The dress of a Chinese is suited to the gravity of his demeanour.
It consists, in general, of a long veil: extending to the ankle: the sleeves are wide at the shoulder, are gradually narrower at the wrist, and are rounded off in the form of a horse-shoe, covering the whole hand when it is not lifted up. No man of `rank` is allowed to appear in public without boots which have no heels, and are made of satin, silk, or calico. In full dress, he wears a long silk gown, generally of a blue colour and heavily embroidered; over this is placed a surcoat of silk, which reaches to the hand, and descends below the knee. From his neck is suspended a string of costly coral beads. His cap is edged with satin, velvet, or fur, and on the crown is a red ball with a peacock’s feather hanging from it. These are badges of distinction conferred by the emperor. The embroidered bird upon the breast is worn only by mandarins high in civil `rank`, while the military mandarins are distinguished by an embroidered dragon. All colours are not suffered to be worn indiscriminately. The emperor, and the princes of the blood only, are allowed to wear yellow; although violet colour is sometimes chosen by mandarins of `rank` on days of ceremony.
At the approach of night the gates of the cities in China, and the barricades at the end of each street, are carefully shut. During the night no persons of credit are seen in the streets, which abound with watchmen, who strike upon a piece of bamboo in their left hand, to denote the time and to mark their own vigilance. Those whom they meet in their walk are questioned, and if the reply be satisfactory, they are permitted to pass through a wicket in the barricade. The watchmen carry lanterns, upon which are written their names and the district: to which they belong. In the very hot months, all the lower classes of Chinese have their feet and legs bare.
The men’s stockings are made of stuff, stitched and lined with cotton, with a line of gold thread sewed along the top. These stockings are somewhat mishapen, but are very warm.—There is an engaging modesty in the Chinese habit which adorns every class in life. The dress of the women is fastened close round the throat, their sleeves conceal their hands, and they wear long drawers reaching to their ankles. Those who can afford it, purchase ear-rings of gold, and large armlets of the same metal.—The hair of the Chinese is univerfally black. The women comb it up very nicely, and braid or coil it on the head with much neatness : sometimes it is fastened with a gold bodkin or two, and generally ornamented with natural or
artificial flowers, disposed according to the fancy of the wearer. The young and unmarried are required by custom to wear their hair combed over their foreheads, whilst the eyebrows of both are trimmed into a mere pencil line.
None but the lowest orders of Chinese women are indulged with the natural use of their feet. The parents or nurses of a female infant of superior condition do not neglect to roll the toes under the feet,
the great one excepted; and by being confined thus, they are rendered incapable of ever recovering their natural shape and position. The motive for this singular distortion is not acknowledged by any of the natives, neither is it easy to be surmised. If the custom proceeded from a notion of rendering the women more usefully domestic, the purpose is in a great measure defeated, since they are by this practice deprived of that active power which is necessary for the performance os domestic duties. If it be from a distrust of their fidelity, it is remarkable that no such custom prevails amongst the Turks, or other Asiatics, who are equally jealous of their women. It seems probable that, either from habit or prejudice, they attach ideas of vulgarity and disgust to this part os the human frame. The Chinese ladies are ridiculed by the European nations on account of this deformity, which is the result os fashion only, whilst they do not consider that, unsightly as it may be, it is perfectly consistent with those peculiar principles of modesty and decorum which the Chinese profess.