Heinrich Handel-Mazzetti: [A Botanical Pioneer In South West China] - chapter 3


Chapter 3. The Jianchang Valley and its Mountains

Ascent of Longzhu Shan—Yi tribespeople—a Chinese banquet—the Anning He valley—Dechang and the Houziya — difficulties of surveying — Xichang and the mission — ascent of Luosi Shan (4300m)

Longzhu Shan [note 7: Height given as 13,050ft on ONC H-11 = 3978m.] was the first real mountain which we had an opportunity of climbing. All the innkeeper could tell us was that unfriendly Yi (Lolo) lived in the mountains, from which they descended to plunder caravans. We wanted to arrange an escort of soldiers and called on the magistrate for that purpose. He was extremely friendly; smartly rigged out in a bowler hat, he showed how civilized he was by turning aside before spitting on the floor and blowing his nose on his hand. In order to facilitate our climb he entered into an arrangement with a Yi prince outside the town. The prince sent us two of his men, and with two soldiers, a servant, six of our own coolies, two muleteers and four pack animals we set out on 25th March. Our path soon left the caravan route, branched off into a valley on the left and climbed up its side. The bedrock was still red sandstone, but in the coarse shingle of the almost dried up stream we found the igneous rock, green diabase with or without actinolites, which forms the core of the mountain range. Remnants of evergreen oak forest (Uthocarpus variolosa and Quercus schottkyana, with Thea speciosa [note #8: Now Camellia saluenensis.] among them) were still to be found above 2650m, but frost had destroyed the blooms. At the head of the valley the path climbed steeply to a saddle between the two nearest peaks. Attracted by the noise of our men, a number of Yi shepherds with ancient matchlocks had gathered there. Though our soldiers looked frightened, our two Yi escorts went forward and made friends with them. The group was so picturesque that I wanted to take a colour photograph, but they withdrew to one side, and when I set my camera to instantaneous and suddenly swung round they ran away as fast as they could round the corner.

From this point the crest continued in undulating curves to the main summit, branching off into lateral peaks and shoulders to the southwest and east We proceeded towards the peak on the left, which was clothed with almost impenetrable thickets of yellowish brown holly-leaved oaks and rhododendrons. On the east side of the crest the former (Quercus semecarpifolia) formed low bushes, but on the west side it grew into trees about 5m high, and with its gnarled, much branched trunks this forest reminded me of the beech tanglewood [note #9: The German word Krummholzgenera\\y denotes the tangled and almost impenetrable thickets of Pinus mugo encountered in the Alps, but Handel-Mazzetti applies it to several other species, and the translator chose tanglewood as the nearest equivalent.] of the Bosnian mountains. Between the trees were bamboos

and all of them were festooned with mosses hi long tufts and wisps, notably Horibundaria setschwanica, golden green in colour where it was lit up by the few sunbeams which penetrated the forest Of much the same colour was another moss, Actinothuidum hookeri, resembling our bog mosses; swollen by moisture from lingering snow patches, its cushions covered large stretches of the forest floor. We followed the path downhill beyond the col. Growing on the hillside were splendid tree rhododendrons with stout trunks 8m high, circular crowns and leathery leaves 30 cm long hanging down from the branches. From a distance they seemed to be in flower, as the leaves were topped with snow-white balls, but these were merely the woolly buds of this year's growth. The tree was Rhododendron rex, a species widely distributed in southwest Sichuan though not common.

We spent the night at Jifangkou, a Yi village at 2875m, in a low-ceilinged thatched house, where we shared the only room with the owners and various other inmates, feathered and four-legged. Though we met with a perfectly friendly reception, my attempts at photography were as unsuccessful as those of the day before. On 26th March we climbed up the same path to the crest and then along the latter to the summit, a steep rocky dome at 3675m by my measurement No flowers were open yet, so I was able to give my whole attention to the cryptogams, and indeed on a subsequent visit these were still the mountain's most interesting feature. There were some mosses which I found here for the first and only time, for example Dicranum papillidens, a new species which formed glistening golden cushions with large fruits. Together with a few other species it enveloped the densely branched bamboo stems, which were kept very low and almost leafless by the wind, and transformed them into dark cylindrical broomsticks. Coloured lichens spread over the dark green diabase, nearly all of them species new to science, and the large red berries of Cotoneaster microphylla gleamed among its tiny round evergreen leaves. The atmosphere was hazy, and because of the lack of good maps, because I had had no previous opportunity to get my bearings and because my photographs were failures, the view did not greatly enlarge my knowledge of the terrain, though under better conditions it would certainly have been valuable. To the northwest, beyond the Yalong, there was a large blank on the map, and in it I saw some fair-sized mountains, one of them still snow-capped, but to fix its position I needed a bearing from a second place.

