CHAPTER II (Three Years in Western China)
- Posted on: 2023-01-21
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- ▸ Three Years in Western China
CH'UNG-K'ING TO THE CAPITAL OF KUEI-CHOW.
My overland caravan—Harvesting opium—Field-fishing—Wood-oil—The manufacture of paper—Salt carriers—Silk-worms and their food—Rice or Pith paper, and its manufacture—The Kuei-chow frontier—Minerals—First meeting with Miao-Tzŭ—Poetical description of Chinese inns—T'ung-tzŭ, its poppy valley and tunnelling—Ingenious bamboo water-wheels—Scant population amid ruins of fine houses—Coal-dust as fuel—The Wu Chiang river—Destruction of the iron suspension bridge—Northern Kuei-chow, a Miao-tzŭ graveyard—Opium-sodden inhabitants—The capital of the Province—An interview with the Governor of Kuei-chow.
MY OVERLAND CARAVAN.
Having acquainted myself with my surroundings, perused the records left by my predecessors, and gained an insight into the duties expected of me, I resolved to make a journey into the provinces of Kuei-chow and Yün-nan. To this end, I obtained a general passport from the Viceroy of Ssŭ-ch'uan, and a special passport from the authorities of Ch'ung-k'ing covering the ground to be traversed, and proceeded to make arrangements for the trip. As the greater part of the journey was to be made overland, it was necessary to organize a caravan of chair-bearers and porters. However willing one may be to walk, Chinese etiquette demands, in a civil official, the presence of a sedan; and, in visiting the native authorities—a part of my programme—a chair is a sine quâ non. Ch'ung-k'ing being well supplied with chair hongs or establishments, I had no difficulty in collecting about a score of coolies to accompany me to Yün-nan and back. This included a headman, whose duty it was to maintain order, and supply the places of those who, from sickness or other causes, might fall out on the march. The terms were three hundred large copper cash per man per day, two hundred to be paid while travelling, the balance to be handed over on our return to Ch'ung-k'ing. On resting days, a sum of only one hundred large cash was payable. A contract to this effect was duly drawn up and signed, and it only remained to adjust the loads and assign the men their respective places.
Cash being the only currency in China, I had to take with me a large supply of silver ingots, each of the value of about ten taels or Chinese ounces, which had to be sliced, weighed, and exchanged en route. This is one of the many annoyances of Chinese travel, as each place has its own weights and its own exchange. For example, when I left Ch'ung-k'ing a tael was worth 1,480 large cash; further south it was equivalent to only 1,200, while on one occasion in Yün-nan it rose to 1,580 cash. The risk of carrying silver could not, however, be avoided, for it would have required the services of all my men at starting to lift the equivalent in cash of the silver necessary to pay their wages for the journey, not including the balance to be handed over to them on our return.
Rice and vegetables, supplemented occasionally by a little fish, or pork and sauce, constitute the daily food of the Chinese; but they do not commend themselves to the European palate. To ensure a fair measure of comfort, therefore, I took with me some tinned provisions, to be broached as necessity demanded.
April the 19th was the day fixed for our departure, and at daylight we groped our way through the mist which, in Spring, hangs continually over the city, and descended to the Great River—the local name of the Yang-tsze—across which we were ferried in a couple of large flat-bottomed boats. The river at this point is about eight hundred yards in breadth, and flows with a current of from four to five knots. The most conspicuous objects on the south or right bank, which consists of a range of hills from seven to eight hundred feet in height, are the temple of Lao-chün Tung, nestling amidst a grove of trees, and Blakiston's "Pinnacle Pagoda," crowning the highest peak of the range. The high-road to Kuei-chow winds up the bank between them, and, after a slight descent, enters a limestone valley beyond. The bank itself is composed of coal and lime, both of which were being quarried for use in Ch'ung-k'ing.
