Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/127

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89
THE CHIEN-CH'ANG

freshened me up so much that the night did not matter. One march to the north of Lu-ku, up the valley of the Anning, lay the district town of Mien-ning, reached by a rough trail that finally wandered off into the inextricable gorges of the Ta Tu Ho. It was in these wild defiles that the last contests of the Taiping rebellion were fought. I looked longingly up the valley, but my way turned off to the right, following the pack-road to the ferry at Fulin. At once on starting the next morning we passed out of the main valley into a narrow gorge with precipitous sides opening from the east. The trail wound upwards along the mountain-face, often hewn out of the rock and scarcely more than five feet wide, and at one point it was barred effectually by heavy gates. They opened to us, but not on that day half a century ago when the Taiping leader, Shih Ta-k'ai, failing to force his way through, turned back to meet defeat in the wilds above Mien-ning-hsien.

All along the road we met signs of our nearness to the country of the Lolos. There was much uncultivated land, and the population seemed scanty, but officials and soldiers were numerous, while guardhouses dominated the trail at short intervals. The village type was not always pure Chinese, and occasionally we met people unmistakably of another race. At Teng-hsiang-ying, or "Strong-walled Camp," where we stopped for the night, both soldiers and