CHAPTER X. THE JOURNEY FROM CHAOTONG TO TONGCHUAN.

In Chaotong I engaged three new men to go with me to Tongchuan, a distance of no miles, and I rewarded liberally the three excellent fellows who had accompanied me from Suifu. My new men were all active Chinamen. The headman Laohwan was most anxious to come with me. Recognising that he possessed characteristics which his posterity would rejoice to have transmitted to them, he had lately taken to himself a wife and now, a fortnight later, he sought rest. He would come with me to Burma, the further away the better; he wished to prove the truth of the adage about distance and enchantment. The two coolies who were to carry the loads were country lads from the district. My men were to receive 4s. 6d. each for the no miles, an excessive wage, but all food was unusually dear, and people were eating maize instead of rice; they were to find themselves on the way, in other words, they were "to eat their own rice," and, in return for a small reward, they were to endeavour to do the five days' stages in three days. I bought a few stores, including some excellent oatmeal and an annular cake of that compressed tea, the "Puerh-cha," which is grown in the Shan States and is distributed as a luxury all over China. It is in favour in the palace of the Emperor in Peking itself; it is one of the finest teas in China, yet, to show how jealous the rivalry now is between China tea and Indian, when I submitted the remainder of this very cake to a well-known tea-taster in Mangoe Lane Calcutta, and asked his expert opinion, he reported that the sample was "of undoubted value and of great interest, as showing what muck can be called tea."

We left on the 3rd, and passed by the main-street through the crowded city, past the rich wholesale warehouses, and out by the west gate to the plain of Chaotong. The country spread before us was smiling and rich, with many farmsteads, and orchards of pears and peaches - a pretty sight, for the trees were now in full blossom. Many carts were lumbering along the road on their uneven wheels. Just beyond the city there was a noisy altercation in the road for the possession apparently of a blunt adze. Carts stopped to see the row, and all the bystanders joined in with their voices, with much earnestness. It is rare for the disputants to be injured in these questions. Their language on these occasions is, I am told, extremely rich in allusions. It would often make a gendarme blush. Their oaths are more ornate than the Italians'; the art of vituperation is far advanced in China. A strong wind was blowing in our faces. We rested at some mud hovels where poverty was stalking about with a stick in rags and nakedness. Full dress of many of these beggars would disgrace a Polynesian. Even the better dressed were hung with garments in rags, tattered, and dirty as a Paisley ragpicker's. The children were mostly stark-naked. In the middle of the day we reached a Mohammedan village named Taouen, twenty miles from Chaotong, and my man prepared me an al fresco lunch. The entire village gathered into the square to see me eat; they struggled for the orange peel I threw under the table.

From here the road rises quickly to the village of Tashuitsing (7380 feet above sea level), where my men wished to remain, and apparently came to an understanding with the innkeeper; but I would not understand and went on alone, and they perforce had to follow me. There are only half-a-dozen rude inns in the village, all Mohammedan; but just outside the village the road passes under a magnificent triple archway in four tiers made of beautifully cut stone, embossed with flowers and images, and richly gilt - a striking monument in so forlorn a situation. It was built two years ago, in obedience to the will of the Emperor, by the richest merchant of Chaotong, and is dedicated to the memory of his virtuous mother, who died at the age of eighty, having thus experienced the joy of old age, which in China is the foremost of the five measures of felicity. It was erected and carved on the spot by masons from Chungking. Long after dark we reached an outlying inn of the village of Kiangti, a thatched mud barn, with a sleeping room surrounded on three sides by a raised ledge of mud bricks upon which were stretched the mattresses. The room was dimly lit by an oil-lamp; the floor was earth; the grating under the rafters was stored with maize-cobs. Outside the door cooking was done in the usual square earthen stove, in which are sunk two iron basins, one for rice, the other for hot water; maize stalks were being burnt in the flues. The room, when we entered, was occupied by a dozen Chinese, with their loads and the packsaddles of a caravan of mules; yet what did the good-natured fellows do? They must all have been more tired than I; but, without complaining, they a'l got up when they saw me, and packed their things and went out of the room, one after the other, to make way for myself and my companions. And, while we were comfortable, they crowded into another room that was already crowded.

