Preface and contents (Three Years in Western China)

 Three Years in Western China

A Narrative of Three Journeys in Ssu-ch'uan, Kuei-chow, and Yün-nan

Author: Alexander Hosie

Release Date: February 8, 2014 


Chapter I.



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 passenger-boat, opium-smoking skipper, and crew—The navigability of the Upper Yang-tsze by steamers—Dangers and difficulties of the Ching T'an Rapid—Up and down the rapid—The poppy—Ch'ung-k'ing. 1

Chapter II.


My overland caravan—Harvesting opium—Field-fishing—Wood-oil—The manufacture of paper—Salt carriers—Silkworms 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 14

Chapter III.


White wax insects—Terrific hailstorm and its effects—Miao-tzŭ houses and women—An-shun Fu—Limestone cave—Pai-shui waterfall—Reception at Lang-t'ai T'ing—Lang-wang Mountain and the "Cave of the Spirits"—Caught in a thunderstorm—The pebbly strand of the Mao-k'ou River—Pack-animals and their treatment—The Yün-nan frontier—A cart at last—Exploring a cave—Underground rivers—Exceptional courtesy—Goître—Breeding ground of the Yün-nan pony—Trade route to Tonquin—Marching knee-deep in mud and water—Poverty of inhabitants—Queen's Birthday dinner in a back yard—Chinese inquisitiveness—The Sung-ming Lake—A local escort—A glorious view—Yün-nan Fu. 35

Chapter IV.


The city of Yün-nan Fu—P'u-êrh tea—Opium-smoking, chair-bearers, and personal care—Exposure of robbers' heads—Chinese school—Rainbow superstition—Entertainment at Tung-ch'uan Fu—A successful ruse—Stopped by a mountain torrent—Lodged in a byre—On the banks of the Niu-lan River—The Chao-t'ung plain and its lakes—Stories of Lolo bloodshed—Down from the plain—Narrow escape of a porter—Back to Ssŭ-ch'uan—Descent of the Nan-kuang River—Down the Yang-tsze to Ch'ung-k'ing 54

Chapter V.


Fu-t'ou-kuan—The country and its products—Chinese New Year—Charcoal from bracken—Ramie fibre and grass-cloth—Down a tributary of the T'o—The T'o and its commercial importance—The salt wells of Tzu-liu-ching—Sugar and safflower—The Ch'êng-tu plain—Beggars—The capital of Ssŭ-ch'uan 70

Chapter VI.


A Tibetan criminal in a cage—The armed ruffians of Chiung Chou—A floating bamboo bridge—Brick tea for Tibet—Fraternizing with Tibetan pilgrims on the summit of the Flying Dragon Pass—Chinese originality—Over the Ta Hsiang Ling Pass—A non-Chinese race—Across the Ta-tu River under Sifan protection—In the country of the Lolos—Lolo language—Sifan language—Asbestos cloth—A dangerous country—Lolo rogues—Over the Hsiao Hsiang Ling Pass—Lolo women—The valley of Chien-ch'ang—Ning-yuan Fu 88

Chapter VII.


Earthquakes—The reception of foreigners at Ning-yuan—The fertility of the Ning-yuan plain—Goître and the salt supply—Historical hailstorm—A Tibetan caravan—Crossing the Ya-lung River—A riot at Hang-chou—Reception at Yen-yuan and increased protection—Brine wells of Pai-yen-ching—Driven back by mountain barriers—The Yün-nan frontier—A sight of the Yang-tsze—Results of the Mohammedan rebellion—The Lake of the Black Mist—On the banks of the Golden River—A deserted town—The plague—First glimpse of the snow-capped Tsang-shan—A magnificent view—On the shores of the Erh Hai—Ta-li Fu at last. 112

Chapter VIII.


