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

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By Mr. A. H. Harris, late Acting Commissioner of Customs at Changsha.

Hunan of the present day formed part of that territory known in ancient times as the San Miao Kuo or Kingdom of the Three Aboriginal Tribes. Its early history is full of the reputed deeds of the primitive rulers of China. We find the Emperors Yao, Shun, and Yü celebrated in its annals. Did not the great Shun die while on an expedition against the aborigines of the south, and temples to his honour exist in the province. Is not the grave of his two consorts, the daughters of Yao, to be seen on the isle of Chünshan in the Tungting Lake; coming south to nurse him in his illness and receiving news of his death, they committed suicide in the waters of the lake near to this lovely spot. Does not Hunan's mountain peak, the Nan Yo, possess the ancient and celebrated Tablet recording the pacification of the waters by the Emperor Yü—the Kulou Pei or Deluge Stone, famous throughout China; and an Imperial Commissioner annually proceed to worship before his reputed tomb in the south of the province!

Coming to later times, we find that Hunan formed part of the State of Ch'u, no mean kingdom, under the Chou dynasty (circa 1122-255 B.C.). The celebrated Dragon Festival, observed with the greatest éclat on the fifth of the fifth month throughout China, owes its origin to the suicide by drowning near Changsha of an early statesman and poet, Ch'u Yuan, author of the
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interesting elegy the Li Sao (circa 340 B.C.). Under the Ch'in dynasty we find the name Changsha, or "Long Sand," applied to a large part of the province which was then, circa 130 B.C., subject to the Emperor of China. Echoes, historical and legendary, of the wars of the "Three Kingdoms," the San Kuo, are to be heard around Yochow. Still later, in the interests of the last of the Ming Emperors, severe fighting took place at Yochow and in the northern parts of the province. Everywhere, indeed, there is a rich field for antiquarian research. Of its aboriginal populations it is estimated that one-tenth still survive in the hilly districts of the centre, the south-west, and the north-west; extermination, expulsion, and assimilation for hundreds of years have caused the disappearance of the vast majority.

In more recent times the province suffered from the Taiping rebels (circa 1854). Entering from the south, they swarmed up the Siang valley, spreading both east and west. Changsha was invested, and for successfully enduring an eighty days' siege it earned the title of "The City of the Iron Gates." When official rule was in general abeyance the Hunan gentry, encouraged by an able Governor, came to the rescue; forces were organised, the Likin taxation system, to defray military expenditure, was initiated, and reorganisation of civil rule took rise. Hence it comes to pass that in every branch of public life we now see a representative, or a committee, of the gentry acting with Government officials, and very powerful is their influence. A local saying, indeed, has it that the Governor's power as compared with that of the gentry is as four is to six. Without the province, in the final defeat of the rebels, Hunanese leaders and soldiers were the backbone of the Government forces. Of the Hunan youth 70 per cent were recruited for the war, and the reputation then acquired has stood by them. In all parts of the Empire Hunan "braves" have been employed. Hardy but turbulent, and yielding submission to none but their own officers, they were the cause of constant broils and were everywhere dreaded. A change is now coming over them : better methods of recruiting, of drill, and higher pay are producing their effect, and the old attitude of turbulent boastfulness is giving place to pride in efficiency. Given good officers, no better fighting material exists in China. As in the military, so in civil life, Hunanese are found in high office through- out the Empire ; so much so that at one time of seven Viceroys six were Hunanese. The rise of Hunan to its present commanding position in China and in the eyes of the Western world dates from this, the Taiping period.

The province as it now is would seem to have been demarcated early in the thirteenth century. The term Hukuang, applying to the whole of the region around the formerly great Tungting Lake, dates from the Ming dynasty, and the term Liang Hu, designating the divided provinces of Hunan and Hupeh (north of the lake and south of the lake provinces), dates from the times of Kanghsi of the present dynasty. Both terms are used of the Viceroyalty with its seat at Wuch§,ng in Hupeh. The immediate chief of Hunan is a Governor resident at Changsha, and with him are the usual official hierarchy. The Grain Taotai-ship was abolished in 1905 and its duties vested in the Salt Toatai, who is the Superintendent of Customs at the new treaty port of Changsha.

Geography.—Hunan is a beautiful province: it abounds in the picturesque. The natives graphically describe it as containing three parts upland and seven parts water. A more accurate division sometimes heard is three-tenths hill, six-tenths water, and one-tenth plain. Its area has been estimated at from 74,000 to 90,000 square miles, and its population has been variously given as from 9 to 23 millions ; 1 8 millions at the present day will be found a generous figure.

