Heinrich Handel-Mazzetti: [A Botanical Pioneer In South West China] - chapter 5

[p.21:] Chapter 5. Yanyuan and the Yalong District

Runaways and deceivers — the rainy season begins—bamboo thickets —-government buildings — salt works—karst mountains—the first high alpine flowers—the prince of Guabi—savannah woodland — the Wali goldmine — rhododendrons hi flower on Mount Chahongnyocha

Frequent thunderstorms now heralded the onset of the rainy season. One day there was a sudden downpour with a violent squall which ripped the paper window, swept the accumulated dirt off the frames and spread it all over my room. As my chests were open and various objects had been laid out for packing, everything was left filthy and wet through.

For the next stage of our journey we had to recruit fresh staff. Schneider's head servant Li was plainly the most competent and we therefore left all the shopping to him. Being almost unsupervised he diverted to his own pocket all the "squeeze" — the considerable sums of money he made by cheating, his masters — and the others got none. One dark night my servant Yang, who was totally useless as an interpreter, together with the mafu Lo, who spent all his time gambling and neglected the horses, and our cook Tang, who did none of the shopping and resented ha/ing no opportunity to make money by dishonesty, all defected at once. Five of our coolies now offered to take over the cooking and we selected one of them who promised to do it better and more cheaply. As mafu we chose one of the caravan leader's men, while the bishop promised to find a "boy" and send him on later. Then came the head mafu, the caravan proprietor whose services had been procured for us by the German postal official in Kunming, and demanded money as Ms supplies were now exhausted. There should have been enougl to last for several months longer, and we now saw the disadvantage of having made a large advance payment. He had hidden the money in his chest at home and felt confident that rather than turn back halfway we would pay up. However, thanks to the help of Pere Burnichon as interpreter, we were equal to the situation. We handed him the money, but only as a loan secured against his horses, saddles and everything else he possessed. He began to recite the litany of Chinese curses, and claimed that he had had to buy horses before setting out and had used the money for that and other purposes, but in the end he was obliged to admit defeat.

We wanted to take the straight track to Guabi via the waterfall on the Yalong at Luowa, but when the aged guide whom the bishop had sent us set eyes on our baggage he declared that that path was too narrow and we would have to take the main road to Yanyuan. On 6th May we travelled south westwards along the far side of the broad valley of the Arming He as far as Hexi, and on the following day we crossed the Gaoshanpu pass at 2500m over the range which separates the valley from the Yalong. To the north and south the range was not much higher than the pass; on its east side it consisted of slate overlaid by extremely friable granite with narrow vertical bands of diabase and quartz embedded in it. Not one specimen of the granite remained whole: they all disintegrated immediately into sand. The caravans had worn a vertical trench many metres deep and the slopes were furrowed by countless channels. Down from the pass qn the western side the range and the Yalong valley 1250m beneath it consisted of red sandstone and mica schist with a steep westwards dip. The steep slopes offered no space for anything more than small-scale cultivation, and we saw only a few little groups of houses before reaching the village of Delipu where we spent the night. The room was crawling with cockroaches of two species: Periplaneta americana, long, narrow and reddish brown, and Polyphaga yunnanensis, shorter, broader and grey. Next morning I found that they had muddled up all the lichens which I had laid out to dry and had carried off the gelatinous species. The Yalong ran for a stretch of 6 km straight from the west towards us. On the opposite bank there was a little grotto of tufa among the contorted mica-schist rocks; overlying them, high up in the mist-shrouded peaks, was a layer of limestone. Datong was situated at the western end of the river bend. That afternoon I climbed a rocky ridge which gave magnificent views northwards over the sharp steep-sided crests which hid the Yalong, and west-south-westwards into the lateral gorge. Our route led along its narrow floor, mostly on limestone. The ferryboat at Datong was large and commodious, being provided for the numerous salt caravans which crossed here on the way from Yanyuan (its name means "salt springs") to Xichang. The large white blocks came from the brine pans in the shape of truncated cones. Cut in half, they were lashed to the saddle frames and transported without any packing other than a few dirty rags.

