Heinrich Handel-Mazzetti: [A Botanical Pioneer In South West China] - chapter 2


Chapter 2. Over The Jinsha Jiang Gorge to Huili in Sichuan

Our caravan — landscape and plant life of the Yunnan plateau — trails and hostelries - an unsuccessful boarhunt — intrigues of our caravanmen — arid subtropical flora in the gorge

We had ordered our caravan for 6 am on 6th March. It arrived at 11 am and at 3 pm we were off at last. Many of the horses and mules were in such poor condition and some of the donkeys were so tiny that by no means all the animals were able to carry the customary load of 80kg or more. Yunnan ponies are small, shaggy and unimpressive in appearance, but very tough. Nearly all the pack and riding ponies are stallions; geldings are very uncommon and mares are used for breeding only. The mules are for the most part larger than the ponies, and both sexes are used; indeed mares are more sought after and command a much higher price: up to $200. The pack saddle rests on quilts padded with chaff or chopped palm leaves and is held in place chiefly by the breast plate and crupper, the latter being fitted with a crescent-shaped piece of wood and turned rollers to prevent rubbing. The leading animal carries bells on the breast plate, large red tassels on the head harness and a mirror on the forehead. The wooden piece on the crupper is inlaid with silver and a flag is often planted on the load. The saddle itself is of wood, and the load is not lashed on to it but to a wooden frame which fits loosely on its projecting ledges and is not secured in any way. This ensures that any accident will involve only the load and not the animal, that being the mafu's main consideration. Matters are made worse by the laziness of the Chinese when packing and unpacking; they do not care in the least if an ill-secured and jolting load causes agonizing pressure sores, and the suffering which the ponies endure from this far outweighs the advantage of not being driven on with a whip. Any traveller who wished to alter this state of affairs would first of all have to convert the Chinese into new and different men. In practice he has to submit to the inevitable. The animals' sufferings reminded me of the torments which I used to endure from blistered feet during earlier mountain journeys and on military service.

Sichuan ponies make better riding horses and are used in Yunnan too. They are said to be thoroughbred and are somewhat larger, though still only 1.3m in height Some of them are really splendid animals, with a powerful neck and chest, a small but relatively broad head, short ears and a smooth silky coat. With their broad upright manes trimmed to a curved crest apart from a tuft of hair on the withers, they give an impression of artificiality, which is heightened by the Chinese practice of "embellishing" them by cutting two or three rings in the hair of the tail near its root, carving steps in the mane and cropping the forelock. With the exception of walk and gallop their gait is abominable, but the explorer has no time to teach them better habits. He must be content to select a pony which is strong enough to carry him, not too old and not too young, and not, like so many of them, headstrong and intractable. The price is from $50 to $100 depending on the prevailing conditions. Our decision to travel on horseback and to have our own mounts proved absolutely right Riding saves time and energy, and leaves one free to make minor detours and to catch up with the caravan afterwards, as I often did when I required to ascertain its speed for route surveys or if safety so demanded. From the saddle one sees far more, not merely because of the higher view point but simply because one does not have to pay constant attention to the path — which in some stretches is so bad as to defy description — but can safely leave that task to the horse. On wet days it is admittedly not the most agreeable mode of travel.

Li had hunted up another servant to replace the dismissed Luo. He was called Yang, was somewhat less stupid and could speak a little more French, albeit sadly mangled. He was mounted and carried [p.7:] my plane table and sextant hanging from his pack. Two coolies came on foot as plant collectors. Schneider had six of them, and they carried his big camera and other delicate equipment, and also a sack containing a cold luncheon, so that we were not tied to the places which they or the caravan mafu chose for the midday halt My coolies were indeed capable of standing to attention on the word of command — there are some Germans who consider that this is the first lesson that they have to teach their servants — but in other respects they were exceedingly lazy and they pretended to be more stupid than they really were. All the same they were honest and useful enough and accordingly I did not bother to enforce discipline in mere externals; any such effort would have been too military for my liking and the inevitable clashes would have spoilt my good temper.

