Heinrich Handel-Mazzetti: [A Botanical Pioneer In South West China] - chapter 12


Chapter 12 Over the Highlands to Lijiang

A cave — landscape, colours and atmosphere — Taohua Shan near Yanfeng — chopped off heads — in Delavay's territory—Ji Shan — forests of the Heishanmen range — rhododendrons, mosses and toadstools — distant views

It was on 26 April that I set out on my next journey into the mountains. The decision to start had not been easy, as it meant cutting myself off from all news at a time when Italy was on the brink of declaring war [note #54: Italy declared war on Austria on 24 May 1915.]. But it was my duty to employ my time in scientific research which might bring honour to my Fatherland, and any feelings of homesickness were promptly dispelled by revulsion at the events unfolding in Europe. The arrival of a fresh remittance from the Academy of Sciences in Vienna in the sum of 6000 crowns [note #55: Equivalent to £240 or $1200 in 1915 values.] freed me from financial anxieties, and a letter of recommendation from the provincial authorities addressed to all districts on my route ensured smooth progress as far as Lijiang, where the real work was to begin. I took a track which ran to the north of the main road to Dali so as to collect the spring flora of the Yunnan highlands and replace the material from 1914 which had been seized by the English while in transit to Austria. I also wished to visit the basin between Dali and Yongsheng, the classical territory where Pere Delav-ay originally discovered the riches of the Yunnan flora. My party at first comprised Schneider's man Li, one of his best coolies, Wu Suoling, Li's kitchen boy Zhafa and a caravan of eight pack animals with three men who had accompanied Schneider on his return journey from the Nu Jiang (the Salween) and had gained his approval. I paid the usual price of 50 cents per beast per day, and 20 cents for each rest day; my food cost me $12 monthly, a bargain which could hardly be bettered. I took only a small amount of canned food as an iron ration, and consigned the tent and its accessories, together with a number of paraffin cans, cut open and flattened to be soldered up into tin boxes for pressed plants, to a caravan travelling to Lijiang via Dali. The tent reached its destination after much delay, but the metal was never seen again.

After a farewell dinner at the consul's a short half day's march through light rain brought me once again to the edge of the plain near Buqi, where I had been in March 1914. On the very next day I found something of interest The track to Fumin ran over the tall narrow limestone ridge which shut off the lower end of the Qiaotianshang valley basin and was itself pierced by the sizeable stream coming down the valley. A steep rock cliff provided homes for numerous nesting birds and towered over the mouth of a cave which led westwards and joined the stream running from Ercun to Fumin. The track continued downhill along this stream through a limestone ravine. High up on its smooth walls some spots of deep pink caught my eye; I thought it must be a primula, but how was I to get at it? The stream, rushing between knife-edged boulders which had tumbled into its bed, was easily crossed, but the plant resisted my attempts to shoot it down. I fired off some twenty cartridges, but only two flowers and two leaf rosettes fell to the ground. While searching for the pieces, however, I found a stem which must have fallen at an earlier date and had put out a flower. The plant turned out to be Dendtvbium crepidatum, a magnificent orchid with an orange-yellow lip edged with white.

In Fumin there was a handsome stone bridge over the Pudu He. Then the track led along the left side of the valley and turned into a side valley filled with richly assorted shrub vegetation up to the top of the ridge. Flowering between and beneath the evergreen oaks were Magnolia delavayi, Platycarya strobilacea, a tree related to the walnut with fruit cones like teasels, surrounded by a ring of yellow male catkins standing up like candles and releasing their pollen; Catalpa duclouxii, Albizzia julibrissin, Schefflera ' delavayi, Decaisnea fargesii and other interesting species. On the col at 2475m, a windswept expanse of sandstone lying upon marl and limestone, there was a low maquis characterized by Thea speciosa, Myrica nana and Rhododendron inoratum, the last having pale yellow flowers with brown markings. The track led gently downhill to one of the many villages named Majie (horse market), situated to the south of Luozi on a stream running through the latter. Passing a wretched hovel, I told my men to ask the name of the place. A ragged fellow begged for alms. "What are you thinking of? From a foreign gentleman!" Wu Suoling barked at him in his gruff voice, and he shrank back.

