The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey/The Province of Honan

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By G. Whitfield Guinness, B.A., M.B., China Inland Mission.

The area of Honan is 67,940 square miles, and its population 35,316,800, with an average of 520 persons per square mile. Its longitude extends from 110° 20' to 116° 60' east of Greenwich, while its latitude is about the same as North Africa, Palestine, South California, and the north of Florida.

Populous, accessible, fertile, and with a good climate, the province of Honan forms an important sphere for missionary labour.

With one-fourth the area, it surpasses the collective populations of the three northern provinces of China—Kansu, Shensi, and Shansi.

The density of population in Kansu averages 82 persons to the square mile; in Shensi and Shansi it is 111 and 149 respectively; while in Honan it rises to 520 persons in a similar area. The most populous district in Europe is Belgium, "the small country of large cities," which crowds 6,000,000 people into its 11,373 square miles, giving an average of 550 to the mile, only just surpassing the density which {{sc|Honan maintains over a vastly larger area.

Honan is larger than England and Wales, its 67,940 square miles being somewhat in excess of the united area of England and Switzerland. It is irregularly triangular in shape, the vertical base of the triangle being placed to the east. The north-west and south-west sides of this triangle are mountainous, the remainder of the province being a remarkably flat plain crossed by rivers running at right angles to the mountain ranges as they pursue their easterly course to the Grand Canal or Yellow Sea.

From north to south the province is about 460 English miles in length, from east to west 430 miles.

Previous to the construction of the Ching-han railway, Honan had three connections of commercial importance.

(1) South-east from the mart of Chowkiakow there is a continuous waterway viâ the Sha and Hwai rivers, the Hungtse lakes, and Grand Canal to Chinkiang on the Yangtse.

(2) South-west from the mart of Shae-k'i-tien there is water connection viâ the T'ang river, which unites with the Peh Ho and flows into the Han, thus bringing the province into connection with Hankow and the Yangtse valley. The T'ang and Peh rivers are navigable for small boats all the year round.

(3) North of the Yellow River the important mart of Taokow is connected with Tientsin by means of the Wei river. Taokow is 400 miles (1200 li) distant from Tientsin.

The importance of these water communications will be appreciated when the cost of freight by land and water is compared, that by land being from "twenty to forty times as high as the usual standard on those rivers which are easily navigable."[1]

Roads from these three centres cross the province and unite at Honan Fu to form the main trunk road to the north-western provinces of China, which main road is passable for carts at least as far as Suchow Fu, far in the north of Kansu, 1170 miles (3500 li) distant from Honan Fu.

Baron Richthofen called Honan Fu "the Gate to the North-Western Provinces and Central Asia," and he pointed out the importance of railway communication at such a spot. A railway is now under process of construction from Kaifeng Fu to Honan Fu, crossing the main Hankow-Pekin (Ching-han) line at Chengchow, thus bringing this "Gate to Central Asia" into immediate connection with the Yangtse valley on the one hand, and with Tientsin and the sea on the other.

Conceive a vast plain bordered by mountains on its western side, and crossed by streams running at right angles to these mountain ranges; a plain unrelieved by undulating hill, green in the season of growing harvest, but brown for the rest of the year, the central part buried in sand and loess deposit brought down by the Yellow River; conceive this plain dotted over with cities, towns, and villages, and crossed in every direction with brown earth roads, wide in the north and centre, and narrow and paved in the south, teeming with a hardy farming population, and you have a picture of Honan south of the Yellow River.

North of the Hwang-ho the scenery is more beautiful. The region of Hwaiking Fu and Chinghwa Chen has been described as one of the most beautiful spots in the plains of China. "A perfect garden, rendered park-like by numerous plantations of trees and shrubs. The soil is very fertile. The luxurious growth of the cereals recalls to mind the richest agricultural countries in Europe. Numerous clear streams descend from the Tai-hang Shan, and the inhabitants make the amplest use of them for irrigation."[2]

Eight provinces border on Honan:—

On the north, Shansi and Chihli; on the south, Hupeh; on the east, Shantung, Kiangsu, and Anhwei; on the west, Shensi and Szechwan.