A view from the walls of Ta-li—The Mohammedan rebellion—A dying patriot's prayer—Tibetan dogs—Amherst pheasants—A visit to the marble quarries—False musk—Min-chia maidens—The Ta-li plain—Playful gusts from the Tsang-shan—Good-bye Ta-li—A folklore hunting ground—The Erh Hai and the Mekong—Trade with Upper Burmah—Canton peddlers—Hsia-kuan, or the "Lower Fortress"—Ruined cities—Wretched roads—Half-starved—The foreigner and the camel—Marked courtesy at Ch'u-hsiung Fu—Yün-nan salt wells—A sackful of mails—A roadside trial—Across the Yün-nan lake—Three days in Yün-nan Fu—Trade with Western China and the introduction of railways. 131

Chapter IX.


The advantages of scholars en route to Examination—Highroad converted into a reservoir—Quartered in a chimney—Intolerable inquisitiveness—Travellers, beware of T'ang-t'ang!—The Yün-nan-Kuei-chow border—Lakes and their drainage—Again among the Miao-tzŭ—The valley of the Ch'i-hsing River—Bark paper—"Heaven's Bridge" and its mining catastrophe—The copper traffic—Across the Ch'ih-shui River into Ssŭ-ch'uan—Over the Hsüeh-shan Pass—A child of nature—A refractory roadside deity—Down the Yung-ning River—A narrow escape—Down the Yang-tsze to Ch'ung-k'ing 147

Chapter X.


An unfortunate start—North to Ho Chou—Chinese soy—Varnish and its collection—Young trees from the old—Light-hearted peasants—The garden of Ssŭ-ch'uan—Otter fishing—Man-tzŭ caves—A great sugar country—Glimpse of O-mei—Chief silk country in Western China—Ascent of O-mei—Sweet tea of O-mei—The Golden Summit—The Glory of Buddha—Pilgrims and their devotions—O-mei beggars—A difficult descent—Official obstruction—Sick followers—On the banks of the Ta-tu—Man-tzŭ raids—Down with fever—Guerilla warfare—Hard-up for food—An exhausting march—The welcome Yang-tsze—Its highest navigable point—Down the upper rapids—Death of my horse-boy—Back to Ch'ung-k'ing 161

Chapter XI.


References to Insect White Wax in Europe and China—Area of production—Chief wax insect producing country—The insect tree—The insect "buffalo" beetle, or parasite—The insect scales—The transport of insects to the wax producing districts—Method of transport—The wax tree—How insects are placed on the wax trees—Wax production—Collection of the wax—An ignominious ending—Insect metamorphosis—Uses of the wax—Quantity and value 189

Chapter XII.


The waterways, trade-routes, condition, and commercial prospects of Yün-nan—Trade-routes to Kuei-chow and the mineral wealth of the province—The waterways of Ssŭ-ch'uan—General trade of Ssŭ-ch'uan—Foreign trade of Ssŭ-ch'uan and how it is conducted—The defects in the present system and the remedy—The rapids and the difficulties they present—Advantages to be gained from the opening of Ch'ung-k'ing—The Yang-tsze the only route—Trade bound to the Yang-tsze 202

Chapter XIII.


Non-Chinese races of Western and South-Western China—Imperfect knowledge regarding them—A traveller's difficulties—Phö language approaching extinction—The Miao-tzŭ rebellion—Relationship of the Miao-tzŭ tribes—Art among the Phö—Music and dancing—Characteristics of the Phö language—English-Phö Exercises and Vocabulary 224

Note on Opium Cultivation in China and India 287


The following pages are intended to present a picture of Western China as the writer saw it in 1882, 1883, and 1884. Chapter VII., in a somewhat modified form, was read at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society on the 22nd of February, and published in the Proceedings for June, 1886; Chapter XI. was read at the Aberdeen meeting of the British Association in September, 1885; and Chapter XII. was addressed to a special meeting of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce on the 12th of May, 1886. The remaining Chapters are now published for the first time, and, if they meet with half the favour bestowed upon the Parliamentary Papers in which the journeys were first, and somewhat roughly, described, the writer will consider himself amply rewarded for the work which want of leisure has compelled him to neglect so long.

The Author.

Wênchow, China,

September 6, 1889.