For the next four days we travelled westwards across irregularly dissected sandstone uplands, a tangle of mountain ranges. In places there were plateaus bounded by steep scarps; some of the valleys were quite deeply cut and at their upper margins there were red sandstone bastions standing up like castles. The country was at first quite attractive, with vivid green woods of Keteleeria and Pinus yunnanensis, a tree with long needles which gleamed in the blazing sun and stirred in the gentle breeze which freshened towards noon, but after a time the landscape began to pall and the flora offered little variety. We were on a salt route leading down to Heijing, situated at 1600m in the Longchuan Jiang — hot, arid and filled with prickly pear (Opuntia). Before descending from the heights, not far from the point where the track crossed last year's route from Guangtong to Yuanmou, I encountered for the first time Rhododendron simsii, growing in the depths of small channels among bamboos. Its superb purple flowers, large and delicate, were sold in large amounts in the market at Kunming.

[p.58:] From the top of the next ridge I had a broad vista over the highlands to the west, but it was mottled with cloud shadows and unsuitable for photography. However, its configuration was plainly quite different from the terrain which I had just traversed, for the strata were greatly disturbed. They were not arranged in plates or blocks and did not form continuous ridges, but were cut up into a medley of short crests and low summits, mostly triangular in outline though not very steep. Next came a valley and another gentle ridge, on which the fragrant Ternstroemia japonica was in flower, a low evergreen shrub with pendent flowers which, though not exactly small, are inconspicuous because they are of whitish, ochre yellow colour and are often brown at the edges. For my midday halt on the second day I was once more in a fair-sized town — Mouding (Ding-yiien). This time I found the people friendly. Even their importunity was not so unpleasant, perhaps because I could see its ridiculous side. I sat in an inn in Mouding, eating the food I had brought with me, besieged by gaping onlookers who were amazed at my beard. Then they fetched one of their number, ami showed me that he too had some bristles on his face; presumably I was intended to gaze in astonishment at him. After a short time I said to the man who had fetched the bearded one: "All right, now you can go away again". Another one said to his child: "Look, he's eating bread", and tried to touch my loaf, but as always I refused to allow that.

Continuing along the same track to Dayao, marked on Davies' map, I found that the course of the streams was in need of major corrections. In fact the path does not follow the main river valley, but crosses two valleys running northeast, by climbing over low cols at 2250 and 2225m between them. In Qinchangguan I had a visit from the local doctor, an unwashed old man who took his metal pipe out of his mouth and invited me to have a few puffs — a truly Chinese notion of hygiene. Before reaching Dayao I had been soaked to the skin by a cloudburst and was glad to spend a rest day there on 7 May, sorting out the pressed plants. The surrounding landscape consisted chiefly of multicolored marl strata and although somewhat higher in altitude it was a labyrinth of channels and basins between shapeless hills. Subtropical Pistacia scrub extended for a considerable distance into the tableland. One more day's march brought us to Baiyanjing (Yan-feng), along a route which trended downwards through shrub communities which differed in composition and contained a wide range of species. My eye was caught by a vivid blue stratum between the layers of marl. A specimen was identified by A. Kohler as the rare asbestos mineral crocidolite.

Yanfeng was another salt town, stretched out along a narrow, shut in valley. The colour of its muddy streets was reflected in the dark grey salt which was despatched from the town in small uncut sugarloaf cones. The Chinese women wore a headdress of a kind which I saw nowhere else. It consisted of a narrow black cloth rolled up and wound round the head to form a horizontal ring or covering, not unlike the blue headcloth worn by some people in Sichuan and Zhaotong in Yunnan, but much narrower and more neatly rolled. Shown on Legen-

