In addition to the three converts who have been baptised in Tali in the last two years, there are two inquirers—one the mission cook—who are nearly ready for acceptance. At the Sunday service I met the three converts. One is the paid teacher in the mission school; another is a humble pedlar; the third is a courageous native belonging to one of the indigenous tribes of Western China, a Minchia man, whose conversion, judged by all tests, is one of those genuine cases which bring real joy to the missionary. He has only recently been baptised. Every Sunday he comes in fifteen li from the small patch of ground he tills to the mission services. His son is at the mission school, and is boarded on the premises. There is a small school in connection with the mission under the baptised teacher, where eight boys and eight girls are being taught. They are learning quickly, their wonderful gifts of memory being a chief factor in their progress. At the service there was another worshipper, a sturdy boy of fourteen, who slept composedly all through the exhortation. If any boy should feel gratitude towards the kind missionaries it is he. They have reared him from the most degraded poverty, have taught him to read and write, and are now on the eve of apprenticing him to a carpenter. He was a beggar boy, the son of a professional beggar, who, with unkempt hair and in rags and filth, used to shamble through the streets gathering reluctant alms. The father died, and some friends would have sold his son to pay the expenses of his burial; but the missionaries intervened and, to save the son from slavery, buried his father. This action gave them some claim to help the boy, and the boy has accordingly been with them since in a comfortable, kindly home, instead of grovelling round the streets in squalor and nakedness.
The mission-house, formerly occupied by Mr. George Clarke is near the City Temple. We went to see it a day or two after my arrival. It is now in the possession of a family of Mohammedans, one of the very few Moslem families still living in the valley of Tali. "When we were in possession of the valley," said the father sorrowfully, "we numbered '12,000 tens' (120,000 souls), now we are '100 fives' (500 souls). Our men were slain, our women were taken in prey, only a remnant escaped the destroyer." Several members of the family were in the court when we entered, and among the men were three with marked Anglo-Saxon features, a peculiarity frequently seen in Western China, where every traveller has given a different explanation of the phenomenon. One especially moved my curiosity, for he possessed to an absurd degree the closest likeness to myself. Could I give him any higher praise than that?
That the Mohammedan Chinese is physically superior to his Buddhist countryman is acknowledged by all observers; there is a fearlessness and independence of bearing in the Mohammedan, a militant carriage that distinguishes him from the Chinese unbeliever. His religion is but a thinly diluted Mohammedanism, and excites the scorn of the true believers from India who witness his devotion, or rather his want of devotion.
One of the men talking to us in the old mission-house was a comical-looking fellow, whose head-dress differed from that of the other Chinese, in that, in addition to his queue, lappets of hair were drawn down his cheeks in the fashion affected by old ladies in England. I raised these strange locks—impudent curiosity is often polite attention in China—whereupon the reason for them was apparent. The body bequeathed to him by his fathers had been mutilated—he had suffered the removal of both ears. He explained to us how he came to lose them, but we knew even before he told us; "he had lost them in battle facing the enemy"—and of course we believed him. The less credulous would associate the mutilation with a case of theft and its detection and punishment by the magistrate; but "a bottle-nosed man," says the Chinese proverb, "may be a teetotaller and yet no one will think so."
Our milkman at the mission was a follower of the Prophet, and the milk he gave us was usually as reduced in quality as are his co-religionists in number. In the milk he supplied there was what a chemist describes as a remarkable absence of butter fat. Yet, when he was reproached for his deceit, he used piously to say, even when met coming from the well, "I could not put a drop of water in the milk, for there is a God up there"—and he would jerk his chin towards the sky—"who would see me if I did."
THE JOURNEY FROM TALI, WITH SOME REMARKS ON THE CHARACTER OF THE CANTONESE, CHINESE EMIGRANTS, CRETINS, AND WIFE-BEATING IN CHINA.
The three men who had come with me the six hundred and seventeen miles from Chaotong left me at Tali to return all that long way home on foot with their well-earned savings. I was sorry to say good-bye to them; but they had come many miles further than they intended, and their friends, they said, would be anxious: besides Laohwan, you remember, was newly married.
I engaged three new men in their places. They were to take me right through to Singai (Bhamo). Every day was of importance now with four hundred and fifty miles to travel and the rainy season closing in. Laotseng was the name of the Chinaman whom I engaged in place of Laohwan. He was a fine young fellow, active as a deer, strong, and high-spirited. I agreed to pay him the fancy wage of 24s. for the journey. He was to carry no load, but undertook, in the event of either of my coolies falling sick, to carry his load until a new coolie could be engaged. The two coolies I engaged through a coolie-hong. One was a strongly-built man, a "chop dollar," good-humoured, but of rare ugliness. The other was the thinnest man I ever saw outside a Bowery dime-show. He had the opium habit. He was an opium-eater rather than an opium-smoker; and he ate the ash from the opium-pipe, instead of the opium itself—the most vicious of the methods of taking opium. He was the nearest approach I saw in China to the Exeter Hall type of opium-eater, whose "wasted limbs and palsied hands" cry out against the sin of the opium traffic. Though a victim of the injustice of England, this man had never tasted Indian opium in his life, and, perishing as he was in body and soul, going "straight to eternal damnation," his "dying wail unheard," he yet undertook a journey that would have deterred the majority of Englishmen, and agreed to carry, at forced speed, a far heavier load than the English soldier is ever weighted with on march. The two coolies were to be paid 4 taels each (12s.) for the twenty stages to Singai, and had to find their own board and lodging. But I also stipulated to give them churo money (pork money) of 100 cash each at three places—Yungchang, Tengyueh, and Bhamo—100 cash each a day extra for every day that I detained them on the way, and, in addition, I was to reward them with 150 cash each a day for every day that they saved on the twenty days' journey, days that I rested not to count.
Of course none of the three men spoke a word of English. All were natives of the province of Szechuen, and all carried out their agreement to the letter.
On May 3rd I left Tali. The last and longest stage of all the journey was before me, a distance of some hundreds of miles, which I had to traverse before I could hope to meet another countryman or foreigner with whom I could converse. The two missionaries, Mr. Smith and Mr. Graham, kindly offered to see me on my way, and we all started together for Hsiakwan, leaving the men to follow.
Ten li from Tali we stopped to have tea at one of the many tea-houses that are grouped round the famous temple to the Goddess of Mercy, the Kwanyin-tang. The scene was an animated one. The open space between the temple steps and the temple theatre opposite was thronged with Chinese of strange diversity of feature crying their wares from under the shelter of huge umbrellas. There is always a busy traffic to Hsiakwan, and every traveller rests here, if only for a few minutes. For this is the most famous temple in the valley of Tali. The Goddess of Mercy is the friend of travellers, and no thoughtful Chinese should venture on a journey without first asking the favour of the goddess and obtaining from her priests a forecast of his success. The temple is a fine specimen of Chinese architecture. It was built specially to record a miracle. In the chief court, surrounded by the temple buildings, there is a huge granite boulder lying in an ornamental pond. It is connected by marble approaches, and is surmounted by a handsome monument of marble, which is faced on all sides with memorial tablets. This boulder was carried to its present position by the goddess herself, the monument and bridges were built to detain it where it lay, and the temple afterwards erected to commemorate an event of such happy augury for the beautiful valley.
But the temple has not always witnessed only scenes of mercy. Two years ago a tragedy was enacted here of strange interest. At a religious festival held here in April, 1892, and attended by all the high officials and by a crowd of sightseers, a thief, taking advantage of the crush, tried to snatch a bracelet from the wrist of a young woman, and, when she resisted, he stabbed her. He was seized red-handed, dragged before the Titai, who happened to be present, and ordered to be beheaded there and then. An executioner was selected from among the soldiers; but so clumsily did he do the work, hacking the head off by repeated blows, instead of severing it by one clean cut, that the friends of the thief were incensed and vowed vengeance. That same night they lay in wait for the executioner as he was returning to the city, and beat him to death with stones. Five men were arrested for this crime; they were compelled to confess their guilt and were sentenced to death. As they were being carried out to the execution-ground, one of the condemned pointed to two men, who were in the crowd of sightseers, and swore that they were equally concerned in the murder. So these two men were also put on their trial, with the result that one was found guilty and was equally condemned to death. As if this were not sufficient, at the execution the mother of one of the prisoners, when she saw her son's head fall beneath the knife, gave a loud scream and fell down stone-dead. Nine lives were sacrificed in this tragedy: the woman who was stabbed recovered of her wound.
Hsiakwan was crowded, as it was market day. We had lunch together at a Chinese restaurant, and then, my men having come up, the kind missionaries returned, and I went on alone. A river, the Yangki River, drains the Tali Lake, and, leaving the south-west corner of the lake, flows through the town of Hsiakwan, and so on west to join the Mekong. For three days the river would be our guide. A mile from the town the river enters a narrow defile, where steep walls of rock rise abruptly from the banks. The road here passes under a massive gateway. Forts, now dismantled, guard the entrance; the pass could be made absolutely impregnable. At this point the torrent falls under a natural bridge of unusual beauty. We rode on by the narrow bank along the river, crossed from the left to the right bank, and continued on through a beautiful country, sweet with the scent of the honeysuckle, to the charming little village of Hokiangpu. Here we had arranged to stay. The inn was a large one, and very clean. Many of its rooms were already occupied by a large party of Cantonese returning home after the Thibetan Fair with loads of opium.
