Page images

and five, which these leaves present to the eye, the plant obtained in ancient times, in China, the character of particular sacredness. The growth of this singular plant is extremely slow, but then it attains an age unusual in plants of this kind: when it has stood fifteen years or more, the root is not yet an inch in diameter. Every year the stalk makes at the upper part of the root, as each new shoot marks, which show by their number the age of the plant. The root itself is of an elliptical form, and commonly consists only of one piece. The plant bears but a few seeds; two or three grains are all that can be gathered from one stem; these are of a bright red colour, in shape and size like those that may be collected from the honeysuckle. They ripen in America, in the latter half of the month of September, and their taste is more aromatic than that of the root itself, but less bitter.

In China the greatest care is taken in gathering this valuable root. It is not done till it has attained the highest perfection and maturity: this is during the autumn and winter. In America they long committed, from ignorance and inattention, the great fault of collecting the root from the spring to the first frost. As it is always soft and watery at this season, it naturally shrunk together in drying, became very hard, and lost not only in weight but in goodness. This mistake is still committed in some parts of the United States, where the inhabitants make the collecting of the root only an occasional object; and when they are hunting or travelling, dig up the plant at all seasons when they happen to meet with it. But by this they deprive the ground of a valuable production, which would be far more valuable if it were tended and cultivated with due care. Though the ginseng roots thus collected by ignorant persons do not fetch in China the high prices which are given for such as have attained their proper maturity, yet the demand for them is not the less brisk. The American merchants in the interior purchase large quantities by the pound, or the hundred weight, of the country people, who employ themselves in collecting and digging this root, and gain by exporting it to China, about one hundred per cent.

But the profit is incomparably greater when ginseng roots, perfectly ripe, and carefully gathered at the proper time, are brought to Macao or China. The Americans begin to be more sensible of this advantage, in proportion as the intercourse with China becomes more active. They have made themselves better acquainted with the nature of the plant, and the taste of the Chinese; employ greater care in gathering, and acquire more skill in digging it. One man can gather about eight or nine pounds daily. Hence the quantity of this article exported from the United States increases at the same time that its quality improves; and the trade with ginseng roots in the Chinese markets continues to become more and inore profitable to America. The exportation already amounts to at least 500 cwt. annually.

In China they understand the art of preparing the ginseng, in such a manner, that it appears semi-transparent in this case a much higher value is set upon it. In America they have also learnt this art, and the process employed is very simple. The merchants in the American commercial towns purchase the roots so prepared, and rendered partly transparent, at six or seven piastres a piece; and sell them in China, according to the quality, at from fifty to a hundred piastres a piece. Even in Louisiana and Kentucky, they carry on this extremely profitable export trade to China.

A great part of the East India trade, in which such large capitals are now employed, by the merchants of the United States, is also calculated chiefly with a view to China. The Americans have found means to obtain in the East Indies, a considerable sale for many of the productions of their country; and for these, they take in return East India goods, which they dispose of to advantage in the Chinese markets, and, at the same time, gain the freight. Besides their own produce and manufactures, they carry, also, manufactured goods which they have purchased in Europe, directly from the ports of the United States to Canton. Articles particularly in request there, are opium, Indian birds' nests, benjamin, scarlet berries, gum lac, Russia leather, cordovan, coloured linen, white, black, and spotted lamb skins, writing paper, razors, grind-stones, carpets, penknives, coarse cloth, buttons, axes, scythes, locks, watches, and numerous other articles, which the Chinese have hitherto received almost exclusively by the ships of the English East India Company.

The American merchants, on the other hand, bring back from the Chinese seas, partly for home consumption, partly for the supply of Europe, immense quantities of tea, of the most various kinds, porcelaine, Indian ink, lackered articles, pearls both genuine and artificial, coral, paints, half silk stuffs, fans, cowries, various kinds of silk, pictures and drawings in India ink, &c.