It was of course too late to complete a proper day's march, but we were glad to be out of the city at last A miserably ill-paved path led north westwards through the ricefields of the plain to the little village of Buqi, which we reached in just over one and a half hours. In accordance with Chinese custom, the groom always walks in front of his master's horse, a practice which can infuriate a competent rider and is one of the reasons why the Chinese — cavalry officers not excepted — are the worst horsemen imaginable. Pointing an ironshod stick at the nose of the leading animal, the groom forces any oncoming caravan off the path and down into the ricefields. Though I strongly disapproved, it was not easy to cure one's men of such habits, puffed up as they were with conceit at serving such fine gentlemen as ourselves.

In keeping with the advice given to us we chose a hayloft for our lodgings in Buqi, so as to have some protection from vermin. At the edge of the Kunming basin the bare and eroded slopes rose to heights of 400 to 600 m. Our path led on to a low saddle, recognisable from afar by two magnificent trees. It looked down into another deep basin with numerous villages, into which we had to descend. The stream ran across the basin towards us and bent to the left into a cave which pierced a high limestone crest separating its valley from that of the Fumin Xian to the west The path continued uphill towards an impressive double peak, the Laomei Shan, also visible from Kunming. Our caravan had already taken the straight route to the north, but guided by Legendre's map we followed the route via Suge. Although this proved to be a considerable detour, it ran over the Dalijing-Yakou saddle through uncultivated land and was more rewarding to us as botanists. Our guide, an object of mirth to our men, was a lean old man with tattered garments and a huge goitre. In the mountains round Kunming there were some villages where a third of the inhabitants were feeble-minded and goitrous. It was in that district that I later had occasion to ask the way to the city, only to find that not one of the women in the village — they being the only people there — could give me an answer.

This was the flowering season of most of the trees and shrubs. The dense dark green foliage of the evergreen maquis was brightened by the large scented white flowers of Michelia yunnanensis, a relative of the magnolias, the pink or reddish flowers of Camellia saluenensis, the smaller pseudo-umbels of various white, pink and dark red azaleas, the broad corymbs of Viburnum cylindricum, the racemes of white bells of several species of Vaccinium and Pieris, the yellow flowers of thorny Berberis species and the dull red flowers — individually tiny but massed together in enormous numbers — of Myrica nana and Myrsine africana. Most of the deciduous shrubs such as the wild pears (Pints pas-Ma), Pyracantha crenulata var. yunnanensis, Sophora franchetiana and Berberis spp. were thorny, as were the green and brown flowered species of Smilax scrambling among them. The fruit trees around the .farmyards were also in flower, and on their upper branches were dense clumps of Loranthus balfourii, a relative of our mistletoe, now carrying purple flowers. Higher up and on moister hillsides we saw fresh green alders and poplars and various species of Litsea, resembling in appearance our cornelian cherry, and finally the most luxuriant forest type of the Yunnan plateau made up of the evergreen oaks Castanopsis and Lithocarpus, though they and the species which accompany them do not display any special floral beauty. All these plant communities and those of the open rocky landscape are very similar to the corresponding vegetation of the Mediterranean coast, but up to the treeline in the mountains of Yunnan one must always subtract 2000m from the altitude before making comparisons with conditions in central and southern Europe. Lower altitudes are subtropical and have no equivalent in Europe. Just beyond the col at 2425m we found Rhododendron delavayi, a small tree with fissured whitish bark. Its round heads of large fleshy purple blooms had opened and had remained fresh under a layer of newly fallen snow.

