National Geographic : 1920 Nov
THE EDEN OF THE FLOWERY REPUBLIC It is at once the most daring, the most colossal, the most graceful,, architectural concept which the mind of ancient man was given to fulfill. The sheer audacity of the thing, especially in the light of China's unaudacious character today, is staggering. THE DISMISSED RICKSHAW MAN' AND HIS SMILE By an ironic coincidence it was on the way to the Great Wall that I met the unaudacious rickshaw man. The first stage of our journey-from my host's rooms to the railroad station--was a dis tance of four miles. One of our rick shaw coolies was young and lusty and a good runner; the other was old-not very old in years, but old for a rickshaw man in a city where distances are long and legs and lungs must be in prime con dition to suit impatient Americans. The old man started off briskly enough. but we had hardly rounded the corner into the main street when it became clear that he could not stand the necessary pace for forty minutes. "We must catch that train," said my host. "and this old chap won't get us there." So I hailed the first sturdy coolie I saw and stepped into his rickshaw. "Give the old man four coppers," said my host. I did so without further thought at the moment, saw the old fellow regard his younger rival with that resigned, pitiful smile with which the Chinese are wont to accept the inevitable, and we were off. His smile haunted me. I began to feel that I had broken a contract with him; he had been engaged for a ride to the railroad at a fare of thirty coppers; he had been dismissed with four. "Don't let that trouble you," said my host. "It is understood among rickshaw men that if they cannot pull at the speed you want, you are free to dismiss them. Four coppers are twice as much as he earned." My host had had considerable experi -ence with Peking rickshaw men. He was doubtless right. But all day long that half good-natured, half regretful, alto gether pathetic smile of the old man was somehow mixed up with the glory of wind and sunshine on the brown hills and the wild leaping curves of the ramparts. It is this unexpected smile at misfor tune which makes life bearable for mil lions of Chinese. I wonder whether it is this same smile which makes progress in China so difficult? That is a problem I have not solved; but I have, ever since, paid riotous rickshaw fares in memory of the old fellow who took me four cop pers' worth toward the Great Wall. THE EDEN OF THE FLOWERY REPUBLIC BY DR. JOSEPH BEECH A THOUSAND miles westward from the coast of China the Yangtze River, which in Chinese means "The Child of the Ocean," in its passage through the outer rim of central Asia's mountain system has carved, in surpassing beauty and majestic grandeur, the five gorges of the upper Yangtze, rightly called the gateways to West China. They stretch from Ichang, until recently the head of steam navigation, to Kwei chow, a distance of 125 miles. The traveler is prompted to call "Hats off!" as he sails between these massive walls, crowned with cathedral domes that companion with the clouds, and his ad- miration is mingled with awe of the river, with its succession of rapids and treach erous whirlpools that take heavy toll of life and merchandise from those who enter, thus creating the tradition that only the hardy and the favored of the gods pass through. Such is the entrance to the country which the first Western traveler, Marco Polo, who visited that country in the thirteenth century, described as a culti vated garden with great cities, and a recent visitor calls "Sze-chuan the Beau tiful, the richest and most populous and altogether the most picturesque part of China."