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Great Deep Lake. In ancient times it went by the name of the Kiu-kiang Hu, or Lake of the Nine Rivers, from the fact that nine rivers flowed into it. Its chief affluents are the Siang-kiang, which rises in the highlands in the north of Kwang-si and flows in a general N.N.E. direction, and the Yuen-kiang, which flows N. and then E. from the eastern border of Kwei-chow. The lake is connected with the Yangtsze-kiang by two canals, the Taping and the Yochow Fu. In summer it is fed by the overflow from the Yangtsze-kiang; in winter it pours its waters into that river through the Yochow Fu canal. During the winter and spring the water of the lake is so low that the shallow portions become islands, separated by rivers such as the Siang and Yuen, and numberless streams; but in summer, owing to the rise in the waters of the Yangtsze-kiang, the whole basin of the lake is filled. It is then about 75 m. long and 60 m. broad. About 180 m. E. of the Tung-t‘ing lake is the Poyang lake, which occupies the low-lying part of the province of Kiang-si, and is connected with the Yangtsze by the Hu-kow canal. The Poyang lake is also subject to a wide difference between high and low water, but not quite to the same extent as the Tung-t‘ing lake, and its landmarks are more distinctly defined. It is about 90 m. long by 20 broad. The T‘ai lake, in the neighbourhood of Su-chow Fu, is also celebrated for its size and the beauty of its surroundings. It is about 150 m. in circumference, and is dotted over with islands, on which are built temples for the devotees of religion, and summer-houses for the votaries of pleasure from the rich and voluptuous cities of Hang-chow and Su-chow. The boundary line between the provinces of Cheh-kiang and Kiang-su crosses its blue waters, and its shores are divided among thirteen prefectures. Besides these lakes there are, among others, two in Yun-nan, the Kun-yang-hai (Tien-chi) near Yun-nan Fu, which is 40 m. long and is connected with the Yangtsze-kiang by the Pu-to river, and the Erh-hai (Urh-hai) to the east of the city of Tali.

The Great Wall.—Along the northern provinces of Chih-li, Shan-si, Shen-si and Kan-suh, over 22° of longitude (98° to 120° E.), stretches the Great Wall of China, built to defend the country against foreign aggression. It was begun in the 3rd century B.C., was repaired in the 15th century, and in the 16th century was extended by 300 m. Following the windings the wall is 1500 m. long. Starting near the seashore[1] at Shan-hai-kwan on the gulf of Liao-tung, where the Chinese and Manchurian frontiers meet, it goes eastward past Peking (which is about 35 m. to the south) and then trends S. and E. across Shan-si to the Hwang-ho. From the neighbourhood of Peking to the Hwang-ho there is an inner and an outer wall. The outer (northern) wall passes through Kalgan, thus guarding the pass into Mongolia. A branch wall separates the greater part of the western frontier of Chih-li from Shan-si. West of the Hwang-ho the Great Wall forms the northern frontier of Shen-si, and west of Shen-si it keeps near the northern frontier of Kan-suh, following for some distance in that province the north bank of the Hwang-ho. It ends at Kiayu-kwan (98° 14′ E.) just west of Su-chow. This part of the wall was built to protect the one main artery leading from central Asia to China through Kan-suh and Shen-si by the valley of the Wei-ho, tributary of the Hwang-ho. There is a branch wall in Kan-suh running west and south to protect the Tibetan frontier. The height of the wall is generally from 20 to 30 ft., and at intervals of some 200 yds. are towers about 40 ft. high. Its base is from 15 to 25 ft. thick and its summit 12 ft. wide. The wall is carried over valleys and mountains, and in places is over 4000 ft. above sea-level. Military posts are still maintained at the chief gates or passes—at Shan-hai-kwan, the Kalgan pass, the Yenmun pass (at the N. of Shan-si) and the Kaiyu pass in the extreme west, through which runs the caravan route to Barkal in Turkestan. Colonel A. W. S. Wingate, who in the opening years of the 20th century visited the Great Wall at over twenty places widely apart and gathered many descriptions of it in other places, states that its position is wrongly shown “on the maps of the day” (1907) in a number of places; while in others it had ceased to exist, “the only places where it forms a substantial boundary being in the valley bottoms, on the passes and where it crosses main routes. These remarks apply with particular force to the branch running south-west from the Nan-k‘ow pass and forming the boundary of Chih-li and Shan-si provinces.” In Colonel Wingate’s opinion the wall was originally built by degrees and in sections, not of hewn stone, but of round boulders and earth, the different sections being repaired as they fell into ruin. “Only in the valley bottoms and on the passes was it composed of masonry or brickwork. The Mings rebuilt of solid masonry all those sections through which led a likely road for invading Tatars to follow, or where it could be seen at a distance from the sky-line.” The building of the wall “was a sufficiently simple affair,” not to be compared with the task of building the pyramids of Egypt.[2]

Climate.—The climate over so vast an area as China necessarily varies greatly. The southern parts of Yun-nan, Kwang-si and Kwang-tung (including the city of Canton) lie within the tropics. The northern zone (in which lies Peking) by contrast has a climate which resembles that of northern Europe, with winters of Arctic severity. The central zone (in which Shanghai is situated) has a generally temperate climate. But over both northern and central China the influence of the great plateau of Mongolia tends to establish uniform conditions unusual in so large an area. The prevailing winds during summer—the rainy season—are south-easterly, caused by heat and the ascending current of air over the sandy deserts of central Asia, thus drawing in a current from the Pacific Ocean. In the winter the converse takes place, and the prevailing winds, descending from the Mongolian plateau, are north and north-west, and are cold and dry. From October to May the climate of central China is bracing and enjoyable. The rainfall is moderate and regular.