The Cantonese, using the term in its broader sense as applied to the natives of the province of Kuangtung, are the Catalans of China. They are as enterprising as the Scotch, adapt themselves as readily to circumstances, are enduring, canny, and successful; you meet them in the most distant parts of China. They make wonderful pilgrimages on foot. They have the reputation of being the most quick-witted of all Chinese. Large numbers come to Tali during the Thibetan Fair, and in the opium season. They bring all kinds of foreign goods adapted for Chinese wants—cheap pistols and revolvers, mirrors, scales, fancy pictures, and a thousand gewgaws useful as well as attractive—and they return with opium. They travel in bands, marching in single file, their carrying poles pointed with a steel spearhead two feet long, serving a double use—a carrying pole in peace, a formidable spear in trouble.
Everywhere they can be distinguished by their dress, by their enormous oiled sunshades, and by their habit of tricing their loads high up to the carrying pole. They are always well clad in dark blue; their heads are always cleanly shaved; their feet are well sandalled, and their calves neatly bandaged. They have a travelled mien about them, and carry themselves with an air of conscious superiority to the untravelled savages among whom they are trading. To me they were always polite and amiable; they recognised that I was, like themselves, a stranger far from home.
This is the class of Chinese who, emigrating from the thickly-peopled south-eastern provinces of China, already possess a predominant share of the wealth of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Timor, the Celebes and the Philippine Islands, Burma, Siam, Annam and Tonquin, the Straits Settlements, Malay Peninsula, and Cochin China. "There is hardly a tiny islet visited by our naturalists in any part of these seas but Chinamen are found." And it is this class of Chinese who have already driven us out of the Northern Territory of Australia, and whose unrestricted entry into the other colonies we must prevent at all hazards. We cannot compete with Chinese; we cannot intermix or marry with them; they are aliens in language, thought, and customs; they are working animals of low grade but great vitality. The Chinese is temperate, frugal, hard-working, and law-evading, if not law-abiding—we all acknowledge that. He can outwork an Englishman, and starve him out of the country—no one can deny that. To compete successfully with a Chinaman, the artisan or labourer of our own flesh and blood would require to be degraded into a mere mechanical beast of labour, unable to support wife or family, toiling seven days in the week, with no amusements, enjoyments, or comforts of any kind, no interest in the country, contributing no share towards the expense of government, living on food that he would now reject with loathing, crowded with his fellows ten or fifteen in a room that he would not now live in alone, except with repugnance. Admitted freely into Australia, the Chinese would starve out the Englishman, in accordance with the law of currency—that of two currencies in a country the baser will always supplant the better. "In Victoria," says Professor Pearson, "a single trade—that of furniture-making—was taken possession of and ruined for white men within the space of something like five years." In the small colony of Victoria there are 9377 Chinese in a population of 1,150,000; in all China, with its population of 350,000,000, there are only 8081 foreigners (Dyer Ball), a large proportion of whom are working for China's salvation.
There is not room for both in Australia. Which is to be our colonist, the Asiatic or the Englishman?
In the morning we had another beautiful walk round the snow-clad mountains to the village of Yangpi, at the back of Tali. There was a long delay here. News of my arrival spread, and the people hurried along to see me. No sooner was I seated at an inn than two messengers from the yamen called for my passport. They were officious young fellows, sadly wanting in respect, and they asked for my passport in a noisy way that I did not like, so I would not understand them. I only smiled at them in the most friendly manner possible. I kept them for some time in a fever of irritation at their inability to make me understand; I listened with imperturbable calmness to their excited phrases till they were nearly dancing. Then I leisurely produced my passport, as if to satisfy a curiosity of my own, and began scanning it. Seeing this, they rudely thrust forth their hands to seize it; but I had my eye on them. "Not so quick, my friends," I said, soothingly. "Be calm; nervous irritability is a fruitful source of trouble. See, here is my passport; here is the official seal, and here the name of your unworthy servant. Now I fold it up carefully and—put it back in my pocket. But here is a copy, which is at your service. If you wish to show the original to the magistrate, I will take it to his honour myself, but out of my hands it does not pass." They looked puzzled, as they did not understand English; they debated a minute or two, and then went away with the copy, which in due time they politely returned to me.
If you wish to travel quickly in China, never be in a hurry. Appear unconscious of all that is passing; never be irritated by any delay, and assume complete indifference, even when you are really anxious to push on. Emulate, too, that leading trait in the Chinese character, and never understand anything which you do not wish to understand. No man on earth can be denser than a Chinaman, when he chooses.
Let me give an instance. It was not so long ago, in a police court in Melbourne, that a Chinaman was summoned for being in possession of a tenement unfit for human habitation. The case was clearly proved, and he was fined L1. But in no way could John be made to understand that a fine had been inflicted. He sat there with unmoved stolidity, and all that the court could extract from him was: "My no savvy, no savvy." After saying this in a voice devoid of all hope, he sank again into silence. Here rose a well-known lawyer. "With your worship's permission, I think I can make the Chinaman understand," he said. He was permitted to try. Striding fiercely up to the poor Celestial, he said to him in a loud voice, "John, you are fined two pounds." "No dam fear! Only one!"
Crossing now the river by a well-constructed suspension bridge, we had a fearful climb of 2000 feet up the mountain. My coolie "Bones" nearly died on the way. Then there was a rough descent by a jagged path down the rocky side of the mountain-river to the village of Taiping-pu. It was long after dark when we arrived; and an hour later stalked in the gaunt form of poor "Bones," who, instead of eating a good meal, coiled up on the kang and smoked an opium-pipe that he borrowed from the chairen. All the next day, and, indeed, for every day till we reached Tengyueh, our journey was one of the most arduous I have ever known. The road has to surmount in succession parallel ridges of mountains. The road is never even, for it cannot remain where travelling is easiest, but must continually dip from the crest of the ranges to the depths of the valleys.
Shortly before reaching Huanglien-pu my pony cast a shoe, and it was some time before we were able to have it seen to; but I had brought half a dozen spare shoes with me, and by-and-by a muleteer came along who fixed one on as neatly as any farrier could have done, and gladly accepted a reward of one halfpenny. He kept the foot steady while shoeing it by lashing the fetlock to the pony's tail.
Caravans of cotton coming from Burma were meeting us all day. Miles away the booming of their gongs sounded in the silent hills; a long time afterwards their bells were heard jingling, and by-and-by the mules and horses appeared under their huge bales of cotton, the foremost decorated with scarlet tufts and plumes of pheasant tails, the last carrying the saddle and bedding of the headman, as well as the burly headman himself, perched above all. A man with a gong always headed the way; there was a driver to every five animals. In the sandy bed of the river at one place a caravan was resting. Their packs were piled in parallel rows; their horses browsed on the hillside. I counted 107 horses in this one caravan.
The prevailing pathological feature of the Chinese of Western Yunnan is the deformity goitre. It may safely be asserted that it is as common in many districts as are the marks of small-pox. Goitre occurs widely in Annam, Siam, Upper Burma, the Shan States, and in Western China as far as the frontier of Thibet. It is distinctly associated with cretinism and its interrupted intellectual development. And the disease must increase, for there is no attempt to check it. To be a "thickneck" is no bar to marriage on either side. The goitrous intermarry, and have children who are goitrous, or, rather, who will, if exposed to the same conditions as their parents, inevitably develop goitre. Frequently the disease is intensified in the offspring into cretinism, and I can conceive of no sight more disgusting than that which so often met our view, of a goitrous mother suckling her imbecile child. On one afternoon, among those who passed us on the road, I counted eighty persons with the deformity. On another day nine adults were climbing a path, by which we had just descended, every one of whom had goitre. In one small village, out of eighteen full-grown men and women whom I met in the street down which I rode, fifteen were affected. My diary in the West, especially from Yunnan City to Yungchang, after which point the cases greatly diminished in number, became a monotonous record of cases. At the mission in Tali three women are employed, and of these two are goitrous; the third, a Minchia woman, is free from the disease, and I have been told that among the indigenes the disease is much less common than among the Chinese. On all sides one encounters the horrible deformity, among all classes, of all ages. The disease early manifests itself, and I have often seen well-marked enlargement in children as young as eight. Turn any street corner in any town of importance in Western Yunnan and you will meet half a dozen cases; there must be few families in the western portion of the province free from the taint.
On a day, for example, like this (May 5th), when the road was more than usually mountainous, though that may have been an accident, my chairen was a "thickneck" and my two soldiers were "thicknecks." At the village of Huanglien-pu, where I had lunch, the landlady of the inn had a goitrous neck that was swelled out half-way to the shoulder, and her son was a slobbering-mouthed cretin with the intelligence of an animal. And among the people who gathered round me in a dull, apathetic way every other one was more or less marked with the disease and its attendant mental phenomena. Again, at the inn in a little mountain village, where we stopped for the night, mother, father, and every person in the house, to the number of nine, above the age of childhood was either goitrous or cretinous, dull of intelligence, mentally verging upon dementia in three cases, in two of which physical growth had been arrested at childhood.
Rarely during my journey to Burma was I offended by hearing myself called "Yang kweitze" (foreign devil), although this is the universal appellation of the foreigner wherever Mandarin is spoken in China. To-day, however, (May 6th), I was seated at the inn in the town of Chutung when I heard the offensive term. I was seated at a table in the midst of the accustomed crowd of Chinese. I was on the highest seat, of course, because I was the most important person present, when a bystander, seeing that I spoke no Chinese, coolly said the words "Yang kweitze" (foreign devil). I rose in my wrath, and seized my whip. "You Chinese devil" (Chung kweitze), I said in Chinese, and then I assailed him in English. He seemed surprised at my warmth, but said nothing, and, turning on his heel, walked uncomfortably away.
