Heinrich Handel-Mazzetti: [A Botanical Pioneer In South West China] - chapter 8


Chapter 8. To the Zhongdian Mountains

New staff— in the Dagu basin and across the Yangzi — outbreak of World War—arid gorges — Bede and the sinter basins—ascent of Shusuzu — through the forests to Xiao Zhongdian—the Piepen Alps — abundant plant life at 4650m — I break off my journey and return to Chuxiong

When I left Lijiang on 29th July I had a completely new staff, apart from two of the three mafus who came with me together with the best of the pack animals — nine in number — which Schneider had picked out for me. The interpreter was "Jean", a man whom Pere Salvat had sent us from

Dali. He was hard of hearing, cross-eyed, slow on the uptake and no longer young, but as he was capable of displaying energy on occasions he was not entirely useless, although I was thoroughly disgusted by his filthy appearance — even by Chinese standards he was exceptionally dirty — and this [p.38:] adverse impression was not in the least mitigated by his constant harping on his adherence to the Catholic faith. The only advantage of employing Christians was that as they were totally dependent on the missionaries they were unlikely to abscond or commit any crass misdeeds. First of all I had to drum into him that he was now in the employ of a rabid nonsmoker and must not come into my room smoking tobacco, but any attempt to rid him of other truly Chinese habits would have been fruitless, and he continued to spit on the ground and wipe his nose on his hand, after doing which he would smear the product in a broad streak first on the doorpost and then on his felt shoe, and would then bring me my mug of tea, with his fingers stuck deep into it Reading aloud from a grubby old book, he struggled to expand his knowledge of French. His vocabulary was larger by about a dozen words than that of Wang Wenjing, the fellow whom Herr Stiebritz had provided in Kunming and who, though equally stupid, had possessed the inestimable virtue of cleanliness, for which reason I had taken him on as our cook. Yafcha was lazy and found the journey too long for him, and I had already chucked out the other coolie; instead of them I took a man called Ben (Pen), also supplied by Salvat, who turned out to be very satisfactory, and a Naxi by the name of Yang, who was useful as an interpreter though unfortunately not capable of much physical labour. I had resolved to go as far as Zhongdian and from there (Xiao Zhongdian) on to Xiao Weixi on the Mekong, working in the mountains everywhere along the route. I chose the track via Dagu, a ferry located in the first third of the Yangzi loop, in order to explore Bede, which according to Bacot was the sacred place of the Naxi people. The first night stop was Nguluke, where I once more took leave of Forrest and Schneider, though arranging a rendezvous on the Baishui Bazi for the next day; I wanted to journey to it by way of the mouth of the huge gorge which runs down from the main summit, as this was something I had not yet seen. Forrest had described the route for me, but I turned off too soon and went up the wrong track. Then, finding no path leading into the gorge, I turned back and simply followed my nose until I finally reached the right spot — one of the enormous moraine ridges which lie beneath the lower part of the gorge. The glacier melt-water, a fair sized stream, seeped into the sand between them, re-emerging much further down. The mountains were hidden by cloud, and I got only a few glimpses of the remoter parts of the gorge, where it is hemmed in by screes and vertical rock-faces with waterfalls tumbling down them. I had intended to continue along the track to a campsite above Ganhaizi — a heathy flat at the foot of the mountain below the glacier — with a view to visiting the latter on the following day. The caravan, however, went on past the campsite and missed the rendezvous. As tilings turned out this hardly mattered, since it rained almost all that day. I therefore pitched my tent beyond the Baishui on a little patch of meadow where a small Tibetan caravan was already encamped at the foot of a cliff. As we later heard, at that spot and on that very day another caravan had been robbed of seven horses and

their loads by bandits — army deserters, of course. The next day's march led north east round Mount Yulong Shan, first uphill, then steeply downhill to the Heishui (Black Water), then after a stiff iascent on to the mountainside detaining round several side valleys where tributaries ran down into the valley system which debouches into the Jinsha Jiaing at Dagu. Up on the mountain the path ran for much of its length through splendid forest and bamboo, dripping with moisture, where AraZ/a trees were now flowering. The tops of the firs and pines weire red with the flowers of the parasitic Loranthus caloreas, while their lower parts were grey with hainging strands of beardmoss, Usnea longissima. Apart from a few huts on the Heishui, the Xifan village of Lukuzhe was the first habitation I had seen since leaving Nguluke. From there the path went further up the mountain, finally leading down a steep descent to an arid plain of conglomerate, traversed by a few quartz dykes discernible as smalll low ridges, where Dagu is situated near the river.

