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From its mouth to I-ch‛ang, about 1000 m., the river is navigable by large steamers. Above this last-named city the navigation becomes The Yangtsze-kiang. impossible for any but light native craft or foreign vessels specially constructed for the navigation, by reason of the rapids which occur at frequent intervals in the deep mountain gorges through which the river runs between Kwei-chow and I-ch‛ang. Above Kwei-chow it receives from the north many tributaries, notably the Min, which water the low table-land of central Sze-ch‛uen. The main river itself has in this province a considerable navigable stretch, while below I-ch‛ang it receives the waters of numerous navigable affluents. The Yangtsze system is thus all important in the economic and commercial development of China.

Perhaps the most remarkable of the affluents of the Yangtsze is the Han-kiang or Han river. It rises in the Po-mêng mountains to the north of the city of Ning-kiang Chow in Shen-si. Taking a generally easterly course from its source as far as Fan-cheng, it from that point takes a more southerly direction and empties itself into the Yangtsze-kiang at Han-kow, “the mouth of the Han.” Here it is only 200 ft. wide, while higher up it widens to 2600 ft. It is navigable by steamers for 300 m. The summer high-water line is for a great part of its course, from I-ch‛eng Hien to Han-kow, above the level of its banks. Near Sien-t‛ao-chên the elevation of the plain above low water is no more than 1 ft., and in summer the river rises about 26 ft. above its lowest level. To protect themselves against inundations the natives have here, as elsewhere, thrown up high embankments on both sides of the river, but at a distance from the natural banks of about 50 to 100 ft. This intervening space is flooded every year, and by the action of the water new layers of sand and soil are deposited every summer, thus strengthening the embankments from season to season.

The Hwai-ho is a large river of east central China flowing between the Hwang-ho and the Yangtsze-kiang. The Hwai-ho and its numerous affluents (it is said to have 72 tributaries) rise in Ho-nan. The main river flows through the centre of Ngan-hui, in which province it receives from the N.W. the Sha-ho, Fei-ho and other important affluents. Formerly it received through the Sha-ho part of the waters of the Hwang-ho. The Hwai-ho flows into the Hungtso lake, through which it feeds the Grand Canal, not far from the old course of the Hwang-ho, and probably at one time joined that river not far from its mouth. It has a length of about 800 m. and is navigable from the point where it leaves the hill country of Ho-nan to Lake Hungtso. It is subject to violent floods, which inundate the surrounding country for a distance of 10 to 20 m. Many of its tributaries are also navigable for considerable distances.

Next in importance to the Yangtsze-kiang as a water highway is the Yun-ho, or, as it is generally known in Europe, the Grand Canal. This magnificent artificial river reaches from Hang-chow Fu in the province of Cheh-kiang to Tientsin in Chih-li, Grand Canal. where it unites with the Peiho, and thus may be said to extend to Tung-chow in the neighbourhood of Peking. According to the itineraries published by Père Gandar, the total length of the canal is 3630 li, or about 1200 m. A rough measurement, taking account only of the main bends of the canal, makes its length 850 m. After leaving Hang-chow the canal passes round the eastern border of the Tai-hu or Great Lake, surrounding in its course the beautiful city of Su-chow, and then trends in a generally north-westerly direction through the fertile districts of Kiang-su as far as Chin-kiang on the Yangtsze-kiang. In this, the southern section, the slope is gentle and water is plentiful (from 7 ft. at low water to 11 ft., and occasionally 13 ft. at high water). Between Su-chow and Chin-kiang the canal is often over 100 ft. wide, and its sides are in many places faced with stone. It is spanned by fine stone bridges, and near its banks are many memorial arches and lofty pagodas. In the central portion of the canal, that is between Chin-kiang and Tsing-kiang-pu, at which latter place it crosses the dry channel which marks the course of the Yellow river before 1852, the current is strong and difficult to ascend in the upward (northern) journey. This part of the canal skirts several lakes and is fed by the Hwai-ho as it issues from the Hungtso lake. The country lying west of the canal is higher than its bed; while the country east is lower than the canal. The two regions are known respectively as Shang-ho (above the river) and Ssia-ho (below the river). Waste weirs opening on the Ssia-ho (one of the great rice-producing areas of China) discharge the surplus water in flood seasons. The northern and considerably the longest section of the canal extends from the old bed of the Yellow river to Tientsin. It largely utilizes existing rivers and follows their original windings. Between Tsing-kiang-pu and the present course of the Yellow river the canal trends N.N.W., skirting the highlands of Shan-tung. In this region it passes through a series of lagoons, which in summer form one lake—Chow-yang. North of that lake on the east bank of the canal, is the city of Tsi-ning-chow. About 25 m. N. of that city the highest level of the canal is reached at the town of Nan Wang. Here the river Wen enters the canal from the east, and about 30 m. farther N. the Yellow river is reached. On the west side of the canal, at the point where the Yellow river now cuts across it, there is laid down in Chinese maps of the 18th century a dry channel which is described as being that once followed by the Yellow river, i.e. before it took the channel it abandoned in 1851–1853. The passage of the Yellow river to the part of the canal lying north of that stream is difficult, and can only be effected at certain levels of the river. Frequently the waters of the river are either too low or the current is too strong to permit a passage. Leaving this point the canal passes through a well-wooded and hilly country west of Tung-p‛ing Chow and east of Tung-ch‛ang Fu. At Lin-ching Chow it is joined at right angles by the Wei river in the midst of the city. Up to this point, i.e. from Tsing-kiang-pu to Lin-ching Chow, a distance of over 300 m., navigation is difficult and the water-supply often insufficient. The differences of level, 20 to 30 ft., are provided for by barrages over which the boats—having discharged their cargo—are hauled by windlasses. Below the junction with the Wei the canal borrows the channel of the river and again becomes easily navigable. Crossing the frontier into Chih-li, between Te Chow and Tsang Chow, which it passes to the west, it joins the Peiho at Tientsin, after having received the waters of the Keto river in the neighbourhood of Tsing Hien.[1]