In northern China the inequalities both of temperature and rainfall are greater than in the central provinces. In the province of Chih-li, for example, the heat of summer is as intense as is the cold of winter. In summer the rains often render the plain swampy, while the dry persistent westerly winds of spring create dust storms (experienced in Peking from March to June). The rainfall is, however, uncertain, and thus the harvests are precarious. The provinces of Shan-tung and Shan-si are peculiarly liable to prolonged periods of drought, with consequent severe famines such as that of 1877-1878, when many millions died. In these regions the air is generally extremely dry, and the daily variations of temperature consequent on excessive radiation are much greater than farther south.

Accurate statistics both of heat and rainfall are available from a few stations only. The rainfall on the southern coasts is said to be about 100 in. yearly; at Peking the rainfall is about 24 in. a year. In the coast regions the temperatures of Peking, Shanghai and Canton may be taken as typical of those of the northern, central and southern zones. In Peking (39° N.) the mean annual temperature is about 53° F., the mean for January 23°, for July 79°. In Shanghai (31° 11′ N.)[3] the mean annual temperature is 59°, the mean for January 36.2°, for July 80.4°. In Canton (23° 15′ N.) the mean annual temperature is 70°, the mean for January 54°, for July 82°. The range of temperature, even within the tropics, is noteworthy. At Peking and Tientsin the thermometer in winter falls sometimes to 5° below zero and rises in summer to 105° (at Taku 107° has been recorded); in Shanghai in winter the thermometer falls to 18° and in summer rises to 102°. In Canton frost is said to have been recorded, but according to the China Sea Directory the extreme range is from 38° to 100°.[4] The climate of Shanghai, which resembles, but is not so good as, that of the Yangtsze-kiang valley generally, is fairly healthy, but there is an almost constant excess of moisture. The summer months, July to September, are very hot, while snow usually falls in December and January.

At Canton and along the south coast the hot season corresponds with the S.W. monsoon; the cool season—mid October to end of April—with the N.E. monsoon. Farther north, at Shanghai, the S.W. monsoon is sufficiently felt to make the prevailing wind in summer southerly.

Provinces.—China proper is divided into the following provinces: Cheh-kiang, Chih-li, Fu-kien, Ngan-hui (An-hui), Ho-nan, Hu-nan, Hu-peh, Kan-suh, Kiang-si, Kiang-su, Kwang-si, Kwang-tung, Kwei-chow, Shan-si, Shan-tung, Shen-si, Sze-ch‘uen and Yun-nan. See the separate notices of each province and the article on Shêng-king, the southern province of Manchuria. X. 


The Palaeozoic formations of China, excepting only the upper part of the Carboniferous system, are marine, while the Mesozoic and Tertiary deposits are estuarine and freshwater or else of terrestrial origin. From the close of the Palaeozoic period down to the present day the greater part of the empire has been dry land, and it is only in the southern portion of Tibet and in the western Tian Shan that any evidence of a Mesozoic sea has yet been found. The geological sequence may be summarized as follows:—

Archean.—Gneiss, crystalline schists, phyllites, crystalline limestones. Exposed in Liao-tung, Shan-tung, Shan-si, northern Chih-li and in the axis of the mountain ranges, e.g. the Kuen-lun and the ranges of southern China.

Sinian.—Sandstones, quartzites, limestones. Sometimes rests unconformably upon the folded rocks of the Archaen system; but sometimes, according to Lóczy, there is no unconformity. Covers a large area in the northern part of China proper; absent in the eastern Kuen-lun; occurs again in the ranges of S.E. China. In Liao-tung Cambrian fossils have been found near the summit of the series; they belong to the oldest fauna known upon the earth, the fauna of the Olenellus zone. It is, however, not improbable that in many places beds of considerably later date have been included in the Sinian system.

  1. The portion of the wall which abutted on to the sea has been destroyed.
  2. See the Geog. Jnl. (Feb. and March 1907). For a popular account of the wall, with numerous photographs, see The Great Wall of China (London, 1909), by W. E. Giel, who in 1908 followed its course from east to west. Consult also A. Williamson, Journey in North China (London, 1870); Martin, “La Grande Muraille de la Chine,” Revue scientifique (1891).
  3. For Shanghai the figures are compiled from twenty-six years’ observations. See China Sea Directory, vol. iii. (4th ed., 1904) p. 660.
  4. The thermometer registered 23° F. in January 1893, on the river 28 m. below Canton. This is the lowest reading known. Ibid., pp. 104-105.