Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/107

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CHAPTER IV


THE CHIEN-CH'ANG


THE second day after leaving Hui-li-chou we entered the valley of the Anning Ho, a grey, fast-flowing stream whose course runs parallel with the meridian like all the others of that interesting group of rivers between Assam and eastern Szechuan, the Irrawaddy, the Salween, the Mekong, the Yangtse, the Yalung. The Anning, the smallest of these, lies enclosed in a wilderness of tangled ranges, and its valley forms the shortest trade route between Szechuan and the Indo-Chinese peninsula. For about eight marches, north and south, it runs through a district known as Chien-ch'ang, celebrated throughout China for its fertility and the variety of its products. At the lower end the valley is very narrow, and level ground is limited, but the gentle slopes on either side are beautifully cultivated in tiny terraced fields. Farther north, however, in the neighbourhood of Ning-yüan-fu, the valley widens out into a broad, open plain. Apparently in this favoured region tropics and temperate zone meet, for I never saw before such motley vegetation. Rice and cotton alternate with wheat and maize and beans, while saffron and indigo fit in any-