Situated on the northern slope of the Nanling range, which forms the watershed between the Yangtse and the West river systems, the south and west of the province are very mountainous. Its centre contains much open, undulating country, and the northern parts are chiefly occupied by the Tungting and low-lying alluvial land extending to the Yangtse, which forms its northern boundary. In brief, its most interesting and natural features are the Tungting Lake, the sacred Nan Yo or Hengshan Mountain, its three chief waterways, and its mountainous and wooded nature generally. Of its products the chief are timber, tea, and rice. It abounds in minerals, among which coal and iron predominate.

The Tungting Lake, now estimated to cover in summer or high-water season a surface of 5000 to 6000 square miles, is but a fraction of its former size. In winter its bed is only a series of mud flats with a few channels wandering between—the home of countless thousands of wild-fowl, swan, geese, and duck of all varieties. Owing to the continual silting up of the lake, particularly of the whole western and northern portion, where the many mouths of the Yuan and the Yangtse channels embouche into it, it has lost the importance as a waterway which at one time it had. The disorganisation of the Grain Transport Service and a reduced junk fleet must also be mentioned. An idea of this importance and of the amount of the traffic which used to cross its surface may be gathered from the fact that in 1732 on an islet of the lake there was erected by Imperial order a lighthouse and tower, showing 260 feet above the water, at a cost of some £70,000. In 1740 we read that twenty-eight lifeboats had to be maintained at this station. Owing, however, to the silting process, we find that in 1841 the station, long fallen into disuse and ruin, was abolished. I have met many men who recall cross-lake navigation, and there is little doubt that it is owing to silt and not to fear of navigation that the route has fallen into disuse. The waters of the Yangtse also by various openings find their way into the lake, and its thick yellow stream is distinctly noticeable as it flows past Yochow. The lake should act as a reservoir for the rivers of the province and serve to reduce the severity of floods to which the province is liable. In summer its Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/234 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/235 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/236 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/237 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/238 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/239 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/240 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/241 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/242 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/243 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/244 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/245 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/246 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/247 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/248 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/249 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/250 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/251 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/252 The Evangelical Association of North America is an entirely new mission just commencing work at Shenchow with 4 married members.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Mission has stations at Changteh and Taoyuan with 8 workers ; the Finland Missionary Society at Tsinshih and Yuinting with 6 workers; and the Denver Baptist Church Mission at Changsha with 3 workers.

In brief, evangelistic work is everywhere making good progress; of medical work small beginnings exist in some six centres, boarding-schools in three, and small elementary schools are found in several places; but, generally speaking, educational, medical, industrial, and other important branches have yet to be actively prosecuted.

A few points of interest in the history of Missions in Hunan are: the value of the native Christian as an evangelistic agent; the necessity, particularly in the early stages of all new work, of close supervision, and this of the best; and thirdly, that, alike from the early beginnings of the work and from the character of the people, the problem of self-government will be early brought forward. Restiveness under control and an unwillingness to accept the direction of the foreign pastor have been already observed. By as much as preachers and property are supported and owned by the Churches, by so much will the question of local government be hastened. The movement has its good features and commands sympathy ; but arising too soon, it will require careful handling to keep the Church clear of disaster; it will test the patience and resource alike of the native and the foreigner.

The "New Learning" movement has taken great hold in Hunan. Changsha has now for some years possessed many large and flourishing schools—elementary, secondary, high school, and technical—both governmental and private; and the same holds good for other towns. In the capital and elsewhere the services of Japanese teachers, some female, are largely availed of. At Changsha a Buddhist school has been opened by Japanese. Military reorganisation has been already referred to, and no visitor to Hunan can fail to be struck with the many changes now taking place. In my last year at Changsha the first athletic meeting on European lines for military and civil students was held in presence of the Governor.

To meet the growing demand and to give a Christian character to the education of the rising generation, Yale University, inspired by the Rev. H. P. Beach, has sent out representatives, and intends to support a first-class and complete educational (undenominational) work in the province. The missionary societies at work in Hunan have, I believe, agreed to entrust secondary and higher education to the Yale Mission, a decision that augurs well for the success of a most important branch of work. The staff at present consists of three professors with their families, and others are in training at home. Great difficulties have been experienced in obtaining suitable ground, and for the time being a hired house will be used. Progress is likely to be slow, as time will be needed to overcome conservatism and prejudice, but the quality and prospects of the people are worth the best efforts Yale can put forth.

From the above brief sketch it will have been seen that the Hunanese are full of character. Probably they represent, and have profited from a considerable admixture with, the warlike and independent aborigines still surviving in the province. They are noted for their pride, opulence, strength of mind, tenacity of purpose, and their administrative ability. To all who seek to enter into close relationships with them, sympathy and appreciation are essential. Intelligent, and possessing a manly, independent bearing, the Hunanese will certainly show themselves to be leaders in the new and reformed China now in process of creation.