National Geographic : 1938 May
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE River. At night, crowded with junks and gaily decorated sampans, this fascinating river maze is known as the "Venice of Can ton" (page 577). For a few cents one can hire a sampan and drift past hotels built on junks, where flower girls play lutes while men eat, drink, and gamble. Colored lanterns swing all about. Lasting three days, the Dragon Boat Festival shakes the Canton River once a year. Some of the narrow native craft, decorated with banners and parasols, may hold as many as 60 Chinese. Paddled by peasants keeping time to the rhythm of a drum in the center of the boat, they rapidly gather momentum and cut through the water at high speed. Races with three or four craft competing are loudly cheered by crowds on the river banks or afloat. Conspicuous in the hilly country about Canton is the White Cloud Mountain, almost entirely covered to its summit with graves, set in horseshoe shape. I saw this type of grave architecture many times in this part of China. In Canton I first tried living in a Chinese hotel. Soon it became apparent that Chinese hotels are primarily places of amusement; they stay open until dawn only then the noisy chatter and clatter of mah-jongg games die down. A "Silk Street" and an "Ivory Street" flourish in almost every large South China town. However, modern China is rapidly losing its old art of designing and, unhap pily I think, seems more interested now in imported designs from Paris and London. CHILDREN NAP ON WILD BUFFALOES Looking down from the plane on these South China flights, I constantly saw in the paddy fields the enormous and rather wild water buffalo, known in the Philip pines as the carabao. Sometimes it was hitched to a plow; sometimes it was wal lowing contentedly in the cool mud. This slow, heavy creature is anything but tame. Without its daily mud bath it is likely to be moody and dangerous. It is quite likely to attack a saddle horse, throwing the rider into a muddy rice field, and has been known to kill foreigners out snipe shooting. However, the water buffalo is astonish ingly friendly and obedient to children, who can subdue it with a switch. It calmly sub mits to being used as a plaything, and youngsters often climb on its back to doze undisturbed. For months I flew between Hankow and Chengchow. On one of the flights we were carrying a rather heavy load across high mountains. Drizzling rain in which we had taken off continued steadily through the pass and soon began to form a thin layer of ice on the wings. At first I didn't think it would become dangerous, since usually one can fly under such conditions for some time. Knowing that beyond the range lay a warmer open valley of rice fields, I continued with wide open throttle, even though I was gradually losing altitude. FORCED DOWN AMID KINDLY PEASANTS With heavy, low-hanging clouds, visibil ity grew worse and it was apparent we were being pressed down, not so much from the weight of ice covering the plane as from the distorted shape of the wings. But we made the pass, flew down on the other side of the range, and saw a large winding river with sand banks. A quick descent, I knew now, was imperative. A successful landing was made, and in stantaneously what seemed a thousand peas ants flocked from nowhere to see the air plane (page 579). With emergency tools we tried to scrape off the ice in order to continue the flight, but the steady drizzle froze as it touched the metal wings; there was nothing to do but remain there all night. On all my forced landings in China I was treated with great kindness by the peasants. From their meager food supply they always brought the best they had for my passengers and me. This time we were invited to a room heated with a charcoal fire. But icy winds had torn through its rice-paper walls, and the poor peasants did not have the means with which to renew the frayed paper. After tying down the plane with ropes which we always carried for such an emergency, we sat most of the night beside the small fire. Next morning two relief planes arrived from Hankow and Chengchow. BLINDING DUST THREE MILES IN AIR Dust storms rage all about Chengchow. Much soil here is loose and dry; whenever there has been a long drought, even the smallest windstorm will start what might be called a "real-estate movement."