Opposite Datong there were tin diggings in alluvial conglomerate, from which large amounts of sinter had seeped out. The scrub and bushes of the Yalong valley did not have much new to offer us, but the side valley was more rewarding. Here we found Randia Uchiangensis, a leggy shrub with small flat sulphur-yellow flowers, Alangium chinense with toothed leaves and rolled-back cymes of scented white blossoms, Vitex yunnanensis with large flowers despite its low stature, Adina asperula, a new species of tree belonging to the Rubiaceae, Desmodium handelii with silvery leaves, also a new species, as was Senecio yalungensis, a climber with a white felty coating, and Vitis trichoclada. A detour into a little side valley on the left near Lumapu yielded the yellow flowered Paeonia lutea. It had hailed the previous evening and at 10 am next [p.22:] morning there were still drifts up to 3cm deep; no wonder the plants were sadly battered. Continuing in the same direction past the mouths of several fairly large side valleys entering from the south, we reached Hanzhou at noon on 10th May. From here we wanted to travel northwards through what promised to be interesting terrain — along the western slopes of the Yalong valley system and then over the mountain range to Guabi. Since the mafu made excuses to avoid having to take this minor route, I rode ahead of the caravan and Schneider behind. Following my nose, I kept on along the path, which was in quite good condition despite the recent rain, but before long I saw the guide behind me turn off on to a slippery sidetrack between the terraced fields. The caravan trotted after him and in a few minutes four of our loads were lying on the ground several terraces further down, while their horses went tumbling after them. Schneider at once ordered a withdrawal, but the mafu gloated at the success of his scheme. He must have conspired with the guide, for stupid as the latter was he could certainly not have mistaken the path.

Next day, starting from Dugonpu in the southern branch of the valley, we climbed a little summit called Dajin (3400m) on the southern sandstone ridge. Although it was rather arid, we found more rhododendrons (R. ledoides, R. rarosquameum) together with Dipelta yunnanensis, a shrub resembling the garden Weigela with flowers pencilled with red and orange, and Decaisnea fargesii, a small tree related to the barberries, sparsely branched, with large pinnate leaves like those of Ailanthus and below them loose pendent racemes of large long-stalked green bellflowers. The northern slopes were covered with a jungle of bamboo and scrub, among which were a few lilacs, willows and Cbrylopsis velutina. I traversed the dense vegetation on the steep mountainside for the most part on hands and knees in order to approach a few trees which had caught my eye, but it was labour in vain as they were of no special interest. However, I was rewarded by numerous mosses growing beneath small rock overhangs, notably the new species Anacolia sinensis, which resembles our large and beautiful moss Bartramia hallerana. Fortunately the bamboos were not of the kind that lacerate the hands and I was able to cling to them, otherwise the traverse would have been really difficult The old stems snapped with a noise like breaking china. I got home covered with stripes like a zebra after struggling through part of the bamboo which had been destroyed by fire, but happy to have gained some topographical data, although the highest mountains, such as Dahutu, a precipitous summit reaching about 4300m visible up the valley to the north, had their upper parts shrouded in cloud. Small villages were scattered here and there even in the highest parts of the valley, some of them being Yi settlements. As we approached the Liangshanpu pass at 3350m on the main ridge the slopes became less steep, though they were covered only by sparse scrub. From there the track continued gently downhill along a valley flanked on the right by limestone strata with a westwards dip to Yanyuan, which we entered on 12th May.

The inn in the centre of the town was not bad, though it was rather too open and the populace were exceedingly inquisitive. A bucketful of water thrown through the door at intervals was the only way to keep them back, and as even this had only a brief effect Li tried hot water as well. The magistrate was friendly and invited us to dinner, but he too was insatiably curious and could not see enough of our things. When he heard that we were on friendly terms with the missionaries in Xichang he asked whether we could possibly intervene on his behalf so that he could take action against the Yi, who had recently resumed their old habits of robbing travellers on the road between the two towns; the bishop, so he said, always protected them. The Government Commissioner whose acquaintance we had made in Xichang was so anxious about them that, when we met him on the road, he had brought an escort of no fewer than two companies of soldiers. The dinner was followed by the usual request for photographs. One of his subordinates, whose nose was deep blue in colour, said that he was ill and was soon going to die. He therefore begged us to immortalise him by a photograph, and two years later his relatives presented themselves before the German consul in Kunming and asked for the picture. I took more pleasure in photographing the spacious yamen, which was typical of a Chinese government office and law court Passing through the gate one entered a large courtyard with prisons on either side. The prisoners were tightly crammed into low sheds, smoking and chatting to their visitors through the wooden bars. A few were exhibited in individual cages in the courtyard, each with a wooden "kang" round his neck; among them was an opium smoker, whose crime was inscribed on this collar. Behind the yard was the courtroom with a long table raised on a dais and covered with a cloth. On one side of the table stood a brush holder made of tin in the shape of an outstretched hand, and beside it were some wedgeshaped plaques inscribed with the judge's subpoenas which were used to summon witnesses. A huge Chinese dragon was painted on the wall at the rear. Passing to one side of the courtroom one entered a smaller courtyard behind which was the magistrate's reception chamber and finally his residence. When newly built, such a yamen, as indeed a newly constructed temple, looks neat colourful and orderly, but after a year has gone by the cheap unseasoned timber begins to warp and the whole structure becomes loose at the joints, twisted and draughty. Everything is covered with thick layers of dust and dirt which no one bothers to clean off; the paper windows are tattered and full of cobwebs and, in short, the building slips into the state of neglect and dilapidation which one sees everywhere in China.