dre's map to the northeast of the town is a mountain 3500m [note #56: ONC H-11 shows two summits, one of 3085m 17km own and the other of 3662m 33km to t Perhaps Handel-Mazzetti climbed the wrong mountain.] high which I wanted to climb. I never had a view of it either at close quarters or from afar, as the rain started to pour down again, but this did not prevent me from reaching the big temple at 2775m after two halfday marches. That evening the rain stopped for a while and I went up to the summit (Taohua Shan), which was certainly no more than 300m above the temple. The mountain was built of sandstone and was covered with oaks. It did not yield much of a haul, but there was a few novelties, notably Cinnamomum pittosporoides, perhaps the largest flowered species of cinnamon, and two yellow primulas, P. flavicans and P. ulophylla. [note #57: Now P. ambita and P. bracteata.] . During the ascent I encountered a swarm of termites, a grey-brown species of Odontotermes 2cm in length or 5cm including the wings, which came flying along in large numbers and then immediately shed their wings. Tha.t evening I was present at a Chinese religious ceremony and so far as I remember it was the only occasion of its kind that I really enjoyed. The mist swirled across the temple forecourt, and when the Buddhist priest intoned his wailing chant and beat the huge gong the effect was indeed most impressive.

Back in Yanfeng I spent another rest day sheltering from the rain, and on 13th May set off down to Guanfang, where I intended to cross one of the major tributaries of the Yangzi and continue directly across an unsurveyed tract to Ranjiao, 30 km north of Binchuan. On the slippery valley sides below Yanfeng I saw — for the first and only time in China — notices with the words "Woodcutting Forbidden" and this was probably the reason why die subtropical shrub cover and the woodlands in the gorges were so well preserved there. Large shrubs of Radermachera sinica (Bignoniaceae) were particularly striking. The slope was covered with bushes of Styrax limprichtii, which looks like broom but has flowers like little white bells; there were various species of jasmine with white or red flowers, perfuming the air with their fragrance; Alangium chinense flourished in the ravines, overgrown by Pueraria yunnanensis, a woody climber belonging to the pea family, with massive flattened knobbly stems and hanging racemes of scented white flowers. The river was so high that the ferryman would not attempt to cross it that day. However, the delay was not unprofitable, for below the ferryhouse, at only 1500m, I found yet another novelty, Crvton caudatiformis (Euphorbiaceae), a small tree with upright spikes of yellow flowers. After crossing the river next morning I found that no one there had heard of Pianjiao. I could not find a guide and had to take the main road up the river and then along a lateral valley via Midian to Binchuan. This detour brought its compensations, although the track consisted of cobblestones dumped at random, for it provided a rich haul especially in the damp gorges below Midian. Along the river bank and on the west-facing slope there [p.59:] were trees with luxuriant foliage, including Rapanea yunnanensis, Rhamnus nigricans (a new species), Eriobotrya prinoides, Photinias, willows, Adina aspewla with globular heads of rose pink tubular flowers and the scrambling Maflotus phtiippinensis. Mainly on the opposite side of the valley there was dense savannah woodland with arid patches of oak. In my field notes written on the spot I used the descriptive phrase "veil forest" more than once. In such woodland the countless twigs of the overhanging trees and spreading shrubs have for the most part a loose and open pattern of small leaves and delightfully fragrant flowers — Delavaya toxocatpa with pink blossoms, Phyllanthus emblica with minute yellowish green flowers and the thorny Gymnosporia royleana with even less conspicuous florets — and even where they are profusely interwoven with creepers — Dalbergia mimosoides with hooked tendrils and slender flower panicles or Trachelosper-mum cathayanum with scented white flowers — they do not form a dense canopy of foliage, but merely a transparent veil of tracery suspended a few metres above the ground. Furthermore, but for this detour I might have encountered a band of army deserters, allegedly some thirty strong, who had plundered a caravan there four days previously. Two of them had been captured, and their heads, with a suitable notice, had been hung up in cages above the road; the others had fled into the mountains. Above Midian the valley broadened once more into the familiar landscape: groups of green bowls between low rounded hills clothed with pine forest.

