HotFreeBooks.com
A Wayfarer in China - Impressions of a trip across West China and Mongolia
by Elizabeth Kendall
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Transcriber's Note: The index of this book lists general subject page numbers after sub-entry pages.

Incorrect page numbers in the Illustrations list have been changed.]



A WAYFARER IN CHINA



A WAYFARER IN CHINA

IMPRESSIONS OF A TRIP ACROSS WEST CHINA AND MONGOLIA

BY ELIZABETH KENDALL

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge



COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY ELIZABETH KENDALL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Published February 1913



TO THE HAPPY MEMORY OF MY MOTHER THE ONE WHO ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD



PREFACE

A word of explanation may help to an understanding of this record of a brief journey in China, in 1911, in the last quiet months before the revolution.

No one who has ever known the joy of hunting impressions of strange peoples and strange lands in the out-of-the-way corners of the world can ever feel quite free again, for he hears always a compelling voice that "calls him night and day" to go forth on the chase once more. Years ago, for a beginning, I pursued impressions and experiences in the Far West on the frontier,—there was a frontier then. And since that time, whenever chance has offered, that has been my holiday pastime, among the Kentucky mountains, in the Taurus, in Montenegro, in India. Everywhere there is interest, for everywhere there is human nature, but whoever has once come under the spell of the Orient knows that henceforth there is no choice; footloose, he must always turn eastwards.

But really to see the East one must shun the half-Europeanized town and the treaty port, must leave behind the comforts of hotel and railway, and be ready to accept the rough and the smooth of unbeaten trails. But the compensations are many: changing scenes, long days out of doors, freedom from the bondage of conventional life, and above all, the fascination of living among peoples of primitive simplicity and yet of a civilization so ancient that it makes all that is oldest in the West seem raw and crude and unfinished. So when two years ago my feet sought again the "open road," it was towards the East that I naturally turned, and this time it was China that called me. I did not go in pursuit of any information in particular, but just to get for myself an impression of the country and the people. My idea of the Chinese had been derived, like that of most Americans, from books and chance observation of the handful of Kwangtung men who are earning their living among us by washing our clothes. Silent, inscrutable, they flit through the American scene, alien to the last. What lies behind the riddle of their impassive faces? Perhaps I could find an answer. Then, too, it was clear, even to the most unintelligent, that a change was coming over the East, though few realized how speedily. I longed to see the old China before I made ready to welcome the new. But not the China of the coast, for there the West had already left its stamp. So I turned to the interior, to the western provinces of Yunnan and Szechuan. Wonderful for scenery, important in commerce and politics, still unspoiled, there I could find what I wanted.

Of course I was told not to do it, it would not be safe, but that is what one is always told. A long, solitary summer spent a few years ago among the Himalayas of Western Tibet, in Ladakh and Baltistan, gave me heart to face such discouragement, and I found, as I had found before, that those who knew the country best were most ready to speed me onward. And as the following pages show, there was nothing to fear. I had no difficulties, no adventures, hardly enough to make the tale interesting.

It is true, I had some special advantages. I was an American and a woman, and no longer young. Chinese respect for grey hair is a very real thing; a woman is not feared as a man may be, and hostility is often nothing more than fear; and even in remote Szechuan I met men who knew that the American Government had returned the Boxer indemnity, and who looked kindly upon me for that reason. If the word of certain foreigners is to be trusted, I gained in not knowing the language; the people would not take advantage of my helplessness. That seems rather incredible; if it is true, the whole Western world has something to learn of China.

But I could not have done what I did without the wise and generous aid of many whom I met along the way, Europeans and Chinese, officials, merchants, and above all missionaries, everywhere the pioneers. To them all I tender here my grateful thanks. And to the representatives of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank wherever I met them, and also to those of the Russo-Asiatic Bank I would express my gratitude for many courtesies shown me.

As I look back I know it was worth while, all of it. Half a dozen months count for little toward the real understanding of a strange civilization, but it is something to have seen a great people in its home, to have watched it at work and at play, for you have been forced once again to realize that although "East is East and West is West," the thing that most matters is the nature of the man, and that everywhere human nature is much the same.

THE ORCHARD, WELLESLEY, MASSACHUSETTS, November, 1912.



CONTENTS

I. ACROSS TONKING 3

II. DAYS IN YUNNAN-FU 24

III. ACROSS YUNNAN 41

IV. THE CHIEN-CH'ANG 71

V. ON THE MANDARIN ROAD 101

VI. TACHIENLU 123

VII. THE LESSER TRAIL 139

VIII. ACROSS CHENGTU PLAIN 161

IX. OMEI SHAN, THE SACRED 180

X. DOWN THE YANGTSE 202

XI. FROM THE GREAT RIVER TO THE GREAT WALL 221

XII. THE MONGOLIAN GRASSLAND 236

XIII. ACROSS THE DESERT OF GOBI 256

XIV. URGA, THE SACRED CITY 276

XV. NORTH TO THE SIBERIAN RAILWAY 289

XVI. A FEW FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF CHINA 308

INDEX 323



ILLUSTRATIONS

THE LITTLE "FU T'OU" (CARAVAN HEADMAN) (p. 6) Frontispiece

MAP OF CHINESE EMPIRE 3

A YUNNAN VALLEY 6

OUTSIDE THE WALLS OF YUNNAN-FU 6

MY SEDAN CHAIR AND BEARERS 32

A MEMORIAL ARCH NEAR YUNNAN-FU 32

MAP OF WEST CHINA 42

ON A YUNNAN ROAD: MY CARAVAN—THE MILITARY ESCORT 44

WU-TING-CHOU: TEMPLE GATEWAY—TEMPLE CORNER 60

LOLO GIRLS 80

"TAME, WILD" LOLOS 80

A MEMORIAL ARCH. SZECHUAN 92

FORTIFIED VILLAGE IN THE CHIEN-CH'ANG VALLEY 92

"MERCURY," MY FLEET COOLIE 106

CARRIER COOLIES 106

A GROUP OF SZECHUAN FARMHOUSES 114

A VIEW OF TACHIENLU 124

TIBETANS 124

LAMA AND DOG AT TACHIENLU 134

THE GATE OF TIBET 134

A WAYSIDE REST-HOUSE 146

A FORTIFIED POST 146

A ROADSIDE TEA-HOUSE 152

TEA COOLIE CROSSING A SUSPENSION BRIDGE 152

A FARMHOUSE IN CHENGTU PLAIN 162

MEMORIAL ARCH TO A "VIRTUOUS WIDOW," CHENGTU PLAIN 168

THE "REJECTION OF THE BODY" (CLIFF A MILE HIGH), MOUNT OMEI, WEST SZECHUAN 196

IN THE YANGTSE GORGES 218

TARTAR WALL, PEKING 230

CARAVAN OUTSIDE THE TARTAR WALL 230

A POOR MONGOL FAMILY AND YURT 248

JACK AND HIS LAMA FRIEND 258

MY CARAVAN ACROSS MONGOLIA 258

HORSEMEN OF THE DESERT, NORTH MONGOLIA 268

A LAMA BOUND FOR URGA 278

A MONGOL BELLE, URGA 278

MY MONGOL HOSTESS 284

THE MONGOL HOUSE WHERE I STAYED IN URGA 284

LAMA AND HIS "WIFE" 298

My thanks are due to Robert J. Davidson, Esq., of Chengtu, Szechuan, for kind permission to use the photograph of the Yangtse Gorges. Also to Messrs. Underwood & Underwood, of New York, for the photographs of the Tartar Wall, Peking. With these exceptions the illustrations are from photographs made by myself on the journey. I should like to express here my appreciation of the care and skill shown by the staff of the Kodak Agency, Regent Street, West, in handling films often used under very unfavourable conditions.

E. K.



SUGGESTIONS FOR PRONOUNCING CHINESE NAMES IN THE TEXT

In general vowels are pronounced as in Italian.

a preceded by w and followed by ng is like a in fall. ue like the French u. ai like i in mine. ao like ou in proud. ei like ey in they. ie like e-e in re-enter. ui with vowels distinct. ou with vowels distinct and stress on o.

Of the consonants, ch, k, p, t, ts are softer than in English, approaching respectively j, g, b, d, dz.

hs is approximately sh (hsien = she-en).

MONEY, WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

Tael, roughly two-thirds of a dollar gold. Dollar or dollar Mex., about fifty cents gold. Cash, about the twentieth part of a cent gold. Li, a scant third of an English mile. Catty, about one and one-third pounds avoirdupois.



A WAYFARER IN CHINA



For the wander-thirst is on me And my soul is in Cathay.



