CHAPTER XX. THE CITY OF TENGYUEH - THE CELEBRATED WUNTHO SAWBWA - SHAN SOLDIERS.

I was given a comfortable room in the telegraph offices, but I had little privacy. My room was thronged during all the time of my visit. The first evening I held an informal and involuntary reception, which was attended by all the officials of the town, with the dignified exception of the Brigadier-General. The three members of the Chinese Boundary Commission, which had recently arranged with the British Commission the preliminaries to the delimitation of the boundary between Burma and China, were here, disputing with clerks, yamen-runners, and chair-coolies for a sight of my photographs and curiosities. The telegraph Manager Pen, Yeh (the magistrate), and a stalwart soldier (Colonel Liu), formed the Commission, and they retain hallowed recollections of the benignity of the Englishmen, and the excellence of their champagne. Colonel Liu proved to be the most enlightened member of the party. He is a tall, handsome fellow, fifty years of age, a native of Hunan, the most warlike and anti-foreign province in China. He was especially glad to see a foreign doctor. The gallant Colonel confided to me a wish that had long been uppermost in his heart. From some member, unknown, of the British Commission he had learnt of the marvellous rejuvenating power of a barbarian medicine - could I get him some? Could I get him a bottle of hair-dye? Unlike his compatriots, who regard the external features of longevity as the most coveted attribute of life, this gentleman, in whose brain the light of civilisation was dawning, wished to frustrate the doings of age. Could I get him a bottle of hair-dye ? He was in charge of the fort at Ganai, two days out on the way to Bhamo, and would write to the officer in charge during his absence directing him to provide me with an escort worthy of my benefaction.

One celebrity, who lives in the neighbourhood of Tengyueh, did not favour me with a visit. That famous dacoit, the outlawed Prince of Wuntho - the Wuntho Sawbwa - lives here, an exile sheltered by the Chinese Government. A pure Burmese himself, the father-in-law of the amiable Sawbwa of Santa, he is believed by the Government of Burma to have been "concerned in all the Kachin risings of 1892-1893." A reward of 5000 rupees is offered for his head, which will be paid equally whether the head be on or off the shoulders. Another famous outlaw, the Shan Chief Kanh-liang, is also believed to be in hiding in the neighbourhood of Tengyueh. The value of his head has been assessed at 2000 rupees.

Tengyueh is more a park than a town. The greater part of the city within the walls is waste land or gardens. The houses are collected mainly near the south gate, and extend beyond the south gate on each side of the road for half a mile on the road to Bhamo. There is an excellent wall in admirable order, with an embankment of earth 20ft. in width. But I saw no guns of any kind whatever, nor did I meet a single armed man in the town or district.

Tengyueh is so situated that the invading army coming from Burma will find a pleasant pastime in shelling it from the open hills all around the town. This was the last stronghold of the Mohammedans. It was formerly a prosperous border town, the chief town in all the fertile valley of the Taiping. It was in the hands of the rebels till June loth, 1873, when it was delivered over to the Imperialists to carnage and destruction. The valley is fertile and well populated, and prosperity is quickly returning to the district.

There is only one yamen in Tengyueh of any pretension, and it is the official residence of a red-button warrior, the Brigadier-General (Chentai) Chang, the successor, though not, of course, the immediate successor, of Li-Sieh-tai, who was concerned in the murder of Margary and the repulse of the expedition under Colonel Horace Browne in 1875. A tall, handsome Chinaman is Chang, of soldierly bearing and blissful innocence of all knowledge of modern warfare. Yung-chang is the limit of his jurisdiction in one direction, the Burmese boundary in the other; his only superior officer is the Titai in Tali.

The telegraph office adjoins the City Temple and Theatre of Tengyueh. At this time the annual festival was being celebrated in the temple. Theatrical performances were being given in uninterrupted succession daily for the term of one month. Play began at sunrise, and the curtain fell, or would have fallen if there had been a curtain, at twilight. Day was rendered hideous by the clangour of the instruments which the blunted senses of Chinese have been misguided into believing are musical. Already the play, or succession of plays, had continued fifteen days, and other thirteen days had yet to be endured before its completion. Crowds occupied the temple court during the performance, while a considerable body of dead-heads witnessed the entertainment from the embankment and wall overlooking the open stage. My host, the telegraph Manager Pen, and his two friends Liu and Yeh, were given an improvised seat of honour outside my window, and here they sat all day and sipped tea and cracked jokes. No actresses were on the stage; the female parts were taken by men whose make-up was admirable, and who imitated, with curious fidelity, the voice and gestures of women. The dresses were rich and varied. Scene-shifters, band, supers, and friends remained on the stage during the performance, dodging about among the actors. There is no drop curtain in a Chinese theatre, and all scenes are changed on the open stage before you. The villain, whose nose is painted white, vanquished by triumphant virtue, dies a gory death; he remains dead just long enough to satisfy you that he is dead, and then gets up and serenely walks to the side. There is laughter at sallies of indecency, and the spectators grunt their applause. The Chinaman is rarely carried away by his feelings at the theatre; indeed, it may be questioned if strong emotion is ever aroused in his breast, except by the first addresses of the junior members of the China Inland Mission, the thrilling effect of whose Chinese exhortations is recorded every month in China's Millions.

