« AnkstesnisTęsti »
who generously became my champions and assured them that any attack on me would not only be heard of quickly in Canton, but that they and their whole clan would take my part-an old feud existing between the villages making them all the more ready to resist the T'ong-t'ong roughs. In this way the matter blew over, while I remained unconscious alike of the plots of enemies and the championship of unknown friends. At length a comfortable boat was found and we were relieved from the hot sun and prying crowds. Sending my card and two betel-nuts to the local constable I received a call from him, and every assurance of his protection. My friend quietly mentioned the hostile demonstrations of the afternoon and urged him to special vigilance.
From Tong-t'ong as the centre several excursions were made to places of interest. The first was through the great Temple Pass to the town of Shek-kok (), and the little city of Fat-kong (M) a distance of fourteen miles. Securing two stout coolies and a mountain chair, the distance was rapidly traversed, the coolies going at a swinging gait, nearly six miles an hour. The way leads along the front of T'ong-t'ong village, the largest in the plain, with a fine grove of chestnuts, oaks, camphor and other trees behind it. On the right the Boiling Spring sends up clouds of vapor, and the water being turned into the fields, full half an acre of the black soil is enveloped in steam as the heated water percolates through it. We cross several fine streams, sometimes on rustic bridges, and again by shallow fords. In places the road lies between hedges of rose trees, covered with white and fragrant flowers. Pear trees in bloom deck the landscape here and there, and liquid-amber trees in the delicate freshness of their new leaves, reminding one of the maple trees at home, give a peculiar charm to the picture. These trees, so chaste and stately, are to me the best emblems of grace and dignity. The hillsides are covered with flowers, chiefly the "raphiolepis indica," a showy little shrub when in bloom, with its white flowers tinged with the faintest touch of pink, but in no way conspicuous when the flowers are gone. Groves of camphor trees sending forth new shoots and many groups of pines, arranged mostly in sets of three abound. I must have seen nearly a score of these triads of pines, noble specimens of their kind, each with a little altar at its foot with signs of recent worship. Numerous and attractive valleys open up on either side as we pass, making us regret the shortness of the time that compels us to pass them with only a brief glance. About half the distance is passed, when we reach the largest of the three streams that unite at Tong-t'ong. It is called the "River of Good Luck" () and is a clear, rapid stream of sweet
water. We cross it below a sharp bend, and going a few hundred yards through an evergreen tunnel-a deeply cut path covered over completely by shrubs and vines—come to the river again, which has flowed nearly a mile around the curve to accomplish the same distance. Two miles further on we enter the Great Temple Pass, which is about one mile long, the hills at the lower extremity being high and precipitous. The stream winds in two long curves through the pass, falling near the centre over some rapids which prove a serious obstacle to navigation, the crews of three boats being necessary to pull one up. The hills along the pass are quite aglow with rhododendrons, scarlet and lavender, covering the slopes with their attractive colors. Near the head of the pass is a large temple where a grand celebration is held every five years in honor of the river deities that the River of Good Luck may not fail to meet the expectations which its name naturally awakens. An attractive grove of trees covers the hills opposite the temple, and just above a deep and picturesque valley opens in the ridge of hills against which the temple is built. Crossing the river again, we strike across more level country, passing through several large villages, and a peculiar temple, with a diagonal doorway called the “field protecting temple” (DE) are soon at the important market town of Shek-kok (511), which is the head of navigation for all boats and the centre of trade for a large district. We meet with a good reception from the people and dispose of a large number of books, but absolutely fail to find anything fit to eat. We are on the dividing line or rather the place of admixture between the Hakkas and Puntis. The population is about equally divided at this point, while to the east the people are all Hakka, and to the west most of them are Puntis; but, as remarked above, the Hakkas are pushing westward and are found in greater or less numbers in all the mountain valleys and less accessible regions. One mile from Shek-kok is the military post of Fat-kong (Y), which has had an interesting and at times a bloody history. It is a very small place enclosed by a circular wall with only one gate. Inside is nothing but government buildings, a college, and quarters for some troops. A few years ago the people rose up in rebellion, deposed the officer and locked him up in his little city. It would have gone hard with him, if relief had not come from Canton in time, and three thousand Tung-kun braves broke up the siege and released the magistrate. As a consequence of this escapade several hundreds of those concerned lost their heads. Fat-kong is on a plain with high mountains to the north and south. To the south the high ridge is somewhat broken. To the north is a fine ridge full two thousand feet above the plain in which is a celebrated fortress
called the Kun-yam-chai (LN), where not long ago a band of one thousand robbers fortified themselves and carried on a predatory war upon the valleys below. On the return to Tong-t'ong in the afternoon the various places of interest were reviewed in the reverse order, the completed picture in most instances being more attractive than the partial or fragmentary view had been.