I often regretted afterwards that I did not teach the man a lesson, and cut him across the face with my whip; yet, had I done so, it would have been unjust. He called me, as I thought, "Yang kweitze," but I have no doubt, having told the story to Mr. Warry, the Chinese adviser to the Government of Burma, that he did not use these words at all, but others so closely resembling them that they sounded identically the same to my untrained ear, and yet signified not "foreign devil," but "honoured guest." He had paid me a compliment; he had not insulted me. The Yunnanese, Mr. Warry tells me, do not readily speak of the devil for fear he should appear.
On my journey I made it a rule, acting advisedly, to refuse to occupy any other than the best room in the inn, and, if there was only one room, I required that the best bed in the room, as regards elevation, should be given to me. So, too, at every inn I insisted that the best table should be given me, and, if there were already Chinese seated at it, I gravely bowed to them, and by a wave of my hand signified that it was my pleasure that they should make way for the distinguished stranger. When there was only the one table, I occupied, as by right, its highest seat, refusing to sit in any other. I required, indeed, by politeness and firmness, that the Chinese take me at my own valuation. And they invariably did so. They always gave way to me. They recognised that I must be a traveller of importance, despite the smallness of my retinue and the homeliness of my attire; and they acknowledged my superiority. Had I been content with a humbler place, it would quickly have been reported along the road, and, little by little, my complacence would have been tested. I am perfectly sure that, by never verging from my position of superiority, I gained the respect of the Chinese, and it is largely to this I attribute the universal respect and attention shown me during the journey. For I was unarmed, entirely dependent upon the Chinese, and, for all practical purposes, inarticulate. As it was, I never had any difficulty whatever.
Chinese etiquette pays great attention to the question of position; so important, indeed, is it that, when a carriage was taken by Lord Macartney's Embassy to Peking as a present, or, as the Chinese said, as tribute to the Emperor Kienlung, great offence was caused by the arrangement of the seats requiring the driver to sit on a higher level than His Majesty. A small enough mistake surely, but sufficient to mar the success of an expedition which the Chinese have always regarded as "one of the most splendid testimonials of respect that a tributary nation ever paid their Court."
On the morning of May 7th, as we were leaving the village where we had slept the night before, we were witnesses of a domestic quarrel which might well have become a tragedy. On the green outside their cabin a husband with goitre, enraged against his goitrous wife, was kept from killing her by two elderly goitrous women. All were speaking with horrible goitrous voices as if they had cleft palates, and the husband was hoarse with fury. Jealousy could not have been the cause of the quarrel, for his wife was one of the most hideous creatures I have seen in China. Throwing aside the bamboo with which he was threatening her, the husband ran into the house, and was out again in a moment brandishing a long native sword with which he menaced speedy death to the joy of his existence. I stood in the road and watched the disturbance, and with me the soldier-guard, who did not venture to interfere. But the two women seized the angry brute and held him till his wife toddled round the corner. Now, if this were a determined woman, she could best revenge herself for the cruelty that had been done her by going straightway and poisoning herself with opium, for then would her spirit be liberated, ever after to haunt her husband, even if he escaped punishment for being the cause of her death. If in the dispute he had killed her, he would be punished with "strangulation after the usual period," the sentence laid down by the law and often recorded in the Peking Gazette (e.g., May 15th, 1892), unless he could prove her guilty of infidelity, or want of filial respect for his parents, in which case his action would be praiseworthy rather than culpable. If, however, in the dispute the wife had killed her husband, or by her conduct had driven him to suicide, she would be inexorably tied to the cross and put to death by the "Ling chi," or "degrading and slow process." For a wife to kill her husband has always been regarded as a more serious crime than for a husband to kill his wife; even in our own highly favoured country, till within a few years of the present century, the punishment for the man was death by hanging, but in the case of the woman death by burning alive.
Let me at this point interpolate a word or two about the method of execution known as the Ling chi. The words are commonly, and quite wrongly, translated as "death by slicing into 10,000 pieces"—a truly awful description of a punishment whose cruelty has been extraordinarily misrepresented. It is true that no punishment is more dreaded by the Chinese than the Ling chi; but it is dreaded, not because of any torture associated with its performance, but because of the dismemberment practised upon the body which was received whole from its parents. The mutilation is ghastly and excites our horror as an example of barbarian cruelty: but it is not cruel, and need not excite our horror, since the mutilation is done, not before death, but after. The method is simply the following, which I give as I received it first-hand from an eye-witness:—The prisoner is tied to a rude cross: he is invariably deeply under the influence of opium. The executioner, standing before him, with a sharp sword makes two quick incisions above the eyebrows, and draws down the portion of skin over each eye, then he makes two more quick incisions across the breast, and in the next moment he pierces the heart, and death is instantaneous. Then he cuts the body in pieces; and the degradation consists in the fragmentary shape in which the prisoner has to appear in heaven. As a missionary said to me: "He can't lie out that he got there properly when he carries with him such damning evidence to the contrary."
In China immense power is given to the husband over the body of his wife, and it seems as if the tendency in England were to approximate to the Chinese custom. Is it not a fact that, if a husband in England brutally maltreats his wife, kicks her senseless, and disfigures her for life, the average English bench of unpaid magistrates will find extenuating circumstances in the fact of his being the husband, and will rarely sentence him to more than a month or two's hard labour?
THE MEKONG AND SALWEEN RIVERS—HOW TO TRAVEL IN CHINA.
To-day, May 7th, we crossed the River Mekong, even at this distance from Siam a broad and swift stream. The river flows into the light from a dark and gloomy gorge, takes a sharp bend, and rolls on between the mountains. Where it issues from the gorge a suspension bridge has been stretched across the stream. A wonderful pathway zigzags down the face of the mountain to the river, in an almost vertical incline of 2000ft. At the riverside an embankment of dressed stone, built up from the rock, leads for some hundreds of feet along the bank, where there would otherwise have been no foothold, to the clearing by the bridge. The likin-barrier is here, and a teahouse or two, and the guardian temple. The bridge itself is graceful and strong, swinging easily 30ft. above the current; it is built of powerful chains, carried from bank to bank and held by masses of solid masonry set in the bed-rock. It is 60 yards long and 10ft. wide, is floored with wood, and has a picket parapet supported by lateral chains. From the river a path led us up to a small village, where my men rested to gather strength. For facing us were the mountain heights, which had to be escaladed before we could leave the river gulch. Then with immense toil we climbed up the mountain path by a rocky staircase of thousands of steps, till, worn out, and with "Bones" nearly dead, we at length reached the narrow defile near the summit, whence an easy road brought us in the early evening to Shuichai (6700ft.).
In the course of one afternoon we had descended 2000ft. to the river (4250ft. above the sea), and had then climbed 2450ft. to Shuichai. And the ascent from the river was steeper than the descent into it; yet the railway which is to be built over this trade-route between Burma and Yunnan will have other engineering difficulties to contend with even greater than this.
My soldier to-day was a boy of fifteen or sixteen. He was armed with a revolver, and bore himself valiantly. But his revolver was more dangerous in appearance than in effect, for the cylinder would not revolve, the hammer was broken short off, and there were no cartridges. Everywhere the weapon was examined with curiosity blended with awe, and I imagine that the Chinese were told strange tales of its deadliness.
Next morning we continued by easy gradients to Talichao (7700ft.), rising 1000ft. in rather less than seven miles. It was bitterly cold in the mists of the early morning. But twenty miles further the road dipped again to the sunshine and warmth of the valley of Yungchang, where, in the city made famous by Marco Polo, we found comfortable quarters in an excellent inn.
Yungchang is a large town, strongly walled. It is, however, only a remnant of the old city, acres of houses having been destroyed during the insurrection, when for three years, it is said, Imperialists and Mohammedans were contending for its possession. There is a telegraph station in the town. The streets are broad and well-paved, the inns large, and the temples flourishing. One fortunate circumstance the traveller will notice in Yungchang—there is a marked diminution in the number of cases of goitre. And the diminution is not confined to the town, but is apparent from this point right on to Burma.
Long after our arrival in Yungchang my opium-eating coolie "Bones" had not come, and we had to wait for him in anger and annoyance. He had my hamper of eatables and my bundle of bedding. Tired of waiting for him, I went for a walk to the telegraph office and was turning to come back, when I met the faithful skeleton, a mile from the inn, walking along as if to a funeral, his neck elongating from side to side like a camel's, a lean and hungry look in his staring eyes, his bones crackling inside his skin. Continuing in the direction that he was going when I found him, he might have reached Thibet in time, but never Burma. I led him back to the hotel, where he ruefully showed me his empty string of cash, as if that had been the cause of his delay; he had only 6 cash left, and he wanted an advance.
This was the worst coolie I had in my employ during my journey. But he was a good-natured fellow and honest. He was better educated, too, than most of the other coolies, and could both read and write. His dress on march was characteristic of the man. He was nearly naked; his clothes hardly hung together; he wore no sandals on his feet; but round his neck he carried a small earthenware phial of opium ash. In the early stages he delayed us all an hour or two every day, but he improved as we went further. And then he was so long and thin, so grotesque in his gait, and afforded me such frequent amusement, that I would not willingly have exchanged him for the most active coolie in China.
