Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/265

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reaching to the banks of the river on either side right away into the province of Hupeh. North of the Han valley lies a mass of mountains which need a week's hard travelling if one would cross into the Sian plain. This formidable barrier has not unnaturally led to the result that the people of the Han valley are more akin to the Szechwanese than to the northerners of their own province.

This mass of mountains to the north is generally known as the Tsingling, but it is really composed of many ranges, and Tsingling is the name of one range at the foot of the Taipeh near to Fuping. There are some four passes by which this range can be crossed, but the most accessible is the pass over the Fengling at Feng Hsien, on the main road from Szechwan to Sian Fu. This mountainous country is, with but little exception, unproductive, and is in consequence but sparsely populated.

2. The Sian Plain or the Valley of the Wei Eiver. — Passing north from these mountains the traveller comes to the lower part of the Sian plain on the right bank of the river Wei, which crosses the province longitudinally. This is a populous and (dependent on the rainfall) most fertile district. The part to the west is narrow, but widens further east, while the many streams from the mountains enable the people to irrigate their fields and grow rice. Upon the Sian plain, which is estimated to be about 4000 square miles in area, are crowded together the provincial capital, Sian Fu, four Chow cities, and thirty Hsien cities, with an average of one market town to every square mile, in addition to numberless villages.

3. The Northern portion of the Province. — Looking north across the river Wei, a long line of hills appears to face the traveller, but when the river is crossed and the hills ascended the country is found to be a high, flat table- land, which extends away to the north for some 70 or 80 miles. The loess soil is porous and dependent upon the frequent rains ; the population is not excessive, and when the rainfall is sufficient the supply of food is abundant and cheap, but failure in the rain means famine. This elevated