The Jinsha Jiang flows between vertical cliffs — not very high — composed of very fine yellow conglomerate and has an extremely steep fall. Unfortunately all the mountains were hidden in cloud; not until that evening when I was im my lodgings did I get a glimpse of part of thie big glacier that flowed down from the north summit of Yulong Shan into a valley which ran towards us between two parallel chains of rock hills, cut through part of the conglomerate basin and debouched into the river upstream of the feuy. It was only during the descent that I had a view of the walls of the huge gorge to the south west — ailmost vertical rock precipices on both sides of the river. With the water level as high as it then was the: little ferry looked far from safe, and the fares — 7 cents for each person and 14 cents for each horse and each load — were far from cheap. The boatmen beg;an by rowing upstream in a slight countercurrent, then they took hold of a projecting rockface and finally one of them seized a rope stretched along the rock and, pulling hand-over-hand, dragged the boat some distance further upstream. The boat then shot downstream, but plying their oars vigorously the ferrymen guided it to the other bank where it landed between enormous rocks. The porters then had to carry the loads on their backs for some way, aind for this purpose they had to be untied from the pack frames. All this meant that my caravan took fully six hours to cross. However, there were all kinds of beautiful xerophytes begging to be collected, such as Aristolochia delavayi, which stank abominably of Bifora, several species of Asclepiadaceae, Abelia gracilenta in full bloom and other members of the tomillaies formation, which consisted chieflly of Buddleia caryopteridifolia, Caryopteris fonesti'i and Trailliaedoxa gracilis. In the patches of steppe or grassland I found the poppy-like Anemone glaucifolia, together with Ruellia dtymophila, Cyperus niveus, Phtheirospermum tenuisectum and others. My lodging was a wooden house in the nearby village of Zaba. Though it looked chafming it was the worst bugs' nest I ever spent a night in Next morning I counted some fifty of these vermin in my sleeping bag and blankets — and there were still a few survivors that evening. I sent the caravan [p.39:] along the straight track which led along the steep arid side of the Jinsha Jiang valley, but I told my guide to take me further away to the left Our route passed through pinewoods via the village of Yunuo and that afternoon we reached Haba, a collection of houses scattered on a gentle slope between several tributaries of the Haba He, each of them bordered by a luxuriant growth of moisture-loving shrubs.

I was busy putting plants in the press — among others I hid found the leafless Phacellaria ferruginea growing parasitically on Loranthus caloreas, which is itself a parasitic shrub — when a man entered the yard, wearing a European belt with pouches. After speaking to my men he came up to me and pulled out a letter. It was from Schneider and brought terrible news: "Just received a telegram from Kunming, that Austria has declared war on Serbia. Situation in Europe very grave. Keep in touch with me." I had felt uneasy ever since that evening in Li-jiang, and now the blow had fallen, a terrible blow for a convinced pacifist, and it was my Fatherland that had declared war. No, surely it could not be my beloved country, my honest fellow citizens, but only our deluded rulers. From the wording of the despatch I could not see any reason to turn aside from my task, but it was enough to destroy my peace of mind and sap ray contentment in fulfilling my duty to remain true to my profession as long as possible. How can any man maintain the inner calm necessary to carry out scientific work — let alone enjoy it — when he is tormented day and night by mental images of mass murder and devastation, hunger and wretchedness, the ruin of lives devoted to science, and the slaughter or mutilation of colleagues, friends and relatives? Besides this overwhelming distress I had a lesser worry; nearly all my supply of petrol had leaked out, but as it did not have to last much longer its loss hardly mattered.

I rode on next day with a heavy heart, once again through fresh green pine forests, travelling some distance away from the river valley, along the foot of the tall round-topped mountains, clothed with dark woods of firs and pines, which continue northwards from Haba Shan. I crossed a low saddle and went gently downhill along a little brook into the valley of the Bapaji, the Bede river, the track running along its right bank. From the valley I had a view into the Yangzi gorge; beyond the river there were the mouths of two large caves in the reddish-grey limestone cliffs of Xuechou Shan. Further up our side valley its walls became quite steep, but on our side there was a gently sloping terrace about 100m above the valley floor. On its slope, among terraced rice fields, was our next halting place, Washua, and above it at an altitude of 2500m were the seven villages of Bede. Fifteen kilometres from the Jinsha Jiang and situated on small spurs, they were clearly visible from a distance, although they consisted solely of small brown wooden houses, with tall racks for drying grain projecting high above their roofs. The whole stretch of country was still within the pine and oak wood zone, and two shrubs with large, stiff, somewhat prickly leaves — Photinia prionophylla and /tea yunnanensis — were frequent Moisture-loving shrubs were also abundant on the terrace at Bede, as they were at Haba. Debregeasia longifolia (Moraceae), a shrub with narrow leaves, dark green above and coated with white felt beneath, often festooned with climbing roses, arched over the muddy, stony paths, hemmed in by fences, and compelled the horseman to duck his head. Everywhere among them were the large golden yellow flowers of the shrubby Hypericum hookeri-anum, while the dark yellow racemes of Elsholtzia flava were less conspicuous. All the water courses were bordered by vivid green turf. Shuijia was the name of the group of houses in the centre of Bede (corrupted by the Chinese to "Beidi"), where I found suitable accommodation among the Naxi. As everywhere in these parts, they were perfectly friendly. The undersides of the roof tiles above my balcony were painted with their hieroglyphs — otherwise seldom seen except in their books of spells. At first the mafu was unhappy because he could find no beans for the horses, and the oats which the villagers brought were unknown to him. "We must see if they'll eat it", he said. "I'd like to see the horse that won't eat oats," I replied. Before long he returned, amazed; "Oh yes, they like it very much."