Far away to the southeast beyond the Yangzi a high crest carrying far more snow than our mountain, towered above the layer of mist; as we later discovered, it was the Qiaoding Shan (4000m according to Deprat and Mansuy). The Longzhu [p.13:] Shan itself appears to be a laccolith, a volcanic intrusion which did not at first reach the surface and was subsequently exposed by erosion. It was tempting to interpret the curved crest with its three summits as the margin of a volcanic crater torn open on its western side (towards Jifangkou). However, since the crest in its entire length of some 10 km towards the north consists of the same eruptive rock together with granite, and since I found no lava or tuff this seems unlikely. At our midday halt halfway down someone spotted wild boar and shouted for the rifles. I myself saw two disappearing across a clearing in the forest, but they were out of range.

Down at Huili the flora in the irrigation ditches and on the banks between the rice and bean fields was much further advanced than the equivalent at Kuraiing; a cut-leaved form of Potentilla supina and the white Lysimachia prostrate were in flower. Leading over the Yangzhu He was a low bridge, its pilla-s built of round boulders held together solely by interwoven bamboos. On the dry slopes beyond there were a few prizes worth collecting, such as the steppe lichens, Diploschistes argillosus and others, forming grey or yellowish crusts. Huili was a much cleaner town than Kunming, though not so animated. Blue and red were the prevailing colours of Chinese country towns; the swarms of people in the streets were clad in blue, and the door posts were decorated with strips of bright red paper inscribed with greetings. The same red predominated in the images of the gods at the gates, and outshone the reddish-brown of the woodwork. Plants of Rumex hastatus on the town walls provided a further contrast.

We were conducted to the missionary Pere Dugiist and he in turn took us to his friend the mayor. The latter paid us two return visits, first with a single friend and then with several, all of whom wanted to see "our pretty foreign things", and we had to turn out everything in our crates. Then he invitsd us all to a meal. First of all we sat down at small tables along the walls of the room and were served with tea and little cakes. The teacup is made in tiiree parts. The ring-shaped saucer protects the vanished surface of the table, while the cover holds back the tealeaves, on to which hot water is repeatedly poured, while one savours the infusion. Meaiwhile the dishes were set out upon a large rouni table in the middle of the room and we took our places. Seventeen courses, some most tempting delicacies but others more questionable, were set before us. The host urges his guests to eat first, and it is a signal mark of politeness on his part to pick out titbits from the dish with his chopsticks and present them to his guests on deep narrow porcelain spoons. Gravy may be spilt on the table and it may be Ittered with the husks of sunflower and melon seed; which the guests nibble between courses, but the« are mere trifles, though they do nothing to make the dinner more appetising. Rice spirit, kept warn in little bowls immersed in hot water and continually refilled, helps one to digest the excessively fatty items which make up most of the menu, but I always found its flavour abominable. The last course consists of rice and finally, after about four hours at table, tea is served once more.

The host then goes round the table asking his guests "Chi baole? Chi baole?" ("Have you had enough to eat?") and indeed most of them have already given audible evidence to that effect My stomach is like an ostrich's and endured those Chinese dinners without complaint, but my companion's was more fastidious and relieved itself of the unaccustomed burden next morning in a double-ended explosion. We felt rather surprised when Pere Dugast offered a guide to take us to the place of execution; he told us that criminals were to be beheaded outside the gate today, but he himself was unable to come.

