National Geographic : 1912 Nov
1082 THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE was reaching tens of millions of dollars in value, and within ten years' time should aggregate annually hundreds of millions in amount. Although a Russian block-house flanks every railway station, and its garrison doubtless rules with a rod of iron, yet the long-established Russian policy ob tains and the racial susceptibilities of the Chinese are regarded to an extent that would be impossible for Americans to observe. In addition to other instances in evidence, there was noted the decora tions of the small attractive railway sta tions at lempo. The ornamentation was strictly Chinese, the graceful roof-trim mings being a series of the symbolated Chinese dragons pursuing their fleeing prey. All along the railway Manchurians of every grade and class were seen mix ing with Russian civilians and soldiers, pursuing their various affairs with such freedom and assurance as would not be tolerated in most localities in the United States. THE ALADDIN CITY While Russian activities have thor oughly affected the peoples of northern Manchuria, yet they have centered in the Aladdin-like city of Harbin, which very lately was unpleasantly brought to the world's attention as the scene of the deplorable assassination of that great statesman, Prince Ito, of Japan. The most populous of European cities in Asia, the former medical center of the Russian army-with a hospital so im mense that Io,ooo patients were cared for at one time-it seems an irony of fortune that Harbin should recently have lost thousands by pestilential plague. It is, however, a logical outcome of the governmental defects at Harbin. With unsanitary habits almost universal among its cosmopolitan population, there was, strangely enough in autocratic Russia, no dominant central authority over this collection of cities to enforce proper sanitary regulations, even if such were ever planned. The existence of Harbin is due to the conjoined action of the Russian govern ment and the Russo-Chinese Bank. The corporation obtained from China exclu- sive rights for 36 years to a region 100 miles square. Lavish expenditures, ag gregating from Io to 12 millions of dollars, built up a modern town near the point where the Transiberian Railway crosses the Sungari River over a fine steel bridge of modern type and standard construction. With great and fluctuating business interests, Harbin has varied in popula tion from 50,000 to 1oo,ooo or more. It appeared to be a collection of hetero geneous communities rather than an administrative unit. There then existed nine practically independent administra tions-the official, the army, the mili tary hospital, the business, the manu facturing, the milling, the river, the Chi nese quarter, and on the outskirts the original Manchurian village. The milling facilities are adequate to ,care for more than one and a quarter millions of souls; the railway equipment is so extensive and well arranged that an army corps with its entire impedimenta can be entrained or detrained in a day.* From observation and by report the Russians maintain a most conciliatory and tactful attitude towards the Chinese in general and Manchurians in particular. The enormous expenditures of the Rus sians yet continue at Harbin, whereby the Chinese-laborers, traders, and offi cials-have profited beyond their wildest expectations. As we tarried, there were in evidence a number of Chinese officers of the new army, smartly uniformed, alert in action, and prepossessing in ap pearance. While many public and some private buildings are large and costly, there was that unmistakable cast of crudity to Har bin which causes it to somewhat resemble a thriving frontier city of America. The cosmopolitan character of the city was markedly emphasized by the incoming South China mail-train, which brought naked coolies and full-robed mandarins, the turbaned Hindu and the German * Mr. Putnam Weale Simpson names nine flouring mills at Harbin with an output ca pacity of about 1,700,000 pounds daily, and nine others near that city which raise the capacity of Central Manchuria to more than 1,500 tons of flour daily.