Rare Photographs of China in the 1800s
These ornately carved and decorated vessels were called "flower boats", and were essentially floating brothels. In the Memoirs of Robert Dollar , 1918, the author revealed the terrible danger of lashing together hundreds of boats: "A few days before our arrival in Canton there had been a disastrous fire in what are called the "Flower Boats," which are used as places of ill repute. There are a great number of them made fast in rows about fifty feet apart, extending out into the water about two hundred feet. The boats are broadside on the shore and each row is made fast, side by side, the whole secured by chains and anchored at the outer side to keep them in position. A lamp exploded in one of them near the shore and the fire speedily spread. first along the shore then out, so that the inmates had the choice of being burned or drowned. It was reported that six hundred girls ...