The Manager of the telegraph, to show his good feeling, presented me with a stale tin of condensed milk. His second clerk and operator was the most covetous man I met in China. He begged in turn for nearly every article I possessed, beginning with my waterproof, which I did not give him, and ending with the empty milk tin, which I did, for "Give to him that asketh," said Buddha, "even though it be but a little." The chief operator in charge of the telegraph offices speaks a little English, and is the medium by which English messages and letters are translated into Chinese for the information of the officials. His name is Chueh. His method of translation is to glean the sense of a sentence by the probable meaning, derived from an inaccurate Anglo-Chinese dictionary, of the separate words of the sentence. He is a broken reed to trust to as an interpreter. Chueh is not an offensively truthful man. When he speaks to you, you find yourself wondering if you have ever met a greater liar than he. "Three men's strength," he says, "cannot prevail against truth;" yet he is, I think, the greatest liar I have met since I left Morocco. Indeed, the way he spoke of my head boy Laotseng, who was undoubtedly an honest Chinese, and the opinion Laotseng emphatically held of Chueh, was a curious repetition of an experience that I had not long ago in Morocco. I was living in Tangier, when I had occasion to go to Fez and Mequinez. My visit was arranged so hurriedly that I had no means of learning what was the degree of personal esteem attaching to the gentleman, a resident of Tangier, who was to be my companion. I accordingly interrogated the hotel-keeper, Mr. B. "What kind of a man is D.?" I asked. "Not a bad fellow," he replied, "if he wasn't such a blank, blank awful liar!" On the road to Wazan I became very friendly with D., and one day questioned him as to his private regard for Mr. B. of the hotel. "A fine fellow B. seems," I said, "very friendly and entertaining. What do you think of him?" "What do I think of him?" he shouted in his falsetto. "I know he's the biggest blank liar in Morocco." It was pleasant to meet, even in Morocco, such a rare case of mutual esteem.

My pony fared badly in Tengyueh. There was a poor stable in the courtyard with a tiled roof that would fall at the first shower. There were no beans. The pony had to be content with rice or paddy, which it disliked equally. The rice was 1.5d. the 7.5lbs. There was no grass, Chueh said, to be obtained in the district. He assured me so on his honour, or its Chinese equivalent; but I sent out and bought some in the street round the corner.

Silver in Tengyueh is the purest Szechuen or Yunnanese silver. Rupees are also current, and at this time were equivalent to 400 cash - the tael at the same time being worth 1260 cash. Every 10 taels, costing me 30s. in Shanghai, I could exchange in Tengyueh for 31 rupees. Rupees are the chief silver currency west from Tengyueh into Burma.

On May 31st I had given instructions that we were to leave early, but my men, who did not sleep in the telegraph compound, were late in coming. To still further delay me, at the time of leaving no escort had made its appearance. I did not wait for it. We marched out of the town unaccompanied, and were among the tombstones on the rise overlooking the town when the escort hurriedly overtook us. It consisted of a quiet-mannered chairen and two soldiers, one of whom was an impudent cub that I had to treat with every indignity. He was armed with a sword carried in the folds of his red cincture, in which was also concealed an old muzzle-loading pistol, formidable to look at but unloaded. This was one of the days on my journey when I wished that I had brought a revolver, not as a defence case of danger, for there was no danger, but as a menace on occasion of anger.

Rain fell continuously. At a small village thronged with muleteers from Bhamo we took shelter for an hour. The men sipping tea under the verandahs had seen Europeans in Bhamo, and my presence evoked no interest whatever. Many of these strangers possessed an astonishing likeness to European friends of my own. Contact with Europeans causing the phenomena of "maternal impression," was pro. bably in a few cases accountable for the moulding of their features, but the general prevalence of the European type has yet to be explained. "My conscience! Who could ever have expected to meet you here?" I was often on the point of saying to some Chinese Shan or Burmese Shan in whom, to my confusion, I thought I recognised a college friend of my own.

