Edward Harper Parker.

China, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day online

. (page 4 of 35)
Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day → online text (page 4 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Burmo-Chinese frontier, who are known to be of
Tibeto-Burman origin. In Yihi Nan there are
a great many tribes of the Shan race, not only
within the border, but also in those recently
delimitated districts which now belong politi-
cally to Burma (Great Britain) or Tonquin
(France). Among the mountains of north-east
Yiin Nan and south Sz Ch'wan, the powerful
confederation of so-called Lolo tribes still main-
tains its independence. A French missionary
named Paul Vial, who had lived amongst them,
twenty years ago published a very valuable
memoir upon the subject. The Lolos possess a
written system of their own, a specimen of v/hich
(discovered by Mr. E. C. Babcr in 1880) I have
before me, together with a sheet from Perc Vial


throwing light upon its nature. Since then the
Mission D'Ollone of 1906-1909 has pubHshed
two very interesting works about the Lolos and
their language, the literary expression of which,
however, is of an unsatisfying nature. From
time to time very serious collisions take place
between the Lolos and the Chinese armies, the
result always being a patched-up peace, leaving
the uncivilised men very much to their own
devices as before. The Kachyn tribes ^ seem to
form a link between the homes of the Shans and
Tibetans. They extend along the Upper Irra-
waddy and the western frontiers of Yiin Nbu.
M. Jacques Bacot in 1912 published an equally
illuminating book upon the writing system of
the Moso tribes nearer to Tibet than the Lolos.
The Kamti tribes of the Upper Irrawaddy (the
Mali-kha branch) are, however, pure Shans, and
their language possesses a strong affinity with
Laotian and modern Siamese. On the western
frontiers of Sz Ch'wan we have numerous and
sometimes very formidable independent Tibetan
tribes, such as do not fall within the hierarchical
administration of Tibet proper. Mrs. Bird-
Bishop has given us interesting particulars about
some of these, but she appears to have some
reasons (not stated) for suggesting that they
are not Tibetan as usually supposed. The cave-
dwellers of eastern Sz Ch'wan have mostly dis-
appeared, but their abandoned dwellings in the
mountain-sides may still be seen anywhere to the
west of Chungking ; some of these tribes still
exist to the extreme south-east, near the Kwei
Chou frontier. In the island of Hainan there
are at least two groups of " savages," or non-
Chinese, one of which I personally ascertained
to be of Shan kinship. Despite the utter con-

^ Cf, my detailed account of these tribes. Fortnightly Review,

10 GEOGRAPHY [chap, i

fusion which reigns both in the Chinese and the
European mind touching the south-west bar-
barians, taken as a whole, I am disposed to think
that in all probability most of them will be found
to range themselves either under the Shan or
the Tibetan head. In this connection the Rev.
Samuel Clarke published a very informing work
in 1911, showing that none of the other south-
west tribes ever had any writing system, not-
withstanding their intelligence and their quick-
ness in picking up our romanising novelties.

We have seen how the advance of Chinese
civilisation has been along the Yellow River and
then up its great tributary, the Wei, to the head
waters or tributaries on the left bank of the
Yang-tsze. A combined movement from those
head waters and from the lakes of the Hwai (old
Yellow River mouth) system seems then to have
gradually taken in the whole Yang-tsze Valley,
including the old debouchure at Hangchow. A
glance at the map will show how their next
obvious move was across the Poyang and Tung-
t'ing lakes to Canton. Let us examine these
rivers in order. The Yellow River, the dis-
covery of whose exact source engaged the earnest
attention both of the ablest Mongol and the
most ambitious Manchu Emperors, rises among
a group of small lakes called Odon-tala (lat.
35° N., long. 96"^ E.). It then runs through
Charing Nor eastwards for 300 miles, turns
sharply back to the north-west, bisects Kan Suh
north-east, and takes a tremendous northerly
sweep round part of the desert, inclosing within
its bend the often-contested Ordos region. It
then turns due south, and forms the dividing
line between Shen Si and Shan Si. The pass of
T'ung Kwan, at its southern bend, was for many
centuries the key to the possession of empire,
in the days when the political centre of gravity


