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GEOGRAPHY]
167
CHINA

fully half of the kingdom, are, in the north a great alluvial plain and in the south a vast calcareous tableland traversed by hill ranges of moderate elevation (see §§ Mountains and Geology). In north-eastern China there is only one mountain system, the group of hills—highest peak 5060 ft.—forming the Shan-tung peninsula. This peninsula was formerly an island, but has been attached to the mainland by the growth of the alluvial plain. Besides the broad division of the country into western and eastern China it may also be considered as divided into three regions by the basins of its chief rivers, the Hwang-ho (Yellow river) in the north, the Yangtsze-kiang in the centre, and the Si-kiang (West river) in the south. In the northern provinces of Kan-suh and Shen-si the basins of the Hwang-ho and Yangtsze-kiang are separated by a mountain chain with various names— the eastern termination of the Kuen-lun range of central Asia. These mountains, in China, attain, in the Tsing-ling Shan, a maximum elevation of 13,000 ft. East of Shen-si, in Ho-nan the Fu-niu-shan continue the range, but with decreasing elevation, and beyond this the deltaic plain is entered.

The watershed between the Yangtsze-kiang and that of the Si-kiang is less clearly marked. It traverses the immense tableland which occupies a great part of the south-west provinces of Yun-nan and Kwei-chow and is continued eastward by the lower tableland of Kwang-si and the Nanshan hills (whose elevation seldom exceeds 6000 ft.). The basin of the Yangtsze-kiang forms the whole of central China. Its western border, in Sze-ch‛uen and Yun-nan, is wholly mountainous, with heights exceeding 19,000 ft. Central Sze-ch‛uen, which is shut in by these mountains on the west, by the Yun-nan and Kwei-chow plateau on the south, by the Kiu-lung range on the north, and by highlands eastward (save for the narrow valley through which the Yangtsze-kiang forces its way), is a vast red sandstone tableland of about 1600 ft. elevation. It is exceedingly fertile and supports a dense population. Eastward of Sze-ch‛uen the Yangtsze valley is studded with lakes. Finally it enters the deltaic plain. The basin of the Si-kiang fills the two southern provinces of Kwang-si and Kwang-tung and contains no very striking orographic features. It may be added that in the extreme S.W. portion of China is part of a fourth drainage area. Here the Mekong, Salween, Song-koi (Red river), &c. flow south to Indo-China.

The Coast.—The coast-line, following all the minor indentations, is reckoned at over 4500 m.; if only the larger inlets and promontories be regarded, the coast-line is about 2150 m. in length. Its shape is that of a semicircle, with its most easterly point midway (30° N.) between its northern and southern extremities. At either end of this semicircular sweep lies a peninsula, and beyond the peninsula a gulf. In the north are the peninsula of Shan-tung and the gulf of Chih-li; in the south the Lien-chow peninsula and the gulf of Tongking. Due south of Lien-chow peninsula, separated rom it by a narrow strait, is Hai-nan, the only considerable island of China. From the northern point of the gulf of Chih-li to 30° N., where is Hang-chow bay, the shores are flat and alluvial save where the Shan-tung peninsula juts out. Along this stretch there are few good natural harbours, except at the mouths of rivers and in the Shan-tung promontory; the sea is shallow and has many shoals. The waters bordering the coast of Chih-li are partly frozen in winter; at 10 m. from the shore the water is only 20 ft. deep. The proximity of Peking gives its few ports importance; that of Taku is at the mouth of the Peiho. In Shan-tung, deeply indented on its southern coast, are the ports of Chi-fu, Wei-hai-wei and Tsing-tao (the last in Kiao-chow bay). South of Shan-tung and north of the mouth of the Yangtsze huge sandbanks border the coast, with narrow channels between them and the shore. The estuary of the Yangtsze is 60 m. across; it contains islands and sandbanks, but there is easy access to Wusung (Shanghai) and other river ports. The bay of Hangchow, as broad at its entrance as the Yangtsze estuary, forms the mouth of the Tsien-tang-kiang. The Chusan and other groups of islands lie across the entrance of the bay.

South of Hang-chow bay the character of the coast alters. In place of the alluvial plain, with flat, sandy and often marshy shores, the coast is generally hilly, often rocky and abrupt; it abounds in small indentations and possesses numerous excellent harbours; in this region are Fu-chow, Amoy, Swatow, Hongkong, Macao, Canton and other well-known ports. The whole of this coast is bordered by small islands. Formosa lies opposite the S.E. coast, the channel between it and Fu-kien province being about 100 m. wide. Formosa protects the neighbouring regions of China from the typhoons experienced farther north and farther south.

