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poor relation, while the Ganges would be its younger brother, to whom nature has bequeathed an inferior
, portion of her inheritance.
Gold and iron, coal and wood, rice and maize, silk and cotton, opium and tobacco, the tea-plant and the vine; each and all of these valuable productions have a home in one part or another of its immense valley; on its banks every variety of climate and soil is to be found, for it rises near the snows of the Northern Himalayas, and in its course it dips southwards to within 150 miles of the Tropics.
Nor is the transport of the riches of its watershed impeded by many natural obstructions to navigation. Vessels, the largest of those that run from London through the Suez Canal to Hongkong and Shanghae, can continue their course, when the river is in full water, up to Hankow, a distance of 700 statute miles from the river's mouth; gunboats have penetrated 400 miles farther, to Ichang, where the first rapids occur, and have found a minimum depth of eighteen feet in mid-channel up to that point; and Captain Blakiston, who in 1861 ascended the river as far as Pin-shang, 1,800 miles from the sea, gave it as his opinion that, if the Ichang rapids were cut through, or avoided by a short canal, handy steamers with a dranght of eight or ten feet could penetrate at least as far as Chang-king, 400 miles above Ichang, 1,500 from the sea.
But unfortunately there is in China a more unyielding enemy to the navigation of the river, and the development of the resources of the country, than the obstacles of nature. The incubus which weighs down all attempts at improvements in China is the Chinese Government; that Government which calls itself Paternal, and treats its subjects as if they were indeed children; and which has so indoctrinated the people, from the mandarins downwards (or shall we say upwards ?) with the idea that everything new is dangerous, that one and all are satisfied to allege long habit, or as they call it ‘oula custom,' as an excuse for moving on in the same groove that has held them for centuries. Until the antediluvian tories who rule at Pekin have their views very much modified, or are themselves modified ’in some rough manner, there will be no free trade on the upper waters of the Yang-tseKeang. Happily much has already been done as regards the lower part of its course.
In 1858, by the treaty of Tientsin, the ports of Chinkeang, Kiu-keang, and Hankow, on this river, were opened to foreign trade, and we can now go on board one of the large American river steamers in Shanghae, and steam 700 miles up to Hankow without let or hindrance.
Leaving Shanghae at daybreak on May 1, we run down the Wong-poo river, and then, passing Woosung, steam out into the main stream of the great river. And a great river, indeed, it soon proves iíself to be. left hand, some three miles distant, is the flat alluvial plain, fringed near the waterside with trees, and dotted with cottages, which forms here the right bank of the river. On the right hand, apparently six to eight miles away, is another low line of land, which we take to be the opposite bank of the river ; but, if we look at our map, we find that it is only the coast line of the Tsungmin Island, which lies right in the jaws of the river; an island forty miles in length, by ten or twelve in breadth, i.e. about twice the size of the Isle of Wight. Passing the north-west end of this island, some twenty miles higher up, we catch a distant sight of the real left bank of the river, which is here between twenty and thirty miles in breadth.
Soon after passing Kiang Yin, 100 miles from the river's
mouth, the flatness of the river's banks becomes broken by the appearance of a few not unpicturesque hills, and the river narrows to a width of from three to four miles. The water of the river, both here and all the way up to Hankow, is of a dull yellow colour, and is said to be so full of sand and mud that if a ship strike on a bank when the current is strong, and lie broadside on to the stream, within twenty-four hours a bank will have been silted up against her exposed side to the level of the water.
A hundred and fifty miles up the river we come to Chin-keang, on the right or southern bank of the river. The native town lies crushed in on a flat plain between the river, the bills which rise up on the south, and a craggy promontory, surmounted by a pagoda, which juts out into the river on the east. Climbing up to the top of this promontory, we find a view from it which amply repays the trouble of ascent. At our feet, and stretching out to the east and west, making a broad band a mile in width across the landscape, is the Yang-tse : looking across it to the north, the eye wanders over a vast plain, stretching away to the hazy horizon, thickly dotted with cottages and trees, with here and there a pagoda with a dark cluster around its base, marking where some large village or town is situated. Across the plain, commencing close to the river bank, and trending due north, we can trace a dotted line of white junk-sails, showing the course of the Grand Canal. The point where the canal joins the river is marked by a forest of junk masts : these junks have either come down from the north, and are waiting to cross the river, or they are waiting for their turn to enter the canal and proceed northwards.
Behind us, to the south and west, lies the town of Chin-keang, with its long circuit of rather crazy-looking
walls: immediately beyond the town rises a fine amphitheatre of hills, green in the foreground, but in the distance merging into a dark purple. On more than one projecting point, and on at least two of the islands in the river, stands a pagoda : altogether we can count from where we stand no fewer than nine of these characteristically Chinese buildings.
Fifty miles further up the river we come abreast of the celebrated city of Nankin. Though not a treaty port, it is undoubtedly the most interesting place on the banks of the river, and we must therefore make a stoppage here. A Chinese gunboat, commanded by a Norwegian, is lying off the city; her captain readily offers to send one of his crew ashore with us to conduct us through the city to the Southern Gate, near which we can find house-room and a welcome from a fellow-countryman who is here managing an arsenal for the Government. We are soon ashore, but our guide has some difficulty in securing chairs or ponies for us, owing to his being a native of Ningpo, and consequently almost unable to understand the Nankin dialect. He confides to us his contempt for any but his own dialect, saying, in his Pigeon English, 'my no savey how that man talkee: he no talkee true fashion : he no Ningpo man;' but at last the difficulty is surmounted, and we enter, each on a pony, the north gate of the city.
But the word ' city' conveys a very different idea from that presented by the scene which opens upon us directly we pass through the gate. No sooner are we inside, than, instead of entering a street lined with crowded houses, we find ourselves on what has once been a well-paved road, having on either side of it an expanse of fields of barley, beans, peas, tobacco, and other crops, varied by patches of land altogether waste. Here and there a cottage, standing among the fields, shows where the farmer lives; other