Camps and Trails in China eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 325 pages of information about Camps and Trails in China.

Since the Expedition was organized primarily for the study of the mammalian fauna and its distribution, our efforts were directed very largely toward this branch of science, and other specimens were gathered only when conditions were especially favorable.  I believe that the mammal collection is the most extensive ever taken from China by a single continuous expedition, and a large percentage undoubtedly will prove to represent species new to science.  Our tents were pitched in 108 different spots from 15,000 feet to 1,400 feet above sea level, and because of this range in altitudes, the fauna represented by our specimens is remarkably varied.  Moreover, during our nine months in Yuen-nan we spent 115 days in the saddle, riding 2,000 miles on horse or mule back, largely over small roads or trails in little known parts of the province.

In Teng-yueh we were entertained most hospitably and the leisure hours were made delightful by golf, tennis, riding, and dinners.  Mr. Grierson was a charming host who placed himself, as well as his house and servants, at our disposal, utter strangers though we were, and we shall never forget his welcome.

We decided to take four man-chairs to Bhamo because of the rain which was expected every day, and the coolies made us very comfortable upon our sleeping bags which were swung between two bamboo poles and covered with a strip of yellow oil-cloth.  They were the regulation Chinese “mountain schooner,” at which we had so often laughed, but they proved to be infinitely more desirable than riding in the rain.

With the forty-one cases of specimens we left Teng-yueh on June 1, behind a caravan of thirty mules for the eight-day journey to Bhamo on the outskirts of civilization.  Our chair-coolies were miserable specimens of humanity.  They were from S’suchuan Province and were all unmarried which alone is almost a crime in China.  Every cent of money, earned by the hardest sort of work, they spent in drinking, gambling, and smoking opium.  As Wu tersely put it “they make how much—­spend how much!”

About every two hours they would deposit us unceremoniously in the midst of a filthy village and disappear into some dark den in spite of our remonstrances.  We would grumble and fume and finally, getting out of our chairs, peer into the hole.  In the half light we would see them huddled on a “kang” over tiny yellow flames sucking at their pipes.  At tiffin each one would stretch out under a tree with a stone for a pillow and his broad straw hat propped up to screen him from the wind.  With infinite care he would extract a few black grains from a dirty box, mix them with a little water, and cook them over an alcohol lamp until the opium bubbled and was almost ready to drop.  Then placing it lovingly in the bowl of his pipe he would hold it against the flame and draw in long breaths of the sickly-sweet smoke.  The men could work all day without food, but opium was a prime necessity.

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Camps and Trails in China from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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