A WAYFARER IN CHINA



CHAPTER I

ACROSS TONKING

Three years ago West China seemed at the back of beyond. To make your way in you had either to traverse the length of Upper Burma and then cross the great rivers and ranges of western Yunnan, a weary month-long journey, or else spend tedious weeks ascending the Yangtse, the monotony of the trip tempered by occasional shipwreck. To-day, thanks to French enterprise, you can slip in between mountain and river and find yourself at Yunnan-fu, the provincial capital, after a railway journey of only three days and a half from Haiphong, the port of Tonking.

When first planning a visit to West China, I set my heart on going in from the west, for I had long wished to see the wild, picturesque country that lies between the Burmese frontier and the Yangtse. Years before, I had looked across the border and promised myself that some day I would find out what lay on the other side. But when the time came the difficulty of securing a Chinese interpreter in Burma forced me to go to Hong Kong, and once there, lack of time made it necessary that I should choose the shortest route into West China, and that was by way of Haiphong and the Red River railway. After all, there were compensations. Even a fleeting vision from the windows of a railway carriage gives some idea of what the French are doing in their great Eastern colony. Moreover, there could be no better starting-point for such a trip as I had before me than the free port of Hong Kong, and the comfort of arranging an outfit in a place where East and West meet untrammelled by custom-houses is not to be despised. As a rule it is a mistake to bring an elaborate outfit from home. Generally each place has worked out just the devices that best serve its particular needs, and much of Western travelling equipment does not fit in with the conditions of Eastern life. Shoes and saddles the traveller from the West wisely brings with him, and of course all scientific apparatus is best provided in Europe. But in the main I found all that I needed, whether of Eastern or Western manufacture, in Hong Kong, and at surprisingly low prices. Interpreter and cook I had secured from Shanghai. The former, a Kiangsi man, was the product of mission schools and a year in an American Western college. He spoke English fairly well, and was sufficiently at home in the various forms of Mandarin to get on in Yunnan and Szechuan. The cook had come down the "Great River" from Chung-king with an English family returning home, and was glad to work his way back, even though by a roundabout route. Although he spoke no English, he understood European ways and was quick to comprehend my wishes. And he proved a faithful, hard-working fellow, and a very passable cook.

By the end of March my preparations were complete. The boat for Haiphong was to leave at nine o'clock on the morning of the 29th, and the evening before two sampans took me and my kit, together with the interpreter and the cook, out to where she lay at her moorings. My belongings looked rather formidable as they lay heaped up on the deck of the Sikiang, of the Est Asiatique Francais line, but, after all, there was only a moderate supply of stores, such as tea, jam, biscuit, sugar, cereals, tinned meats and tinned milk, together with a few enamelled iron dishes and the cook's stew-pans, all packed in wooden boxes. The bedding-roll and clothing were put in camp-bags of waterproof canvas, while the necessary maps and cameras and films were carried in suit-cases for safe-keeping. An English cross saddle brought from Shanghai proved more satisfactory for the small Yunnan ponies than would have been the Mexican saddle which I had tried in vain to secure. Acting on a timely word of warning I bought in Hong Kong a most comfortable sedan-chair, a well-made bamboo affair fitted with a top and adjustable screens and curtains to keep out either rain or sun. I had been told that I should have no use for a tent, but that a camp-bed was a necessity, and so it proved. The bed I took with me was of American manufacture; compact and light, and fitted with a mosquito frame, it served me throughout all my journeyings and was finally left in Urga in North Mongolia, on the chance that it might serve another traveller a good turn. An important part of my outfit, a small Irish terrier, arrived from Japan the next morning, when I had about given him up. He was dropped into my waiting sampan as his ship, homeward bound to Calcutta from Kobe, came into her moorings, and we climbed up the side of the Sikiang not fifteen minutes before she was off. All's well that ends well. We were safe on board, and I had secured a gay little comrade in my solitary journeying, while before Jack lay a glorious run of two thousand odd miles.

The mail boat to Haiphong, due to make the trip in fifty-three hours, had once been a royal Portuguese yacht, but the only remaining traces of her former glory were the royal monogram, "M.R.P.," conspicuous in glass and woodwork, and her long, graceful lines, charming to look at, but not well fitted to contend with the cross-currents of the China Sea. As the only lady passenger I had very comfortable quarters, and the kindest attention from French officers and Annamese stewards. The second afternoon there came a welcome diversion when the boat put into Kwang-chou-wan, two hundred miles southwest of Hong Kong, to visit the new free port of Fort Bayard, the commercial and military station which the French are creating in the cession they secured from China in 1898, and which, if all goes well, is some day to rival Hong Kong. The Bay of Kwang-chou is very fine, affording a safe harbour to the two or three ships that were riding at anchor, or to two or three navies if need came, but Fort Bayard displays as yet few signs of the prophesied greatness. To while away the hours of waiting I went on shore and wandered about the empty, grass-grown roads of the tiny settlement. To the right as one walked up from the beach stretched a long line of substantial-looking barracks, and many of the houses were of European appearance, attractively set in large gardens. Above the whole towered a rather pretentious two-spired church. The one native and business street running parallel with the beach showed little life; people did not wake up even at the coming of the fortnightly mail from Hong Kong, and the native population seemed no more than sufficient to serve the needs of the foreign element.



We were joined here by two or three French officials attended by an escort of Annamese policemen. These latter had a decidedly ladylike, genteel air with their hair smoothly brushed and twisted in a low knot at the back of the neck, the whole bound round with a black kerchief laid in neat folds. Their uniform was of dark blue woollen set off by putties of a lighter blue, and their appearance was decidedly shipshape. I talked with one of the Frenchmen returning from an official visit to Fort Bayard. He seemed to have little faith in the new settlement, declaring the Government had poured in money like water, and with no adequate return.

It is more than a century since France began to interest herself in this part of the world, dreaming dreams of an Eastern empire to offset the one she had just lost in America. Then came the French Revolution, and the dream went the way of many more substantial things, and it was not until the days of the Second Empire that Napoleon III, looking east and west, again took up the question. Little by little the French strengthened their hold upon the Indo-China peninsula, and the final contest came in the eighties, a part of the universal game of grab then going on in Africa and Asia. Although China gave up her claim to the territory a quarter of a century ago, it took many years longer to pacify the country, and there is still something to be done. The cost in men and money has been very great, and at one time the whole policy of colonial expansion became so unpopular that it spelled political ruin to the man most identified with it, Jules Ferry, "l'homme de Tonking."

The real history of Tonking dates from the administration of M. Doumer, Governor-General of Indo-China from 1897 to 1902. During these five years the Parisian printer, turned Radical politician and administrator, showed what one able and determined man could do. When he arrived in the East, piracy and brigandage were rife, there was an annual deficit of some three million francs, and the feeble administration had done nothing to develop the possibilities of the country. When he left, the colony was upon its feet, lawlessness had been suppressed, the administration reformed, and the deficit turned into a substantial surplus. He had built towns and telegraphs, encouraged the native industries of rice planting and silk culture, and by offering special inducements to French enterprise had developed tea, coffee, and rubber growing.

Nor did the energetic imperialist stop here. Believing that "a nation to be great should be always striving to be greater," he began to develop a vigorous forward policy which seemed to have as its goal nothing less than the control of Yunnan and Southeast China. Colonial expansion was necessary to the continued existence of France, he declared. In his last report, looking back to the achievements of a past generation, he concluded, "We are the same men, but we no longer believe in ourselves. We act as if we were a vanquished people, and in any case we appear so to the world. This is the result of our policy of effacement for which must be substituted at all costs a policy of action which will permit us to hold our rank."

It is true the forward policy did not originate with M. Doumer, for the value of Tonking as the key to China had been recognized by French statesmen before ever he put foot in the colony, but it was his task to make that policy something more than a pious aspiration. Not only did he set about making the French possessions the needed commercial and industrial base for such an undertaking, but he also initiated the next move in the game, the development of railway systems which would bring French traders, and if need be French soldiers, into the heart of the coveted territory. He worked out all the plans, urged them upon the Government, and did more than any other man to secure the necessary support of the French financiers; to-day railways linked up with Hanoi and Haiphong have crossed the Chinese frontier at two points, Dong Dang and Ho-k'ou.

The colony, to call it by its correct name, of Kwang-chou held an important place in M. Doumer's scheme, and he predicted for it a "brilliant future as a port of commerce." Like the rest of his party he regretted the mistaken moderation of the Government in not acquiring at the same time a lease of the island of Hainan. Something is being done now to repair this unfortunate error by industriously developing French hold upon that territory, and the big consulate and the French post-office and hospital at Hoi-hou, the chief port, are significant of future hopes, even if not justified by present conditions.