From Suge we travelled eastwards over a low saddle into a valley which we followed downhill towards the north. Suge and this valley supplied most of the charcoal consumed in Kunming. Sometimes the charcoal burners dug into a steep slope and hollowed out a chamber with an air shaft at the top, but often they simply shovelled loose earth over a pile of wood and set fire to it; this produced excellent charcoal. The valley was at first broad and shallow, but below Santang (our second campsite) it narrowed into a limestone gorge, only to widen again at Xiao Majie, a larger village where we spent the third night at an altitude considerably below that of Kunming. Each day's march was not long [p.8:] — only 20 to 30 km — but plant collecting and detours to viewpoints for survey purposes took up the whole of the day. Here we visited a hot spring at Reshuitang where the shrub community was quite different. There were Pistacia and Photinia species (Ph. loriformis) with stiff leaves, Osteomeles schwerinae with pinnate grey leaves, and a small-leaved Cotoneaster, all very dry and encrusted with lichens of diverse colours which cried out to be collected. Bordering a stream, a helleborine with yellow-green flowers (Epipactis handelii) formed close carpets beneath a low growing narrow-leaved fig (Ficus pyriformis), while non-prickly hollies and pinnate-leaved Mahonia species with stiff thorns flourished in the ravines. In an exceptionally steep walled gorge we were ferried over the Pudu-ho, which drains the Kunyang-hai, and then went steeply uphill into a side valley. A little mule carrying the ammunition boxes was unable to get round a steep corner and tumbled back several times. The boxes fell down more than once, some of them landing in the water, and in the end the coolies had to carry them. Plant collecting caused us to lag far behind and when we finally caught up the caravan we found them on a cold windy shoulder of the hillside, far from water, the horses having dispersed to graze. Dusk was coming on and when the mafu was called to account he explained that he did not know how far it was to the village. It took the threat of a sound thrashing to induce him to load the horses and march on.

We therefore reached Xinlong after dark, but we stayed there next day as its situation between woods and gorges seemed just what we wanted. Jutting crags of red sandstone rose like vaulted bastions out of the soft green pine woods. Here and there were substantial bushes of Rhododendron irroratum with large pale sulphur-yellow flowers, while the pale pink R. obscurum (now R. sidetvphyllum) was nearly everywhere. Lithocarpus dealbata, an oak with hard grey leaves, was mainly confined to the ravines. A waterfall splashed down a rockface, dividing into numerous threads. Maidenhair fern and creeping mosses covered the wet rock, and in the crevices behind the waterfall was Ophiorrhiza japonica (Rubiaceae) with its limp tubular pink flowers. That evening, just after the "boy" had thrown out the ever-present onlookers and shut the door of the smoke-filled attic where we worked, the wall began to shake, a board fell out and then another, and there they were, back in the room again.

"What the devil are you doing here?" I asked.

"We only want to have a look," came the reply, just as I expected.

From Xinlong the track climbed up an undulating ridge, and suddenly from a clearing in the forest on its northern crest we came upon a splendid view, framed by well grown pine trees as if composed by a painter of the picturesque. Far below us stretched the intensively cultivated Xiaozang valley with half-a-dozen villages, shut in between limestone peaks, some of them rising steeply from the valley floor. Looking further to the right, we saw the shapes of the steep mountains on either side of the gorge of the Pudu He, flowing to join the Yangzi, and above them the crest of the 4000m high Qiaoding Shan. The path went down in steep zigzags through the pine forest into the basin. Next day we continued north-north-west over a rounded saddle into a broad valley which ran down from the north and curved past on our left towards Luchuan. I wanted to photograph it and climbed steeply up an illmade path to a commanding summit, but the view was far from satisfactory and I had to set up the camera more, than once in a circle several hundred metres across, have tall grass beaten flat and small trees bent aside before I got the picture I wanted — an annoying and time consuming labour. What made it even more infuriating was to come upon the very same view — under conditions much more favourable for photography — from a bend in the track on the descent. The entire valley — about 12 km across — seemed to be traversed by broad low ridges covered with pine forest and bushes. It was sparsely populated, rice terraces being confined to the narrow channels of the streams. The narrow-leaved evergreen Lithocarpus spicata var. collettii grew under the pines, together with Quercus aliena, a species much more like our oaks. Coloured marls — red, white, grey, yellow and violet — superimposed in very thin layers, as often found in Yunnan, outcropped in the valley, especially on its eastern side. The air was hot and dry, the ceaseless wind swept the dust across the sunlit earth and even the low stunted thorny lichen-encrusted bushes which grew on this soil had the same colour as the dust As we neared the village of Luoheitang where we planned to spend the night we found yet another oak with leathery silver grey leaves (Quercus franchetii) forming woods. Now that the dry season had begun, the villages themselves with their fruit trees in blossom, dark green palms (Trachycarpus) and bright green bamboo clumps 15m tall (likewise planted) seemed almost like oases, but no peace was to be found within them.

