Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/101

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THE PROVINCE OF FUKIEN

The principal river is the Miu, which drains about three-fourths of the province, and is navigable for small vessels and rapid boats almost throughout its entire course of more than 300 miles. It flows past the provincial city, Foochow, and joins the sea at Sharp Peak, 30 miles lower down. The riverine scenery is grandly beautiful, altogether defying description, and is probably unsurpassed in the whole of China.

All students of Chinese history will be aware that at one time the southern provinces consisted of numerous petty states, each having its own king, its own laws, and its own language; and to-day, although these states have all been absorbed into the colossal Chinese Empire, the people still retain their peculiar characteristics, their own tribal laws and customs, and their own spoken languages. The consequence of this latter fact is, that it is impossible to travel any great distance in Fukien without meeting with a new dialect which is almost unintelligible 30 miles away. The mountainous character of the province makes it impossible to use vehicular traffic, and even where the roads are comparatively level, they are extremely narrow and uneven, consisting of rough undressed blocks of granite laid side by side transversely, and worn smooth on their upper surface by the countless feet which have trodden them from time immemorial. The Chinese seem quite satisfied to carry their heavy loads up and down these steep mountain passes on their shoulders, and he who would ride must in like manner be borne on men's shoulders in a sedan-chair. Needless to say, wherever a waterway is found it is crowded with craft of all sorts and sizes plying for hire.

The chief industries of Fukien are paper-making, tea cultivation, cloth-weaving, and agriculture, though of course a multitude of minor trades and occupations are carried on in all the centres of population. Different tribes of the old aboriginal inhabitants of China dwell in the more remote mountain villages and are peacefully engaged in agriculture, the men having adopted Chinese garb, the women retaining peculiar head-dresses and other differences