The most ancient part of the canal is the section between the Yangtsze and the Hwai-ho. This part is thought, on the strength of a passage in one of the books of Confucius, to have been built c. 486 B.C. It was repaired and enlarged in the 3rd century A.D. The southern part, between the Yangtsze and Hang-chow, was built early in the 7th century A.D. The northern part is stated to have been constructed in the three years 1280–1283. The northern portion of the canal is now of little use as a means of communication between north and south.[2] It is badly built, neglected and charged with the mud-laden waters of the Yellow river. The “tribute fleet” bearing rice to Peking still uses this route; but the rice is now largely forwarded by sea. The central and southern portions of the canal are very largely used.

The Peiho (length about 350 m.) is of importance as being the high waterway to Peking. Taking its rise in the Si-shan, or Western Mountains, beyond Peking, it passes the city of T‛sung-chow, the port of Peking, and Tientsin, where it meets the waters of the Hun-ho and empties itself into the gulf of Chih-li at the village of Taku. The Peiho is navigable for small steamers as far as Tientsin during the greater part of the year, but from the end of November to the beginning of March it is frozen up.

In the southern provinces the Si-kiang, or Western river, is the most considerable. It has a length of over 1000 m. This river takes its rise in the prefecture of Kwang-nan Fu in Yun-nan, whence it reaches the frontier of Kwang-si at a distance The Si-kiang. of about 90 li from its source. Then trending in a north-easterly direction it forms the boundary between the two provinces for about 150 li. From this point it takes a generally south-easterly course, passing the cities of Tsien Chow, Fung-e Chow, Shang-lin Hien, Lung-ngan Hien, Yung-kang Chow and Nan-ning Fu to Yung-shan Hien. Here it makes a bend to the north-east, and continues this general direction as far as Sin-chow Fu, a distance of 800 li, where it meets and joins the waters of the Kien-kiang from the north. Its course is then easterly, and after passing Wu-chow Fu it crosses the frontier into Kwang-tung. In this part of its course it flows through a gorge 3 m. long and in places but 270 yds. in width. Both above and below this gorge it is 1 m. wide. Some 30 m. above Canton it divides into two main and several small branches. The northern branch, called Chu-kiang, or Pearl river, flows past Fat-shan and Canton and reaches the sea through the estuary called the Bocca Tigris or Bogue, at the mouth of which is the island of Hong-Kong. The southern branch, which retains the name of Si-kiang, reaches the sea west of Macao. Near the head of its delta the Si-kiang receives the Pei-kiang, a considerable river which flows through Kwang-tung in a general N. to S. direction. Like the Yangtsze-kiang the Si-kiang is known by various names in different parts of its course. From its source to Nan-ning Fu in Kwang-si it is called the Si-yang-kiang, or river of the Western Ocean; from Nan-ning Fu to Sin-chow Fu it is known as the Yu-kiang, or the Bending river; and over the remainder of its course it is recognized by the name of the Si-kiang, or Western river. The Si-kiang is navigable as far as Shao-king, 130 m., for vessels not drawing more than 15 ft. of water, and vessels of a light draught may easily reach Wu-chow Fu, in Kwang-si, which is situated 75 m. farther up. In winter the navigation is difficult above Wu-chow Fu. Above that place there is a rapid at low water, but navigation is possible to beyond Nan-ning Fu.

Lakes.—There are numerous lakes in the central provinces of China. The largest of these is the Tung-t‛ing in Hu-nan, which, according to the Chinese geographers, is upwards of 800 li, or 266 m., in circumference. In native gazetteers its various portions are known under distinct names; thus it is said to include the Ts‛ing-ts‛ao, or Green Grass Lake; the Ung, or Venerable Lake; the Chih-sha, or Red Sand Lake; the Hwang-yih, or Imperial Post-house Lake;

the Ngan-nan, or Peaceful Southern Lake; and the Ta-tung, or

  1. For the Grand Canal the chief authority is Dominique Gandar, S.J., “Le Canal Impérial. Étude historique et descriptive,” Variétés sinologiques No. 4 (Shanghai, 1903); see also Stenz, “Der Kaiserkanal,” in Beiträgen zur Kolonialpolitik, Band v. (Berlin, 1903–1904), and the works of Ney Elias, Sir J. F. Davis, A. Williamson, E. H. Parker and W. R. Carles.
  2. Nevertheless there is considerable local traffic. The transit trade with Shan-tung, passing the Chin-kiang customs and using some 250 m. of the worst part of the canal, was valued in 1905 at 3,331,000 taels.