Since the publication of the first edition of this book, in 1890, several important changes have taken place in foreign commercial relations with Western China, and sufficient time has now elapsed to admit of a decision being arrived at as to how far these changes have affected trade. The following Additional Article to the Chefoo Agreement of 1876, which owed its existence to the murder of Margary in the west of Yün-nan in 1875, was signed at Peking on March 31, 1890, and the Ratifications were exchanged on January 18, 1891:

"The Governments of Great Britain and China, being desirous of settling in an amicable spirit the divergence of opinion which has arisen with respect to the first clause of the third section of the Agreement concluded at Chefoo in 1876, which stipulates that—'The British Government will be free to send officers to reside at Ch'ung-k'ing to watch the conditions of British trade in Szechuen [Ssŭ-ch'uan], that British merchants will not be allowed to reside at Ch'ung-k'ing, or to open establishments or warehouses there, so long as no steamers have access to the port, and that when steamers have succeeded in ascending the river so far, further arrangements can be taken into consideration,' have agreed upon the following Additional Article:

"I. Ch'ung-k'ing shall forthwith be declared open to trade on the same footing as any other Treaty port.

"British subjects shall be at liberty either to charter Chinese vessels, or to provide vessels of the Chinese type, for the traffic between Ichang and Ch'ung-k'ing.

"II. Merchandize conveyed between Ichang and Ch'ung-k'ing by the above class of vessels shall be placed on the same footing as merchandize carried by steamers between Shanghae and Ichang, and shall be dealt with in accordance with Treaty, Tariff Rules, and the Yang-tsze Regulations.

"III. All Regulations as to the papers and flags to be carried by vessels of the above description, as to the cargo certificates with which they shall be provided, as to the re-package of goods for the voyage beyond Ichang, and as to the general procedure to be observed by those engaged in the trade between Ichang and Ch'ung-k'ing, with a view to ensuring convenience and security, shall be drawn up by the Superintendent of Customs at Ichang, the Taotai of the Ch'uan Tung Circuit, who is now stationed at Ch'ung-k'ing, and the Commissioner of Customs in consultation with the British Consul, and shall be liable to any modifications that may hereafter prove to be desirable and may be agreed upon by common consent.

"IV. Chartered junks shall pay port dues at Ichang and Ch'ung-k'ing in accordance with the Yang-tsze Regulations; vessels of Chinese type, if and when entitled to carry the British flag, shall pay tonnage dues in accordance with Treaty Regulations. It is obligatory on both chartered junks and also vessels of Chinese type, even when the latter may be entitled to carry the British flag, to take out the Maritime Custom-house special papers and a special flag when intended to be employed by British subjects in the transport of goods between Ichang and Ch'ung-k'ing, and without such papers and flag no vessel of either class shall be allowed the privileges and immunities granted under this Additional Article. Provided with special papers and flag, vessels of both classes shall be allowed to ply between the two ports, and they and their cargoes shall be dealt with in accordance with Treaty Rules and the Yang-tsze Regulations. All other vessels shall be dealt with by the Native Customs. The special papers and flag issued by the Maritime Customs must alone be used by the particular vessel for which they were originally issued, and are not transferable from one vessel to another. The use of the British flag by vessels the property of Chinese is strictly prohibited. Infringement of these Regulations will, in the first instance, render the offender liable to the penalties in force at the ports hitherto open under Treaty; and should the offence be subsequently repeated, the vessel's special papers and flag will be withdrawn, and the vessel herself refused permission thenceforward to trade between Ichang and Ch'ung-k'ing.

"V. When once Chinese steamers carrying cargo run to Ch'ung-k'ing, British steamers shall in like manner have access to the said port.

"VI. It is agreed that the present Additional Article shall be considered as forming part of the Chefoo Agreement, and as having the same force and validity as if it were inserted therein word for word. It shall be ratified, and the ratifications exchanged at Peking, and it shall come into operation six months after its signature, provided the ratifications have been exchanged, or if they have not, then on the date at which such exchange takes place."