There are eight principal rivers:—

1. The Chang river, from Shensi, follows a long course, to empty itself into the Grand Canal not far from Tientsin in Chihli.

2. The Wei river, which gives the name to Weihwei Fu. On the banks of one of its tributaries stands the prefectural city of Changte Fu. It flows into the Grand Canal.

3. The Tsin river, flowing south from Shansi, crosses the border above Hwaiking Fu, which stands on its banks. It flows south-east into the Yellow River.

4. The Hwang Ho,[3] or Yellow River, nearly 2500 miles in length, draining an area of 47,500 square miles, forms the boundary between Shensi and Shansi. It turns abruptly eastward at its point of junction with the Wei, and after passing 7 miles to the north of Kaifeng Fu it flows east and north-east through Chihli into Shantung and the Gulf of Pechihli. It is very difficult of navigation. Vast sums of money have been spent to construct powerful dykes, and the treacherous banks in some places have been stone-faced to prevent them giving way and thus flooding the adjacent country. This work, which was formerly in the hands of the Ho-Tao or Governor of the River, is now entrusted to the Provincial Governor.

5. The Lo river, from the mountains bordering on Shensi and Honan, flows in a north-easterly direction past Honan Fu into the Yellow River.

6. The Sha river collects the water flowing from the mountains in the west centre of the province. It flows eastward past Hiangcheng Hsien, Yencheng, Chowkiakow, Yingchow Fu to unite with the Hwai river at Chenyangkwan. From thence it passes viâ the Great Lakes into the Grand Canal.

7. The Hwai river drains the south-eastern part of the province, the neighbourhood of Kwangchow. It flows in a north-easterly direction to join the Sha.

8. The Peh and T'ang rivers flow southward, to join the Han river in the south-west of the province. North of the Yellow River an apparent range of mountains extends for 400 miles (1200 li), which is known as the Hang-shan. In reality it is not a range of mountains at all, but is the descent of the uplands of Shansi to the plain of Honan. A belt of low hills intervenes between the foot of these uplands and the plain. These hills form the site of important coal mines, and produce "excellent anthracite, clean, lustrous, and solid." The Chinese mines are cylinders of five feet diameter running down to depths varying from 120 feet to 400 feet.

The Sung Shan, one of the "Five Sacred Mountains" of China, is situated to the north of Kuchow in the west. It is about 7000 feet in height. The region of Ruchow, Honan Fu, and Hwaiking Fu is rich in agricultural and mineral produce. South of Honan Fu is the famous Long-Men or Dragon Gate. Here the Yi-ho flows northward to join the Lo river. The mountains, which form the sides of the Gateway, contain numerous caves which have been hewn out of the solid rock. Thousands of Buddhas, large and small, line the interior of these caves, and a gigantic figure is cut into the mountain side without. Temples abound amidst beautiful scenery. Hot springs also add to the interest of this neighbourhood.

The Fu-niu-shan is another important range of mountains, being the eastern termination of the great Kwen-luen range of Central Asia.

In the south-east of the province there are numerous ranges of hills and mountains extending from west to east. Amongst them the Shwang-ho Shan is of interest. The inhabitants of this district—the Kwangchow district—believe that the souls of the departed dwell there. Hence they have built hundreds of rooms at considerable cost to provide a suitable dwelling for the souls of departed friends.

Though situated in the same latitude as North Africa and the Southern States of North America, Honan has a cold and bracing winter, the thermometer at times registering 7° below zero. December and January are the coldest months. The summer is hot, the temperature rising to over 100° Fahrenheit in the shade. The rainy season falls in July.[4] For the rest of the year there is comparatively little rain ; brilliant sunshine and blue skies recall the Riviera and South Italy.

Honan produces an abundance of food of all kinds. In the time of wheat harvest, the plain presents the appearance of a sea of colour extending to the horizon in every direction. Wheat, barley, peas, beans, rape seed, and sweet potatoes constitute the first crop; cotton, Indian corn, millet, kaoliang, beans, and hemp the second. Apples, pears, peaches, plums, persimmon, and grapes of poor quality are found. With the exception of the persimmon, the fruit is somewhat hard and tasteless. The willow tree is a very marked feature of the plain. The elm, the mulberry, and oak and small fir trees are found in various districts. In the neighbourhood of Lushan Hsien is found an oak tree whose leaves supply food for the silk-worm. Lushan is largely known for its trade in "wild silk." The thread is sold at a little less than a tael per catty (3s. for 1⅓ lbs.).

