Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/156

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114
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

A generation ago Hua-lin-ping was an important frontier post, but to-day its broad, barrack-lined street is deserted and grass-grown, for the vanguard of effective Chinese occupation is steadily pushing westward into the tribes country. We started the next morning under clouds of more than one sort ; rain was falling, the ma-fu, whom I had been dosing for a day or two, had given out, and had to be left behind as well as one of the coolies, and the fu t'ou was cross at having to shoulder the latter's load. Early on this day we again came to the Ta Tu, having descended five thousand feet from the top of the pass ; and for the rest of this stage and all the next one we followed up the wild valley of this beautiful river, which may be said to form the real geographical and ethnographical boundary between China and Tibet. Wherever the valley opened out a little, there was the invariable garden-like cultivation of the Chinese; fruit and nut trees abounded, mulberry, peach, apricot, and walnut, and the fields showed good crops of maize, beans, and sugar-cane. But up from the narrow fertile strip of river bank towered on either hand barren mountains, their precipitous granite sides gashed here and there by deep gorges in and out of which the trail wound with sharp turns and steep descents. The grey, forbidding mountains, showing hardly a foothold for man or beast, tree or house, matched the grey, swirling river, here unnav-