The following noon, after we left Kwang-chou, we were approaching Haiphong through muddy red channels between the low-lying meadow lands which here border the river Cua-Cam, on the right bank of which lies the chief commercial centre of Tonking. But its days as a shipping port are said to be numbered, because of the difficult approach. Much money has been spent in efforts to improve the waterway, but with no satisfactory results, and now it is proposed to create a new port in the beautiful Baie d'Along, a little farther east. There was some doubt in my mind as to the reception awaiting us. We had been told that the customs inspection was severe, and we had many packages; no Chinese would be admitted without passports, and I had neglected to provide any for my men; there was a strict muzzling law on, and Jack had not even a collar. But the graceful courtesy of the French officials smoothed away every difficulty. We were bowed out of the custom-house with our packages unopened. At the police headquarters, where I at once reported myself with my Chinese men, we were met by one of my fellow passengers from Kwang-chou who had hurried ahead to explain the situation, and thanks to his efforts the lack of passports was kindly overlooked. As for Jack, he was quickly furnished with all the equipment of the civilized dog—muzzle, collar, chain—at one of the large outfitting-shops, of which there seemed quite enough for the needs of the place.

Haiphong is an attractive town of some twenty thousand inhabitants, of whom perhaps one thousand are Europeans. It is planned with an eye to the future, like all French colonial centres, with broad streets and imposing public buildings. But a deep calm brooded over everything; there was no bustle in the thoroughfares, and the shops seemed unvisited, nor did their proprietors show interest in attracting custom. In one of the largest I offered a piastre, fifty cents gold, in payment for a few picture post-cards, but they could not change the coin, and seemed disinclined to make the effort to do it, so I went without my cards. The Annamese, who form the bulk of the population, are attractive in appearance, finer in feature and gentler in manner than the Chinese. Save for a serious cast of face, they are much like the Burmese. Their dress is quieter in tone than that of either their Burmese cousins or their Chinese neighbours, and is severely utilitarian in cut, differing little for men or women. The working dress of Haiphong was full, long, square-cut trousers over which fell a sort of prolonged shirt slashed to the waist. When at work the front panel was tucked up out of the way. All alike wore huge straw hats tied under the chin.

But I saw little of Haiphong, as I left the same evening, and even less of Hanoi, the capital, where we arrived at half-past ten, starting off again before eight o'clock the next morning. I was sorry not to see more of the latter place, for it is one of the finest cities in the Far East. But I carried away a vision of a good hotel, an imposing capitol, and a pretentious station, all set on wide streets lined with European-looking houses surrounded by real green grass lawns. A twenty-minute run in a rickshaw soon after dawn showed fine chaussees leading out into the country and filled, even at this early hour, with crowds of country-folk bringing their produce to market. I believe there are over one hundred miles of metalled roads in the capital and the suburbs, all due to untiring M. Doumer. But his most enduring monument in Hanoi is the fine exposition buildings. When he went home to raise a second loan of two hundred million francs for the development of the colony, the men to whom he appealed naturally asked what were the resources of the country. His convincing reply was the famous exposition of 1902.

There is one through train daily each way between Haiphong and Yunnan-fu. The distance is about six hundred miles, and it took three days and an evening to make the trip. There is no traffic by night, and this seems to be the rule on these adventurous railways, for I met the same thing on the Anatolian and Bagdad lines between Constantinople and Eregli. The corridor trains are equipped with four classes. The first was inferior to the same class on Continental lines, but that seemed to matter little, for it was usually empty. As a gay young Englishman in Yunnan-fu remarked, no one went first-class unless he was travelling at some one's else expense. The second and third class were very good of their kind, and the fourth was far and away the most comfortable arrangement of the sort I had ever seen, with benches along the sides and large unglazed window openings. Most of the passengers and all the jollity went in this class. Everywhere there were other than human travellers; birds, dogs, goats, and pigs were given room, always on condition of having a ticket. I paid four dollars gold for my dog's ticket from Haiphong to Yunnan-fu, but having paid, Jack's right in the carriage was as unquestioned as mine, and I found this true in all my railway travel in China.

The Tonking-Yunnan railway is a remarkable undertaking, and shows the seriousness with which the French are attacking the problems of Far Eastern colonization. The lower half of the line, which here follows up the Red River valley, presented few serious engineering difficulties, although calling for at least one hundred and seventy-five bridges on the section south of Lao-kai, but it was almost impossible to secure labourers for the construction work. Annamese refused to lend a hand, and the Chinese died like flies from the malarial conditions. For a time work was at a standstill, and in the end it had to be suspended during the summer months. The upper part, on the other hand, especially that section which runs through the Namti valley, tested to the utmost the skill of the French engineers. And the cost was correspondingly great. Even as it is, much of the embanking seems to be of a rather slight character, and quite unfit to stand the tremendous tropical downpours of the early summer months. After leaving China I learned that I had passed over the line just in time, for the rains set in very early in the summer of 1911, and for weeks traffic was fearfully interrupted by landslips and broken bridges.

Whether the line will prove a financial success depends on some things not wholly under control. The present customs regulations certainly tend to check the development of trade in Tonking, and the transportation rates are perhaps more than traffic can bear. The French, however, can change their policy in these respects if they think best. But the proposed construction by the Chinese Government of a railway connecting Yunnan-fu and the West River valley would cut the ground out from under their feet. For the moment, the Revolution has stopped the enterprise, but it is certain to be taken up again, as there are no insuperable engineering obstacles in the way, and every economic and political reason for giving Yunnan an outlet to the sea through Chinese territory.

On leaving Hanoi in the early morning light we struck across a wide fertile plain, beautifully cultivated; fields of rice alternating with maize stretched away to a wall of feathery bamboo broken by stately palms and glossy mangoes. After a little the country became more broken, rolling near by, mountainous in the distance. The vegetation, dense and tropical, hemmed in the line on both sides, but here and there charming trails led away through the jungle to villages on higher land; a delightful region to pass through, perhaps to live in if one were a duck, but for human beings the steamy heat must be very depressing. At Yun Bay the valley narrowed, and we drew nearer the mountains, but there was no change in the atmosphere, and had not the sky been cloudy, we should have suffered greatly from the heat.

My fellow travellers were chiefly officials of the civil administration or connected with the railway, who chatted or slept or quietly drank away the weary hours; for them there was no novelty in the trip to dull the feeling of discomfort. At one small station a man who might have been a planter got in, followed by an attractive-looking Annamese woman carrying a little child. She cried bitterly as she waved good-bye to a group of natives on the station platform. The man seemed well known on the line, and was soon the centre of a group of his fellows who paid no attention to the woman. After a while the trio went to sleep, the man on the carriage bench, the woman and child on the floor. She was what is euphemistically called a "cook" in Tonking; just another name for an arrangement so often resulting from the lonely life of Europeans among a slack-fibred dependent alien population. It is the same thing that confronts the stray visitor to the isolated tea plantations of the Assam hills, where young English lads are set down by themselves, perhaps a day's journey from the next European. What wonder that they find it difficult to hold fast to the standards and principles of the home that seems so far away, or that if they once ignore their inherited traditions, no matter in how slight a thing, there seems to be no natural stopping-place short of the abyss. As once said to me an aged American missionary, who perhaps had never worn an evening coat a dozen times in his life, "A nice young fellow, clean in body and soul, comes out from England, and finds himself shut up for the year on one of these plantations, no one of his kind within reach. He means well, but the test is too great. First he stops dressing for dinner. What's the use? Then he gets careless about his manners. And the end of it all is black-and-tan babies in the compound." Here in Tonking the woman is perhaps as well off as in her native hut until the planter goes home or brings out a European wife, but in some way or another there is usually an untoward ending. As for the children, they go to swell the class that is neither here nor there, and their lot is probably happier than that of the unfortunate Eurasians of India, since race prejudice is far less strong among the French than with the Anglo-Saxon.

At Lao-kai on the Tonking frontier I stopped over for a day's rest, having learned that it boasted a comfortable European inn. The little town is built on the opposite high banks of the Red River near its junction with the Namti. Just across the latter stream lie China and the Chinese town of Ho-k'ou. There is a distinct European aspect to Lao-kai, and as a frontier post it has a good-sized garrison of the Annamese Tirailleurs and the French Foreign Legion. The latter did not look as black as they are painted, and it was hard to realize that behind their friendly, courteous bearing were ruined careers; but the contrast of their sturdy forms and weather-beaten faces with the slender figures and delicate features of the Tirailleurs was very striking. I did not wonder that the French soldiers have dubbed their Annamese companions-in-arms the "Young Ladies." The inn, which was most efficiently managed by two Frenchwomen, served as a sort of club for the Europeans of both Lao-kai and Ho-k'ou, and incidentally also for innumerable dogs and cats. At dinner each person was the centre of an expectant group of the four-footed habitues of the inn, and no one seemed to object. Just another instance of the liking of the most civilized peoples of the West and the East, English, French, and Chinese, for pet animals.