Everything conspired to make our stay unbearable. A fair-sized hostelry might be described as follows. A broad gateway leads into a yard round which are the guest rooms, dark low-ceilinged holes with earth floors, cracked mud walls blackened with soot and small lattice windows made of wood covered with paper. Along the walls are the beds — a few boards laid across a pair of trestles and covered with a straw mat. No one ever airs these mats or sweeps under the beds. On a later occasion, in 1916, when my servant had swept the room and collected a fair-sized pile of rubbish, I ordered him [p.9:] to sweep it out of the door. He replied: "I'll just sweep it there, under the bed!" The ceiling consists of a bamboo mat, stiff with dirt and hanging in talters, and the rats scurry across it, squealing. Other vermin — besides the three usual genera, fleas, lice and bedbugs, there are centipedes and two kinds of large cockroaches — emerge from the ceiling, the straw mats and the cracks in the walls. A camp bed is therefore absolutely necessary. Any traveller who puts his nose through the door into such a room will involuntarily recoil at the stench, and will probably strike his head on the lintel, as the door is usually far too low. Above the entrance is the Da Lushan, a large attic with a board floor and walls black with soot, which also hangs in festoons from the ceiling. The cooking stove is usually beneath it, and as Chinese houses have no chimneys, for the greater part of the day the room is pervaded by acrid smoke from the fire, which is always fed with green wood. Though perhaps this is healthier, it makes the room almost uninhabitable. Besides this there is the smoke from a smouldering heap of rotting vegetation, which is supposed to keep midges away. At the back of the yard is the reception room with the domestic alter, a cleaner and usually somewhat larger room which is willingly offered to foreigners, but is often separated only by torn paper windows from the second yard. This contains a fair number of pigsties and another necessary place, a description of which — concise yet truthful — must not be shirked. Laid across an open pit, often as large as a fair-sized room, made waterproof by a coat of plaster, are two or three planks or beams. That is all; not even the smallest screen is provided; and let it be remembered that the Chinese diet consists of easily digestible rice. The stench from this pit spreads through the entire building. The children, however, never bother to go there; at best they go as far as the front door, where the dogs, allured by cries of "aa-au" from Mama, clean up the mess. Is the dog by nature a dung eater? In China the daintiest European lapdogs (dachshunds) can be seen to behave as such. Ancient sewage and drainwater from diverse sources, allowed to collect in the front yard alongside other garbage, contribute to the stink, and guttering oil lamps add a touch of diversity. It is indeed a blessing mat all this is drowned by the reek from the stables, which usually occupy the remainder of the space around the second yard and are cleaned as seldom as the Augean stables. The animals are often so closely crowded together that not all of them can lie down, and they stand there behind the manger without any litter on the floor, in a bottomless morass. What they look like next morning is easily imagined; in many Alpine districts the cattle have crusts of dung on their hindquarters, but here in China only their backs are free from it. The Chinese never bother to groom their horses, and if one instructs a mafu to perform that task he will, unless he has been trained by Europeans, use a yard broom for the purpose. I always stabled my horse somewhere else and made sure that straw was provided, for I do not enjoy riding on a living dungheap. The amenities of such a hostelry are matched by the attractions of living in it. Though one realises that such ideas as dirt and stench are totally foreign to the Chinese, one also has to accept that noise comes into the same category. Work goes on late into the night and begins again before daybreak, and the mafus sometimes busy themselves with their horses all night long. Everything is done as noisily as possible, and no one gives a thought to the foreigner, yet having worked until midnight and starting again at 6 am, he must have an undisturbed night's rest Whenever possible I would have my bed put up outside the room, and if a Chinese came and stood beside it at 2 am and shouted at the top of his voice to the neighbours I found that my rest was seriously disturbed. The traveller who does not carefully select the place for his camp bed will find that a cock of the magnificent Cochin China breed will be roosting , somewhere above his head and while it is still pitch dark will commence his appalling din, which has little similarity to the clear crow of our cocks at home. One is well advised to avoid close contact with one's dogs even at night, for they generally spend long hours with dogs from the other end of the village. Hens and pigs run in and out of the rooms and the Chinese are surprised if one chucks them out without ceremony, for the pig often has his cosy sleeping place beside the stove, and more than once did I see Chinese kissing one of these hideous black bristly creatures. I have already mentioned the inquisitiveness of the inhabitants, and their unwillingness to be excluded from the room which we occupied. People crowded round our table, pushing each other aside, reeking of garlic, spitting, smoking and belching. When a "superior person" introduced himself, he would waste hours of our time with questions and would insist on inspecting and touching our "foreign things". Nevertheless it was pleasing to find that while we were in the country nothing was ever stolen, however dense the crowds were.

