Raphael Pumpelly.

Travels and adventures of Raphael Pumpelly : mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist and explorer online

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ciety which they had trampled down.

They left an awful track of desolation through southern
and central China, to which had been added the horrors
of a great flood. The Hwang Ho (Yellow River), which
had for centuries been confined to one course by a system
of levees, had gradually raised its bed until the stream
was high above the surrounding country. Only by the
annual expenditure of many millions of dollars, and the
constantly applied labor of an immense force of men,
was this turbulent river kept from bursting its barriers.
The exhaustion of the imperial treasury by foreign and
internal wars, and the official corruption reigning through-
out the Empire, had occasioned an almost total neglect of
this, the most important public work.

On the arrival of the rebels their ranks were swelled
by the disaffected and starving guardians of the river.
The neglect of the embankments was followed by a
breach near the city of Kai-fung. For several hundred
years the Hwang Ho had flowed in an east-southeasterly
course into the Yellow Sea, but at different times during
Chinese history it had traversed almost every portion of
the great plain. Bursting its northern barrier, this

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228 RAPHAEL PUMPELLY

stream, one of the largest in the world, now poured with
its whole volume over the plain of Chihli and Shantung,
submerging immense areas, and finding outlets in the
Gulf of Pechili, several hundred miles north of its former
mouth in the Yellow Sea. When we consider that the
average population of these two northeastern provinces
was about four hundred and fifty to the square mile, and
that the region overflowed was by far the most populous,
some idea can be formed of the magnitude of the suffering
which must have been caused.

In addition to the great loss of life there came the
misery entailed by the destruction of crops, and the
plunging into beggary of dense populations. These
starving millions, pressing in among their more fortunate
neighbors, soon reduced the whole country to a condition
of famine and anarchy. A necessary result of this state
of things was the gathering of numerous and large bands
of robbers.

Three years before my visit a new element entered into
this long contest. An American by the name of Ward,
acting under a commission from the Imperial Govern-
ment, and assisted by a few daring foreigners, organized
and disciplined a force of native soldiers. Thoroughly
practised in the Western drill, kept under the strictest
discipline, and led into action by the bravest of officers,
these native troops entirely disproved all the Western
ideas concerning the efficiency of Chinese soldiers. In-
spired by the reckless daring of Ward, who was always
first in the breach, the men showed themselves unflinch-
ingly brave ; and as they wrested by storm city after city
from the rebels, they won the name of the " Ever Vic-
torious Braves." General Ward was killed at the taking
of Tsekie, and the command was transferred to Burge-
vine, one of his assistants, and like him an American.



AN AMERICAN FREE LANCE 229

Continuing in their successful career, the " Ever Vic-
torious Braves " increased the number of imperial vic-
tories, until at last, under the command of Major Gordon,
since known as '* Chinese Gordon and the hero of
Khartoum," they captured the city of Suchau, which next
to Nanking was the chief rebel stronghold. The back-
bone of the rebellion was now broken, and the taking of
Suchau was followed in a few months by the fall of
Nanking, after a siege of nearly eleven years.

Ward was a free lance who had an interesting past.
I am sorry that I missed the chance of knowing him.
He had been of the filibusters in Central America. Es-
caping from there he became a sailor, and mate on a
vessel sailing from San Francisco. Soon after sailing
there came up a severe storm. The crew rebelled and
stayed below in the forecastle. No amount of profanity
could bring them out to take in sail. Ward dropped an
opened keg of powder into the forecastle, then flourishing
from above a burning brand from the cook's galley, and
using much ungenteel language, he brought those men to
a quick sense of duty. When he arrived in China the
sea was swarming with pirate junks. With an eye to
business, he contracted with the Chinese Government to
destroy the pirates at so much a junk. Using the old
steamer Confucius he made a fortune, and nearly rid the
sea of pirates, though it was said that to him all junks
were pirates.

At this time the Tai-ping rebels had taken many im-
portant cities near Shanghai, and were kept away from
that port only by fear of the foreign warcraft. Ward
contracted to take these places at so many thousand dol-
lars a city, and he did it.

After his death the Chinese Government raised a monu-
ment to his memory, and ennobled him, which meant en-



230 RAPHAEL PUMPELLY

nobling not only him but all of his ancestors, though not
his descendants ; the aristocracy of China has always as-
cended and not descended a very economical system.