In other words, Ch'ung-k'ing was constituted a Treaty port, but British steamers were denied access to it until Chinese steamers carrying cargo should be pleased to lead the way. No attempt to navigate west of Ichang was ever made, nor, so far as I am aware, was it ever contemplated by the latter, and trade between that port and Ch'ung-k'ing has up to the present been conducted in junks, in accordance with the terms of this Additional Article. But it fell to Japan, after the war of 1894-95, to claim the right of steam navigation to Ch'ung-k'ing, and by Article VI. of the Treaty of Peace, signed at Shimonoseki on April 17, 1895, not only was Ch'ung-k'ing opened to the trade, residence, industries, and manufactures of Japanese subjects, but steam navigation for vessels under the Japanese flag for the conveyance of passengers and cargo was extended on the Upper Yang-tsze from Ichang to Ch'ung-k'ing.

By this most-favoured-nation clause, therefore, Ch'ung-k'ing is now open to foreign trade on the same conditions as the other Treaty ports in China, and it remains to be seen which country will take the initiative in still further developing the trade of Western China by steam. The mere opening of Ch'ung-k'ing as a Treaty port, even without the immediate prospect of steam communication, was undoubtedly a step in the right direction, and the establishment there on the 1st of April, 1891, of a British Consulate, and of an office of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs, soon rendered possible a more exact estimate of the capacity of this great trade emporium of the province of Ssŭ-ch'uan, and of the west of China generally. In that year, virtually from June to December, 300 junks, of a capacity of 7,332 tons, provided with Customs Charter Certificates and flying the Chinese flag, reported at the Foreign Custom-house at Ch'ung-k'ing from Ichang, with foreign goods of the value of Haikwan Taels 1,371,027, and native produce of the value of H.T.[1] 94,003; while 307 similarly chartered junks, of a capacity of about 4,404 tons, left Ch'ung-k'ing for Ichang, with exports of the value of H.T. 1,389,683, and silver (sycee) valued at H.T. 84,381. In addition to this, foreign goods, of the value of H.T. 2,346,055, and H.T. 643,475, were sent, under transit pass to Ichang and Hankow respectively, to Ssŭ-ch'uan, and native goods of the value of H.T. 443,269 were brought down under transit pass from that Province to Ichang for shipment. The trade steadily increased, and in 1895 as many as 1,200 junks, whereof 878 were chartered by British, 112 by American, and 210 by Chinese merchants, of a total of 36,881 tons, carried to Ch'ung-k'ing from Ichang foreign goods valued at H.T. 5,618,213, native goods valued at H.T. 1,238,816; while 917 chartered junks carried away from Ch'ung-k'ing native produce of the value of H.T. 6,396,743; a total of imports and exports of the value of H.T. 13,253,772. Besides this, goods of the value of H.T. 662,679 were sent to Ssŭ-ch'uan, mostly to Ch'ung-k'ing, under transit pass from Hankow and Ichang. These figures refer only to the trade which comes under the cognizance of the Imperial Maritime Customs, and Mr. Woodruff, Commissioner of Customs, writing from Ch'ung-k'ing in January, 1896, in reference to the trade of the previous year, says—"Our petty share of the trade (i.e., the trade passing through the Foreign Custom-house) has prospered;" and again, "With prosperity based on such uncertain foundations, it would be unwise to draw too definite conclusions, but there is enough else in the appended tables to give abundant promise: there are the possibilities of a great trade." The Customs Returns give precise details of this petty share of the trade of Ssŭ-ch'uan, and an examination of the list of exports reveals a state of things which cannot but appear startling to those unacquainted with the Province. In 1895, as stated above, the value of the exports reported at the Foreign