The track from Luoheitang continued over the saddle between two triangular peaks. Further on it passed deep dolines with sink holes, these being one of the commonest features of the karst landscape of the Yunnan plateau. As we had chosen the village of Sayingpan as our next destination, we left the main track and travelled along the east side of the curved course of the stream. We passed through a village inhabited by Yi who had been completely transformed into Chinese, and found accommodation towards evening in the temple at Sayingpan. The headman asked us whether we could use our rifles to shoot a boar, which had for several years been grubbing up the fields belonging to a nearby cottage, [p.10:] so that the occupiers had given up any attempt to cultivate them. We willingly agreed and that afternoon — the boar always emerged at dusk, so he said — we set out on our boarhunt accompanied as usual by a large troop of coolies. We arrived at a tiny hut situated in a field on a steeply sloping hillside. After searching the neighbourhood for plants, we took up positions behind two woodpiles with our rifles at the ready and waited. The sky became overcast; it began to rain and grew colder and colder. Before long we were wet through and half frozen, and perhaps the boar was too, for he did not put in an appearance although we waited until it was too dark to take aim. On parting we gave the poor devils in the hut a few cents, but they were unwilling to take them, as the only coins familiar to them were the old vcash' with a hole — here, barely five days' journey from the provincial capital! Then we returned along the bumpy road. I chose the easy way and rode on horseback. Schneider's young, high-spirited horse ran off into the bushes and had to be caught before we could proceed. While trying to catch it the mafu fell into a deep ditch and lost his master's walking stick, which was only found after a laborious search. It was pitch dark before people from the village at last came to meet us, carrying pine torches to light the way. Next morning the rain changed to snow, and as the room was completely open the eddying flakes settled on our blankets and sleeping bags and melted into pools beside our beds. Whether because of the snow or because it was a holiday, people came crowding into the temple to place offertory candles in the basins. Their smouldering filled the whole room with fumes which might have smelt pleasant to some but not to us. In response to a gesture from ourselves one of the coolies swiftly gathered them up and put them outside in the yard, where they blazed up in the fresh air and soon burnt away. One can well imagine what would happen in a Christian country if some foreigners camped in front of the statues in a church, and threw out the candles or holy water stoups because they found their odour too strong. In matters of religion there really cannot be any people more tolerant and long-suffering than the Chinese.

