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The second day after leaving Hui-li-chou we entered the valley of the Anning Ho, a grey, fast-flowing stream whose course runs parallel with the meridian like all the others of that interesting group of rivers between Assam and eastern Szechuan, the Irrawaddy, the Salween, the Mekong, the Yangtse, the Yalung. The Anning, the smallest of these, lies enclosed in a wilderness of tangled ranges, and its valley forms the shortest trade route between Szechuan and the Indo-Chinese peninsula. For about eight marches, north and south, it runs through a district known as Chien-ch'ang, celebrated throughout China for its fertility and the variety of its products. At the lower end the valley is very narrow, and level ground is limited, but the gentle slopes on either side are beautifully cultivated in tiny terraced fields. Farther north, however, in the neighbourhood of Ning-yŁan-fu, the valley widens out into a broad, open plain. Apparently in this favoured region tropics and temperate zone meet, for I never saw before such motley vegetation. Rice and cotton alternate with wheat and maize and beans, while saffron and indigo fit in anywhere. Fruits, too, of many kinds are abundant. A short time ago the poppy made every turn brilliant, but to-day imperial edicts, ruthlessly enforced, are saving the Chinese unwillingly from themselves, and the poppy has disappeared from sight. In spite of complaints it would seem as though the Chien-ch'ang farmers, better than many in West China, could support the loss of that remunerative crop, for their resources, properly exploited, seem almost exhaustless. Mulberry trees are grown about every village and farmhouse, and the silk export is of considerable value to the community.
But one of the most interesting products of this region has lost much of its importance in late years. All over China, but especially in this part of Szechuan, there grows a tree of the large-leaved privet species. On the bark of the branches and twigs are discovered attached little brown scales of the size and shape of a small pea. When opened in the spring they are found to contain a swarming mass of minute insects. Toward the end of April, the time when I passed through this region, these scales were being carefully gathered and packed in small parcels, and already the journey northward was beginning. Porters bearing loads of about sixty pounds were hurrying up the valley, often travelling only by night to save their precious burden from the burning sun's rays which would cause too rapid development. Their destination was Chia-ting, which lies on the Min River at the eastern edge of a great plain, the home of the so-called "pai-la shu," or "white wax tree," a species of ash. The whole countryside is dotted over with this tree, so cut as to resemble the pollard willow. On arrival the scales are carefully made up into small packets of twenty or thirty scales each, wrapped in leaves and attached to the branches of the white wax tree. After a short interval the insects emerge from the scales and secrete a waxlike substance, covering the boughs and twigs with a white deposit about a quarter of an inch thick. This is carefully gathered, and after purification by boiling is made up into the small cakes of commerce to be put to various uses. It forms an important ingredient in sizing and polish, and also in giving a gloss to silk; but especially it is valued as imparting a greater consistency to tallow for candles, as it melts only at a temperature of 160į Fahrenheit. But the Standard Oil activities have dealt a serious blow to the white wax industry. Kerosene is now in general use where there is any lighting at all, and whereas formerly ten thousand coolies annually hurried up the valley carrying scales to Chia-ting, we now saw only a few hundred.
A generation ago Chien-ch'ang was perhaps the least known part of all China to the outside world. About the middle of the thirteenth century the Mongol, Kublai Khan, acting as general of the forces of his brother, Genghis Khan, went through here to the conquest of Tali, then an independent kingdom in the southwest, and the untiring Venetian following in his train noted a few of the characteristics of Caindu, the name he gave both to the valley and the capital city. Six centuries elapsed before the next traveller from the West came this way. In the late seventies Colborne Baber, Chinese Secretary of the British Legation, traversed the valley from north to south, being the first European since the time of Marco Polo to enter Ning-yŁan-fu, save for an unfortunate French priest who arrived a few months earlier, only to be driven out with stones. At that time, according to Baber, "two or three sentences in the book of Ser Marco to the effect that after crossing high mountains he reached a fertile country containing many villages and towns, and inhabited by a very immoral population," constituted the only existing description of the district.