On 15th May we at last set off for Guabi. Our guide took us first due west to Maogeyanjing, a town at least as large as Yanyuan, and though the detour seemed unnecessary it gave us the opportunity of seeing the salt works. The brine was pumped up through boreholes about 7m deep from below a stratum of limestone conglomerate and evaporated in iron pans in covered sheds. Sixteen buckets yielded a fine white conical salt block weighing about 70 kg. Lijin (excise) was charged at a high rate, and the [p.23:] amount paid was stamped on each block in red. Plenty of it was smuggled, of course, and the population of Maogeyanjing, consisting largely of smugglers and other riffraff, made a somewhat sinister impression. We were therefore glad to resume our journey northwards to the river, though the people whom we encountered there, at Meiya, were no more attractive.

The Yanyuan basin is made up of limestones, marls and gravels and lies at an altitude of 2600m. Three substantial rivers run through it from north to south, cutting channels about 100m deep. Only along these riverbeds and their tributaries was the land cultivated. There were small hamlets and numerous scattered farmhouses, the larger farms having white towers surrounded by rice fields and vegetable gardens, but the river gravel was covered by scrub — dense thorny bushes of Pyracantha cnenulata. Further northwards the country was more barren, but the view became more extensive. To the south the basin was bounded by the Bailing Shan, about 4000m, a jagged-topped range of sandstone with a westwards dip. To the north the country rose gradually, from a distance appearing more or less smooth, culminating in the broad massif of the Lingu Liangzi which reaches 4660m. To the northeast the cleft limestone peak of Dahutu towered above a deeply furrowed mountan range, and to the northwest the less lofty Zala Shan projected into the basin. The track led over a broad undulating karst surface, on which several plants were coming into flower, notably Hypoxis aurea resembling a Gagea, the low growing Ins coUettii with skyblue petals and a yellow beard, and the orchid-like Roscoea cautleioides [note #17: Though the forms of Roscoea cautleioides in cultivation have yellow flowers, purple forms are also found in the wild. (Cowan,J.M. A Review of the Genus Roscoea. New Flora and Silva, 1939, 11, 17-28.)] with dark violet flowers. The golden yellow stars of Stellera chamaejasme [note #18: Stellera chamaejasme usually has white or pink flowers, but there is a yellow form as well. (Bull. Alp. Card. Soc. 1988, 56, 21).] were common, as they were everywhere on the steppe, but otherwise the terrain was as desolate as a Dalmatian "polje". The only sound was the creaking of buffalo carts, and from afar the surrounding mountains did not look inviting. Here and there ran deeply cut stream channels, though their sharply demarcated rocky margins were discernible for short stretches only and were not easy to trace in their entirety, especially as they often took the most unlikely courses, sometimes running straight through a small hill. We spent the night in the first Xifan [note #19: "Xifan" was used with various meanings. Loosely, it was applied to various peoples of Tibetan affinity: in Yunnan it was often used specifically to denote the people now called Pumi. (S.G.H.). ] (East Tibetan) settlement, a village named Kalaba. We had to use our tent, as their low log-houses were overcrowded with people and animals. The sturdy tribesmen were most polite and friendly.

