But the delights of Yen-ping are somewhat tempered by the abominable weather. In summer the heat is almost unbearable and the air is so nearly saturated from continual rain that it is impossible to dry anything except over a fire. From all reports winter must be almost as bad in the opposite extreme for the cold is damp and penetrating; but the early fall is said to be delightful.
The larger part of Fukien, like many other provinces in China, has been denuded of forests, and the groves of pine which remain have all been planted. This deforestation consequently has driven out the game, and except for tigers, leopards, wolves, wild pigs, serows and gorals, none of the large species is left. However, the dense growth of sword grass and the thorny bushes which clothe the hills and choke the ravines give cover to muntjac, or barking deer, and many species of small cats, civets, and other Viverines. These animals come to the rice paddys, which fill every valley, to hunt for frogs and fish, but it is difficult to catch them because of the Chinese who are continually at work in the fields.
We spent a week trapping about Yen-ping and although we caught a good many animals they were almost always stolen together with the traps. We had this same difficulty in Yuen-nan as well as in Fukien. None of us had ever seen natives in any part of the world who were such unmitigated thieves as the Chinese of these two provinces. The small mammals are hardly more abundant than the larger ones for the natives wage an unceasing war on those about the rice paddys and have exterminated nearly all but a few widely distributed forms.
A BAT CAVE IN THE BIG RAVINE
A few days after our arrival in Yen-ping we went with Mr. Caldwell and his son Oliver to a Taoist temple seven miles away in a lonely ravine known as Chi-yuen-kang. The walk to the temple in the early morning was delightful. The “bamboo chickens” and francolins were calling all about us and on the way we shot enough for our first day’s dinner. Both these birds are abundant in Fukien Province but it is by no means easy to kill them for they live in such thick cover that they can only be flushed with difficulty.
Early in the morning we frequently heard the francolins crowing in the trees or on the top of a hill and when a cock had taken possession of such a spot the intrusion of another was almost sure to cause trouble which only ended when one of them had been driven off.
For two miles and a half the Big Ravine is a narrow cut between perpendicular rock walls thickly clothed to their very summits with bamboo and a tangle of thorny vines. In the bottom of the gorge a mountain torrent foams among huge bowlders but becomes a gentle, slow moving stream when it leaves the cool darkness of the canon to spread itself over the terraced rice fields.
About a mile from the entrance two old temples nestle into the hillside. One stands just over the water, but the other clings to the rock wall three hundred feet above the river, and it was there that we made our camp.