A small church on the right bank of the river showed white among the bamboos, and in the early evening the bells rang with a homelike sound. Crossing by the ferry I found the place empty save for two Annamese soldiers kneeling quietly and reverently. In going back and forth on the ferry-boat as I did several times, I had a chance to observe the people. As in the case of the Burmans the difference between men and women is not marked; indeed, among the younger ones it is often difficult to tell them apart. The great palm-leaf hat generally worn took me back to hot Sunday afternoons in an old church in the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts, when my restless little mind busied itself with wondering what palm leaves looked like when they were not fans. I now had a chance to see, for I was in the land of palms, and the church-going fans of my childhood seemed to have transformed themselves into a universal headgear. In shape the Annamese hat resembles a tea-tray with edges three inches deep, and of the size of a bicycle wheel. In addition to the band passing under the chin a small crown fits the head snugly, and helps to keep the huge thing in place. Primarily it is a head-covering, a protection against sun or rain, but incidentally it serves as a windbreak, a basket-cover, a tray, or a cradle. Often French soldiers crossed with me, and I noticed that they usually spoke Annamese fluently, unlike Tommy Atkins in India, who rarely knows a word of the vernacular; also they seemed to be on a friendly, not to say familiar footing with the natives.

After a comfortable week-end's rest, I left Lao-kai in the early morning, helped on my journey by those courtesies that so often in strange lands convince one that "less than kin more than kind" quite understates the truth. An Italian on his way down the river wired the landlord of the best inn in Yunnan-fu of my coming, that I might be properly met. That I had already done so myself did not at all take from his kind thoughtfulness. Still another Italian of the Chinese customs service joined me as we left Lao-kai, having come over from Ho-k'ou to escort me across the frontier, that I might have no bother with my luggage. Yet another of these kind strangers wired ahead to warn the solitary American on the line of my coming, thus giving the two compatriots a chance to exchange a few words at the station as the train went through.

On leaving Lao-kai our way led up the valley of the Namti, a small mountain river coming in from the east. The scenery was now much wilder, and as we rose to higher levels the vegetation changed, the pathless jungle which comes up to the very doors of Lao-kai gave way to sparsely covered grass slopes, and they in turn to barren, rocky walls. It was here that the French engineers encountered their most difficult problems. We wound up the narrow valley in splendid loops and curves, turning upon our tracks, running through numerous tunnels, and at one time crossing a chasm so narrow and with sides so steep and precipitous that it was found necessary to build the bridge in two parts, each against the face of the cliff, and then gradually lower them until they met above the river, three hundred and fifty feet below. Finally by an almost intolerable gradient we topped the divide and found ourselves overlooking a wonderful, well-watered plain five thousand feet above the sea, and cultivated as far as the vision could carry with the care and precision of a market-garden.

That night I spent at A-Mi-chou in a semi-Chinese inn. The cooking was good, and, thanks to the thoughtfulness of a railway official who wired ahead, I had one of the two good rooms of the house, the others being given over to rats. This was truly China, and the European railway with its Frenchified trains and stations seemed indeed an invasion, a world apart. The French officials apparently shared this feeling, and had a nice way of regarding themselves as your hosts and protectors.

All the next day we were crossing the great plateau of Yunnan, now climbing a pass in the mountain-ranges that tower above the level, now making our way up a narrow rocky valley, the gray limestone cliffs gay with bright blue flowers and pink blossoming shrubs. Just what they were I could not tell as the train rolled by. Mostly the road led through long stretches of tiny garden-like fields, broken here and there by prosperous looking villages half concealed in bamboo groves. The scenery was very fine and varied; above, the rocky hills, below, the green valleys. The mingling, too, of tropical and temperate vegetation was striking. We were in latitude 24 deg. and 25 deg., about the same as Calcutta, but at an elevation of nearly seven thousand feet, and the combination seemed to work confusion among the growing things, for rice and wheat were found not far apart, and here at last Heine's palm and pine had come together.

Late on the second afternoon after leaving Lao-kai we were approaching Yunnan-fu. Seen across the plain, the capital of the province looked very imposing as it lay stretched along a low ridge running east and west. Rice-fields interspersed with ruins, sad reminders of the terrible Mohammedan rebellion of a generation ago, crowd up to the very walls on the near side of the town. Outside the South Gate is the station, and not far distant the Chinese house which an enterprising French couple had turned into a very comfortable inn, where I stayed the three days needed for arranging my caravan and seeing the sights of the place.



CHAPTER II

DAYS IN YUNNAN-FU

The situation of Yunnan's capital is extraordinarily picturesque. It stands in a wide plain, its northern wall running along a low rocky ridge from which there is a charming view over city and lake to the great mountains that skirt the plain on all sides. Lying at an elevation of nearly seven thousand feet, it is blessed with a white man's climate. Eighty-five degrees in the shade marks the highest summer temperature, and the winters are just pleasantly bracing. Europeans who have experienced the biting winds of Peking, the damp heat of Canton, or the gray skies of Chengtu find in the bright days and cool breezes of Yunnan some mitigation of their exile to this remote corner of the empire. The city itself is not very attractive in spite of its many trees, for it seems a network of narrow lanes, only broken here and there by a temple enclosure or a stretch of waste land, the whole shut in by sound thirty-foot high walls; nor are there any sights of special interest, with the exception of a rather fine Confucian temple. But the country roundabout affords many charming excursions. The waters of the lake, some twenty-three miles in length, once perhaps washed the west wall, but it is gradually silting up, and to-day it is five miles away and is reached by heavy sampans which ply the narrow canals that intersect the rice-fields. Farm buildings, tea-houses, and temples buried in groves of bamboo are dotted over the plain, which is crossed at intervals by high, stone-paved dykes lined with trees. The rich cultivation of the lowland is in sharp contrast with the surrounding hills, bare and barren save where the presence of a temple has preserved the forest.

Yunnan-fu, with a population of some eighty thousand, seems a fairly prosperous town. Copper is found on the neighbouring hills, and the metal-work of the place is famous, although by law all copper mined must be sent to Peking. But the importance of the city depends mainly upon its trade. It is the centre of a large though rather scantily populated district abounding in the great staples, rice, beans, and millet, as well as in fruit and vegetables. Formerly Yunnan stood in the forefront of opium-producing provinces, but when I was there not a poppy-field was to be seen. The last viceroy, the much respected Hsi Liang, the one Mongol in the Chinese service, himself not an opium smoker, had shown great determination in carrying out the imperial edicts against its use or production, and rather unwillingly Yunnan was brought into line with the new order. Under his successor, Li Ching Hsi, a man known to be given over to the use of the drug, unwilling converts hoped for better days, only to be disappointed. After a more or less serious effort to reform, he announced that he was too old to change, but the province had a long life before it, and must obey the law. So he made amends for his own short-comings by enforcing the restrictions almost as vigorously as his predecessor had done. What was true at that time in Yunnan was also the case in Szechuan. Although always on the watch for the poppy, nowhere did I see it cultivated. Probably in remote valleys off the regular trails a stray field might now and then have been found, innocently or intentionally overlooked by the inspector, but in the main poppy-growing had really been stamped out; and this where a generation ago that careful observer, Baber, estimated that poppy-fields constituted a third of the whole cultivation. Credit where credit is due. Manchu rule may have been weak and corrupt, but at least in respect of one great popular vice it achieved more than any Western power ever thought of attempting. Certainly not last among the causes for its overthrow was the discontent aroused by its anti-opium policy. And now it is reported that individualism run mad among the revolutionary leaders has led to a slackening in the enforcement of the rules, and the revival of poppy cultivation.

For half a century Yunnan has known little peace. Twenty years long the terrible Mohammedan rebellion raged, and the unhappy province was swept from end to end with fire and sword. Marks of the devastation of that time are everywhere visible. Hardly had it been put down when the war with the French in the eighties again involved Yunnan. Later came the outbreak of the tribesmen, while the Boxer movement of the north found a vigorous response here. Bloodshed and disorder have given the country a set-back from which it is only beginning to recover.

