So very different was another traveler who unceremoniously forced himself upon me with the inevitable “Ching fan, ching fan,” although he had no food to offer. He commenced with a far-fetched eulogium of my ambling palfrey Rusty, who limped along leisurely behind me. So far as he could remember, poor ignorant ass, he had never seen a pony like it in his extensive travels—probably from Yuen-nan-fu to Tali-fu, if so far; but as a matter of fact, Rusty had wrenched his right fore fetlock between a gully in the rocks the day before and was now going lame. Dressed fairly respectably in the universal blue, my unsought companion was of middle stature, strongly built, but so clumsily as to border almost on deformity, and to give all his movements the ungainly awkwardness of a left-handed, left-legged man. He walked with a limp, was suffering (like myself) with sore feet; if not that, it was something incomparably worse. Not for a moment throughout the day did he leave my side, the only good point about him being that when we drank—tea, of course—he vainly begged to be allowed to pay. In that he was the shadow of some of my friends of younger days.
But of men enough.
From Ch’u-hsiong-fu on to Tali-fu the whole country bears lamentable signs of gradual ruin and decay, a falling off from better times. The former city is probably the most important point on the route, and is mentioned as a likely point for the proposed Yuen-nan Railway.
The country has never recovered from the terrible effects of the great Mohammendan Rebellion of 1857. Foundations of once imposing buildings still stand out in fearful significance, and ruins everywhere over the barren country tell plain tales all too sad of the good days gone. Temples, originally fit for the largest city in the Empire, with elaborate wood and stone carving and costly, weird images sculptured in stone, with particularly fine specimens of those blood-curdling Buddhistic hells and their presiding monsters, with miniature ornamental pagodas and intricate archways, are all now unused; and when the people need material for any new building (seldom erected now in this district), the temple grounds are robbed still more. In the days of its prosperity Yuen-nan must have been a fair land indeed, bright, smiling, seductive; now it is the exact antithesis, and the people live sad, flat, colorless existences.