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two-thirds of the price of imported, being thus half as much again as its foreign rival. Even this sum of 16,000,000l., spent on a drug which, in the opinion of many Chinese patriots, as well as in the opinion of the bulk of our European missionaries, is steadily and stealthily undermining the manhood of the nation, is but a flea-bite compared with the expenditure upon intoxicating liquors in this country of 120,000,000l. On the other hand, China, with its four hundred millions of inhabitants, possesses probably less accumulated wealth than do Britain's forty millions.
The Chinaman's wants are fewer, and he leads a more contented life. Yet, in their way, the Chinese are great traders, and the interchange of products carried on by Szechuen with the neighbouring provinces is estimated at something like 27,000,000l. Of this amount only a very trifling percentage passes through the Imperial Maritime Custom House situated at Ichang, the toll-gate of the Upper Yangtse. The value given in the returns' for the year 1888 is 1,250,000l. This covers all the goods landed at and shipped from Ichang in steamers. An equal value probably passes Ichang in junks. Deducting this, as well as the value of the salt and opium (the greater part of which is carried by bye-paths overland to avoid the tax stations), from the above total, we find a trade of some 15,000,000l. being carried on by other routes. The principal
of these are the combined land and water route from Southern Szechuen, by way of the Yuan river and the Tung-ting lake, and the Northern land route to the Han river, which debouches at Hankow. There is farther an overland trade between Yunnan and Burmah, via Ta-li and Bhamo, estimated at about 500,0007. in annual value. The French last year succeeded in running a stern-wheeler, or monorue, as they have dubbed this class of vessel, through their new Tonquin territory by the Red river to Laokai, on the Southern Yunnan border. This is the shortest by far of any of the outlets of Western China to the seaboard, but the navigation, owing to the smallness of the stream and the greater fall in its bed, is far more difficult and dangerous than that of the Upper Yangtse. It is estimated that, notwithstanding the difficulties of transit, one-fifth of the woollen goods imported from Great Britain into North China, via Shanghai, go on to Szechuen, as well as one-tenth of the cottons, the figures being (1888):—
It must be remembered that the bulk of the cotton clothing of the people of Western China is made from imported raw cotton spun and woven by the women of the family. Cotton being little grown in the West, it has to be imported from the outside, and, as a consequence, all the roads converging on Yunnan and Szechuen are covered with cotton in the season. We have seen the rocks on the rapids of the Yangtse strewn with cotton, and on the land roads, strings of porters struggling along under the huge unpressed bales, like ants under their eggs in the breeding season. Mr. Holt Hallett tells us that a quantity goes over from Zimmé, in Siam, at a cost of carriage of one shilling per ton per mile, while raw cotton is the main staple of the imports from Burmah. In the woollen trade, the heavy Russian cloths take a great part: these are also imported overland, and, owing to their good quality and total freedom from shoddy or other admixture of fibres, are in large general demand, notwithstanding their very high cost.
Mr. Exner gives an interesting account of the working of the salt monopoly-a curious mean between the farming of the revenue so prevalent in old times in Europe and our modern European methods of indirect taxation :—
• The salt trade of China is of special interest for us, seeing that it is in the first place a monopoly of the Chinese Government, and at the same time, in its working, a rare and interesting instance of the carrying into effect of some of the Socialist ideas now prevalent in Europe. One of the leading theories of certain political Socialists, viz. that traders' profits should be regulated by the Government, is here exhibited in practice. China is, for the purposes of salt distribution, divided into, I believe, seven districts, each of which has its special centre of production. Salt may only be sold in the district in which it is produced. Any salt sold in another district is regarded as smuggled and liable to be seized. The salt must be sold at a price fixed by the State, which for this purpose has in each district great centres of distribution, where it is then sold by the State at a correspondingly high price to so-called salt merchants. No one can be a salt merchant without having a warrant from the Imperial Salt Commissioner, and this warrant not only enables the possessor to buy salt for an indefinite time, but it can be sold again, or, what is more usual, bequeathed as an heirloom. These warrants have a high value, and although differing in the different districts can on an average be sold for from 3000 to 4000 pounds sterling. This license enables the salt merchant to buy about 250 tons of salt and to sell this amount at any market he pleases in the district. But he cannot sell it to any one he chooses. As he got possession of the salt through Government, so must he also dispose of it through the Government. To this end he must deliver it to the District Salt Inspector in a Salt Customs Building. There are
several of these buildings in every place of any importance. The Salt Inspector then sells the salt at a proportionately higher price fixed by Government and in the order of its arrival. After it is all sold the merchant gets back his warrant, and the money for his salt, custom dues and other official expenses having been deducted therefrom. His profit in each transaction is therefore absolutely fixed, consisting only of the difference of the price fixed by Government for buying and selling, minus customs and other expenses. It varies from year to year, depending upon the merchant's sagacity in choosing the best market, and thus getting back his warrant more quickly, so as to be able to go back and buy another 250 tons.'
The salt merchant's profit thus depends upon the speed with which he can turn over his warrant and recoup himself his outlay. It is not often that a warrant is turned over more than once in a year. One sees tier upon tier of junks lying for months waiting to load at the salt depôts, and again waiting their turn to discharge when, after many weeks' toilsome tracking, they have at last reached their destinations.