But the coming of the railway has brought fresh life to Yunnan, and the prospects for the future economic development are very promising. In the capital there were many signs of a new day. The Reform movement had taken good hold in this remote corner of the empire. A hospital with eight wards and under Chinese control was doing fine work. Schools were flourishing, and there was even a university of sorts. The newly organized police force pervaded the whole place and was reputed quite efficient. But it was the new military spirit that most forced itself upon you; you simply could not get away from it. Bugle practice made hideous night and day. Everywhere you met marching soldiers, and the great drill ground was the most active place in the town. Dread of the foreigner underlies much of the present activity and openmindedness towards Western ideas. The willingness to adopt our ways does not necessarily mean that the Chinese prefer them to their own, but simply that they realize if they would meet us on equal terms they must meet us with our own weapons. Writing of the Boxer rising, Sir Charles Eliot summed up the Chinese position in a sentence, "Let us learn their tricks before we make an end of them." Now it might read, "Let us learn their tricks before they make an end of us." The drilling soldiers, the modern barracks, the elaborately equipped arsenals, as well as the military schools found all over China to-day, show which one of the Western "tricks" seems to the man of the Middle Kingdom of most immediate value. At the military school of Yunnan-fu they have a graphic way of enforcing the lesson to be learned. A short time ago the students gave a public dramatic performance, a sort of thing for which the Chinese have decided talent. One of the scenes showed an Englishman kicking his Hindu servant, while another represented an Annamese undergoing a beating at the hands of a Frenchman. The teaching was plain. "This will be your fate unless you are strong to resist." The English and French consuls protested formally, and the proper apologies were made, but no one believes that the lesson was forgotten.

It is not to be wondered at that the people of Yunnan are alive to the danger of foreign interference, for they see the British on the west and much more the French on the south, peering with greedy eyes and clutching hands over the border. In the last fifteen years commissions of the one and the other have scoured the province with scarcely so much as "by your leave," investigating the mineral resources and planning out practicable railway routes. Within the capital city the French seem entrenched. A French post-office, a French hospital, French shops, hotels, missions, and above all the huge consulate, are there like advance posts of a greater invasion. There is an ominous look to these pretentious establishments holding strategic points in this or that debatable territory. Take the French consulates, here in Yunnan-fu and in Hoi-hou, or the Russian in Urga, the North Mongolian capital, they have more the aspect of a fortified outpost in a hostile country than the residence of the peaceful representative of a friendly power.

And Yunnan is beginning to move. For some time past the Government has been considering seriously the project of a railway across the province on the east to the Si Kiang and Canton, and just before I arrived in Yunnan-fu two engineers (significantly enough Americans) started northwards to make the preliminary surveys for a line connecting the capital with the Yangtse. If these two schemes can be carried through under Chinese control, good-by to the hopes of the French. Just at the time that I was in Yunnan there was much excitement over the Pien-ma matter, a boundary question between the province and Burma. A boycott of British goods had been started which would have been more effective if there had been more goods to boycott, but it indicated the feeling of the people, and the viceroy, Li Ching Hsi, was winning golden opinions for the stand he took in the matter, which, however, did not save him from ignominious deportation by the Revolutionary party only a few months later.

But whatever the feeling towards foreigners in the mass, the individual foreigner seemed to meet with no unfriendliness on the part of the people in Yunnan-fu, and apparently official relations were on a cordial footing. I found the Bureau of Foreign Affairs ready to do all it could to smooth my way across Yunnan, but perhaps that was due in part to the fact that the chief of the bureau had been for several years consul in New York. By arrangement I called one afternoon, in company with a missionary lady, upon his wife. Threading our way through narrow, winding streets, our chairs turned in at an inconspicuous doorway and we found ourselves in a large compound, containing not so much one house as a number of houses set down among gay gardens. The building in which we were received consisted apparently of two rooms, an anteroom and a reception room. The latter was furnished in the usual style (invariable, it seems to me, from country inn to prince's palace), heavy high chairs, heavy high tables ranged against walls decorated with kakemonos and gay mottoes; only in the centre of the room was a large table covered with a cloth of European manufacture on which were set out dishes of English biscuits and sweets. Our hostess, dressed in a modified Chinese costume, received us with graceful dignity. Her fine-featured face bore a marked likeness to many that one meets on the street or in the church of an old New England town, and its rather anxious expression somewhat emphasized the resemblance. She spoke with much pleasure of the years she had spent in America, and her daughter, who had been educated in a well-known private school in New York, looked back longingly to those days, complaining that there was no society in Yunnan-fu; but she brightened up at a reference to the arrival of a new and young English vice-consul, hoping that it might mean some tennis. It was an unexpected touch of New China in this out-of-the-way corner. Before we left, two younger children were brought in, both born in America, and one bearing the name "Daisy," the other "Lincoln," but already they were forgetting their English.

During my three days in Yunnan-fu,[1] through the kindness of the British Consul-General I was given a chance to make one or two excursions into the surrounding country. An especially charming trip that we took one afternoon was to Chin Tien, or "Golden Temple," a celebrated copper temple about five miles out. Near the town our chairs were borne along the narrow earth balk between the bean- and rice-fields, but farther on our way led over the top of a high dyke lined with trees. We mounted by a charming winding road to the temple, set high on the hillside among its own groves of conifers, the courts of the temple, which rose one behind the other, being connected by long, steep flights of steps. In the upper court we were met by the friendly priests, the quiet dignity of their reception being somewhat disturbed by the din of the temple dogs, goaded almost to madness at Jack's imperturbable bearing. Chinese temples rarely offer much of interest; the construction is usually simple and their treasures are few, but everything is freely shown, there are no dark corners, and the spacious courts gay with flowers are full of charm. The sacred images which they contain are generally grotesque or hideous. Not often does one show a trace of the gracious serenity that marks the traditional representations of Buddha; on the other hand, they are never indecent.



While I was seeing a little of Yunnan-fu and its people, the preparations for my overland trip were moving forward, thanks chiefly to the kind helpfulness of Mr. Stevenson, of the China Inland Mission. For many years a resident of the province, and wise in the ways of the country and of the country-folk, his advice served me at every turn. Engaging the coolies was of course the matter of chief importance. On them would depend the success of the first stage of my journey, the two and a half or three weeks' trip to Ning-yuean-fu in the Chien-ch'ang valley. A representative of the coolie "hong," or guild, a dignified, substantial-looking man, was brought to the inn by Mr. Stevenson. After looking over my kit carefully (even the dog was "hefted" on the chance he might have to ride at times), he decided the number of coolies necessary. As I wished to travel fast if need came, I threw in another man that the loads might be light. The average load is seventy or eighty catties, a catty equalling about one pound and a quarter. In Yunnan the coolies generally carry on the shoulder the burden, fairly divided, being suspended from the two ends of a bamboo pole. For myself I had four men, as I had a four-bearer chair, the grandest of all things on the road save the mandarin's chair with its curved poles raising the occupant high above the common herd. At first I did not realize the significance of the number, although I marked the interest with which my interpreter inquired how many bearers I should have. What I did appreciate was the extreme comfort of my travelling arrangements. Seated in my chair, which was open above and enclosed below, and furnished with a water-proof top and with curtains that could be lowered to protect me against sun or rain, wind or importunate curiosity, I felt as though on a throne. Under the seat was a compartment just large enough for dressing-bag, camera, and thermos bottle, while at my feet there was ample room for Jack. For my interpreter there was a two-bearer chair, with which he was vastly discontented, and I, too, had my doubts about it, although our reasons were not the same. He felt it beneath his dignity to travel with two bearers only; I feared that it was too great a burden for two men, even though the chair was light and the Chinese literatus, small-boned and lacking in muscle, is no heavy burden. Anyway, the arrangement did not work well, and at Ning-yuean-fu the interpreter was provided with a closed chair and three bearers, to his own satisfaction and to mine also, again for different reasons.