In spite of the importance of this route it remained until a few years ago very insecure. Overhung almost its entire length by the inaccessible fastnesses of Lololand, the passing caravans dared journey only with convoy, and even then were frequently overwhelmed by raiders from the hills, who carried off both trader and goods into the mountains, the former to lifelong servitude. The Ta Liang Shan, or "Great Cold Mountains," the country of the independent Lolos, is a mountainous region extending north and south some three hundred miles, which constitutes to this day an almost impenetrable barrier between east and west, crossed voluntarily by no Chinese, unless in force, and from which but one European party has returned to tell the tale. On the outskirts of this territory a little mission work has been undertaken with some success, but as yet no real impression has been made upon the people. Chinese hold upon the country is limited to an occasional more or less ineffective punitive expedition organized after some unusual outrage, such as the murder, a few years back, of Lieutenant Brooke, the English explorer. Naturally the Government does not care to assume any responsibility for the foolhardy foreigner bent on risking his life. Lieutenant Brooke went without permission, and during my stay in Ning-yŁan I learned that two French travellers had just sought in vain for leave to attempt the crossing of the mountains to Suifu.
Within Lololand, of course, no Chinese writ runs, no Chinese magistrate holds sway, and the people, more or less divided among themselves, are under the government of their tribal chiefs. The little that is known of this interesting race has been learned from the so-called tame Lolos who have accepted Chinese rule, and are found scattered in small villages in the western part of Szechuan and Yunnan, being perhaps most numerous in the neighbourhood of the Anning and Yalung rivers, where an appreciable proportion of the population is of aboriginal or mixed aboriginal and Chinese stock. Accepting Chinese rule does not generally mean accepting Chinese customs. They hold to their own language and religion, one a dialect akin to Tibetan, and the other a form of animism. It is very easy to distinguish conquerors and conquered, for the Lolos are darker as well as taller and better formed than the Chinese. Their features are good and they have a frank, direct expression which is very attractive. In dress also they have not conformed to the ways of their masters. Instead of a queue the men wear the hair in a horn above the forehead, while the women hold firmly to the feminine petticoats, surrounded though they are by the trousered Chinese women. Nor do they bind their feet, but stride bravely along on the feet nature gave them.
What these people really are is one of the unsettled ethnological problems of the East, but probably they are of the same stock as the Shans and Burmese. Even their proper appellation is in doubt. The Chinese call them Lolos, which means simply "barbarians" or "wild men." By the people themselves the term is regarded as insulting, and one should avoid using it before them; but they are not agreed among themselves on a common name, and use ordinarily local tribal names.
Half a dozen years ago travellers were warned against the dangers of the road, but since then matters have been taken vigorously in hand by the Chinese authorities. Guard-houses have been erected at short intervals, the passes are strongly fortified, and a large force of well-trained men is stationed permanently in the valley. The journey can now be made in entire safety, but there are numerous signs of past dangers, and the precautions taken are very evident. Perhaps I was made especially conscious of possible danger because, as my interpreter said, though the officials were careful to secure the safety of every one of us, they were particularly anxious that nothing should happen to me; not, of course, from any personal concern for the foreigner, but because the foreigner's Government has such a way of making things unpleasant if anything happens to him.
From Hui-li-chou northwards I was escorted by real soldiers, quite of the new service. They looked rather shipshape in khaki suits and puttees, and their guns were of a good model, but they handled them in careless fashion at first, belabouring laden ponies and even coolies who were slow in getting out of the way of my chair. I am told that they are very ready to lord it over their countrymen when escorting Europeans, taking advantage of the fearful respect in which the foreigner is held. I checked them vigorously at the time, and before the next morning's start I called them up, and with the aid of the interpreter harangued them to the effect that I was pleased to see that they knew how to use their guns, and if need came I hoped they would give a good account of themselves in China's defence, but in the mean time they should be very slow to use their weapons on men or beasts, and if I saw them do it while they were with me they would get no "wine money." The soldiers took my orders very meekly, and the bystanders (there are always bystanders in China) grinned approvingly.