Custom-house at Ch'ung-k'ing: was H.T. 6,396,743, and of this amount native opium alone ranked for H.T. 2,875,180. When Ch'ung-k'ing was made an open port, Mr. H. E. Hobson, then Commissioner of Customs, despatched to Shanghai, for analysis, specimens of native opium from the three Provinces of Ssŭ-ch'uan, Kuei-chow, and Yün-nan, and, after embodying the results of this analysis in his Report for 1891, he adds—"The above details go to prove that of late years the native farmers have paid closer attention to the production of unadulterated drug, and have succeeded; whilst there is now but little doubt that, with anything approaching a favourable season, the out-turn of the poppy fields of Western China alone are ample to the ordinary requirements of pretty nearly the whole Empire. It would be idle to attempt an estimate of the probable total yield of what is now the favourite spring crop of regions vaster in extent than individual European kingdoms; but the fact is patent that, as regards her opium supply, China is now practically independent." Next to native opium comes white-wax of the value of H.T. 940,699. A description of the remarkable industry by which this wax is produced will be found in Chapter XI. Silk of all kinds ranks third, with a value of H.T. 811,764; but this is a mere fraction of the production of, and export from, the Province, for Ssŭ-ch'uan is an immense silk district, and the production is practically unlimited. Then follow medicines (H.T. 589,472), musk (H.T. 540,662), sheep's wool (H.T. 99,377), bristles (H.T. 96,152), hemp (H.T. 68,806), fungus (H.T. 26,202), brown sugar (H.T. 22,973), feathers (H.T. 15,092), leather (H.T. 13,770), safflower (H.T. 11,696), turmeric (H.T. 6,314), and some minor articles which go to make up what is practically a petty share of the export trade of Ssŭ-ch'uan. Moreover, the great and most valuable salt export from Ssŭ-ch'uan is under Government control, and is excluded from the supervision of the Imperial Maritime Customs. A glance at the list of imports shows that the principal foreign goods consumed by Ssŭ-ch'uan are—Indian cotton yarn (H.T. 2,600,637), plain grey shirtings (H.T. 1,169,966), white shirtings (H.T. 162,162), cotton Italians, plain and figured (H.T. 158,803), American clarified ginseng (H.T. 131,687), cotton lastings (H.T. 128,292), woollen lastings (H.T. 97,822), analine dyes (H.T. 86,041), long ells (H.T. 63,648), seaweed and agar-agar (H.T. 60,917); while the principal imports of native goods include raw cotton (H.T. 515,891), silk piece-goods (H.T. 200,776), medicines (H.T. 92,046), cotton yarn from Hankow (H.T. 86,329), China-root (H.T. 42,162), paper (H.T. 28,253), paper fans (H.T. 24,519), and cuttle-fish (H.T. 22,399). These are exclusive of the goods, mentioned above, sent to Ssŭ-ch'uan under transit pass from Ichang and Hankow. When the goods have arrived at Ch'ung-k'ing they are distributed over the Province, part going to Kuei-chow and Yün-nan; but as transit passes are not taken out at the port to cover their further distribution, it is impossible to state with accuracy their ultimate destinations. Mr. Hobson, in his Report for 1891, gives the following reasons why inward transit passes are not availed of. He says—"During the December quarter documents were taken out to cover parcels of Indian yarn to inland marts within the Szechuan borders, but, owing to a misunderstanding at the barriers, operations quickly came to a conclusion." And in the same place, writing of outward transit, he says—"There were no applications for passes to convey cargo from the interior, which is not surprising when it is explained that accumulated tax charges, en route, are slighter than transit dues would amount to." It must be borne in mind that all these figures refer to a fraction of the trade of Ch'ung-k'ing, and, therefore, to a much smaller fraction of the trade of the whole Province of Ssŭ-ch'uan, conducted between the Upper and Lower Yang-tsze.