Leaving the village, we followed the windings of the River Taiping, coasting along the edge of the high land on the left bank of the river.

Rain poured incessantly; the creeks overflowed; the paths became watercourses and were scarcely fordable. "Bones," my opium-eating coolie with the long neck, slipped into a hole which was too deep even for his long shanks, and all my bedding was wetted. It was ninety li to Nantien, the fort we were bound to beyond Tengyueh, and we finished the distance by sundown. The town is of little importance. It is situated on an eminence and is surrounded by a wall built, with that strange spirit of contrariness characteristic of the Chinese, and because it incloses a fort, more weakly than any city wall. It is not more substantial nor higher than the wall round many a mission compound. Some 400 soldiers are stationed in the fort, which means that the commander draws the pay for 1000 soldiers, and represents the strength of his garrison as 1000. Their arms are primitive and rusty muzzle-loaders of many patterns; there are no guns to be seen, if there are any in existence - which is doubtful. The few rusty cast-iron ten-pounders that lie hors de combat in the mud have long since become useless. There may be ammunition in the fort; but there is none to be seen. It is more probable, and more in accordance with Chinese practice in such matters, that the ammunition left by his predecessor (if any were left, which is doubtful) has long ago been sold by the colonel in command, whose perquisite this would naturally be.

The fort of Nantien is a fort in name only - it has no need to be otherwise, for peace and quiet are abroad in the valley. Besides, the mere fact of its being called a fort is sufficiently misleading to the neighbouring British province of Burma, where they are apt to picture a Chinese fort as a structure seriously built in some accordance with modern methods of fortification.

I was given a comfortable room in a large inn already well filled with travellers. All treated me with pleasant courtesy. They were at supper when I entered the room, and they invited me to share their food. They gave me the best table to myself, and after supper they crowded into another room in order to let me have the room to myself.

Next day we continued along the sandy bed of the river, which was here more than a mile in width. The river itself, shrunk now into its smallest size, flowed in a double stream down the middle. Then we left the river, and rode along the high bank flanking the valley. All paved roads had ended at Tengyueh, and the track was deeply cut and jagged by the rains. At one point in to-day's journey the road led up an almost vertical ascent to a narrow ledge or spur at the summit, and then fell as steeply into the plain again. It was a shortcut, that, as you would expect in China, required five times more physical effort to compass than did the longer but level road which it was intended to save. So narrow is the ridge that the double row of open sheds leaves barely room for pack mules to pass. The whole traffic on the caravan route to Burma passes by this spot. The long bamboo sheds with their grass roofs are divided into stalls, where Shan women in their fantastic turbans, with silver bracelets and earrings, their lips and teeth stained with betel-juice, sit behind the counters of raised earth, and eagerly compete for the custom of travellers. More than half the women had goitre. Before them were laid out the various dishes. There were pale cuts of pork, well soaked in water to double their weight, eggs and cabbage and salted fish, bean curds, and a doubtful tea flavoured with camomile and wild herbs. There were hampers of coarse grass for the horses, and wooden bowls of cooked rice for the men, while hollow bamboos were used equally to bring water from below, to hold sheaves of chopsticks where the traveller helped himself, and to receive the cash. Trade was busy. Muleteers are glad to rest here after the climb, if only to enjoy a puff of tobacco from the bamboo-pipe which is always carried by one member of the party for the common use of all.

Descending again into the river valley, I rode lazily along in the sun, taking no heed of my men, who were soon separated from me. The broad river-bed of sand was before me as level as the waters of a lake. As I was riding slowly along by myself, away from all guard, I saw approaching me in the lonely plain a small body of men. They were moving quickly along in single file, and we soon met and passed each other. They were three Chinese Shan officers on horseback, dressed in Chinese fashion, and immediately behind them were six soldiers on foot, who I saw were Burmese or Burmese Shans. They were smart men, clad in loose jerseys and knickerbockers, with sun-hats and bare legs, and they marched like soldiers. Cartridge-belts were over their left shoulders, and Martini-Henry rifles, carried muzzle foremost, on their right. I took particular note of them because they were stepping in admirable order, and, though small of stature, I thought they were the first armed men I had met in all my journey across China who could without shame be presented as soldiers in any civilised country.

