CHAPTER XIII - LIFE ON THE UPPER YANGTZE  pp. 138-149

LIFE ON THE UPPER YANGTZE

By Isabella Bird

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At this point, before entering on the empire province of Sze Chuan, it is desirable to give a few facts and impressions regarding life on the Upper Yangtze, my experiences of which extended over five weeks altogether.

The Upper River, with all its peculiarities, lies above Ichang. It must never be forgotten that it is the sole highway for the vast commerce of the richest province of the Chinese Empire, with an area about the size of that of France, and a population estimated at from 50,000,000 to 70,000,000. The nature and risks of this highway may be gathered from these and other descriptions of it. Except in the gorges and some few quiet intervals, it is a series of rapids and races, which at present are only surmounted by man force. Mr. A. J. Little's success in 1898 in getting a large steam launch up to Chungking proves that a steamer can ascend, but not that steam navigation can be made commercially profitable, or that if it were it would be the ruin of junk navigation.

A large up-river junk is from 80 to 120 feet long, from nine to twelve broad, and from 40 to over 100 tons burden.

They are all alike in that they have low square bows, lofty sterns, flat bottoms, and single masts from thirty to forty feet high, carrying huge oblong sails, with which they can only sail with the wind aft.