The first two marches out from Hui-li led over the range into the Anning valley, a high, rocky trail without much vegetation for the most part, but after we struck the river, cultivation was almost continuous, one hamlet following fast on another. This part of the valley is available for irrigation, and the skill and ingenuity shown in making use of the water supply is nothing short of marvellous. At one point we ascended a long, wide, gentle slope all laid out in tiny fields, and well watered from two large, fast-flowing streams. But where did they come from, for the slope ended abruptly in a sharp, high precipice overlooking a gorge through which flowed the Chin Ch'uan, a tributary of the Anning. But on turning a corner at the head of the slope we saw that from high up on the mountain-side an artificial channel had been constructed with infinite labour, bringing water from the upper course of the stream to the thirsty fields below.
Late on this same day the trail crossed a bare, rocky hillside, at one point passing between masses of stone ruins; something like a tower to the right, and on the left a sort of walled enclosure. I had lingered behind to gather a nosegay of the small blue flowers that marked the day's march. As I approached I saw some twenty or thirty men clad in long white or black cloaks hanging about the ruins, and my big chair coolie, who had constituted himself my special protector, coming to meet me, hurried me by without stopping. When I joined the interpreter, who was waiting for me at a discreet distance, I learned that the men were Lolos, "half-tame wild men," employed by merchants and others to guard this rather dangerous place where the trail approached somewhat closely the territory of the independent Lolos. In spite of protests I went back, accompanied by the big coolie and a soldier, to take some pictures. A few of the men ran away, but most made no objection and good-humouredly grouped themselves at my direction while I photographed them as best I could in the waning light. Their independent bearing and bold, free look interested me, and I should have been glad to talk with them, but the interpreter was disinclined to come near, and it was doubtful, too, if they could have spoken Chinese well enough to have been understood.
The 25th of April was our last day into Ning-yŁan-fu, and I was glad; it was getting very hot, and the coolies were tired from their long journey. Several were hiring substitutes from the village-folk, paying less than half what they received from me. To avoid the heat we were off before sunrise. Often on that part of the trip we started in the half-light of the early dawn, and there was something very delightful in our unnoticed departure through the empty, echoing streets of the sleeping town where, the evening before, the whole population had been at our heels. And outside the stifling walls the joy of another day's ride through a new world was awaiting me.
For a time we followed up the narrow, winding valley, gradually opening out until we turned off to cross the low hills that barred the southern end of the Ning-yŁan plain. Every inch of ground was under cultivation, but as yet few crops were up. Mulberries, however, were ripening fast, forerunners of the abundant fruit of this region. Shortly before tiffin we crossed a stream over which the bridge of stone was actually being repaired. In China, as elsewhere in Asia, it is a work of merit to construct a new building or road, but waste of time to repair the old. I wondered if by any chance some high official was expected, for the East fulfils quite literally the Scriptural injunction, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his path before him"; more than once I realized the advantage of following in the footsteps of the great.
Toward the end of the day we crossed a spur of the hills, and descended abruptly into the Ning-yŁan plain; half concealed among the trees lay the town, while off to the southeast sparkled the water of the lake noted by Marco Polo. As we sat resting for a few moments at a tea-house, I saw galloping towards us two horsemen, Europeans, the first I had seen for nearly three weeks. They turned out to be Mr. Wellwood and Dr. Humphreys, of the American Baptist Mission, who had ridden out to make me welcome. An hour later we crossed the parade ground outside the city gate, and shortly, turning in by a building of unmistakable European architecture, found ourselves in the mission compound. It was most delightful to be again among my own kind, and the three days spent in Ning-yŁan while I was reorganizing my little caravan for the next stage were very enjoyable, barring the excessive heat.
Ning-yŁan-fu is the largest town in this part of Szechuan, having a population of perhaps fifty thousand. It is surrounded by a well-built wall, high and broad and nearly three miles in length. Within are few buildings of interest, due perhaps to the fact that about fifty years ago it was almost demolished by an earthquake. According to tradition, the same thing happened in the early part of the Ming period, when the town, which, so it is said, then stood in the hollow where the lake now lies, was first shaken by an earthquake and then overwhelmed by a rush of water from underground. Later a new city was built on the present site. If the natives are to be believed, the ruins of the drowned city may still be seen on calm days lying at the bottom of the lake, while after a storm beds and chairs of strange patterns are sometimes found floating about on the water.
