Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/241

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185
OMEI SHAN, THE SACRED

more broken, but everywhere there was the same careful cultivation, and on all sides we heard the plash of falling water and the soft whirr of the great Persian wheels busily at work bringing water to the thirsty land; and occasionally we saw men working with the foot a smaller wheel by which the next higher levels were irrigated.

Chen Chia Ch'ang, a small market-town a few miles east of Omei-hsien, made a charming picture, its walls shining white against the dark background of the mountain as we approached it across the green rice-fields. Entering its broad, crowded street we found a theatrical performance going on in an open hall opposite the temple. While my coolies were drinking tea I joined the crowd in front of the stage, which was raised several feet above the street. The play, which was in honour of the village idol, was beyond my comprehension, but the pantomime of the actors was very good. This sort of thing is dearly liked by the Chinese. The players are usually maintained by the village, and a good deal of the unpopularity of the Christian converts arises, I am told, from their unwillingness to contribute because of the so-called idolatrous character of the performance.

The town of Omei where we spent the night seems to exist chiefly for the sake of the thousands of pilgrims who make a last halt here before they begin the ascent of the mountain. Mindful of the many