The pass at the head of the valley was no more than a shallow notch in the sandy conglomerate which made up the range of hills — a rock which I often encountered thereafter. Just beyond it we entered the broad dry valley in which Binchuan and Pianjiao are situated, a dried up lake basin overlying conglomerates where the land had been so assiduously "cultivated" by the Chinese that it was utterly deforested and barren. Here and there among the arid steppe were steep stony banks which, in the wet weather prevailing on that day, were coloured dark green by the unfolded rosettes of Selaginella involv-ens; in dry weather they roll up and are hardly visible. Acacia famesiana, growing among the rounded boulders of a stream bed, was a pleasing discovery, but it did little to cheer up the dreary landscape. At last we reached a track where the going was easier and I was able to travel at a better pace than a bullock cart. After five days' journeying we arrived in Pianjiao, where I stopped for a day's rest Instead of the subtropical air there was a cold north wind. Despite careful search I found practically nothing of botanical interest I had a call from the French missionary, Father Degeneve, a brisk and energetic young man. He had just returned over the mountains from a visit to Huangjiaping, where he had been obliged to have a path cut through the vegetation and had then galloped down the hillside on his mule. The poor fellow had to live entirely in Chinese style and was overjoyed to meet another European. I invited him to dinner and even though a huge cockroach fell from the ceiling on to the dinner table and nearly landed in the dish, he was so delighted with the potted chicken which Li placed before us that he thankfully took the remains home for his breakfast The information he gave me, taken in conjunction with what I could see from below, caused me to give up my plan to climb the mountain to the east of the town, said to be only 10,000 ft high. Instead, I turned my attention to Ji Shan, a famous place of pilgrimage which Davies marks on his map but without giving the altitude. It lies north east of Dali, beyond the lake, and has a somewhat lower summit with some temples still further north east From my present location the best starting point for the ascent was Huangjiaping. The journey to that town brought me out of the territory of the Yi people. During my travels I had not seen anything of them except in the markets; however, in Heijin by a stroke of good fortune I bought a girl's multicolored headdress decorated with silver plates and inlaid bone buttons.

On 19th May a long day's march from Pianjiao to Huangjiaping took me along the next parallel valley, through country which though dry had a rich flora. The lower slopes were covered with numerous plants of Selaginella involvens growing beneath scattered bushes of the sticky' Dodonaea viscosa and the dainty Phyllanthus emblica. Then, in grassland on a low ridge, I found the tiny blue gentian Gentiana napulifera, seldom more than 3cm tall but often having more than a dozen juicy tuberous roots 5cm long, and a spurge, also with thick storage roots, the new species Euphorbia porphyrastra, made conspicuous by its purple bracts. Just a little further, on limestone at the edge of the forest, there was a wild fig (Ficus superba) together with Firmiana maior (Sterculiaceae), distinguished from the well known cultivated tree [note #59: F. simplex, which has small yellow flowers..] by its large pink flowers and larger leaves and fruits. After this long march I took the opportunity of calling on Pere Guilbaud, ivhom I had met in Yongsheng. He had come over from Dali, where he was now stationed, on a visit to Dapingzi, an hour's journey from Huangjiaping ,and well known as the village where Delavay [note #59: Père J.M.Delavay lived at Dapingzi for nearly ten years and ascended Zemei Shan (on horseback) no fewer than sixty times.] formerly resided. He was fanatical in his enthusiasm for the French cause and less restrained than any of the other missionaries in his biased comments on the war. Some time later, when I was better informed about the war, I felt I had no choice but to write to him setting out our point of view, and when we met some time afterwards he refrained from speaking about such matters. His place in Yongsheng had now been filled by Salvat, whose large-scale opium smuggling operations had been discovered by the authorities and who had therefore been transferred from Dali, a much more agreeable post