I have thus, Mr. Editor, given a sketch of what may be called the American view of this important question; though it is, doubtless, partial, and may be in some particulars exaggerated, it still seems to merit the serious consideration of those who appreciate the importance of our China trade: I forbear from examining what may be said to weaken the force of the reasonings above stated, in the hope that some of your readers, better qualified than myself, may be induced to take up so interesting a subject, and either show them to be ill founded, or else point out what change (if any) in our system, may enable us to avert the threatened loss of so valuable a branch of our commerce.

H. E. L.


Art. VI.- Observations on the Opossum. (From Voigt's Magazine of Natural Sciences, published at Wiemar.) I HAVE had in my possession, for some months past, this “ won

der of all the land animals," as Lawson calls it, and for which I am indebted to the goodness of one of my North American friends, Dr. Tidyman of Charleston, South Carolina.

This animal is of the bigness of a middle sized cat. The form of its head, like that of the fox, having a long, naked, flesh-coloured, almost proboscis-like snout, with the nose a little turned upwards resembling somewhat that of a pig. The opening of the mouth is large, the lower jaw perceptibly shorter than the upper, and the upper canine teeth visible even when the mouth is shut. The head is white, with a light blackish streak lengthwise along the forehead. The part before the anterior corners of the eyes, wards the nose, are marked by a similar blackish streak. On both sides of the snout, and particularly along the cheeks there are a number of long hairs, or whiskers. The eye-balls are small, but their corneæ, relatively to the size of the eyes, are very large and considerably convex, so that there is very little seen of the white of the eyes. The black brown colour of the iris gives it an animated look. There is in this animal, as in the quadrimania generally, scarcely a rudiment of the membrana nictitants visible. The ears are large, black, bare, and apparently membranous, as in the bat, being without an intervening cartilage, and in my animal, without the white border, which others have noticed in this genus.

The neck is short and thick; so is also the trunk. On the back of the trunk particularly, the hair is long and rugged, as with the badger. The colour of the hair is white, slightly mixed with black, being darkest about the shoulders.

On the belly is placed a remarkable pouch which is readily observed by its prominence, especially where the singular ossa marsupialia, or cornua pelvis abdominalia lie beneath the opening of the pouch is only marked by a longitudinal slit.

The tail is about as long as the remaining part of the animal. It is almost entirely naked, and somewhat scaly, like that of the common rat. It is however a true cauda prehensilis.

The fore-arms and legs, are black and covered with a soft hair; the toes are naked, and flesh-coloured. The hind feet are furnished with thumbs, having small flat nails. The other toes are furnished with claws of a white colour.

I have given a figure, taken from the living animal in the 6th part of my delineations of natural objects.

This is a true animal omnivorum, being satisfied with every sort of food. It is particularly fond of plums and above all, besides wild-fowl and birds, of bulion soup. It chews its food very deliberately and with loud smacking. It handles large pieces, quite dexterously, with its fore paws; and uses them also with great readiness in cleaning its snout-whilst it is employed in this business it sits on its hind legs like a squirrel.*

Its voice is weak and grunting, which, however, it seldom emits, unless it be disturbed or enraged. It drinks little, occasionally none at all for some days. It makes urine but seldom, and quite as seldom evacuates fæces when it is in perfect health-generally but once every 4 or 5 days—it does neither into its bed, but goes for this purpose to some other place in its box. It keeps itself in general very clean, and is upon the whole a well disposed and quiet animal. It is slow, and as it were, thoughtful in all its movements, and so tenacious of life, that in America, they have a saying, " that if a cat has 9 lives, the opossum has 19.

Its remaining natural history does not belong to this place. That has already been given in previous numbers of this Journal.

I will add a few words relative to the history of the first notices and delineations, that were given of this animal in Europe after the discovery of the new world.

Vincent Pinzon, who accompanied the great Colon, in his voyage of discovery, is the first, as far as I know, who described this animal, His notice is found, among others in the Herwagian collections, (novas orbis s. 121, first edition 1532.)

