Area and Population.—The area of the province is estimated to be 218,480 geographical square miles; its population, according to the best authorities, at 68,724,890. The distribution of the population naturally follows in the line of soil-fertility, for, as elsewhere in China, the production of food stuffs is the greatest industry of the province. It may be said that in Szechwan, when, as sometimes happens, climatic conditions are unfavourable, dearth is keenly felt, for although the people generally are well-to-do, there is no immediate means or possibility of making good the deficiency, owing to its remoteness and to the difficulties and dangers which have to be encountered to reach it. The most populous part of the province is undoubtedly the Plain of Chengtu, which, owing to its system of artificial irrigation, is par excellence the garden of Szechwan. Colonel Manifold, speaking at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society in 1904, mentioned that he estimated that the Chengtu Plain, a specially well-watered tract of country, had no fewer than 1700 persons to each square mile. In this garden, or on its borders, there are 17 cities, including the capital, but, speaking generally, the population is essentially rural. The whole of the province, apart from the high mountainous regions of the west, is dotted with farmhouses, hamlets, villages, and market towns, many of them larger and more important than cities, and, as markets are held in rotation at these towns every few days, there is no lack of facilities for the interchange of agricultural produce and local manufactures.
Territorial Divisions.—There are 112 territorial districts (Hsien); 11 departments (San Chow); 8 independent departments (Chihli Chow); 1 sub-prefectures (T'ing); 2 independent sub-prefectures (Chihli-t'ing); and 12 prefectures (Fu); but there are only 99 district cities (Hsien), for each prefectural city is also a district city, and Chengtu, the capital, is the seat of two district magistrates. As each department, independent department, sub-prefecture, is represented by a city with its seat of government, the total number of cities in Szechwan is 142, of which 109 lie