CHAPTER V. THE JOURNEY FROM CHUNGKING TO SUIFU - CHINESE INNS.

I left the boat at Chungking and started on my land journey, going west 230 miles to Suifu. I had with me two coolies to carry my things, the one who received the higher pay having also to bring me my food, make my bed, and pay away my copper cash. They could not speak a single word of English. They were to be paid for the journey one 4s. 10 d. and the other 5s. 7d. They were to be entitled to no perquisites, were to find themselves on the way, and take their chance of employment on the return journey. They were to lead me into Suifu on the seventh day out from Chungking. All that they undertook to do they did to my complete satisfaction.

On the morning of March 14th I set out from Chungking to cross 1600 miles over Western China to Burma. Men did not speak hopefully of my chance of getting through. There were the rains of June and July to be feared apart from other obstacles.

Pere Lorain, the Procureur of the French Mission, who spoke from an experience of twenty-five years of China, assured me that, speaking no Chinese, unarmed, unaccompanied, except by two poor coolies of the humblest class, and on foot, I would have les plus grandes difficultes, and Monsieur Haas, the Consul en commission, was equally pessimistic. The evening before starting, the Consul and my friend Carruthers (one of the Inverness Courier Carruthers) gave me a lesson in Chinese. "French before breakfast" was nothing to this kind of cramming. I learnt a dozen useful words and phrases, and rehearsed them in the morning to a member of the Inland Mission, who cheered me by saying that it would be a clever Chinaman indeed who could understand Chinese like mine.

I left on foot by the West Gate, being accompanied so far by A. J. Little, an experienced traveller and authority on China, manager in Chungking of the Chungking Transport Company (which deals especially with the transport of cargo from Ichang up the rapids), whose book on "The Yangtse Gorges" is known to every reader of books on China.

I was dressed as a Chinese teacher in thickly-wadded Chinese gown, with pants, stockings, and sandals, with Chinese hat and pigtail. In my dress I looked a person of weight. I must acknowledge that my outfit was very poor; but this was not altogether a disadvantage, for my men would have the less temptation to levy upon it. Still it would have been awkward if my men had taken it into their heads to walk off with my things, because I could not have explained my loss. My chief efforts, I knew, throughout my journey would be applied in the direction of inducing the Chinese to treat me with the respect that was undoubtedly due to one who, in their own words, had done them the "exalted honour" of visiting "their mean and contemptible country." For I could not afford a private sedan chair, though I knew that Baber had written that "no traveller in Western China who possesses any sense of self-respect should journey without a sedan chair, not necessarily as a conveyance, but for the honour and glory of the thing. Unfurnished with this indispensable token of respectability he is liable to be thrust aside on the highway, to be kept waiting at ferries, to be relegated to the worst inn's worst room, and generally to be treated with indignity, or, what is sometimes worse, with familiarity, as a peddling footpad who, unable to gain a living in his own country, has come to subsist on China." (" Travels and Researches in Western China," p. i.)

Six li out (two miles), beyond the gravemounds there is a small village where ponies are kept for hire. A kind friend came with me as far as the village to act as my interpreter, and here he engaged a pony for me. It was to carry me ten miles for fourpence. It was small, rat-like and wiry, and was steered by the "mafoo" using the tail like a tiller. Mounted then on this small beast, which carried me without wincing, I jogged along over the stone-flagged pathway, down hill and along valley, scaling and descending the long flights of steps which lead over the mountains. The bells of the pony jingled merrily; the day was fine and the sun shone behind the clouds. My two coolies sublet their contracts, and had their loads borne for a fraction of a farthing per mile by coolies returning empty-handed to Suifu.

Fu-to-kuan four miles from Chungking is a powerful hill-fort that guards the isthmus where the Yangtse and the Little River come nearly together before encircling Chungking. Set in the face of the cliff is a gigantic image of Buddha. Massive stone portals, elaborately carved, and huge commemorative tablets cut from single blocks of stone and deeply engraved, here adorn the highway. The archways have been erected by command of the Emperor, but at the expense of their relatives, to the memory of virtuous widows who have refused to remarry, or who have sacrificed their lives on the death of their husbands. Happy are those whose names are thus recorded, for not only do they obtain ten thousand merits in heaven, as well as the Imperial recognition of the Son of Heaven on earth; but as an additional reward their souls may, on entering the world a second time, enjoy the indescribable felicity of inhabiting the bodies of men.