In this valley, which extends for miles, I first made acquaintance with the poppy in full bloom. Fields of white and purple equalled in number the patches of wheat, barley, and rape. Where the flowers had fallen, the peasants, principally women and children, were busy harvesting the juice. The tools used in the operation are simple but effective. Towards evening, the peasants may be seen moving in the poppy fields, each armed with a short wooden handle, from one of the ends of which protrude three and sometimes four points of brass or copper blades, firmly inserted in the wood. Seizing a capsule with the left hand, the operator, with his right hand, inserts the points of the blades near the top of the capsule, and draws them downwards to the stem of the plant. From the incisions thus made a creamy juice exudes, which gradually becomes of a dark brown colour. This is scraped off in the early morning by means of a short curved knife, and deposited in an earthenware bowl, the contents of which are afterwards fired or left in the sun to dry. In this way, the weight is reduced about one half, and the opium is then ready for boiling. The whole process is simple, and may be accomplished by the women and children of the family, thereby permitting the more able-bodied to attend to the other farm duties, thus reducing the price of labour and consequently the cost of the drug. The bleeding of the capsule is continued until the flow of juice is exhausted.
The remainder of the valley was occupied by rice fields, submerged in preparation for the summer sowing. Sometimes they are allowed to soak for months, their surfaces being frequently covered with floating water-plants, which are afterwards utilized as manure. They are likewise stocked with fish; in the early spring, reeds and rank grass are cut from the hill sides and made up into small bundles, which are then strung on bamboos, laid down in shallow water in the Yang-tsze, and weighted with stones. Here the fish spawn, and the ova adhere to the grass and reeds, which are then taken up and sold. The grass is afterwards scattered in the higher fields, between which and the lower, water-communication is kept up by digging small outlets, which can easily be filled up at a moment's notice. Here the ova are hatched, and good fishing may be had after a few months.
The modus operandi deserves a short description. Neither line nor hook is used, the requisite gear consisting of a long bamboo and a round wicker basket, open at the bottom with a hole at the top. The fisherman wades into the field, the water usually reaching to the knee; grasping the bamboo in his right, he sweeps the surface of the water in front of him with a semicircular motion until a silver streak and a dash into the mud meet his eye, when he plunges forward and caps the spot with the basket which he has been carrying in his left hand. He then gropes for his prey through the basket, and is, I may say, rarely at fault. The fish—some six inches long—is then tossed over the shoulder into a smaller basket strapped to the back, and the farmer recommences his field-fishing.
The wood-oil tree—Aleurites cordata, M. Arg.—was scattered about among the fields. It seems to prefer thin-soiled, rocky ground, being met with in great abundance on the banks of the Yang-tsze west of Ichang. It grows to a height of about fifteen feet, and has large, beautiful, shady green leaves, which were lighted up as we passed with bunches of small pink-white flowers. It produces a large green fruit like an apple, the large pips or seeds of which contain the oil for which the tree is famous. The fruit is gathered in August and September. Primitive wooden presses with wedges are used for extracting the oil, which is sent to market in wooden tubs with tight-fitting lids, and is employed for a variety of purposes, such as the manufacture of paint, varnish, waterproof paper, umbrellas, as well as for lighting. The seeds, if eaten, cause nausea and vomiting.
THE MANUFACTURE OF PAPER.
Between Ch'ung-k'ing and Ch'i-chiang Hsien, the first city of any importance on the southern road to Kuei-chow, there are a number of factories for the manufacture of the ordinary coarse Chinese paper. Here, too, the process is exceedingly simple. There is an entire absence of machinery for washing and shredding rags; there are no troughs of pulp, chemicals for bleaching, resin for watering, wire moulds for receiving, and drums for firming the paper as it comes from the pulp-troughs. Bamboo stems and paddy straw are steeped with lime in deep concrete pits in the open air, and allowed to soak for months. When nothing but the fibre remains, it is taken out and rolled with a heavy stone roller in a stone well until all the lime has been removed. A small quantity of the fibre is placed in a stone trough full of water and the whole stirred up. A close bamboo mould is then passed through the mixed fibre and water, and the film which adheres to it emerges as a sheet of paper, which is stuck up to dry on the walls of a room kept at a high temperature. The sheets are afterwards collected and made up into bundles for market.
