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we come to the plain of Shek-kok, which opens a fine prospect to the west, the market town being near the river. The entrance to this plain is marked by a lofty peak in the shape of a half dome rising behind the town, conspicuous among its fellows for many miles around. At its base are smaller hills, low bluffs with craggy sides, and filled with caves. Several of these open toward the road that leads up from the river, their dark mouths showing the way to unexplored interiors. Shek-kok is a very small market town with only one street and no business except on market days. Thirty or forty of the Iu people may be seen here when the market assembles. A little stream flows down through the beautiful plain which is several miles in extent, with twelve or fifteen villages, some of them quite large, built against the hillsides and overlooking the fruitful valley, which when I saw it was entirely covered with a rich crop of rice just ready for the sickle. On the northern side of this plain one hill especially attracts the eye. As we look at it from the river, it is a perfect cone, but loses its symmetry somewhat when viewed from other positions. It is covered with trees to the very top, the base, also, being surrounded by a fine grove, a large proportion of the trees in which are oaks-the quercus glauca. It rises about 1,200 feet above the plain and has several caves which the people carefully guard, the largest one being near the top. The village at its foot is the most extensive in the plain. A short distance east of this green mount we find a little stream springing from a shallow cave at the base of a lower hill, and spreading into a transparent pond of wonderfully cool, sweet water. A few miles up this plain and the mountain walls approach, leaving but a narrow space through which the path leads into the wild regions beyond where the Iu people live. A ten-miles' walk from the river at this point brings us into dense forests filled with game of various kinds-wild boars, tigers, bears, deer, etc.; and, not least in number, if small in size, monkeys, one colony of these animals, near the borders of the cultivated land, being said to contain at least one hundred individuals. These mischievous quadrumanes are a great pest to the peasants, stealing their corn and sweet potatoes, and cleverly eluding all snares set to capture them. If report can be believed this forest presents many attractions to the naturalist, to the hunter and to the explorer. The natives do not venture into it alone, but go in bands of at least ten or twelve, when business calls them there. They build huts to live in and set guards about while they cut timber and firewood.
From Shek-kok to Yung-shüit is five miles by river. One bend in the stream introduces us to an entirely new and freshly diversified scene. The mountain wall on the east is, perhaps, 1,000
feet high, the summit line in places being like immense parapets, with openings here and there through which we look into the space beyond. One hill in particular called Ha-lat-shan"Crab hill," has a large natural doorway near the top, while at its foot lies a great mass of rock, thrown down at some time from the top. A short distance further, on the bank of the river, is a very remarkable detached cliff, a huge mass of castellated rock, riven off at some former period from the higher cliff behind. Tradition attributes this work to one prince Ch'an (his posthumous title), who, in reward for a worthy life, received divine honors after death, and has attested his power by rending the rocks and other equally wonderful performances, with what benefit to himself or others, we know not. A small temple dedicated to him stands in a cleft in this rock, beside the narrow path that runs along the steep side above the water. On the west a line of lower hills branches off from the main ridge behind, converging to a point near the shore. Several of these near the river are of white calcareous rocks, covered with a rich verdure, and groves of large and beautiful trees. These hills divide the plain of Shek-kok from that of Yung-shü #, which centres about the little market town of the same name. In this plain are about twenty villages, most of them large and well-built, surrounded by substantial walls. A creek flows in from the north-west called Talung-shui, coming out from a narrow gorge in the hills and pouring, in the Spring time, a wild and turbulent stream into the rich plain below. Ten miles up this creek is a large settlement of Ius, who, under Chinese direction, prepare and bring out for sale large quantities of charcoal. On the hills along this creek grows a species of wild crab apple, with a quince-like flavor, and a variety of small pears. The market at Yung-shu is very small. A number of the Iu people always attend. I saw a fine, young, spotted deer brought in from the hills and offered for sale. It had been entrapped and only suffered a slight injury to one of its antlers. At one village is a small, but flourishing plantation of the trees on which the wax-insects feed, and from which they collect the insects twice a year for the manufacture of wax. In front of another village, the largest in the plain, is a wonderful spring, surrounded by immense trees, enclosed by stone walls, ten feet square, and furnishing an exhaustless supply of the purest water to the people.
As we proceed up the river, the hills become of a black, hard, barren rock, and the trees less plentiful. Villages are numerous, and the groves behind them present a peculiar appearance with stacks of straw built around the trees at a distance of six or eight feet from
the ground. It is a universal custom in these upper districts, and over the borders in Hunan as well, to put up the rice straw in this way. The straw is needed as food for the cattle in the winter, and is piled up around the trees to protect it from dampness, and at sufficient distance from the ground to be out of reach of the cattle, which would soon destroy it. It gives a very odd appearance to the place to see thirty or forty young pine trees, each supporting a heap of straw around its trunk, like a great over-grown bee-hive. Five miles of travel bring us to the mouth of Chung-hau creek, the
last and largest tributary of the stream we are ascending. It has another name, the "Burnt Dam" creek, so called, it is said, from a strange occurrence, by which a dam, composed chiefly of stone, near the mouth of the creek, was in one night mysteriously burned away. This feat is also ascribed to Prince Ch'an mentioned above. This creek is the outlet of a rich and attractive valley with a dozen villages or more, the chief of which is Chung-hau, with a market of the same name adjacent. This is a remarkably well built town with a high wall, and gates like a city, good public buildings and many evident signs of prosperity. A low ridge of hills forms the eastern boundary of the valley, while on the west it is walled in by the main ridge, whose peaks in the afternoon, cast their shadows quite across the valley. The groves about many of the villages are especially fine, camphor, oak and chestnut trees abounding. Most of the villages have but one gate for entrance and exit. This arrangement is very inconvenient to one who wishes merely to go through the village, but is an excellent safeguard against robbers.
