Nantien is, or was, to be a fort, but the little place bears no outward military evidences whatever which would lead one to believe it. It is populated chiefly by Shans. The bulk of these interesting people now live split up into a great number of semi-independent states, some tributary to Burma, some to China, and some to Siam; and yet the man-in-the-street knows little about them. One cannot mistake them, especially the women, with their peculiar Mongolian features and sallow complexions and characteristic head-dress. The men are less distinguishable, probably, generally speaking, but the rough cotton turban instead of the round cap with the knob on the top alone enables one more readily to pick them out from the Chinese. Short, well-built and strongly made, the women strike one particularly as being a hardy, healthy set of people.
Shans are recognized to be a peaceful people, but a village squabble outside Chin-ch’eng, in which I took part, is one of the exceptions to prove the rule.
It did not take the eye of a hawk or the ear of a pointer to recognize that a big row was in full progress. Shan women roundly abused the men, and Shan men, standing afar off, abused their women. A few Chinese who looked on had a few words to say to these “Pai Yi"[BD] on the futility of these everyday squabbles, whilst a few Shans, mistaking me again for a foreign official, came vigorously to me pouring out their souls over the whole affair. We were all visibly at cross purposes. I chimed in with my infallible “Puh tong, you stupid ass, puh tong” (I don’t understand, I don’t understand); and what with the noise of the disputants, the Chinese bystanders, my own men (they were all acutely disgusted with every Shan in the district, and plainly showed it, because they could not be understood in speech) and myself all talking at once, and the dogs who mistook me for a beggar, and tried to get at close grips with me for being one of that fraternity, it was a veritable Bedlam and Tower of Babel in awfullest combination. At length I raised my hand, mounted a boulder in the middle of the road, and endeavored to pacify the infuriated mob. I shouted harshly, I brandished by bamboo in the air, I gesticulated, I whacked two men who came near me. At last they stopped, expecting me to speak. Only a look of stupidest unintelligibility could I return, however, and had to roar with laughter at the very foolishness of my position up on that stone. Soon the multitude calmed down and laughed, too. I yelled “Ts’eo,” and we proceeded, leaving the Shans again at peace with all the world.