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Of course in these heavy sails there is a tendency for the whole sail to swing out forward, and a single tack-rope, which is sufficient to hold aft the small balance lugsail of an up-river skiff, could never stand the strain which would be put upon it by the lurching of these enormous weights in a head-sea. Consequently the fore end of each batten on the sail is brought aft to the mast by a lacing which can be hauled upon or slacked up, as may be required, from the deck; and by this means the lower battens can be bowsed aft, and the required peak given to the sail, while the friction and strain are distributed over the whole mast. It takes not a little skill to set up a Chinese lug properly; and in a head-sea, or in hoisting sail after rain, the groaning and creaking which goes on up and down the mast is prodigious. But the moment the halyard is slacked up, everything else slackens off automatically, and he sail is almost safe never to jam, and to come down as freely in a squall as in a flat calm.


I can speak from some experience in handling this form of sail, and may say that once having learned the set and balance of the sails for various points of sailing, nothing can surpass the handiness of the rig, but every sail requires a little knowing if the best results are to be obtained from it.

The mizen, right up on the high poop, and frequently a trifle over to the starboard quarter, is generally adopted buy the larger sea-going junks, for the very same reason that it is used very generally in Europe, namely, to reduce the size and increase the handiness of the mainsail necessary for the ship. Instead of having to hoist the heavy mainsail in manoeuvring in harbour, the mizen can then be used in combination with the foresail; by taking in the mizen in a breeze the equivalent of one or two reefs in the mainsail is easily attained without the necessity of handling the heavier sail at all; while, when there is a danger of missing stays, the mizen is often invaluable.

In the large five-masted junks of the north, which were more common formerly than they are now, two mizenmasts may generally be seen, one stepped broad out on each quarter on the high poop. The weather of these is set, and the advantage of its position is that it is never becalmed by the mainsail, and always gets a true wind. These junks were built very long, and were by no means too handy in stays. Consequently these two mizens, though perhaps unsightly to the Western eye, were invaluable as steering sails pure and simple.

The shape of sail north of the Formosa Channel will be seen to be very lofty and narrow. In vessels of great length this shape of sail rendered necessary the additional or second foremast between the mainmast and the true foremast.


The big northern craft which crowd the Wusung river are clumsier to the eye than the smaller southern vessels ; but some of the small fishing-craft to be seen off Amoy are beautiful things, and show that even the great length of overhang which has been evolved by modern scientific yacht construction is another of those points which the Chinese sailor has long understood a good deal about.

While the northern sails are generally lofty and narrow, with square heads and comparatively straight leeches, it is in the South China Sea that the perfection of shape is seen. Here the sail is well peaked, and the yard has a handsome round in it. In place of a multitude of small, somewhat untidy-looking battens, only five, or sometimes four, are used; and a fine rounded shoulder is given to the after-leech. The result is a sail which only the racing cutter's mainsail can excel on a wind, while for handiness in reefing the latter cannot compare with it.


It is interesting to note that among the big trawlers which may be met with generally in pairs off the Hainan and Kwantung coasts, the staysail is used a good deal when on a long board with the trawl down. Besides a main staysail between the main and fore-masts, a flying main topmast staysail is set aloft.

The lofty poop of a Chinese junk makes one think that the Chinaman has again anticipated us, and that the modern model dwelling or hotel is merely a latter-day imitation of a system of overcrowding which has been generally practised by the Chinaman for a trifle of some thousands of years.


Whole families live in it, like rabbits in a hillside, burrowing in and out of its lofty sides, living, playing, eating, sleeping (and, of course, gambling) in its nooks on deck, or in its depths below, for months and years, at sea, in port, in typhoon and calm.

The bow of the junk is not its least characteristic feature. Over a staging standing on a big transverse beam fitted to the stem-head, and projecting over each bow so as to answer the purpose of a cat-head, are fitted the anchor windlasses, and here may be seen the great single fluke wooden anchors with shanks twelve or more feet in length, and weighted often with huge stones, which are a relic of very ancient times. *1*

*1* Cf. the Iliad.

A peculiar wing is often fitted to the windlass staging upon which the eye of the ship is painted. The eye is never omitted by the Chinese any more than by the Maltese or the old classical sailors, for, as John Chinaman most logically says, 'If no have got eye, how can see?' These wings or cheeks are often gaily painted, <-> as in ancient days.



On his decks in the waist of the ship the thoroughness of the Chinese sailor may be studied, for every kind of conceivable sea-store is there stowed; not neatly, certainly, but handily, ready for when wanted; and erring only, if it be possible where men have to fight such a veritable storm-hell as the China Sea, on the side of size and strength. Huge windlasses stand under the masts for use, like the <-> of the ancients on the halyards; and big capstans, the ancient <-> are used for the heavy grass warps. *1*

1 From the derivation of the word and the context in which it occurs in Lucian the translation 'capstan' here adopted appears to be in every way a more suitable rendering than that given by Mr. Smith in his Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. It is suggested by him there that these 'drive-abouts' were oars or paddles placed forward for helping the ship round when slack in stays. There is no evidence, I think, that any seamen have ever used means of this nature in the forepart of the ship for this purpose, and indeed they would be inefficient and unnecessary substitutes for the oars with which even the Roman merchant ships, which depended principally on sail power, were equipped upon each side, which could always keep steerageway on the vessel and, if necessary, back upon one side and pull on the other and thus get her round at any moment. Moreover, the old form of paddle-rudders <-> can be used with great power in bringing a sluggish vessel round, and would render a resort to such a device comparatively rare. On the other hand, the handspike and capstan appear to have been known to the ancients both in the East and in the West, and the handling of the heavy ground-tackle was one of the first problems which had to be solved by the early seamen when the size of sea-going vessels was increased.



They have wandered far, these Chinese sailors : *1* to the east coasts of Africa, or to the Malay Archipelago; one meets them in the Bay of Bengal, or the Gulf of Siam; away off Manilla; anywhere between 10 degrees south latitude and 40 degrees north latitude upon the eastern coasts of Asia.

And wherever they go they leave some impress of their methods on the maritime peoples whom they visit, so that even the Malay, sailor as he is, distinctive as he is, has, as remarked elsewhere, largely adopted the Chinese lugsail.

*1* A very perfect representation of a three-masted North China junk is preserved in a fresco in one of the caves at Ajunta, in India. It is figured in Torr's Ancient Ships, and must be of considerable antiquity.


For ships' boats the sail has long been in use among knowing skippers in the East, and a ship's lifeboat, rigged with two of these sails, is one of the handiest forms of ship's sailing-boat to be met with anywhere.

Among the various productions of the Chinese boat-builder may be mentioned the stern-wheel passenger boats of the Canton and West River districts. The light-draught river steamboats of Yarrow or Thorneycroft have made the stern-wheel method of propulsion familiar to us in the West, but in the East, with coolie labour in place of the steam-engine, the stern-wheeler is as old as the Chinese nation itself.      >>Next Part




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