On 31st March we left Huili with a small escort of soldiers provided by the magistrate, as the route was allegedly unsafe. We travelled due north again, at first along the valley to the east of the Longzhu range, where the limestone bedrock is overlain by mica schist extending from the east, then over a low col into the Yimen basin, which is traversed by a broad bed of talus and filled with coloured marls exposed beneath limestone and sandstone. Yimen was a dismal little town but had some valuable coalmines in the limestone on the next ridge, which we had to ascend as the track to Jianchang led along the next valley, running north and south parallel to the one we had just left Alum stone was bought from 30 li away to be calcined at this coalmine. The valley had steep walls and narrowed below Baiguowan. The stream rushed down rapids between huge boulders or wound its way through scree beds, and most of the villages consisted of only a few houses, there being no soil to sustain any more people. We were once again in the torrid subtropical zone. A mountain ridge with two summits, Heshang Shan, jutted out into the cultivated basin at the mouth of our valley, projecting across it at right angles as far as the Arming He, which flowed south westwards along the western foothills of the Longzhu Shan to the Yalong, joining the latter close to its debouchment into the Yangzi. At this altitude the largest trees were two "banyans" — figtrees with stout trunks and spreading crowns: one was Ficus cuspidifera with thick rhomboidal leaves marked by prominent veins and the other was Ficus superba with narrower leaves and dense clusters of fruit on short shoots. They really belong to regions far to the south and west; here they were solitary, growing near villages or small shrines and specially cared for. Their old trunks arose from flattened aerial roots and branched low down. Some of them had cavities filled with masonry.

Not far below Gongmuying the track reached the Arming He itself. Its valley, the Jianchang, soon narrowed but although its sides were fairly steep it was cultivated everywhere and there were numerous villages. Granite outcropped on the valley floor and the stream from Yimen tumbled down to join the river through a ravine of mica schist, crossed by an iron chain bridge high above the water. In some parts the paved road ran close to the river, squeezed between it and the rice fields which took up all the accessible space, but elsewhere it climbed up the hillside to a height of as much as 200 m, as at the village of Luoyao, where the valley curved at the debouchment of a large side valley which entered [p.14:] from the southeast, close to a high mountain. In some stretches the track had been washed away by floods but instead of rebuilding it the Chinese had simply put up a neatly chiselled plaque with the inscription: "Until the year such-and-such the mad was here, but the water washed it away", and left the task of treading out a new route to the caravans themselves. The Chinese are great enthusiasts for memorial plaques: nearly every bridge has one, with the names of the donors who contributed to its erection. To immortalise their names was their first consideration, just as we ourselves in post-war Austria are now seeking to revive orders and titles. Many of the villages consisted only of one narrow covered street, and the paving stones were so uneven and slippery that it was better to dismount so as not to risk the horse's legs. At each end there was a gateway, often with steps leading up to it The traffic was very heavy, though consisting almost entirely of porters on foot and travellers in carrying chairs. On both sides of the valley there were talus fans and terraces, and at Dechang it opened out into a broad plain, at the mouth of a fair-sized valley running down from the low pine-clad range between the Jianchang and the Yalong valleys. As it approached Dechang this range became higher and narrower arid looked more like a mountain chain.

Dechang was a little town on the right (west) bank of the Aiming He. A broad chain bridge crossed the river between crags crowned by gate towers. The boards in the middle were wide enough to allow one to ride, but halfway across the bridge began to sway from side to side so alarmingly that my horse hesitated and I was afraid of falling against the open lattice-work at the sides. The inns in Dechang were so bad that we had no choice but to seek accommodation in a temple. Its aged warden would not admit us without permission from the police chief. However, when the latter was at last found the warden became as friendly as he had previously been surly. In Dechang there was a Chinese Catholic priest who invited us in good Latin to visit him, and also a government school run by an Evangelical mission. Classes were conducted in English, but to judge by the tests which the teacher proudly showed us the standard was certainly no higher than that reached by any "boy". The Chinese priest thought little of him. "Est nomen scolae", he said and grumbled bitterly about the Protestants.