Even this remote corner of China shows the influence of the new movement, and Western ideas are making their way. Something had been done to improve the city schools, and I can testify to the desire of the military force stationed at Ning-yŁan to form itself on European models, for the morning's sleep was broken by the vigorous bugle practice of the band, and at every turn one met soldiers, marching along with a good deal of vim. The large parade ground was given over in the afternoon to the testing and speeding of ponies. We rode out there one day, and I was pleased to see that the interest and wise ways of the missionaries in horseflesh were much appreciated by the owners of the ponies, men of a class not easily reached by the ordinary channels of mission work.
As my contract with the Yunnan hong was only to Ning-yŁan-fu, it was necessary to make new arrangements here. My old men had expressed a wish to go on with me, but in the end only one did so, the others disliking the dťtour to Tachienlu which they knew I had in mind. Moreover, it would have been necessary for them to register in the Ning-yŁan hong, which they were not anxious to do, nor was the hong anxious to have them. So I let them go, well contented with their "wine money," which was, indeed, outrageously large. Soon after starting from Yunnan-fu I had realized that the men were inclined to ask for a day's halt more frequently than I liked, as I was anxious to push ahead, knowing that the spring rains were shortly due. I did not know then the custom of the road, which decrees no payment at all if it is the coolies who insist on stopping, although a small payment, usually five cents gold, is the rule for each day of halt for your convenience. So I felt that my only check upon the men was to hold out a reward. Accordingly I offered them a definite tip and a good one, if they would get me to Ning-yŁan-fu at a certain day, which they did, making the journey, as I learned later, simply in the ordinary time. I was advised not to pay them the sum promised, as they were profiting by my ignorance, and it might make me trouble afterwards. But I reasoned that my ignorance was my own fault; they had not asked, I had offered the reward, and I was sure the evil of a broken promise was greater than any bad precedent. So the men got their tip, and I am certain I gained by the reputation I thus acquired of keeping my word. I never again gave such rewards, but I always had good service.
I was sorry to see the Yunnan men go; they were sturdy, willing fellows, quick to learn my ways. In particular, one of my chair coolies, the big fellow called Liu, I should have been glad to keep on, in spite of unexpected revelations at Ning-yŁan. He had made the trip from Yunnan with Mr. Wellwood a few weeks earlier, behaving well, but after receiving his pay he got gloriously drunk and was expelled from the inn, whereupon he turned up at the mission, still drunk. As he was not taken in, he proceeded to tear up the chapel palings and make himself a nuisance. So after repeated warnings he was turned over to the police, who shut him up for a night and then gave him a whipping. Probably he had learned a lesson, for he made me no bother. This was the only case within my own knowledge of a coolie's giving trouble through drinking. Out-of-the-way travel in the East is much simpler for being among non-drinking people. Years ago I made a canoeing trip in northern Maine with two friends. Almost we were forced to rob the traditional cradle and grave to secure guides warranted sober ó the only sort safe for a party of women; but in the East that question is scarcely considered, and personally I have never had any difficulty.
The men that I took on at Ning-yŁan were on the whole younger and smaller than the Yunnan men, but they too did their work well. The new fu t'ou was a Chengtu man of a type quite unlike the others, tall, slender, well made, and with decidedly good features. He seemed young for his post, but soon showed himself quite equal to the task of keeping the men up to the mark, and of meeting any difficulty that arose.
To my surprise I was able to buy oil for our lanterns on the street here. One does not think of the Standard Oil Company as a missionary agency, but it has certainly done a great deal to light up the dark corners of China, morally as well as physically, by providing the people with a cheap way of lighting their houses. Formerly when darkness fell, there was nothing to do but gamble and smoke. Now the industrious Chinese can ply his trade as late as he chooses.
I was sorry to say farewell to my kind hosts, but it was good to get away from the trying heat of Ning-yŁan plain, all the more oppressive because of the confined limits of the mission quarters set in the heart of the city. The only escape for the missionaries during the hot months was to a temple on one of the surrounding hills. I was glad to learn that land had been secured at a little distance from the present compound for more spacious accommodations. People at home do not realize the difficulty of getting fresh air and exercise in a Chinese town. Walking inside the walls is almost impossible because of the dirt and crowds, while near the city all unoccupied land is usually given over to graves. In Ning-yŁan really the only chance for exercise short of a half-day's excursion, perhaps, was on the city wall, where I had a delightful ride one afternoon.
