Riddles and word-puzzles are largely used for the purpose of killing
time, the nature of the written language offering unlimited facilities
for the formation of the latter. Chinese riddles, by which term we
include conundrums, charades, _et hoc genus omne_, are similar to our
own, and occupy quite as large a space in the literature of the
country. They are generally in doggerel, of which the following may be
taken as a specimen, being like the last a word-for-word
Little boy red-jacket, whither away?
To the house with the ivory portals I stray.
Say will you come back, little red-coat, again?
My bones will return, but my flesh will remain.
In the present instance the answer is so plain that it is almost
insulting to our readers to mention that it is "a cherry," but this is
by no means the case with all Chinese riddles, many being exceedingly
difficult of solution. So much so that it is customary all over the
Empire to copy out any particularly puzzling conundrum on a paper
lantern, and hang it in the evening at the street door, with the
promise of a reward to any comer who may succeed in unravelling it.
These are called "lamp riddles," and usually turn upon the name of
some tree, fruit, animal, or book, the direction in which the answer
is to be sought being usually specified as a clue.