Soon after the official came, and my dog began by mauling his canine guardian, tearing away half his ear; and in the middle of the night one of my horses got loose and had a stand-up fight with a mule attached to the official party, laming him seriously; and as the foreigner emerged in his night attire to prevent further damage, he encountered the mandarin himself, and pinned him dead against the wall in the dark, after having stepped on his corn. My pony had pulled several morsels of flesh from the mule’s carcase. The yang gwan certainly came off best, and the following morning, as the Chinese gwan with his retinue of six chairs and about one hundred and fifty men departed, the yang gwan smiled a happy farewell which was not effusively reciprocated.
As I came out of the inn I met a Buddhist priest, worn with general dilapidation and old age, with a huge festering wound in the calf of his leg, so that he could hardly hobble along with a stick—he was probably on his way to the medical missionary at Tali-fu for treatment. This spiritual guide was certainly on his last legs, and has probably by this time handed over the priestly robes and official perquisites to more vigorous young blood.
Hsiakwan’s High Street reminded me of the main street of Totnes, with its arch over the roadway, and the scenery might have deluded one into the belief that he was in Switzerland in spring, as he gazed upon the glorious spectacle of snow-covered mountains with the world-famed lake at the foot. Tali-fu deserves its name of the Geneva of West China.
In the chapter devoted to Yuen-nan-fu I have referred to the military of Tali-fu, but here I saw the men actually at drill, and a finer set of men I have rarely seen in Europe. The military Tao-tai lives here. Progress is phenomenal. At Yung-chang, the westernmost prefecture of the Empire, the commanding officer could even speak English.
In the famous temple ten li from Tali-fu is an effigy to the Yang Daren who figured conspicuously during the Mohammedan Rebellion. My men somehow got the false information that he was a native of Tong-ch’uan-fu, so they all went down on their knees and bumped their heads on the ground before the image. This Yang, however, was such a brute of a man that no young girl was safe where he was; however, as a soldier he was indomitable. The temple in which he is deified is called the Kwan-in-tang,[AW] and there is no place in all China where Kwan-in is worshipped with such relentless vigor. Some years ago, so the wags say, when Tali-fu was threatened by rebels, Kwan-in saved the city by transforming herself into a Herculean creature, and carrying upon her back a stone of several tons weight, presumably to block the path. The amazement of the rebels at the sight of a woman performing such a feat made them wonder what the men could be like, so they turned tail and fled. The story is believed implicitly by the residents of the city, and the priests, with an open eye to the main chance,