Salt is plentiful in the neighbourhood of the Yellow River. Amongst the manufactures, silks and satins occupy a prominent position; drugs, felt, paper, ox glue, leather, catgut, string, iron and brass work, silver, steel, pottery, and other industries are carried on.

In Honan the people state that the use of opium commenced sixty years ago. The cultivation of the poppy began thirteen years after the introduction of the drug. The progress in this cultivation has been considerably extended, and native opium is now largely used.

The quality of opium varies. The best is known as "Kwangtung" opium. This comes from India; the second quality is supplied by Kansu; the third by Shensi; the fourth by Honan and Shansi; and the fifth by Szechwan

and Kweichow. Szechwan opium, being the cheapest, is widely used. Its price varies from 400 to 500 cash per ounce. The Honan drug is from 500 to 600 cash; Shensi, 800; Kansu, 900 cash to 1000 cash per ounce. Foreign opium costs as much as from 800 to 1600 cash for a similar quantity.

The coalfield of Lushan and Ruchow forms a plateau a few hundred feet high and twenty-three miles broad. It separates the valleys of the Sha and Ru rivers. Very little lump coal is produced in this field, but it is a "caking and coking coal of tolerable purity." The greatest depth at which the Chinese work is 400 feet. North of Honan Fu is a considerable coalfield which supplies the railway.

Flooding of the mines had rendered this work difficult. Two thin seams of coal have been passed, but the main seam still remains to be worked, 50 feet below the 500 feet depth already reached. There are Chinese-worked mines in the neighbourhood of Kong Hsien, Mih Hsien, and Pao Hsien, with an output of 20 tons per mine every ten days.


The peoples of China exhibit considerable variation of character. The Canton merchant and Shansi banker are found far beyond the limits of their own provinces in many of the important cities of the Empire. The Honanese, on the other hand, do not care for travel.[5] Their view of the world is limited by their own horizon. The majority are farmers—somewhat rude and uncouth in manner, easily roused to anger, quick to take offence. They are of an independent turn of mind, and will not brook reproof; very conservative, they do not welcome foreign innovation. In certain districts the anti-foreign feeling runs high, and the people would rejoice if all "barbarians" were expelled. In other districts they are very friendly, and welcome the stranger in their midst. They are distinctly intelligent, and are often marked by strong individuality.

Poverty and squalor prevail; the people are indifferent to discomfort and dirt, and apparently lack the enterprise necessary to ameliorate their own condition. The cold of winter is met without any warming apparatus. They add warm clothing, but as their garments are rarely washed their condition at the end of winter can be better imagined than described. A common proverb runs: "A Hupeh man unless he has cleansed his feet does not sleep at night; a Honan man unless he fords a river never washes his feet."

This principle runs through everything: roads, houses, people, animals, all suffer from neglect. The land is well tilled, however, and the harvests are good. The people generally ascribe the blessings of harvest to God. "Trust in Heaven for food" is an everyday proverb. In this respect they contrast favourably with their neighbours in the north. They are not devoted to idolatry, and temples are everywhere falling into disrepair.

Though opium-smoking is general in the cities, the farming population is comparatively free from the vice. Hence they are a strong race of men, and being inured to hardship, they make good soldiers. Simplicity and reliability form good soil for "the seed of the Kingdom," and rich fruit may be expected in days to come.

In spite of the conservative nature of the people of Honan, development is apparent in many directions. In Kaifeng Fu, the capital of the province (a former capital of the Empire), schools for Western learning are established. The "Kao-teng-hsioh-t'ang," or college, was opened in 1902. It affords accommodation for 180 students, who are kept at Government expense. Only those who are selected by the educational authorities can enter. The course embraces both Chinese and foreign subjects. Mathematics, geography, grammar, and languages (English, French, and Japanese) are taught. There are in addition the intermediate (Chong-hsioh-t'ang) and the junior (Siao-hsioh-t'ang) schools, and recently other schools for selected candidates have been established. The best students from the College are sent to Peking to complete their studies.

