No country in the world more than West China possesses mountains of combined majesty and grace. Rocks, everywhere arranged in masses of a rude and gigantic character, have a ruggedness tempered by a singular airiness of form and softness of environment, in a climate favorable in some parts to the densest vegetation, and in others wild and barren. One is always in sight of mountains rising to fourteen thousand feet or more, and constantly scaling difficult pathways seven or eight or nine thousand feet above the sea. And in the loneliness of a country where nothing has altered very much the handiwork of God, an awe-inspiring silence pervades everything. Bold, grey cliffs shoot up here through a mass of verdure and of foliage, and there white cottages, perched in seemingly inaccessible positions, glisten in the sun on the colored mountain-sides. You saunter through stony hollows, along straight passes, traversed by torrents, overhung by high walls of rocks, now winding through broken, shaggy chasms and huge, wandering fragments, now suddenly emerging into some emerald valley, where Peace, long established, seems to repose sweetly in the bosom of Strength. Everywhere beauty alternates wonderfully with grandeur. Valleys close in abruptly, intersected by huge mountain masses, the stony water-worn ascent of which is hardly passable.
Yes, Yuen-nan is imperatively a country first of mountains, then of lakes. The scenery, embodying truly Alpine magnificence with the minute sylvan beauty of Killarney or of Devonshire, is nowhere excelled in the length and breadth of the Empire.
[Footnote U: The incredulous of my readers may question, and rightly so, “Then where did he get his saddle?” So I must explain that I met just out of Sui-fu a Danish gentleman (also a traveler) who wished to sell a pony and its trappings. As I had the arrangement with my boy that I would provide him with a conveyance, and did not like the idea of seeing him continually in a chair and his wealthy master trotting along on foot, I bought it for my boy’s use. He used the saddle until we reached Chao-t’ong.]
[Footnote V: A new inn has been built since.—E.J.D.]
[Footnote W: Pronounced Djang-di. Famous throughout Western China for its terrible hill, one of the most difficult pieces of country in the whole of the west.]
[Footnote X: This river, the Niu Lan, comes from near Yang-lin, one day’s march from Yuen-nan-fu. It is being followed down by two American engineers as the probable route for a new railway, which it is proposed should come out to the Yangtze some days north of Kiang-ti.]