On the 9th we had a long and steep march west from the plain of Yungchang. At Pupiao I had a public lunch. It was market day, and the country people enjoyed the rare pleasure of seeing a foreigner feed. The street past the inn was packed in a few minutes, and the innkeeper had all he could do to attend to the many customers who wished to take tea at the same time as the foreigner. I was now used to these demonstrations. I could eat on with undisturbed equanimity. On such occasions I made it a practice, when I had finished and was leaving the inn, to turn round and bow gravely to the crowd, thanking them in a few kindly words of English, for the reception they had accorded me. At the same time I took the opportunity of mentioning that they would contribute to the comfort of future travellers, if only they would pay a little more attention to their table manners. Then, addressing the innkeeper, I thought it only right to point out to him that it was absurd to expect that one small black cloth should wipe all cups and cup-lids, all tables, all spilt tea, and all dishes, all through the day, without getting dirty. Occasionally, too, I pointed out another defect of management to the innkeeper, and told him that, while I personally had an open mind on the subject, other travellers might come his way who would disapprove, for instance—he would pardon my mentioning it—of the manure coolie passing through the restaurant with his buckets at mealtime, and halting by the table to see the stranger eat.
When I spoke in this way quite seriously and bowed, those whose eyes met mine always bowed gravely in return. And for the next hour on the track my men would tell each other, with cackles of laughter, how Mo Shensen, their master, mystified the natives.
From Pupiao we had a pleasant ride over a valley-plain, between hedges of cactus in flower and bushes of red roses, past graceful clumps of bamboo waving like ostrich feathers. By-and-by drizzling rain came on and compelled us to seek shelter in the only inn in a poor out-of-the-way hamlet. But I could not stop here, because the best room in the inn was already occupied by a military officer of some distinction, a colonel, on his way, like ourselves, to Tengyueh. An official chair with arched poles fitted for four bearers was in the common-room; the mules of his attendants were in the stables, and were valuable animals. The landlord offered me another room, an inferior one; but I waved the open fingers of my left hand before my face and said, "puyao! puyao!" (I don't want it, I don't want it). For I was not so foolish or inconsistent as to be content with a poorer quarter of the inn than that occupied by the officer, whatever his button. I could not acknowledge to the Chinese that any Chinaman travelling in the Middle Kingdom was my equal, let alone my superior. Refusing to remain, I waited in the front room until the rain should lift and allow us to proceed. But we did not require to go on. It happened as I expected. The Colonel sent for me, and, bowing to me, showed by signs that one half his room was at my service. In return for his politeness he had the privilege of seeing me eat. With both hands I offered him in turn every one of my dishes. Afterwards I showed him my photographs—I treated him, indeed, with proper condescension.
On the 10th we crossed the famous River Salween (2600 ft.). Through an open tableland, well grassed and sparsely wooded, we came at length to the cleft in the hills from which is obtained the first view of the river valley. There was a small village here, and, while we were taking tea, a soldier came hurriedly down the road, who handed me a letter addressed in Chinese. I confess that at the moment I had a sudden misgiving that some impediment was to be put in the way of my journey. But it was nothing more than a telegram from Mr. Jensen in Yunnan, telling me of the decision of the Chinese Government to continue the telegraph to the frontier of Burma. The telegram was written by the Chinese operator in Yungchang in a neat round hand, without any error of spelling; it had come to Yungchang after my departure, and had been courteously forwarded by the Chinese manager. The soldier who brought it had made a hurried march of thirty-eight miles before overtaking me, and deserved a reward. I motioned Laotseng, my cash-bearer, to give him a present, and he meanly counted out 25 cash, and was about to give them, when I ostentatiously increased the amount to 100 cash. The soldier was delighted; the onlookers were charmed with this exhibition of Western munificence. Suppose a rich Chinese traveller in England, who spoke no English, were to offer Tommy Atkins twopence halfpenny for travelling on foot thirty-eight miles to bring him a telegram, having then to walk back thirty-eight miles and find himself on the way, would the English soldier bow as gratefully as did his perishing Chinese brother when I thus rewarded him?
We descended by beautiful open country into the Valley of the Shadow of Death—the valley of the River Salween. No other part of Western China has the evil repute of this valley; its unhealthiness is a by-word. "It is impossible to pass," says Marco Polo; "the air in summer is so impure and bad and any foreigner attempting it would die for certain."
The Salween was formerly the boundary between Burma and China, and it is to be regretted that at the annexation of Upper Burma England did not push her frontier back to its former position. But the delimitation of the frontier of Burma is not yet complete. No time could be more opportune for its completion than the present, when China is distracted by her difficulties with Japan. China disheartened could need but little persuasion to accede to the just demand of England that the frontier of Burma shall be the true south-western frontier of China—the Salween River.
There are no Chinese in the valley, nor would any Chinaman venture to cross it after nightfall. The reason of its unhealthiness is not apparent, except in the explanation of Baber, that "border regions, 'debatable grounds,' are notoriously the birthplace of myths and marvels." There can be little doubt that the deadliness of the valley is a tradition rather than a reality.
By flights of stone steps we descended to the river, where at the bridge-landing, we were arrested by a sight that could not be seen without emotion. A prisoner, chained by the hands and feet and cooped in a wooden cage, was being carried by four bearers to Yungchang to execution. He was not more than twenty-one years of age, was well-dressed, and evidently of a rank in life from which are recruited few of the criminals of China. Yet his crime could not have been much graver. On the corner posts of his cage white strips of paper were posted, giving his name and the particulars of the crime which he was so soon to expiate. He was a burglar who had escaped from prison by killing his guard, and had been recaptured. Unlike other criminals I have seen in China, who laugh at the stranger and appear unaffected by their lot, this young fellow seemed to feel keenly the cruel but well-deserved fate that was in store for him. Three days hence he would be put to death by strangulation outside the wall of Yungchang.
Another of those remarkable works which declare the engineering skill of the Chinese, is the suspension bridge which spans the Salween by a double loop—the larger loop over the river, the smaller one across the overflow. A natural piece of rock strengthened by masonry, rising from the river bed, holds the central ends of both loops. The longer span is 80 yards in length, the shorter 55; both are 12ft. wide, and are formed of twelve parallel chain cables, drawn to an appropriate curve. A rapid river flows under the bridge, the rush of whose waters can be heard high up the mountain slopes.
None but Shans live in the valley. They are permitted to govern themselves under Chinese supervision, and preserve their own laws and customs. They have a village near the bridge, of grass-thatched huts and open booths, where travellers can find rest and refreshment, and where native women prettily arrayed in dark-blue, will brew you tea in earthenware teapots. Very different are the Shan women from the Chinese. Their colour is much darker; their head-dress is a circular pile formed of concentric folds of dark-blue cloth; their dress closely resembles with its jacket and kilt the bathing dress of civilisation; their arms are bare, they have gaiters on their legs, and do not compress their feet. All wear brooches and earrings, and other ornaments of silver filigree.
From the valley the main road rises without intermission 6130 feet to the village of Fengshui-ling (8730 feet), a climb which has to be completed in the course of the afternoon. We were once more among the trees. Pushing on till I was afraid we should be benighted, we reached long after dark an encampment of bamboo and grass, in the lonely bush, where the kind people made us welcome. It was bitterly cold during the night, for the hut I slept in was open to the air. My three men and the escort must have been even colder than I was. But at least we all slept in perfect security, and I cannot praise too highly the constant care of the Chinese authorities to shield even from the apprehension of harm one whose only protection was his British passport.
All the way westward from Yunnan City I was shadowed both by a yamen-runner and a soldier; both were changed nearly every day, and the further west I went the more frequently were they armed. The yamen-runner usually carried a long native sword only, but the soldier, in addition to his sword, was on one occasion, as we have seen, armed with the relics of a revolver that would not revolve. On May 10th, for the first time, the soldier detailed to accompany me was provided with a rusty old musket with a very long barrel. I examined this weapon with much curiosity. China is our neighbour in Eastern Asia, and is, it is often stated, an ideal power to be intrusted with the government of the buffer state called for by French aggression in Siam. In China, it is alleged, we have a prospective ally in Asia, and it is preferable that England should suffer all reasonable indignities and humilities at her hands rather than endanger any possible relations, which may subsequently be entered into, with a hypothetically powerful neighbour.
On my arrival in Burma I was often amused by the serious questions I was asked concerning the military equipment of the Chinese soldiers of Western Yunnan. The soldier who was with me to-day was a type of the warlike sons of China, not only in the province bordering on Burma, but, with slight differences, all over the Middle Kingdom. Now, physically, this man was fit to be drafted into any army in the world, but, apart from his endurance, his value as a fighting machine lay in the weapon with which the military authorities had armed him. This weapon was peculiar; I noted down its peculiarities on the spot. In this weapon the spring of the trigger was broken so that it could not be pulled; if it had been in order, there was no cap for the hammer to strike; if there had been a cap, it would have been of no use because the pinhole was rusted; even if the pinhole had been open, the rifle would still have been ineffective because it was not loaded, for the very good reason that the soldier had not been provided with powder, or, if he had, he had been compelled to sell it in order to purchase the rice which the Emperor, "whose rice he ate," had neglected to send him.
An early start in the morning and we descended quickly to the River Shweli.