But let us return to the narrative, from which the sight
of the beleaguered city has drawn us into a digression.
Neither Suchau nor Nanking had yet fallen, although one
of the longest sieges in history was drawing toward its
close.

Passing out of the imperial lines, we steamed up the
river, now through a broad valley with isolated hills rising
from the plain, now approaching near to mountain ranges
two and three thousand feet high. For many miles below
Kiukiang the east bank of the river is determined by a
range of barren hills, outlyers of the Kingteh group,
famous for its kaolin and porcelain manufactures. A
high and picturesque island rock with precipitous sides
rises in the middle of the river. This is the Siau-ku-shan,
or Little Orphan Island, and the quaint buildings which
crown its cliffs have a historical and legendary interest
among the Chinese. During a storm a boat containing
two boys and their parents was sunk, and the parents
drowned. A great frog took the boys on its back, but the
youngest boy, grieving for his parents, threw himself into
the water and drowned. On account of his piety he was
changed to a rock which grew upward to form the beauti-
ful peak of Little Orphan Island. The frog carried the
older child into Poyang Lake where he too was drowned
and arose in the form of Great Orphan Island. In the
same lake the frog, for its humanity, was changed into
the island called Frog Rock.

There were at Kiukiang many refugees fleeing before
the rebels, and seeking protection in the city, which was
now defended by foreign powers. A large proportion of
these unfortunates had been well-to-do families, but now,



AN AMERICAN FREE LANCE 231

reduced in numbers by violence or starvation, and plun-
dered of everything they had possessed, they were indeed
pitiful objects. Mothers, whose husbands had been killed
or impressed by the rebels, brought their children to for-
eigners, begging them to adopt them, and praying in re-
turn only that their little ones might be insured against
starvation.

Above Kiukiang the river breaks through several
ranges of limestone hills, the rugged cliffs and outlines of
which render this portion of its course extremely pictur-
esque. Indeed, the journey from Chinkiang to Hankau
is one not easily to be forgotten.

At Hankau Mr. Breck, the American Consul, kindly
offered me the hospitality of his house.

The cities of Hankau, Wuchang, and Hanyang, sit-
uated at the junction of the Yangtz' and Han rivers, were
estimated by Abbe Hue to contain an aggregate popula-
tion of eight millions. Although this estimate was prob-
ably much exaggerated, it is probable that the three cities,
comprising a provincial capital, a departmental center,
and a chief market town, formed the largest assemblage
of population in the world. Hankau, almost exactly in
the center of the Empire, was the focus of commerce for
all the immense region drained by the upper Yangtz'.
It was also the point of trans-shipment into steamers and
sailing vessels for the trade of this region with eastern
China and the foreign world. Here I saw clipper ships
taking in cargoes of tea for the direct voyage to England.
Moreover, it was the starting point for the large overland
trade with Russia. It is now the point where the rail-
way that crosses China from Peking to Canton inter-
sects the great trade route of the Yangtz' River.

It was just two years after the capture of these cities
by the rebels that I visited them. Hankau, always an im-



232 RAPHAEL PUMPELLY

portant center, under the protection of foreign flags and
the impetus given by foreign trade, rapidly became one
of the most populous cities in the Empire.

Crossing over to Wuchang, the provincial capital, I was
struck with the fact that while Hankau had far out-
grown its former limits, the population of its neighbor
had shrunken to a small fraction of its recent size. Un-
der the guidance of some ragged soldiers, I took a long
ramble along the top of the wall, which is said to extend
fourteen miles around the city. It had suffered very
much during the rebellion, and had recently been repaired
at great expense.

Excepting along a few of the principal streets, the city
was in ruins. Grass was springing up on the top of
the wall, and among it there was growing the wild straw-
berry; but it had a sickening taste, which was common
to this fruit wherever I found it in Asia. Descending
from the wall, I started upon a stroll through the ruined
part of the city; but, overcome by the accumulated filth,
I was soon forced to abandon the attempt.