Much has been heard in recent years of the rivalry of the French for the trade of Western China, by way of Tonquin and the Red River (Song-koi): but we are now in a position to test it by actual results. By Art. II. of the Convention Additionelle de Commerce entre la France et la Chine, signed at Peking on the 26th of June, 1887, the city of Lungchow, in the Province of Kwangzi, and the city of Mêng-tzŭ, in Southern Yün-nan, as well as Man-hao at the head of navigation of the Red River, and south-west of Mêng-tzŭ, were opened to trade, and by Art. III. the following differential duties were, with a view to a more rapid development of trade between China and Tonquin, agreed upon:—Foreign goods imported into China through these cities shall pay seven-tenths, and Chinese goods exported to Tonquin by the same routes shall pay six-tenths, of the general tariff in force at the Treaty ports of China. In August, 1889, a Custom-house was established at Mêng-tzŭ, with which I propose to deal more particularly in this place, for the route by way of the Red River, Man-hao, and Mêng-tzŭ is practically the only way of access from Tonquin to Yün-nan and the South-Western Provinces of China, and by it the whole trade is conducted; so that the Custom-house Returns of Mêng-tzŭ supply complete data as to its value, volume, and distribution. The following table gives the value of the trade from 1890 to 1895:—

1890. 1891. 1892. 1893. 1894. 1895.

Imports. H.T. H.T. H.T. H.T. H.T. H.T.

Foreign 466,089 744,480 887,606 {1,524,290 1,241,879 1,809,253

Native 169,014 202,336 261,459

Exports. 468,904 583,275 736,355 735,204 943,321 1,033,066

Total 1,104,007 1,530,007 1,885,420 2,259,494 2,195,200 2,842,319

After 1892 no distinction was made between foreign and native imports.

An analysis of the trade shows that it is composed for the most part of a few articles of considerable value. The year 1895 may be taken as an example.

Imports. Exports.

H.T. H.T.

Indian cotton yarn 1,303,108 Yün-nan opium 160,197

Raw cotton (Tonquin) 60,515 Tin in slabs 812,819

Prepared tobacco (Canton) 234,995 Other goods 60,050

Coffin wood (Tonquin) 46,086

Other goods 164,549

Total 1,809,253 Total 1,033,066

As the transit pass system is in full working order at Mêng-tzŭ, it is possible to describe with accuracy the area which this route supplies. In 1895—the latest figures available—the value of the imports, as stated above, was H.T. 1,809,253; and all these imports, principally from Hong-kong, are entitled, on payment of seven-tenths of the General Tariff import duty, and of an additional half full import duty, to be conveyed under transit pass to any destination in the interior without further taxation. Eighty-four per cent. were so carried, of the value of H.T. 1,521,021, and of this the Province of Yün-nan itself consumed H.T. 1,509,491, leaving a balance of H.T. 11,530 for distribution in other Provinces. Of this latter, Ta-ting Fu, in Kuei-chow, took seven piculs of prepared tobacco, of the value of H.T. 210; Chang-sha and Ch'ang-tê Hupeh, on the opposite bank of the Yang-tsze from Hankow, took 41 catties of cassia lignea, of the value of H.T. 14. There still remains goods of the value of H.T. 10,936 to be accounted for. These were sent to three places in the Province of Ssŭ-ch'uan, namely, Ning-yüan Fu, which is situated in that part of the Province which juts into the north of Yün-nan, and is separated from the highest navigable point on the Yang-tsze by the inaccessible Lolo country. I visited this city on March 20, 1883, by the only available mountain road from Ch'êng-tu, the capital of Ssŭ-ch'uan, and it is not at all surprising, when the difficulties of this route are taken into account, that it draws its supplies from Mêng-tzŭ. Its requirements, however, amounted to the small sum of H.T. 10,085, consisting almost entirely of Indian cotton yarn. The other two places in Ssŭ-ch'uan which drew from Mêng-tzŭ were Ch'êng-tu, which took 25 catties of cinnamon, valued at H.T. 800, and Hsü-chou Fu, at the junction of the Chin-sha Chiang (Upper Yang-tsze) and the Min River, whose requirements consisted of 203 catties of inferior cardamoms, of the value of H.T. 51. While Ning-yüan will in all probability continue to satisfy its wants from Mêng-tzŭ, there is not the remotest likelihood of other parts of Ssŭ-ch'uan deserting the Yang-tsze route and Ch'ung-k'ing. Although Kuei-chow drew seven piculs of prepared tobacco, and Chao-t'ung, the northern prefecture of Yün-nan, took four pieces of T cloths and 14½ piculs of tobacco from Mêng-tzŭ, I see no reason to alter what I wrote eight years ago in the concluding paragraph of Chapter XII. "The only route to Ssŭ-ch'uan, Kuei-chow, and Northern Yün-nan is the Yang-tsze, on whose upper waters a large trade in foreign goods is even now conducted, a trade which is capable of enormous development when the present burdensome taxation is reduced. The opening of Ch'ung-k'ing by the ascent of a steamer—an event anxiously looked forward to by the native merchants of Ssŭ-ch'uan, will, as I have pointed out, reduce that taxation, and will enable millions, who at present look upon foreign goods as articles of luxury, to become themselves consumers; and I trust the day is not far distant when the British flag will float over entrepôts of British manufactures throughout Western China." The unwieldy junk, which, if it succeeds in covering the distance of 400 miles between Ichang and Ch'ung-k'ing in less than a month, is considered to have made a good passage, is still the only means of communication between the Lower Yang-tsze and Ssŭ-ch'uan. This long passage entails heavy freights, thereby enhancing the retail prices and hindering the free distribution of our manufactures; and it is sincerely to be hoped that the permission granted by the Japanese Treaty of Shimonoseki, to employ steam on the Upper Yang-tsze, will soon bear fruit. The French have succeeded in running small steamers on the Red River from Hanoi to Lao-kai, that is, to the frontier of Yün-nan, and a weekly service is maintained between Yen-bai and Lao-kai; but in winter the river is too shallow to admit of the passage of even small steamers. In 1895 a cargo steamer was placed on the line in summer, for junk navigation, owing to the strong current, virtually ceases from the beginning of May until September; but the Chinese, even although freights were as light as by junk, refused to ship by her on the plea that "the arrival of goods could not be regulated as at present, and that prices would consequently fall." The long journey overland from Mêng-tzŭ, or rather Man-hao, to Ssŭ-ch'uan, Kuei-chow, and Northern Yün-nan, is, in my opinion, an insuperable barrier to a successful rivalry of the Red River with the Yang-tsze.

