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time saw two humming-birds, whirling about with prodigious rapidity, coming very close to me and uttering a shrill cry, from which I concluded their nest to be near at hand: but we could not discover it. There also I saw what is called the wild cock, certainly the most beautiful bird I had ever seen, and of the same kind with that stated to be found in Pulo Condor and Sumatra. I was unluckily too far off to hit the bird, nor with all iny endeavours was it ever in my power to procure one to carry home. In Cochin-China, however, exists another bird, still more extraordinary than the wild cock, unknown I apprehend to all ornithologists, and of which I never saw but a single feather. The emperor himself has not been more fortunate. According to the popular account, this extraordinary creature inhabits the inaccessible mountains of Phuyenne. They call it kinntrey, or the genius. It is of the size of a pigeon, having the beak red, the head black, the neck white, the wings a golden yellow, the belly and tail ash-colour. The most remarkable peculiarity is the tail, which is in length above eight feet: the feather which I saw, although the end bad been cut off, measured five feet six inches English. Of this bird many marvellous stories are related by the peasants, which must be set down to ignorance and imagination, as well as the report of a race of men with tails, in the southern country of Siampa. Of these extraordinary beings, called moys or wild men, the mandarin of the strangers himself gave me an account from his own ocular examination, while commanding a corps of elephants in that province. One of them he carried to the capital and presented him to the emperor, who sent him back to his own country with many rich presents. My respectable friends the French mandarins had never seen these extraordinary creatures; but they had so often heard their existence affirmed by men of character and probity, that they knew not how to disbelieve the report. The tail was said to be in length about eight inches and a half. Although endowed with speech, as well as with the buman figure, the mandarin seemed, I thought, to conceive them to be only irrational animals.
Cochin-China possesses abundance of animals of various sorts, but with the foregoing exceptions, none probably which may not be found in the adjoining countries in the internal parts: for it is naturally but a long narrow range of land, bounded by the sea on the east, and by chains of bills on the west. A skilful naturalist might there probably discover many curious and rare animals, but none of an unknown class. To the botanist a spacious field would be laid open hitherto unexplored ; but in the present state and dispositions of the
government towards strangers, particularly towards the French, with some precautions easily accessible for men of science. A stranger to botany myself, I have not ventured to enter on what belongs to that subject: I know, however, that the Cochin-Chinese possess various plants, which they employ with success in medicine.
I had the fortune to be in Fay-Fo at the reception of candidates for degrees in learning; for in all the cities of the empire, Gia-Long has established public schools divided into two classes. To the first, all parents are required to send their children as soon as they are seven years of age, to learn to read and write. In the second class, are instructed those destined to follow the profession of letters, who apply to the history of China, as well as to that of their own country; for the two are inseparably connected together : they study also the principles of the philosophy of Confucius, of natural history, and of medicine. At the end of every period of five years, these second schools furnish a certain number of candidates, who repair to the capital, to be examined and admitted into the order of the lettered, by the prince-premier himself, who, as the most learned man in the nation, in fact probably as much as in rank,) presides in the examination and awards the several prizes. The province of Quan-Nam, in which Fay-Fo is situated, had no fewer than five successful candidates on the occasion, and preparations were making to celebrate by public rejoicings so honourable an event. A feast and a play were to be provided for the visitors, who were to appear in garlands, and the dresses appropriated to their several ranks in letters. Business, however, prevented me from witnessing the whole of the ceremonies. The emperor, besides, had sent for our surgeon to attend one of his daughters, the ninth, who had on one of her hands a swelling which baffled the skill of all the medical men of the court. Since our arrival in the country, our surgeon had vaccinated about fifty children, with virus brought from France between two pieces of glass. The air had however had access to it, and his operations unfortunately took no effect; a disappointment the more distressing, as the small-pox often causes dreadful ravages among the Cochin-Chinese.
At an entertainment in Fay-Fo, given by one of the principal persons of the town, where a number of ladies were present, several widows and young damsels came up to me in succession ; offering me their betal to chew. This ceremony I afterwards understood to be the most cordial compliment that could be offered, denoting the readiness of those ladies to "enter into holy matrimony with me, without farther investigation of my situation or character. To their compliments, unfortunately lost on me, I made returns by little presents of various articles of French manufacture, handsome if possible, but always of intelligible utility. By this reciprocal gallantry all parties seemed to be quite contented.
Amidst a multitude of agreeable occurrences in CochinChina, we were exposed to one of a very opposite character. When landing the muskets for the use of government, one of our officers was always present on-shore, by the desire of the mandarins appointed to receive the arms, to see every thing done in order. The examination of the pieces went on satisfactorily, and out of 10,000 only twenty-five were rejected. But those received remained still to be proved, although, through his confidence in us, the emperor had already ordered the whole value to be paid. The proof bad gone on for some time, when I was informed that a great number of pieces bad burst in the operation. This accident we soon discovered to have been produced by the mode of proof, and not by the quality of the barrels; for in each, the Cochin-Chinese had put an ounce and-a-half of powder, covered by five ounces of moist earth, rammed down with a hammer. By this absurd process, the earth was in fact much more able to resist the explosive force of the powder than any barrel could be. Having pointed out to the proof-men their error, I informed the minister also; offering, at the same time, to make the
proper abatement of price for the pieces destroyed, and declaring that it was far from our intention to attempt any deception on the government. The emperor, when acquainted with the
. business, directed the minister to express his conviction that no imposition had been meditated; that he was satisfied with the explanation given of the accident; and that, as a proof of it, he would intrust me with all his future commissions for France.