It was the morning of April 29, when we finally started, my caravan being now increased to seventeen men, as I had advanced the interpreter to a three-bearer chair and given his old one to the cook, who as a Szechuan man should have been able to walk. But he seemed hardly up to it, ó in fact he gave me the impression of an elderly man, although he owned to forty-one years only. It needs a trained eye, I imagine, to judge of the age of men of an alien race.
On passing out from the suburbs of the town, charmingly embowered in fruit orchards, we struck across the open, treeless plain. There was little land that could be cultivated that was not under cultivation, but as yet the fields lay bare and baked in the burning sun, waiting the belated rain, as this part of the valley cannot be irrigated, owing to the lie of the land. Rain fell the first night, and after that neither the soil nor I could complain of dryness. Our first stop was at Li-chou, a small, comfortable town at the head of the valley, with a bad inn. It, not Ning-yŁan, which lies a little off the main trail, is the centre of the carrying business between Yunnan and the north, and from this time on, we found the village population everywhere chiefly occupied as carrier coolies.
Our first day from Li-chou was a short stage, and we had a long, leisurely tiffin at Sung-lin, where there was an exceptionally good inn. The proprietor was away, but his wife, who was in charge, seemed very competent and friendly, and took me into their private rooms, fairly clean and airy, and quite spacious. In one was a large, grave-shaped mound of cement-like substance. On inquiry I learned that it enclosed the coffin and body of the mother of the proprietor. She had been dead a year, but the body could not receive final burial until his return. The Chinese custom of keeping unburied their dead awaiting a propitious moment strikes one as most unpleasant and unwholesome, but the worst consequences are usually avoided by hermetically sealing the ponderous coffin. In Canton the House of the Dead is visited by all travellers. It is a great stretch of small buildings set in flower gardens, each room commanding a definite rent, and usually occupied by the waiting dead, whose fancied wants are meantime carefully supplied. The dead hand rests heavy on China. Not merely is much valuable land given over to graves, and the hills denuded of forest to make the five-inch coffin boards, but the daily order of life is often unduly sacrificed to the departed.
On my way from Calcutta to Hong Kong there joined us at Singapore the Chinese Consul-General at that place. He was returning with his family to Canton to attend the funeral of his mother. In talk with him I learned that he had been one of that famous group of students who came to America in the seventies, only to be suddenly recalled by the Chinese Government. He had since acted as Secretary to the Chinese Legation in Washington, and was quite at home in Western ways. In his dress he combined very effectively both Chinese and occidental symbols of mourning, his white coat-sleeve being adorned with a band of black crape, while in the long black queue he wore braided the white mourning thread of China. He expected to be at home for some months, and during that time, so he told me, it would be unsuitable for him to engage in any sort of worldly business.
We were now leaving behind the close cultivation of the Chien-ch'ang; the valley grew narrower, hemmed in by higher and more barren mountains, but the wild roses made beautiful every turn. One village that we passed was quite surrounded by a hedge of roses several feet high, and all in full bloom. My second night from Ning-yŁan-fu was not much better than the first, for the inn at Lu-ku, a rather important little town, was most uncomfortable; but a delightful hour's rest and quiet on the river bank before entering the town freshened me up so much that the night did not matter. One march to the north of Lu-ku, up the valley of the Anning, lay the district town of Mien-ning, reached by a rough trail that finally wandered off into the inextricable gorges of the Ta Tu Ho. It was in these wild defiles that the last contests of the Taiping rebellion were fought. I looked longingly up the valley, but my way turned off to the right, following the pack-road to the ferry at Fulin. At once on starting the next morning we passed out of the main valley into a narrow gorge with precipitous sides opening from the east. The trail wound upwards along the mountain-face, often hewn out of the rock and scarcely more than five feet wide, and at one point it was barred effectually by heavy gates. They opened to us, but not on that day half a century ago when the Taiping leader, Shih Ta-k'ai, failing to force his way through, turned back to meet defeat in the wilds above Mien-ning-hsien.