Here began the real ascent into the mountains. The terrain became as rocky as the karst landscape of Trieste, clothed with scrub among which were a few pines and oaks, and pitted with countless dolines. As the floors of these steep-walled depressions were not farmed, they were filled with temperate broad-leaved forest Gaining access with some difficulty, we explored one of these dolines just beyond the vulage, and found Acer davidii, Lonicera setifera with coarsely toothed leaves, Primus perulata, a cherry with vanishingly small petals, and, in the rocky swallow-hole at the very bottom, some rare mosses. Given time and opportunity, this would have been a good place to study the reverse succession of vegetational zones in dolines. There was a solitary arboreal juniper (Juniperus formosana), but once again the first discovery to relieve the monotony was a haul of mosses which flourished in the shade of some gigantic spruces, firs and oaks growing round a little sanctuary on a col. at 3325m. From there the track went downhill a little and we saw in its full splendour the mountain range which from afar had seemed so smooth and featureless. The path continued along a narrow crest which separated two valleys: on the left the valley of the Reshui He, which rose here, and on the right the valley of the .Malutang running towards us from the northeast. The latter was a U-shaped glaciated valley, here over 300m deep, with Yi villages on its floor; higher up a narrow spur divided it into two branches. Below us it curved to the southeast and entered the plain through a still narrower gorge. Isolated limestone pyramids towered up from its depths almost to the same height as our viewpoint To the north steep rock steps, stretching from side to side, descended from Liugu Liangzi into the valley. We continued northwards over the broad main ridge and crossed it at 3625m. A magnificent forest valley, filled with spruces, oaks and pines, including Pinus tabularuformis, a darker equivalent of Pinus yunnanensis of lower altitudes, here somewhat similar in habit of growth to the stone pine, together with pale green larches, birches and willows, led steeply down to the Litang river. We did not traverse it, but turned right to the little village of Lingu at 3350m inhabited by friendly Yi tribesmen black with dirt.

Next day (18th May) I climbed Hpulong Shan, the main summit of Liugu Liangzi, while Schneider went hunting "wild horses", though he did not see any and was not even able to find out what they really were. From the saddle which we had crossed the day before I rode eastwards over an almost level plateau, past a shepherd's hut where there were some Xifan people with their yaks. After reconnoitring the main peak from an elevated knoll I rode towards it. The undulating plateau had been deforested for pasture. Despite the dryness of the soil due to the sharp drainage provided by the limestone, the abundant summer rainfall had allowed the accumulation of a deep layer of humus and weathered soil which carried a rich growth of plants, though at that season most of them were recognisable only from the withered remains of the previous year. However, the large solitary scarlet flowers of the low growing Incarviliea grandiflora were everywhere. Just appearing here and there were Iris kumaonensis, the blue Corydalis curviflora, the red Pedicularis rhynchodonta, the bluish-flowered [p.24:] Anemone coelestina with wedge-shaped leaves covered in silver wool, Primula sinopurpunea with red flowers and golden meal on its leaves, the closely similar P. sinoplantaginea with smaller leaves and hardly any meal, Rhododendron intricatum, Mandragora caulescens and a few others. Spreading among them was a luxuriant and interesting assortment of mosses including Tetraplodon urceolatus, a species which usually grows on dung. Here it was flourishing on birds' pellets and even on the twigs of the shrubs, among which were Lonicera litangensis, still leafless though its greenish sulphur-yellow flowers were just opening, and Junipews squamata, forming a tanglewood close to the ground. At 4215m the last few pines faded out, but a dense tangle of rhododendron forest, in which I again found Primula sonchifolia, continued as far as the screes, boulders and crags of the crests. I continued on foot to the main summit of Houlong (4325m), which plunged down in a steep precipice to the north. Although there were still a few snow patches, several plants were beginning to bloom, among them cushion crucifers including the white Braya forrestii, Solms-Laubachia minor, a new species with large pink flowers, a yellow wallflower (Cheiranthus acaulis) and the minute Lagotis incisifolia, both of them new species. The distant panorama was clear and most instructive, although the sky was cloudy and the light was poor. To the north the view extended as far as the superb jagged peaks near Kangding (Tatsienlu), an unbroken stretch of high alpine terrain in which much still remains to be discovered. Qoser vistas were obscured by lower summits nearby. I returned to Liugu for the night