Despite Bacot's [note #39: Le Tibet Revolte, p. 308.] claim, Bede is not "le lieu saint des Mosos", and Kok, who knew the district well, likewise denied that it had any such significance. . Nevertheless, it ought to be declared a sacred place for lovers of nature. Above the villages and at the foot of the sombre forest which covered the mountainside was a speck of white which caught my eye when I was still far away. Even on moonless nights it gleamed in the light of the stars. I had a presentiment of what I was to find, even though I had completely forgotten Bacot's casual mention of a "depot calcaire", and I visited it that afternoon (4th August). A little cold stream trickled down Into deep pools of gorgeously blue water between sinter terraces bedecked with flowers. Lower down, by the deposition of lime on exposure to the air, it had formed superb sinter basins(Fig.9). This wonderful natural phenomenon was of unusual extent, the whole array being some 40m in height and several times greater in breadth. The outer walls of the largest basins were up to 2m in height, while others, especially in the lower parts of the group where the slope was less steep, measured only about 20cm. The basins themselves had curved outer margins, in some cases forming a complete semicircle, and varied greatly in diameter, but none of them was very deep. All of them were empty of water, on that day at least, yet the lime-suiter was wet through. Although I made repeated attempts to chip off a few pieces I was obliged to retire empty-handed, my chisel blunted, my hammer cracked and my fingers grazed. I should very much have liked to collect a specimen showing the wonderful pattern of fine horizontal corrugations on the outer surface of the terraces. Fortunately my photographs displayed them beautifully, besides enabling me to make a photogrammetric reconstruction of the entire group. A few bushes were beginning to invade the formation from the sides and from below, and nearby there were some ancient terraces of the same origin, grey, crumbling and overgrown. To judge by the laminations visible on exposed rock faces at the [p.40:] sides of the track, the whole of the terrace formation on which Bede stands must have originated from water flowing out of the mountain — and the ground beneath Washua also.

On 5th August I visited Shusuzu, the mountain above the villages. It is the comer of the Piepen range, which extends towards Zhongdian. Because my guide did not fully grasp my sign language I got no higher than 4000m, but it was a delightful excursion and afforded occasional views for photogrammetric purposes beneath the clouds, which were not much higher. Dusk fell early on the return journey, and my pony, though usually awkward and ungainly, balanced as steadily as a circus horse on the narrow dykes — often less than a foot wide — between the rice fields and the ditches, some of which were very deep. Only once did he slip down into a rice field, and I did not even lose my seat.

I was informed that the route to Xiao Zhongdian was very narrow and bad, and that to carry my wide crates I would have to take six local pack animals without Chinese saddles of the lift-off kind. I agreed to do this at the incredibly low price of 35 cents. Opposite the sinter basin we began a steep ascent up the side of the mountain which I had climbed the day before, first through pine and oak woods, then firs with bamboo undergrowth, until we reached the broad undulating plateau which joins the Piepen and the Haba Shan ranges. The forest stretched as far as the eye could see, though mist covered all the higher ground, and the upper halves of the firs were covered with grey beard-lichens. During the midday halt at Xiao Niuchang I collected a rich booty of mosses and lichens from their trunks, including the delicate Calicium sinense, a new species of pin lichen which grew in dense patches bearing tiny fruiting bodies resembling toadstools, each on a shiny black stalk, curved or straight, a few millimetres long. Further on we came to mountain pastures extending up from the pass at 4125m to a crest 175m above. They yielded a splendid haul, including the deliciously scented Cremanthodium campanulatum and C. helianthus, Ligularia pleurocuulis with long racemes of nodding bellshaped flowers, the stemless Phlomis rotata with rosettes of four large spatulate leaves pressed against the turf and short sessile spikes of violet flowers, the new Saussurea wettsteiniana, its drooping heads of violet flowers hidden beneath nests of large pale green bracts, and other species new to me. The crest itself was covered with rhododendron tanglewood, and along its borders was the heather-like Cassiope selaginoides, still bearing a few of its white bells. The surrounding peaks of rock and scree were not very high. They were built of alternating layers of limestone and sandstone, with coal lower down. I was just getting ready to take photographs when the mist came down again and a bitterly cold wind sprang up. The descent from the pass led steeply down through a narrow, deeply worn track in the phyllite rock to the camp site at Da Niuchang, on a pasture in a wooded valley opening to the west, where I pitched my tent at 3800m (7th/8th August). Fine penetrating rain persisted all night, and the next day's weather was almost as bad, yet I went on collecting and photographing, notably Pedicularis siphonantha with red tubular flowers 6cm long, growing in masses round the pools in the bogs.

