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Of What was the Old Man Thinking?.
.7. Albert Wilson
.Sallie R. Heath.
Probable Changes in American Government.
John A. Wright.
W. N. Lockington
A WESTERN MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
Vol. II.-- JULY, 1880.- No. 7.
THE GREAT BRONZE GOD.
It was near nine o'clock, on one of the sun- and the roads. The Japanese, who are as a niest, brightest mornings that ever transformed race small and slender, frequently ride two, and the Yokohama Bay ripples into diamonds or even three, in one jinrikisha, and, when they fringed Fuji-yama's robe of snow with purest do, the general “baby-wagon" air makes it gold. We were going to interview Daibutz, the strongly suggestive of huge twins or monster great bronze Mogul of the Buddhist gods. We triplets. American dignity, however, airing ithad heard much of Daibutz. Every Japanned self abroad, rises superior to Japanese econoAmerican we met wanted to know if we had my, and your globe-trotter invariably makes seen him, and every other one confided to us re- the jinrikisha game a game of solitaire; conligiously that we ought to see him; but for three sequently, they are not the most sociable things days previously an anti-Buddhist weather-clerk in the world, particularly in view of the fact had dampened our enthusiasm, taken the starch that, the law requiring them to travel in single out of our plans, and imprisoned us with floods file to avoid collisions, conversational indulof “moist, unpleasant” rain. On this Sunday gence is attainable only by means of a speakmorning, however, all was serene, from the ing trumpet or a peripatetic telephone. meteorological outlook to the tempers of those The coolies are a curious class. They seem concerned; and, blue skies eliminating blue so like animals, with their bare legs, feet, and spirits, we cheerfully prepared for departure- heads, their dogged indifference to the weather, we embracing Doctor and Mrs. Eldridge, pa- going bare-footed and bare-legged in the snow tron saints of Americans in Yokohama, and a storms, and their monkey-like chattering in party of American ladies and navy officers, re- voices which are always unnaturally hoarse or cipients of their hospitality.
shrill, that it makes you almost uncomfortable A dozen jinrikishas waited before the door, to think that they, too, are of flesh and blood, and two dozen coolie biped steeds lounged pict- and may possibly have souls-curious foreign uresquely and otherwise in waiting. A word as souls, to be sure to be saved. They have to these phenomenal conveyances, since this an odd habit of going along quietly enough journey, like all others in Japan, depended sole- when they have a single vehicle in charge; but ly on them. They are to Japan both street-cars when a long line of them are traveling together, and carriages, and are as curious a style of ve- and the first one comes to a bridge, a rut, or hicle as civilized people can well imagine. They any obstruction, large or small, in the road, are simply huge perambulators, in which grown some heathenish sounding word is passed along folk are trundled about pretty much as babies the line, and bellowed, groaned, hooted, and are at home, only the delectable and dilatory howled to the end, making the wildest succesnurse-girls are replaced in Japan by small, sion of noises ever heard outside of a boiler muscular, bow-legged, and scantily clad cool- factory or of a Methodist camp-meeting. But ies. You employ an oriental tandem of one, they never kick and never shy, nor do they extwo, or three of these coolies at a time, accord- plode or run away. When we were finally ening to your weight, the distance to be traveled, sconsed in our queer, but royally comfortable,
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low-backed cars, it was with a feeling of per- china exposed in the little open recesses they fect confidence in the brown and muscular mo- call shops, and long distances of gay-colored, tors, who only waited for steam to be turned on cheap curio and clothing bazars, often past a to fly like mad over a strange and lovely coun- stock of mixed, common, and inferior foreign try, and under the bluest sky that ever smiled goods, jarring like a false note in a harmonious on a pious visit to the god of somebody else's strain, stared at by blear-eyed old women and ancestors.