They passed me, but seemed struck by my appearance; and I had not gone a dozen yards before they all stopped by a common impulse, and when I looked back they were still there in a group talking, with the officers' horses turned towards me; and it was very evident I was the subject of their conversation. I was alone at the time, far from all my men, without weapon of any kind. I was dressed in full Chinese dress and mounted on an unmistakably Chinese pony. I rode unconcernedly on, but I must confess that I did not feel comfortable till I was assured that they did not intend to obtrude an interview upon me. At length, to my relief, the party continued on its way, while I hurried on to my coolies, and made them wait till my party was complete. I was probably alarmed without any reason. But it was not till I arrived in Burma that I learnt that this was the armed escort of the outlawed Wuntho Sawbwa, the dacoit chief who has a price set on his head. The soldiers' rifles and cartridge-belts had been stripped from the dead bodies of British sepoys, killed on the frontier in the Kachin Hills.

My men, when we were all together again, indicated to me by signs that I would shortly meet an elephant, and I thought that at last I was about to witness the realisation of that story, everywhere current in Western China, of the British tribute from Burma. Sure enough we had not gone far when, at the foot of a headland which projected into the plain, we came full upon a large elephant picking its way along the margin of the rocks - a remarkable sight to my Chinese. Its scarlet howdah was empty; its trappings were scarlet; the mahout was a Shan. It was the elephant of the Wuntho Prince - a little earlier and I might have had the privilege of meeting the dacoit himself. The elephant passed unconcernedly on, and we continued down the plain of sand to the village of Ganai, where we were to stay the night.

It was market-day in the town. A double row of stalls extended down the main street, each stall under the shelter of a huge umbrella. Japanese matches from Osaka were for sale here, and foreign nick-nacks, needles and braid and cotton, and Manchester dress stuffs mixed with the multitudinous articles of native produce. This is a Shan town, but large numbers of native women - Kachins - were here also with their ugly black faces, and coarse black fringes hiding their low foreheads. Far away from the town an obliging Shan had attached himself to us as guide. He was dressed in white cotton jacket and dark-blue knickerbockers, with a dark-blue sash round his waist. He was barelegged, and rode as the Chinese do, and as you would expect them to do who do everything al reves, with the heel in the stirrup instead of the toe. His turban was dark-blue, and the pigtail was coiled up under it, and did not hang down from under the skull cap as with the Chinese. When I rode into the town accompanied by the guide, all the people forsook the market street and followed the illustrious stranger to the inn which had been selected for his resting-place. It was a favourite inn, and was already crowded. The best room was in possession of Chinese travellers, who were on the road like myself. They were dozing on the couches, but what must they do when I entered the room but, thinking that I should wish to occupy it by myself, rise and pack up their things, and one after another move into another apartment adjoining, which was already well filled, and now became doubly so. Their thoughtfulness and courtesy charmed me. They must have been more tired than I was, but they smiled and nodded pleasantly to me as they left the room, as if they were grateful to me for putting them to inconvenience. They may be perishing heathen, I thought, but the average deacon or elder in our enlightened country could scarcely be more courteous.

Ganai is a mud village thatched with grass. It is a military station under the command of the red-button Colonel Liu, whom I met in Tengyueh. The Colonel had earned his bottle of hair-dye. He had written to have me provided with an escort, and by-and-by the two officers who were to accompany me on the morrow came in to see me. As many spectators as could find elbow-room squeezed into my room behind them. Both were gentlemanly young fellows, very amiable and inquisitive, and keenly desirous to learn all they could concerning my honourable family. Their curiosity was satisfied. By the help of my Chinese phrasebook I gave them all particulars, and a few more. You see it was important that I should leave as favourable an impression as possible for the benefit of future travellers. More than one of my ancestors I brought to life again and endowed a patriarchal age and a beard to correspond. As to my own age they marvelled greatly that one so young-looking could be so old, and when, in answer to their earnest question, I modestly confessed that I was already the unhappy possessor of two unworthy wives, five wretched sons, and three contemptible daughters, their admiration of my virtue increased tenfold.

The officers left me after this, but till late at night I held levees of the townsfolk, our landlady, who was most zealous, no sooner dismissing one crowd than another pressed into its place. The courtyard, I believe, remained filled till early in the morning, but I was allowed to sleep at last.