Hastening out of this foul atmosphere, I crossed over
to Hanyang. This city was a complete ruin. Only here
and there appeared an inhabited house, while from the
top of a high ridge, which traverses the town, the desola-
tion was visible on all sides. This narrow ridge is con-
tinued on the opposite side of the river, through the cen-
ter of Wuchang, where several streets are said to pass
through it in tunnels.

This was in 1863. ^ n I 9 11 R ss ("Changing Chi-
nese") tells us that Hanyang has an iron and steel plant
employing 5,000 men. It is already selling its product
on our Pacific coast.

In making the preparations for the continuation of my
journey I was largely indebted to the kind assistance of



AN AMERICAN FREE LANCE 233

Mr. Dick, of the Imperial Maritime Customs. While
fearing that I should have to go alone, I found in the
Rev. Josiah Cox a companion without whom I could
hardly have accomplished the trip.

My plan was to penetrate the coal fields of southern
Hunan, and, thence returning to the Yangtz', to ascend
to Sz'chuen. But from every side we were warned
against entering Hunan, as the population was infuriated
against foreigners. Several months previously some law-
less soldiers had descended the river in boats which they
had impressed in Hunan, and while at Hankau had kid-
napped an Englishman, and nearly murdered him on one
of their boats.

Still we determined to make the attempt. The first
necessity was a disguise. Unfortunately for the execu-
tion of this plan, Nature had made us both decidedly un-
Mongolian. Each of us stood nearly a head higher than
the tallest Chinaman, and my light hair and blue eyes
would have been very hard to disguise. The former
could have been dyed, and the color of the latter hidden
under a pair of blue Chinese goggles ; but an insurmount-
able difficulty presented itself I had thoughtlessly had
my hair cut close just before leaving Shanghai, and there
was nothing to which a tail could be fastened. So we
concluded to make a virtue of necessity, and show that
the proper way for foreigners to travel was as Nature
and the tailors at home had made them. I confess it was
not without many misgivings that we hastened our prep-
arations.

After much searching we succeeded in finding a pas-
senger boat of about eighty tons burthen, commanded by
a skipper who assured us that he was thoroughly ac-
quainted with the waters of Hunan and of the upper
Yangtz'. A carefully worded contract was drawn up



234. RAPHAEL PUMPELLY

under the supervision of Mr. Dick and Mr. Cox, both
of whom were well versed in the language and character
of the Chinese. Almost the only provisions we laid m
were rice, sardines, crackers, and ale.



CHAPTER XXXIII
BOAT JOURNEY CONTINUED

BESET BY MOBS

WE went aboard at midnight March 23d. The weather
was hot, and the air loaded with horrible smells from the
foul mud.

Quarreling over the terms of the contract kept us
moored till late in the afternoon. By this time I was
down with a low fever. Mr. Cox begged me to stay in
Hankau till the fever should be over, but I felt that if
my illness were a dangerous one I should be more likely
to die in the foul air of the city than on the water. I had
rather die in the fresh air on the broad river. This de-
cision perhaps saved my life. I have never known what
kind of fever I had. I was very ill for more than a
week and had a slow recovery. As soon as I could crawl
from my bed out onto the boardwalk surrounding the
boat, I lay down on this dressed only in silk pajamas, and
had cold water thrown over me, then I went, still wet,
back to bed.

Our boat was a flat-bottomed craft, with a house ex-
tending nearly two-thirds the length of the deck, and di-
vided into four cabins communicating with each other.
Giving one of these to our servants, and another to Mr.
Cox's Chinese writer, we made ourselves quite comfort-
able in the remaining two. By means of sailing, sculling,
poling, and tracking, with a crew of nine men, we man-

235



236 RAPHAEL PUMPELLY

aged to make about twenty miles a day against the
current.

On the eighth day from Hankau we passed the depart-
mental city of Yochau and entered the Tung-ting Lake
with a favorable breeze. This water had the reputation
of being visited by dangerous squalls. Therefore, on the
morning before our entrance upon the treacherous water,
and as a propitiation of the elements, the discharge of
firecrackers and the beating of gongs were prosecuted
with more than usual vigor. Not trusting, however, to
these preparations alone, our skipper kept quite close to
the eastern shore.

