Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/221

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167
ACROSS CHENGTU PLAIN

that I was looking for apricots they fairly tumbled over each other in their eagerness to show us the best shop.

Cheung-chou lies on the southwestern edge of the great plain of Chengtu, which, although only some ninety miles long by seventy miles wide, supports a population of four millions, so kindly is the climate, so fertile the soil, and so abundant the water supply. Two of these blessings are the gift of nature, but the last is owed to the ingenuity of Li Ping and his nameless son, known only as the "Second Gentleman," two Chinese officials who worked and achieved and died more than two thousand years ago. At Kwan-hsien there is a temple, perhaps the most beautiful in China, erected in their memory, but their truest monument is this beautiful plain, blossoming like a Garden of Eden under the irrigation system which they devised, and which will endure so long as men obey their parting command engraved on a stone in the temple, "Dig the channels deep; keep the banks low."

The people of the plain were as friendly as the mountain folk I had been travelling amongst, but they displayed less of the naïve curiosity of the out-of-the-way places. Evidently the foreigner was no novelty, nor the camera either. At one village I stopped to photograph a fine pailou, not to the "virtuous official" this time, but to the "virtuous widow."