Everything is so vast, so grand, so overpowering. Murmurings of the birds alone break the sense of sadness and loneliness. Away yonder full-grown pine trees, if discernible at all, are dwarfed so as to appear like long coarse grass. For some thirty li the road runs through beautiful woods, high above the valleys and the noise of the river; and now we are running down swiftly to a point where two ranges meet, only to toil on again, slowly and wearily, up an awful gradient for two hours or more. But the labor and all its fatiguing arduousness are nothing when one gets to the top, for one beholds here one of the most magnificent mountain panoramas in all West China. Far away, just peeping prettily from the silvered edges of the bursting clouds, are the giant peaks which separate Tali-fu from Yang-pi—white giants with rugged, cruel edges pointing upwards, piercing the clouds asunder as a ship’s bow pierces the billows of the deep; and then, gradually coming from out the mist, are no less than eight distinct ranges of mountains from 14,000 feet to 16,000 feet high, besides innumerable minor heights, which we have traversed with much labor during the past four days, all rich with coloring and natural grandeur seen but seldom in all the world. Switzerland could offer nothing finer, nothing more sweeping, nothing more beautiful, nothing more awe-inspiring. With the glorious grandeur of these wondrous hills, rising and falling playfully around the main ranges, the marvellous tree growth, the delicate contrasts of the formidable peaks and the dainty, cultivated valleys, and the face of Nature everywhere absolutely unmarred, Switzerland could in no way compare.
Is it then surprising that I look upon these stupendous masses with wonder, which seem to breathe only eternity and immensity?
The air is pure as the breath of heaven, all is still and peaceful, and the fact that in the very nature of things one cannot rush through this pervading beauty of the earth, but has to plod onwards step by step along a toilsome roadway, enables the scenery to be so impressed upon one’s mind as to be focussed for life in one’s memory. One is held spellbound; these are the pictures never forgotten. Here I sit in a corner of the earth as old as the world itself. These mountains are as they were in the great beginning, when the Creator and Sustainer of all things pure and beautiful looked upon His handiwork and saw that it was good.
The country here seems so vast as to render Nature unconquerable by man: man is insignificant, Nature is triumphant. Railways are defied; and these mountains, running mostly at right angles, will probably never—not in our time, at least—be made unsightly by the puffing and the reeking of the modern railway engine. They present so many natural obstacles to the opening-up of the country, according to the standard we Westerners lay down, that one would hesitate to prophesy any mode of traffic here other than that of the horse caravan and human beast of burden. Nature seems to look down upon man and his earth-scouring contrivances, and assert, “Man, begone! I will have none of thee.” And the mountains turn upwards to the sky in_ silent reverence to their Maker, whose work must in the main remain unchanged until eternity.