As soon as the snow began to thaw a little I climbed Laoling Shan, a mountain to the north of the village clothed with fine Lithocarpus woodland. Many of the flowers, especially the larger and more delicate ones, had been frosted during the snowstorm, and I therefore turned my attention mainly to the numerous mosses on the tree trunks.

On the morning of our departure a "boy" suddenly turned up from Kunming, wearing a European khaki suit He was one of those whose services we had earlier declined. He brought a letter from our worthy compatriot in the Post Office, the message being as follows. Before the journey began our caravan leader had sent him a letter, which he enclosed, signed by all our coolies. In it they declared that Li, our head servant, was always reviling and beating them. They could no longer submit to this, and somewhere in the mountains they would fall upon him and slay him. He therefore begged us in our own interest to dismiss Li, and said that he had sent us this new servant to replace him. When we told this story to the coolies they burst out laughing and, together with the "head mafu" who had come with them, assured us that they were perfectly content with Li. The whole business was an impudent plot, concocted by the caravan leader who had disappeared when we were in Kunming, to discredit Li, who had discovered his frauds. He demanded an extra ten dollars travelling expenses for the man he had sent after us, but we of course refused to pay.

We travelled onwards, first west and then north, towards the Jinsha Jiang [Note #6: throughout Yunnan this is the name for the Yangzi Jiang, a term which denotes only a short stretch in its lower reaches. Jinsha Jiang means "River of Golden Sand" or, more correctly, "Gold-dust River" (S.G.H.).] The route still trended gently uphill, finally reaching a low col at 2400m. Here there was an abrupt change in the landscape. Steep ravines led down to the river valley, the bottom of which was out of sight Narrow ridges and rugged summits jutted out between them and plunged down in vertical rock precipices or steep, barren, constantly shifting screes. There was still some woodland, but only near the top; lower down everything was dried up and at first sight devoid of plant life. The Huili plateau in Sichuan, similar in shape, seemed almost close enough to touch, yet it was separated from us by the river. Our route led at first for some distance outwards along a crest and then turned quickly downwards to the right into one of the steep side ravines. The subtropical xerophytic vegetation of the deeper parts of the gorge began at the little village of Zhenminde. Dried up steppe grasses, reddish brown in colour, clothed the soil, which here overlay igneous rock and assumed yellow and grey tones. Herbaceous plants, scarcely overtopping the half metre tall grasses, included a dock with brown flowers (Rumex hastatus) and several species of Acanthaceae, some of them thorny, with beautiful blue flowers (Barleria mairei, Cystacanthus yunnanensis); the taller shrubs and trees attained only modest heights and most them had an umbrella-like profile with branches spreading sideways from their tops. Their leaves were for the most part small and inconspicuous, thick and leathery or covered with silvery hairs. They formed a savannah woodland, conspicuous among which was Nouelia insignis, a composite with solitary white flower-heads the size of a hen's egg, and Delavaya toxocarpa laden with scented pink flowers, two genera of trees confined to Yunnan and south west Sichuan, whereas Quercus dilatata reappears in [p.11:] the north west Himalaya. A little further down we found two imposing trees with deep red flowers whch open before the leaves unfold — Bombax malabarica and Erythrina stricta. The prickly pear, Opuntia monocantha, brought from America, formed lar|;e colonies together with a cactus-like Euphorbia which also occurs in the Himalaya (E. royleana); in exjunction with pomegranates they were used to mate hedges. Jatropha curcas, turgid widi juice, yields oil from its seeds, but whether it is truly native remains to be ascertained. Abundant on rock faes were the rosettes of Selaginella involvens, larger than a man's hand; during drought they roll into balls, spreading out again when the rain comes. Another species was S. wightii, with creeping stem-let covered with shaggy white hairs. Hanging down over it from the ledges were the large fluffy white tufs of a cotton grass (Eriophorum comosuni). The wilding path which led down the steep hillside was well laid out, though in some places extremely exposed. The caravan went past the village where we had decided to halt, because it did not suit the mafu to spend the night there. Darkness overtook us and we had to make our way cautiously along the narrow pah which ran beside the river a little further upitream to the ferry building at Lagachang (Fig.4). It was a wretched mud hut with a hot and evil-srcelling room under a low thatch, but its location — ony 900m above sea level — was so important that wt decided to stay for two days. The river was now at its lowest; windblown sand and boulders lined its baiks, though in some stretches the rocks plunged vetically right down to the water, hemmed in the stBam and created rapids. The southern wall of the gorge was topped by jagged peaks of diverse shapes wlich altered with every change of viewpoint, and the steep 1500m slope on the opposite side was sorcery less impressive. We searched the lateral ra'ines, which still contained remnants of forest, and wt found other species of trees and numerous woody climbers scrambling up them. A little stream, flowing only in the rainy season, tumbled down over an overgrown rock and had over the years deposited so much tufa that the waterfall, as we saw it now in the dry season, appeared to have been turned into stone. Along its margins grew the creeping fig Ficus tUfoua. Though it was common in the steppe gnssland, this was the only place in Yunnan where I aw it in fruit — small figs in the leaf axils lying close to the ground (Fig. 3). On 21st March we crossed the Jinsha Jiang in the little ferry boat At fust things did not go smoothly because too many hcrses had been taken on board. They crowded together and became restless, the boat started to ship witer and nearly capsized, and some of them leapt ino the water and swam back to the bank. The ojeration was then restarted less hastily and was safely concluded. Li paid on our behalf a few cents for each man and each load, and rather more for each horse, with a tip as well. The ferryman probably received only the latter and I think Li pocketed all the rest, for as I later discovered this ferry like most others was public, in other words maintained by the government and free of charge. But we were greenhorns, and were happy to have completed another stage of our journey and reached Sichuan.

