Sunday, 8 March 2009

Fortune's Journey to the Tea Districts of China.

On The Plants Of China, By Mb. E. Fortune.—The tea plant was now frequently seen on the hill sides, this being the outskirt of the great green tree country, to which I was bound. Large camphor trees were frequently seen in the valleys, particularly near the villages. Fallow trees were still in extensive cultivation ; and, at this season of the year, being clothed in their autumnal hues, they produced a striking effect upon the varied landscape. The leaves had changed from a light green to a dark blood-red colour. Another tree, a species of maple, called by the Chinese the fung-gze, was also most picturesque from the same cause. These two trees formed a striking contrast with the dark green foliage of the pine tribe.
But the most beautiful tree found in this district is a species of weeping cypress, which I had never met with in any other part of China, and which was quite neAV to me. . It was during one of my daily rambles that I saw the first specimen. About half a mile distant from where I was, I observed a noble-looking fir tree, about sixty feet in height, having a stem as straight as the Norfolk Island pine, and weeping branches, like the willow of St. Helena. Its branches grew, at first, at right angles to the main stem, then described a graceful curve upwards, and bent again at their points. From these main branches, others, long and slender, hung down perpendicularly, and gave the whole tree a weeping and graceful form. It reminded me of some of those large and gorgeous chandeliers sometimes seen in the theatres and public halls in Europe. What could it be ? It evidently belonged to the pine tribe, and was more handsome and ornamental than them all. I walked—no, to tell the plain truth, I ran—up to the place where it grew, much to the surprise of my attendants, who evidently thought I had gone crazy.
When I reached the spot where it grew, it appeared more beautiful even than it had done in the distance. Its stein was perfectly straight, like Cryptomeria, and its leaves were formed like those of the well- known arbor-vitse, only much more slender and graceful. This specimen was fortunately covered with a quantity of ripe fruit, a portion of which I was most anxious to secure. The tree was growing in some grounds belonging to a country inn, and was the property of the innkeeper. A wall intervened between us and it, which I confess I felt very much inclined to get over; but remembering that I was acting Chinaman, and that such a proceeding would have been very indecorous, to say the least of it, I immediately gave up the idea. We now walked into the inn, and, seating ourselves quietly down at one of the tables, ordered some dinner to be brought to us. When we had taken our meal we lighted our Chinese pipes and sauntered out, accompanied by our polite host, into the garden, where the real attraction lay. " What a fine tree this of yours is! we have never seen it in the countries near the sea where we come from ; pray give us some of its seeds." " It is a fine tree," said the man, who was evidently much pleased with our admiration of it, and readily complied with our request. These seeds were carefully treasured ; and as they got home safely, and are now growing in England, we may expect in a few years to see a new and striking feature produced upon our landscape by this lovely tree. Afterwards, as we journied westward, it became more common, and was frequently to be seen in clumps on the sides of the hills. This tree has been named the Funeral Cypress.—Fortune's Journey to the Tea Districts of China.

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