Favoured by good weather, we rejoiced in the superb landscape as we descended towards Guabi. The shortest route via Luowa along the steep rocky slopes was said to be impracticable for caravans and we had to make a wide detour. Guabi lay in a steep-walled basin filled with forest and girt on most sides by limestone cliffs; far below, on a ridge among the woods, we saw the yamen with its out-buildings and encircling wall. In the background were the triple peaks of Yinimi, a knife-edge of pale grey rock about 4345m high. The path led down into a small valley beyond Heiluge and then up again for about 500m to the yamen, which was situated at 2775m. The prince, who had been expecting us for several days and had had the path to Luowa repaired, received us with a gun salute, fired off in the yard just behind us, though luckily not before we had dismounted. His thin features bore the marks of an opium user. He introduced his small son Fritz and snowed us a certificate from the German consul who was the boy's godfather. His residence was a solidly constructed building, mainly in Tibetan style, and had glass windows which had been carried from Kunming. Despite his opium smoking he was still quite intelligent and tried to live in European style; he ate bread, which his cook had learned to bake by watching the French consul's cook in Chengdu, and he entertained us to a meal at which we used knives and forks and were offered a special native delicacy — a gelatinous alga, a small Nostoc species from a high alpine lake, served in sweet sauce. His children's Chinese tutor, who had also been invited, made desperate efforts to cut his portion of sucking pig with the back of his knife. The soldier who had been our escort from Yanyuan was an impudent fellow who had begun to make trouble during our journey and had apparently stolen some small items of equipment He asked a young Yi shepherd to come with us as a guide, and when the boy said he could not leave his flock he gave him a beating. Now he got his comeuppance; he approached the prince and demanded not just a gratuity but opium as well, and was brusquely thrown out. The latter, being a native prince recognised by the Chinese government and entrusted with the duties of a district official (tusi), was entitled to one tenth of the revenue from the goldmine at Wali, down on the Yalong. A few years earlier, in his capacity as tusi, he had been called upon to take part in subjugating the black Yi, and he had employed a Chinese painter to commemorate his battles with them in a ceiling fresco. His firoojjs and the Yi were vividly and delicately depicted in a range of colours, but in true Chinese perspective, in impossible positions and with absurd exaggerations.

We began by exploring the vicinity of Guabi. The air was far from moist, the hygrometer reading during the day being mainly around 30% relative . humidity. The mountainsides were so steep that the altitudinal zones of vegetation were everywhere obvious to the eye as bands of different colours. The subtropical zone down at Heiluge consisted of species with small grey-green leaves such as Acer paxii, Cornus oblonga, Quercus spathulata and the new Q. coccifetvides, Vitex yunnanensis and Melia toosendan Next came the warm temperate zone of pale green pine forest with Queicus dentata, closely resembling our pedunculate oak, then the temperate mixed forest zone, darker green and more varied in colour, then the cool temperate zone of pine forest, the trees, dark green or almost black in colour, standing out sharply against the pale limestone of the high alpine zone. At the time of our visit in the third week of May it was the understorey of the pine woods which made the finest show, a medley of large, richly colourful flowers, including the low growing narrow-leaved shrublet Rhododendron ledoides, the splendid purple Salvia pinetorum (a new species), Pleione yunnanensis and Roscoea chamaeleon Especially round the yamen, the holly-leaved oak Querccus aquifolioides had grown into trees at least 25m tall, and here its leaves, coated with brown felt, were round and thomless. Hidden in the forest were deep chasms and bottomless pits in the limestone, and the mosses which lined them attracted my special attention. The pinnate-leaved Qeistostoma ambiguum in flat carpets, Meteorium helminthocladum with fleshy cylindrical leaflets, Meteoriopsis reclinata and Trachypodopsis crispatula with squarrose foliage crept over the rocks, their branchlets shimmering like gold. Neckera bradyclada was greener and formed similar cushions, but Pleuropus fenestratus was much lower. Two climbers, Lonicera yunnanensis and Marsdenia oreo-philia, scrambled among the trees.

The lake from which the edible Nostoc had been gathered was high in the mountains amid huge forests two days' journey distant and accessible only on foot It certainly attracted me, but before deciding whether to visit it or a high peak of igneous rock [p.25:] which beckoned from beyond the Yalong and which I would not otherwise have had time to explore, I made a reconnaissance on horseback. On 22nd May, accompanied by my two coolies, I set out along the track which we had originally wished to take via Luowa. It ascended through the next side valley (to the north) of the Xiao Jin He [note #20: The Litang river is called the Xiao Jin He in its lower reaches. (S.G.H.)], which flowed past in a deep gorge some distance away from Guabi. We saw a Naxi (Moso) village and several Yi villages among well preserved forests. The Naxi are related to the Tibetans and were the first tribe that we encountered in China who treat their forests with any respect; the Yi have learnt the practice of heedless devastation from the Chinese. A limestone pinnacle, in shape exactly like the Matterhorn, towered over the valley, the sides of which consisted of clay-slate with a steep northerly dip. However, it was no more than one comer of the long rock cliff of Yinimi. To the left the stream disappeared under a limestone slab, and failed to reappear lower down the valley. The track led up along the north side of the valley beneath the rock cliff just mentioned, over the two cols of Chumehe (both about 3475m) and then down into the Meiziping valley which ran down to the east Several spurs between the upper ramifications of our valley were clothed with low growing pine scrub, while holly-leaved oak, forming a high tanglewood exactly like that on Longzhu Shan, covered wide areas and made a dense canopy hung with long strands of beard moss over the narrow sunken track, which had been eroded to a depth of some 4m in the soft clay slate. Such arid vegetation had little to attract me and I decided to join in the alternative trip with Schneider.