Next day a tremendously steep descent took us down to Kiangti, a mountain village on the right bank of a swift stream, here spanned in its rocky pass by a beautiful suspension bridge, which swings gracefully high above the torrent. The bridge is 150 feet long by 12 feet broad, and there is no engineer in England who might not be proud to have been its builder. At its far end the parapets are guarded by two sculptured monkeys, hewn with rough tools out of granite, and the more remarkable for their fidelity of form, seeing that the artist must have carved them from memory. The inevitable likin-barrier is at the bridge to squeeze a few more cash out of the poor carriers. That the Inland Customs dues of China are vexatious there can be no doubt; yet it is open to question if the combined duties of all the likin barriers on any one main-road extending from frontier to frontier of any single province in China are greater than the ad valorem duties imposed by our colony of Victoria upon the protected goods crossing her border from an adjoining colony.

Leaving the bridge, the road leads again up the hills. Poppy was now in full flower, and everywhere in the fields women were collecting opium. They were scoring the poppy capsules with vertical scratches and scraping off the exuded juice which had bled from the incisions they made yesterday. Hundreds of pack horses carrying Puerh tea met us on the road; while all day long we were passing files of coolies toiling patiently along under heavy loads of crockery. They were going in the same direction as ourselves to the confines of the empire, distributing those teacups, saucers, and cuplids, china spoons, and rice-bowls that one sees in every inn in China. Most of the crockery is brought across China from the province of Kiangsi, whose natural resources seems to give it almost the monopoly of this industry. The trade is an immense one. In the neighbourhood of King-teh-chin, in Kiangsi, at the outbreak of the Taiping rebellion, more than one million workmen were employed in the porcelain manufactories. Cups and saucers by the time they reach so far distant a part of China as this, carried as they are so many hundreds of miles on the backs of coolies, are sold for three or four times their original cost. Great care is taken of them, and no piece can be so badly broken as not to be mended. Crockery-repairing is a recognised trade, and the workmen are unusually skilful even for Chinese. They rivet the pieces together with minute copper clamps. To have a specimen of their handiwork I purposely in Yunnan broke a cup and saucer into fragments, only to find when I had done so that there was not a mender in the district. Rice bowls and teacups are neatly made, tough, and well finished; even the humblest are not inelegantly coloured, while the high-class china, especially where the imperial yellow is used, often shows the richest beauty of ornamentation.

Inns on this road were few and at wide distances; they were scarcely sufficient for the numbers who used them. The country was red sandstone, open, and devoid of all timber, till, descending again into a valley, the path crossed an obstructing ridge, and led us with pleasant surprise into a beautiful park. It was all green and refreshing. A pretty stream was humming past the willows, its banks covered with the poppy in full flower, a blaze of colour, magenta, white, scarlet, pink and blue picked out with hedges of roses. The birds were as tame as in the Garden of Eden; magpies came almost to our feet; the sparrows took no notice of us; the falcons knew we would not molest them; the pigeons seemed to think we could not

All was peaceful, and the peasants who sat with us under the cedars on the borders of the park were friendly and unobtrusive. Long after sundown we reached, far from the regular stage, a lonely pair of houses, at one of which we found uncomfortable accommodation. Fire had to be kindled in the room in a hollow in the ground; there was no ventilation, the wood was green, the smoke almost suffocating. My men talked on far into the night until I lost patience and yelled at them in English. They thought that I was swearing, and desisted for fear that I should injure their ancestors. There was a shrine in this room for private devotions, the corresponding spot in the adjoining room being a rough opium-couch already occupied by two lusty thickset "slaves to this thrice-accursed drug." My men ate the most frugal of suppers. Food was so much in advance of its ordinary price that my men, in common with thousands of other coolies, were doing their hard work on starvation rations.

On the 5th we did a long day's stage and spent the night at a bleak hamlet 8500 feet above sea level, in a position so exposed that the roofs of the houses were weighted with stones to prevent their being carried away by the wind. This was the "Temple of the Dragon King," and it was only twenty li from Tongchuan.

Next day we were astir early and soon after daylight we came suddenly to the brow of the tableland overlooking the valley of Tongchuan. The compact little walled city, with its whitewashed buildings glistening in the morning sun, lay beyond the gleaming plats of the irrigated plain, snugly ensconced under rolling masses of hills, which rose at the far end of the valley to lofty mountains covered with snow. All the plain is watered with springs; large patches of it are under water all the year round, and, rendered thus useless for cultivation, are employed by the Chinese for the artificial rearing of fish and as breeding grounds for the wild duck and the "faithful bird," the wild goose. A narrow dyke serpentining across the plain leads into the pretty city, where, at the north-east angle of the wall, I was charmed to find the cheerful home of the Bible Christian Mission, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Pollard and two lady assistants, one of whom is a countrywoman of my own. This is, I believe, the most charming spot for a mission station in all China. Mr. Pollard is quite a young man, full of enthusiasm, modest, and clever. Everywhere he is received kindly; he is on friendly terms with the officials and there is not a Chinese home within ten miles of the city where he and his pretty wife are not gladly welcomed. His knowledge of Chinese is exceptional; he is the best Chinese scholar in Western China, and is examiner in Chinese for the distant branches of the Inland Mission.

