Page:EB1911 - Volume 06.djvu/191

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

genuine native newspaper was published at Shanghai about 1870. It was termed the Shen Pao or Shanghai News, and was a Native press. Chinese speculation under foreign protection, the first editor being an Englishman. It was some years before it made much headway, but success came, and it was followed by various imitators, some published at Shanghai, some at other treaty ports and at Hong-Kong. In 1910 there were over 200 daily, weekly or monthly journals in China. The effect of this mass of literature on the public mind of China is of first-rate importance.

The attitude of the central government towards the native press is somewhat undefined. Official registration of a newspaper is required before postal facilities are given. There are no press laws, but as every official is a law unto himself in these matters, there is nothing to prevent him from summarily suppressing an obnoxious newspaper and putting the editor in prison. The emperor, among other reform edicts which provoked the coup d’état of 1898, declared that newspapers were a boon to the public and appointed one of them a government organ. The empress-dowager revoked this decree, and declared that the public discussion of affairs of state in the newspapers was an impertinence, and ought to be suppressed. Nevertheless the newspapers continued to flourish, and their outspoken criticism had a salutary effect on the public and on the government. The official classes seem to have become alarmed at the independent attitude of the newspapers, but instead of a campaign of suppression the method was adopted, about 1908, of bringing the vernacular press under official control. This was accomplished chiefly by the purchase of the newspapers by the mandarins, with the result that at the beginning of 1910 there was said to be hardly an independent native daily newspaper left in China. The use of government funds to subsidize or to purchase newspapers and thus to stifle or mislead public opinion provoked strong protests from members of the Nanking provincial council at its first sitting in the autumn of 1909. The appropriation by the Shanghai Taot‛ai of moneys belonging to the Huangpu conservancy fund for subsidizing papers led to his impeachment by a censor and to the return of the moneys.[1]  (X.) 

III. Economics

Agriculture and Industry.

China is pre-eminently an agricultural country. The great majority of its inhabitants are cultivators of the soil. The holdings are in general very small, and the methods of farming primitive. Water is abundant and irrigation common over large areas. Stock-raising, except in Sze-ch‘uen and Kwang-tung, is only practised to a small extent; there are few large herds of cattle or flocks of sheep, nor are there any large meadows, natural or cultivated. In Sze-ch‘uen yaks, sheep and goats are reared in the mountains, and buffaloes and a fine breed of ponies on the plateau. Cattle are extensively reared in the mountainous districts of Kwang-tung. The camel, horse and donkey are reared in Chih-li. Forestry is likewise neglected. While the existing forests, found mainly in high regions in the provinces of Hu-nan, Fu-kien and Kwei-chow, are disappearing and timber has to be imported, few trees are planted. This does not apply to fruit trees, which are grown in great variety, while horticulture is also a favourite pursuit.

The Chinese farmer, if his methods be primitive, is diligent and persevering. In the richer and most thickly populated districts terraces are raised on the mountain sides, and even the tops of lofty hills are cultivated. The nature of the soil and means of irrigation as well as climate are determining factors in the nature of the crops grown; rice and cotton, for example, are grown in the most northern as well as the most southern districts of China. This is, however, exceptional and each climatic region has its characteristic cultures.

The loess soil (see § Geology) is the chief element in determining the agricultural products of north China. Loess soil bears excellent crops, and not merely on the lower grounds, but at altitudes of 6000 and 8000 ft. Wherever loess is found the peasant can live and thrive. Only one thing is essential, and that Soils. is the annual rainfall. As, owing to the porous nature of loess, no artificial irrigation is possible, if the rain fails the crops must necessarily fail. Thus seasons of great famine alternate with seasons of great plenty. It appears, also, that the soil needs little or no manuring and very little tillage. From its extremely friable nature it is easily broken up, and thus a less amount of labour is required than in other parts. The extreme porosity of the soil probably also accounts for the length of time it will go on bearing crops without becoming exhausted. The rainfall, penetrating deeply into the soil in the absence of stratification, comes into contact with the moisture retained below, which holds in solution whatever inorganic salts the soil may contain, and thus the vegetation has an indefinite store to draw upon.[2]

There is no one dominant deposit in south China, where red sandstone and limestone formations are frequent. Cultivation here is not possible on the high elevations as in the north, but in the plains and river valleys the soil is exceedingly fertile, while the lower slopes of the mountains are also cultivated. In the north, moreover, but one crop, in general, can be raised in the year. In the centre two and sometimes three crops are raised yearly, and in the south, especially in the lower basin of the Si-kiang, three crops are normally gathered. In the north, too, the farmer has frequently to contend with drought or with rain or floods; in the central and southern regions the weather is more settled.