The Salween River is at an elevation of 2600 feet. Forty-five li further the road reaches at Fengshui-ling a height of 8730, from which point, in thirty-five li, it dips again to the River Shweli, 4400 feet above sea level. There was the usual suspension bridge at the river, and the inevitable likin-barrier. For the first time the Customs officials seemed inclined to delay me. I was on foot, and separated from my men by half the height of the hill. The collectors, and the underlings who are always hanging about the barriers, gathered round me and interrogated me closely. They spoke to me in Chinese, and with insufficient deference. The Chinese seem imbued with the mistaken belief that their language is the vehicle of intercourse not only within the four seas, but beyond them, and are often arrogant in consequence. I answered them in English. "I don't understand one word you say, but, if you wish to know," I said, energetically, "I come from Shanghai." "Shanghai," they exclaimed, "he comes from Shanghai!" "And I am bound for Singai" (Bhamo);—"Singai," they repeated, "he is going to Singai!"—"unless the Imperial Government, suspicious of my intentions, which the meanest intelligence can see are pacific, should prevent me, in which case England will find a coveted pretext to add Yunnan to her Burmese Empire." Then, addressing myself to the noisiest, I indulged in some sarcastic speculations upon his probable family history, deduced from his personal peculiarities, till he looked very uncomfortable indeed. Thereupon I gravely bowed to them, and, leaving them in dumb astonishment, walked on over the bridge. They probably thought I was rating them in Manchu, the language of the Emperor. Two boys staggering under loads of firewood did not escape so easily, but were detained and a log squeezed from each wherewith to light the likin fires.
A steep climb of another 3000 or 4000 feet over hills carpeted with bracken, with here and there grassy swards, pretty with lilies and daisies and wild strawberries, and then a quick descent, and we were in the valley of Tengyueh (5600ft.). A plain everywhere irrigated, flanked by treeless hills; fields shut in by low embankments; villages in plantations round its margin; black-faced sheep in flocks on the hillsides; and, away to the right the crenellated walls of Tengyueh. A stone-flagged path down the centre of the plain led us into the town. We entered by the south gate, and, turning to the left, were conducted into the telegraph compound, where I was to find accommodation, the clerk in charge of the operators being able to speak a few words of English. I was an immediate object of curiosity.
THE CITY OF TENGYUEH—THE CELEBRATED WUNTHO SAWBWA—SHAN SOLDIERS.
I was given a comfortable room in the telegraph offices, but I had little privacy. My room was thronged during all the time of my visit. The first evening I held an informal and involuntary reception, which was attended by all the officials of the town, with the dignified exception of the Brigadier-General. The three members of the Chinese Boundary Commission, which had recently arranged with the British Commission the preliminaries to the delimitation of the boundary between Burma and China, were here, disputing with clerks, yamen-runners, and chair-coolies for a sight of my photographs and curiosities. The telegraph Manager Pen, Yeh (the magistrate), and a stalwart soldier (Colonel Liu), formed the Commission, and they retain hallowed recollections of the benignity of the Englishmen, and the excellence of their champagne. Colonel Liu proved to be the most enlightened member of the party. He is a tall, handsome fellow, fifty years of age, a native of Hunan, the most warlike and anti-foreign province in China. He was especially glad to see a foreign doctor. The gallant Colonel confided to me a wish that had long been uppermost in his heart. From some member, unknown, of the British Commission he had learnt of the marvellous rejuvenating power of a barbarian medicine—could I get him some? Could I get him a bottle of hair-dye? Unlike his compatriots, who regard the external features of longevity as the most coveted attribute of life, this gentleman, in whose brain the light of civilisation was dawning, wished to frustrate the doings of age. Could I get him a bottle of hair-dye? He was in charge of the fort at Ganai, two days out on the way to Bhamo, and would write to the officer in charge during his absence directing him to provide me with an escort worthy of my benefaction.
One celebrity, who lives in the neighbourhood of Tengyueh, did not favour me with a visit. That famous dacoit, the outlawed Prince of Wuntho—the Wuntho Sawbwa—lives here, an exile sheltered by the Chinese Government. A pure Burmese himself, the father-in-law of the amiable Sawbwa of Santa, he is believed by the Government of Burma to have been "concerned in all the Kachin risings of 1892-1893." A reward of 5000 rupees is offered for his head, which will be paid equally whether the head be on or off the shoulders. Another famous outlaw, the Shan Chief Kanhliang, is also believed to be in hiding in the neighbourhood of Tengyueh. The value of his head has been assessed at 2000 rupees.
Tengyueh is more a park than a town. The greater part of the city within the walls is waste land or gardens. The houses are collected mainly near the south gate, and extend beyond the south gate on each side of the road for half a mile on the road to Bhamo. There is an excellent wall in admirable order, with an embankment of earth 20ft. in width. But I saw no guns of any kind whatever, nor did I meet a single armed man in the town or district.
Tengyueh is so situated that the invading army coming from Burma will find a pleasant pastime in shelling it from the open hills all around the town. This was the last stronghold of the Mohammedans. It was formerly a prosperous border town, the chief town in all the fertile valley of the Taiping. It was in the hands of the rebels till June 10th, 1873, when it was delivered over to the Imperialists to carnage and destruction. The valley is fertile and well populated, and prosperity is quickly returning to the district.
There is only one yamen in Tengyueh of any pretension, and it is the official residence of a red-button warrior, the Brigadier-General (Chentai) Chang, the successor, though not, of course, the immediate successor, of Li-Sieh-tai, who was concerned in the murder of Margary and the repulse of the expedition under Colonel Horace Browne in 1875. A tall, handsome Chinaman is Chang, of soldierly bearing and blissful innocence of all knowledge of modern warfare. Yungchang is the limit of his jurisdiction in one direction, the Burmese boundary in the other; his only superior officer is the Titai in Tali.
The telegraph office adjoins the City Temple and Theatre of Tengyueh. At this time the annual festival was being celebrated in the temple. Theatrical performances were being given in uninterrupted succession daily for the term of one month. Play began at sunrise, and the curtain fell, or would have fallen if there had been a curtain, at twilight. Day was rendered hideous by the clangour of the instruments which the blunted senses of Chinese have been misguided into believing are musical. Already the play, or succession of plays, had continued fifteen days, and another thirteen days had yet to be endured before its completion. Crowds occupied the temple court during the performance, while a considerable body of dead-heads witnessed the entertainment from the embankment and wall overlooking the open stage. My host, the telegraph Manager Pen, and his two friends Liu and Yeh, were given an improvised seat of honour outside my window, and here they sat all day and sipped tea and cracked jokes. No actresses were on the stage; the female parts were taken by men whose make-up was admirable, and who imitated, with curious fidelity, the voice and gestures of women. The dresses were rich and varied. Scene-shifters, band, supers, and friends remained on the stage during the performance, dodging about among the actors. There is no drop curtain in a Chinese theatre, and all scenes are changed on the open stage before you. The villain, whose nose is painted white, vanquished by triumphant virtue, dies a gory death; he remains dead just long enough to satisfy you that he is dead, and then gets up and serenely walks to the side. There is laughter at sallies of indecency, and the spectators grunt their applause. The Chinaman is rarely carried away by his feelings at the theatre; indeed, it may be questioned if strong emotion is ever aroused in his breast, except by the first addresses of the junior members of the China Inland Mission, the thrilling effect of whose Chinese exhortations is recorded every month in China's Millions.
The Manager of the telegraph, to show his good feeling, presented me with a stale tin of condensed milk. His second clerk and operator was the most covetous man I met in China. He begged in turn for nearly every article I possessed, beginning with my waterproof, which I did not give him, and ending with the empty milk tin, which I did, for "Give to him that asketh," said Buddha, "even though it be but a little." The chief operator in charge of the telegraph offices speaks a little English, and is the medium by which English messages and letters are translated into Chinese for the information of the officials. His name is Chueh. His method of translation is to glean the sense of a sentence by the probable meaning, derived from an inaccurate Anglo-Chinese dictionary, of the separate words of the sentence. He is a broken reed to trust to as an interpreter. Chueh is not an offensively truthful man. When he speaks to you, you find yourself wondering if you have ever met a greater liar than he. "Three men's strength," he says, "cannot prevail against truth;" yet he is, I think, the greatest liar I have met since I left Morocco. Indeed, the way he spoke of my head boy Laotseng, who was undoubtedly an honest Chinese, and the opinion Laotseng emphatically held of Chueh, was a curious repetition of an experience that I had not long ago in Morocco. I was living in Tangier, when I had occasion to go to Fez and Mequinez. My visit was arranged so hurriedly that I had no means of learning what was the degree of personal esteem attaching to the gentleman, a resident of Tangier, who was to be my companion. I accordingly interrogated the hotel-keeper, Mr. B. "What kind of a man is D.?" I asked. "Not a bad fellow," he replied, "if he wasn't such a blank, blank awful liar!" On the road to Wazan I became very friendly with D., and one day questioned him as to his private regard for Mr. B. of the hotel. "A fine fellow B. seems," I said, "very friendly and entertaining. What do you think of him?" "What do I think of him?" he shouted in his falsetto. "I know he's the biggest blank liar in Morocco." It was pleasant to meet, even in Morocco, such a rare case of mutual esteem.
My pony fared badly in Tengyueh. There was a poor stable in the courtyard with a tiled roof that would fall at the first shower. There were no beans. The pony had to be content with rice or paddy, which it disliked equally. The rice was 1-1/2d. the 7-1/2lbs. There was no grass, Chueh said, to be obtained in the district. He assured me so on his honour, or its Chinese equivalent; but I sent out and bought some in the street round the corner.
Silver in Tengyueh is the purest Szechuen or Yunnanese silver. Rupees are also current, and at this time were equivalent to 400 cash—the tael at the same time being worth 1260 cash. Every 10 taels, costing me 30s. in Shanghai, I could exchange in Tengyueh for 31 rupees. Rupees are the chief silver currency west from Tengyueh into Burma.
