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Colonial Cases

Wang Yu Shan v. The Ta Yung, 1860

[shipping, collision]

Wang Yu Shan v. Master and Owners of Ta Yung Steamer

Consular Court, Shanghai
16 November 1860
Source: The North-China Herald, 15 December 1860


The Consular case given below will be a useful warning to Commanders of Steamers on this river, obstructed as the navigation is by numerous junks anchored in mid-channel, and others under sail which too often refuse to steer out of the way when a steamer going with a strong tide has not time or room to avoid her without damaging other vessels or herself, by running ashore.  Noting is more easy than for these Junk men, designedly, to put their vessels in the way of being run down - being pretty sure of saving their own lives, - in order that they may make an exorbitant claim for the loss of property that never existed, but which it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the defendants to prove.


November 16th, 1860.


Before T. T. MEADOWS, Esq., H.B.M.'s Consul,

W. J. BRYANS, Esq., R. FRANCIS, Esq., Assessors.

In the cause in which Wang-yu-shan and five others of Lew-ho Plaintiffs, and master and owners of Str. Ta Yung Defendants.

Plaint. - On Saturday the 10th inst., the Ta Yung ran into our boat the Chow-fuh-shing near Kaou-keaou, sinking her with her cargo which was worth $300.  The boat itself was worth $250.

The parties being before the Consul, the plaint was read to the defendants, who were asked whether they admit or deny its truth in the whole or in part.

The DEFENDANTS who appeared by Mr. H. G. Hollingworth in reply say: - I do not admit the claim. I allow that there was a collision, and that a boat was partially sunk.

TSO-SAY-TSUNG, a Tsang-ming man being duly warned to speak the truth, says: - I am lowda of the boat Chow-fuh-shing.  My boat was coming  from Yang-ling, a place north of Lew-ho; about 14 le down this river a collision took place, I had already been to Shanghai, and discharged the cargo, and was returning to Yang-ling.  The steamer was coming up the river, about noon we met her, the tide was going out, there was no wind, I saw the steamer coming towards us, and shifted the sail trying to get out of her way, but she came too quickly.  My boat was close to the right, or east bank of the river about 150 paces from the bank, when I saw the steamer about 250 yards off.  I became alarmed, and did not notice of the steamer hailed or warned us at all or not.  The six merchants were inside the boat house, the other boatman was at the head of the boat.  The wind was ahead, and we were tacking out.  I was at the helm, my boat was tacking to the west, at the time I saw the steamer coming.  I then tried to get back, but she came too quick, and struck us before I could get out of the way.  There was a strong tide and very little wind, it was raining, but it was not dull.  The steamer came straight on her course without diverging at all.  I first saw the steamer about 3 li off, I did not particularly notice her till she was about 200 yards off.

The steamer struck us on the port side, amidships, the boat was broken into 2 pieces, which floated away.  I don't know how deep the water was.  I, and the others saved ourselves by clinging to the mast which floated.  There were several small boats came, and took away all the pieces of the boat, and took us on shore.  The capacity of my boat is 150 piculs, it is more than 30 Chinese feet long and about 8 feet in the broadest part.  The boat had 2 masts, and 1 scull.  I was preparing the scull when I saw her coming, but had not time to get the scull to work.  I only know that the man Wang-yu-shan had four bundles of cash, the others had packages that they took inside themselves.  Strictly speaking I had no cargo on board besides the small things each man brought, and the 4 bundles of cash.  I am an old man, and did not lift the cash into the boat.  I don't know how much there was.  My boat was a thick mat covered boat, it had no wooden house, the boat was a pau-tseang boat.  My home is at Tsung-ming.  I go to various places on the great river, such as Yang-ling and others.  I have done trade in this boat for 10 years.  There was occasionally a slight puff of wind.