Next morning, May 23rd, we set out northwards along the side of the valley, at first 800m above the river. The mountain range which forces the Yalong to make its great loop to the north here rises steep and unbroken to a height of 2700m above the river. The splendid domes of Mount Yinimi soared to a giddy height above the track in a series of tremendous rock slabs. Beyond it, grey limestone peaks, no lower hi altitude, gleamed under the blue sky, though the range undoubtedly reaches its greatest elevation at its northern end just south of the great tend in the Yalong. Along our path the rock consisted of clay-slate and probably phyllite, and formed a cliff so steep that even birds would have needed crampons, yet the gradually descending track was quite broad and easy for the caravan, although we sometimes slipped on slate debris in the steep eroded sections and stirred up clouds of dust The vegetation was of great interest. The inconspicuous patches; of scrub, yellow-green or grey-green in colour, consisted of subtropical sclerophyllous evergreen species such as pomegranates, Pistacia weinmannifolia, Olea cuspidate, Quercus coccifer-oides, Itea yunnanensis, Photinia lasiogyna, P. berberidifolia and Parasyringa sempervirens, forming a genuine maquis. In some places there were deciduous or even evergreen shrubs with small leaves, many of which here again belonged to the savannah forest community, including Randia lichiangensis, Terminalia franehetii with thick round silky haired leaves and yellowish catkins, Abelia schumanii with pale pink bellflowers, Spiraea tortuosa with contorted branches and small leaves, Acacia yunnanensis, Albizzia julibrissin, Ostryopsis speciosa, resembling hazel but with the undersides of its leaves now clothed with white felt, and scrambling over them all Rosa lucens, with white blooms in profusion. In other spots pea-flowers with silver leaves (.Campylotropis) and aromatic Labiatae. still dry and withered, formed a tomillares [note #21: Tomillares is a Spanish word meaning an open community of knee-high shrubs with aromatic leaves.] community, other members of which included Vitex yunnanensis and Styrax langkongensis. Apart from certain species restricted to the area, this community consists of plants which are generally found much further to the south hi great abundance as indigenous species far away in the dry valleys of the norm west Himalaya. Here, however, and in the adjacent valleys, they have managed to survive, as also has the herbaceous flora including the sulphur yellow Arisaema fiavum with a short pot-bellied spathe, the slender blue Iris nepalensis and the sulphur yellow Anemone millefolium with finely cut leaves. Vallaris grandiflora, a climber with dull yellow flowers 4 cm across stinking of mice, sprawled among the bushes, and the rosettes of Sedum ambiguum with flat-topped heads of pink flowers were plentiful on the rocks. As we had with us one of the tusi's men, everywhere we went we received gifts from his own people and the Chinese traders and innkeepers who were subordinate to him — hens, eggs and so on. At that time we always had one or two goats attached to the caravan, though naturally they cost us more than if we had bought them. On the second day, at a hemmed in spot in an arid yellow-grey landscape dotted only with dismal dwarf scrub, we reached the confluence of the Xiao Jin He (in Tibetan Li Qu) and the Yalong Jin He and crossed the latter by a ferry just below it. Excoecaria acerifolia was common here, a bush with lanceolate leaves and upright spikes with tripartite fruits and yellow anthers above. The thorny Cudrania tricuspidata, which we had seen in the hedges round Yanyuan, opening its yellow flowerheads on stalks which exuded milky sap, flourished on the slope above the wind-rippled sands of the river bank, and on the sand itself we found the small yellow poppy-like Dicranostigma franchetianum. A little further down the valley, above a steep scree fan, was the large mining village of Wali, at that time not yet marked on the maps, though already visited by several Europeans. The gold was extracted through tunnels driven deep into the scree fan, and we were shown a nugget as large as a man's fist worth 1200 dollars. Green slate, clay slate and quartz were the auriferous rocks. Once again the Chinese inhabitants were thoroughly repulsive. The magistrate was friendly and tried to be of service by speaking Japanese. The director of the mine was supposed to speak French, but in reply to our request : "Nous voudrions bien voir la mine d'or", all he could say was "Mine d'ol, qu'est ce que est ca?"

