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The River Provinces

( Originally Published 1910 )

Hupeh—Hankow—Hanyang Iron Works—A Centre of MissionaryActivity—Hunan Kiangsi Anhwei—Native Province of Li Hung Chang

BY THE term "river provinces" are to be understood those provinces of central and western China which are made accessible to intercourse and trade by means of the Yang-tse Kiang.

Pursuing our journey, in twelve hours by rail we reach the frontier of Hupeh. At that point we see above us a fortification perched on the side of a lofty hill which stands beyond the line. At a height more than double that of this crenelated wall is a summer resort of foreigners from Hankow and other parts of the interior. I visited this place in 1905. In Chinese, (the plateau on which it stands is called, from a projecting rock, the " Rooster's Crest "; shortened into the more expressive name, the " Roost," it is suggestive of the repose of summer. It presents a magnificent prospect, extending over a broad belt of both provinces.

Six hours more and we arrive in Hankow, which is one of three cities built at the junction of the Han and the Yang-tse, the Tripolis of China, a tripod of empire, the hub of the universe, as the Chinese fondly regard it. The other two cities are Wuchang, the capital of the viceroyalty, and Hanyang, on the opposite bank of the river.

In Hankow one beholds a Shanghai on a smaller scale, and in the other two cities the eye is struck by indications of the change which is coming over the externals of Chinese life.

At Hanyang, which is reached by a bridge, may be seen an extensive and well-appointed system of iron-works, daily turning out large quantities of steel rails for the continuation of the railway. It also produces large quantities of iron ordnance for / the contingencies of war. This is the pet enterprise of the enlightened Viceroy Chang Chi-tung; but on the other side of the Yang-tse we have cheering evidence that he has not confined his reforms to transportation and the army. There, on the south bank, you may see the long walls and tall chimneys of numerous manufacturing establishments—cotton-mills, silk filatures, rope-walks, glass-works, tile-works, powderworks—all designed to introduce the arts of the West, and to wage an industrial war with the powers of Christendom. There, too, in a pretty house over-looking the Great River, I spent three years as aid to the viceroy in educational work. In the heart of China, it was a watch-tower from which I could look up and down the river and study the condition of these inland provinces.

This great centre was early preempted by the pioneers of missionary enterprise. Here Griffith John set up the banner of the cross forty years ago and by indefatigable and not unfruitful labours earned for himself the name of " the Apostle of Central China.

In addition he has founded a college for the training of native preachers. The year 1905 was the jubilee of his arrival in the empire. Here, too, came David Hill, a saintly man combining the characters of St. Paul and of John Howard, as one of the pioneers of the churches of Great Britain. These leaders have been followed by a host who, if less distinguished, have perhaps accomplished more for the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ. Without the cooperation of such agencies all reformatory movements like those initiated by the viceroy must fall short of elevating the people to the level of Christian civilisation.

The London Mission, the English Wesleyans, and the American Episcopalians, all have flourishing stations at Wuchang. The Boone school, under the auspices of the last-named society, is an admirable institution, and takes rank with the best colleges in China.

At Hankow the China Inland Mission is represented by a superintendent and a home for missionaries in transit. At that home the Rev. J. Hudson Taylor, the founder of that great society, whom I call the Loyola of Protestant missions, spent a few days in 1906; and there Dr. John and I sat with him for a group of the " Three Senior Missionaries " in China.

The river provinces may be divided into lower and upper, the dividing-line being at Ichang near the gorges of the Yang-tse. Hupeh and Hunan, Kiangsi and Anhwei occupy the lower reach; Szechuen, Kweichau, and Yunnan, the upper one. The first two form one viceregal district, with a population exceeding that of any European country excepting Russia.

Hupeh signifies " north of the lake " ; Hunan, " south of the lake "—the great lake of Tungting lying between the two. Hupeh has been open to trade and residence for over forty years; but the sister province was long hermetically sealed against the footprints of the white man. Twenty or even ten years ago to venture within its limits would have cost a European his life. Its capital, Changsha, was the seat of an anti-foreign propaganda from which issued masses of foul literature; but the lawless hostility of the people has been held in check by the judicious firmness of the present viceroy, and that city is now the seat of numerous mission bodies which are vying with each other in their efforts to diffuse light and knowledge. It is also open to commerce as a port of trade.

One of the greatest distinctions of the province is its production of brave men, one of the bravest of whom was the first Marquis Tseng who, at the head of a patriotic force from his native province, recaptured the city of Nanking and put an end to the chaotic government of the Taiping rebels—a service which has ever since been recognised by the Chinese Government in conferring the viceroyalty of Nanking on a native of Hunan.

Lying to the south of the river, is the province of Kiangsi, containing the Poyang Lake, next in size to the Tungting. Above its entrance at Kiukiang rises a lone mountain which bears the name of Kuling. Beautifully situated, and commanding a wide view of lake and river, its sides are dotted with pretty cottages, erected as summer resorts for people from all the inland ports. Here may be seen the flags of many nations, and here the hard-worked missionary finds rest and recreation, without idleness; for he finds clubs for the discussion of politics and philosophy, and libraries which more than supply the absence of his own. Just opposite the entrance to the lake stands the " Little Orphan, a vine-clad rock 200 feet in height, with a small temple on the top. It looks like a fragment torn from the mountain-side and planted in the bosom of the stream. Fancy fails to picture the convulsion of which the " Little Orphan " is the monument.

Farther down is the province of Anhwei which takes its name from its chief two cities, Anking and Weichou. In general resembling Kiangsi, it has two flourishing ports on the river, Anking, the capital, and Wuhu. Of the people nothing noteworthy is to be observed, save that they are unusually turbulent, and their lawless spirit has not been curbed by any strong hand like that of the viceroy at Wuchang. The province is distinguished for its production of great men, of whom Li Hung Chang was one.

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