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The Riverside Press Cambridge

Published February 1913



 The Little "Fu t'ou" (Caravan Headman)


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.


I. Across Tonking
II. Days in Yunnan-Fu
III. Across Yunnan
IV. The Chien-ch'ang
V. On the Mandarin Road
VI. Tachienlu
VII. The Lesser Trail
VIII. Across Chengtu Plain
IX. Omei Shan, the Sacred
X. Down the Yangtse
XI. From the Great River to the Great Wall
XII. The Mongolian Grassland
XIII. Across the Desert of Gobi
XIV. Urga, the Sacred City
XV. North to the Siberian Railway
XVI. A Few First Impressions of China



The Little "Fu t'ou" (Caravan Headman)
Map of Chinese Empire
A Yunnan Valley
Outside the Walls of Yunnan-Fu
My Sedan Chair and Bearers
A Memorial Arch near Yunnan-Fu
Map of West China
On a Yunnan Road: My Caravan — The Military Escort
Wu-Ting-Chou: Temple Gateway — Temple Corner
Lolo Girls
"Tame, Wild" Lolos
A Memorial Arch. Szechuan
Fortified Village in the Chien-ch'ang Valley
"Mercury," my Fleet Coolie
Carrier Coolies
A Group of Szechuan Farmhouses
A View of Tachienlu
Lama and Dog at Tachienlu
The Gate of Tibet
A Wayside Rest-House
A Fortified Post
A Roadside Tea-House
Tea Coolie crossing a Suspension Bridge
A Farmhouse in Chengtu Plain
Memorial Arch to a "Virtuous Widow," Chengtu Plain
The "Rejection of the Body" (Cliff a mile high), Mount Omei, West Szechuan
In the Yangtse Gorges
Tartar Wall, Peking
Caravan outside the Tartar Wall
A Poor Mongol Family and Yurt
Jack and his Lama Friend
My Caravan across Mongolia
Horsemen of the Desert, North Mongolia
A Lama bound for Urga
A Mongol Belle, Urga
My Mongol Hostess
The Mongol House where I stayed in Urga
Lama and his "Wife"


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.


In general vowels are pronounced as in Italian.

a preceded by w and followed by ng is like a in fall.

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).



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.