WANG-LOONG-HO, a Tsung-ming man, aged 23 years, being duly warned to speak the truth, says: - I am a boatman by profession I have been on board the Chow-fuh-shing for the last year and a half.  The boat came from Yang-ling and on returning came into collision with the steamer.  I think the place was distant from here about 9 li.  I was in the middle of the boat on deck between the main and fire mast.  I was sitting there doing nothing at the time.  There was very little wind; what there was coming in puffs.  When we tried to get away the boat did not move, there was a strong tide going out, it was not raining, the sun was visible at times.  The steamer struck us on the port side. We were going towards the eastern shore and were about 100 paces off.  We put about for the purpose of avoiding the steamer.  After we put about there was a lull in the wind and the boat did not move, we did not s cull.  There was a passenger who had a large price of opium and three catties in three pieces.  I don't know their names.  Another had two large peeves and three small ones, another had 6 catties of silk thread, another had 14 dollars worth of silk used in the manufacturing of cotton, another had about 50 dollars worth of cotton cloth, it was in three bales.  These articles had been in the boat some days, they were in my custody.  The boat was lying five days at Shanghai.  There were four bundles of cash belonging to Wang, each bundle containing 15,000 cash; another man had five sacks of brown sugar.  We had, belonging to us, some oil and tow on the boat.  Our boat contained 180 piculs, about four chang long and 6 feet broad; there were two masts.  The boat was broken into three pieces and all floated away.  I myself was saved by the steamer, a boat of her's picked me up.  Five were saved by the steamer's boat and three by the country people.  Nothing was saved.  The boat was neither new nor old, about eight years old perhaps; the oil and hemp were for caulking the boat.

CHARLES KOFOD, being duly sworn to speak the truth says: - I was on the Ta Yung, keeping up the starboard side of the river, the right bank close up all the way.  This boat was about three points on the starboard bow; if she had kept on she would have cleared us.  We were keeping in as close as we could, but the boat was inside us, junks were lying on the right side of the river.  I had been piloting a ship down and left her below the middle ground.  It was nearly slack water the ebb was just beginning, the wind was northerly and a little west, a nice little breeze.  This boat was standing off from the right bank with several other boats, all the test kept on their course but she suddenly turned and came against us.  The Captain gave an order to the steersman to watch these boats and afterwards had the engines stopped.  We were a good cable's length from this one boat when the Captain said watch these boats.  About 60 yards off he ordered the engines to be stopped.  We all hailed the boat but she persisted in her course.  I was merely a passenger on board.  We did not motion to the boat until we saw her altering her course; there were several boats with her, coming off the shore.  I am sure the steamer was quite close to the right bank, there was no more than two fathoms.  The outside junks were in six fathoms.  When the collision took place the junks were about two cables distant.  The boat was a Woosung boat, one masted with a mat top; there were eight men on board.  Five came on board the steamer, three were picked up by the countrymen; the boat parted and floated away.  I don't know where the three men went to, there were several small boats there that picked up parts of the boat.

The hearing of this case was here adjourned until the next day.

November 17th, 1860.

WANG-YU-SHAN, being duly warned to speak the truth, says: - The collision took place when out boat was nearer the western that the eastern part of the river on the left bank.  I was on the outside of the house close to the mainmast at the time.  I had four bundles of cash each containing 15,000.  I had some other articles of a very trifling value, one of the passengers had sugar, two of them had opium.  The sugar was bought by myself, I saw it put on board the boat.  I did not see the opium but I know it was bought.  I did not see the bargain struck, but I know it was the man's intention to buy opium; another man had silk thread, I saw it myself on board.  It was made up in packages of white paper about six inches broad; there were five packages of sugar.  I don't know the weight, I think the owner has the chop, the sixth had longcloth.

Cross-examined by the Defendant. - The boat had two masts they both were up, carrying  sail.

WANG-KEA, being duly warned to speak the truth, says: - We were nearest to the western bank at the time of the collision.  I had one large and three small balls of opium, they cost me 53,750 cash.  I bought it in a shop in the Ma-loo facing the north.  I hand in the account.  I had besides in sundries about 20,000 cash worth of things groceries, drugs, &c., &c. The opium was put in the goods hold; I did not keep it about me personally for fear of being ribbed and because it would be inconvenient.  I have no account of the other things I had, I bought them at a shop Kan-tu-jin in the Lou-cha.  They were all bought in that shop.  I did not come to Shanghai in this vessel.  I come from a place near Lew-ho.  I had taken a passage in this boast to go homer; the boat was three days here after I took my passage.  I took the opium on board with me on the day we started.  I gave it into the charge of Wang-loo-ho.  The other person who had opium was my elder brother, he has already gone home.  I don't know where he bought it, I only know that he had two large and three small balls; his chop for the opium was with the opium in the bag.  One of the large balls weighed 49 taels, the other 49 taels 5 mace.  The small ones together weighed 3 taels.  My brother left the day after the accident, he went overland.