On May 31st I had given instructions that we were to leave early, but my men, who did not sleep in the telegraph compound, were late in coming. To still further delay me, at the time of leaving no escort had made its appearance. I did not wait for it. We marched out of the town unaccompanied, and were among the tombstones on the rise overlooking the town when the escort hurriedly overtook us. It consisted of a quiet-mannered chairen and two soldiers, one of whom was an impudent cub that I had to treat with every indignity. He was armed with a sword carried in the folds of his red cincture, in which was also concealed an old muzzle-loading pistol, formidable to look at but unloaded. This was one of the days on my journey when I wished that I had brought a revolver, not as a defence in case of danger, for there was no danger, but as a menace on occasion of anger.
Rain fell continuously. At a small village thronged with muleteers from Bhamo we took shelter for an hour. The men sipping tea under the verandahs had seen Europeans in Bhamo, and my presence evoked no interest whatever. Many of these strangers possessed an astonishing likeness to European friends of my own. Contact with Europeans, causing the phenomena of "maternal impression," was probably in a few cases accountable for the moulding of their features, but the general prevalence of the European type has yet to be explained. "My conscience! Who could ever have expected to meet you here?" I was often on the point of saying to some Chinese Shan or Burmese Shan in whom, to my confusion, I thought I recognised a college friend of my own.
Leaving the village, we followed the windings of the River Taiping, coasting along the edge of the high land on the left bank of the river.
Rain poured incessantly; the creeks overflowed; the paths became watercourses and were scarcely fordable. "Bones," my opium-eating coolie with the long neck, slipped into a hole which was too deep even for his long shanks, and all my bedding was wetted. It was ninety li to Nantien, the fort we were bound to beyond Tengyueh, and we finished the distance by sundown. The town is of little importance. It is situated on an eminence and is surrounded by a wall built, with that strange spirit of contrariness characteristic of the Chinese, and because it incloses a fort, more weakly than any city wall. It is not more substantial nor higher than the wall round many a mission compound. Some 400 soldiers are stationed in the fort, which means that the commander draws the pay for 1000 soldiers, and represents the strength of his garrison as 1000. Their arms are primitive and rusty muzzle-loaders of many patterns; there are no guns to be seen, if there are any in existence—which is doubtful. The few rusty cast-iron ten-pounders that lie hors de combat in the mud have long since become useless. There may be ammunition in the fort; but there is none to be seen. It is more probable, and more in accordance with Chinese practice in such matters, that the ammunition left by his predecessor (if any were left, which is doubtful) has long ago been sold by the colonel in command, whose perquisite this would naturally be.
The fort of Nantien is a fort in name only—it has no need to be otherwise, for peace and quiet are abroad in the valley. Besides, the mere fact of its being called a fort is sufficiently misleading to the neighbouring British province of Burma, where they are apt to picture a Chinese fort as a structure seriously built in some accordance with modern methods of fortification.
I was given a comfortable room in a large inn already well filled with travellers. All treated me with pleasant courtesy. They were at supper when I entered the room, and they invited me to share their food. They gave me the best table to myself, and after supper they crowded into another room in order to let me have the room to myself.
Next day we continued along the sandy bed of the river, which was here more than a mile in width. The river itself, shrunk now into its smallest size, flowed in a double stream down the middle. Then we left the river, and rode along the high bank flanking the valley. All paved roads had ended at Tengyueh, and the track was deeply cut and jagged by the rains. At one point in to-day's journey the road led up an almost vertical ascent to a narrow ledge or spur at the summit, and then fell as steeply into the plain again. It was a short-cut, that, as you would expect in China, required five times more physical effort to compass than did the longer but level road which it was intended to save. So narrow is the ridge that the double row of open sheds leaves barely room for pack mules to pass. The whole traffic on the caravan route to Burma passes by this spot. The long bamboo sheds with their grass roofs are divided into stalls, where Shan women in their fantastic turbans, with silver bracelets and earrings, their lips and teeth stained with betel-juice, sit behind the counters of raised earth, and eagerly compete for the custom of travellers. More than half the women had goitre. Before them were laid out the various dishes. There were pale cuts of pork, well soaked in water to double their weight, eggs and cabbage and salted fish, bean curds, and a doubtful tea flavoured with camomile and wild herbs. There were hampers of coarse grass for the horses, and wooden bowls of cooked rice for the men, while hollow bamboos were used equally to bring water from below, to hold sheaves of chopsticks where the traveller helped himself, and to receive the cash. Trade was busy. Muleteers are glad to rest here after the climb, if only to enjoy a puff of tobacco from the bamboo-pipe which is always carried by one member of the party for the common use of all.
Descending again into the river valley, I rode lazily along in the sun, taking no heed of my men, who were soon separated from me. The broad river-bed of sand was before me as level as the waters of a lake. As I was riding slowly along by myself, away from all guard, I saw approaching me in the lonely plain a small body of men. They were moving quickly along in single file, and we soon met and passed each other. They were three Chinese Shan officers on horseback, dressed in Chinese fashion, and immediately behind them were six soldiers on foot, who I saw were Burmese or Burmese Shans. They were smart men, clad in loose jerseys and knickerbockers, with sun-hats and bare legs, and they marched like soldiers. Cartridge-belts were over their left shoulders, and Martini-Henry rifles, carried muzzle foremost, on their right. I took particular note of them because they were stepping in admirable order, and, though small of stature, I thought they were the first armed men I had met in all my journey across China who could without shame be presented as soldiers in any civilised country.
They passed me, but seemed struck by my appearance; and I had not gone a dozen yards before they all stopped by a common impulse, and when I looked back they were still there in a group talking, with the officers' horses turned towards me; and it was very evident I was the subject of their conversation. I was alone at the time, far from all my men, without weapon of any kind. I was dressed in full Chinese dress and mounted on an unmistakably Chinese pony. I rode unconcernedly on, but I must confess that I did not feel comfortable till I was assured that they did not intend to obtrude an interview upon me. At length, to my relief, the party continued on its way, while I hurried on to my coolies, and made them wait till my party was complete. I was probably alarmed without any reason. But it was not till I arrived in Burma that I learnt that this was the armed escort of the outlawed Wuntho Sawbwa, the dacoit chief who has a price set on his head. The soldiers' rifles and cartridge-belts had been stripped from the dead bodies of British sepoys, killed on the frontier in the Kachin Hills.
My men, when we were all together again, indicated to me by signs that I would shortly meet an elephant, and I thought that at last I was about to witness the realisation of that story, everywhere current in Western China, of the British tribute from Burma. Sure enough we had not gone far when, at the foot of a headland which projected into the plain, we came full upon a large elephant picking its way along the margin of the rocks—a remarkable sight to my Chinese. Its scarlet howdah was empty; its trappings were scarlet; the mahout was a Shan. It was the elephant of the Wuntho Prince—a little earlier and I might have had the privilege of meeting the dacoit himself. The elephant passed unconcernedly on, and we continued down the plain of sand to the village of Ganai, where we were to stay the night.
It was market-day in the town. A double row of stalls extended down the main street, each stall under the shelter of a huge umbrella. Japanese matches from Osaka were for sale here, and foreign nick-nacks, needles and braid and cotton, and Manchester dress stuffs mixed with the multitudinous articles of native produce. This is a Shan town, but large numbers of native women—Kachins—were here also with their ugly black faces, and coarse black fringes hiding their low foreheads. Far away from the town an obliging Shan had attached himself to us as guide. He was dressed in white cotton jacket and dark-blue knickerbockers, with a dark-blue sash round his waist. He was barelegged, and rode as the Chinese do, and as you would expect them to do who do everything al reves, with the heel in the stirrup instead of the toe. His turban was dark-blue, and the pigtail was coiled up under it, and did not hang down from under the skull cap as with the Chinese. When I rode into the town accompanied by the guide, all the people forsook the market street and followed the illustrious stranger to the inn which had been selected for his resting-place. It was a favourite inn, and was already crowded. The best room was in possession of Chinese travellers, who were on the road like myself. They were dozing on the couches, but what must they do when I entered the room but, thinking that I should wish to occupy it by myself, rise and pack up their things, and one after another move into another apartment adjoining, which was already well filled, and now became doubly so. Their thoughtfulness and courtesy charmed me. They must have been more tired than I was, but they smiled and nodded pleasantly to me as they left the room, as if they were grateful to me for putting them to inconvenience. They may be perishing heathen, I thought, but the average deacon or elder in our enlightened country could scarcely be more courteous.
Ganai is a mud village thatched with grass. It is a military station under the command of the red-button Colonel Liu, whom I met in Tengyueh. The Colonel had earned his bottle of hair-dye. He had written to have me provided with an escort, and by-and-by the two officers who were to accompany me on the morrow came in to see me. As many spectators as could find elbow-room squeezed into my room behind them. Both were gentlemanly young fellows, very amiable and inquisitive, and keenly desirous to learn all they could concerning my honourable family. Their curiosity was satisfied. By the help of my Chinese phrase-book I gave them all particulars, and a few more. You see it was important that I should leave as favourable an impression as possible for the benefit of future travellers. More than one of my ancestors I brought to life again and endowed with a patriarchal age and a beard to correspond. As to my own age they marvelled greatly that one so young-looking could be so old, and when, in answer to their earnest question, I modestly confessed that I was already the unhappy possessor of two unworthy wives, five wretched sons, and three contemptible daughters, their admiration of my virtue increased tenfold.
The officers left me after this, but till late at night I held levees of the townsfolk, our landlady, who was most zealous, no sooner dismissing one crowd than another pressed into its place. The courtyard, I believe, remained filled till early in the morning, but I was allowed to sleep at last.