Sending the caravan a little further on, I myself set out with my men and two pack animals to ascend Mount Ji Shan. We went back a short distance along the route we had taken two days earlier, then turned to the right up the mountain and on to the northeast ridge. Further on, just below the ridge, we came to a fair-sized temple at the foot of the steep ascent to the summit I went inside, and on making the customary offering I was asked to write my name in a well-kept visitors' book, in which I [p.60:] found the name of the French explorer Bacot [note #60: Bacot, Jacques. Dans les Marches Tibetaines.... 1906 - 1908. Paris, 1909.]. That evening (May 21st) I went up to the summit, for although the weather was not good there was no certainty that it might not be even worse on the next day. The track zigzagged up a scree on which I found Aristolochia yunnanensis, a twining plant with large flowers, Deutzia longifolia, its flowers tinged with pink, Berberis spp. and various others, and then steeply upwards on to a scarp of green diabase. Here there were steps hewn out of the rock, and in one section the route was guarded with stanchions, chains and handrails like a tourists' path in the Alps. After ascending for 325m I reached the summit at about 3200m. At the top was another temple richly decorated with beaten copperwork; there was a second which I had passed on the way up and a third which clung to a narrow rock ledge over a dizzy precipice; in the rays of the afternoon sun its white glint was visible from Dali 30 km away. The vista was far from satisfactory as all distant prospects were obscured, but from the summit I had a striking view of the temples, twenty in number, scattered on the southeast side of the mountain towards Binchuan; the lowest of them displayed a huge obelisk. To the northeast the mountain range continued in a massive, almost horizontally stratified block of limestone. Although not very high — about 300m — its simplicity of form and the steepness of the cliffs bounding it on all sides made it an impressive sight. Beneath it was red sandstone, which also formed the lower part of Ji Shan, and beneath that was dark green dahamite. Neither in the surface configuration nor in the tectonic structure of the higher parts of the range was there any suggestion of the "Yunnan arc" which, according to Deprat, runs through this district Scattered pines and yews crowned the crest; lower down there was Lithocarp-us forest and holly-leaved oak scrub, and below them aspens and willows spread their delicate foliage. The summit ridge ran east and west, and was the only place where I found Vaccinium delava-yi, a dwarf shrub resembling bilberry, and Gaultheria cardiosepala, which looks like Erica, both of them grew on humus soils among cushions of moss. The tall rhododendron bushes (R. rarosquameum [note #61: Now R. rigidum.]) were a splendid sight, densely covered with large, somewhat asymmetrical pale pink flowers flecked with purple, while their leaves had not yet begun to unfold. Here and there were solitary trees of Magnolia taliensis, 3m in height, with large pendent patu-lous snow-white flowers, also appearing before the leaves were fully developed. From our overnight lodging the descent led first along the mountainside, then from a col north westwards over the opposite slope to the east side of the range which runs northwards from Lake Er Hai.

It was my intention to climb at least one mountain in that range, which forms the western boundary of the Yangzi basin and is called Heishanmen in its southern part and Ma'an Shan [note #62: ONC H-10 shows an unnamed range north of Lake Erhai, the summit at 4046m.] in its northern. In Jiangying I rejoined the caravan, happily ensconced in the worst house in the place. The track led narth-wards over an undulating forest-covered tract at roughly 2300m lying at the foot of the mountain range; it is probably a remnant of a basin-shaped portion of the Yangzi valley, which is now much more deeply incised. As shown by a rock exposure which I encountered during the ascent, it is built upon a recurring sequence of thin layers of limestone, marls and sandstones with a northerly cip. 1 branched off to the left from the track and travelled for two hours to the village of Xiangshuihe, so as to spend the night at the very foot of the mountain range. The tribe living there were Bai, tall, powerfully built people, and friendly enough with the exception of their headman: Li had to hold my letter of recommendation under his nose, pull off hi; hat and give him a few digs in the ribs to impress upon him that he had no right to refuse to allow ire to buy provisions. On the afternoon of 24th May I paid a visit to the still Xmtouched river gorge above the village, where the best finds were Cephalotouois fortune! and Philadelphus delavayi, the latter in full bloom, together with several species of gooseberry, red currants and wild rose, and also Lonicera setifera, a honeysuckle with leaves which are almost lobed. Next day I again had to face the difficulties of 'the rainy season, which had set in once mor; in earnest. Not one of the mountains was to be seen, and when I said that I wanted to climb the hie best summit in the vicinity (the name Ma'an Shan did not come to my ears until some time later), my guide simply took me straight up a woodcutter's path which was very steep and completely overgrown. My pony managed it very skilfully, though my coat got ripped and the branches tore off my hat and scratched me. The path finally came to an end at 3400m in an impenetrable thicket of rhododendrons, among them R. bureavii with red-brown felt on its leaves, and Men's japonica. The spoils were somewhat disappointing, though there were some interesting cryptogams, notably the fungus Calostom junghuhnii, its eggshaped pale olive-brown fruiting bodies, 1.5cm long, with red stripes radiating from the opening like a poppy capsule, growing in the leafmould of the evergreen oak wood. This part of the range consists of green diabase, the same as that which I had just seen on Mount Ji Shan and previously on Longzhu Shan near Huili in Sichuan, whereas Heishanmen to the south, which had such an important place in Delavay's work, is a limestane mountain. During the descent I lost my footing and sat down on the slippery clay more often than I care to remember, and finally got back to my lodgings completely soaked.