TSANG-FONG, native of Lew-ho, being duly warned to speak the truth, says: - I had six packages of silk thread, 14 dollars worth of thread, used in the manufacture of cotton.  The 6 packets each weighed 1 catty, and cost 8,000 cash.  The shop chop was put up with the thread; I bought silk in the street in the Ma-loo, it was a barter between me and the man.  I gave him cotton thread for it; it was in the cargo hold of the boat under charge of Wang-lao-ho.

TSANG-YIN, from the north of Lew-ho being duly warned to speak the truth, says: - I had 5 packets of sugar (produces 2 chops) I paid 29 Mex. Dollars and 5 Spanish dollars for it.  The second chop I now hand in is for 2,000 cash of flint stones.  The sugar was in the original package in which it was imported.  I had no relatives on board.  I only know that they were all acquaintances.  I don't know if they were related to each other. Two of them were brothers, one of them has gone home with a letter from each of us to our friends.

TSUNG-WA-KWEI, a Lew-ho man being duly warned to speak the truth, says: - I had 16 pieces of longcloth on board, it was some white and some blue.  The shop chop was made up with the longcloth.  I bought it inside the large east gate of the city; I don't know what shop, the street ran north and south, and it was on the east side.  It cost me 47 Mex. Dollars and 730 cash.  I came to Shanghai with straw sandals to sell.  I was about 20 days at Shanghai.  I went on board the day I left.  Wang-yu-shan has a shop for straw sandals, I bought these in a small vessel.  I came by the great river.  I am a farmer, these straw sandals were a speculation.  I bought them for 22 cash a pair, and sold them for 21,000 cash, and to that I added 16 Spanish dollars to buy the cloth.  I sold them to various people in retail.  I carried them about.  I stayed with Wang-yu-shan; I did not sell to him.  Wang-yu-shan sells mats, cotton bags, &c.

WANG-YU-SHAN, re-examined:- I know the man who has just left the room.  I have known him from his boyhood; we all six live with a few li of each other.  I have been at Shanghai about 13 years; I sell shoes and cotton bags, and the people from my district always come to my shop if they come to Shanghai.  The man who has just left lived with me, and has been 10 days with me.  He came to sell straw sandals, he brought some himself, others came in boats.  He sold them in retail about the Ma-loo and other places.

THOMAS JOHN FILLEUL, being duly sworn, states:- On Saturday the 10th, I was coming up to Shanghai, a little above the Joss House I fell in with a fleet of small boats going  down the river; they had a leading wind down.  This boat was 2 points on my bow.  I hailed him to keep on the right tack, he put hjis helm up and ran across my bow; when I saw her keeping before the wind I stopped the engines; before I could do anything else, she struck.  When the boat's helm went up, the Chinese got frightened and did nothing; if they had kept their course nothing could have happened.  I lowered my boat and picked up five, and three were picked up by a Chinese boat that came from the junks.  It towed away the wreck of the boat.  I then came on to Shanghai, as I heard there were only 8 men.  I was on the right bank, the wind was north by west, it was slack water, the last of the flood.  If you hail these boats they take no notice.  I hailed from the hurricane deck; several other boats with her passed all right.  There was nobody in our bow, but I was close there myself.

Cross-examined by Assessors. -  I was coming up full speed, the boat was two points on the starboard bow, the other boats were astern of her, they kept on their course; they were all coming one way, they had no occasion to tack.  I always wave my hand to the boats which side to keep.  We struck the boat right athwart her; she was across the river.  I sung out starboard before I stopped her.

CHARLES TAYLOR, being duly sworn, states: - I was on the bridge deck.  I saw the Captain waving to the boat to keep on the starboard bow; instead of that he turned his helm, and come right across our bows.  The Captain immediately stopped the steamer.  I heard no other order given, I was about 6 or 10 feet from the Captain.  When the order was given the boat was about 100 yards off.  I won't be sure of the tide, it was slack, the steamer was nearer the starboard side of the bank.  I can't say positively that I heard the Captain give any order to the steersman.  I saw no sign as I was out in front of the Captain; I can't say if the course of the steamer was altered.  I am master of a ship, and have been up the river five times.  If the boat had kept her course, the collision would not have occurred.  The accident was caused entirely by her altering her course; there were several other boats, some before, some behind.


That the Defendants pay to the Plaintiffs, through the Court, the several sums claimed, viz: 300 Mexican dollars and 250 Mexican dollars and that the Defendants pay the official costs of the suit.

(Signed) THOS. TAYLOR MEADOWS, Consul.

We assent to the above - (Signed) R. FRANCIS, W. J. BRYANS, Assessors.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School