Cases where the widow has thus brought honour to the family are constantly recorded in the pages of the Peking Gazette. One of more than usual merit is described in the Peking Gazette of June loth, 1892. The story runs : -

"The Governor of Shansi narrates the story of a virtuous wife who destroyed herself after the death of her husband. The lady was a native of T'ienmen, in Hupeh, and both her father and grandfather were officials who attained the rank of Taotai. When she was little more than ten years old her mother fell ill. The child cut flesh from her body and mixed it with the medicines and thus cured her parent. The year before last she was married to an expectant magistrate. Last autumn, just after he had obtained an appointment, he was taken violently ill. She mixed her flesh with the medicine but it was in vain, and he died shortly afterwards. Overcome with grief, and without parents or children to demand her care, she determined that she would not live. Only waiting till she had completed the arrangements for her husband's interment, she swallowed gold and powder of lead. She handed her trousseau to her relatives to defray her funeral expenses, and made presents to the younger members of the family and the servants, after which, draped in her state robes, she sat waiting her end. The poison began to work and soon all was over. The memorialist thinks that the case is one which should be recorded in the erection of a memorial arch, and he asks the Emperor to grant that honour to the deceased lady." ("Granted.")

Near the base of the rock upon which the hill-fort is built, and between it and the city, the Methodist Episcopalian Mission of the U.S.A. commenced in 1886 to build what the Chinese, in their ignorance, feared was a foreign fort, but what was nothing more than a mission house in a compound surrounded by a powerful wall. The indiscreet mystery associated with its erection was the exciting cause of the anti-foreign riot of July, 1886.

From the fort the pathway led us through a beautiful country. We met numbers of sedan chairs, borne by two coolies, or three, according to the importance of the traveller. There were Chinese gentlemen mounted on ponies or mules; there were strings of coolies swinging along under prodigious loads of salt and coal, and huge bales of raw cotton. Buffaloes with slow and painful steps were ploughing the paddy fields, the water up to their middles - the primitive plough and share guided by half-naked Chinamen. Along the road there are inns and tea-houses every mile or two, for this is one of the most frequented roadways of China. At one good-sized village my cook signed to me to dismount; the mafoo and pony were paid off, and I sat down in an inn, and was served with an excellent dish of rice and minced beef. The inn was crowded and open to the street. Despite my Chinese dress anyone could see that I was a foreigner, but I was not far enough away from Chungking to excite much curiosity. The other diners treated me with every courtesy; they offered me of their dishes, and addressed me in Chinese - a compliment which I repaid by thanking them blandly in English.

Now I went on, on foot, though I had difficulty in keeping pace with my men. Behind the village we climbed a very steep hill by interminable steps, and passed under an archway at the summit. Descending the hill, my cook engaged in a controversy with a thin lad whom he had hired to carry his load a stage. The dispute waxed warm, and, while they stopped to argue it out at leisure, I went on. My cook, engaged through the kind offices of the Inland Mission, was a man of strong convictions; and in the last I saw of the dispute he was pulling the unfortunate coolie downhill by the pigtail. When he overtook me he was alone and smiling cheerfully, well satisfied with himself for having settled that little dispute. The road became more level, and we got over the ground quickly.

Late in the evening I was led into a crowded inn in a large village, where we were to stay the night. We had come twenty-seven miles, and had begun well. I was shown into a room with three straw-covered wooden bedsteads, a rough table, lit by a lighted taper in a saucer of oil, a rough seat, and the naked earth floor. Hot water was brought me to wash with and tea to drink, and my man prepared me an excellent supper. My baggage was in the corner; it consisted of two light bamboo boxes with Chinese padlocks, a bamboo hamper, and a roll of bedding covered with oilcloth. An oilcloth is indispensable to the traveller in China, for placed next the straw on a Chinese bed it is impassable to bugs. And during all my journey in China I was never disturbed in my sleep by. this unpleasant pest. Bugs in China are sufficiently numerous, but their numbers cannot be compared with the gregarious hosts that disturb the traveller in Spain.

My last night in Spain was spent in Cadiz, the most charming city in the peninsula. I had lost the last boat off to the steamer, on which I was a passenger; it was late at night, and I knew of no inn near the landing. At midnight, as I was walking in the Plaza, called after that revered monarch, Queen Isabel II., I was spoken to at the door of a fonda, and asked if I wanted a bedroom. It was the taberna "La Valenciana." I was delighted; it was the very thing I was looking for, I said. The innkeeper had just one room unoccupied, and he showed me upstairs into a plain, homely apartment, which I was pleased to engage for the night. "Que usted descanse bien" (may you sleep well), said the landlord, and left me. Keeping the candle burning I tumbled into bed, for I was very tired, but jumped out almost immediately, despite my fatigue. I turned down the clothes, and saw the bugs gathering in the centre from all parts of the bed. I collected a dozen or two, and put them in a basin of water, and, dressing myself, went out on the landing and called the landlord.