Next day we travelled northwards along the shallow depression to the east of the mountain range, crossing several valleys between whale-backed ridges, many of them topped with limestone. They extend out from this mountain range and unite here in the trough running parallel to it. At one time they were much deeper, but now they are filled with talus, and the ridges project like cliff-girdled peninsulas out of a uniformly ascending slope. At noon I [p.61:] passed farough a large village called Songgui where the Bai were holding an interesting fair (Fig.18), and spent tie night at Diansuo, 12km south of Heqing, with the aim of reaching higher and more promising altitudes on the further crest, which had now come into siglt. I wanted to get on to the main road from Dali to Heqing and travel along it to Heqing to spend the night During the ascent the mountains were visible as far as the vicinity of Yongning 140km away. The Lijiang snow peak, dull and devoid of lustre, towered into the cloudy leaden-grey sky, attended by its companion beyond it and to the left, bofc coated with fresh snow, like solid silver above tie sombre mountains at their feet Wisps of cloud difted here and there between them, and in the surless atmosphere, where everything was dripping with moisture, it created an extraordinary impressbn of melancholy splendour. Mount Haba Shan cane into view beyond the great bend of the Yangzi, looking as if it were the chopped off tail of the Lijimg range. The track passed through pine forest with small trees of Rhododendron imratum Its succilent flowers were being gathered in baskets for eatirg. We climbed on to a low saddle and then traversed a steep valley filled with jungle [note #63: Handel-Mazzetti uses the word jungle (Dschungel) not in the current sense of primevarl forest, but in the original sense of the Hindi word (jangal)— as adopted in Anglo-Indian usage — of ground covered by rough grasses including bamboos.] and woodland consisting of Tsuga and oaks (Fig. 19). Among them was a new tree rhododendron (R. persidnuii) with smooth white bark and dense clusters of large flowers, a splendid peach-red in colour. We crossed the main crest by the Zuningkou pass, orly 3400m in altitude. As there were no paths to the simrnits, as the guide claimed that there was no prospect of reaching the main road and getting to Heqing on that day, and as the plants up there were still greitly behindhand in their unfolding, I thought it best to have a good look round in the "jungle" and then to return via the first saddle and take the shortest route to Heqing. At the edge of the "jungle" on the saddle we had just reached — which was in fact on the main crest just north of Ma'an Shan — there was a little glade surrounded by gnarled trees of holly-leaved oak.. Hanging from their branches among cushions of moss and streamers of lichen were ferns, notably Polypodium lineare with thick, narrow ribbon-like leaves, and similar species which I already knew. Along the stream, flowering beneath the oaks, the dark purple Lonlcera adenophora and the bamboos, were masses of Lappula dielsii with splendid blue flowers like big forget-me-nots, together with the large blackish purple Arisaema elephas (Fig. 17) with a long awl-shaped spadix, the common Pans polyphylla and other large-leaved shade-loving plants. I took a number of photographs of the vegetation but two of them were failures, because a Chinese mechanic, well-meaning but ignorant, had oiled the balljoint of my tripod and it would not lock securely. I collected a large haul of cryptogams, and after a long day's work finally reached the hostelry in the dark.

Next day I continued northwards, first along the elongated basin in which Heqing lies, a cultivated tract bounded on both sides by mountains with a westerly dip. At its southern end the Dongshang river coming from Lijiang cuts through a gorge to find an outlet to the nearby Yangzi. Then the track led over a rocky riegel [note #64: A low transverse ridge of resistant bedrock marking the exit from a cirque or separating rock basins along the floor of a glacial valley.] apparently covered by an old moraine, which the river traverses by a short ravine, then on to the western flank of the Lijiang basin at its south eastern extremity, over a small projecting spur into the basin itself. On 28th May I arrived in Lijiang, with a splendid collection of plants, many of them, because the season was so much more advanced, quite different from those I had gathered in 1914, and gazed once again on the giant peak — a sight to quicken the pulses of any mountaineer.

[chapter 13:]