A sedan-chair is too luxurious to be long endurable, so I added a pony to our caravan, purchased, from a home-going Dane of the customs service, for forty-four dollars Mexican. The Yunnanese ponies are small and sturdy, and as active as cats. They are all warranted to kick, and mine was no exception. Although he was described as a gentleman's steed, he had the manners of a pack-horse. I doubt if any one of our party escaped the touch of his hoofs, and it was a joy to see him exchange salutations with the ponies we met on the trail. However, he was sure-footed and willing, and although hardly up to so long a trip as mine, yet with care he came out very well at the end. But it required constant watchfulness to make sure that he was properly watered and fed, even though most of the time I took along a coolie for no other purpose save to look after the horse, and lead him when I was not riding. And to the very last it meant an order each time to insure that the girths were loosened and the stirrups tied up when I was out of the saddle. When we started from Yunnan-fu our caravan was made up of thirteen coolies,—six chair-men, six baggage-carriers, and a "fu t'ou," or head coolie, whose duty it was to keep the others up to their work, to settle disputes, or to meet any difficulty that arose. In short, he was responsible both to me and to the hong for the carrying-out of the contract which had been duly agreed upon. In my limited experience, the fu t'ou is a great blessing. I found mine capable, reliable men, adroit in smoothing away difficulties and very ready to meet my wishes. As for the contract, that was a serious matter. Each detail was carefully entered in a formidable document, the route, the stages, the number of men, the amount to be paid, and the how and where of payment. The hong had one copy and I another which was handed over to the fu t'ou at the end of the trip, that he might show it to the chief of the hong as proof that he had carried out the contract. Each coolie was to receive $7.00 Mexican, or about $3.50 gold, for his journey from Yunnan-fu to Ning-yuean-fu, reckoned usually as sixteen stages. About one third the amount was to be paid before starting, the remainder in specified sums at stated intervals en route. I had no concern with the men's daily food, but from time to time I was expected to give them "pork money" if they behaved well. It would have been cheaper, I believe, to have hired coolies off the street, but far less satisfactory, for the hong holds itself responsible to you for the behavior of its men. And in their turn the coolies pay a definite percentage of their earnings to the hong.

My stores and bedding and other things were packed in large covered baskets insecurely fastened with padlocks. As time went on, covers became loose and padlocks were knocked off by projecting rocks, but nothing was ever lost or stolen. To keep out wet or vermin I had the baskets lined with Chinese oiled cotton, perishable but cheap, and effective as long as it lasts. Other sheets of the same material were provided for use in the inn. One was laid on the floor and my camp-bed set up in the middle of it, while others were spread over the wooden Chinese beds with which the room was generally well supplied, and on them my clothes, saddle, etc., were placed. When new the oiled cotton has a strong, pungent odour, not pleasant but very effective against vermin.

A most important item was the money to be used on the journey. I had an account with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank at Shanghai, and wherever there were Europeans it was possible to get checks cashed, but from Yunnan-fu to Ning-yuean, a journey of two and a half weeks or more, I should be quite off the track of foreigners. Fortunately Yunnan is waking up in money matters as well as in other ways, and has a silver coinage of its own; moreover, one that the inhabitants are willing to accept, which is not always the case, as I found later to my cost. With the help of native bankers I was duly furnished with a supply of Yunnan dollars, akin to Mexican dollars in value, and I obtained also some Szechuan coins to use when I entered that province. In addition I became the proud possessor of some seventy dollars in Hupeh money. This I was told would pass anywhere after crossing the Yangtse. When I reached Ning-yuean-fu, however, I found that no one would take it save at a heavy discount. Unwilling to burden myself with it longer, I decided to let the Chinese bankers have it, even though at a loss, but when they discovered that the money was in twenty-cent pieces they would have nothing to do with it at any price. So I carried it some two thousand miles farther, to Hupeh itself. But even there it was not willingly accepted. In the railway offices at Hankow not more than forty cents would be received in small coins. If your ticket cost $10.50, you paid for it in unbroken dollars, giving the railway a chance to unload some of the undesirable change upon you. In the end I found myself reduced to peddling twenty-cent pieces among friends and friends of friends. For small change on my journey I carried rolls of copper cents, while the cook festooned himself with long ropes of copper "cash," about twenty to the American cent.

By the arrangement of the Foreign Office two soldiers were detailed to escort me across Yunnan. It is by the wish of the officials rather than at the traveller's request that this escort is given. The Chinese have learned through an experience not wholly to our credit that injury or even annoyance to the European may bring a punishment quite out of proportion to the harm done; so to avoid difficulties the official is inclined to insist upon sending soldiers with the foreigners passing through his district, and the traveller as a rule perforce accepts the arrangement. If he refuses, he will find it more difficult to secure redress for any loss or injury suffered. For my part I did not feel inclined to object. The expense is borne by the Government, save for the customary tip, and in more ways than one I found my escort useful. At irregular intervals they were changed. When we reached the end of the last stage for which they were detailed, I gave them my card to carry to the proper local official. This was replied to by sending a new pair bearing the official's card.

Some of the men were old-time soldiers, hardly to be distinguished from yamen runners in their untidy black and scarlet jackets decorated with bold lettering on the back; and their weapons consisted simply of something that might be described as a small sword or a huge carving-knife in a leather sheath. After entering Szechuan I was usually accompanied by quite real soldiers, men of the new service, fairly shipshape in khaki and putties and carrying up-to-date guns. But whether of the old order or of the new, I found the men at all times very courteous and friendly, and ready to do any little service that came their way. It was the duty of one man to stay with me, while the other looked after the baggage coolies. As more at home in the particular district through which we were passing, they were often very helpful to my coolies in pointing out a short cut or in finding our intricate way across the fields. Sometimes one was sent in advance to make sure of the best quarters the village where we were to pass the night could afford, and they often showed great zeal in tidying up the room for my coming. The preparations consisted usually in stirring up the dust of ages on the floor, a proceeding I did not like, and in ruthlessly tearing out the paper that covered the lattice opening, of which I much approved. Glass is rarely seen in West China, and the paper excluded both light and air, but never the gaze of the curious, as a peephole was very easily punched. On the march my escort, quick to notice my interest in the flowers, were active in bringing me huge nosegays gathered along the trail, so that my chair was often turned into a gay flowery bower; and they sometimes showed their love for dogs, or perhaps sought to prove their zeal in my service, by picking up Jack and carrying him for the half-hour, to his great disgust, as his sturdy legs were untiring, and equally so was his desire to investigate every nook and corner. "Little fu t'ou," the coolies called him, because of the careful watch he kept for any stragglers of the caravan.

[1] The words "fu" and "chou" and "hsien," attached to so many Chinese place-names, are terms denoting administrative divisions. "Fu" may be translated prefecture, "chou," department, and "hsien," a district. The towns having these terminations are the headquarters of the respective divisions.



CHAPTER III

ACROSS YUNNAN

My departure was set for the 8th of April, and by half-past four of that morning the coolies, marshalled by the hong man, were at the door; but it was after nine before we were really under way. It is always a triumphant moment when one's caravan actually starts; there have been so many times when starting at all seemed doubtful. Mine looked quite imposing as it moved off, headed by Mr. Stevenson on his sturdy pony, I following in my chair, while servants and coolies straggled on behind, but, as usual, something was missing. This time it was one of the two soldiers detailed by the Foreign Office to accompany me the first stages of my journey. We were told he would join us farther on. Fortunately Mr. Stevenson was up to the wiles of the native, and he at once scented the favourite device for two to take the travelling allowance, and then, by some amicable arrangement, for only one to go. So messengers were sent in haste to look up the recreant, who finally joined us with cheerful face at the West Gate, which we reached by a rough path outside the north wall.



Here I bade Mr. Stevenson good-bye, and turned my face away from the city. Once more I was on the "open road." Above me shone the bright sun of Yunnan, before me lay the long trail leading into the unknown. Seven hundred miles of wild mountainous country, six weeks of steady travelling lay between me and Chengtu, the great western capital. The road I planned to follow would lead nearly due north at first, traversing the famous Chien-ch'ang valley after crossing the Yangtse. But at Fulin on the Ta Tu I intended to make a detour to the west as far as Tachienlu, that I might see a little of the Tibetans even though I could not enter Tibet. I did not fear trouble of any sort in spite of a last letter of warning received at Hong Kong from our Peking Legation, but there was just enough of a touch of adventure to the trip to make the roughnesses of the way endurable. Days would pass before I could again talk with my own kind, but I was not afraid of being lonely. "The scene was savage, but the scene was new," and the hours would be filled full with the constantly changing interests of the road, and as I looked at my men I felt already the comradeship that would come with long days of effort and hardship passed together. These men of the East—Turk, Indian, Chinese, Mongol—are much of a muchness, it seems to me; pay them fairly, treat them considerately, laugh instead of storm at the inevitable mishaps of the way, and generally they will give you faithful, willing service. It is only when they have been spoiled by overpayment, or by bullying of a sort they do not understand, that the foreigner finds them exacting and untrustworthy. And the Chinese is an eminently reasonable man. He does not expect reward without work, and he works easily and cheerfully. But as yet he was to me an unknown quantity, and I looked over my group of coolies with some interest and a little uncertainty. They were mostly strong, sound-looking men; two or three were middle-aged, the rest young. No one looked unequal to the work, and no one proved so. All wore the inevitable blue cotton of the Chinese, varying with wear and patching from blue-black to bluish-white, and the fashion of the dress was always the same; short, full trousers, square-cut, topped by a belted shirt with long sleeves falling over the hands or rolled up to the elbow according to the weather. About their heads they generally twisted a strip of cotton, save when blazing sun or pouring rain called for the protection of their wide straw hats covered with oiled cotton. Generally they wore the queue tucked into the girdle to keep it out of the way, but occasionally it was put to use, as, for example, if a man's hat was not at hand to ward off the glare of the sun, he would deftly arrange a thatch of leaves over his eyes, binding it firm with his long braid of black hair. On their feet they wore the inevitable straw sandal of these parts. Comfortable for those who know how to wear them, cheap even though not durable (they cost only four cents Mexican the pair), and a great safeguard against slipping, they seemed as satisfactory footwear as the ordinary shoes of the better-class Chinese seemed unsatisfactory. Throughout the East it is only the barefooted peasant or the sandalled mountaineer who does not seem encumbered by his feet. The felt shoe of the Chinese gentleman and the flapping, heelless slipper of the Indian are alike uncomfortable and hampering. Nor have Asiatics learned as yet to wear proper European shoes, or to wear them properly, for they stub along in badly cut, ill-fitting things too short for their feet. Why does not the shoemaker of the West, if he wishes to secure an Eastern market, study the foot of the native, and make him shoes suited to his need?