A living opossum was brought, about the end of the 15th century, to Seville, and from thence was taken to the king of Grenada. At this place Peter Martyr, saw it, in a dead state, and gave a more faithful and circumstantial account of it, describing it, as a monstrum animal, vulpino rostro, cercopethecæ cauda; vesperitibones auribus, manibus humanis, pedibus semiam demulans, &c.

The name Simivulpa was given to it by Gylle. (In his Aelianus, 1535, 4. p. 209.) Gessner afterwards adopted this name.

The earliest delineation of this animal that I know of, and which is indeed very deficient, is found in the unfortunate Servet's edi. tion of Ptolemæus 1535, Fol. Tab. 23, brought from the eastern shore of Terra Firma. Reperitur hic animal habens reservaculum quo suos pullos secum portat et eos non nisi lactandi tempore emittit. (This was therefore quite misunderstood.) Tale regi Hispanie gravate oblatum est.

The first tolerable figure is given by Nurenberg, p. 156, except. ing indeed the unnatural curly hair and the misfigured hind-feet.

Art. VII.-Description of the Laplanders.

[From Clarke's Travels' part third.] ONE

NE would think, that to a wild Lapp, living in tents, poverty

or riches would be almost indifferent: but there is no people more prone to avarice. Their sole object seems to be the amassing of treasure, and for the strange purpose of burying it afterwards. The

* Like all the mamalia that are obliged to use their fore feet in a variety of directions for particular purposes, this animal is furnished with clavicles.

avarice of a Lapp is gratified in collecting a number of silver vessels, or of silver inlaid with gold, or even of bruss vessels, and pieces of silver coin. Being unable to carry this treasure with him in his journeys, he buries the whole of it; not even, as it was before stated, making his wife acquainted with the place where it is concealed. If sudden death be fal the owner, it is generally lost. Some of the Lapps possess 1 cwt. of silver; and those who enjoy a property of 1500 or 1000 rein-deer, have much more: in short, such an astonishing quantity of specie is dispersed among them, that Mr. Grape attributed its scarcity in Sweden to this practice among the Laplanders. As they keep it almost always buried, it does not happen to the owner to be gratified even with a sight of his hidden treasure more than once or twice in a year.

'The Lapps marry very carly; the men seldom later than the age of eighteen, or the women later than fifteen: but the Finns and the Swedes are prohibited from such early marriages. Very little previous ceremony is used upon these occasions: an interchange of presents, and copious libations of brandy, are all that take place before the solemnization and consummation. The gifts consist of rings, spoons, cups of silver or of silver gilt, and rix-dollars in specie, according to the wealth of the parties. The richest make also other gifts; such as, silver girdles, and silk or cotton handkerchiefs for the neck. When bans have been published in the church, which is very commonly the case, the marriage immediately succeeds their publication; and the nuptials are consummated in one of the log-houses near the church, in which the Lapps deposit their stores for the annual fair. Upon these occasions, the bridegroom treats his friends with brandy, dried rein-deer fesh cooked without broth, rein-deer cheese, and bread and butter. If he be of a wealthy family, beer is also brewed: or, wanting this, plenty of pima and curds and whey are provided. The luxury of smoking tobacco, so general among the Lapps, is, of course, largely indulged upon these occasions, and even takes place during the repast. Dancing, being unknown among them, forms no part of the merry making. After the marriage-feast, a general collection is made in money for the married couple: when the distribution of brandy is renewed, and continued for two or three hours, according as the gifts are more or less liberal. Upon this occasion, gifts of reindeer are promised to the bridegroom, which he is afterwards to go and demand: but if he makes the visit without carrying brandy to the owner of the rein-deer, the promise is never kept. The dowry of wealthy parents, among the Laplanders, to their children when they marry, consists of from thirty to fifty and even eighty reindeer, besides vessels of silver and other utensils.

• The poorer class of Lapps are supported by becoming carriers for the Colonists and more wealthy Laplanders, to the different fairs, &c. In this manner they undertake the most distant journeys, accompanied by all the members of their family, so distributed, as



« PreviousContinue »