A large crowd followed me out of the town in the morning, and swarmed with me across the beautiful sward, as level as the Oval, which here widens into the country. No guest was ever sped on his way with a kindlier farewell. The fort is outside the town; we passed it on our left; it is a square inclosure of considerable size, inclosed by a mud wall 15 feet high; it is in the unsheltered plain, and presents no formidable front to an invader. At each of the four corners outside the square are detached four-sided watch-towers. No guns of any kind are mounted on the walls, and there are no sentries; one could easily imagine that the inclosure was a market-square, but imagination could never picture it as a serious obstacle to an armed entry into Western China. The river was well on our right. The plain down which we rode is of exceeding richness and highly cultivated, water being trained into the paddy-fields in the same way that everywhere prevails in China proper. Buffaloes were ploughing—wearily plodding through mud and water up to their middles. We were now among the Shans, and those working in the fields were Shans, not Chinese. Ganai, Santa, and other places are but little principalities or Shan States, governed by hereditary princelets or Sawbwas, and preserving a form of self-government under the protection of the Chinese. There are no more charming people in the world than the Shans. They are courteous, hospitable, and honest, with all the virtues and few of the vices of Orientals. "The elder brothers of the Siamese, they came originally from the Chinese province of Szechuen, and they can boast of a civilisation dating from twenty-three centuries B.C." So Terrien de Lacouperie tells us, who had a happy faculty of drawing upon his imagination for his facts.
Under the wide branches of a banyan tree I made my men stop, for I was very tired, and while they waited I lay down for an hour on the grass and had a refreshing sleep. While I slept, the rest of the escort sent to "sung" me to Santa arrived. Within a few yards of my resting place there is a characteristic monument, dating from the time when Burma occupied not only this valley but the fertile territory beyond it, and beyond Tengyueh to the River Salween. It is a solid Burmese pagoda, built of concentric layers of brick and mortar, and surmounted with a solid bell-shaped dome that is still intact. It stands alone on the plain near a group of banyans, and its erection no doubt gained many myriads of merits for the conscience-stricken Buddhist who found the money to build it. All goldleaf has been peeled off the pagoda years ago.
It was a picturesque party that now enfiladed into the wide stretch of sand which in the rainy season forms the bed of the river. Mounted on his white pony, there was the inarticulate European who had discarded his Chinese garb and was now dressed in the aesthetic garments of the Australian bush; there were his two coolies and Laotseng his boy, none of whom could speak any English, the two officers in their loose Chinese clothes, mounted on tough little ponies, and eight soldiers. They were Shans of kindly feature, small and nimble fellows, in neat uniforms—green jackets edged with black and braided with yellow, yellow sashes, and loose dark-blue knickerbockers—the uniform of the Sawbwa of Ganai. They were armed with Remington rifles, carried their cartridges in bandoliers, and seemed to be of excellent fighting material. All their accoutrements were in good order.
Now we had to cross the broad stream, here running with a swift current over the sand, in channels of varying depths that are frequently changing. For the width of nearly half a mile at the crossing place the water was never shallower than to my knee, nor deeper than to my waist. We all crossed safely, but, to my tribulation, the soldier who was carrying my two boxes tripped in the deepest channel and let both boxes slip from the carrying pole into the water. All the notes and papers upon which this valuable record is founded were much damaged. But it might have been worse. I had a presentiment that an accident would happen, and had waded back to the channel and was standing by at the time. But for this the papers might have been floated down to the Irrawaddy and been lost to the world—loss irreparable!
The sun was very hot. I laid out my things on the bank and dried them. Long and narrow dugouts, as light and swift as the string-test gigs of civilisation, paddled or poled, were gliding with extraordinary speed down the channel near the bank. Riding then a little way, we dismounted under a magnificent banyan tree, one of the finest specimens, I should think, in the world. Ponies and men were dwarfed into Lilliputians under the amazing canopy of its branches. A number of villagers, come to see the foreigner, were clambering like monkeys over its roots, which "writhed in fantastic coils" over half an acre. Their village was hard by, a poor array of mud houses; the teak temple to which we were conducted was raised on piles in the centre of the village. The temple was lumbered like an old curiosity shop with fragmentary gods and torn missals. Yet the ragged priest in his smirched yellow gown, and shaven head that had been a week unshaven, seemed to enjoy a reputation for no common sanctity, to judge by the reverence shown him by my followers, and the contemptuous indifference with which he regarded their obeisance. He was club-footed and could only hobble about with difficulty—an excuse he would, no doubt, urge for the disorder of his sanctuary. To me, of course, he was very polite, and gave me the best seat he had, while Laotseng prepared me a bowl of cocoa. Then we rode along the right bank of the river, but kept moving away from the stream till in the distance across the plain at the foot of the hills, we saw the Shan town of Santa, the end of our day's stage.
Native women, returning from the town, were wending their way across the plain—lank overgrown girls with long thin legs and overhanging mops of hair like deck-swabs. They were a favourite butt of my men, who chaffed them in the humorous Eastern manner, with remarks that were, I am afraid, more coarse than witty. Kachins are not virtuous. Their customs preclude such a possibility. No Japanese maiden is more innocent of virtue than a Kachin girl.
THE SHAN TOWN OF SANTA, AND MANYUEN, THE SCENE OF CONSUL MARGARY'S MURDER.
It was market day in Santa, and the accustomed crowd gathered round me as I stood in the open square in front of the Sawbwa's yamen. I was hot and hungry, for it was still early in the afternoon, and the attentions of the people were oppressive. Presently two men pushed their way through the spectators, and politely motioning to me to follow them, they led me to a neighbouring temple, to the upper storey, where the side pavilion off the chief hall was being prepared for my reception. My quarters overlooked the main court; the pony was comfortably stabled in the corner below me. Nothing could have been pleasanter than the attention I received here. Two foreign chairs were brought for my use, and half a dozen dishes of good food and clean chopsticks were set before me. The chief priest welcomed me, whose smiling face was good-nature itself. With clean-shaven head and a long robe of grey, with a rosary of black and white beads hung loosely from his neck, the kind old man moved about my room giving orders for my comfort. He held authority over a number of priests, some in black, others in yellow, and over a small band of choristers. Religion was an active performance in the temple, and the temple was in good order, with clean matting and well-kept shrines, with strange pictures on the walls of elephants and horses, with legends and scrolls in Burmese as well as in Chinese.
Towards evening the Santa Sawbwa, the hereditary prince (what a privilege it was to meet a prince! I had never met even a lord before in my life, or anyone approaching the rank of a lord, except a spurious Duke of York whom I sent to the lunatic asylum), the Prince of Santa paid me a State call, accompanied by a well-ordered retinue, very different indeed from the ragged reprobates who follow at the heels of a Chinese grandee when on a visit of ceremony. The Sawbwa occupied one chair, his distinguished guest the other, till the chief priest came in, when, with that deep reverence for the cloth which has always characterised me, I rose and gave him mine. He refused to take it, but I insisted; he pretended to be as reluctant to occupy it as any Frenchman, but I pushed him bodily into it, and that ended the matter.
A pleasant, kindly fellow is the Prince; even among the Shans he is conspicuous for his courtesy and amiability. He was a great favourite with the English Boundary Commission, and in his turn remembers with much pleasure his association with them. Half a dozen times, when conversation flagged, he raised his clasped hands and said "Warry Ching, ching!" and I knew that this was his foolish heathen way of sending greeting to the Chinese adviser of the Government of Burma. The Shan dialect is quite distinct from the Chinese, but all the princes or princelets dress in Chinese fashion and learn Mandarin, and it was of course in Mandarin that the Santa Sawbwa conversed with Mr. Warry. This Sawbwa is the son-in-law of the ex-Wuntho Sawbwa. He rules over a territory smaller than many squatters' stations in Victoria. He is one of the ablest of Shans, and would willingly place his little principality under the protection of England. He is thirty-five years of age, dresses in full Chinese costume, with pigtail and skullcap, is pock-marked, and has incipient goitre. He is polite and refined, chews betel nut "to stimulate his meditative faculties," and expectorates on the floor with easy freedom. I showed him my photographs, and he graciously invited me to give him some. I nodded cheerfully to him in assent, rolled them all up again, and put them back in my box. He knew that I did not understand.
We had tea together, and then he took his leave, "Warry Ching, ching!" being his parting words.
As soon as he had gone the deep drum—a hollow instrument of wood shaped like a fish—was beaten, and the priests gathered to vespers, dressed in many-coloured garments of silk; and, as evening fell, they intoned a sweet and mournful chant.
The service over, all but the choristers entered the room off the gallery in which I was lying, where, looking in, I saw them throw off their gowns and coil themselves on the sleeping benches. Opium-lamps were already lit, and all were soon inhaling opium; all but one who had rheumatism, and who, lying down, stretched himself at full length, while a brother priest punched him all over in that primitive method of massage employed by every native race the wide world over.
In the City Temple some festival was being celebrated, and night was turbulent with the beating of gongs and drums and the bursting of crackers. Long processions of priests in their yellow robes were passing the temple in the bright moonlight. Priests were as plentiful as blackberries; if they had been dressed in black instead of yellow, the traveller might have imagined that he was in Edinburgh at Assembly time.
In the morning another escort of half a dozen men was ready to accompany me for the day's stage to Manyuen. They were in the uniform of the Santa Sawbwa, in blue jackets instead of green. They were armed with rusty muzzle-loaders, unloaded, and with long Burmese swords (dahs). They were the most amiable of warriors, both in feature and manner, and were unlike the turbaned braves of China, who, armed no better than these men, still regard, as did their forefathers, fierceness of aspect as an important factor in warfare (rostro feroz ao enemigo!)—an illusion also shared in the English army, where monstrous bearskin shakos were introduced to increase the apparent height of the soldiers. The officer in command was late in overtaking me. As soon as he came within horse-length he let down his queue and bowed reverently, and I could see pride lighting his features as he confessed to the honour that had been done him in intrusting such an honourable and illustrious charge to the mean and unworthy care of so contemptible an officer.
