Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/222

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168
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

A little group of villagers gathered to watch, and would not be satisfied until I had taken a picture of another local monument, a beautiful three-storied stone pagoda rising tall and slender above the flat rice land. These picturesque structures add much to the charm of the level plain which tends to become monotonous after a while. As far as one can see stretches the paddy land in every stage of development. Some fields are hardly more than pools of water mirroring the clouds overhead. Others are dotted over with thin clumps of rice through which the ducks swim gaily, while still others are solid masses of green, and transplanting has already begun.

Although we were now approaching the largest city of West China, and the capital of the empire's richest province, the roads went steadily from bad to worse. Made with infinite labour centuries ago, they had been left untouched ever since, and weather and wear had done their work. For long stretches the paving was quite gone; elsewhere you wished it were. The people have their explanation of these conditions in the saying, "The hills are high and the emperor far." It remains to be seen if that will hold good of the new government. Certainly nothing will mean so much in the development of the country as good roads. We were now once more on the line of wheeled traffic, and the wheelbarrow was never out of sight or hearing. Enormous loads were borne