He came up yawning.

"Sir," he said, "do you wish anything?" 

"Nothing; but it is impossible, absolutely impossible, for me to sleep in that bed." 

"But why, senor?"

"Because it is full of bugs."

"Oh no, sir, that cannot be, that cannot be; there is not a bug in the house."

"But I have seen them."

"You must be mistaken; it is impossible that there can be a bug in the house."

"But I have caught some."

"It makes twenty years that I live in this house, and never have I seen such a thing."

"Pardon me, but will you do me the favour to look at this basin ?"

"Sir, you are right, you are completely right; it is the weather; every bed in Cadiz is now full of them."

In the morning, and every morning, we were away at daylight, and walked some miles before breakfast. All the way to Suifu the road is a paved causeway, 3 feet 6 inches to 6 feet wide, laid down with dressed flags of stone; and here, at least, it cannot be alleged, as the Chinese proverb would have it, that their roads are "good for ten years and bad for ten hundred." There are, of course, no fences; the main road picks its way through the cultivated fields; no traveller ever thinks of trespassing from the roadway, nor did I ever see any question of trespass between neighbours. In this law-abiding country the peasantry conspicuously follow the Confucian maxim taught in China four hundred years before Christ, "Do not unto others what you would not have others do unto you." Every rood of ground is under tillage.

Hills are everywhere terraced like the seats of an amphitheatre, each terrace being irrigated from the one below it by a small stream of water, drawn up an inclined plain by a continuous chain bucket, worked with a windlass by either hand or foot. The poppy is everywhere abundant and well tended; there are fields of winter wheat, and pink-flowered beans, and beautiful patches of golden rape seed. Dotted over the landscape are pretty Szechuen farmhouses in groves of trees. Splendid banyan trees give grateful shelter to the traveller. Of this country it could be written as a Chinese traveller wrote of England, "their fertile hills, adorned with the richest luxuriance, resemble in the outline of their summits the arched eyebrows of a fair woman."

The country is well populated, and a continuous stream of people is moving along the road. Grand memorial arches span the roadway, many of them notable efforts of monumental skill, with columns and architraves carved with elephants and deer, and flowers and peacocks, and the Imperial seven-tailed dragon of China. Chinese art is seen at its best in this rich province.

I lived, of course, in the common Chinese inn, ate Chinese food, and was everywhere treated with courtesy and good nature; but at first I found it trying to be such an object of curiosity; to have to do all things in unsecluded publicity; to have to push my way through streets thronged by the curious to see the foreigner. My meals I ate in the presence of the street before gaping crowds. When they came too close I told them politely in English to keep back a little, and they did so if I illustrated my words by gesture. When I scratched my head and they saw the spurious pigtail, they smiled; when I flicked the dust off the table with my pigtail, they laughed hilariously.

The wayside inns are usually at the side of an arcade of grass and bamboo stretched above the mainroad. Two or three ponies are usually waiting here for hire, and expectant coolies are eager to offer their services. In engaging a pony you make an offer casually, as if you had no desire in the world of its being accepted, and then walk on as if you had no intention whatever of riding for the next month. The mafoo demands more, but will come down; you stick to your offer, though prepared to increase it; so demand and offer you exchange with the mafoo till the width of the village is between you, and your voices are almost out of hearing, when you come to terms.

Suppose I wanted a chair to give me a rest for a few miles - it was usually slung under the rafters - Laokwang (my cook) unobserved by anyone but me pointed to it with his thumb inquiringly. I nodded assent and apparently nothing more happened and the conversation, of which I was quite ignorant, continued. We left together on foot, my man still maintaining a crescendo conversation with the inn people till well away. When almost out of hearing he called out something and an answer came faintly back from the distance. It was his ultimatum as regards price and its acceptance - they had been bargaining all the time. My man motioned to me to wait, said the one word "chiaodza" (sedan chair) and in a few moments the chair of bamboo and wicker came rapidly down the road carried by two bearers. They put down the chair before me and bowed to me; I took my seat and was borne easily and pleasantly along at four miles an hour at a charge of less than one penny a mile.

My men received nearly 400 cash a day each; but from time to time they sweated their contract to unemployed coolies and had their loads carried for so little as sixty cash (one penny halfpenny), for two-thirds of a day's journey.