Ch'i-chiang Hsien is a city somewhat irregularly built along the foot and on the slope of a hill which rises from the left bank of a river, a tributary of the Yang-tsze and bearing the city's name. It is of very considerable importance as a trade depôt for north-eastern Kuei-chow, and, being in water communication with the Yang-tsze, it is a valuable inlet for the Ssŭ-ch'uan salt trade with that province. Kuei-chow, unlike Ssŭ-ch'uan and Yün-nan, is unprovided with salt wells within its borders, at least they have not yet been discovered, and the Lu Chou junks have their terminus at Ch'i-chiang, whence the mineral is distributed on the backs of bipeds.
This latter was to me a painful sight. Men and boys (children, I should rather say, many of them being not more than eight years of age) staggered on with enormous loads of cake salt packed in small creels and on wooden frameworks projecting above them. Walking in Indian file along the pathway that served as a road, they halted every few yards, resting their loads on a crutch which each carried in his hand, and, uttering that half whistle, half sigh, which proclaims the body's utter weariness and its gratitude for a moment's relief, scraped from their brows and faces, by a ring of split bamboo attached to the load by a string, the sweat that literally gushed from them. Of a surety they earn their bread by the sweat of their brow!
One expecting to find amongst such men a splendid development of muscle would be sadly disappointed. Like the brick-tea carriers on their way to Tibet, of whom I shall have occasion to speak hereafter, they were painfully wanting in leg. Yet the maximum load is about two hundred and forty pounds. For carrying the salt the distance of one hundred miles between Ch'i-chiang and T'ung-tzŭ, the first district city across the Kuei-chow border, they were paid at the rate of ten cash a catty, or one and a third pounds. As the journey occupied them ten days, and the return, empty-handed except for their wages in cash, two days, the strongest man earned not more than sixpence a day. But rice and lodging are cheap, and they are more or less happy at the end of each day's weary toil.
SILKWORMS AND THEIR FOOD.
The hills around Ch'i-chiang were thickly clad with scrub-oak, on the leaves of which silkworms had been placed to feed. In Ssŭ-ch'uan sericulture is a most important industry; every homestead, where mulberry leaves are procurable, is engaged in it. Small market-towns are thickly dotted over the whole province, and at each place a market is held every five days. Thither agents resort and buy up cocoons and opium at their respective seasons. Besides the mulberry and the oak, the leaves of the Cudrania triloba, Hance, are much in demand for feeding the young worms; and near Chia-ting, the very centre of silk culture in Ssŭ-ch'uan, I was informed that these leaves are particularly suited to the infant palate, and that the silk produced from this diet is superior in quantity and quality. Frequently have I seen small wooden tubs filled with white and yellow cocoons—the produce of a single little homestead—exposed by the roadside for sale. The duty of nursing, rearing and feeding the worms and of collecting their food devolves on the women and children, the former hastening the hatching of the eggs by wearing them in their breasts.
South of Ch'i-chiang, the wood-oil tree was very abundant, and banyan and pumelo trees were dotted about here and there; firs, cypresses, palms, bamboos, and the mulberry were also to be seen. Of growing crops, wheat, beans, and hemp—Abutilon avicennae Gaert.—were conspicuous. The small patches of land, into which Chinese crofts are divided, give ample scope for careful agriculture. It is, I believe, an established fact that wheat planted at intervals of from nine to twelve inches produces a heavier crop than wheat sown broadcast. By planting, which is here and in China generally the rule, not only is seed saved but sufficient room is given for tillering, whereas in sowing, the intervals are irregular and tillering is cramped. The wild rose, honeysuckle, and strawberry crept along our path.
It was on leaving Ch'i-chiang on the morning of the 22nd of April that my attention was arrested by a large white bundle on two legs approaching the city. As it neared us, it developed into what appeared to be a huge mass of long white candles half enveloping a human being, and rising four feet above where, under ordinary circumstances, the individual's head ought to be. Questioning the bundle, I discovered from a series of sounds that issued from its centre that it was the pith from which the far-famed "rice" paper is manufactured. It is the pith of the large-leaved bush-like Fatsia papyrifera, Benth. and Hook., which grows luxuriantly in the province of Kuei-chow, whence it is brought to Ch'ung-k'ing to be made into sheets. The plant also grows in Ssŭ-ch'uan, but the stems are not so fully developed as those produced in the more southern province. I may as well now describe the process of manufacture, and save my readers a further reference to the subject.