Our order of march through Yunnan varied little from day to day. We all had breakfast before starting at about seven, and we all had much the same thing, tea and rice, but mine came from the coast; the coolies bought theirs by the way. At intervals during the forenoon we stopped at one of the many tea-houses along the road to give the men a chance to rest and smoke and drink tea. Sometimes I stayed in my chair by the roadside; more often I escaped from the noise and dirt of the village to some spot outside, among the rice- and bean-fields, where the pony could gather a few scant mouthfuls of grass while I sat hard-by on a turf balk and enjoyed the quiet and clean air. Of course I was often found out and followed by the village-folk, but their curiosity was not very offensive. Generally they squatted down in a semi-circle about me, settling themselves deliberately to gaze their fill. If they came too near I laughed and waved them back, and they always complied good-naturedly. The little children were often really quite charming under the dirt, but until they had learned to wash their faces and wipe their noses I must confess I liked them best at a distance.



At noon we stopped at a handy inn or tea-house for tiffin and a long rest. I was ordinarily served at the back of the big eating-room open to the street in as dignified seclusion as my cook could achieve. Rice again, with perhaps stewed fowl or tinned beef, and a dessert of jam and biscuit, usually formed my luncheon, and dinner was like unto it, save that occasionally we succeeded in securing some onions or potatoes. The setting-forth of my table with clean cloth and changes of plates was of never-failing interest to the crowds that darkened the front of the eating-house, and excitement reached a climax when the coolie, whom my cook had installed as helper,—there is no Chinese too poor to lack some one to do his bidding,—served Jack his midday meal of rice in his own dish. Then men stood on tiptoe and children climbed on each other's shoulders to see a dog fed like—the Chinese equivalent of Christian. They never seemed to begrudge him his food; on the contrary, they often smiled approvingly. We were thousands of miles away from the famine-stricken regions of eastern China, and through much of the country where I journeyed I saw almost no beggars or hungry-looking folk. In the afternoon we stopped as before at short intervals at some roadside tea-house, for the coolies generally expect to rest every hour.

Our day's stage usually ended in a good-sized town. I should have preferred it otherwise, for there is more quiet and freedom in the villages. But my coolies would have it so; they liked the stir and better fare of the towns, and the regular stages are arranged accordingly. Our entrance was noisy and imposing. My coming seemed always expected, for as by magic the narrow streets filled with staring crowds. Through them the soldiers fought a way for my chair, borne at smart pace by the coolies all shouting at the top of their voices. I tried to cultivate the superior impassiveness of the Chinese official, but generally the delighted shrieks of the children at the sight of Jack at my feet, and his gay yelps in response, "upset the apple cart." There was a rush to see the "foreign dog." I gripped him tighter and only breathed freely when with a sharp turn to right or left my chair was lifted high over a threshold and borne through the inn door into the courtyard, the crowd in no wise baffled swarming at our heels, sometimes not even stopping at the entrance to the inner court, sacred (more or less) to the so-called mandarin rooms, the best rooms of the place. I could not but sympathize with the innkeeper, the order of his establishment thus upset, but he took it in good part; perhaps the turmoil had its value in making known to the whole world that the wandering foreigner had bestowed her patronage upon his house. I am sure he had some reward in the many cups of tea drunk while the crowd lingered on the chance of another sight of the unusual visitor. Anyway we were always made welcome, and no objections were offered when my men took possession of the place in very unceremonious fashion, as it seemed to me, filling the court with their din, blocking the ways with the chairs and baskets, seeking the best room for me, and then testing the door and putting things to rights after a fashion, while the owner looked on in helpless wonder.

In the villages one stepped directly from the road into a large living-room, kitchen, and dining-room in one, and out of this opened the places for sleeping. The inns in the towns are built more or less after one and the same pattern. Entrance is through a large restaurant open to the street, and filled with tables occupied at all hours save early dawn with men sipping and smoking. From the restaurant one passes into a stone-paved court surrounded usually by low, one-story buildings, although occasionally there is a second story opening into a gallery. Here are kitchens and sleeping-rooms, while store-rooms and stables are tucked in anywhere. In the largest inns there is often an inner court into which open the better rooms.

While the cook bustled about to get hot water, and the head coolie saw to the setting-up of my bed, I generally went with the "ma-fu," or horse boy, to see that the pony was properly cared for. Usually he was handy, sometimes tethered by my door, often just under my room, once overhead. Meanwhile the coolies were freshening themselves up a bit after the day's work. Sitting about the court they rinsed chest and head and legs with the unfailing supply of hot water which is the one luxury of a Chinese inn. I can speak authoritatively on the cleanliness of the Chinese coolie, for I had the chance daily to see my men scrub themselves. Their cotton clothing loosely cut was well ventilated, even though infrequently cleansed, and there hung about them nothing of the odour of the great unwashed of the Western world. I wish one could say as much for the inns, but alas, they were foul-smelling, one and all, and occasionally the room offered me was so filthy that I refused to occupy it, and went on the war-path for myself, followed by a crowd of perplexed servants and coolies. Almost always I found a loft or a stable-yard that had at least the advantage of plenty of fresh air, and without demur my innkeeper made me free of it, although I expect it cut him to the heart to have his best room so flouted.

Generally I went to bed soon after dinner; there was nothing else to do, for the dim lantern light made reading difficult, and anyway my books were few. But while the nights were none too long for me, the Chinese, like most Asiatics, make little distinction between day and night. They sleep if there is nothing else to do, they wake when work or pleasure calls, and it was long after midnight when the inn settled itself to rest, and by four o'clock it was again awake, and before seven we were once more on the road.

In Yunnan, or "South of the Clouds," as the word signifies, you are in a land of sunshine, of wild grandeur and beauty, of unfailing interest. Its one hundred and fifty-five thousand square miles are pretty much on end; no matter which way you cross the country you are always going up or going down, and the contrasts of vegetation and lack of it are just as emphatic; barren snow-topped mountains overhang tiny valleys, veritable gems of tropical beauty; you pass with one step from a waste of rock and sand to a garden-like oasis of soft green and rippling waters. Yunnan's chequered history is revealed in the varied peoples that inhabit the deep valleys and narrow river banks. Nominally annexed to the empire by Kublai Khan, the Mongol, in the thirteenth century, ever since the Chinese people have been at work peacefully and irresistibly making the conquest real, and now they are found all over the province, as a matter of course occupying the best places. But they have not exterminated the aborigines, nor have they assimilated them to any degree. To-day the tribes constitute more than one half the population, and an ethnological map of Yunnan is a wonderful patchwork, for side by side and yet quite distinct, you find scattered about settlements of Chinese, Shans, Lolos, Miaos, Losus, and just what some of these are is still an unsolved riddle. To add to the confusion there is a division of religions hardly known elsewhere, for out of the population of twelve millions it is estimated that three or four millions are Mohammedans. To be sure, they seem much like the others, and generally all get on together very well, for Moslem pride of religion does not find much response with the practical Chinese, and the Buddhist is as tolerant here as elsewhere. But the Mohammedan rebellion of half a century ago has left terrible memories; then add to that the ill-feeling between the Chinese and the tribesmen, and the general discontent at the prohibition of poppy-growing, and it is plain that Yunnan offers a fine field for long-continued civil disorder with all the possibility of foreign interference.

