Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/160

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of the soldiers in a temple near by to keep watch and ward; but there was no need, for most of the people hereabouts are Tibetan, and they have little of the pertinacious curiosity of the Chinese, whether because of better manners or because less alert I do not know. And it was well I cut short my stay in the inn, for it was about the worst I had come across, as I took pains to inform the landlord the next morning. But there was no choice. Lu Ting Ch'iao, or the "Town of the Iron Bridge," derives its importance as well as its name from its location, and it was crowded to overflowing with east- and west-bound travellers, officials, merchants, soldiers, coolies, for all traffic must cross the Ta Tu here, the one point spanned by a bridge. Indeed, according to Mr. Archibald Little, this is the only bridge across any one of the many large rivers that unite to form the Great River. It is of the suspension sort, built in 1701, in the reign of that energetic ruler, Kang Hi, and is three hundred and eleven feet long. The nine cables of charcoal-smelted iron that compose it are anchored at the ends in the usual Chinese fashion. On these are laid loose planks to serve as a footway, while the only guard is a shaky chain on either hand. When the wind swoops down the gorge, as it does most afternoons, the whole structure swings uncomfortably, and I wondered at the nonchalance with which heavily laden coolies and ponies crossed. But such as it is, this is the one connecting