The route led at first between dreary screes in the bed of the Shazhuo He gorge straight up towards a row of dazzling yellow rock towers which glowered down from high above. Before long, however, it diverged to the left and climbed up a firm strip of older rock. Everything was dried up, a landscape in shades of brown. On either side we saw steep slopes laid bare by landslides with broad outflows of sand and mud beneath them. Only on the left, where the landslides terminated at the end of the plateau itself, did the rock display any variation in colour. The summits of the mountain range superimposed on the plateau were also totally barren, like those of Mount Dienshan in the north ' east; all the trees had presumably been cut down to fuel the copper mines. Such colour as the landscape displayed was given to it by the rock strata; up here, lying on top of the vivid red weathered limestone of the edge of the gorge, there was again multicoloured marl in a rich sequence of thin layers with a gentle northwesterly dip. The market of Tong'an, situated at 1900m on a diminutive tributary of the Shazhuo He, gave us lodging for the night A Lisu prince was said to reside here, but we saw nothing of his tribesmen, who if they indeed lived there must have been far distant from the main body of their tribe. The track continued northwards through bleak barren country over a low ridge and then crossed the valley of the Yangzhu He which flowed towards us in broad meanders. Though shallow at this point, further to the left the valley was deeply incised. We went on over Mount Leidashu and spent the night at the village of Zhangguanzhong, where — for the first time on our travels — we were provided with guards for our baggage because of thieves. Beyond the village we crossed yet another mountain, one of many rising about 400m above the level of the plateau. Towering above their undistinguished contours we saw the triple peak of Mount Longzhu -(3978m) at the northeast end of another mountain chain, also completely bare of vegetation, but more varied and pleasing to the eye. Lying at its foot was Huili, a town of some size situated on the Yangzhu He, where we arrived on 23rd March after travelling through a refreshingly green little valley.

[chapter 3:]