National Geographic : 1938 May
FOUR THOUSAND HOURS OVER CHINA TIBET'S LIVING BUDDHA SOARED TO CELESTIAL HEIGHTS-BY PLANE On a special yellow-cushioned throne, His Serenity, the Panchen Lama, flew from Lanchow to Sining with Captain Koester (page 598). This spiritual leader of millions of Lamaists died in the fall of 1937. His priests now await an eclipse, earthquake, cloudburst, or avalanche to reveal their new leader. Under such auspices the Lama's soul may enter an unborn infant, identified at birth by his full set of teeth and his ability to say the name of Buddha. on this wall are a delight; one can look over the city and the wide, open valley of the Wei River to the far-distant peaks of the Tsinling Shan, covered with snow most of the year. DESTRUCTION OF TREES IS MAKING CHINA A DESERT To flyers it is evident that North China is becoming more and more a desert from lack of trees and from improvident cultiva tion of the soil; the Gobi is slowly creeping down into central China. Large forests which once grew here have gradually dis appeared as food growers have cleared the land to gain more soil to till. One odd reason given me for the disap pearance of the forests was that bandits used to hide in the woods and the Chinese cut down the trees to destroy their refuge! Years ago, a German friend of mine was retained by the Chinese Government to study the possibility of reforestation in this vast and largely treeless region. He worked there for many years, giving his life to the replanting of trees, but was never able to overcome the Chinese delight in destroying solid woods. Often, he told me, he had planted a long stretch of young trees, only to find them up rooted soon afterward. Finally he broke under the hopelessness of his task. In southern China, however, particularly in the Canton area, effective reforesting has been carried on for some years by the Chinese Government. Aerial routes of the Eurasia branched off from Sian. One led high over the Tsin ling Shan peaks to Chengtu and then on to Yunnanfu; the other, the northwest route, ran to Lanchow, taking a course directly over the heart of the loess country. Large areas of once inhabited territory with com pact and often fortified villages now lie deserted because of droughts. While the loess is extremely fertile soil, lack of regular rains here frequently ruins crops. Enormous quantities of North China's "good earth" consist of loess, the product of centuries of dust blown down from the plains of Mongolia (pages 586 589 and 592-3).