All along the road we met signs of our nearness to the country of the Lolos. There was much uncultivated land, and the population seemed scanty, but officials and soldiers were numerous, while guard-houses dominated the trail at short intervals. The village type was not always pure Chinese, and occasionally we met people unmistakably of another race. At Teng-hsiang-ying, or "Strong-walled Camp," where we stopped for the night, both soldiers and Lolos were much in evidence. We were here about two thousand one hundred feet below the summit of the great pass through which the raiders in times not far past made their way into fertile Chien-ch'ang. After getting settled in the inn, I went for a walk, carefully guarded by two soldiers especially detailed for the purpose by the Yamen. In one alley I noticed Lolo women spinning in the doorways, and with the aid of the soldiers, who seemed to be on very friendly terms with them, I succeeded in getting a picture of two. In feature and colour they might have passed for Italians, and their dress was more European than Chinese in cut. On their heads they wore the Tam o' Shanter-like cap of black stuff, common among these people, bound on with their long braids, and their coats were of the usual felt. Their skirts, homespun, were made with what we used to call a Spanish flounce. According to Baber, the Lolo petticoat is of great significance. No one may go among the independent Lolos safely save in the guardianship of a member of the tribe, and a woman is as good a guardian as a man. Before setting out she puts on an extra petticoat, and the traveller thus escorted is sacred. But if the guarantee is not respected she takes off the garment, spreading it on the ground, and there it remains, telling to all the outrage that has been committed, and appealing to Heaven for redress. Altogether the women that I saw had a rather attractive, feminine look, and their manner, though timid, was not cringing. People who know them best have a good word for the Lolos, but few Europeans have come much in contact with them. Those I saw looked miserably poor. Missionaries declare that the hand of the official is heavy upon them, and of course the persistent, hard-working Chinese are certain to have acquired the best land.
The next day we crossed the Hsiao Hsiang Ling, or "Little Elephant Pass," fortunately in fine weather. The approach from the south was very beautiful. For a number of li our road led through a deep, narrow gorge, following up a fine rocky stream. The flowers and blossoming shrubs were wonderful; masses of white and of pink azaleas clothed the lower slopes, and there appeared now for the first time a bush bearing long, feather-like sprays of fragrant white blooms. From time to time we passed a guard-house, and soldiers were everywhere, some on guard, others practising exercises, others lounging. At one place a group had gathered about a fellow who was playing rather nicely an instrument resembling a mandolin. He seemed gratified at my interest, and readily repeated his music for me. As seen in passing, the guard-houses looked clean and substantial, vastly superior to the ordinary Chinese abode. But the country had a rather forbidding aspect as we marched farther up the valley, fit setting for deeds of outrage and bloodshed; its character seemed symbolized in the head of a Lolo robber set up by the wayside.
The final climb to the pass was over gentle, grassy slopes. At the top, nearly ten thousand feet above sea level, the way led through a strongly fortified post where I stopped for a few moments to enjoy the wide view, northwest to the nearer mountains of the Tibetan range, and east to the dark peaks of the Ta Liang Shan. On the northern side of the pass the descent is long and tiring, a succession of steep zigzags and rocky staircases. At the time of day when I crossed, the lines of carriers and baggage ponies were almost continuous. There were guard-houses at intervals of three li, and at each a special detail of two soldiers came out, and, saluting me properly, fell into position, one in front and one behind, to be replaced at the next post by two others. As we descended to lower levels the valley widened out slightly, giving room for a few hard-wrung fields surrounded by broad stone walls reminding one of New England, and now and then we passed a lonely farmhouse built of stones and enclosed in a rather ineffective defence of wattles. But villages were few, hardly more than hamlets that had grown up about the military posts. All were walled, and where the highway passed through the village, dividing it in two, each half was enclosed in its own high wall of mud and stones. Moreover, many of the houses were of fortress-like construction, three stories high, and with only a few slits for windows. Once or twice we passed through an open bazaar strongly walled and with a fortified gate at either end, serving as a brief resting-place for the caravans hurrying over this dangerous stretch of road.