always lay within a hundred miles' radius of
that point. The water is clear up to its entry
into the loss region — in fact, the Mongols style
it the Black River ; but so soon as it reaches
Shen Si it begins to take a yellowish tinge from
the fine " loose " sandy soil which covers a vast
area on both sides of its valley, and the presence
of which, according to a theory of the distin-
guished geologist Von Richthofen, is to be
accounted for by untold generations of dust
blown over from the deserts. Quite recently the
American traveller (and humorist) Mr. Rodney
Gilbert has given us vivid pictures of Mussulman
life in these desert regions. This part of the
Yellow River is extensively used by salt boats,
and by junks conveying iron and other metals
from the Shan Si mines ; but from the moment
it emerges into the lowlands (between Hwai-k'ing
and Ho-nan cities), it becomes erratic, and is
practically useless for navigation. Every year or
two it bursts its banks, and temporarily destroys
some tract or other ; every few centuries it
changes its course altogether. Its old bed is
often useless, whilst the new one has to be raised
or buoyed up between dykes, sometimes high
above the surrounding plain. Directly or in-
directly, millions of taels have been annually
wasted in patching it up and in feeding a corrupt
army of peculating official harpies. In a word,
the Yellow River amply justifies its traditional
sobriquet of " China's Sorrow," and it would be
a great blessing for China if proper scientific
European specialists would take the matter
seriously in hand ; in fact, at this moment, an
American syndicate is in treaty with the Repub-
lic for a thorough-going reform of the whole Hwai
River, Grand Canal, and string of lakes tangle.
Meanwhile the Chinese engineers who manipu-
late the complicated system of lakes and levels

12 GEOGRAPHY [citap. i

forming a network about the Grand Canal and
Hung-tseh Marsh, are almost as expert in an
empirical sense as the wary Dutchmen who keep
an ever- watchful eye upon the Zuider Zee and
the intricate system of Netherlands dykes. The
supply of water and the sacrifice of land are
carefully measured and jealously watched with
a view to keeping open the Canal and preventing
disasters of great magnitude.

The Yang-tsze River is considered by the
Chinese to take its rise in the north-west corner
of Sz Ch'wan, not far from the point where the
Yellow River, as above described, suddenly
turns north-Vv^est between mountains 20,000 feet
high. The reason for this view of the matter is
that the rich plain of Ch'eng-tu was colonised
centuries before anything of a definite nature
was known of Yiin Nan, which remained practi-
cally a sealed book up to the time of Kublai
Khan, 650 years ago ; and even now the Chinese
have comparatively little acquaintance with
what we call the Upper Yang-tsze above P'ing-
shan, which is the limit of navigation for all but
very small boats. After this, up stream for
some distance, it is to nearly all intents a Lolo
river, and for several hundred miles forms the
boundary between Sz Ch'wan and Yiin Nan.
When we speak of the Yang-tsze valley in a com-
mercial sense, we really, without intending it,
mean the river taken in its Chinese sense just
described, and this river with its feeders drains
half the area, containing one-half the population
of the Eighteen Provinces.^

I need not say any more about the rest of the
stream, the Middle and Lower Yang-tsze, which

^ The Rev. S. Chevalier, s.J., in 1901 published a magnificent
atlas, with detailed plates, showing the exact configuration of
every fraction of the Great River's course between P'ing-shan
and Ich'ang.


is already so well known from Ich'ang down-
wards. European pilots know every bank, and
follow the changes of channel day by day : it is
marvellous with what skill they will bring a huge
steamer down at full speed on the blackest of
nights. Touching what European geographers
consider the source of the Yang-tsze< — ^that is
the longest water-course above Sz Ch'wan' — its
head waters are not very far from those of the
Yellow River. The latest maps of the Upper
Yang-tsze show three small streams in the lofty
valleys between the K'unlun and Tangla ranges
(lat. 34° N., long. 90° E.). These three combine
to form the River Drichu, which flows south-east
through the country of the Darge tribes, past
Bathang, into Yiin Nan. A thousand years ago
the possession of all this western Yiin Nan region
was being contested by the Shan empire on the
one side, and the Tibetans on the other. At
present it has no commercial, and very little
political significance, and is one of the least
known parts of the world ; the Indian Govern-
ment, however, keeps its eyes wide open on
behalf of Burma*, and has recently established
a new commissionership in the Putao region
(west of Yiin Nan), which effectively secures to
us command of all the Irrawaddy sources.

There yet remains a third great water system,
that of the Si Kiang, or West River of the Two
Kwang provinces. All its head waters are in
eastern Yiin Nan, and for some distance it forms
the boundary between Kwei Chou and Kwang
Si. The trade of all its branches and tributaries
concentrates at the new treaty port of Wu-chou
on the borders of Kwang Tung and Kwang Si.

In touching upon the above drainage systems,
I wish first of all to illustrate how naturally the
invading Chinese have in their expansion in-
variably followed the lines of least resistance ;

14 GEOGRAPHY [chap, i

and, secondly, to prepare the reader for certain
important results affecting the course of modern
trade, and more especially the enormous native
salt trade, which is organised strictly in accord-
ance with the facilities offered by rival water
routes. Handled in a masterly fashion by Sir
Richard Dane, the Salt Gabelle has now become
one of China's best financial assets. I think
it specially useful to insert here a sketch map
of the Yang-tsze Valley, so as to bring vividly
before the eye some points upon which I have
touched. What little there is to be said about
the geography of Tibet, Mongolia, and Manchuria
will be introduced under those or other heads.
It only remains now to mention one or two of
those historical mountain ranges of the Eighteen
Provinces which play a part in determining
political or commercial divisions.