Surface.—As already indicated, one of the most noticeable features in the surface of China is the immense deltaic plain in the north-eastern portion of the country, which, curving round the mountainous districts of Shan-tung, extends for about 700 m. in a southerly direction from the neighbourhood of Peking and variesDeltaic Plain. from 150 to 500 m. in breadth. This plain is the delta of the Yellow river and, to some extent, that of the Yangtsze-kiang also. Beginning in the prefecture of Yung-p‛ing Fu, in the province of Chih-li, its outer limit passes in a westerly direction as far as Ch‛ang-p‛ing Chow, north-west of Peking. Thence running a south-south-westerly course it passes westward of Chêng-ting Fu and Kwang-p‛ing Fu till it reaches the upper waters of the Wei river in Ho-nan. From this point it turns westward and crosses the Hwang-ho or Yellow river in the prefecture of Hwai-k‛ing. Leaving this river it takes a course a little to the east of south, and passing west of Ju-ning Fu, in the province of Ho-nan, it turns in a more easterly direction as far as Luchow Fu. From this prefecture an arm of the plain, in which lies the Chao Lake, stretches southward from the Hwai river to the Yangtsze-kiang, and trending eastward occupies the region between that river and Hangchow Bay. To the north of this arm rises a hilly district, in the centre of which stands Nanking. The greater part of this vast plain descends very gently towards the sea, and is generally below the level of the Yellow river, hence the disastrous inundations which so often accompany the rise of that river. Owing to the great quantity of soil which is brought down by the waters of the Yellow river, and to the absence of oceanic currents, this delta is rapidly increasing and the adjoining seas are as rapidly becoming shallower. As an instance, it is said that the town of P‛utai was one Chinese mile[1] west of the seashore in the year 200 B.C., and in 1730 it was 140 m. inland, thus giving a yearly encroachment upon the sea of about 100 ft. Again, Sien-shwuy-kow on the Peiho was on the seashore in A.D. 500, and it is now about 18 m. inland.

Some of the ranges connected with the mountain system of central Asia which enter the western provinces of China have been mentioned above, others may be indicated here. In the eastern portion of Tibet the Kuen-lun range throws offMountains. a number of branches, which spread first of all in a south-easterly direction and eventually take a north and south course, partly in the provinces of Sze-ch‛uen and Yun-nan, where they divide the beds of the rivers which flow into Siam and French Indo-China, as well as the principal northern tributaries of the Yangtsze-kiang. In the north-west, traversing the western portion of the province of Kan-suh, are parallel ranges running N.W. and S.E. and forming a prolongation of the northern Tibetan mountains. They are known as the Lung-shan, Richthofen and Nan-shan, and join on the south-east the Kuen-lun range. The Richthofen range (locally called Tien-shan, or Celestial Mountains) attains elevations of over 20,000 ft. Several of its peaks are snowclad, and there are many glaciers. Forming the northern frontier of the province of Sze-ch‛uen run the Min-shan and the Kiu-lung (or Po-mêng) ranges, which, entering China in 102° E., extend in a general easterly course as far as 112° E. in the province of Hu-peh. These ranges have an average elevation of 8000 and 11,000 ft. respectively. In the south a number of parallel ranges spread from the Yun-nan plateau in an easterly direction as far as the province of Kwang-tung. Then turning north-eastward they run in lines often parallel with the coast, and cover large areas of the provinces of Fu-kien, Kiang-si, Cheh-kiang, Hu-nan and southern Ngan-hui, until they reach the Yangtsze-kiang; the valley of that river from the Tung-ting Lake to Chin-kiang Fu forming their northern boundary. In Fu-kien these hills attain the character of a true mountain range with heights of from 6500 to nearly 10,000 ft. Besides the chief ranges there are the Tai-hang Mountains in Shan-si, and many others, among which may be mentioned the ranges—part of the escarpment of the Mongolian plateau—which form the northern frontier of Chih-li. Here the highest peak is Ta-kuang-ting-tzu (6500 ft.), about 300 m. N.N.E. of Peking and immediately north of Wei Ch‛ang (the imperial hunting grounds).

Rivers and Canals.—The rivers of China are very numerous and there are many canals. In the north the rivers are only navigable by small craft; elsewhere they form some of the most frequented highways in the country. The two largest rivers,The Yellow River. the Yangtsze-kiang and the Hwang-ho (Yellow river), are separately noticed. The Hwang-ho (length about 2400 m.) has only one important tributary in China, the Wei-ho, which rises in Kan-suh and flows through the centre of Shen-si. Below the confluence the Hwang-ho enters the plains. According to the Chinese records this portion of the river has changed its course nine times during 2500 years, and has emptied itself into the sea at different mouths, the most northerly of which is represented as having been in about 39° N., or in the neighbourhood of the present mouth of the Peiho, and the most southerly being that which existed before the change in 1851–1853, in 34° N. Owing to its small value as a navigable highway and to its propensity to inundate the regions in its neighbourhood, there are no considerable towns on its lower course.

The Yangtsze-kiang is the chief waterway of China. The river, flowing through the centre of the country, after a course of 2900 m., empties itself into the Yellow Sea in about 31° N. Unlike the Yellow river, the Yangtsze-kiang is dotted along its navigable portions with many rich and populous cities, among which are Nanking, An-ch‛ing (Ngank‛ing), Kiu-kiang, Hankow and I-ch‛ang.
  1. A Chinese mile, li, or le = 0.36 English mile.