On the heights of the mountain range to the west there were enticing patches of green and from its crest we hoped to command wide views over unsurveyed country. We therefore selected an easily attainable summit at the far end of the valley debouching near Dechang — not the highest, but one on a spur projecting towards the Yalong. As soon as the police chief heard of our plans he pretended to be horrified, and said that hostile Yi tribesmen lived there. Every Chinese official trembles at the mention of their name. The Yi are bold and fearless, and hate the Chinese, and the latter are certainly masters of the art of making themselves hated. But while strolling in the fields beyond the city gates I was told by a Chinese woodcutter that there was nothing to fear from the Yi up in the hills, and from what

the missionaries said to us it seemed reasonable to expect that our experiences on the Longzhu Shan would be repeated. Once the police chief saw that we were determined to stick to our plan he gave us four of his policemen and a man with a letter of recommendation for the furthest Chinese village, Gebankou. Not long afterwards he departed surreptitiously, having made the town too hot to hold him. It was not far to Gebankou, and on 5th April, in the afternoon, we set out as planned. The soldiers declared that they would not go past the village, because it was the boundary of their district and the territory beyond it belonged to Yanyuan; but this was a lie, and when we ignored them and rode on, two of the heroes came with us. The valley, which here ran southwards, was filled with scrub and bushes and we took the minor track through it instead of the direct route which ran through barren country. We found the new Corylopsis velutina with downy leaves and yellow catkins, Rhododendron siderophyllum and, higher up, R. pubescens [note #10: Now included in R. spiciferum]. Other finds included Rubus henryi with linear-lanceolate leaves covered beneath with white felt, Iris japonica with flowers in panicles, and large patches of Primula cyanocephala [note #11: Now P. denticulata subsp. alta. ] on moist bare soil. I rode up a 3150m summit called Houziya on the main ridge. It still carried pine and oak forest (Quercus aquifolioides [note #12: semecarpifolia.]) and commanded wide vistas. The Yalong itself was not visible because the slopes steepened near the valley bottom but otherwise the view to the west was most rewarding. The hillsides were dotted with Yi villages. Cultivation was carried almost to the summit and all the people were friendly. One man asked after the Chinese padre in Dechang, whom he knew. Another was driving a buffalo over the mountain, its front hooves fitted with shoes plaited from cord to prevent it from slipping on the wet clay. The Yi who came up from below were all more or less drunk. They all indulged in schnapps which they bought from the Chinese, but drink never made diem iShumoured or spiteful. Below the red sandstone of the crest granite and mica schist were exposed near Gebankou. Next morning I visited a little grove of Cunninghamia lanceolata on the side of the valley. This is the most westerly outpost of that conifer. The woodland floor was devoid of plants, and was carpeted by its fallen twigs and broad pointed needles, like a pinewood at home.

Leaving Dechang we travelled along the left bank up the wider Jianchang valley, which runs due north. Its river terraces were partly covered by broad, slightly convex talus fans which here and there almost blocked the valley and forced the Arming He to swerve from side to side. In some places the talus fans were themselves cut through by wide deep stream beds, as at Huangshuitang, where in 1911 Legendre and his party were robbed of everything [p.15:] they possessed. On the east side these streams came from a range of sandstone mountains well over 4000m high, with steep sides and deep clefts and dome-shaped or rather bell-shaped summits, the most southerly of which we had already seen from a side valley above Luoyao. The Yi, originally the rulers of this territory, had been driven into the mountains by Chinese settlers who now inhabited the valley. But they came down from the hills not only to sell and to barter but also from time to time to rob, extort and carry off boys as slaves. The entire valley floor was cultivated in the Chinese style, with terraced rice fields, hedges and rows of bushes in semicircles round the alluvial fans. Among them were pomegranates, oranges, Aleurites fordii grown for its wood oil, and Sapium sebiferum, the tallow tree, with small rhomboid leaves like those of an aspen, used for the same purpose. Castanea mollissima was abundant in the wild state, as was Gleditschia sinensis. Pastures with scattered bushes, notably the spiny Caesalpinia sepiaria with golden yellow flowers, covered the arid soil. Subtropical xerophytes such as Bombax malabarica, Opuntia monacantha, Euphorbia royleana and Bryophyllum calycinum were scattered here and there.