The great natural barrier between the Chinese
and the Tartars has always been, and to a great
extent still is, the range known as Yin Shan, or
" Sombre Mountains," which may be roughly
stated to form a backing to the Great Wall all
the way from the northern Ordos bend of the
Yellow River to Corea. Then there are the
Nan Shan, or " South Mountains," of Kan Suh,
which divide off the Turko-Tartar from the
Tibetan groups : it has always been the policy of
China to keep these two groups apart. Another
important range separates the valley of the Wei
(tributary of the Yellow River) from that of the
Han (tributary of the Yang-tsze) : it is called
by various names in the maps, but I have never
been able to satisfy myself what the proper
Chinese name is. Then there is the Mei Ling,
or " Plum Range," which separates the river
systems of the Yang-tsze and the Chu Kiang
(Pearl or West River). There are many other
notable mountain ranges in China, mostly off-



shoots of the great Central Asian Range usually-
known as the K'unlun. Several of these ranges
I have crossed myself ; but it would be of barren
interest to enumerate them here, or to enter
into wearisome details as to what this spur does,
or how that system re-appears. I confine my-
self therefore to naming the few chains which,
in my own experience of history and travel,
appear to play a prominent practical part. The
best way for those readers who really take a
close interest in the geographical features of the
Eighteen Provinces to gratify their special
propensities would be to study the map which
I have always found the simplest and clearest
for general purposes — that of Dr. Bretschneider
(revised edition, 1900). It is wonderfully ac-
curate, and sets out all topographical peculiari-
ties in excellent proportion. Although the ju,
chou, and fing cities are no longer, under the
Republic, distinguished from the hien, it will
be some time before even the Chinese themselves
lose sight of the old '' ranks " of walled cities ;
and in any case these distinctions of political
size and quality must be kept in mind when we
consult books on China published before the
general hotch-pot rearrangements fitfully made
since 1911.



The human interest in Chinese history in the
case of non-speciaUsts begins with foreign rela-
tions. Just as early Roman history loses itself
in an ill-defined mist of Etruscans, Volscians,
Sabines, or other petty tribes, and makes the
ordinary reader, who honestly desires to start
from the beginning, anxious to get on to the
livelier subjects of the Carthaginian and Gallic
wars ; so do students of Chinese, wlio have em-
barked on the voyage of discovery, dread the
wearisome duty of wading through the insipid
stories of early Chinese tim^es : how the great
Yii cleft the mountains and guided the waters ;
how the noble king A, of a new dynasty, got
rid of the tyrant B of an old one, when he was
feasting on mountains of flesh and rivers of wine,
regardless of his people's poverty, surrounded by
beautiful, if mischievous, houris. I have been
through it all thrice in the original, and will there-
fore be more merciful to those who do me the
honour to read me than I have been even to
myself : in making these irreverent remarks I
must add that the true dated Chinese history
only begins in 842 B.C., at which date a great
revolution took place, not only in politics, but
also in letters. I will not inflict any earlier or
traditional " history " upon my readers- — not
so much as a summary^ — I sweep it totally away.



__I2I _

^^^ \ J




Recognised as his-
torical by Sz-ma

Chinese records are a few observations about the
raids of the horse-riding nomads of the north,
and the measures the Chinese took to repel them ;
but it is only in the second century before Christ
that we get any consecutive account of these
movements. The Great " First " Emperor of
the Ts'in dynasty, who unified the Chinese
dominion in 222 B.C., and whose ancestors seem
to have been, in part at least, of a race more
or less foreign to the earliest lettered Chinese,

^ M. Chavannes unfortunately stopped at the 47th of the
115 chapters, his labours in the direction of Buddhism, the
Turkish history, Sir Aurel Stein's discoveries, and other intensely
interesting subjects having weaned his appetite for the milk of
antiquity in favour of the strong meat of practical matter.


