Yuen-nan’s chequered career. Switzerland of China. At Hong-sh[=i]h-ai. China’s Golden Age in the past. The conservative instinct of the Chinese. How to quiet coolies. Roads. Dangers of ordinary travel in wet season. K’ung-shan and its mines. Tong-ch’uan-fu, an important mining centre. English and German machinery. Methods of smelting. Protestants and Romanists in Yuen-nan. Arrival at Tong-ch’uan-fu. Missionaries set author’s broken arm. Trio of Europeans. Author starts for the provincial capital. Abandoning purpose of crossing China on foot. Arm in splints. Curious incident. At Lai-t’eo-po. Malaria returns. Serious illness of author. Delirium. Devotion of the missionaries. Death expected. Innkeeper’s curious attitude. Recovery. After-effects of malaria. Patient stays in Tong-ch’uan-fu for several months. Then completes his walking tour.
Yuen-nan has had a checkered career ever since it became a part of the empire. In the thirteenth century Kublai Khan, the invincible warrior, annexed this Switzerland to China; and how great his exploits must have been at the time of this addition to the land of the Manchus might be gathered from the fact that all the tribes of the Siberian ice-fields, the deserts of Asia, together with the country between China and the Caspian Sea, acknowledged his potent sway—or at least so tradition says. She is sometimes right.
My journey continuing across more undulating country brought me at length to Hong-shih-ai (Red Stone Cliff), a tiny hamlet hidden away completely in a deep recess in the mountain-side, settled in a narrow gorge, the first house of which cannot be seen until within a few yards of entry. Inn accommodation, as was usual, was by no means good. It is characteristic of these small places that the greater the traffic the worse, invariably, is the accommodation offered. Travelers are continually staying here, but not one Chinese in the population is enterprising enough to open a decent inn. They have no money to start it, I suppose.
But it is true of the Chinese, to a greater degree than of any other nation, that their Golden Age is in the past. Sages of antiquity spoke with deep reverence of the more ancient ancients of the ages, and revered all that they said and did. And the rural Chinese to-day says that what did for the sages of olden times must do for him to-day. The conservative instinct leads the Chinese to attach undue importance to precedent, and therefore the people at Hong-shih-ai, knowing that the village has been in the same pitiable condition for generations, live by conservatism, and make no effort whatever to improve matters.
Fire in the inn was kindled in the hollow of the ground. There was no ventilation; the wood they burned was, as usual, green; smoke was suffocating. My men talked well on into the night, and kept me from sleeping, even if pain would have allowed me to. I spoke strongly, and they, thinking I was swearing at them, desisted for fear that I should heap upon their ancestors a few of the reviling thoughts I entertained for them.