On the 1st of March, 1894, a Convention between Great Britain and China, relative to the boundaries of, and overland trade between, Burmah and China, was signed at London. Art. VIII. of that Convention says—"Subject to the conditions mentioned hereafter in Articles X. and XI., the British Government, wishing to encourage and develop the land trade of China with Burmah as much as possible, consent, for a period of six years from the ratification of the present Convention, to allow Chinese produce and manufactures, with the exception of salt, to enter Burmah by land duty free, and to allow British manufactures and Burmese produce, with the exception of rice, to be exported to China by land free of duty. The duties on salt and rice imported and exported shall not be higher than those imposed on their import or export by sea." Art. XI. says—"The exportation from Burmah into China of salt is prohibited," and "the exportation from China into Burmah of cash, rice, pulse, and grains of every kind is prohibited;" and, again, "The importation and exportation across the frontier of opium and spirituous liquors is prohibited, excepting in small quantities for the personal use of travellers." Art. XI. says—"Pending the negotiation of a more complete arrangement, and until the development of the trade shall justify the establishment of other frontier Customs stations, goods imported from Burmah into China, or exported from China into Burmah shall be permitted to cross the frontier by Manwyne and by Sansi. With a view to the development of trade between China and Burmah, the Chinese Government consent that for six years from the ratification of the present Convention the duties levied on goods imported into China by these routes shall be those specified in the General Tariff of the Maritime Customs, diminished by three-tenths, and that the duties on goods exported from China by the same route shall be those specified in the same tariff, diminished by four-tenths. Transit passes for imports and exports shall be granted in accordance with the rules in force at the Treaty ports." Art. XIII. says—"It is agreed that His Majesty the Emperor of China may appoint a Consul in Burmah, to reside at Rangoon; and that Her Britannic Majesty may appoint a Consul to reside at Manwyne." By this Convention, therefore, the same differential duties have been fixed as in the trade between Tonquin and China; but it will be observed that while Yün-nan pays for a considerable part of its imports by the Red River with native opium, it is debarred from exporting it to Burmah. What progress trade is making across the Burmah-Yün-nan frontier under these conditions I am not in a position to say, for I have seen no recent statistics bearing on the subject; but it labours under the same disadvantages in regard to its area of supply as the Red River route. The overland transit is too long, and therefore too expensive, to admit of the richest parts of Western China being "tapped" by it.