The Chinese empire- a general and missionary survey (1907) (14784083615).jpg

The Imperial Chinese Post is rapidly extending throughout the Empire. It now carries the Government mails. The branch at Kaifeng Fu controls 72 offices and 35 box offices. There are also thirteen telegraph stations in the province: at Kaifeng Fu, Yencheng Hsien, Chowkiakow, Sinyang Chow, Chengchow, Honan Fu, Shanchow, Chinghwa, Weihwei Fu, Taokow, Changte Fu, Nanyang Fu, Kingtzekwan. The cost of messages between the above places is 20 cents (about 4d.) a word. From Honan to Shantung, Hupeh, Chihli, Shensi, costs 26 cents a word; from Honan to Canton, Kweichow, Kwangsi, Chekiang, Anhuei, 38 cents a word; from Honan to Kiangsi, Kiangsu, Shansi, Szechwan, 32 cents a word; and from Honan to Yunnan and Fukien, 44 cents a word.

The military encampment at the capital comprises 8000 foreign drilled troops, 250 cavalry and an artillery corps. The German manual of drill is used; all arms are modern, the troops being supplied with the Mauser rifle. A Military School has been built near the railway station.

The mint has now been in operation for more than a year. In 1905 a large building was erected with three or more presses. The daily output of copper coins amounted to 400,000. A foreign manager is in charge of the work.

The Compagnie Impériale des Chemins de Fer Chinois built the line known as the Ching-han Railway, running from Peking to Hankow, a distance of 1215 kilometres or 755 miles; this line crosses the province of Honan from north to south. The Yellow River is spanned by a bridge two miles in length. Owing to the treacherous nature of the bed of the river, the engineering difficulties encountered in the course of construction were very great. The Chinese looked upon it as a battle between the "River God" and the foreigner, and really prophesied that the bridge would be destroyed. The difficulties have been surmounted, however, and the "Yellow River Bridge" is an accomplished fact.

Work on the bridge commenced in April 1904. It was completed in December 1905. The first train crossed in June 1905. The length of bridge is 3010 metres or 2 miles. The weight of metal used was 11,347 metric tons or 11,168 English long tons.

The length of the tunnel on south embankment is 320 metres or 350 yards. In the course of construction the following were used: — 940 steel tubes filled with concrete; 103 piers containing 7510 tons of cast steel, and trusses containing 3760 tons of wrought steeL The total cost was two million taels of silver. The express journey northward from Hankow to Peking takes about 36 hours for the 754 miles. In a short time it is hoped that daily trains will be run in this time. There is one express train run every week. The bridge is situated 334 miles from Hankow and 420 miles from Peking.

Cross lines are being constructed : one from Kaifeng Fu to Honan Fu, crossing the main line at Chengchow. The Kaifeng-Chengchow portion is to be opened immediately. The Honan Fu line will take a year or two to complete, owing to the mountainous nature of the country traversed.

The Peking Syndicate line is situated about 40 miles to the north of the Yellow Kiver. It runs westward from Taokow on the "Wei river to Pehshan near Tsinghwa Chen, the region of the coalfields. Taokow is the mart for Tientsin, 400 miles distant, with which it is connected by water. This line is 92 miles in length.

Historically the province of Honan is interesting, it having been the seat of the Imperial Government more frequently than any other province, as will be seen by the following table:—

2180 B.C. Hsia dynasty. Capital Taikang.
1766 B.C. Shang dynasty. Kweiteh Fu.
781 B.C. Chou dynasty. ,, Honan Fu.
25 A.D. Eastern Han dynasty. Honan Fu.
280 A.D. Tsin dynasty. Honan Fu.
904 A.D. T'ang dynasty. ,, Honan Fu.
960 A.D. Sung dynasty. Kaifeng Fu.
The Chinese empire- a general and missionary survey (1907) (14781728844).jpg
Fu Hsi, the first of the "Five Rulers," whose date, according to Chinese records, goes back to 2953 B.C., is supposed to be buried at Chenchow Fu. His dynastic appellation was T'ai Hao, and every year a festival is held in his honour, known as the T'ai-Hao-ling—the word "ling" meaning imperial mound or tomb. From far and near people crowd to the reputed site of his grave.