smiled at by young ones, unnoticed by the men Our way led first through the narrow and pop- and pursued with shouts by the children, until ulous by-streets of Yokohama, with their low, finally we rolled over the last bridge and found smooth-planed, unpainted, windowless houses, ourselves suddenly trundling along the muddy with doors and walls that slide so that the en- embankments that raised us above the level tire front of the house is taken out and set on of the low, intentionally overflowed, terraced one side in all but the most unpleasant weather. rice fields. These last, we were told, were soon If there are any nails in a Japanese house, they to bud and blossom as the rose; but this was are invisible. Everything is grooved, fitted, only a prophecy, and they were still for us a smooth sliding, and, as they are a cleanly peo- monotonous, unvarying set of rich, black mudple, their houses, as you pass them, are some- flats. True Californians never pin their faith on thing exquisitely neat and dainty to look at. overflowed lands. The somber monotone of the The dresses are as quaint and curious as the rice fields was relieved here and there by picthouses. Their general costume is a very lazy uresque little black, conical, thatched cottages, one, and is utterly incompatible with hurried nestled among slender green trees, while chilmovements or violent exercise of any kind. It dren in richly colored rags played and shouted is well that this is so, for in a Japanese dwelling around them. Despite the cloister-like charany sudden motion would be liable to send you acteristics of the jinrikisha, our good lungs and through the inner walls, which are composed high spirits kept us from feeling completely isoentirely of small, translucent paper panes, set lated, and the air was laden with comments, in very delicate wooden frames. One good, en- witticisms, and snatches of song, with a jollity ergetic American, in a fit of absent-minded that made our long single file strikingly like the ness, could walk through a whole block of Jap- mother-in-law's funeral to which a navy officer anese houses and never feel that his progress compared it. The tea-house girls viewed our had been interfered with.
good time with sympathetic smiles. Tea-houses As we passed over the simple, substantial, are everywhere in Japan. They sprang up like arched granite bridges that spanned the canal, mushrooms under our feet, and gentle handwhich is everywhere in Yokohama, the swift maidens, in gray and navy blue garments lined quietness of the easy-rolling jinrikishas was with red, stood at the roadside and besought broken by the sound of wooden clogs, which us in silver-voiced chorus to pause and enter. clicked like castanets and clattered like the But we were fresh from the best of breakfasts, bones of the minstrel end-man, as the nu- and relentlessly bent on interviewing Daibutz, merous passers - by tripped along in a slow, and even the persuasive tea-house girl could pigeon-toed, and not ungraceful fashion. The not turn us from our fell pursuit—at least not people are quaint, composed, easy-going little then. It was long before we could decide which folk, and understand being clumsy in the most were the more numerous in Japan, the tea-houses graceful possible way. Almost everything in or children, but at last the children took the Japan is diminutive and infantile. Their car-palm. They crowd the streets of the city. You riages are like baby-wagons; their ordinary cos- expect that; but in the alleged lonesome and tume bears a strong family likeness to an in- quiet country they swarm like bees by the roadfant's swaddling clothes; the houses are like side, and swoop down upon you in bands and play-houses; their childen like funny bric-à- armies. Their shrill - voiced “ohio,” which is brac dolls, and unreasonably near of a size; “Jap” for “good-day," and their funny, patched, even in their graveyards, the head-stones are gay-colored clothes, pursue you like a decorative from six to twelve inches high, and so close nightmare, turn where you may. together as to give the idea that they must have But children and tea-houses were alike forbeen buried standing, and in defiance of the gotten when a turn in the road brought us sudcubic air ordinance at that.
denly into the presence of Fuji-yama--that These and many more things struck us as we peerless mou ain, worshiped by the Japanese wound through devious highways and by-ways and a beautiful memory to all who have seen it. in the suburbs of Yokohama, past the pictur- This day it loomed up against the delicate blue esque tiled roofs and the cunning, wide-open sky, a great, lone, white cone, so near you little houses, by fathoms of blue and white could almost touch it, so grand, so pure, so dazzlingly white that the sight of it was awesome. them anything but phenomenal peripatetic decFar down its side faint, blue shadows gave it orations. shape and blended with the olives, yellows, and Our repast having been finished, the paying browns of the trees, low hills, and rice fields in of the insignificant bill, and the bestowal of a the foreground. It was very beautiful, and we few cents of pour-boire, brought such prostrasuccumbed to its spell, wondering no longer at tions and such bumping of winged heads on the mountain idolatry of the queer, impression the floor as quite distressed us, and we made all able little people around us.