THE PITH WORKER.
On my return to Ch'ung-k'ing from the journey now described, I was invited to visit a worker in pith after nightfall. Although somewhat surprised at the hour named, I accepted the invitation. On arrival, I was ushered into a badly lighted room, where a man was sitting at a table with his tools in front of him. These consisted of a smooth stone, about a foot square and an inch and a half thick, and a large knife or hatchet with a short wooden handle. The blade was about a foot long, two inches broad, and nearly half an inch thick at the back. It was sharp as a razor. Placing a piece of round pith on the stone and his left hand on the top, he rolled the pith backwards and forwards for a moment until he got it into the required position. Then, seizing the knife with his right hand, he held the edge of the blade, after a feint or two, close to the pith, which he kept rolling to the left with his left hand until nothing remained to roll; for the pith had, by the application of the knife, been pared into a square white sheet of uniform thickness. All that remained to be done was to square the edges. If the reader will roll up a sheet of paper, lay it on the table, place the left hand on the top, and gently unroll it to the left, he will have a good idea of how the feat was accomplished. It seemed so easy that I determined to have a trial. Posing as a professional worker, I succeeded in hacking the pith, and in nearly maiming myself for life. A steady hand and a keen eye are required for the work, and hence it is that the so-called "rice" paper is manufactured only at night, when the city is asleep and the makers are not liable to be disturbed.
The third day from Ch'i-chiang brought us to the Kuei-chow frontier, the road following for the most part the banks of the Ch'i-chiang River. Coal and iron are here found in abundance, and the market town of Kan-shui, which lies within the Ssŭ-ch'uan border, is famed for the manufacture of the iron pans, without one of which no house can be looked upon as properly furnished. Copper is also found at no great distance, and specimens of the ore, which I forwarded to Shanghai for analysis, contained thirty per cent. of metal.
It was near the Kuei-chow border that I first came in contact with the Miao-tzŭ, the aboriginal inhabitants of that province. I was sauntering along in front of my followers when, at a bend in the road, I was suddenly confronted by a couple of neatly-dressed figures which turned out to be two Miao-tzŭ girls, about fourteen and sixteen years of age as far as I could guess, arrayed in short jackets and kilts of a greyish-black woollen material, with turbans to match. They were very good looking, and, although somewhat coy, did not show that abject terror which, under similar circumstances, would have betrayed the Chinese female. With heads erect and black eyes lighted up with astonishment, they passed me by with no uncertain gait. Although the Miao-Tzŭ are generally supposed to be confined to Kuei-chow, not a few families are settled in this corner of Ssŭ-ch'uan. Those who are interested in this people will find another chapter specially devoted to them.
Seas of bare rocky mountains met my eyes as I sat on the borders of Ssŭ-ch'uan and Kuei-chow, and gazed southwards. It was like a transformation scene. From smiling fields of poppy, wheat, and beans, we were suddenly brought face to face with hill-side patches of the same crops sadly stunted. The poppy, which to the north was being bled, had not even burst into flower, and the scanty soil looked barren and profitless. The rich valleys were still invisible, and the prospect was very depressing; nor was the feeling in the least minimised by the appearance of our lodgings for the night. So bad were they, indeed, that I had to ask the local authority of Sung-k'an whether he could not find me more decent quarters. Another room was hunted up, but I failed to discover any great improvement. I have occupied hundreds of Chinese inns in the course of my travels, and I think that, on the whole, a Chinaman's own description which I found written on the wall of a room which I once tenanted in Ssŭ-ch'uan, errs on the side of leniency. In English garb it runs thus—
"Within this room you'll find the rats
At least a goodly score,
Three catties each they're bound to weigh,
Or e'en a little more;
At night you'll find a myriad bugs
That stink and crawl and bite;
If doubtful of the truth of this,
Get up and strike a light."
It must have been the poet's up-bringing or his being overpowered by other ills that prevented him from finishing the work so well begun. Let me endeavour to complete the picture—
Within, without, vile odours dense
Assail the unwary nose;
Behind, the grunter squeaks and squeals
And baffles all repose;
Add clouds of tiny, buzzing things,
Mosquitoes—if you please;
And if the sum is not enough,
Why, bless me, there are fleas.