A MEMORIAL ARCH. SZECHUAN
FORTIFIED VILLAGE IN THE CHIEN-CH'ANG VALLEY
As we travelled northward we saw fewer of the fine stone bridges of the south; the construction was now generally of wood, not unlike in outline the disfiguring structures of New England, but improved by open sides and a picturesque curly roof of tiles. Usually they were approached by a flight of steps, showing conclusively, if proof were needed, that there were no wheeled vehicles to consider. And, indeed, traffic generally was of limited character after we left the pass. Occasionally we overtook coolies hurrying along with their precious loads of white wax insects, or bending under long, thick pine or cypress boards, sometimes towering high above their heads or else strapped across their shoulders, forcing them to move crab-fashion along the narrow trails. On inquiry I learned that deeply embedded in the soil of the hills are found huge trees, rows of sprouts marking their location. These are dug up with much effort and sawn into boards which are in great request for the ponderous Chinese coffins. It would seem as though the supply must be inexhaustible, for when Sir Alexander Hosie came this way, a generation ago, he noted the same traffic and received the same explanation. With the prohibition of the poppy, the region has for the moment little export trade, while the imports seem to consist mainly of military supplies for the Chien-ch'ang garrisons. However, the road is in unusually good condition, for the whole way from Teng-hsiang-ying to YŁeh-hsi, our next stop, a distance of perhaps thirty-five miles, is well paved with broad flags. As we drew near to the town the valley opened a little, affording a glimpse of a snow peak to the north, while toward the southeast we look up a narrow gorge into Lololand, the border being but some fifteen miles away. This is almost the only break in the flanking hills that wall in the Forbidden Land. YŁeh-hsi itself lies in the centre of a rock-strewn plain broken by a few rice-and maize-fields, and is important as a military post guarding the trade route against this easy way of attack. The best room of the inn smelt to heaven, but on investigation I found an open loft which proved very possible after ejecting a few fowls.
The following day our march led us through a narrow valley bare of people and cultivation. Following this was a welcome change to steep climbs over grass-covered slopes broken by picturesque ravines. I tried to get a picture of a coolie, bearing a huge nine-foot-long coffin plank, whom we overtook on the trail. A handful of cash and cigarettes won his consent, but in spite of my men's efforts to calm his fears, the poor fellow cringed and trembled so, as I got my camera into position, that I gave it up. I felt as I might feel if I kicked a dumb animal.
Our night's stop was at Pao-an-ying, ó like so many other hamlets of this region, little more than a camp-village, and showing its origin in the termination "ying" or "jin," meaning regiment. My room at the inn looked out directly on the street, and there was neither quiet nor privacy to be had, so I went out for a walk, escorted by a soldier and a coolie. Discovering a secluded screened place in a graveyard, I fell asleep on the top of a tomb, and my men near by did the same; but presently I was awakened by Jack's barking, to find myself the centre of a crowd of some fifty men silently watching me, and down the hillside I saw others coming, so I gave it up and took a stroll through the town, inspecting the provision shops.
We were off the next morning in the dark. At first the road was wild and picturesque. The track was unusually good, and steep, well-constructed zigzags carried us up and down the hills. Later the valley opened, and we ascended gradually over beautiful slopes gay with rhododendron and iris. The clouds above the mountains were very fine, but presently rain came on, continuing off and on all day.
Late in the afternoon we came in sight of Haitang, a walled town perched picturesquely on the side of a hill. A temple outside the wall looked attractive, and I should have visited it had it not been for the rain which now set in in good earnest. So, instead, I inspected the inn, which seemed unusually interesting. There was the ordinary entrance court roofed over, and behind that an inner court open to the sky and surrounded by galleried buildings. Off from this led a long, high passage into which opened a number of superior rooms. Mine was quite elaborately furnished with carved bedstead and chairs and tables, and best of all, it had a door opening directly on to the city wall, where I could step out and get a breath of fresh air free from observation.