According to the old system, all ships from Macao, and all other foreign vessels trading in the ports of Cochin-China, were subject to certain fixed duties, without the least regard to their several sizes and burthen. To do away this practice, equally unjust and absurd, Gia-Long, in the ninth moon of the seventeenth year of bis reign, corresponding to October, 1818, issued a regulation that all vessels coming into his ports should be measured. The length was to be taken, and in the middle of it the breadth ; on these dimensions the duties were to be exacted. It was also enacted, that for elephants' teeth, rhinoceros' horns, cardamum, cinnamon, pepper, dyeing-woods, ebony, should be paid a duty of five per cent. on the value ; eagle-wood and Kinam were not to be imported on any ac
count; the introduction of rice was to be allowed or prohibited, as consumption required; but the exportation of gold, silver, and copper, was strictly forbidden. 'Timber for shipbuilding and masts was to pay ten per cent. ; all duties were to be cleared before the ship began to take in her cargo, and the piastre was to be received by the government, at the rate of one quan five masses. Sugar was to be duty-free.
It was already mentioned, that one of the French mandarins in Cochin-China, M. Chaigneau, was to embark in the Henry, with his family for France. As a specimen of the dispositions and manner of acting of Gia-Long, may be here introduced an extract of the shape, or licence, to leave the country.
“The writing of the emperor, or king Gia-Long, addressed to M. Chaigneau, surnamed Thang, of the imperial family of Nguyen, mandarin of the second order, one of those who enjoy the privilege of penetrating into the inner apartments of the palace, and of approaching the sacred person of his majesty ; commander of two ships of the line, of which the one is called Thocie, (the happy omen) and the other Phung, (the eagle.)
“ M. Chaigneau having presented to us a request, stating, that having quitted France in the year 1791, he coasted along before a succession of ports, too numerous to be mentioned, and landed in the province of Gia-Ding, where we then resided, and offered to us his services, which we readily accepted. From that epoch, in all our campaigns, whether by sea or by land, he has always attended us with the greatest fidelity, and faced every sort of danger with unshaken fortitude.
“ Now, that by special grace from above, we have triumphed over all our enemies, and enjoy profound peace in our dominions, we are desirous to bestow our highest favour on the same M. C. But as for the space of twenty-six years he has been removed far from his native land, separated from all who are naturally dear to him, and has now expressed his ardent desire once more to revisit his country and his friends; and has prayed us to permit him, with his wife and children, to embark on-board a merchant-ship ready to sail for France, we have acceded to his solicitation in itself so natural and laudable. He is, therefore, hereby authorized to absent himself from our dominions for the space of three years, that is to say, from 1819 to 1821. He is also authorized to embark, for his return to our dominions, 3,000 pieces of merchandize ; for which all duties shall be remitted to him, as a token of our more special favour.
“ Over and above all these favours, we hereby grant and confirm to him his ordinary emoluments for the ensuing year, in order to prove how highly we value, and how worthily we reward, those strangers who come from quarters far remote, to devote themselves to our service. By so doing they will understand that, in whatever part of the world they may dwell, they are never to forget that we are always their good and kind sovereign, as in times preceding. Thus will they make a due return for the sentiments of love and affection towards them, with which our heart is filled.”
Our departure from the bay of Tourane being fixed for the 13th of November, and M. Chaigneau and family being properly accommodated on-board the Henry, we weighed anchor and stood out to sea. The whole ship's company, notwithstanding the unhealthy season of heat and rain, were in perfect health. It is, however, to be understood, that the climate is there not unhealthy; and masters of ships, desirous to maintain their men in good condition may, by a little pains, preserve good health on-board. The slightest indisposition must never, therefore, be neglected, but treated as if it were already a serious illness.
Proceeding on our voyage, we repassed the strait of Sunda, on the 3d of December, having passed by that of Gaspar. We observed the dangerous place, on the north of that island, discovered by the American ship Magdalen. After her no other vessel seems to have observed it, although it lies precisely in the fair-way passage of those coming froin the northward; and and although several English vessels have purposely searched for it without success. Having had the good fortune to fall in with that dangerous spot, without any accident, we had opportunity to satisfy ourselves of its real existence, and to ascertain its position. That spot then consists of two patches of coral, having only from nine to twelve feet French of water on them, on an extent of 170 toises (182 fathoms) from northeast to south-west, by thirty toises (thirty-two fathoms) from north-west to south-east. Very near to those patches of coral the soundings give 17, 20, and 25 brasses (15, 18, 22 fathoms) of water. When on the spot the peak of Gaspar bears south 8 deg. east by compass, distant eight leagues and one-third.
The correct latitude of the shoal is 1 deg. 53 min. south, and its longitude 104 deg: '4 min. 30 sec. east from Paris, (106 deg. 24 min. 30 sec. east from Greenwich.) We put in at the isle of Bourbon, and continued our voyage on the 8th of January, 1820: on the 14th of the following April we entered the river of Bordeaux.