CHAPTER XXXV. TENG-YUEH; A LINK WITH CIVILIZATION
After a week on the pass above Ho-mu-shu we shifted camp to a village called Tai-ping-pu, ten miles nearer Teng-yueh on the same road. The ride along the summit of the mountain was a delight, for we passed through grove after grove of rhododendrons in full blossom. The trees were sometimes thirty feet in height and the red flowers glowed like clusters of living coals among their dark green leaves. In the northern part of Yuen-nan the rhododendrons grow above other timber line on mountains where it is too high even for spruces.
It rained continually during our stay at Tai-ping-pu. I had another attack of the Salween malaria and for five or six days could do little work. Heller, however, made good use of his time and killed a beautiful horned pheasant, Temmick's tragopan (Ceriornis temmincki), besides half a dozen langurs of the same species as those we had collected on the Nam-ting River. He also was fortunate in shooting one of the huge flying squirrels (Petaurista yunnanensis) which we had hoped to get at Wei-hsi. He saw the animal in the upper branches of a dead tree on the first evening we were in Tai-ping-pu but was not able to get a shot. The next night he watched the same spot and killed the squirrel with a charge of "fours." It measured forty-two and one-quarter inches from the nose to the end of the tail and was a rich mahogany red grizzled with whitish above; the underparts were cream white. As in all flying squirrels, the four legs were connected by a sheet of skin called the "patagium" which is continuous with the body. This acts as a parachute and enables the animal to sail from tree to tree for, of course, it cannot fly like a bat. As these huge squirrels are strictly nocturnal, they are not often seen even by the natives. We were told by the Lutzus on the Mekong River that by building huge fires in the woods they could attract the animals and shoot them with their crossbows.
A few weeks later we purchased a live flying squirrel from a native and kept it for several days in the hope that it might become tame. The animal was exceedingly savage and would grind its teeth angrily and spring at anyone who approached its basket. It could not be tempted to eat or drink and, as it was a valuable specimen, we eventually chloroformed it.
Just below our camp in a pretty little valley a half dozen families of Lisos were living, and we hired the men to hunt for us. They were good-natured fellows, as all the natives of this tribe seem to be, and worked well. One day they brought in a fine muntjac buck which had been killed with their crossbows and poisoned darts. The arrows were about twelve inches long, made of bamboo and "feathered" with a triangular piece of the same wood. Those for shooting birds and squirrels were sharpened to a needle point, but the hunting darts were tipped with steel or iron. The poison they extracted from a plant, which I never saw, and it was said that it takes effect very rapidly.
The muntjac which the Lisos killed had been shot in the side with a single arrow and they assured us that only the flesh immediately surrounding the wound had been spoiled for food. These natives like the Mosos, Lolos, and others carried their darts in a quiver made from the leg skin of a black bear, and none of the men wished to sell their weapons; I finally did obtain a crossbow and quiver for six dollars (Mexican).
Two days before we left Tai-ping-pu, three of the Lisos guided my wife and me to a large cave where they said there was a colony of bats. The cavern was an hour's ride from camp, and proved to be in a difficult and dangerous place in the side of a cliff just above a swift mountain stream. We strung our gill net across the entrance and then sent one of the natives inside to stir up the animals while we caught them as they flew out. In less than half an hour we had twenty-eight big brown bats, but our fingers were cut and bleeding from the vicious bites of their needle-like teeth. They all represented a widely distributed species which we had already obtained at Yuen-nan Fu.
From Lung-ling I had sent a runner to Mr. Evans at Ta-li Fu asking him to forward to Teng-yueh the specimens which we had left in his care, and the day following our visit to the bat cave the caravan bearing our cases passed us at Tai-ping-pu. We, ourselves, were about ready to leave and two days later at ten o'clock in the morning we stood on a precipitous mountain summit, gazing down at the beautiful Teng-yueh plain which lay before us like a relief map. It is as flat as a plain well can be and, except where a dozen or more villages cluster on bits of dry land, the valley is one vast watery rice field. Far in the distance, outside the gray city walls, we could see two temple-like buildings surrounded by white-walled compounds, and Wu told us they were the houses of the Customs officials.
Teng-yueh, although only given the rank of a "ting" or second-class Chinese city, is one of the most important places in the province, for it stands as the door to India. All the trade of Burma and Yuen-nan flows back and forth through the gates of Teng-yueh, over the great caravan road to Bhamo on the upper Irawadi.