Here I had my first experience of the "squeeze." On directing the interpreter to give the fu t'ou the coolies' pork money, I learned that on the previous occasion the man had kept an undue proportion of it. Apparently a certain squeeze was regarded as legitimate, but he had transgressed the accepted bounds. I hardly knew how to meet the difficulty. Of course I could have paid the coolies directly, but it was most desirable to maintain the fu t'ou's authority over them. Finally, in true Chinese fashion, the interpreter worked out a scheme by which the fu t'ou's "face" might be saved, and yet the coolies not be defrauded. Going out into the court where the men were lounging, he called loudly to the fu t'ou to come for the coolies' money, naming the sum I intended to give, about one hundred cash to a man. In the face of this there was nothing for the fu t'ou to do but give to each his rightful share, which he did with a very sulky air. Afterwards I had a talk with the man, telling him that my idea of a good fu t'ou was one who kept the men up to their work, and at the same time did not bully or mulct them of their hard-earned money. Such a man would get a good reward at the end. My reputation for lavishness stood me here in great stead, for henceforth there was no difficulty on this score. I might be "squeezed," but at least my coolies were not. The fu t'ou, however, tried to get even with the man who told, by discharging him. Fortunately I learned of this, again through the interpreter, and put a stop to it. The idea of the squeeze seems to be ingrained in the Chinese. How difficult it is to eradicate was shown by the delight of a missionary at Chung-king over the low price for which his trusty Christian clerk had secured a boat for me. For once he felt sure no commission could have been taken.
During all this part of my trip I carried no coined silver, only rough lumps of bullion of varying size, converting them into cash as I needed. The rate of exchange varied from place to place, and I was sometimes warned to put off visiting the money-changers until the next town. Of course the visitor stands to lose anyway, and I am sure that in the course of a long journey through China you would see your money vanish in the mere process of change, quite aside from the money you spent.
Rain fell all the next day, but it could not take from the charm of the road, which led much of the time along the bottom of a deep, narrow gorge, the steep sides clothed to the very top with tropical green flecked with splendid splashes of pink and white azaleas, while by the side of the path were masses of blue iris, and of small yellow and red flowers. We reached our night's resting-place, P'ing-i-p'u, early in the afternoon, and in spite of the rain I went for a walk. By dint of peremptory commands, reŽnforced by the rain, I shook off my military escort, who for the last few marches had dogged my steps at every turn, moving when I moved, stopping when I stopped. To be sure, they had been very thoughtful of my comfort, helping me in and out of my chair, gathering the new flowers which appeared each day, keeping up a brazier fire in my room when it was damp, but I was tired of being treated as either a suspect or a royal personage, and as we were now well beyond the limit of Lolo raids I demanded the freedom of being alone. I found quiet in an overgrown graveyard, with charming views down stream and up the near hillsides cultivated in tiny scallops to the very top, although the slopes were so steep that each plot was shored up with a strong stone wall to keep the crop of maize and buckwheat from slipping down into the river.
As we passed out of the village the next morning at six o'clock we heard the hum of the boys in the government school already at work. Apparently Young China was wasting no time. For perhaps twenty li we followed down a fine stream, the way rather dangerous from the rocks which now and then detached themselves from the steep overhanging hillsides. After a time an ascent of one thousand feet brought us in sight of the Ta Tu, which we reached some time after noon by a gradual descent of two thousand feet, through a narrow valley to Ta-shu-p'u. Fine clumps of bamboo and groups of palm now cheered our sight, and fruit of several sorts ó cherries, pears, loquats ó was becoming abundant. It was very refreshing, although scarcely of a fine quality, and usually gathered before it was ripe. The place looked quiet and attractive, but half a century ago the last scenes of the Taiping rebellion were enacted here, when the remnants of Shih Ta-k'ai's force were surrounded and slaughtered.
Later in the day I went for a stroll to inspect the shops, accompanied by my interpreter, and it was on this occasion that I met with the only instance of unfriendliness (that I recognized) in all my journeying in West China. At one shop I noticed an interesting bronze dragon. The interpreter, who had a rather objectionable habit of fingering the wares, began examining it. Thereupon the merchant came forward and snatched it from his hands, and when we passed that way again on our return, he came out before his shop and waved us off vigorously with his flapping sleeves. The interpreter said that the man disliked foreigners, but admitted that he did not wish to have his things handled.