On the 1st of December, 1888, a Convention between France and China was signed at Chefoo, whereby, inter alia, the junction of the Chinese and French telegraph lines in Yün-nan and Tonquin respectively was agreed to, and Mêng-tzŭ and Lao-kai, which lies just within the Tonquin frontier, were subsequently united by wire; and on the 6th September, 1894, a similar Convention, respecting the junction of the Chinese and Burmese telegraph lines, was signed at Tien-tsin between Great Britain and China, wherein it was stipulated that the junction should be effected between the British station at Bhamo and the Chinese station at Têng-yüeh (Momein), at latest on the 31st May, 1895, unless prevented by accident or by force majeure.

By a Supplementary Convention, concluded between France and China at Peking on the 20th of June, 1895, and ratified in 1896, Man-hao, the station opened by Art. II. of the Convention of 1887, at the head of navigation of the Red River in Yün-nan, is superseded by Ho-k'ou, a place on the left bank of the same river, and just within the Chinese frontier.

Of recent years Western China has acted as a magnet, not only to exploring expeditions, but also to more practical commercial missions. In 1890 a French expedition, including Prince Henry of Orleans, passed southwards through Western Ssŭ-ch'uan and Yün-nan by way of Ta-li Fu, Mêng-tsŭ, and the Red River, from Tibet to Tonquin; and in 1895 the Prince was again at Ta-li Fu, whence he proceeded west to the Mekong, ascended the right bank of the latter to Tse-ku, and then struck westwards across the Salwen and Irrawady to Sadiya in Assam. To show the spirit of rivalry which exists, I may quote from the paper which the Prince read before the Royal Geographical Society on the 18th of May, 1896, and published in the December number of the Geographical Journal of that year. He says—"We heard [at Ssŭ-mao] that two Englishmen had just left the town. This news was not calculated to rejoice our hearts. Reconnoitring parties are numerous in Yün-nan, and there is a race between the French and English, and even amongst the French themselves. The field of the unknown is day by day being reduced with marvellous rapidity, and to find unexplored ground on the map one must hasten. At Ta-li Fu we were told that one of these Englishmen was Captain Davis, who arrived from Burmah by way of T'êng-yüeh and Ta-li, intending to return by Mien-ning, Ssŭ-mao, P'u-êrh Fu, and Tamano. We twice crossed the itinerary of these travellers, and were lucky enough only to travel along 120 miles of the same road."

A French commercial mission (Mission Lyonnaise d'Exploration Commerciale en Chine), consisting of a dozen members, and including several experts, has recently overrun Western China from Tonquin to the borders of Tibet, part of the mission remaining at Ch'ung-k'ing for some considerable time. A Japanese Commercial Mission visited Ch'ung-k'ing in December, 1895, and returned in January, 1896, and the United States Mission, which left Tien-tsin overland for Chêng-tu to arrange a settlement, so far as American missionaries were concerned, of the anti-missionary outrages which occurred there and in other parts of the Province of Ssŭ-ch'uan in May and June, 1895, returned by way of Ch'ung-k'ing and the Yang-tsze in January, 1896. At the present moment the Blackburn Commercial Mission, headed by Mr. Bourne, of the British Consular Service in China, my successor as Consular Agent at Ch'ung-k'ing in 1884, is traversing the Western Provinces of China; and it is certain that all these missions have collected, and are collecting, information which cannot fail to be of great assistance in developing foreign trade with the West of China.

Alex. Hosie.


February 18, 1897.


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