say, offhand; it apparently amounted on an average to four or five a week.
Shortly afterwards when I was in the street a party of half a dozen soldiers came hurrying by with a prisoner walking along among them and a small crowd following. When I asked what this meant I was told that the man had been convicted of stealing and that the soldiers were going to