Sheltering under my coolie's umbrella, I look numerous photographs during the next few days, and the results were not at all bad. We continued at more or less the same height along a ridge at the western side of the range, but nowhere did I get a good view of the landscape. In some places the wretched track was almost blocked by fallen tree trunks, but it led through superb coniferous forests, over bcggy streams and across turf bedecked with flowers. Iti the woods the herbaceous plants struggled vigorously to reach the light, among them the tall, sappy, thick-stemmed Pleurospermum davidii, the slender Pedicularis vialii, a metre high, with long thin racemes of small flowers, half white and half pink, and then the tallest of all gentians, Gentiana stylophora (now Megacodon stylophorus), as high as a nan, with pendent greenish sulphur-yellow flowers 9 cm long (Fig.11). Then the path went downhill in steep zigzags, where traffic and water had eroded the t-ack to a depth of several metres. The bottom was too narrow to put both feet side-by-side, and the horses had to raise their legs high off the ground to place one hoof before the other. They stumbled down this ravine, our crates bumping against its sides, while bamboos and prickly-leaved oaks covered with bjard lichens made a roof above our heads. After crossing the valley which ran alongside to the right and climbing over a small spur, we reached a broad vale, up which we went to a large farmstead called Alo where we were to spend the night. Now thoroughly soaked, I was welcomed by the Naxi Tibetan halfcastes who lived there and accommodated in a clean room. They at once brought burning logs on an iron tray, but because of the smoke I declined this with thanks, for by slipping into my sweater I was soon able to get warm and dry. The house was built in genuine Tibetan style: there was a narrow yard which together with the stables around it was occupied by the animals, the filth being to some extent mitigated by strewing twigs of holly-leaved oak on the ground. The living quarters, where Iheir food was cooked in large pots, were on the U])per floor, which was surrounded by wooden galleries. Their beds were on benches or storage chests all round the wall, and there was even a spotlessly clean lavatory which my Chinese servants showed me with amazement.

The valley ran parallel to the main road from Ljjiang to Zhongdian, debouching into the Zhongjiang He at Tuguancun. I followed it, ascending gently north west through spruce weeds where the under-growth was among the finest of its kind that I have ever seen. There were tall slender louseworts (Pedicularis spp.), various large-flowe-ed cranesbills including the new Geranium calantlium with flowers of the same shape as our G. phaeum, the slender narrow-leaved Lilium mactvphynum (Notholirion mactvphyllum) with a raceme of small greyish pink flowers, and Cacalia palmatist'Cta (Senecio palmatisectus) in vast numbers, its abundant finely cut palmate leaves and large panicles of narrow pendent golden yellow flowerheads with reddish brown bracts making a charming picture. Among the climbers was Clematis fargesii with flat snow-white flowers 6 cm across, and along the stream there were large bushes of our sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides. The stream rose in several tributaries from the northeast of the mountain and [p.41:] my route led over a flat col only 3500m high, at the side of which was a dpline between limestone rocks. We passed a little village called Latsa where our branch of the valley swung round and continued in the opposite direction. Even before we crossed the col the forest was beginning to give way to meadow, and on the col itself, apart from a few patches of holly-leaved oak, the meadowlands reigned supreme. They were relatively dry and belonged to the heath meadow type. Their sumptuous and gorgeously colourful array of flowers completely displaced the grasses and reminded me a little of the forest meadows of East Bosnia, but in colour and form the flora of the Zhongdian highlands was incomparably more splendid, luxuriant and exotic. There were several magnificent garlics, notably Allium polyasffum with tall broadly winged stems and numerous rather small flowers and A. macranthum with large nodding bells which give it some resemblance to Butomus, also Linaria yunnanensis, its skyblue flowers pencilled with yellow; Saussurea wettsteiniana, taller and more lush at this lower altitude, numerous other species of Saussurea, and many umbellifers including Heracleum nepalense, closely similar to our H. montanum and a small Angelica (A. scaberula) with purple flowers; Leontopodium franchetii, a mat-forming edelweiss ' with small starry flowers on thin stalks and close-set thread-like leaves with sticky glands; Dracocephalum isabellae with clusters of large violet labiate flowers, panicled blue gentians and dainty bellflowers, and once again masses of the splendid clustered yellow Ligularia pleurocaulis. The rest of the day's journey was said to be no more than 15 li, but as the mountain people were never able to agree on distances stated in Chinese li, a midday rest was considered necessary and we halted on the gentle downhill slope. On the right there were some fine peaks towering above the forest, and I immediately decided on a plan. I turned to the mafu, pointed out one of the broad and easily accessible side valleys running down towards us, and told him that it was our objective for the morrow. The main valley curved down towards Xiao Zhongdian, and opening into it were two further side valleys, both with good tracks leading up them. I accordingly cancelled my previous instructions and told him to take one of these routes into the mountain.