Most of the villages consisted of several groups of houses, often widely separated, surrounded by a few trees. They gave the broad valley floor an irregular dappled appearance which confused the picture. Because the elevations and slopes were so slight, the valley was difficult to survey, though sketching was easy enough. Whether from stupidity, a desire to please, or the sheer superficiality which is part of the Chinese makeup, people whom the traveller meets on the road, when asked the name of the locality, give the first reply which comes into their heads, often the name of the village where they had spent the previous night half a day's journey away, while local inhabitants working in the fields are often unable to name the next village across the river. At Luanfenba the steep-sided valley broadened into a former lake basin and the river flowed over a sandy bed, here and there splitting into several channels. The unremitting wind whirled the dust aloft, obscuring the view and cutting grooves in the sand dunes, which were quite substantial and covered large areas. Above Daxinba the narrow terraces along the valley sides faded out and the mountains rose gradually at an oblique angle to the valley, separated from it on the right by foothills. On 8th April we reached Xichang. Although we approached it by crossing a low col instead of following the outlet stream from the lake, the green vegetation and perfume from the bean fields round the blue lake made a pleasant contrast to the dusty road in the Jianchang valley.

Xichang, or in the local dialect Lingyuan, the chief town of the district, spread out on the northern margin of the plain. The gates were well guarded against surprise attacks by the Yi and no one with a weapon was allowed to enter. Schneider's bearer passed through separately from his master and the guards confiscated his Mauser, though they gave it back to Schneider at once. Xichang was the seat of the bishop to whom we had been recommended.

Monsignore de Guebriant was a shrewd and wealthy man. The Jianchang mission was entirely his work. The large new cathedral had been consecrated at Easter and by the autumn the whole mission with all its outbuildings was finished. He and his priests, notably the procurator Father Burnichon, were held in high regard by the Yi, who embraced Christianity wholesale without understanding what it is. Yet when the Naxi prince of Guabi came through Xichang while waging war against the Yi he likewise named the bishop as his sponsor, though he did not have himself baptised. The bishop was on friendly terms with the mayor and promptly found us lodgings in an unoccupied house not far from the mission. There was also a Protestant mission, directed by Pastor Jensen and Dr Humphrey, teetotal Americans whose standards of cleanliness were in marked contrast to those of the Catholic mission. Reciprocal invitations from the two competitors, though they were personally on friendly terms, often gave rise to comical situations. We called upon various Chinese dignitaries besides our landlord, among them the general and a commissioner who had just arrived on a visit of inspection, both of them very young men.

The northern buttress of the Luosi Shan, the range to the east of the Jianchang, was visible to the south of Xichang as a broad hummocky mountain, separated from the lake by a wide tract of much eroded foothills. Sometimes its snow-capped peaks sparkled in the sunshine, sometimes they were wrapped in wisps of cloud, but more often they were almost totally obscured by atmospheric haze or dust We soon realised that it was the highest and hence the most attractive mountain within reach of Xichang. Against the advice of self-styled experts we set off unaccompanied, the promised guide having failed to appear. On both Davies' and Legendre's maps we saw a village named Shaguoma, situated to the east of the mountain at 2480m. This seemed to be the best starting point for the ascent and we hoped to reach it in one day's march. We had an escort of four soldiers, whom we ordered to walk with the caravan while we rode in front. We set off on 14th April along the west bank of the lake, its blue waters ringed by vivid green fields intersected by lines of dull green willows, among which were the mud huts and timber houses of the villages. The surrounding hills and mountains were totally bare, the red of the sandstone being the predominant colour, though it was still sparsely covered by dry yellow steppe vegetation. The only exception was Lu Shan, the temple mountain on the west bank, where the light green pine forest had not been felled. The temples were built in steps, rising steeply one above another on the side of the hill facing the lake, as is the Chinese custom in such places. Schneider rode part of the way up so as to exercise his mettlesome nag, which had been too long in the stable, and this gave our muleteer a pretext to say that someone or other had told him that we had ridden up to the temples and he was to wait at the bottom. We wanted to halt in the next village, but the pack animals with our lunch were not there, and it took a long time to find the caravan. Whether or not the [p.16:] incident was purposely contrived, our mafu had achieved his aim and we had no prospect of reaching our destination, but instead had to spend the night at Dashiban, the last village on the lake. From there the road climbed gradually over Mount Shaoshan at 2675m and down into the valley of Puge, which runs south east to the Yangzi. So deceptive are heights and distances in this barren country that no one would think the pass lies more than 1000m above the lake, yet the figure on Legendre's map is in agreement with mine, though he puts Xichang too high. Halfway up was a military post, a little fort protected by barbed wire. Woody plants were to be found only in a few channels. In the main they were the same as on the Houziya, though beneath them was a magnificent terrestial orchid, still leafless, with large solitary flowers of delicate pink with yellow ridges on the lip. It was Pleione yunnanensis. The original vegetation had been a low growing bamboo (Arundinaria racemosa), now flowering profusely in a little bog where it was interspersed with alders. Marsh marigolds, a tiny blue gentian (Gentiana robustiof) and a dainty white burnet barely 20 cm high (Poterium filiforme) were the first spring flowers in bloom in the bog, which consisted partly of a true bogmoss (Sphagnum subsecundum van. khasianum). The track ran down into the broad uppermost basin of the Puge valley, where cultivation was less intensive. The little village of Shaguoma was located there, but much higher up the slope to the right we saw a large Yi village, where the local ruler was said to reside. Our best course was obviously to call on him, and despite vigorous opposition from our servant Li we headed in that direction.