At nightfall we always reached some large village or town where my cook selected the best inn for my resting place, the best inn in such cases being usually the one which promised him the largest squeeze. All the towns through which the road passes swarm with inns, for there is an immense floating population to provide for. Competition is keen. Touts stand at the doorway of every inn, who excitedly waylay the traveller and cry the merits of their houses. At the counter inside the entrance, piles of pukais (the warm Chinese bedding), are stacked for hire - few of the travellers carry their own bedding. The inns are sufficiently comfortable. The bedrooms are in one or two stories and are arranged round one or more, or a succession of courts. The cheapness is to be commended. For supper, bed, and light, tea during the night and tea before starting in the morning, and various little comforts, such as hot water for washing, the total charge for the six nights of my journey from Chungking to Suifu was 840 cash (1s. 9 d.).

Rice was my staple article of diet; eggs, fowls, and vegetables were also abundant and cheap; but I avoided pork which is the flesh universally eaten throughout China by all but the Mohammedans and vegetarians. In case of emergency I had a few tins of foreign stores with me. I made it a point never to drink water - I drank tea. No Chinaman ever drinks anything cold. Every half hour or hour he can reach an inn or teahouse where tea can be infused for him in a few minutes. The price of a bowl of tea with a pinch of tea-leaves, rilled and refilled with hot water ad lib, is two cash - equal to the twentieth part of one penny. Pork has its weight largely added to by being injected with water, the point of the syringe being passed into a large vein; this is usually described as the Chinese method of "watering stock."

On the third day we were at Yuenchuan, sixty-three miles from Chungking. On the 5th, we passed through Luchow, one of the richest and most populous cities on the Upper Yangtse, and at noon next day we again reached the Yangtse at the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy, two miles down the river from the large town of Lanchihsien. According to my interpretation of the gesticulations of Laokwang, we were then forty miles from Suifu, and a beautiful sunny afternoon before us, in which to easily cover one half the distance. But I must reckon with my guide. He wished to remain here; I wished to go on; but as I could not understand his Chinese explanation, nor advance any protest except in English, of which he was innocent, I could only look aggrieved and make a virtue of a necessity. He did, however, convey to me his solemn assurance that to-morrow (ming tien) he would conduct me into Suifu before sunset. An elderly Chinaman, who had given us the advantage of his company at various inns during the last three days, here entered into the conversation, produced his watch, and, with his hand over his heart, which, in a Chinaman, is in the centre of the breast-bone, added his sacred asseveration to my guide's. So I stayed. We were quite a friendly party travelling together.

In the middle of the night a light was flashed into our room and a voice pealed out an alarm that awoke even my two Chinese, who, always obligingly slept in the same room with me. I had protested against their doing so, but they mistook my expostulation for approbation. We rose at once, and came down the steep bank to a boat that was lying stern to shore showing a light. I was charmed to get such an early start, and construed the indications into a ferry boat to take me across the river, whence we would go by a short route into Suifu. The boat was loaded with sugar and had a crew of two men and three boys. There was an awning over the cargo, but most of the space under it was already occupied by twelve amiable Chinese, among whom were six promiscuous friends,, who had kept with us for several stages, and had, I imagine, derived some pecuniary advantages from my company. Yet this was not a ferry boat, but a passenger boat engaged especially for me to carry me to Suifu before nightfall. The Chinese passengers had courteously projected their companionship upon the inarticulate stranger. An elderly gentleman, with huge goggles and long nails, whose fingers were stained with opium, was the pacificator of the party, and calmed the frequent wranglings in which the other eighteen Chinese engaged with much earnestness.

Well, this boat - a leaky, heavy, old tub that had to be tracked nearly all the way - carried me the forty miles to Suifu within contract time. The boatmen on board worked sixteen hours without any rest except at two hasty meals; the frayed tow-rope never parted at any rapid, and only once did our boat get entangled with any other. Towards sundown we were abreast of the fine pagoda of Suifu, and a little later were at the landing. The city is on a high, level shelf of land with high hills behind it. It lies in the angle of bifurcation formed by the Yangtse river (here known as the "River of Golden Sand"), going west, and the Min, or Chentu river, going north to Chentu, the capital city of the province. I landed below the southern wall, and said good-bye to my companions. Climbing up the bank into the city, I passed by a busy thoroughfare to the pretty home of the Inland Mission, where I received a kind welcome from the gentleman and lady who conduct the mission, and a charming English girl, also in the mission, who lives with them.