The next day was occupied in an excursion to the Wong-fa-shekchai (XIŁ ), a rocky fortress fifteen miles to the east. For the first three miles we retraversed the path of the previous day, and after that followed the course of the small stream called Wong-fa creek. The hedges covered with white roses, the isolated pine trees, standing singly or in groups of three, the abundance of wild flora, and the great variety of cultivated plants, pass quickly as we hurry on in our slender scat suspended from bamboo poles on the shoulders of the robust coolies. Five miles of this rapid travel bring us to the entrance of a fine pass in the hills called the “Wong-fa Gorge.” It extends for eight miles without a break. The stream that flows through it is small and its course blocked up in many places by immense granite boulders. About one-third of the way up these great masses of rock
. are so placed as to form convenient piers for a fine bridge across the stream, the timbers being morticed into the natural rocks and made secure by braces fastened from one to the other. It is a relief when the coulies call a halt and ask me to walk over a part of the rough path. The hills on the south side are of a different formation from those on the north, the latter being more smooth and regular, while the former are steep and precipitous, with numerous projections and deeply cut ravines running down to the river. In places the whole mountain side is covered with mosses and festoons of a vining plant (delima sarmentosa) the rough leaves of which are used in polishing metal. It flowers in full clusters of delicate white blossoms, of a peculiarly pleasant fragrance, sweetening the whole valley with their perfume. Several water-falls of fine proportions pour over the cliffs, sometimes almost deluging the narrow foot path, the chief of these flows down a narrow ravine, and is not seen on the way up until we are somewhat past it, when, turning around, its fine sheet falling a hundred feet and more down the steep rock, flashes like a fairy picture
A little further is a narrow gorge not more than sixty yards across with steep, shrub-covered walls and a stream of clearest water flowing down. Up the gorge a pathway leads through a gateway in the rock to some villages in the valleys beyond. A mile further and another fall of fifty feet comes down in a slender stream like strands of silver laid against the black rock of the cliff. On the
opposite side the hills become more thickly covered with trees, and down a narrow ravine a noisy brook comes pouring, leaping over a high precipice near the river. Just beyond this point on the south side our path passes over the top of a waterfall which must make it perilous crossing when the water is high. Near the head of the pass the hills converge and the stream flows in a deep channel only a few feet wide between solid rocks. The water chafing under the restraints of these narrow limits has worn many bowls, and wells, and mortarshaped holes. Stones forced by the constant motion of the water around these indentations have eroded the hard iron-like rock and left these strange shapes as witnesses of their action. Emerging from this pass we enter the Wong-fa valley, where six or seven small villages in fine positions, comprise the population. Here as in the upper valleys of the Lienchow river, the people suffer from goitre. We proceed at once to the village at the foot of the fortified bill and make inquiries about the ascent. No one will act as our guide, being suspicious of our motives in seekivg the place. After receiving various evasive answers and some that were entirely misleading, we determine to find the way for ourselves. It is a steep, hot climb, the hill is bare and the path uncertain, but getting clear of the lower hills, we see the fortress rise full before us. It is a great mass of columnar rock rising, like an immense pile of masonry, high above all the surrounding hills. It was used as a fortress from early times and was one of the last places to yield in the struggles at the close of the Ming dynasty. A brave garrison, formed of intrepid spirits that refused to submit to the Manchu rule, gathered in its caverns, carrying their treasures with them. Being in communication with the surrounding peasantry, who secretly supplied them with provisions, they were able to make a long and stubborn resistance. The fates however were against them, and at last overcome by want of food, they were compelled to surrender. Their treasures of gold and silver, with ornaments of jade and pearl, are still believed to lie buried somewhere in the caves of this rocky peak. Many attempts have been made to find and appropriate them, all of which have proved signal failures. Popular superstition surrounds the place with supernatural beings, probably spirits of the departed heroes, who keep faithful watch over their precious treasures deposited centuries ago. Vague stories are told of persons hardy enough to enter the inner caves, and seize the gold or silver ; but they were not left in peaceful enjoyment of it. The wrath of the spirits followed them and painful sickness seized them, dizziness, nausea and other evils prostrated them, until the treasure was returned or used in sacrifices to the spirits. I have a shrewed suspicion that some of the Chinese friends who accompanied me, had a vague hope that I might find the treasure for them. With the power of looking several feet into the earth, attributed to foreigners, they supposed that I could easily detect it even though carefully buried away. If such hopes inspired them they were sadly disappointed. No trace of buried treasure appeared, nor any signs of the guardian spirits, though one of the men saw a large water spider, or lizard, which he thought might be one of the goblins detailed to keep watch. The peak, which seems a solid mass of rock, contains three caves, the largest and most important being near the top, the entrance to it on the north. It is called the Sam-po-fong (RFC Fi) “Bride Chamber," and also the Nü-tsz-fong (FT) the "Maiden Boudoir.” The interior rudely resembles a Chinese house, with the reception room, table, chairs, and small rooms leading off. The natural resemblance, if any existed, has no doubt been increased by artificial means. From this main chamber, an interior passage leads to the next cave called the So-tsz-ngám (1 ) or “Cormorant Cave," which has also an outer opening lower down the hill. It is a low damp place, with nothing to attract one. The other cave is still smaller, and all have pools of water fed by constant dripping from the roof. The fortress is now entirely deserted, and scarcely any signs of its ever having been occupied remain. From time to time it has been the resort of bands of outlaws, but is not convenient enough to serve their purposes except when driven to desperation. Its use in former times accounts for the excellent road up
the the people of the valley find to their interest to keep in good repair. Returning to the village at the foot of the hill we find the people quite changed in their manuer. Assured of our good intentions they are all friendliness, and urge me to remain several days in their valley, promising to explore the fortress more thoroughly with me, and to show the way to some other places of great interest. Their offer of hospitality however comes too late, so I have to decline and hasten back to the boat.
The two following days are spent among the people in the market towns and villages adjacent, where abundant opportunities are given them to see and hear the foreigner and supply themselves with the books he carries. I receive more civility than rudeness, and leave with a more favorable opinion of the people than previous report would have led me to form.
Leaving the fine old hills with their gorges, fortresses and water falls we go slowly down the river, turning back continually toward the lofty peaks that are receding farther and farther to the east. Prominent among them stands the Wong-fa fortress, its bristling pinnacles