broke away impatiently from all old traditions,
and became sole master : hitherto his external
influences had been chiefly exercised over Tibetan
and Tartar tribes. Dr. Bretschneider's map,
which gives in various tints a very good idea of
the land levels, shows clearly what was the
natural configuration that determined this great
unifying movement. In the words of the late
W. F. Mayers, who possessed in the highest
degree the historical instinct, the new empire
extended " from the plains of Yen and Chao
(the modern Ho Nan and Chih Li) to the banks
of the Yang-tsze and the hills of Yiieh (the modern
Cheh Kiang), and from the Lake of Tung-t'ing
to the Eastern Sea." The nomads, then called
Hiung-nu, were for the first time driven beyond
the northern bend of the Yellow River, and
nearly the whole of what we call Southern China
was officially annexed, if in a loose sort of way.
All China and Indo-China was, and still is,
peopled by a set of people who speak mono-
syllabical languages, with tones for each separate
word ; just as Aryans are inflective, and the
Turanians agglutinative in their genius. The
quality of these southerly annexations and
the degree of human kinship existing between
the Chinese and the peoples of the south may
be compared with the northerly annexations of
the Romans, and the degree of Aryan kinship
existing between them and the Gauls and
Germans. Similarly, though in the reverse direc-
tion, the hereditary enemy Carthage may be
compared with the ancient Hiung-nu foe. But
despite the division of nearly the whole area of
the Eighteen Provinces of to-day into thirty-six
governments, this first truly imperial dynasty,
called that of Ts'in from the principality of its
origin (Shen Si), seems only to have ruled
immediately and directly over the original

20 HISTORY [chap, ii

Chinese plain. Like the earliest settled states
of America, the oldest of these thirty-six divisions
were conceived on a very small scale, v/hilst the
newly conquered " territories "• — like early and
half-Spanish Texas as compared with ancestral
Massachusetts — each covered an area almost as
great as that of all Old China.

This powerful dynasty of Ts'in soon collapsed,
apparently from a general incapacity to digest
and assimilate all it had so hastily conquered.
The Hiung-nu soon reappeared upon the frontiers.
It was now that the first definite tidings of
Japan (then only known as an agglomeration of
the Wo or Wa tribes) began to arrive over the
sea. Amongst the ambitious generals who con-
tested the imperial succession was a self-made
man of peasant origin named Liu Pang : he after
three years of incessant fighting was proclaimed
Prince of Han, and ultimately assumed the
imperial title as Emperor of the Han dynasty.
To this day, in memory of this glorious house,
the Chinese (with the exception of the Can-
tonese) call themselves " men of Han " when
they wish to differentiate themselves from Tar-
tars, Tibetans, or foreigners. This is, indeed,
the nearest approach to a national designation.
During his seven years of effective reign (202-
194 B.C.), and during the administration of his
puppet son, subject to and followed by the
usurpation of the widowed consort (194-179)
(the first of the Chinese "Catherines," and in
political character very like the Dowager-
Empress who died in 1908), there occurred the
first really authentic and properly recorded
relations with the Hiung-nu, who were then quite
able to assert their perfect equality with China,
and even presumed to talk of marriage alliances.
The Great Khan Mehteh (= Baghdur) even sent
a flippant poem to the Dowager, proposing what


he called a " swap." The whole history of the
Hiung-nu wars of the Han dynasty is intensely
vivid and interesting, yielding not one whit in
any respect to the Greek accounts of the Scy-
thians and Huns in the respective times of
Alexander and Attila. There is excellent ground
for believing that the Scythians, Huns, and
Hiung-nu were practically reshuffles of one and
the same assemblages of people' — the Turks and
Mongols of later date.

The ill-assimilated conquests of the short-
lived Ts'in dynasty left to the Han house, in
addition to Tartar troubles, a legacy of further
wars Vv^ith Corea (then called Chaosien) and the
southern coasts of China, It is possible that one
of the motives for marching on Corea was the
desire to turn the left flank of the Hiung-nu.
Although in modern times the " Yiieh " of
Canton is written at least (but not spoken) in a
different way from the " Yiieh " of Cheh Kiang,
there was no such difference then, and there is
reason to believe that one race, m.ore akin to the
Annamese than the Chinese, then occupied the
whole of the coast regions south of the Yang-tsze,
including the whole valleys of the Canton (Si
Kiang) and Tonquin (Red and Black) rivers. It
also seems that most, if not all, of the settled
countries bordering on China were then ruled by
Chinese adventurers ; or at all events by native
princes acquainted more or less with the Chinese
system of records, and having a Chinese blend
in their blood derived from immigrants. Here,
again, we must look for a parallel to the Romans,
who, simply from the fact of their possessing
business-like records and archives, soon spread
out on all sides, and colonised the surrounding
Italian or Gallic towns or states. The period of
conquest extended from 138 to 110 B.C., and at
the time when Wu Ti began his military career

22 HISTORY [chap, ii

(128-108), the King of Ch'ang-sha (now still the
capital of Hu Nan) was the only one of the vassal
kings enjoying independent hereditary power,
though really subject to the Emperor of China.
The Canton state was called " South Ytieh," and
the Foochow state " Min Yiieh " ; even the north
part of the latter, with capital at the modern
Wenchow, was called the " Eastern Seaboard
of Yiieh." The princes of both the latter were
descendants of one common King of Yiieh, in
Confucian feudal times a powerful sovereign.
Subsequently to 110 B.C. their populations were

Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day → online text (page 4 of 35)