"Dwarf Potted Trees"
from The Chinese: A General Description of the Empire of China and Its Inhabitants
by Sir John Francis Davis

        Sir John Francis Davis (1795-1890) was appointed writer in East India Company's factory at Canton in 1813.  Because of his linguistic abilities, he was chosen to accompany Lord Amherst on his embassy to Peking in 1816.  On the return of the mission, Davis again took up his duties in the factory at Canton, and was promoted to be president in 1832.  He was appointed the joint commissioner in China with Lord Napier in 1834.  In 1844, Davis became British plenipotentiary and chief superintendent of British trade in China, and second governor and commander-in-chief of the colony of Hong Kong.  During his tenure, Davis was very much hated amongst Hong Kong residents and British merchants during his administration because of the establishment of various taxes, which increased the burden of all citizens, and his abrasive treatment of his subordinates.  On a much lighter note, weekend racing began during his tenure, which gradually evolved as a Hong Kong institution.  Also, during his tenure, Davis organized the first Hong Kong Census, and it indicated that at that time, there were 23,988 people living in Hong Kong.  On 21st March 1848, his row with the local British merchants increased, and Davis resigned his commission and left Hong Kong.  He was a principled man, Sinologist, and friend of the Chinese - he had translated several Chinese classics into English.  He would brook no nonsense from opium dealers or others that questioned his authority.  For those traits, he was loathed by Hong Kong's expatriate community.  Davis went "home branded as a libeller two years before the usual term of office, having been permitted to resign.  An unexampled career of oppression had rendered miserable the existence of his subordinates;... and he had left these parts without having a single friend."  This was a fate shared by other British officials that took a stand against poor, unfair treatment of Chinese, or that believed that equality of treatment was an option with Chinese government officials or Hong Kong's burgeoning Chinese population.  British colonial officials often had little knowledge of local conditions in their empire.  Davis died in 1890. 1




       The Chinese: A General Description of the Empire of China and Its Inhabitants by John Francis Davis (1836):
      "...Some other curiosities of Chinese gardens are less natural, as their flower-pots containing stunted stems with full-grown fruit.  The thick branch of a fruit-tree is deprived of a ring of bark, and the place covered round with a lump of rich loam.  This is kept moist, and when the radicles have pushed into the loam, the whole is taken off and placed in a shallow pot.  The branches most loaded with blossoms are selected, and the abscission taking place when the fruit is nearly ripe, they are in that state sold in pots.
      "When the dwarfing process is intended to be in imitation of old forest trees, the branch which has pushed radicles into the surrounding loam is separated from the tree, and planted in a shallow earthenware flower-pot, of an oblong square shape.  The pot is then filled with small lumps of olluvial [sic] clay, sufficient to supply a scanty nourishment to the plant, and water is added in a regulated quantity.  The branches are repressed by cutting and burning, and bent into shapes resembling those of an old forest tree in miniature.  Roughness is produced in the bark by smearing it with sweet substances that attract ants; and the plant in time acquires the desired smallness of leaf, and general stunted appearance.  The elm is most frequently used for this purpose; nor do the dwarfs require any further attention, when once fashioned, than to have young shoots kept down by clipping." 2


NOTES

1     "John Francis Davis," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Francis_Davis;
"The Hated Colonial Sinologists," Blogging... Walk the Talk (http://www.blogthetalk.com/2006/02/hated-colonial-sinologists.html), February 7, 2006 entry.


2     The Chinese: A General Description of the Empire of China and Its Inhabitants  by John Francis Davis (London: Charles Knight; 1836), pg. 362.  An enlarged and revised edition of this two-volume work was published in 1840, with this passage now on pg. 331.  This passage concludes with this footnote: "See a description of the process; Hortic. Trans. vol. iv. p. 230."  That is near the end of Livingstone's "Account of the Method of Dwarfing Trees and Shrubs," published in 1822.


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