National Geographic : 1900 Sep
"THE YANGTZE VALLEY AND BEYOND" Again says Mrs Bishop: "When night came, and I sat shivering in some fetid hole, not fit for a decent beast, with only a bamboo railing between it and the pigsty, I often thought Chinese traveling an utter abomination." And her readers fully agree, wondering the more with each page and chapter that Mrs Bishop should have remained in the midst of such abominations, when not driven and held to it by any vow, or contract, or obligation-endur ing it all voluntarily, traveling in such ways, in such well-beaten tracks, for pleasure and interest only. " The interest of mixing in any fashion with the people far outweighed the discomfort of peasant accommodation, even when it was pretty bad," she says, and then mentions that "seven pigs occupied a de pression railed off in one corner" of the room she occupied that night. One has to regret that Mrs Bishop's literary skill should be spent upon such unpleasant subjects, such repulsive people and incidents, for the pictures are all too clear and realistic. Mrs Bishop saw with the keen, trained eye which notes and grasps every feature and detail, and she puts it before one as a strong, sharply cut photographic print. Every extenuating circumstance is made the most of for the benefit of the brutal, insolent people; not a tree, plant, or flower escaped her, and the rocks, and stones, and soil were equally observed. There was magnificent mountain scenery as she went further west toward the snowy range, and her descriptions are charming, full of color and vivid reality. The cost of this independent travel was not great, seven shil lings a day being the average of chair travel and wayside accommodations. Everywhere she encountered poppy culture and opium smoking, and the chap ter devoted to the opium poppy at the end of the narrative is one of the most interesting in the book. Mrs Bishop at the close expresses the kindest and most hopeful sentiments for the Chinese, doubts that the break-up or the decay of the empire has come, and sees some hope of the awakening of this enigmatic race. THE city of Shanghai is of nearly the same latitude as Mobile, Alabama, Morocco, and Alexandria, Egypt, and in climate and luxuriance of plant life much resembles these western cities. The town lies at the southeastern end of a wide plain, the Kiangsu province, which has often been described as " the garden of China." In the variety and wealth of its fruits and vegetables it is not unlike southern California. From the neighboring fields, rice, grain, and cotton have been the principal crops, but of late the demand for cotton and the good prices offered for that staple by the mills recently built at Shanghai by foreign capital have induced the farmers to give up the cultivation of rice and grain and plant cotton instead. Shanghai is the commercial center of the most densely populated section of the empire, 500 to 800 inhabitants to the square mile being a fair estimate of the density of the population. The imports in 1898 of this city reached $90,000,000, thus exceeding in value the entire imports of the rest of the empire. Canals, rivers, and creeks, penetrating in all direc tions, converge toward Shanghai, affording easy communication for hundreds of miles. Twenty-five years ago the river opposite the city was about 1,800 feet broad at low water, but today cannot exceed 1,200 feet. The depth of water on the bar, averaging only 19 feet and rarely reaching 23 feet, causes much loss to shipowners because of the detention of steamers.