A large crowd followed me out of the town in the morning, and swarmed with me across the beautiful sward, as level as the Oval, which here widens into the country. No guest was ever sped on his way with a kindlier farewell. The fort is outside the town; we passed it on our left; it is a square inclosure of considerable size, inclosed by a mud wall 15 feet high; it is in the unsheltered plain, and presents no formidable front to an invader. At each of the four corners outside the square are detached four-sided watch-towers. No guns of any kind are mounted on the walls, and there are no sentries; one could easily imagine that the inclosure was a market-square, but imagination could never picture it as a serious obstacle to an armed entry into Western China. The river was well on our right. The plain down which we rode is of exceeding richness and highly cultivated, water being trained into the paddy-fields in the same way that everywhere prevails in China proper. Buffaloes were ploughing - wearily plodding through mud and water up to their middles. We were now among the Shans, and those working in the fields were Shans, not Chinese. Ganai, Santa, and other places are but little principalities or Shan States, governed by hereditary princelets or Sawbwas, and preserving a form of self-government under the protection of the Chinese. There are no more charming people in the world than the Shans. They are courteous, hospitable, and honest, with all the virtues and few of the vices of Orientals. "The elder brothers of the Siamese, they came originally from the Chinese province of Szechuen, and they can boast of a civilisation dating from twenty-three centuries B.C." So Terrien de Lacouperie tells us, who had a happy faculty of drawing upon his imagination for his facts.

Under the wide branches of a banyan tree I made my men stop, for I was very tired, and while they waited I lay down for an hour on the grass and had a refreshing sleep. While I slept, the rest of the escort sent to "sung" me to Santa arrived. Within a few yards of my resting place there is a characteristic monument, dating from the time when Burma occupied not only this valley but the fertile territory beyond it, and beyond Tengyueh to the River Salween. It is a solid Burmese pagoda, built of concentric layers of brick and mortar, and surmounted with a solid bell-shaped dome that is still intact. It stands alone on the plain near a group of banyans, and its erection no doubt gained many myriads of merits for the conscience-stricken Buddhist who found the money to build it. All goldleaf has been peeled off the Pagoda years ago.

It was a picturesque party that now enfiladed into the wide stretch of sand which in the rainy season forms the bed of the fiver. Mounted on his white pony, there was the inarticulate European who had discarded his Chinese garb and was now dressed in the aesthetic garments of the Australian bush; there were his two coolies and Laotseng his boy, none of whom could speak any English, the two officers in their loose Chinese clothes, mounted on tough little ponies, and eight soldiers. They were Shans of kindly feature, small and nimble fellows, in neat uniforms - green jackets edged with black and braided with yellow, yellow sashes, and loose dark-blue knickerbockers - the uniform of the Sawbwa of Ganai. They were armed with Remington rifles, carried their cartridges in bandoliers, and seemed to be of excellent fighting material. All their accoutrements were in good order.

Now we had to cross the broad stream, here running with a swift current over the sand, in channels of varying depths that are frequently changing. For the width of nearly half a mile at the crossing place the water was never shallower than to my knee, nor deeper than to my waist. We all crossed safely, but, to my tribulation, the soldier who was carrying my two boxes tripped in the deepest channel and let both boxes slip from the carrying pole into the water. All the notes and papers upon which this valuable record is founded were much damaged. But it might have been worse. I had a presentiment that an accident would happen, and had waded back to the channel and was standing by at the time. But for this the papers might have been floated down to the Irrawaddy and been lost to the world - loss irreparable!

The sun was very hot. I laid out my things on the bank and dried them. Long and narrow dugouts, as light and swift as the string-test gigs of civilisation, paddled or poled, were gliding with extraordinary speed down the channel near the bank. Riding then a little way, we dismounted under a magnificent banyan tree, one of the finest specimens, I should think, in the world. Ponies and men were dwarfed into Liliputians under the amazing canopy of its branches. A number of villagers, come to see the foreigner, were clambering like monkeys over its roots, which "writhed in fantastic coils" over half an acre. Their village was hard by, a poor array of mud houses; the teak temple to which we were conducted was raised on piles in the centre of the village. The temple was lumbered like an old curiosity shop with fragmentary gods and torn missals. Yet the ragged priest in his smirched yellow gown, and shaven head that had been a week unshaven, seemed to enjoy a reputation for no common sanctity, to judge by the reverence shown him by my followers, and the contemptuous indifference with which he regarded their obeisance. He was club-footed and could only hobble about with difficulty - an excuse he would, no doubt, urge for the disorder of his sanctuary. To me, of course, he was very polite, and gave me the best seat he had, while Laotseng prepared me a bowl of cocoa. Then we rode along the right bank of the river, but kept moving away from the stream till in the distance across the plain at the foot of the hills, we saw the Shan town of Santa, the end of our day's stage.

Native women, returning from the town, were wending their way across the plain - lank overgrown girls with long thin legs and overhanging mops of hair like deck-swabs. They were a favourite butt of my men, who chaffed them in the humorous Eastern manner, with remarks that were, I am afraid, more coarse than witty. Kachins are not virtuous. Their customs preclude such a possibility. No Japanese maiden is more innocent of virtue than a Kachin girl.