To reach T'ung-tzŭ, a range of mountains over three thousand feet high had to be crossed. The summit was dotted with smooth, hollowed-out, limestone rocks, between which the scanty soil was being turned over by the peasants. On the south side of the range, a narrow valley, about nine miles in length, down which flows a stream, leads to the district city. As the latter is approached, the valley expands from a quarter to half a mile in breadth, and runs with the stream for another five miles until it is blocked by a low range of hills, through which the stream finds its way by a series of caverns. In the narrower part of the valley, I noticed a very ingenious contrivance for irrigating the fields. The stream flows about ten feet below the surrounding plots, and drains instead of watering them. To utilize it, a large light bamboo wheel, from forty to fifty feet in circumference, and two feet thick, was erected. Layers of split bamboo were inserted at short intervals in the outside edge as float-boards, and the water rushing against them caused the wheel to revolve. Short bamboos closed at the outer end were fixed on the rim at a slight angle. As the wheel revolved, these bamboos were immersed and filled with water, and on reaching the top poured their contents into a wooden trough raised nearly to the height of the wheel. Bamboo pipes led the water from the trough to the fields requiring irrigation. No care was required, and wheel after wheel was doing its work silently and alone.
Rice is hulled by a somewhat similar process. An ordinary water-wheel is fitted with a long axle, through the centre of which two planks at either side of the wheel are inserted at right angles and project several feet. As the wheel revolves, the planks descend, catch, depress, and release a lever, the far end of which is weighted with a heavy blunt stone about two feet long. When the lever is released, the stone descends and plunges into a hollow, usually lined with concrete, into which the paddy is placed. By a single revolution of the wheel the lever is depressed and released four times and, when the hulling is completed, the lever can be drawn aside and the contents of the hole removed and winnowed.
I took advantage of a day's rest at T'ung-tzŭ to follow up the stream to the point where it enters the range of hills. The whole valley and the hill-sides were one mass of poppies in full bloom—white, mauve, and white tipped with pink being the chief colours. The capsules were less rounded, but more elongated than those of the Ssŭ-ch'uan plant. The Ku-lu, as the stream is called, enters the hill by three caverns, emerges through a single cavern some distance beyond, crosses another valley a few hundred yards in breadth and at right angles to the T'ung-tzŭ valley, again enters the hills and, after leaving by another single cavern, discharges itself into the Ch'ih-shui River. As might naturally be expected, both valleys are liable to inundation during the rainy season and, at the time of my visit, an attempt was being made to cut a tunnel behind the first range and induce the surplus waters to seek a nearer passage to the larger river. A mile of tunnel had already been completed, but a part had fallen in and hindered the progress of the work. As it seemed to me, the passage through the first range must always be liable to be choked by an increase in the volume of the stream and by floating débris, and little would appear to have been accomplished beyond scattering to the winds £10,000 to £12,000, and giving employment to a large number of men.
There is little of interest to attract the eye of the traveller between T'ung-tzŭ and Tsun-i Fu, the next city of any importance on the way to the provincial capital. The road runs over hills and through valleys, past coal mines and through poppy-fields, until a few miles north of the city the country opens out and shows the usual crops. The population, as everywhere in Kuei-chow, is scant; and if a field is wanted to relieve the congested provinces of the Empire, Kuei-chow and Yün-nan can easily accommodate millions, and feel all the better for the increase. With the exception of the Miao-tzŭ, who have been driven into the south of Kuei-chow, the inhabitants consist of immigrants from Ssŭ-ch'uan, Hupeh and Hunan, who, for the most part, are satisfied with scratching small parts of the ground and disposing of the opium which they themselves are unable to consume to the eastern province of Hunan. A lazier set of people it would be hard to find anywhere. The mountainous character of the country renders overland transport excessively difficult, the consequence being that the products of the soil are exceedingly cheap and living inexpensive. Ruins of superior stone buildings are everywhere to be met with, but, instead of repairing these, the inhabitants are content to raise wattle and mud walls on the solid foundations, and turn the floors of the superfluous houses into vegetable gardens. The Miao-tzŭ must, indeed, have had a hot time of it. Where forests of oak once stood, only black charred roots and columns of dressed granite now remain, to tell the tale of a well-to-do Miao-tzŭ peasantry in hand to hand conflict with better-armed opponents.