In the north of China wheat, barley, millet, buckwheat and maize are the staple crops. Beans and peas are also cultivated. Rice thrives in north-east Kan-suh, in some districts of Shan-si, in the extreme south of Shan-tung and in parts of the Wei-ho plain in Shen-si. Cotton is grown in Shen-si Distribution of crops. and Shan-tung. In Kan-suh and Shen-si two crops are raised in favoured localities, cereals in spring and cotton or rice in summer. Tobacco and the poppy are also grown in several of the northern provinces. Rhubarb and fruit trees are largely cultivated in the western part of north China.

In the central provinces tea, cotton, rice and ramie fibre are the chief crops. Tea is most largely cultivated in Ngan-hui, Kiang-si, Hu-peh, Hu-nan, Sze-ch‘uen and Yun-nan. Cotton is chiefly grown in Kiang-su, Ngan-hui and Hu-peh. The seed is sown in May and the crops gathered in September. The cotton is known as white and yellow, the white variety being the better and the most cultivated. The poppy is largely cultivated and, in connexion with the silk industry, the mulberry tree. The mulberry is found principally in the provinces of Sze-ch‘uen, Kiang-su and Cheh-kiang. The central provinces are also noted for their gum-lac, varnish and tallow trees.

The crops of the south-eastern provinces are much the same as those of the central provinces, but are predominantly rice, the sugar-cane, ground-nuts and cinnamon. Tea is the chief crop in Fu-kien. The sugar-cane is principally cultivated in Kwang-tung, Fu-kien and Sze-ch‘uen. In the south-western provinces the poppy, tea, tobacco and rice are the chief crops. Wheat, maize and barley are also largely raised.

While rice does not, unlike tea and cotton, form the principal crop of any one province it is more universally cultivated than any other plant and forms an important item in the products of all the central and southern provinces. Regarding China as a whole it forms the staple product and food of the country. Two chief varieties are grown, that suited only to low-lying regions requiring ample water and the red rice cultivated in the uplands. Next to rice the most extensively cultivated plants are tea and cotton, the sugar-cane, poppy and bamboo. Besides the infinite variety of uses to which the wood of the bamboo is applied, its tender shoots and its fruit are articles of diet.

Fruit is extensively cultivated throughout China. In the northern provinces the chief fruits grown are pears, plums, apples, apricots, peaches, medlars, walnuts and chestnuts, and in Kan-suh and Shan-tung the jujube (q.v.). Strawberries are an important crop in Kan-suh. In Shan-si, S.W. Chih-li and Shan-tung Fruits. the vine is cultivated; the grapes of Shan-si are reputed to produce the best wine of China. Oranges are also grown in favoured localities in the north. The chief fruits of the central and southern provinces are the orange, lichi, mango, persimmon, banana, vine and pineapple, but the fruits of the northern regions are also grown. The coco-nut and other palms flourish on the southern coast.

As shown above, the poppy has been grown in almost every district of China. In 1906 it was chiefly cultivated in the following provinces: Yun-nan, Kwei-chow, Sze-ch‘uen, Kan-suh, Shen-si, Shan-si, Shan-tung, Ho-nan, Kiang-su (northern part) and Cheh-kiang. The poppy is first mentioned in Chinese literature in a book written in the first half of the 8th The poppy. century A.D., and its medicinal qualities are referred to in the Herbalist’s Treasury of 973. It was not then nor for centuries later grown in China for the preparation of opium.[3] There is no evidence to show that the Chinese ever took opium in the shape of pills (otherwise than medicinally). The cultivation of the poppy for the manufacture of opium began in China in the 17th century, but it was not until after 1796, when the importation of foreign opium was declared illegal, that the plant was cultivated on an extensive scale. After 1906 large areas which had been devoted to the poppy were given over to other crops, in consequence of the imperial edict aimed at the suppression of opium-smoking (see § History).

Mining.—The mineral resources of China are great, but the government has shown a marked repugnance to allow foreigners

  1. See The Times of the 19th of February and the 3rd of May 1910.
  2. Another peculiarity of loess in China is that it lends itself readily to the excavation of dwellings for the people. In many places whole villages live in cave dwellings dug out in the vertical wall of loess. They construct spiral staircases, selecting places where the ground is firm, and excavate endless chambers and recesses which are said to be very comfortable and salubrious.
  3. See J. Edkins, The Poppy in China, and H. B. Morse, The Trade and Administration of the Chinese Empire, chap. xi.