National Geographic : 1925 Sep
EXPERIENCES OF A LONE GEOGRAPHER An American Agricultural Explorer Makes His Way Through Brigand-infested Central China en Route to the Amne Machin Range, Tibet By JOSEPH F. ROCK* AUTHOR OF "THE LAND OF THE YELLOW IAMA," "BANISHING THE I)EVIL OF DISEASE AMONG THE NASHI," AND "HUNTING THE CHAULMOOGRA TREE," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE MUCH of a most unpleasant nature has happened to me in recent months. I was delayed about one month in Yiinnanfu on account of my Nashi assistants, who were held up by brigands between Talifu and the capital (see map, page 334). Between Yiinnanfu and Tungchwan, in east Yinnan, we met brigands twice and had some real scares. A number of the people who followed in my train for the sake of protection lost some of their be longings and two loiterers were captured. From Tungchwan to Chaotung is five days' journey north and just two days out of Tungchwan I had the most terrible ex perience of my life. I had been informed that there were about 1,ooo brigands be tween the two places, and that the road was practically closed. The magistrate of Tungchwan assured me, however, that all the brigands were in the Chaotung district. I e said he would send 20 soldiers with me, and that I had nothing to fear in his district, at any rate. I was informed by various other par ties that if I once reached the Chaotung district I was safe, and that all the brig ands were in the mountains near Yicheh sun, two or three stages from Tungchwan. I saw the mandarin several times, and he finally admitted he had only 60 soldiers * This informal narrative of experiences in the Far East has arrived as a letter written from Choni, Kansu Province of China, near the north east border of Tibet, on May 17, a few days before the author set out upon his hazardous journey into the fastnesses of the Amne Machin Range. Dr. Rock, who was the leader of the National Geographic Society's expedition to Yiinnan Province (see the NATIONA, GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE for April, 1925), is now collecting plants for the Arnold Arboretum of Massachusetts. He does not expect to return to America until the latter part of 1928.-THE EDITOR. in the town, and that the rest, 120 of them, were fighting brigands near Liitien, not far from Chaotung. He agreed to give me 40 soldiers and again protested that there were no robbers in his district. I sent a dispatch to the American con sul at Yiinnanfu, asking him to get the advice of the governor, but as the wires between Tungchwan and the capital had been cut by the brigands the message had to be forwarded through Kweichow Province, which took more than two days. I sent word to the magistrate of Chao tung to have soldiers meet me at Yicheh siin, but he agreed to order them only to the border of his jurisdiction. BRIGANDS ATTACK FROM TIIH REAR With much misgiving I left Tung chwan. The first day passed without in cident, but the second had much in store for us. After lunch under an old walnut tree, I made my way over the mountains with my 12 Nashi men, 26 mules, 40 sol diers, and all the followers who took ad vantage of the protection afforded by my guard. \Ve had not gone very far when my head muleteer reported that robbers were behind the caravan. I waited for the mules to catch up with us, and as thev came in sight I rode on, but not for long, as my boys yelled in Chinese, "Rob bers are coming," and at that moment the bandits began to shoot. My soldiers behaved admirably, climb ing to the ridge and opening fire on the brigands, but we soon found that we were considerably outnumbered. We pushed on as best we could over a pine-covered slope, down a deep ravine and up the other side, along a terribly rocky trail, the soldiers covering our retreat under the fire of the brigands.