COAL-DUST AS FUEL.
How to utilize coal-dust as fuel has always been a fruitful topic of discussion where coal mines are worked. I notice that the most recent invention in England is the admixture of pitch with the dust. Here and elsewhere in China, clay is the ingredient used; and the mixture, after being reduced to the necessary consistency by the addition of water, is placed in moulds, whence it issues, about two pounds in weight, in the shape of the base half of a cone, and is then exposed to the sun to dry. This fuel is fairly tenacious, and will bear considerable rough transit. From personal experience in Peking, I may add that ignition is not a difficult matter, and that a powerful heat results.
The walls of Tsun-i, which we entered on the afternoon of the 29th of April, are said to contain a population of 45,000 souls. It is a manufacturing city. Wild silk, gathered from the scrub-oak in the neighbourhood, is spun and woven into a coarse fabric, which is largely exported through Ssŭ-ch'uan to the central and eastern provinces. It is a peculiarity of Kuei-chow towns that there are no suburbs outside the walls; but, when the struggles that have taken place within the province and the consequent insecurity are considered, their absence is not a matter for surprise.
About forty miles to the south of Tsun-i, we struck the left bank of the Wu Chiang, which here flows with a swift current through a deep limestone gorge in an east-north-east direction. Looking down into the gorge, I could make out on the opposite bank a solid platform of masonry, over which dangled a row of iron chains or rods into the river. Descending through accumulations of building materials, we soon reached a similar platform, where I discovered that a great catastrophe had recently occurred. Seven months before our visit the chains or hooked rods—each about a yard long—for supporting the roadway, had been successfully stretched, built into the masonry on either side and the ends fixed into the solid rock. The side suspension chains, which were carried over stone turrets on either side of the piers, were in process of being stretched, when the whole structure collapsed, carrying with it a large number of workmen, many of whom were drowned or fatally injured. Their graves are to be seen on the left bank of the river. The turrets were all carried away, and nothing remained but the piers, the severed chains, and many of the planks which had formed the roadway. In manufacturing the chains, which was done on the spot—the workshops were still standing—local iron, which appeared to be of an inferior quality and to have been insufficiently malleated, had been used. The bridge was rebuilt in the year of our visit (1882), but iron from Yün-nan was employed.
THE KUNG-T'AN RIVER.
The Wu Chiang, or, as it is called near its mouth, the Kung-t'an River, after a course of about five hundred miles, enters the Yang-tsze at the city of Fu Chou, seventy-two miles to the east of Ch'ung-k'ing. Owing to rapids, it is unnavigable until it approaches the province of Ssŭ-ch'uan; but even in its short navigable course of over a hundred miles above its junction with the Yang-tsze it is an important trade highway. By this route, north-eastern Kuei-chow is supplied with salt from Ssŭ-ch'uan, sending in return gall-nuts and other minor products. At one time it formed part of the great commercial highway between Canton and Western China, which has practically ceased to exist since the opening of the Yang-tsze to steam navigation.
A brief glance across the Wu Chiang warned me that there was no time to tarry on the left bank, for the road could be seen zig-zagging up a gulley on the opposite shore. Collecting our forces, which had scattered on a tour of inspection, we descended to the river, a stream sixty yards in breadth, and were ferried across by detachments in a rickety old boat. A weary climb of two hours, past disused iron mines overgrown with brushwood, brought us to the Kuan-ai Customs barrier, perched on the summit of the range. Beyond the barrier we obtained a splendid view of the country to the south; barren, treeless peaks, on the same level as ourselves—three to four thousand feet—lay before us, cheerless, uninhabited, lifeless. What a picture! Where are the Miao-tzŭ that used to till these fields and tend their herds on the mountain sides? They were butchered and their bones are rotting underneath. Northern Kuei-chow is a huge graveyard, with no monuments to mark the fierce struggle against extortion and oppression, of rude weapons against foreign arms of precision. Justice is a fine thing to talk about and inculcate, but a hard thing to practise.
