Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/206

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154
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

seven thousand feet since crossing Ma-an-Shan. Everywhere there was careful cultivation, the nearer hills being terraced to the top, and the well-paved trail traversed long stretches of rice-fields just beginning to show green above the mud. Here and there a group of farm buildings stood on little knolls above the surrounding marsh, each in a charming setting of trees. Do trees anywhere group themselves as picturesquely as in China? Unsympathetic people tell me that no Chinese ever plant trees save for severely utilitarian purposes. I am in no position to contradict the verdict of these overpowering persons, the old residents (fortunately they sometimes contradict each other); and yet why is it that most temples are set in fine groves, put to no purpose that I can see save to satisfy a sense of the beautiful, or why are so many Chinese towns, looked at from a height, bowers of green beauty, the trees serving neither for fuel nor for food? The truth is, it seems to me, that the needs of life press so hard on the Chinese that they are forced to look at things from a utilitarian point of view, but given the least chance and their appreciation of the beautiful shows itself.

Near the town we struck down to a good iron suspension bridge over the Ya, which here runs with a tremendous current, broken by curious reefs thrusting out into the stream some twenty or thirty feet and at right angles to the bank. Beyond the bridge we