Xiao Zhongdian lies close to the Zhongjiang river in an old lake basin, some 2 km from the outermost foothills of the Piepen range, which the track had just traversed. The stream which I was following ran across the lake bed and had cut a little ravine with vertical walls of gravel and conglomerate, in which it formed a waterfall. I arrived early that afternoon, unloaded my specimens and left them there in Wang's care together with part of (he caravan. Next morning, taking only the bare essentials — tent, campbed, paper for pressing plants and three days' provisions for man and beast — I set off up the side valley into the Piepen range. Even before the point where the valley forked I found interesting plants growing among the stones in the spring flushes by the wayside: Pedicularis longiflora, the yellow counterpart of P.siphonantha, a hybrid Primula vittata X poissonii and, unexpected as an inhabitant of a bog, an edelweiss, Leontopodium souliei which resembles our L alpinum more closely than does any other Chinese species. Nearby, on turf beneath pines, there was an eyebright, Euphrasia regelii, with little pale violet flowers with a yellow throat I was in front and, as previously arranged, when I came to the fork in the path I hung strips of red paper on the trees to mark the route for my men, and then rode on to continue my work. The valley was similar to the one at Alo, but the forest meadows though less extensive were moister and the vegetation was hence even taller and more luxuriant Moreover, the valley soon reached higher altitudes, at which new species began to appear. There were tall blue larkspurs and monkshoods, violet Nepeta species, a sage with bicoloured flowers in violet and yellow, sorrels, tall spurges, and between them some of our meadow grasses and sedges, here growing in clumps a metre in height. Overtopping them was the teasel Dipsacus chinensis and scrambling through the herbage were two dull violet and yellow-green bellflowers, Codonopsis rotundifolia and C macivcalyx, with milky sap and a revolting odour, while bamboos bordered the surrounding woodland. Where the soil was drier the dominant plants were Morina (red and white), and various rank Ligularia species with large thick leaves and long thick spikes of large yellow daisy flowers, together with louseworts of many colours. In the forest I found a new yellow-flowered species, Pedicularis aequibarbis, with multiple stems 2m high. The equivalent of our butterbur, Ligularia transversifolia, a new species with flowers in corymbs and giant leaves with centrally attached stalks, grew along the banks of the stream, which was so deep that it came up to the horses' bellies and wet my feet every time I crossed it. I was more than ready to halt, but the caravan was nowhere to be seen or heard, so I sent Jean after it. He of course found that the dim-witted mafu had forgotten his orders, missed my direction markers and gone back along yesterday's route. Meanwhile I found two fine rhubarbs growing at the side of the stream, Rheum ofiicinale, taller than a man, with leaves nearly 1m in diameter, and the smaller Rheum alexandrae, its large pendent bracts, at first pale, already turning a beautiful red. Both grew on gravel subsoil, their massive rootstocks projecting above ground level and embedded in peat which had been formed by the decomposition of their withered leaves, supplemented by the other herbaceous plants, willows and dwarf rhododendrons which flourished and decayed between them. To get closer to the highest mountains I turned into a lateral valley on the right. It ran parallel to the main range, and though stony and wet it was easily negotiable. It led through fir woods, between willow bushes covered with lichens (Lobaria) and juniper trees, up to a fairly large flat expanse of turf dotted with Pedicularis. It seemed too early to camp there, and I went on, but the path stretched out endlessly without passing any reasonably open ground, dusk began to fall, and I thought I would have to return to the turfy patch we had seen earlier. However, we met a Tibetan on his way down from cutting wood and in response to pur signs he indicated that we should continue uphill. Before long we did in fact reach a tolerable though rather cramped site and I pitched my tent in darkness and incessant rain at 3880m. That evening and next morning the temperature was 6°C.