Mr. Baber, in his inimitable account of his journeys in Western Szechuen, speaking of the country between Chungking the commercial and Chêng-tu the political capital, states that the agriculture of this district,
'favoured by the comparative level, and by the exceptional possibility of irrigation from the river and its tributaries, is successful above the average, particularly in sugar. . . The whole country is dotted over with cottages at a short distance from one another, picturesque and frequently spacious edifices composed of a strong timber frame filled up in the interstices with walls of stone below and mud above. . . . Baron von Richthofen, in drawing attention to this broadcast distribution of habitations, remarks that, "people can live in this state of isolation and separation only when they expect peace, and profound peace is indeed the impression which Szechuen prominently conveys." Richthofen goes on to say of this part of the country :-"There are few regions in China that, if equal areas are comparel, can rival with the plain of Chêng-tu as regards wealth and prosperity, density of population and productive power, fertility of climate and perfection of natural irrigation; and there is probably no other where at the present time refinement and civilisation are so generally diffused among the population." Baber goes on to tell us, " Another characteristic of the purely farm life as distinguished from village life, of the agricultural population is the markets (ch'ang). . . . These gatherings are the centres of news, gossip, official announcements, festivals, theatrical shows and public and family meetings." Farther West he tells us, "Gold is found in nuggets occasionally of large size in the border country." At the turn where the highway to Ta-chien lu leaves the Tung, gold borings driven into the rock may be seen on the further bank.
Vol. 171.-No. 341.
The gold was offered me for sale in the shape of pills of clay, full of minute scales of the precious metal. Quite lately gold has been discovered close to Ta-chien lu (on the Thibetan frontier) and the rush of diggers has caused a good deal of embarrassment to the authorities.'
The present inhabitants of Szechuen are nearly all descended from immigrant families, chiefly from Hupeh and Kiangsi, dating from the sixteenth century. The original population was almost entirely exterminated by the wars with which the province was ravaged upon the accession of the reigning Manchu dynasty; hence, as might be expected, no distinction is observable between the Szechuenese and the inhabitants of the more easterly provinces. Of the aboriginal inhabitants absolutely nothing is known. Striking evidence of their existence is displayed in the cave buildings cut out of the sandstone cliffs that line the rivers, roomy dwellings, highly ornamented. The peoples who executed these works are known to the Chinese as Man-tse, which means 'barbarians,' a term sufficient to destroy all interest in them in the eyes of a native archæologist. Mr. Baber says of them:
'A persistent and plodding exploration of these interesting monuments will have to precede the formation of any trustworthy opinion respecting their design and their designers. The caves are of many kinds, and may have served many uses. They may have been tombs, houses, granaries, places of refuge, easily defended storehouses, shrines, memorials, and even sentry boxes, according to their disposition and situation. The local Chinaman, a person of few thoughts, and fewer doubts, protests that they are the caves of the Mantze and considers all further inquiry ridiculous and fatiguing. His archæological speculations have not been greatly overstepped by my own theory which I offer with diffidence,-that these excavations are of unknown date, and have been undertaken, for unexplained purposes, by a people of doubtful identity.'
This vast and magnificent country of Western China is now at last opened up: its commercial metropolis, Chungking, has been made a Treaty Port. This great advance was quietly effected by the negotiation with the Chinese Government, through our Minister at the Court of Peking, Sir John Walsham, of an additional article to Sir Thomas Wade's treaty of 1876. A clause to this effect, supplementary to the original Chefoo Convention, the article of which we have quoted above, was signed at Peking on March 31st last. In the words of the 'Times' correspondent wired from Peking on the 3rd of April: Direct intercourse is thus established with a large, wealthy, and prosperous province, and British steam enterprise inland is
guaranteed as soon as Chinese steamers ply. This success is now achieved where the Chefoo agreement failed. This considerate negotiation promotes friendliness, and a large, healthy, and natural trade will develop, and, with the help of improved appliances, expand, the good will of both people and Government being assured, instead of their opposition.'
The comments made upon this news, which was published in the Times' of April 5th, as well by the provincial as by the metropolitan press, hardly appreciate the full value of this advance. They seem to say, "What is the use of an open port if you are not allowed to go there?' It is true that British steamers have to wait for Chinese to lead the way, and that thus steam communication with the new port appears to be indefinitely postponed, and that so far the astute Chinaman may be assumed to have scored a point against us. But the fact remains, that the long disputed haven of Chungking is actually 'open,' and it is needful to know what this phrase means in order to be able to appreciate the full value of the concession made to us. An 'open' or 'treaty' port is one at which foreign goods are admitted upon payment of one ad valorem duty of 5 per cent., and at which native Chinese produce is exported on the same terms. In the case of an inland port like Chungking, which is situated 1500 miles distant from the seaboard, all its foreign imports must necessarily pass through Shanghai for transshipment from the ocean to river steamers. Such goods, by paying duty at the Customs in Shanghai, will be free from all further tax, and can now be conveyed by steamer and junk to their destination unmolested by the numerous inland custom-houses (li-Kin) and the local octroi (lo-ti-chuan). Farther, after his goods have been thus safely landed in the new treaty port, the foreign merchant there can forward them on his own or on native account to more remote inland marts in communication with Chungking on payment of an additional transit tax of 2 per cent. only, again clearing all the local custom-houses en route. In this way centres like Yunnan-fu and Tali-fu in Yunnan, Kuei-yang, the metropolis of Koei-chow, Chêngtu, the State capital, and Ta-chien lu, the great trading mart on the Thibetan frontier, will be effectively reached by the foreign trader with his cotton and woollen piece goods, in exchange for which he will be empowered to take back the native productions of the country upon the same easy terms. Besides being thus placed in connection with the different entrepôts of the Great South West, the foreign merchant established in Chungking is further, by the Kia-ling river which debouches at that port, placed in direct relation with Q 2