The mission in Tongchuan was opened in 1891, and the results are not discouraging, seeing that the Chinaman is as difficult to lead into the true path as any Jew. No native has been baptized up to date. The convert employed by the mission as a native helper, is one of the three converts of Chaotong. He is a bright-faced lad of seventeen, as ardent an evangelist as heart of missionary could desire, but a native preacher can never be so successful as the foreign missionary. The Chinese listen to him with complacency, "You eat Jesus's ric and of course you speak his words," they say. The attitude of the Chinese in Tongchuan towards the Christian missionary is one of perfect friendliness towards the missionary, combined with perfect apathy towards his religion. Like any other trader the missionary has a perfect right to offer his goods, but he must not be surprised, the Chinese thinks, if he finds difficulty in securing a purchaser for wares as much inferior to the home production as is the foreign barbarian to the subject of the Son of Heaven.

There is a Catholic Mission in Tongchuan, but the priest does not associate with the Protestant. How indeed can the two associate when they worship different Gods!

The difficulty is one which cannot be easily overcome while there exists in China that bone of contention among missionaries which is known as the "Term Question."

The Chinese recognise a supreme God, or are believed by some to recognise a supreme God - "High Heaven's ruler" (Shangtien hou ), who is "probably intended," says Williams, "for the true God." The Mohammedans, when they entered China, could not recognise this god as identical with the only one God, to whom they accordingly gave the Chinese name of "true Lord" (Chen Chu). The Jesuits, when they entered China, could not recognise either of these gods as identical with the God of the Hebrews, whom they accordingly represented in Chinese first by the characters for "Supreme Ruler" (Shang ti), and subsequently by the characters for "Lord of Heaven" (Tien Chu ). The Protestants naturally could not be identified with the Catholics, and invented another Chinese name, or other Chinese names, for the true God; while the Americans, superior to all other considerations, discovered a different name still for the true God to whom they assigned the Chinese characters for "the true Spirit" (Chen Shen ), thereby suggesting by implication, as Little observes, that the other spirits were false. But, as if such divergent terms were not sufficiently confusing for the Chinese, the Protestants themselves have still more varied the Chinese characters for God.

Thus in the first translation of the Bible, the term for God used is the Chinese character for "Spirit" (Shen); in the second translation this term is rejected and "Supreme Ruler" (Shang ti ), substituted; the third translation reverts to the "Spirit"; the fourth returns to the "Supreme Ruler"; and the fifth, by Bishop Burdon of Hong Kong, and Dr. Blodget of Peking, in 1884, rejects the title that was first accepted by the Jesuits, and accepts the title "Lord of Heaven" (Tien Chu), that was first rejected by the Jesuits.

"Many editions," says the Rev. J. Wherry, of Peking, "with other terms have since been published." "Bible work in particular," says the Rev. Mr. Muirhead, of Shanghai," is carried on under no small disadvantage in view of this state of things." "It is true, however," adds Mr. Muirhead, "that God has blest all terms in spite of our incongruity." But obviously the Chinese are a little puzzled to know which of the contending gods is most worthy of their allegiance.

But apart from the "Term Question" there must be irreconcilable antagonism between the two great missionary churches in China, for it cannot be forgotten that "in the development of the missionary idea three great tasks await the (Protestant) Church. . . . The second task is to check the schemes of the Jesuit. In the great work of the world's evangelisation the Church has no foe at all comparable with the Jesuit. . . . Swayed ever by the vicious maxim that the end justifies the means, he would fain put back the shadow of the dial of human progress by half a dozen centuries. Other forms of superstition and error are dangerous, but Jesuitism overtops them all and stands forth an organised conspiracy against the liberties of mankind. This foe is not likely to be overcome by a divided Protestantism. If we would conquer in this war we must move together, and in our movements must manifest a patience, a heroism, a devotion equal to anything the Jesuit can claim." (The Rev. A. Sutherland, D.D., Delegate from Canada to the Missionary Conference, 1888, Records, i., 145.) And, on the other hand, the distracted Chinese reads that: - "Protestantism is not only a veritable Babel, but a horrible theory, and an immoral practice which blasphemes God, degrades man, and endangers society." (Cardinal Cuesta's Catechism cited in "China and Christianity," by Michie, p. 8.)