« ZurückWeiter »
the canal, as the total destruction of the town must be certain. Near this point resides the Ho-tsoong, or surveyor-general of the river, who has charge of its banks.
Many readers will be aware that to the period of Yaou, something more than 2,000 years before our era, the Chinese carry back their tradition of an extensive flood, which by some persons has been identified with the universal deluge recorded in the Old Testament. After a careful examination of their own written accounts, we feel persuaded that this deluge of the Chinese is described rather as interrupting the business of agriculture, than as involving a general destruction of the human race. It is observed, in the book of Mencius, (Ch. V.) that the great Yu “opened nine channels ; Yu was eight years abroad regulating the waters.” This could hardly mean the universal deluge, and in fact seems to have been some aggravation only of the natural condition of those low countries through which the Yellow river and canal now flow. Were they both of them to burst their banks at present, the deluge of Yaou would be repeated. It was for his merit in draining the country, or drawing off the waters of the inundation, that the great Yu was so celebrated.
To return to the canal. Many persons, and among the rest Dr. Abel, have not been disposed to estimate very highly the labour and ingenuity displayed in the construction of that artificial channel. He observes, “ This famous monument of industry, considered simply as a channel of communication between different parts of the empire, appears to have been somewhat overrated as an example of the immense power of human labour and of human art. In every part of its course it passes through alluvial soil, readily penetrated by the tools of workmen, and is intersected by numerous streams. It would be difficult to find any
CROSSING THE YELLOW RIVER.
part of it carried through twenty miles of country unaided by tributary rivers. The sluices which keep its necessary level are of the rudest construction : buttresses formed of blocks of stone, with grooves fitted with thick planks, are the only locks of the Imperial canal. It is neither carried through any mountain, nor over any valley.” Much of this is certainly true, and confirmed by the observation of Du Halde, that“ in all that space there were neither hills, quarries, nor rocks which gave the workmen any trouble either to level or penetrate.” But if the canal is admitted to be a work of high national utility, in more lights than one, the simplicity of the means, by which the end was attained, can scarcely be considered to derogate from its merit: it would seem, on the contrary, to be a proof of the sagacity with which the plan was formed.
The following account of the process of crossing the Yellow river, at the point where it is intersected by the canal, is given from two unpublished journals of the last embassy “ On our left (proceeding south) was a stream called the 'New Salt river,' which, like the canal, opened into the Yellow river; and on our right we had for several days, very close to us, the Yellow river itself, which just before this point of junction with the canal suddenly turns north-eastward, after having run in a south-easterly direction. When we had been a short time at anchor, during which interval some of the chief mandarins visited the ambassador, we all got under weigh, and prepared to cross the famous Hoâng-ho. All the boats, on entering the river, struck right across the stream without observing any order, and gained the opposite bank in less than an hour. The weather being fine and moderate, and the water perfectly smooth, our boatmen were not so particular in the observance of their ceremonies and libations on the passage of the river as those of the
last embassy; but every boat, I believe, burnt a few pieces of gilt paper, and let off a volley of crackers in honour of the occasion. The breadth of the river in this part was about three-quarters of a mile, the direction of the stream north-east by east, with a current of three or four miles per hour, but the water not much more muddy or yellow, at this point, than it has been observed in the Pei-ho and elsewhere.
“ The stream was certainly violent, and carried us down a considerable way before we could reach the opposite bank, which was lined with a great number of boats of various shapes and dimensions, some of them being constructed exactly in the form of oblong boxes. Many of these were stationary, and laden with the straw or stalk of the holcus sorghum, and with coarse reeds, ready to be transported to different parts of the river and canal for the repair of the banks. This assemblage of boats, though the greatest we have yet noticed in this part of China, bore no comparison to what may be daily seen in the river of Canton. When the current had carried us down some distance to the eastward, we had a mile or two to reascend the river, before we came to the opening through which we were to pursue our route to the south; and the passage in the vicinity of the bank, to which we kept on account of the current, was so obstructed with boats, that this was not effected under four hours from our first getting under weigh. The worst part was now to come in passing through a sluice, on the hither side of which the water, which had been confined in its passage through the abutments, raged with such fury as to suck down large floating substances in its eddies. This sluice, upon a large scale, was near one hundred yards across, and through it the waters rushed into the river, at a rate of not less than seven or eight miles an hour. The projecting banks at the sides were not constructed of stone work,
CROSSING THE YELLOW RIVER.
but entirely of the straw or reeds already mentioned, with earth intermixed, and strongly bound with cordage.
Through this opening or sluice, and in close contact with the bank on our left, our boats were successively dragged forward by ropes communicating with several large windlasses, which were worked upon the bank; by these means the object was slowly accomplished, without the least damage or accident. After thus effecting a passage through the sluice, we found ourselves nearly in still water; not yet however in the southern division of the great canal, as we had expected, but in the main stream of another large river, hardly inferior in breadth to that which we had quitted. We were told it communicated at no great distance with the great lake, Hoong-tse Hoo, to the right of our course. The stream by which this lake discharges its waters into the Yellow river is marked in all the maps of China, but represented as totally distinct and unconnected with the grand canal. It seems evident, therefore, that the course of the navigation has been latterly altered here, either from the overflowing of the Yellow river, or some other cause. That a change has taken place seems indicated by the name 'New Salt river,' on the other side of the main stream of the Hoang-ho.
“ Entered the southern division of the grand canal. A great deal of labour and contrivance has been employed here in constructing the embankments, and regulating the course of the waters. In the first place, two or three artificial bays or basins have been hollowed out in the bank of the river, where the boats proceeding to the southward assemble in security and wait their turn to pass. There are then two other narrow passes, or imperfect sluices, subsequent to the first opening that leads from the river to the canal, having also broad basins between them, and em
bankments constructed as before, with the straw or reeds confined with cordage. The object of this repetition of sluices, with the basins between, seems in some degree similar to that of the locks on our own canals.
The important figure which the Great wall makes in the maps of China entitles this vast artificial barrier to be considered in a geographical point of view. We have already stated that it was built by the first universal monarch of China, about 200 years before the commencement of the Christian era, or rather more than 2,000 years from this time. It bounds the whole north of China, along the frontiers of three provinces, extending from the shore of the gulf of Pechele, 3. east of Peking, to Syning, 15° west of that capital. The Emperors of the Ming dynasty built an additional inner wall, near to Peking on the west, which may be perceived on the map, enclosing a portion of the province between itself and the old wall. From the eastern extremity of the Great wall there is an extensive stockade of wooden piles enclosing the country of Mougden, and this has, in some European maps, been erroneously represented as a continuation of the solid barrier.
The gentlemen of Lord Macartney's embassy had the good fortune to pass into Tartary by one of the most entire portions of the wall, and a very particular examination of the structure was made by Captain Parish. On the first distant approach, it is described as resembling a prominent vein or ridge of quartz, standing out from mountains of gneiss or granite. The continuance of this line over the mountain-tops arrested the attention, and the form of a wall with battlements was soon distinctly discerned.
It was carried over the ridges of the highest hills, descended into the deepest valleys, crossed upon arches over rivers, and was doubled in important passes, being,