The village (Wudajing) was surrounded by a wall which, though built of earth, was considerably above ground level in front of the village and might well have been defensible. The people assembled outside the gate and watched us in silence. The gate was so low that we had to dismount Most of the houses were built of earth, but some of timber and bamboo, and all were roofed with the latter. The headman's house was recognisable at once, but he was not at home. As Li was trembling in every limb and the Yi spoke only a few words of Sichuan dialect negotiations were difficult and our search for accommodation at first met with little success. But the headman soon appeared, made a deep obeisance and invited us to stay in his house. His cows and buffaloes were driven behind the manger and our horses were installed. The whole house consisted merely of one room with two doors and no windows; only the women's sleeping quarters were partitioned off. There was no furniture except a chest with a lock and some straw mats. Our camp beds were set up in the middle and a fire was kindled on the hearth, which was ringed with carved stones. Tea was offered, and our servants enjoyed it, but we had brought our own provisions. The new and unfamiliar operation of pressing plants provided a spectacle for the village people, gathered round in a wide half-circle of sturdy brown figures. They were much more respectful than the importunate Chinese; they stood up when the headman went through and fell back in obedience to a simple gesture from him. The Yi were never seen without their pleated cloaks. They wore their hair plaited into a horn in front or bound in a kind of turban. The women wore long pleated skirts reaching down to the ground and a head-dress in the style of a grandmother's bonnet. They all smoked long bamboo pipes. Some of the headman's female relatives had long ear pendants, but otherwise there was not much jewellery to be seen. On taking our leave we offered him money. He refused it at first, but when we said it was for his children he changed his mind. Our men and the soldiers soon made Mends with the Yi. They made fun of their heavy cloaks, and the Yi responded by trying to hang them on their shoulders as they sat round the fire. In the overcrowded room, with pigs, hens and dogs crawling between our beds and the baggage, our night's rest was not exactly undisturbed, although there were no bedbugs or other vermin.

