THE great Trouble which the Missionaries had in settling the Geography of the Country, did not allow them time to inquiry very minutely into the several Species of fish which are to be found in their Rivers and Canals, however, they observ'd two or three things which are singular enough. The First is, that in the River Yang tse kiang, in the Province of Kiang si, there is an Assembly of a great Number of boats, at a particular Season, to purchase the Spawn of Fish. In the Month of May the Country People place Mats and Hurdle, across the River, leaving only room for the Passage of the Boats, these Huddles stop the Spawn, which, together with the water, they convey into proper Vessels, and expose to Sale. By this means, and keeping the Vessels in Agitation, it is convey'd into divers Provinces, in order to stock their Ponds and Pools. In a few day, the young Fry begin to appear in little Shoals, but the different Kinds cannot be so soon distinguish'd. The Advantage they reap from this is vastly more than the Expence they are at, for the common People live much upon Fish.
The nest of this Kind remarkable is the Gold Fish [Kin yu]. It is kept in Ponds and Basons made on purpose, near the Pleasure-Houses of Persons of Distinction. The least are the most valued, because they are most beautiful. They are of a fine Red, which looks as if it were speckled with Gold Dust, especially near the Tail. Some are white, like Silver, and others white, spotted with Red: They are all very lively, and delight to play on the Surface of the Water; but they are so tender withal, that a small Matter will kill great Numbers of them. Their Size is various, but some of them are as large as a Pilchard. They will rise up to the Top of the Water, at the Noise of a Clapper that the Person uses who feeds them: It is remarkable, and indeed surprising, that during three or four of the coldest Months they are not fed at all : One would imagine they knew their Masters, they are so ready to rise at his Approach , on this Account many great Persons delight to feed them with their own Hands, and please themselves much with their Agility, and Sporting in the Water. But this kind of Fish is not more beautiful than the Hai seng is hideous and ugly. It is commonly seen floating near the Shore, in the Sea of Chan tong and Fo kien. It looks like a shapeless Lump of some inanimate Matter, and is not easily to be describ'd ; the Natives affirm it has four Eyes and Feet, but the Missionaries could discover but two of the former, and nothing like Feet, but small Prominences in several Parts of its Body. It has neither Bones, nor Prickles, and when press'd, dies immediately. A little Salt will preserve it, and by that means it may be conveyed all over the Empire : It is much used, and accounted extreme fine Eating, but would not be very agreeable to an European Palate.
I might mention a Kind of Sea-Crab, which are very subject to Petrefaction without losing their natural Shape , but this is commonly known elsewhere. Their Physicians account them excellent in Fevers, but how justly is uncertain.
Rivers and Lakes are in great Plenty all over the Country : There is one of these latter, which is eighty of our Leagues in Circumference ; there are also certain Rivulets which run under Ground, and appear again at some distance ; but this cannot be mentioned as a thing very extraordinary.
The Cities, which are very numerous, are almost all built on the Sides of Lakes, Rivers or Canals, which renders travelling by Water extremely commodious as well as pleasant ; but of those you will find a particular Description in the Geographical Part of this Work.