From the mouth of Chung-hau
creek, it is but a few miles to Sai-ngon, an important market town with large villages closely built together on both sides of the river, and connected by a fine, five-arched stone bridge. Near the town is an unusually fine temple called the Ling-shan Mui, and beside it a large school called the Man-wa College. The hills about this place are much lower and most of them quite barren. Nearly all the land is under cultivation, the mountains rising only in the distance. Coal is found in some of the hills and mined to a limited extent. The country has the look of having been long settled and carefully cultivated for ages. A short distance above the town there is one striking exception to the tame, verdureless hills that prevail. A bold rocky peak, covered to its top with green and flowering shrubs, and surrounded by a heavy fringe of trees at its foot, rises abruptly several hundred feet in height out of the very midst of a smooth, barren hill, its picturesqueness brought out more strikingly by contrast with its tame surroundings.
Another five miles traversed and we reach She-kok-t'ám, the point at which much of the salt brought by boats is transhipped. Long lines of boats anchor opposite the village in which a fine group of transit warehouses are built. From this point the salt is carried by coolies through the plain of Chung-hau mentioned above, and over the mountains into Hunan, to the town of Ma-t'au-po and thence by boat to Wing-chow, where, the cost of transportation being so great, it frequently is sold at the rate of ten catties for one dollar. We are still ten miles from the head of the stream, but travel by water becomes more difficult as we advance, the rapids and shallows being more frequent and obstructive. A walk of five miles over a well paved road accomplishes our purpose better than the long, tedious journey by boat, and brings us to Tung-pithe head of navigation and the main centre of trade on the river. It is a large and important place, the resident of a township officer. A broad, substantial stone bridge spans the narrow stream high above the reach of floods. On the south side is the main portion of the town, a long street extending parallel with the river, showing many shops that would compare favorably with those of the larger cities in the south. An immense concourse of people gathers on market days indicating a populous country surrounding. There are probably not less than 25,000 people in the plain that stretches around Tung-pi. Thirteen miles distant from this point is the first town, U-kwong-t'au & M
in the Hunan province, at the head waters of the river that flows past the city of Kiang-wa. We are now at the extreme limit of our journey in this direction, the distance from Lien-chow being about sixty miles by water, but not more than twenty-five by land. We have ascended the uplands gradually, so that in an easy half day's journey more, the dividing ridge is passed, and the descent on the Yangtsze side begun. We defer making this journey however, until some future occasion, and retracing our steps to "Cormorant Beak" point, prepare to ascend the main branch of the Lien-chow stream to Sing-tsz 7.
This stream is nearly double the size of the one to Tung-pi, but is broken in much the same way by rapids and dams. For the first few miles we pass almost under the shadow of Sha-mo-ling, keeping near the base of the ridge of which it is a spur, until the winding of the stream among the lower hills shuts out from view the southern part of the plain. The hills for some distance are less striking than those we have just left on the Tung-pi side, being smoother and of a different formation, red clay entering largely into their composition. The shores for miles in extent are covered with the most handsome grasses yet seen, many of the clumps rising in exquisite plumes twelve
and fifteen feet high and of delicate pink or lilac color. After a few miles travel we come to a little pass with several bold, conspicuous peaks on the right, the higher one being remarkable for its caves, one of which opens its great yawning mouth on the side facing the river, but so high up as to make entrance to it difficult. This cave is said to pierce the hill, but pools of water in the inner portion make the passage difficult and unpleasant. Several smaller caves open near the summit of the hill. Along the shore on the left is a good foot path cut in the steep hill side from which, as we walk along, the beauties of the little pass are seen to best advantage. Beyond the pass are remains of coal mines not now in operation, but which, from the amount of refuse scattered about, must have been quite extensive at one time. Want of proper drainage is the ruin of all such enterprises here. The river now makes a great bend, sweeping to the west and back again to the north-east, and on the outmost point of the semi-circle thus formed is a small pagoda, near the large village of Shui-hau, the first anchorage for salt boats on their way up from Lien-chow. Forty or fifty of these boats tie up together for the night, and, as the crews are all related, a constant stream of small chit-chat and family gossip flows from group to group, as they sit on the bows of their boats waiting for the evening rice to boil, or take their evening smoke after it is eaten. Their conversation seldom rises above the sordid items of their daily traffic. Toward the west from this point is seen a group of pointed peaks, rising near together and presenting an uneven outline against the horizon. They are known as the "Pencil-rock" hills, a name more aptly applied than most Chinese designations. In many places the hills are covered with trees and shrubs, the oil-bearing camellia being most largely represented. This shrub is extensively cultivated all along the river, groves hundreds of acres in extent rising to the tops of the hills in many places. These camellia groves are one of the most attractive features of this mountain country. The shrubs are of a graceful shape and their dark green foliage gives a peculiar charm to the landscape. When the plants are in bloom their myriads of white flowers cover the hills with robes of beauty but seldom surpassed. The nuts are collected in October and November and vary from the size of a filbert to that of an orange. Many of the larger ones are encased in a rich, brownish-pink shell, like the skin of the pomegranate. They are carried in quantities to the drying places in front of the villages, where I have seen tons of them spread over acres of ground, drying in the sun. The action of the sun soon causes the outer shell to burst, and as the nuts drop out, they are carefully swept together and submitted to several days' more ex