[p.26:] A stiff climb up the left bank took us to a little Yi village called Molian at 3100m. Looking downstream along the Yalong we saw the enormous slopes of eroded limestone between which the river is confined. We found Rodgersia sambucifolia, a juicy herbaceous plant about one metre tall with small numbers of large pinnate leaves, and here for the first time we saw its whitish flowers, grouped into large flat-topped heads. Another find was the deep red, almost black, Primula anisodora, Molian lies on a caravan route to Kangding and next morning we followed it through a superb forest of soaring Tsugas and firs (Abies chensiensis) no less than 50m in height, together with Taxus walUchiana, oaks, Pinus yunnanensis, P. tabulaeformis and, most notable of all, P. armandii, beneath them were cherries, limes, maples and other broad-leaved trees, all festooned with long strands of golden green mosses. The rocks and the soil itself, densely colonized by bamboos, were carpeted by the same mosses and by broad sheets of translucent filmy fern (Hymenophyllum comgatuni). Little streams murmured in the forest, and on one of them was a prayer mill. Soon we came to large piles of mani stones and a wooden arch with inscriptions in Tibetan. The Xifan tribesmen living here were under the influence of the lamas. In the village of Yachekou in the next lateral valley to the north of Molian we had a hospitable reception, so we left the caravan behind and went up into the mountains, taking only the tent and the bare essentials. The houses presented a remarkable appearance, all the window frames, door posts and other woodwork being decorated with impressions of hands printed in white chalk. The path soon reached the true fir zone, here Abies delavayi, and then led onwards through birchwood, bamboo and deep leafmould pastures in which we found Thermopsis alpina, a semishrub with soft stems and yellow flowers, and masses of iris leaves. It continued below a crest through rhododendron forests to the peak which we had seen from Guabi — Chahongnyocha in the Yi tongue. I rode in front, repeatedly compelled to fend off one of my escort who wanted to make the climb easier for himself by hanging on to my horse's crupper. Looking for a campsite with a water supply, I soon reached a col at the crest Armoured with rock slabs, the peak towered steeply above us and plunged down into deeply cut gorges, their sides marked by recent rock falls. Westwards these gorges led back to the Yalong, but on this side they were sadly disfigured by burnt forests. As the path on the ridge still climbed steeply upwards and as what lay beyond was out of sight, I looked round for a depression which might contain water, but failed to find anything of the kind. It was getting late and we had plenty of plants to press, so we decided to go back to a hut which I had seen below the track. Yaks were grazing there, so there would certainly be water. In it lived an old hunchbacked Tibetan with a goitre — almost universal in those parts — and his equally aged wife. They were extremely friendly, and he produced a nondescript implement which he thought might be useful for pitching the tent, and later offered us yak's milk and cheese. This idyllic spot was at an altitude of 3600m. Next day, 27th May, the sky was overcast, but we set out early to climb the peak. On the deep layer of soil which covered the steep mountainside we found the robust, sweet scented Primula leucochnoa [note #22: Now P. melanops] , a new species with purple flowers, growing among carpets of Potentilla leuconota. Lysimachia pumila with pink flowers was spreading by runners over the bare earth, while dwarf, densely twiggy rhododendron shrublets (R flavidum and R impedituni) with yellow and violet blossoms grew in close-packed cushions. Everywhere the forests were bordered by larger species of rhododendron with flowers in various shades of pink, chiefly R rubiginosum, now in full bloom. Before the new leaves unfolded, the dainty blossoms, growing in closely packed unbroken masses, completely covered last year's leaves, though the bushes grew in dense thickets taller than a man and many times as broad. The sight was a riot of colour, quite indescribable in mere words. I made haste to ascend a minor summit at 4300m to survey the vista, as the clouds began to lower and had already enshrouded the main summit, which, armoured with black rock slabs, rose some 150m above me. The sharp points of the slabs hung down almost like icicles. Here there was no way up, and though the other side might have been practicable, it seemed more rewarding to spend the afternoon in exploring the vicinity of the campsite. The first flowers were just opening: Andtosace rigida, the tiny Oxygraphis glacialis, Mimulus nepalensis, a Sanicula, Potentilla coriandrifolia var. dumosa, golden saxifrage (Chiysospleniuni), and at the tree limit, forming almost impenetrable tanglewoods, Rhododendron cucullatum [note #23: Now R. roxieanum. ], which we had seen on Mount Luosi Shan, its globular heads of white flowers seeking a place in the sun above the flat canopy of narrow, dark green leaves, their undersides with a brown felty covering, borne on short stalks made seemingly thicker by their coating of woolly felt Like the whole range, the arete consisted of slate with numerous quartz veins; here it had a north-east dip. Towards the north the ridge became visibly broader and flatter. That afternoon I spent some time collecting mosses and lichens near the hut, at the margins of the bamboo thickets, each of which contained about a hundred stems over 3m tall. As it rained unceasingly and as our stock of drying paper was running low I had to restrict the numbers of specimens which I took. Nevertheless, my haul was varied and interesting, especially as the district had never before been visited by a botanical collector and hence even the distribution of forest trees was still unknown. Indeed, hardly any cryptogams had previously been collected in any part of Yunnan. The rain continued next day during our return to Wali. A patrol had been posted at the ferry to check that passengers were not smuggling out gold. Their commander, stupidly enough, tried to stop us, as the magistrate in Wali had not given us the passes required by Chinese citizens, thinking no doubt that as he had furnished us with an escort of two soldiers there was no need for any other credentials. When Schneider seized him by the collar [p.27:] and threatened him with his riding whip he remained outwardly calm and unmoved, but was totally speechless. We remained in Guabi for two days, during which Mount Chahongnyocha was blanketed with snow and the temperature dropped to 8°C, but then the fine weather returned.