Two days of sailing and sculling brought us in sight
of the southern shore of the lake. The season of high-
water had begun, and the level was gradually rising. A
lofty pagoda, whose base was washed by the increasing
waters, served as a landmark to guide us toward the
mouth of the Siang River. This pagoda was one of the
few left standing by the rebels in their destructive course.
These beautiful towers, which form the most character-
istic feature of Chinese landscape, are always polygonal,
and built with an odd number of stories, and are some-
times nearly two hundred feet high. The exterior is
often highly ornamented, and indeed built with glazed
tiles. The famous tower at Nanking was faced with
blocks of fine porcelain. The walls, always of great thick-
ness, are built to last for ages. Standing in close con-
nection with the fu-ngshui doctrine, the strongest of the
Chinese superstitions, they exert, as the people believe,
a most powerful influence in controlling certain supposed
currents in earth and air, which are held to be important
agents in modifying, for better or worse, climate, crops,
health, and even the ordinary actions of man. Strangely
enough, one of 'the strongest objections raised by the



BOAT JOURNEY CONTINUED 237

Chinese against the introduction of telegraphs and rail-
roads is that they would disturb the course of these cur-
rents, and bring calamities upon the nation.

The valley of the Siang-ho (ho means river), which
we now entered, lies between high hills fringed with the
same red terraces that border the lake.

Two days of tracking and poling brought us in sight
of the walls of Changsha, the capital of Hunan.

During the past few days we had several times been
seriously annoyed by attempts to impress our boat for
soldiers descending the river. Hitherto Mr. Cox had
prevented them from boarding us by explaining the power
of our passport. But as we were slowly moving up the
river, along the bank opposite Changsha, a party of sol-
diers had come aboard and raised the imperial flag be-
fore we were aware of their presence. In vain we urged
the rights guaranteed by our passports. They insisted
upon keeping the boat. Not wishing to resort to force
we made a compromise, by which they agreed to remove
the flag, while we promised to remain moored to the
bank until they should return with an officer. It was
clear that we should have to await their return from the
city; and as the river, owing to the inundation, was a
mile or a mile and a half wide, with a swift current, we
could hardly expect them under two or three hours. We
moored under a low bank, the bow of the boat being
connected with the shore by a rope of braided bamboo.

A little before sunset several boats loaded with soldiers
made their way across the river and landed just above
us, and we immediately saw that they had brought no
officer. Three of our former visitors came on board and
renewed their demand for the boat. Mr. Cox met them
forward, and, while refusing to give up the craft, first
requested that they leave and finally drove two of them



238 RAPHAEL PUMPELLY

off ; while at the same time, with the utmost coolness and
a pistol, he prevented any more soldiers from jumping
on board at the only place where the boat touched the
shore. Till then an excited crowd of a hundred and fifty
or more, villagers and soldiers, armed with swords and
pikes, had collected on the bank, and had been shouting
out to those upon our boat to kill the foreign devils. The
remaining one, running aft along the platform which sur-
rounded the boat, attempted to beat in my cabin door.
Feeling that words would be no longer of use, although
I was still too weak to be much out of bed, I threw the
door open from the inside, and, weak as I was, gave the
man a sudden blow as he started back, which sent him
headlong into the river. This was the signal for a gen-
eral attack. The mob having neither firearms nor stones,
opened upon us with a perfect storm of lumps of sun-
burnt clay. They were more successful with these than
with their pikes, which were too heavy to be conveniently
managed across the twelve feet of water between me and
the shore; still it was not always easy to dodge their
thrusts, and not wishing to be spitted on such a weapon, or
to be beaten to a jelly by their missiles, I drew my revolver
and opened fire upon the crowd. Unfortunately, in the
confusion of the moment, I dropped the pistol overboard.
However, I gpt another from the cabin, and reopened
upon the mob, supported by my companion at the bow,
who showed far more coolness than I did. The bullets
caused the assailing party to fall back, and before they
could return to the attack a new actor, or rather actress,
came upon the scene in the person of our skipper's wife.
Flourishing an immense knife, she rushed to the bow of
the boat, and began to hack away at the bamboo rope by
which we were moored, at the same time pouring forth
such a torrent of abuse as can only flow in Chinese ac-




239



240 RAPHAEL PUMPELLY

cents from the tongue of a Chinese virago. In the mean-
time the crowd, although kept at a distance, made her
the focus of a volley of missiles. She stood the attack
bravely, never flinching either from her work with her
knife or from her torrent of abuse. Clearly the China-
man was right who said that a woman gains in her tongue
what she loses in her feet.