[p.42:] The 11th August, the anniversary of my memorable ascent of Meleto-dagh in Kurdistan, seemed a good day to undertake at last a really high alpine expedition. At the treeline (4125m) there were a few shepherds' huts and growing abundantly around them two shrubby Potentillas, the yellow P. fruticosa and the white P. veitchii Among them was another tall Ligularia, similar to the one I had seen earlier, but with its flowers in broad corymbs instead of spikes (L. cymbulifera). Lots of people had gone up on to the screes to dig for roots, and higher still to tend their yaks. There were several scree-filled conies below weathered limestone towers, but nearly all the peaks were in cloud, and though first one and then another briefly emerged it was impossible to tell which was the highest; however, there was certainly no great difference between them. The bed occupied by a glacier in some former ice age was obvious at first glance from the moraines left by its snout and the roches moutonnees of its neve basin. I climbed up towards the highest pass I could see. The flora of the scree slopes was very fine: a low growing Corydalis with large pale violet flowers (C hemidicentra — a new species) had a thick, deeply buried root from which numerous thready stems pushed their way between the stones to form loose mats of tripartite seagreen leaves pressed against the slope; the yellow Potentilla articulate grew in dense cushions, its leaves, also tripartite, divided into linear erect parallel segments; Primula dtyadifolia had rosettes of smaller leaves closely resembling those of our mountain avens (Dryas octopetala) and short scapes each carrying several splendid reddish purple flowers; the yellow Saxifraga drabiformis formed loose cushions; with its white flowers, Arenaria lichiangensis was reminiscent of the Oriental species of the genus; Cobresia stiebritziana (a new species) was an inconspicuous cushion plant resembling Carex firma of the Alps; swaying in the breeze among them were two new species, Arenaria weissiana and A. ftidericae, together with some plants of the Papilionaceae family; Alettis nepalensis and Polygonum sphaerostachyum extended up to this altitude from lower levels; and there were several species of Meconopsis, some single-stemmed and others with multiple stems, both low growing and very tall, with nodding blue poppy flowers. Even more splendid was the flora of the snow patches, a term which denotes the depressions where snow lingers late and by its weathering action creates soil rich in humus which is protected against being washed awav. There were masses of the tiny Primula cyclostegia [note #40: Now Primula bella var. cyclostegia.], a counterpart of P. minima in the Alps, but single-stemmed and having much smaller leaves with yellow farina below and bluish violet flowers, also P. lepta (P. apoclita) with a spike of florets like a grape-hyacinth; a tiny Ranunculus, seldom more than a centimetre high (R. micronivalis, a new species); Sibbaldia parviflora, the dwarf willow Salix lindleyana and others; and at their margins, where they were bordered by the dwarf Rhododendron cremnophilum (R. primuliflorum), here approaching its upper limit of altitude, were the splendid dark brownish violet pendent bell-shaped flowerheads of; Cremanthodium campanulatum on short scapes above rosettes of leaves like those of Adenostyfes, among cushions of liverwort. Beyond the col thiere were a few small snowpatches on the northeast side; they might actually have been permanent At the top (4650m) the scree flora was hardly less rich land even more interesting. Growing between golden moss cushions (Tetraplodon urceolatus, Barbda asperifolia) was Wahlbergella apetala [note #41: Lychnis apetala. See Polunin, O. & Stainton, Adam, Flowers of the Himalaya, No.194. ], a catchfly with inflated spheroidal calyces; two niew louseworts, one of them (Pedicularis parvifol'id) minute and the other (P. pseudoversicolor) resembling our native bicoloured P. oederi, Solms-Laubachia pulchemma, belonging to a genus of Cruciferae discovered near Lijiang, grew in patches arising from a rootstock so deep as to defy all attempts at excavation; and Saussurea leucoma, swathed" in thin wool, with short thick columnar stems closely beset with pinnatisect leaves, each stem ending in a disc of violet flowerheads. Idie mountain top was again enveloped in cloud smd offered no better views than the col I had already reached, and instead of climbing the 5000m pealk I decided that I could spend the time more advantageously in botanizing and taking colour photographs (Autochromes); despite the cold wind they came out quite well. On my return I steered towards the larches which formed the treeline at 4250m on the other side of the little valley leading down to my camp. When I reached them I began (the descent to the brook, down scree slopes which offered further novelties. At boggy spots along t!he stream the bushes of Potentilla veitchii with thieir nodding white bells were particularly fine, and flowering among them were blue Swertias. Returning next day along the same valley to Xiao : Zhongdian, I was fully occupied in studying the profuse and fascinating population of mosses and lichens which flourished on the trunks of the pines and willows, on rotting wood and boggy ground.

I spent two days in Xiao Zhongdian. It was a fair-sized Tibetan village of large wooden houses, painted in reddish colours, with grain-drying raclks projecting above their broad gables. From a distance of farmsteads bore some resemblance to the peasant farms of our Alps. In the vicinity there were numerous water-driven prayer wheels, prayer flajgs and obos, the last being piles of stones on which prayers such as "Om mani pemehum" [note #42: Usually transcribed as "Om mani padme hum". ], "om wagi scheri mum", "om baser peme hum" and other longer phrases had been carved. Situated as it was on a main route, the village was quite animated; caravans were constantly passing though, and to a foreigner's eye the sight of these sturdy Tibetans, with their brown faces, their jewellery of silver and jasper, their long hair hanging down in wild locks, wns always fascinating. They were clad in robes of grey or red, leaving the chest exposed and girdled round the waist to make a container for most of their [p.43:] personal possessions — food, money, a bowl for their meals, a tobacco pouch, a prayer wheel and their weapons —and they wore felt boots(Fig. 10). Some of them used yaks as beasts of burden and it was these splendid though extremely nervous creatures which bought firewood into the yard of my hostelry. The people were most friendly and much better mannered than the Chinese; though they peeped shyly round the doorpost!! to see what I was doing, those on one side gestured to their friends on the other to tell them not to block my light I bought a sheep for one and a half dollars to provide us with meat for a few days. However, the village was not really suitable for a longer stay as the only person who spoke Chinese was one old woman. Tibetan-speaking Chinese traders sometimes passed through and my interpreter said of one of them: "Il parle cinq tibétains“, meaning that the trader spoke five of the native languages. In this district Man hua ("the language of ihe tribesmen") primarily means Tibetan, and as he hal heard me call it "tibétain“ he extended the meaning of the word to cover all non-Chinese languages. From the trader I obtained the information I needed for the next stage of my journey to tie Mekong, which I hoped to resume on 15th August.