On 1st June we went to Eti, the tusi's second residence, much older and smaller than his first and somewhat further up the valley, but situated not far above the river on an old sinter terrace beneath some rocks of limestone conglomerate from which a karst spring yielded an abundant flow of water. While we were there some of the prince's "soldiers" appeared, having swum across the river with inflated goatskins under their chests [note #24: See Rock, J.F. The Ancient Na-Khi Kingdom of Southwest China, Plate 134.]. That evening there was a dance in the courtyard of the yamen. The people danced round the fire and leapt over it, to the accompaniment of some quite tuneful singing. Forming a chain, sometimes with their hands on one another's shoulders, sometimes holding hands, they moved in jerks stamping on the ground, while the first man played a tolerably melodious tune on a set of pipes. There was also choral singing which reminded me of the songs of the Cossacks from the Caucasus. Then they linked their arms and danced a varied succession of measures, squatting, hopping on one leg and crawling, and finally leapt over the fire.

On 3rd July we ascended the slope to Guandian, the highest village, enjoying ever more splendid views up the valley. Here, in fallow fields, the first edelweiss was starting to flower — Leontopodium dedekensii with thick leaves covered in grey wool. The Xiao Jin He valley was obscured by Mount Lama Shan, an isolated pyramidal mass on the other side of the river, really part of a limestone spur running down from our mountain range into the clay-slate area, the river having cut a sharply curved S-shaped ravine through the spur. Here and there among the Naxi tribesmen we encountered slaves — peculiar dark-skinned people of short stature whom Legendre calls "negritos". Most of them were goitrous and feeble-minded, and one of their favourite pastimes was pull a thread or a straw back and forth through the mouth or across the chin [note #25: These may well have been people of Drung ethnicity; they were a backward people living in the remote northwest border region of Yunnan, who were often enslaved by other ethnic groups (S.G.H.).]. The Linbinkou pass above the village was at 3175m. On the southern side there was a U-shaped glacial valley with numerous spruces, lilacs, holly-leaved oaks and other trees. Springs were abundant but the stream which they fed had dried up and the long valley floor, which was marked by numerous depressions due to incipient cave-ins, ended blindly in a ridge. Later during our descent I found a swallowhole in the limestone, hidden among the bushes, and I measured its depth by throwing a stone into it After striking the sides twice it finally reached the bottom in four seconds, a time which corresponds to a depth of 80m. Below Kalaba we used a stretch of track distant from our outward route, but soon turned southeast straight towards Yanyuan, crossing cultivated valley bottoms separated by broad rubble-strewn plateaux. At one spot, not far from the village of Longtanghe, the side of one of these plateaux displayed some extraordinary rock formations caused by weathering. They looked almost like the carvings of a Gothic cathedral, with earth pyramids, flutes and ledges arranged in long horizontal groups. On 5th June we were back in Yanyuan.

[chapter 6:]