In the morning we did not make the early start customary among European mountaineers, because the Chinese lie in bed late and take a long time to cook their breakfast. Despite our urging it was eight o'clock before we set off. Once again we rode, as even for mountain climbing a horse saves energy and enables the rider to do far more that he could on foot. Steep slopes of parched turf led up to one of the many shrub-covered crests running down from the summit The track which we had to take was visible from afar as a deep channel in the scree where logs had been dragged down. Nearly all the shrubs were rhododendrons, and at that altitude the blossoms were at their peak of perfection. Bushes adorned with flowers in soft white or various shades of pink seemed to light up the tall grass and elsewhere formed an unbroken cover over large areas of the steep mountainside. Here and there were the dark crowns of Tsuga yunnanensis, a conifer with leaves like those of a yew, and from about 3300m upwards there was a fir (Abies delavayi), at first occasional but becoming more and more abundant and above about 3700m forming splendid forests. This sombre woodland filled a wide cirque which was the uppermost trough of the valley on the south side of our crest Cradled within it was a lonely mountain tarn, and as this was the dry season its shoreline was a ring of brown boulders. Some Yi tribesmen, up there felling timber, appeared and greeted us with bows. We had almost reached 4000 m when we halted for the midday rest, much needed by man and beast alike. The crest like the slope consisted of piled up boulders overgrown with fir trees, but the horses were led over it without difficulty. All the other ridges were bare, every tree and bush having been cut down and the grass which replaced them having been burnt, allegedly to improve the grazing and kill reptiles. Beyond a hollow was the gently sloping triangular summit; viewed from below it had seemed to be the highest point. Schneider stayed on our crest and headed towards the main ridge, but I was more interested in the hollow with its seemingly untouched vegetation, and climbed down into it through a fire-ravaged [p.17:] forest, clambering over fallen trunks lying in deep leafmould. I was determined to explore it, although our guide maintained that we would be unable to reach Xiqi by nightfall, and disregarding his protests I climbed up the ridge. It was not a serious obstacle and even the horses got over it without any difficulty. They were much smaller and lighter than our own and yet we were continually amazed at their sure-footedness. The Chinese, however, were dogged by ill-luck and Li appeared to be genuinely affected by mountain sickness. This part of the forest was entirely wild and untouched: tree rhododendrons, firs and rowans, an understorey of small bamboos, trunks soaring up to the sky, fallen giants overgrown with moss prostrate on the ground, everything festooned with lichen in strands several metres long. How noble and splendid are the works of natural decay compared with the squalor and devastation wreaked by the hand of man! The herbaceous plants were all dry and withered; only the stemless Primula sonchifolia was beginning to open its bluish flowers, sheltered within a resting "bulb" of fleshy bud-scales. A narrow track up a steep slope carpeted with leafmould led to the northern ridge, a flat grassy top where I was able to remount my horse. There was still some snow in drifts up to a metre deep on either side of the crest The rhododendron bushes here were lower and other kinds appeared, notably the new species Rhododendron cucullaium (R. roxieanum var. cucuUatutri) growing in dense thickets 2 to 4m high.

Beneath it various alpine plants were recognizable in their withered state but as a few scattered firs extended right up to the summit it would be wrong to speak of a high alpine zone. Just below the summit I met Schneider, he having already reached it via the eastern crest. I could have ridden all the way to the top, but my horse was tired, it was half past two and there was work to be done up there. I therefore left the horse behind and hastened up the last part of the ascent on foot. I set up my camera and tripod at once, but the biting wind from the west nearly blew it over, and great care was needed to avoid deviations from the correct level when taking a set of panoramic views for photogrammetric mapping. The view was most informative but during the ascent some clouds had gathered to the north, so that Xichang was barely visible and did not register on the plate. Towards the east I could see far into the country of the independent Yi, a fascinating blank on the map which was to be filled in partly by this survey and partly by the journey which we planned to make next. Grouped together in the south were the stumpy towers of the range running eastwards from Dechang as far as Emei Shan; like the mountain we stood on they were of sandstone but some 200 to 300m higher. To the west the Jianchang valley was hidden by foothills, and only to the northwest could I see part of its sandy valley floor. The range beyond the valley was hidden in mist, as were the Tibetan snow-peaks behind that, though in good weather they would certainly have been discernible. To the northwest, not far below the summit, there was another small tarn in the forest, and here the fir trees gave away to bare slopes at a lower altitude than on the east side. The aneroid read 4250m, but corrected for temperature and the record at our base in Kunming the actual height must have been a little more, around 4300m; I had never expected to climb my first 4000m peak on horseback! There was a small rounded summit perhaps a few metres higher not far along the ridge, but time was getting short, the descent to Xiqi was 2600m and the distance to our destination was unknown though certainly considerable. Dusk was falling as we reached the valley which led northwest to the Aiming He. Its eastern side consisted of limestone with a gentle easterly dip. Our men hurried on ahead, but there was nothing to prevent us from collecting specimens of the interesting shrubs which were in flower. There were not many villages, and the valley had two deceptive bends which made it seem very long. At last we saw men with paper lanterns sent by the village headman to meet us. More and more of them turned up until they made a regular torchlight procession, and as we entered the temple our soldiers presented arms and stood stiffly to attention. The headman, a friendly and intelligent man, soon arrived and of course he wanted to have his photograph taken. Next morning his wish was duly granted and he was photographed first with one friend, then with another, then inside his house and in all his finery, but I took care not to pull back the sliding cover of the cassette. For the interior of the temple, however, I expended a colour plate. A strenuous half day then took us over the low saddle to the south of Lu Shan to the lake and back to Xichang on 17th April.

[chapter 4:]