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Street Singers

Street Singers.jpg The 'Tse King.'ThumbnailsAnglo-Saxon Dance.—VIII. CenturyThe 'Tse King.'ThumbnailsAnglo-Saxon Dance.—VIII. CenturyThe 'Tse King.'ThumbnailsAnglo-Saxon Dance.—VIII. Century

THE original heading of this picture, as given by my Chinese artist, is " striking the flower drum." For the information of those who do not understand the Chinese idiom we must say that flower or flowery (for the position of the word alone determines its genus) is put for anything gay, and frequently means that which is not only gay and pleasing to the eye or senses, but sometimes also that which is dissolute and vicious. Thus " a flower boat " is a boat for a party of pleasure, used fre-quently by the Southern Chinese for an occasion of revelling and vice. A flower chair is the sedan chair used on occasions of a marriage festivity ; flower guns are guns for purposes of amusement, namely, squibs, rockets, and fireworks generally. The meaning of " a flower child " would never be guessed by the English reader ; it signifies nothing more than a beggar, most probably because beggars are usually a vagabond people, leading a wretched abandoned life. The Chinese beggar, like his European brother, notwithstanding all his hardships, greatly prefers his liberty with an occasional feast, frolic, and dance, to the toil of honest industry. I have myself in China clothed, fed, and housed a starving beggar boy, who ran away from me directly he was asked to take a spade and dig for an hour in the garden. The women in our picture are a kind of beggars, and as they play sprightly, exciting music, and sing gay and almost indecent songs, and I fear live frequently a corrupt life, they are called those who " strike the flower drum." The drum is not the only instrument they employ, but this is put generally for all other kinds of music. One of the figures is seen holding a small drum and a little slip of bamboo as drum-stick, the other has a tiny brass gong, and as she strikes her " flower gong," she deadens the sound with the other hand, to pre-vent the prolonged clang of the metal from drown-ing the words of her song. The little child carried on the back shows the ordinary method employed by beggars of stowing away their children when they are too young or too tired to follow their elders on foot. These street singers are not seen all the year round, they only appear on New-year festivities.

Author
Pictures of the Chinese,
Drawn by Themselves
Described by Rev R H Cobbold, MA
Published in 1860
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