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this is so. It is shut off from Europe and western Asia by trackless deserts, hundreds of miles wide. To the east is the broad Pacific Ocean.
The Portuguese, and later the Dutch, ventured across unknown oceans to the Far East to establish trading posts and to open a highway of commerce between the Old World and the New. But not until the days of the locomotive and the steamship was it possible to carry on a great commerce with this remote land.
The seclusion of China, then, will explain why her civilization should be quite different from that of any other country. The Chinese have their own way of doing things, and very many of their manners and customs are unlike those of
other people. Within the boundaries of the empire are all varieties of surface, from the lofty table-lands of Tibet to the lowlands along the coast.
In northwestern China is an area as large as France which is entirely covered with a fine, yellowish soil. The high winds, which frequently sweep over this country, bring great clouds of dust from the inland deserts and deposit it over this region.
In some places the yellow soil covers the earth to the depth of a thousand feet. Rivers easily cut their way through this light soil, and their banks are high, perpendicular cliffs. Many of the natives dig caves in the face of these precipices, and in them make their homes.
This curious formation is called loess, meaning yellow soil; and this part of China is known as "the loess country.”
The rivers of China, winding in a tortuous course from the mountains to the sea, are its most characteristic feature. Two of these, the Hoang Ho and the Yang-tse-Kiang, are classed with the world's greatest rivers. For ages these two mighty streams have been wearing away the mountain sides and building up the great delta plain.
The Hoang Ho, or “Yellow River," is sometimes called - China's Sorrow” a name given to it by one of the emperors. Much of its upper course is through the loess country, from which it brings down every year vast quantities of yellowish soil. This has formed that great plain known as “the garden of China.”
When the rainy season comes and the torrents pour down the mountain sides, a great change takes place in the harmless and insignificant-looking river. It rises rapidly and sweeps along with terrible velocity, carrying away everything in its path. Houses and crops are destroyed, and often thousands of people with their flocks are drowned.
From very early times large sums of money have been expended in erecting huge embankments along the river, like the levees along the banks of the Mississippi. In spite of this precaution, however, terrible floods have from time to time occurred.
Owing to the sluggish character of the people very little is done to guard against this danger. When the flood is over and the long, dry season on, the embankments are neglected, and so when the waters rise again, as they surely will, the weak spots soon give way.
Then frantic efforts are made to re
pair the breaks, but it is too late to prevent awful disaster.
If the Hoang Ho is a cause of sorrow to China, the Yang-tse-Kiang is one of its greatest blessings. It is navigable by ocean steamers for more than a thousand miles, and forms the great highway of trade and travel for a densely populated portion of the country.
There are few roads in China, and, consequently, nearly all the travel is by means of rivers and canals. This shows us at once that a great river like the Yangtse-Kiang must be of even greater importance to China than the Mississippi is to the United States.
Many important cities and towns are on or near this great river. Shanghai, the chief seaport of China, is situated on a wide opening of the Wusung River, which joins the Yang-tse-Kiang not far from the sea.
It is a city of a million inhabitants; or, rather, it is two cities in one, since the native city is entirely distinct from the foreign city.
There are English, French, and American sections in the foreign, or modern, city, although it is only one mile square and contains about ten thousand inhabitants.
There is every evidence of progress in the management of the modern city. The private residences, as well as the public buildings, — banks, warehouses, churches, hotels, and stores, -- are all large, substantial stone structures; and, handsome as they are externally, they have been beautifully fitted up with all the conveniences of modern life.
There is a wide river frontage, or boulevard, as it
would be called in Paris, but known here as the “Bund.” This is the center of commercial activity, and it is a very busy place during the business hours of the day.
On the river, in front of the city, are great iron steamers, loading with cargoes destined for distant ports in other lands. The Chinese junks and sampans, as the native boats are called, present a decided contrast to the modern steamers, and help us to realize how slowly changes are made in this land of ancient customs.
It is well said, “ the foreigner lives in the present and looks to the future, and is full of vigor and hope ; the Chinaman lives in the present and looks to the past, and is satisfied if only his daily wants are supplied.”
The streets in the foreign quarter of Shanghai are well paved, and are kept clean. There is one thing very commonly to be seen on the streets of Shanghai to which the natives can point as a proof of their genius and originality, and that is the vehicle in which many passengers are conveyed about the city. It is a doubleseated wheelbarrow, and it is popular with the natives. To ride with safety in this novel conveyance requires a nice adjustment of weight, and the coolie driver takes much time so to place his passengers that the load will be well balanced. The fare for a ride is one cash, a small brass coin, and as twenty-five cash make only a penny it cannot be called a very profitable business!
A brick wall, which was built around the city sometime in the middle ages, separates the old city from the new. The low, tumble-down, mud or brick houses; the narrow, crowded streets, filthy beyond description; the pools of stagnant water to be seen in