That was not to be. On the evening before my departure the messenger I had sent to Zhongdian came back with a telegram from Schneider reporting the conflagration which was sweeping across our "civilised" Europe. How much more truly civilised was life in this peaceful wilderness! As it was generally believed that Europeans in China would be in jeopardy in the event of war, as Schneider's telegram indicated that he was returning and as, whatever the moral position, there were no grounds on which a military court would conceivably have exempted me from my impending call-up, I decided to turn back. That evening I repacked my baggage so that in the event of any delay I could travel ahead with three pack animals to carry the collections and the essentials for the journey. The track ran alongside the Zhongjiang He, first on the gravel terraces of an old lake bed where the river had cut only a shallow trench, then over several smaller lateral terraces separated by wooded spurs and hills, above a hot spring and past large scattered Tibetan villages situated among green meadows and fields framed by gentle wooded slopes, along a row of dolines which stretched in the same direction between the two valleys, onwards through unbroken woodland, at one spot coming so close to the edge of the ridge that it afforded a vista — unfortunately only partial — of the vale of Alo, and continued as a corduroy road up and down through bamboo scrub and boggy woods to the little temple at Minya, where it once more led to the steep side of the Zhongjiang He gorge, which was quite deep even here, though the mountain range beyond it was nothing more than gently undulating woodland country. A little further, on a spur projecting into one of the river's loops, we came to our campsite at Yijianzhen, a forest meadow full of leeches.

Next morning the horses were covered in blood, though fortunately none of the leeches had got into the tent One of the horses had run away and could not be found despite a long search; I thought it must have fallen down the rocks, possibly into the river.

I therefore left behind two crates of paper, which was now superfluous, as collecting was the last thing I felt inclined to do in my present mood, and in any case I had to travel on without stopping. On top of all this turmoil came Schneider's messenger bearing my call-up telegram from the German consul in Kunming and with it the first bad news of the fighting. When I set out the messenger, who should have waited for my reply and payment, had disappeared, as had my guide from Xiao Zhongdian after having taken a small advance payment They probably planned to rifle the crates, and must have been sadly disappointed to find nothing more than paper inside them. The crates and the missing horse were subsequently found by two of Forrest's collectors, whom I had encountered on the Piepen range, and returned to Schneider. The track continued along the heights; here and through almost the whole of the, valley the rock was mica-schist Forest stretched as far as the eye could see; a few hundred metres almost vertically below us the mountain torrent raged in its gloomy ravine. The country was magnificent, but in those unhappy circumstances I was in no state to enjoy its beauty. The path ran down to the Yi village of Tuguancun, in the Alo valley close to its mouth, then up again 1 .to a wretchedly bad stretch where it consisted solely of water-filled holes separated by high narrow transverse banks or ridges of clay. The pack horses tried to keep on the ridges but inevitably slid down into the pits between them, splashing mud high into the air. Though they fell repeatedly, they were unscathed. From a col I had a good view of the lower part of the still unsurveyed valley, then came a steep descent to a tiny Chinese village called Luoxiwan, 800m below. From there it was a further day's march along the turbulent mountain river to its confluence with the Yangzi. The main ferry was a short distance upstream at Yuluo. Towering above the village, Satseto, here stupendously steep, loomed now and then through the mist Next day the route ran first through dry fir woods on the side of the valley, then through a pretty little glen filled with bamboo scrub and mixed forest in which a yellow Gesnerad (Oreocharis forrestii) had found lodgement among the ferns high up on the branches of the oaks, while lower down its blue counterpart (Didissandra cordatula) grew in large numbers on the tiled roofs of the houses. The climb up to the col at Ganhaizi was 1400m in all. It was hot and the horses found it such an ordeal that I had to unload two of them, let them rest and give them a feed of rice before bringing them along behind, but nonetheless we reached our intended camping place at Ganhaizi. Next day I lunched with Schneider and Forrest at Nguluke. To me at least, Forrest said that he had no words strong enough to condemn England's declaration of war. Schneider took charge of my plants and promised to complete the task of drying them. That evening I reached Lijiang, where I discharged Yang, and the next day (20th August) I set off for Dali.