The country before us was open meadow-land, pleasant to ride over, only here and there broken by a massive banyan tree. Herds of buffaloes were grazing on the hillsides. The mud villages were far apart on the margin of the river-plain, inclosed with superb hedges of living bamboo.
Thirty li from Santa is the Shan village of Taipingkai. It was market-day, and the broad main street was crowded. We were taken to the house of an oil-merchant, who kindly asked me in and had tea brewed for me. Earthenware jars of oil were stacked round the room. The basement opened to the street, and was packed in a moment. "Dzo! Dzo!" (Go! go!) cried the master, and the throng hustled out, to be renewed in a minute by a fresh body of curious who had waited their turn.
Then we rode on, over a country as beautiful as a nobleman's park, to the town of Manyuen. Every here and there by the roadside there are springs of fresh water, where travellers can slake their thirst. Bamboo ladles are placed here by devotees, whose action will be counted unto them for righteousness, for "he that piously bestows a little water shall receive an ocean in return." And, where there are no springs, neat little bamboo stalls with shelves are built, and in the cool shelter pitchers of water and bamboo cups are placed, so that the thirsty may bless the unknown hand which gives him to drink.
Manyuen—or, to use the name by which it is better known to foreigners, Manwyne—is a large and straggling town overlooking the river-plain. It was here that Margary, the British Consular Agent, was murdered in 1875. I had a long wait at the yamen gate while they were arranging where to send me, but by-and-by two yamen-runners came and conducted me to the City Temple. It was the same temple that Margary had occupied. Many shaven-pated Buddhist priests were waiting for me, and received me kindly in the temple hall. A table was brought for me and the only foreign chair, and Laotseng was shown where to spread my bedding in the temple hall itself. And here I held levees of the townspeople of all shades of colour and variety of feature—Chinese, Shan, Burmese, Kachin, and hybrid. The people were very amiable, and I found on all sides the same courtesy and kindliness that Margary describes on his first visit. But the crowd was quiet for only a little while; then a dispute arose. It began in the far corner, and the crowd left me to gather round the disputants. Voices were raised, loud and excited, and increased in energy. A deadly interest seemed to enthral the bystanders. It was easy to imagine that they were debating to do with me as they had done with Margary. The dispute waxed warmer. Surely they will come to blows? When suddenly the quarrel ceased as it had begun, and the crowd came smiling back to me. What was the dispute? The priests were cheapening a chicken for my dinner.
The temple was built on teak piles, and teak pillars supported the triple roof. It was like a barn or lumber room but for the gilt Buddhas on the altar and the gilt cabinets by its side, containing many smaller gilt images of Buddha and his disciples. Umbrellas, flags, and the tawdry paraphernalia used in processions were hanging from the beams. Sacerdotal vestments of dingy yellow—the yellow of turmeric—were tumbled over bamboo rests. When the gong sounded for prayers, men you thought were coolies threw these garments over the left shoulder, hitched them round the waist, and were transformed into priests, putting them back again immediately after the service. Close under the tiles was a paper sedan-chair, to be sent for the use of some rich man in heaven. Painted scrolls of paper were on the walls, and on old ledges were torn books in the Burmese character, which a few boys made a pretence of reading. Where I slept the floor was raised some feet from the ground, and underneath, seen through the gaping boards—though previously detected by another of the senses—were a number of coffins freighted with dead, waiting for a fit occasion for interment. Heavy stones were placed on the lids to keep the dead more securely at rest. The lucky day for burial would be determined by the priests—it would be determined by them as soon as the pious relatives had paid sufficiently for their fears. So long, then, as the coffins remained where they were, they might be described as capital invested by the priests and returning heavy interest; removed from the temple, they ceased to be productive.
As is the case in so many temples, there is an opium-room in the temple at the back of the gilded shrine, where priests and neophytes, throwing aside their office, can while away the licentious hours till the gong calls them again to prayers.
In the early morning, while I was still lying in my pukai on the floor, I saw many women, a large proportion of whom were goitrous, come to the hall, and make an offering of rice, and kneel down before the Buddha. As time went on, and more kept coming in, small heaps of rice had collected in front of the chief altar and before the cabinets. And when the women retired, a chorister came round and swept with his fingers all the little heaps into a basket. To the gods the spirit! To the priests the solid remains!
It was in Manyuen, as I have mentioned, that Margary met his death on February 21st, 1875. He had safely traversed China from Hankow to Bhamo, had been everywhere courteously treated by the Chinese and been given every facility and protection on his journey. He had passed safely through Manyuen only five weeks before, and had then written: "I come and go without meeting the slightest rudeness among this charming people, and they address me with the greatest respect." And yet five weeks later he was killed on his return! Even assuming that he was killed in obedience to orders issued by the cruel Viceroy at Yunnan City, the notorious Tsen Yue-ying, and not by a lawless Chinese train-band which then infested the district and are believed by Baber to have been the real murderers, the British Government must still be held guilty of contributory negligence. Margary, having passed unmolested to Bhamo, there met the expedition under Colonel Horace Browne, and returned as its forerunner to prepare for its entry into China by the route he had just traversed. The expedition was a "peace expedition" sent by the Government of Burma, and numbered only "fifty persons in all, together with a Burmese guard of 150 armed soldiers."
Seven years before, an expedition under Major Sladen had advanced from Burma into Western China as far as Tengyueh; had remained in Tengyueh from May 25th to July 13th, 1868; had entered into friendly negotiations with the military governor and other Mohammedan officials in revolt against China; and had remained under the friendly protection of the Mohammedan insurgents who were then in possession of Western China from Tengyueh to near Yunnan City. "To what principles," it has been asked, "of justice or equity can we attribute the action of the British in retaining their Minister at the capital of an empire while sending a peaceful mission to a rebel in arms at its boundaries?"
The Mohammedan insurrection was not quelled till the early months of 1874. And less than a year later the Chinese learned with alarm that another peaceful expedition was entering Western China, by the same route, under the same auspices, and with the identical objects of the expedition which had been welcomed by the leaders of the insurrection.
The Chinese mind was incapable of grasping the fact that the second expedition was planned solely to discover new fields for international commerce and scientific investigation. Barbarians as they are, they feared that England thereby intended to "foster the dying embers of the rebellion." No time for such an expedition, a peaceful trade expedition, could have been more ill-chosen. The folly of it was seen in the murder of Margary and the repulse of Colonel Horace Browne, whose expedition was driven back at Tsurai within sight of Manyuen. And this murder, known to all the world, is the typical instance cited in illustration of the barbarity of the Chinese.
China may be a barbarous country; many missionaries have said so, and it is the fashion so to speak; but let us for a moment look at facts. During the last twenty-three years foreigners of every nationality and every degree of temperament, from the mildest to the most fanatical, have penetrated into every nook and cranny of the empire. Some have been sent back, and there has been an occasional riot with some destruction of property. But all the foreigners who have been killed can be numbered on the fingers of one hand, and in the majority of these cases it can hardly be denied that it was the indiscretion of the white man which was the exciting cause of his murder. In the same time how many hundreds of unoffending Chinese have been murdered in civilised foreign countries? An anti-foreign riot in China—and at what rare intervals do anti-foreign riots occur in its vast empire—may cause some destruction of property; but it may be questioned if the destruction done in China by the combined anti-foreign riots of the last twenty-three years equalled the looting done by the civilised London mob who a year or two ago on a certain Black Monday played havoc in Oxford-street and Piccadilly. "It is less dangerous," says one of the most accurate writers on China, the Rev. A. H. Smith, himself an American missionary, "for a foreigner to cross China than for a Chinese to cross the United States." And there are few who give the matter a thought but must admit the correctness of Mr. Smith's statement.
On May 17th I was on the road again. The fort of Manyuen is outside the town, and some little distance beyond it the dry creek bends into the pathway at a point where it is bordered with cactus and overshadowed by a banyan tree. This is said to be the exact spot where Margary was killed.
CHINA AS A FIGHTING POWER—THE KACHINS—AND THE LAST STAGE INTO BHAMO.
We now left the low land and the open country, the pastures and meadows, and climbed up the jungle-clad spurs which form the triangular dividing range that separates the broad and open valley of the Taiping, where Manyuen is situated, from the confined and tropical valley of the Hongmuho, which lies at the foot of the English frontier fort of Nampoung, the present boundary of Burma. Two miles below Nampoung the two rivers join, and the combined stream flows on to enter the Irrawaddy a mile or two above Bhamo.
No change could be greater or more sudden. We toiled upwards in the blazing sun, and in two hours we were deep in the thickest jungle, in the exuberant vegetation of a tropical forest. We had left the valley of the peaceful Shans and were in the forest inhabited by other "protected barbarians" of China—the wild tribes of Kachins, who even in Burma are slow to recognise the beneficent influences of British frontier administration. Nature serenely sleeps in the valley; nature is throbbing with life in the forest, and the humming and buzzing of all insect life was strange to our unaccustomed ears.
A well-cut path has been made through the forest, and caravans of mules laden with bales of cotton were in the early stages of the long overland journey to Yunnan. Their bells tinkled through the forest, while the herd boy filled the air with the sweet tones of his bamboo flute, breathing out his soul in music more beautiful than any bagpipes. Cotton is the chief article of import entering China by this highway. From Talifu to the frontier a traveller could trace his way by the fluffs of cotton torn by the bushes from the mule-packs.