Infield Fill & Feel
It was often thought that racegoers were for their interest in the races, and only because they themselves were inveterate gamblers; but this may not be the whole story.
1876-02-24 Annual Race Meeting was depicted in a monochrome etching or engraving print.
1876-08-19 Harper’s Weekly Supplement published the artwork with this caption:
The Races at Victoria, Hong Kong — A Sketch in the crowd opposite the Grand Stand
Those description underneath are excerpts according to the article:
“The Chinese are not behind other races in their love of amusement.
They have their theatres and music-halls, their clubs, bowling-alleys, and race-courses.
The yearly races at Victoria bring together a motley crowd of characters, representing nearly every nation under the sun.
Strangers in the town find the mixture of nationalities and the variety of sports in which they indulge exceedingly diverting.
The curious and interesting scene depicted by our artist was witnessed on the racing grounds this year from a spot just across the track and opposite the grand stand.
Mingling with the various types of Chinese there seems to be a fair proportion of Europeans, the majority of whom apparently belong to the army.
There are the British officer and private, the irrepressible blue-jacket, and the Lascar artillery-man, all engaged in watching the various ways in which the “heathen Chinese” beguiles the intervals of waiting so inevitable at a race-course.
The Sikh police are also represented.
Many of these are remarkable for their stature, but more particularly for their picturesque head-dress, which they arrange in a style at once graceful and peculiar.
In the left of the picture we catch a glimpse of the favorite game of shuttlecock, played with the feet, at which the Chinese are so wonderfully expert.
In the centre is another group engaged in an amusement, very simple, but at the same time very profitable to the proprietor of the apparatus with which it is played.
This resembles a small sieve, tilted up at an angle of forty-five degrees, and supported in that position by three small sticks.
The object is to drop a small coin into this sieve in such a manner that it will not bound out again.
In the latter case the proprietor pockets the coin, but if it remain, the fortunate player is paid in oranges, while, as before, the coin becomes the property of the owner of the sieve.
As the chances are about twenty to one in favor of the coin bounding out, the proprietor generally carries away considerable spoil.
Gambling is a luxury in which the Chinese of all classes indulge more or less.
During the time when gambling houses were under government supervision, they became the open resort of most respectable Chinamen — men whom a foreigner might have taken for patterns of native virtue; and yet they must have acquired their passion for this vice when it was still under the ban of the law.”
【Blue Jacket】 (c. 1743 – 1810) was a war chief of the Shawnee people, known for his militant defense of Shawnee lands in the Ohio Country.
【Lascar】 originates from the Persian word لشکر, pronounced Lashkar, meaning military camp or army – related to the Arabic ‘Askar (Arabic: عسكر) derived from the former, meaning ‘guard’ or ‘soldier’ (whence Askari).
The Portuguese adapted this term to lasquarim or lascarim, meaning an Asian militiaman or seaman.
Acknowledgment to Mr Lacuda Mengnah; HKJC Archives; Hong Kong Racing Museum for relevant content.