National Geographic : 1937 Apr
GRAND CANAL PANORAMA BRICK FOR THE HOMES OF CHINA Hoeing out clay, the elderly workman seems about to undermine the road, along which the little girl with a huge fan walks beside her father and brother. Mixed with chaff and short straw, the clay in the molds is dried in the sun. Fuel is so scarce near Paoting that comparatively few bricks are baked in kilns, and these are used mainly for foundations, where ground moisture would soften the sundried kind. "A rain procession, I do believe," said Hunter. "How about photographing it?" "Bad joss. They wouldn't let you." "Let's land anyhow." We leaped ashore and ran to intercept the parade before it should reach the canal. Coming near, we saw what looked like a kitchen table being borne in great state on the shoulders of four particularly solemn village elders. Upon the table was a board and upon the board a savage, scaly dragon three feet long. "What's the idea?" I called to Hunter who ran beside me. "To bring rain. The dragon is supposed to be the evil spirit that has kept rain away. They'll drown it in the canal, then rain can come." The procession halted beside the canal. The table was set down. There was a sharp command. Men dropped to their knees about the hated dragon, kowtowed until their foreheads touched the ground, and begged the evil spirit not to be angry with them for what they must do to it. MUSICIANS FOR ANCIENT RITE WERE BOYS OF 4-H CLUBS There were no priests. The leader in this ancient superstitious rite was, oddly enough, the only "modern" in the crowd, the young schoolteacher, and the musicians were the boys of the 4-H Clubs! Thus do old and new merge in China. We asked the teacher for permission to make photo graphs. He consented, rather gloomily. "I don't mind," he said. "But it's the farmers. If it doesn't rain, they'll blame you. You may be followed, and hurt. You see, it's a matter of life and death with them. So I wouldn't if I were you-unless you're sure it will rain." Hunter looked at the sky. "I think it's going to rain," he said, and we took photographs.