As if in mournful farewell the snow-capped peak was free from clouds, though it had been obscured for a fortnight. It was thickly plastered with new snow and seemed to ask: "Why are you forsaking the beauties of nature for the savagery of mankind?" At Lashiba the track curved to the southwest and [p.44:] went uphill; it then ran down into a broad valley which ran southwards, its head separated by a low col from the great bend of the Yangzi. There was a stench of carrion, probably from the carcase of a pack animal putrefying among the bushes at the wayside. It prompted thoughts of the war-polluted air of the battlefields, and even the sweet scent of the rose bushes which bordered the track did nothing to dispel them. Towards evening the mist dispersed, leaving a clear view westwards over jagged peaks to Laba Shan and north-westwards up the Yangzi. As if to tease me, the clouds lifted even from the summits of the northwest continuation of the Yulong Shan, which I had wooed so long and never before glimpsed. They too approached 5500m in altitude. Steep, snow-crowned pinnacles towering above the clouds, they are the two guardians of the Jinsha Jiang, which has cut a gorge almost 3600m deep between them. The vista came as a painful reminder during my unhappy retreat, yet it was so enchanting that despite my earlier decision I once more set up my camera for a photogrammetric survey. From then on the terrain was less striking. Between Xiaying and Niujie there was an exceptionally hot spring, welling up at the foot of a limestone crag and feeding several artificial pools. I collected the algae and an evil-smelling Chara, which formed extensive brown sheets, lime-encrusted and dried up, where the water spread out over the level ground. At Dali the Gang Shan range was veiled in cloud. I called on Pere Salvat and found him as friendly as anyone could have wished, but even he had nothing to go on but the false reports put out by the British consul-general. I discharged Jean, and felt glad to see the last of the dirty fellow. As the telegraph at Lijiang had been cut off, it was not until I reached Dali that I was able to send a telegram to my consul; knowing that England had declared war I realised that the order to proceed to Hongkong was no longer appropriate, but as a soldier I had to obey until it was countermanded. The reply — sent on to me at Xiaguan — was useless; it referred me to the Austro-Hungarian consul-general in Shanghai, and I could not expect a reply from him until I arrived in Chuxiong, six days further on. I therefore resumed my journey, in a reflective state of mind. The main road through Yunnan was no better, and indeed in some places worse than many of the "minor" routes. Where it was paved, the surface had long ago disintegrated: some of the stones had been trodden into the ground and others had disappeared leaving gaping potholes full of mud and water. Wherever a rivulet crossed the road it made a bog into which the horses plunged up to their knees, and wherever it was built of soft sandstone flags the pack animals had worn a narrow groove or had even hollowed out a sequence of separate steps, one for each hoof, with the result that if a horse started off on the wrong hoof it was sure to fall, unless its rider could immediately force it to step back. In such stretches the rider who values his horse's legs — and his own ribs — is well advised to dismount On the exit roads from every sizeable village there were beautifully carved triumphal arches and neatly executed stone tablets in memory of officials who had "not misappropriated the funds". Here and there I saw the "scales of justice", a beam with a ring at one end and a hook at the other, fixed to a tree or a post, and above it a notice proclaiming that on that spot a thief had been flogged. From a distance, viewed from higher ground, the medium-sized settlements, with their straight main streets flanked by one-stoirey houses, reminded me of the villages of the Vieirma basin. The inns were comparatively good and the people we're not excessively inquisitive, as they had seen European travellers often enough. What I did find most unpleasant, however, was the smoke, allegedly containing arsenic, which Chinese travellers used to repel midges; I often offered them ointment instead, when the smoke got up ray nostrils. Between Xiangyun and Yunnanyi there was a minor incident: accompanied by shouts from numerous peasants at work nearby, a large, almost white wolf came trotting slowly on to the roadl. I leapt down from my horse and drew my Browning. It crossed the road a few paces ahead of me, but as there were people on the road beyond I had to take care and missed him. He laid back his ears, made a few leaps and vanished behind a hummock. If I had been in another mood I would have tackled him in a different style. The terrain and vegetation were somewhat monotonous. Each day's march was no more than the distance normally covered by a fast caravan, but my pack animals had had 14 days' work without a break and found it a severe ordeal. Two were limping, another had huge boils, one of which, situated on the withers, suddenly burst, sending out a jet of pus which persisted for several seconds, and a fourth had attacks of colic which my mafu dealt with by inserting a hollow needle of European manufacture at the navel and drawing off fluid. Had I not felt that I was subject to the exigencies of j martial law I would not have allowed such suffering to continue unchecked, especially as the animaJs were my own property. But the explorer's imperative "onwards!" is in itself a kind of martial law amd anyone who is unduly squeamish should stay at home — and certainly not travel to the Orient or to China.

[chapter 9:]