Suddenly the cable parted, and, yielding to the current,
the boat whirled quickly into the stream. A new diffi-
culty now arose. All the crew had jumped ashore and
run off in the beginning of the fight, except the captain
and one man, and these had hidden below the deck.

The woman now turned her attentions to these. Tak-
ing the lid from the scuttle she plunged her hand silently
into the darkness, and, holding by the pigtails, dragged
out first the man, then her husband. Then she said
things that sent the men humbled to work.

All we could now do was to guide our craft toward
a small island which lay about a mile below us. It was
already nearly dark, and heavy clouds betokened a com-
ing storm. We could see the soldiers embark and make
their way as rapidly as possible across the river, where
we knew there was a large force of their lawless com-
rades, and from these we expected a more determined
visit during the night. We had hardly moored to the
island before the storm came on, and with such a fury
that it was evident we should be safe from any attack
while it lasted. It was almost morning before the waters
were quieted enough for us to send a man in the small
boat to Changsha, with a letter to the Lieutenant-Gov-
ernor of the province. In this document we complained
of the soldiers, and asked for an escort to accompany us
up the river beyond the city.

Soon after daylight a boat was seen coming toward us



BOAT JOURNEY CONTINUED 241

from the town. We watched it rather anxiously through
our glasses, not knowing whether it contained friends or
foes. We were, however, quite prepared for the latter,
having all our arms spread out, including even an old
"Tower musket," loaded with revolver balls. The boat,
which was a large one, contained some twenty or thirty
soldiers, among whom we discovered, to our relief, three
officers ; one of them was the chief of the river police.

As soon as these were seated in our cabin, they in-
formed us that they had been sent by the Lieutenant-
Governor to offer any assistance we might need. His
Excellency, they said, had already received instructions
from the Viceroy to aid us on our journey, and His Ex-
cellency had heard with the most profound sorrow of the
attack made by lawless soldiers upon the honorable mem-
bers of the exalted American country, and of the exalted
English country. The soldiers, then on their way to Nan-
king, were desperadoes, robbing and murdering wherever
they went, and were utterly beyond the control of His
Excellency, or even of their own officers. These visitors
gave us to understand that they were instructed to escort
us during the rest of our trip on the Siang River; but
either having formed an unfavorable opinion of our com-
missariat, or for some other reason, they suddenly left
us a few miles above the city, inviting us to visit them
on our return.

During two days we continued our journey upstream,
gathering at every opportunity information concerning
the coal districts. Many boats passed us loaded with coal
from southern Hunan ; but we observed that they were in-
variably smaller than our own craft. From the crews of
these boats we learned that it would be necesary to change
our means of conveyance, that even then we could hardly
reach the mines in less than three weeks, and that the



242 RAPHAEL PUMPELLY

journey would be attended with much danger, owing to
the excitement against foreigners. Finding these state-
ments corroborated at every step, I determined to turn
back at Siang-tan, because all the boats had been im-
pressed.

The next day after leaving Siang-tan we came in sight
of Changsha, and a dense forest of masts lining the
shore for two or three miles in front of the city.

Thinking to enter the town, we proceeded to look up
the boat of the officer who had escorted us, and who, be-
ing in command of the river police, lived on his flagship.
Having found this and moored our boat near by, we sent
on board our cards and compliments, and soon received
a visit in return. Our former guest was this time ac-
companied by the chief of police of the city. The latter
gentleman had just given orders to facilitate our visit to
the Lieutenant-Governor, when we became aware of an
ising distant rumbling noise. Just then the attend-



ants of our visitors rushed in, pale and excited, proclaim-
ing the approach of a mob. Opening the door, our eyes
were greeted with a sight which, once seen, cannot easily
be forgotten. Some ten or twelve piers of boats moored
dose together lay between us and the shore. Beyond
these the whole space between the city wall and the river
was packed with men. Evidently the news of the coming
of the foreign devils had preceded us and spread like
lightning. Apparently the whole male population of a
great city was pouring out of the gates. Surging and
dashing like an endless and many-colored wave, it rolled
down the sloping bank, and advanced over the intervening


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