ARRIVAL AT KUEI-YANG.
Three miles from the river my followers clamoured for a day's rest. Although only a three days' journey from Kuei-yang, the capital of the province, where I proposed to make a short stay, I was compelled to accede to their request. Twenty miles may seem a poor day's work; but my readers should bear in mind that roads, in the proper sense of the word, do not exist, and that the mountain paths which we have been travelling have been sadly neglected. During the whole of my time in Kuei-chow I never once saw a cart, the entire trade—such as it is—being conducted on the backs of bipeds and quadrupeds. A nearer acquaintance with the country between the Wu Chiang and Kuei-yang failed to leave on my mind a livelier impression than that derived from the panorama of desolation as seen from the Kuan-ai barrier. During the day here and there a hut or a poppy-patch was the only sign of human existence, and at night came the miserable village full of lethargic opium-sodden inhabitants.
Ten miles of grassy downs and fifteen miles of barren mountain sides constitute the approach to the provincial capital. At the village, which lies between, an escort of eight soldiers, two mounted officers, and a host of runners from the Magistrate's Yamên, awaited us to protect me from the dangers of the wilderness. The occasional huts give place to guard-houses, which would seem to imply that the country is not so safe as it looks. Passing through an archway bridging the road between two steep mountain peaks, where the officer at the receipt of customs glared greedily at our caravan; and, rounding a mountain side, we soon caught a glimpse of Kuei-yang lying in a plain far below us. On the left is the graveyard of the city, its white stones like glittering specks dotting the hill side. A white wall surrounds the town; and numerous green trees rising above the house-tops were suggestive of coolness and shade. But all is not gold that glitters, and there was soon revealed to us an ordinary Chinese city containing the usual marks of decay.
On the morning of the 6th of May—the day after our arrival—I spent a very pleasant half-hour with the Governor of the province, who was courtesy itself. His Excellency was deeply interested in the subject of the navigation of the Upper Yang-tsze by steam, and showed complete familiarity with the sayings of the Shanghai vernacular press. He pressed me to stay a few days; but the heat was oppressive, and I determined to push on to Yün-nan without delay. To His Excellency I owe much; he was good enough to send orders along the route that I was to be accommodated in the official rest-houses as much as possible, so that I was enabled to get rid of the crowds which collect and gaze with glassy eyes at the unfortunate foreigner. It is difficult to satisfy a Chinese crowd; one may sit or stand before one's room-door in an inn for hours, yet the inquisitiveness remains unabated. Enter the room, and every crack in the woodwork of the walls is occupied by peering eyes, while the paper windows are quickly converted into sieves by moistened finger-tips, and black glittering orbs are glued to them. A boot deftly aimed gives momentary, but only momentary, relief. Kuei-chow is not a chief sinner in this respect. In Western China, Ssŭ-ch'uan undoubtedly takes the palm.
During the afternoon of my stay in Kuei-yang I made a flying perambulation of the city. In the southern part, the shops were large and apparently prosperous, and the streets, which were fairly broad, were crowded. Foreign cottons brought from Hankow by way of the Tung-t'ing Lake and the Yuan River were plentifully displayed. I shall have occasion to refer again to this route, which was followed by the unfortunate Margary on his way across China to Burmah.
- Three Years
- Western China
Preface and contents (Three Years in Western China)
- ▸ Three Years in Western China
Three Years in Western ChinaA Narrative of Three Journeys in Ssu-ch'uan, Kuei-chow, and Yün-nanAuthor: Alexander HosieRelease Date: February 8, 2014 CONTENTS.Chapter I.UP THE YANG-TSZE TO WESTERN CHINA.PAGEWestern China and the interest attaching to it—The wa...
CHAPTER I (Three Years in Western China)
- ▸ Three Years in Western China
THREE YEARS IN WESTERN CHINA.CHAPTER I.UP THE YANG-TSZE TO WESTERN CHINA.Western China and the interest attaching to it—The way thither—An unsuccessful attempt to reach Ichang—Ichang at last—Difficulties of navigation—Commercial importance of Ichang—My native pass...
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