From him the Chinese date the ceremony of marriage, the slaying of animals to make clothing, writing, and the commencement of learning, also music. He is reputed to be the author of the "Pa-kua," or Geomantic Diagrams.

A circular raised platform has been erected close to the T'ai-Hao-ling, on which the signs of the Pa-kua are inscribed in stone. In the centre is placed the Long-ma, or dragon horse, on which has been marked the sign of the elemental principles according to Chinese theory—the T'ai-ki-t'u. The dragon horse is supposed to have emerged from the water, and the figure of the T'ai-ki was found on its back.

Pien-lien-ch'eng (Kaifeng Fu) has been the scene of prolonged sieges and of desolating floods. Its former wealth and extent are gone, but to-day it is a city 1 Chinese miles across (3⅓ English miles).

The story of the Jewish Community, with its centre in this city, is of great interest and is not fully told yet. Much interest was aroused when the existence of a community of Jews in Kaifeng Fu, the capital of Honan, was first made known. An admirable pamphlet on the subject has been published. It is entitled, "A Lecture delivered by Marcus N. Adler, M.A.,[6] at the Jews' College Literary Society, Queen Square House, London, 1900."

The history of Protestant Missions in Honan begins with the itinerations of two members of the China Inland Mission, Henry Taylor and George Clarke, in the year 1875. They even succeeded in renting premises in Runing Fu, but subsequently were compelled to leave.

It was not till nine years (1884) later that a permanent footing was obtained, when Mr. Sambrook secured premises in Chowkiakow, an important trade centre connected by water with Chinkiang and the Yangtse. The first converts were baptized there in 1887, and to-day there are twelve out-stations in connection with this centre. In 1886 a similar station was opened by Mr. Slimmon in the mart of Shae-ki-tien, in the south-west of the province, a town of considerable commercial importance, connected by water with Hankow. The names of Johnstone, Mills, Slimmon, Gracie, King, all of the China Inland Mission, and Lund are associated with early attempts to enter important cities north and south of the Yellow River, but they were driven forth from Hwaiking, and ejected from Chuhsien Chen.

In 1891 Mr. Slimmon succeeded in opening Hiangcheng Hsien to the Gospel.

The year 1894 saw the establishment of the work of the Canadian Presbyterian Mission in the prefectural city of Changte Fu. Their first workers had come out in 1888 (four men and one lady). Finding it impracticable to enter the "Fu" cities at once, Mission stations were established in Chuwang and Hsinchen, and these places continued to be occupied till 1900—the year of the Boxer uprising—when both were given up.

In 1902 Weihwei Fu and Hwaiking Fu were occupied, and together with Changte Fu these form the centres around which the work of the Canadian Presbyterian Mission has grown. With 31 foreign workers, 4 hospitals, 6 schools, 406 communicants, and 647 under instruction, their work is rapidly increasing.

In 1895 Dr. Howard Taylor and some fellow-workers of the China Inland Mission opened Chengchow Fu and Taikang Hsien, in both of which places there have been encouraging results.

During 1897 Mr. F. M. Royal of the Gospel Mission, Shantung, paid visits to Kweite Fu in East Honan. Mr. L. L. Blalock has since had the principal charge of the work in that city and in Yungcheng Hsien and Luyi Hsien. In 1902 Mr. Bostick commenced work in Anhwei. The aim of this Mission has been to put responsibility on the Chinese Christians as early as possible. No paid helpers are employed. The Christians have their own places of worship, leased in Kweite Fu and bought in Luyi Hsien, and they look forward to having one in Po Chow before long.

In December 1898 the American Norwegian Lutheran Mission commenced work in the Runing Fu district, South Honan. Stations have been opened in Runing, Sinyang Chow, and Kioshan. In the latter place is situated a hospital. One hundred and thirty boys in three schools and forty-eight girls in two schools give promise for the future.

The year 1899 saw the opening of the district of Kwangchow. Mr. Argento of the China Inland Mission, who has laboured there since that date, writes of widespread interest. Already 11 out-stations have been opened, and 1 unpaid helpers and 5 paid assistants are employed. Two hundred and sixty-five have been baptized in this district.

