Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/246

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it was at last decided to induce good fung-shui[1] by erecting a pagoda where the worst breach in the embankment had been made. This is the pagoda already frequently referred to and which is still in good condition. "After it was built, the tide, though it still continued to come in the shape of a bore, did not flood the country as before."

Fanciful as these ideas are, it is not at all surprising in view of the awe-inspiring phenomenon which recurs at every tide, and with which the inhabitants have had to cope perhaps from time immemorial, that they should think of it with reverential superstition as the head of a monster serpent which must needs be appeased. As many as five or six thousand people have sometimes assembled on the sea-wall to propitiate the god of the waters by throwing in offerings at a time when the serpent under his control was raging at its highest.

Intermittency of the Bore

This legend taken in connection with the fact that Marco Polo, who in the thirteenth century spent a year and a half in Hangchow, does not include in his account, which otherwise pretends to great minuteness, any reference to the bore seems to Professor Darwin to indicate that the bore is intermittent, because the Emperor referred to is of undoubted historical existence and antedated Marco by some centuries. But Marco Polo's accounts are not to be taken entirely at their face value as to accuracy and faithfulness, and even if the bore did not exist in his time, the great sea-wall which was in all probability built when the Chinese historians claim it was built by Prince Ch'ien, viz., 911-915 A.D., must have existed, and it is hard to conceive how he should have failed to mention such a stupendous public work, especially when he seems to have been so keenly interested in the Grand Canal. Either, as some authorities suggest,[2] Marco Polo never really visited Hangchow, but got his glowing account of the city's wonders from some native poet without admixing the proverbial grain of salt; or else he was so enamoured with the gayeties of life at the capital that he could not spare the time to visit Haining or the lower estuary in person, but judged from afar that there must have been much shipping there, for to this he alludes in several places.

As Professor Darwin finally concludes, it is very uncertain whether the Hangchow Bore has been intermittent, but it is sure that it is liable to considerable variation, for reports by the foreign officers who headed the troops sent against the Taiping rebels show that the intensity of the bore was then (1852-1864) far less than it is to-day. The ex-

  1. Fung-shui, literally "wind-water," a much-used term in Chinese geomancy, signifying propitious influence of the controling spirits involved in any undertaking—perhaps the nearest simple English equivalent is "luck."
  2. Decennial Reports, Chinese I. M. Customs, 1892-1901, Vol. II., p. 4.