Up the Yang-Tsze to Western China:
Western China and the interest attaching to it—The way thither—An unsuccessful attempt to reach Ichang—Ichang at last—Difficulties of navigation—Commercial importance of Ichang—My native passenger-boat, opium-smoking skipper, and crew—The navigability of the Upper Yang-tsze by steamers—Dangers and difficulties of the Ching T’an Rapid—Up and down the rapid—The poppy—Ch’ung-k’ing.
The most interesting part of China, from a geographical and ethnological point of view, is the West—geographically, because its recesses have not yet been thoroughly explored, and ethnologically, because a great part of it is peopled by races which are non-Chinese, and one at least of which, though nominally owing allegiance to the Great Khan, is in reality independent. It was my fortune to be stationed in Western China from 1882 to 1884, and, during these three years, I was enabled, in the performance of my duties, to collect information regarding the country and its people; and it is in the hope that this information may not be unacceptable that I venture to lay the following pages before the public.
Reports of the journeys which I made in Western China during the above years have already appeared in the shape of Parliamentary Papers; but, written as they were without any idea of publication and intended as mere trade notes, strung together from day to day on the march, they are not sufficiently connected to present a fair picture of this remote region.
That part of Western China, with which I am personally acquainted and with which I propose to deal, lies to the south, and embraces the provinces of Ssu-ch’uan, Kuei-chow and Yün-nan, which, interesting in themselves, have become of considerable importance since the extension of the Indian Empire to the frontier of China and the absorption of Tonquin by the French.