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Chap. X. SING-HOO'S SPECULATION. 195
I attempted to reason with him on the folly and impropriety of his conduct, but his excuse was plausible enough. "You see," said he, "it will be necessary to have a coolie to carry our baggage, but we have reduced it so much that he will not have half a load. Now the carriage of this cloth will not add anything to the expenses, and the man's load will be properly balanced. And," added he, with great gravity, "travellers in my country who have a goodly portion of luggage are always considered more respectable than those who have little."
While this conversation was going on we were sailing rapidly down the stream in the direction of Hokow, a large town about ninety or a hundred le westward from the city of Quan-sin-foo. The valley through which the river flows is thickly studded with little hills, and far away to the right and left lofty mountains were seen rising in all their grandeur. I observed many curious rocks, shaped like little hills, but without a vestige of vegetation of any kind upon them. They stood in the midst of the plain like rude monuments, and had a curious' and strange appearance.
The country through which I passed is an extensive rice district. No very large trees were observed; and the tallow-tree, which forms such an important branch of agriculture in the countries nearer the sea, is scarcely ever met with, or only seen here and there. Camphor-trees are common, but they do not attain the size they do in many other parts of the country. Nevertheless, on passing down the river, we came sometimes to pretty and romantic spots, where the trees and brushwood were overhanging the banks, and dipping their branches into the clear stream; and these strange monumental-looking rocks were objects of striking interest in themselves.
In the afternoon of the day on which I left Quansin-foo, we arrived at the town of Hokow. I had now got as far to the west as was necessary, and intended from this point to journey southwards to one of the passes in the Bohea mountains, across which I had to go on my way to Woo-e-shan. This part of my journey had to be done in chairs.
Chap. XI. HOKOW. 197
Town of Hokow — Its situation, trade, and great importance — Bohea mountain chair — Mountain road — Beggars by the wayside — Beautiful scenery — The priest and his bell — Town of Yuen-shan — Appearance of the road — Tea coolies — Different modes of carrying the tea-chests — Large tea-growing country — Soil and plantations — My first night in a Chinese inn — Reception — Dirty bed-rooms — I console myself, and go to dinner.
Hokow, or Hohow, as it is called by the southern Chinese, is one of the most important inland towns in the empire. It is situated in latitude 29° 54' north, and in longitude 116° 18' east, on the left bank of the river Kin-keang, down which I had come. Judging from its size, and comparing it with other towns, I imagine it contains about 300,000 inhabitants. It is the great emporium of the black-tea trade. Merchants from all parts of China come here, either to buy teas, or to get them conveyed to other parts of the country.
Large inns, tea-hongs, and warehouses, are met with in every part of the town, and particularly along the banks of the river. The boats moored abreast of the town are very numerous. There are small ones for single passengers, large passage-boats for the public, and mandarins' boats gaily decorated with flags. Besides these there are large cargo-boats, for conveying tea and other merchandise either eastward to Yuk-shan, or westward to the Poyang lake.
Hokow is to the inland countries of the west what
It is no child's play to cross these mountains, am <
inconvenient to travel in one for 300 or 400 le, exposed to a fierce sun, and oftentimes to heavy rain.
The Bohea-mountain chair is constructed with more attention to the comforts of the traveller. It has above the seat a light bamboo frame covered with oiled paper or glazed cloth. The seat has a back to it formed at an angle of 45 degrees, and as the chair itself, foot-board and all, is generally about four feet long, the traveller can recline and sleep if he chooses to do so. Some soft article, such as the wadded bed-cover in common use, is generally spread over the bottom and back of the chair, which makes it very comfortable.
Having made all our arrangements, I got into my chair, and we left Hokow, travelling in a southerly direction across the valley, which I have already noticed. A small river, which rises on the north side of the Bohea mountains, and which falls into the Kin-keang near Hokow, comes winding down this valley, and was crossed several times on our way.
Leaving the valley of Hokow we gradually began to enter a hilly country, and now and then our road led us up hill-passes of considerable steepness. In going over one of these passes my chair was besieged by a host of beggars, the most importunate I ever met with. Another traveller, who was a few yards in advance of me, had them all about him for some time. I could hear him protesting that he had no cash in his pockets, and beseeching them to go away, but this seemed only to render them more importunate. Whether he gave them anything or not