During the same year the Swedish Mission in China, associated with the China Inland Mission, commenced work in Sinan, a city in the north-west of the province, a day's journey west of Honan Fu. The difficulties met with in this neighbourhood have been great, nevertheless 4 stations have been opened, 114 persons have been baptized, and 2 boarding-schools established with 29 pupils. Honan Fu was occupied in 1904.

To Mr. R. A. Powell of the China Inland Mission belongs the privilege of being the first to rent premises in the anti-foreign provincial capital of Kaifeng Fu. He had visited the city in 1899, but it was not till 1902 that he succeeded in securing premises. Since then medical work has commenced with the advent of Drs. Carr and Guinness. A hospital is in process of construction and should be completed before long. Evangelistic work is being carried on in the city. Already 10 persons have been baptized.

The same year saw the occupation of Hsi Hsien by Mr. Boen of the Independent Lutheran Mission, and Yencheng Hsien was opened by Mr. Lack of the China Inland Mission. The following year, 1903, the Hauge's Synod entered Hsinye Hsien. The hospitals and schools of this Mission are at Fancheng, in Hupeh. For ten years the province had been visited by colporteurs of the Mission. Rev. Th. Himle is in charge of this work. There are 5 out-stations from Hsinye Hsien, and 7 schools with an average attendance of 20 pupils each. Five evangelists are employed and 19 persons have been baptized.

In September 1904 Chengchow was opened by the American Baptists (South). This city is likely to become a treaty port. Being on the railway it is likely to become an important centre. The Mission has of foreign workers, 4 men (one a doctor) and 3 ladies; of Chinese assistants, 2 evangelistic and 1 medical.

At the close of the year 1904 the Free Methodist Mission arrived at the same city. They have 6 workers and are expecting further reinforcements.

The Seventh Day Adventists are working in the south centre of this province. The Augustana Synod hopes to take up work in the near future in a field yet to be determined. The South Chihli Mission has just entered Kaifeng Fu.

The Russian Greek Church are inquiring for premises in Kaifeng Fu also.


$1148, Mexican (partial retiirn), silver $256, Mexican

China Inland Mission . Canadian Presbyterian . Swedish Mission in China in association with C.I.M. The Gospel Mission Norwegian American Lutheran Independent Lutheran . Seventh Day Adventists Hauge's Synod American Baptist (South) Free Methodists . South Chihli Mission Augustaiia Synod - Greek Church just coming to Kaifeng Roman Catholics .

  1. Baron Richthofen.
  2. Baron Richthofen.
  3. "200 li east of Honan Fu the Yellow River is 1½ mile wide. The southern shore is steep, the northern is flat and indistinct. The river is navigable from Lung-men-k'eo (90 li north-east of Kaifeng Fu) to Meng-tsin Hsien, a city 40 li north-east of Honan Fu, a distance of 125 miles. The navigation is difficult on account of shoals and the swiftness of the current. The embankments of the river being made of fine sand are difficult to keep in repair, and disastrous floods have been caused by the water breaking through at some weak point. "In 1848 it broke through at Laoyang Hsien. In 1868 a rupture occurred near Chengchow, 150 li from Kaifeng Fu. In 1869 it recurred and submerged a region 200 li square, comprising Chengchow, Chong-mu Hsien, Wei-chuan Hsien, T'ung-hsü Hsien, and Ch'ï Hsien. "Lasting damage was done, as the inundated country was covered with sand and rendered unfit for cultivation of grain. The damaged embankment has been repaired by the Government at a cost of two million taels. It is the region composing the right bank of the river, a few miles below Sï-shui Hsien, which is chiefly exposed to danger."—Baron Richthofen.
  4. "Rain is very scarce and unevenly distributed. It is quite common to go six and eight months without rain. The heavy rainfalls take place in June and July; but there is not, properly speaking, 'a wet season,' such as is common in other parts of China, where the air is heavy with moisture and it is impossible to keep clothing dry."—Slimmon.
  5. Many of the craftsmen, however, in Shansi are Honanese.—Ed.
  6. See Appendix.