Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/108

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72
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

where. Fruits, too, of many kinds are abundant. A short time ago the poppy made every turn brilliant, but to-day imperial edicts, ruthlessly enforced, are saving the Chinese unwillingly from themselves, and the poppy has disappeared from sight. In spite of complaints it would seem as though the Chien-ch'ang farmers, better than many in West China, could support the loss of that remunerative crop, for their resources, properly exploited, seem almost exhaustless. Mulberry trees are grown about every village and farmhouse, and the silk export is of considerable value to the community.

But one of the most interesting products of this region has lost much of its importance in late years. All over China, but especially in this part of Szechuan, there grows a tree of the large-leaved privet species. On the bark of the branches and twigs are discovered attached little brown scales of the size and shape of a small pea. When opened in the spring they are found to contain a swarming mass of minute insects. Toward the end of April, the time when I passed through this region, these scales were being carefully gathered and packed in small parcels, and already the journey northward was beginning. Porters bearing loads of about sixty pounds were hurrying up the valley, often travelling only by night to save their precious burden from the burning sun's rays which would cause too rapid development.