possible haste to our jinrikishas, and were soon A few more turns and we began to feel sensi- spinning along toward Kamakura and Daibutz. ble that we had advanced somewhat on our Once more over the paddy fields, and anon road. Distances in Japan are largely a matter over and among low green hills, through narof temperament. It is from nine to eighteen row paths where a chance motion would start a miles from Yokohama to Daibutz, according to crimson shower of odorless petals from the tall the company, the weather, and the digestion. bloom-laden camellia hedges, or bring one in One. bilious man assured us that it was twenty. contact with the graceful bamboo fences, into
The true American abroad, as at home, is ac- which the young shoots still growing are wovcustomed to gauge distances by his pocket-en, making barriers too lovely to do anything flask, and by the time those trusty pedometers but shut out sentiments or imprison emotions. said half way, we were contented to give the The hills are thickly wooded, and in the lovemud-stained coolies their hard-earned rest, and liest spot on every hillside you will always find at last yield to the solicitations of the ubiqui- a Buddhist shrine. Sometimes it is hollowed tous and inviting tea-house. The jinrikishas out of a rock, sometimes carved in the stump rolled into a small court-yard, and we bundled of a tree, sometimes built of wood or stone, and out and seated ourselves on a very low veran- always containing one or more rudely carved dah that bounded the court-yard on three sides. stone or wooden images of Buddha. About Presently we crossed it, and sat cross-legged on the shrine there are often piles of smooth, round soft mats in one of the pretty, little paper al- stones, offerings of the faithful—sometimes garcoves, utterly destitute of furniture, that 'yawned ments, and frequently sandals, proffered by sufinvitingly all around the court-this in response fering wayfarers with a prayer for the ease of to voluble, sweet-voiced, coquettish, and unin- pain. telligible greetings from low-bowing Japanese On this day the distance to Daibutz was but maidens, headed by a horrible duenna with nine miles, although the roads were heavy. At blackened teeth. They brand them this way in early noon a last turn through the paddy fields. Japan for having committed matrimony, though and a last pull over the hill brought us to Kameven that is not sufficient to make them keep akura, beyond which is Daibutz. their mouths closed. Leaving their sandals on At Kamakura we traveled a long mile through the verandah, they glided noiselessly about in a densely populated street, and kept our fingers. stocking feet, bringing us astringent and unpal- in our ears through just one mile of continuous, atable Japanese tea in dainty, fragile porcelain prolonged "ohio.” Thence through a magnifbowls, served on pretty lacquer stands, with a icent avenue of stately trees, where before us sauce piquante of oriental salaams and smiles, lay the sea,our first glimpse of it since leaving and an accompaniment of reasonably good con- | Yokohama, and at our left the grand old black, fectionery.
red, and pagoda-topped temples of Kamakura. Japanese girls are lovely in the best style of Leading straight from the temples to the sea, decorative art, with their bright black eyes, there stretches a broad granite way, with scatpretty painted faces, the simple straight kimono, tered trees on either side, down which, in times or dress, made of fine silk and red lined, the long gone by, the high priests, in full panoply, obi, or sash, made of rich, thick, brocaded silk, went once a year to the seaside to perform rewound round and round the waist, and the small ligious rites now quite abandoned and almost shapely hands and plump smooth arms disclos- forgotten. We went from the grand avenue ed by the falling away of the loose sleeve. But across an open stretch of country by the seatheir crowning glory, the climax as it were, is side, then among the trees again, and suddenly the superstructure which adorns their pretty into a lovely little village nestled among the little heads. It is the abundant shining black hills and out of all sight and hearing of the hair dressed in picturesque spread-eagle fashion, with gay crêpe bands wound in and out But we looked in vain for Daibutz. We were among the tresses, and stabbed with many long told that we were not to dash rudely, with giddy curious gilt daggers and pins. The ensemble is heads, empty stomachs, and whirling jinrikibeautifully grotesque, and it is hard to believe I shas, into the presence of the god. So the pro:
cession came to a halt in front of the regulation | ically valuable as the almost perfect expression tea-house, where, after a glass of dry Mumm of a grand idea - the idea of divine repose. (quite a rarity in the East, where they usually There is nothing dull in its immobility, yet drink Heidsieck) and a bite of something from nothing sphinx-like behind its serenity; no our host's special “Jap,” who had gone before, riddle to unravel or to vex you. It is simply we were ready to interview anybody, our minds the perfection of philosophy-a passionless full of romantic expectation and our hands of calm. It is the perfect development and perchicken sandwiches. A stroll of five minutes "fect gratification of all the faculties; the consethrough the romantic by-paths sufficed to dis- quent absence of desire or unrest. Those who pose of the sandwiches and bring us to one of study and love it fancy that the spell of its those huge, pagoda-topped gates, flanked by quiet serenity descends upon them and fills gorgeously painted rainbow gods in cages, which them, like hasheesh or the lotus, with a sense invariably denote the entrance to a Buddhist of perfect peace. Our merry crowd were each temple. The tree-bordered, gray stone walk and all just a little touched by the grand old that brings you to Daibutz was skillfully con- god, and before we left we had mutually contrived, so that, without any previous glimpses, fessed feelings of respect and admiration for a sudden step brought us full into the presence him, and unanimously resolved that he should of his bronze majesty, in the very spot where he adorn our parlors were he only a few degrees has rested immobile for over six hundred years. smaller. We were then shown to a small dark He loomed up right before us, a colossal figure door, which led (for the image is utterly hollow) of Buddha, represented sitting, oriental fashion, into its very bosom, which is fitted up in a rude on a tremendous granite platform. His great way as a temple. A break-neck climb up a verhands were lying palm up on his enormous lap, tebral stairway took us to the small window and the sitting posture and the inadequately which made darkness visible, whence we could low pedestal made the figure look so dispropor- look on the comparatively Lilliputian grove, tionately broad that it was at first difficult to which affords shelter to picnic parties and realize its height. But a glance at the sur- makes a short-waisted background to the sixty rounding trees and buildings over which it odd feet of Daibutz and pedestal. towers, and the feeling of being microscopic- While in the interior it seemed incredible ally minute which crept over us, soon brought that this monstrous image could be the work us to a sense of its size. It bears a strong family of the puny Japanese. It was cast, we were likeness to all other images of Buddha, but its told, in sections, and the parts so joined as to proportions render it unusually impressive, for appear one casting. The bronze of which it is while the non-superstitious American mind can made is excellent in quality, containing conrise superior to the toy idols of the mantel- siderable gold. Gold was once very cheap in piece, a god forty-four feet high and eighty- Japan, and as late as 1600 they exchanged gold seven in circumference, with an eight-and-a for silver, weight for weight, with the Dutch. half-foot face, a thirty-four-foot knee, and a This information, and much more besides, thumb three and a half feet in circumference, was imparted to willing listeners by the one or is not to be sneezed at. Huge earrings and a two of the party who were old residents, while close-fitting, bead-like head-dress give it rather we went through the next step in the programme. an Egyptian air. There is a legend that the That was to climb a ladder, scramble over his god was ordered by a pious empress of Japan, thirty-four feet of bronze knees, and recline on who commanded contributions of copper coin his tremendous thumb while we were being phofrom all the faithful, and received enough to tographed. There is room on his hands for a melt over into this immense image. We were party of a dozen, and one can never realize his struck at once by the discolored appearance of photographed insignificance till he sees himself the bronze, which is gray, mottled, and weather- perched, flea-like, on Daibutz's thumb-nail. beaten from the suns and storms of six centu- A few years ago an enterprising Yankee, a ries, and then by the wonderful expression of the New Yorker this time, tried to buy the god, figure, which is the embodiment of majestic re- with the idea of taking it to pieces for transporpose. It is somehow more natural to look to tation, and putting it up and exhibiting it in New the texture than to the meaning of any oriental York. As the church was in a tight place, Daiwork of art, and their intelligent expression of butz was bargained for and almost sold, when an idea was always a surprise. In our lordly the English in Japan made such an outcry way, we expected skill rather than ideas from against the vandalism that the government put them, but acquaintance with them very soon a stop to the sale. Bric-à-brac gods and empty changed that misconception. Like all images pockets strongly tempt the sacrifice of one and of Buddha, Daibutz repays study. It is artist- / replenishment of the other.