Such extortions are every day occurrences in many parts of China and it is little wonder that the military is cordially hated and feared by the peasants. The soldiers, taking advantage of their uniform, oppress the villagers in numberless ways from which there is no redress. If a complaint is made a dozen soldiers stand ready to swear that the offense was justified or was never committed, and the poor farmer is lucky if he escapes without a beating or some more severe punishment. It is a disgrace to China that such conditions are allowed to exist, and it is to be hoped that ere many years have passed the country will awake to a proper recognition of the rights of the individual. Until she does there never can be a national spirit of patriotism in China and without patriotism the Republic can be one in name only.
DOWN THE MEKONG VALLEY
On December 11, we had tiffin on the summit of a twelve thousand foot pass in a beautiful snow-covered meadow, from which we could see the glistening peaks of the vast mountain range which forms the Mekong-Salween divide. In the afternoon we reached Wei-hsi and camped in a grove of splendid pine trees on a hill overlooking the city. The place was rather disappointing after Li-chiang. The shops were poor and it was difficult to buy rice even though the entire valley was devoted to paddy fields, but we did get quantities of delicious persimmons.
Wu told us that seven different languages were spoken in the city, and we could well believe it, for we recognized Mosos, Lolos, Chinese, and Tibetans. This region is nearly the extreme western limit of the Moso tribe which appears not to extend across the Mekong River.
The mandarin at Wei-hsi received us hospitably and proved to be one of the most courteous officials whom we met in Yuen-nan. We were sorry to learn that he was killed in a horrible way only a few weeks after our visit. Trouble arose with the peasants over the tax on salt and fifteen hundred rebelled, attacked the city, and captured it after a sharp fight. It was reported that they immediately beheaded the mandarin’s wives and children, and boiled him alive in oil.
Although the magistrate offered to assist us in every way we could obtain no information concerning either hunting grounds or routes of travel. The flying squirrels which we had hoped to find near the city were reported to come from a mountain range beyond the Mekong in Burma, and Wei-hsi was merely a center of distribution for the skins. Moreover, the natives said it would be impossible to obtain squirrels at that time of the year, for the mountain passes were so heavily covered with snow that neither men nor caravans could cross them.
It was desirable, however, to descend to the Mekong River in order to determine whether there would be a change in fauna, and on Major Davies’ map a small road was marked down the valley. A stiff climb of a day and a half over a thickly forested mountain ridge, frozen and snow-covered, brought us in sight of the green waters of the Mekong which has carved a gorge for itself in an almost straight line from the bleak Tibetan plateaus through Yuen-nan and Indo-China to the sea.