The early hours of our first day's march led us along the great western trade route, and we met scores of people hurrying towards the capital, mostly coolies carrying on their backs, or slung from a bamboo pole across their shoulders, great loads of wood, charcoal, fowls, rice, vegetables. Every one was afoot or astride a pony, for there was nothing on wheels, not even a barrow. The crowd lacked the variety in colour and cut of dress of a Hindu gathering; all had black hair and all wore blue clothes, and one realized at once how much China loses in not having a picturesque and significant head covering like the Indian turban. But the faces showed more diversity both in hue and in feature than I had looked for. In America we come in contact chiefly with Chinese of one class, and usually from the one province of Kwangtung. But the men of Yunnan and Szechuan are of a different type, larger, sturdier, of better carriage. It takes experience commonly to mark differences in face and expression among men of an alien race, and to the Asiatic all Europeans look much alike, but already I was discerning variety in the faces I met along the trail, and they did not seem as unfamiliar to me as I had expected. I was constantly surprised by resemblances to types and individuals at home. One of my chair coolies, for example, a young, smooth-faced fellow, bore a disconcerting likeness to one of my former students. But fair or dark, fine-featured or foul, all greeted me in a friendly way, generally stopping after I had passed to ask my coolies more about me. My four-bearer chair testified to my standing, and my men, Eastern fashion, glorified themselves in glorifying me. I was a "scholar," a "learned lady," but what I had come for was not so clear. A missionary I certainly was not. Anyway, as a mere woman I was not likely to do harm.

The road after crossing the plain entered the hills, winding up and down, but always paved with cobbles and flags laid with infinite pains generations ago, and now illustrating the Chinese saying of "good for ten years, bad for ten thousand." It was so hopelessly out of repair that men and ponies alike had to pick their way with caution. Long flights of irregular and broken stone stairs led up and down the hillsides over which my freshly shod pony slipped and floundered awkwardly, and I always breathed a sigh of relief when a stretch of hard red earth gave a little respite. It was neither courage nor pride that kept me in the saddle, but the knowledge that much of the way would be worse rather than better, and I would wisely face it at the outset. If it got too nerve-racking I could always betake myself to my chair and, trusting in the eight sturdy legs of my bearers, abandon myself to enjoying the sights along the way.

Our first day's halt for tiffin was at the small hamlet of P'u chi. The eating-house was small and crowded, and my cook set my table perforce in the midst of the peering, pointing throng. I was the target of scores of black eyes, and I felt that every movement was discussed, every mouthful counted. As a first experience it was a little embarrassing, but the people seemed good-humoured and very ready to fall into place or move out of the way in obedience to my gestures when I tried to take some pictures, not too successfully. Here for a moment I was again in touch with my own world, as a runner, most thoughtfully sent by Mr. Stevenson with the morning's letters, overtook me. According to arrangement he had been paid beforehand, but not knowing that I knew that, he clamoured for more. The crowd pressed closer to listen to the discussion, and grinned with a rather malicious satisfaction when the man was forced to confess that he had already received what they knew was a generous tip. Chinese business instinct kept them impartial, even between one of their own people and a foreigner.

That night we stopped, after a stage of some sixty li, about nineteen miles, at Erh-tsun, a small, uninteresting village. The inn was very poor, and I would have consoled myself by thinking that it was well to get used to the worst at once, only I was not sure that it was the worst. My room, off the public gathering place, had but one window looking directly on the street. From the moment of my arrival the opening was filled with the faces of a staring, curious crowd, pushing each other, stretching their necks to get a better view. My servants put up an oiled cotton sheet, but it was promptly drawn aside, so there was nothing for me to do but wash, eat, and go to bed in public, like a royal personage of former times.

It was a beautiful spring morning when we started the next day. We were now among the mountains, and much of our way led along barren hillsides, but the air was intoxicating, and the views across the ridges were charming. At times we dropped into a small valley, each having its little group of houses nestling among feathery bamboos and surrounded by tiny green fields. Dogs barked, children ran after us, men and women stopped for a moment to smile a greeting and exchange a word with our coolies. As a rule, the people looked comfortable and well fed, but here and there we passed a group of ruined, abandoned hovels. The explanation varied. Sometimes the ruin dated back more than a generation to the terrible days of the Mohammedan rebellion. In other cases the trouble was more recent. The irrigating system had broken down, or water was scant, or more frequently the cutting-off of the opium crop had driven the people from their homes. But in general there was little tillable land that was unoccupied. In fact, the painstaking effort to utilize every bit of soil was tragic to American eyes, accustomed to long stretches of countryside awaiting the plough. At the close of the troubles that devastated the province during the third quarter of the nineteenth century it is said that the population of Yunnan had fallen to about a million, but now, owing in part to the great natural increase of the Chinese, and in part to immigration chiefly from overpopulated Szechuan and Kwei-chou, it is estimated at twelve million. At any rate, those who know the country well declare there is little vacant land fit for agriculture, that the province has about as many inhabitants as it can support, and can afford no relief to the overcrowded eastern districts. This is a thing to keep in mind when Japan urges her need of Manchuria for her teeming millions.

We stopped for tiffin at Fu-ming-hsien, a prosperous-looking town of some eight hundred families. As usual, I lunched in public, the crowd pressing close about my table in spite of the efforts of a real, khaki-clad policeman; but it was a jolly, friendly crowd, its interest easily diverted from me to the dog. Here we changed soldiers, for this was a hsien town, or district centre. Those who had come with me from Yunnan-fu were dismissed with a tip amounting to about three cents gold a day each. They seemed perfectly satisfied. It was the regulation amount; had I given more they would have clamoured for something additional. That afternoon we stopped for a long rest at a tiny, lonely inn, perched most picturesquely on a spur of the mountain. I sat in my chair while the coolies drank tea inside, and a number of children gathered about me, ready to run if I seemed dangerous. Finally one, taking his courage in both hands, presented me with the local substitute for candy,—raw peas in the pod, which I nibbled and found refreshing. In turn I doled out some biscuits, to the children's great delight, while fathers and mothers looked on approvingly. The way to the heart of the Chinese is not far to seek. They dote on children, and children the world over are much alike. More than once I have solved an awkward situation by ignoring the inhospitable or unwilling elders and devoting myself to the little ones, always at hand. Please the children and you have won the parents.

We stopped that night at Che-pei, a small town lying at an elevation of about six thousand feet. My room, the best the inn afforded, was dirty, but large and airy. On one side a table was arranged for the ancestral family worship, and I delayed turning in at night to give the people a chance to burn a few joss sticks, which they did in a very matter-of-fact fashion, nowise disturbed at my washing-things, which Liu, the cook, had set out among the gods.

Our path the next day led high on the mountain-side and along a beautiful ridge. We stopped for an early rest at a little walled village, Jee-ka ("Cock's street"), perched picturesquely on the top of the hill. Later we saw a storm advancing across the mountains, and before we could reach cover the clouds broke over our heads, drenching the poor coolies to the skin, but they took it in good part, laughing as they scuttled along the trail. The rain kept on for some hours, and the road was alternately a brook or a sea of slippery red mud; the pony, with the cook on his back, rolled over, but fortunately neither was hurt; coolies slid and floundered, and the chair-men went down, greatly to their confusion, for it is deemed inexcusable for a chair-carrier to fall. Toward the end of the day it cleared and the bright sun soon dried the ways, and we raced into Wu-ting-chou in fine shape, the coolies picking their way deftly along the narrow earth balks that form the highway to this rather important town. Our entrance was of the usual character, a cross between a triumphal procession and a circus show,—people rushing to see the sight, children calling, dogs barking, my men shouting as they pushed their way through the throng, while I sat the observed of all, trying to carry off my embarrassment with a benevolent smile. I am told that the interest of a Chinese crowd usually centres on the foreigners' shoes, but in my case, when the gaze got down to my feet, Jack was mostly there to divert attention.

Rain came on again in the night and kept us in Wu-ting-chou over the next day. The Chinese, with their extraordinary adaptability, can stand extremes of heat and cold remarkably well. Hence they are good colonizers, able to work in Manchuria and Singapore, Canada and Panama. But rain they dislike, and a smart shower is a good excuse for stopping. Fortunately for all, the inn was unusually decent. Steps led from the street into an outer court, behind which was a much larger second court, surrounded on all sides by two-story buildings. My room on the upper floor had beautiful views over the town, more attractive at close range than most Chinese towns. The temples and yamen buildings were exceptionally fine, while the houses, of sun-dried brick of the colour of the red soil of Yunnan, had a comfortable look, their tip-tilted tiled roofs showing picturesquely among the trees.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse