Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Ordovician.—Ordovician fossils have been found in the Lung-shan, Kiang-su (about 50 m. east of Nan-king), in the south-west of Cheh-kiang and in the south-east of Yun-nan. Ordovician beds probably occur also in the Kuen-lun.

Silurian.—Limestones and slates with Silurian corals and other fossils have been found in Sze-ch‘uen.

Devonian.—Found in Kan-suh and in the Tsing-ling-shan, but becomes much more important in southern China. Occurs also on the south of the Tian-shan, in the Altyn-tagh, the Nan-shan and the western Kuen-lun.

Carboniferous.—Covers a large area in northern China, in the plateau of Shen-si and Shan-si, extending westwards in tongues between the folds of the Kuen-lun. In this region it consists of a lower series of limestones and an upper series of sandstones with seams of coal, which may perhaps be in part of Permian age. This is probably the most extensive coalfield in the world.

In south China the whole series consists chiefly of limestones, and the coal seams are comparatively unimportant. Carboniferous beds are also found in the Tian-shan, the Nan-shan, Kan-suh, on the southern borders of the Gobi, &c.

Mesozoic.—Marine Triassic beds containing fossils similar to those of the German Muschelkalk have been found by Lóczy near Chung-tien, on the eastern border of the Tibetan plateau. Elsewhere, however, the Mesozoic is represented chiefly by a red sandstone, which covers the greater part of Sze-ch‘uen and fills also a number of troughs amongst the older beds of southern China. No marine fossils are found in this sandstone, but remains of plants are numerous, and these belong to the Rhaetic, Lias and Lower Oolite. No Cretaceous beds are known in China excepting in S. Tibet (on the shores of the Tengri-nor) and in the western portion of the Tian-shan.

Cainozoic and Recent.—No marine deposits of this age are known. Although the loess of the great plain and the sand of the desert are still in process of formation, the accumulation of these deposits probably began in the Tertiary period.

Volcanic Rocks.—Amongst the Archean rocks granitic and other intrusions are abundant, but of more modern volcanic activity the remains are comparatively scanty. In south China there is no evidence of Tertiary or Post-Tertiary volcanoes, but groups of volcanic cones occur in the great plain of north China. In the Liao-tung and Shan-tung peninsulas there are basaltic plateaus, and similar outpourings occur upon the borders of Mongolia. All these outbursts appear to be of Tertiary or later data.

Loess.—One of the most characteristic deposits of China is the loess, which not merely imparts to north China the physical character of the scenery, but also determines the agricultural products, the transport, and general economic life of the people of that part of the country. It is peculiar to north China and it is not found south of the Yangtsze. The loess is a solid but friable earth of brownish-yellow colour, and when triturated with water is not unlike loam, but differs from the latter by its highly porous and tubular structure. The loess soil is extremely favourable to agriculture. (See Loess and infra, § Agriculture.)

The loess is called by the Chinese Hwang-t‘u, or yellow earth, and it has been suggested that the imperial title Hwang-ti, Yellow Emperor or Ruler of the Yellow, had its origin in the fact that the emperor is lord of the loess or yellow earth.

Structurally, China proper may be divided into two regions, separated from each other by the folded range of the Tsing-ling-shan, which is a continuation of the folded belt of the Kuen-lun. North of this chain the Palaeozoic beds are Structure. in general nearly horizontal, and the limestones and sandstones of the Sinian and Carboniferous systems form an extensive plateau which rises abruptly from the western margin of the great plain of northern China. The plateau is deeply carved by the rivers which flow through it; and the strata are often faulted, but they are never sharply folded. South of the Tsing-ling-shan, on the other hand, the Palaeozoic beds are thrown into a series of folds running from W. 30° S. to E. 30° N., which form the hilly region of southern China. Towards Tongking these folds probably bend southwards and join the folds of Further India. Amongst these folded beds lie trough-like depressions filled with the Mesozoic red sandstone which lies unconformably upon the Palaeozoic rocks.

The present configuration of China is due, in a very considerable degree, to faulting. The abrupt eastern edge of the Shan-si plateau, where it overlooks the great plain, is a line of fault, or rather a series of step faults, with the downthrow on the east; and von Richthofen has shown reason to believe that this line of faulting is continued far to the south and to the north. He believed also that the present coast-line of China has to a large extent been determined by similar faults with their downthrow on the east.

Concerning the structure of the central Asian plateau our knowledge is still incomplete. The great mountain chains, the Kuen-lun, the Nan-shan and the Tian-shan, are belts of folding; but the Mongolian Altai is a horst—a strip of ancient rock lying between two faults and with a depressed area upon each side. In the whole of this northern region faulting, as distinct from folding, seems to have played an important part. Along the southern margin of the Tian-shan there is a remarkable trough-like depression which appears to lie between two approximately parallel faults.  (P. La.) 


China lies within two zoological provinces or regions, its southern portion forming a part of the Oriental or Indian region and having a fauna close akin to that of the western Himalaya, Burma and Siam, whereas the districts to the north of Fu-chow and south of the Yangtsze-kiang lie within the eastern Holarctic (Palaearctic) region, or rather the southern fringe of the latter, which has been separated as the Mediterranean transitional region. Of these two divisions of the Chinese fauna, the northern one is the more interesting, since it forms the chief home of a number of peculiar generic types, and also includes types represented elsewhere at the present day (exclusive in one case of Japan) only in North America. The occurrence in China of these types common to the eastern and western hemispheres is important in regard to the former existence of a land-bridge between Eastern Asia and North America by way of Bering Strait.

Of the types peculiar to China and North America the alligator of the Yangtsze-kiang is generically identical with its Mississippi relative. The spoon-beaked sturgeon of the Yangtsze and Hwang-ho is, however, now separated, as Psephurus, from the closely allied American Polyodon. Among insectivorous mammals the Chinese and Japanese shrew-moles, respectively forming the genera Uropsilus and Urotrichus, are represented in America by Neurotrichus. The giant salamander of the rivers of China and Japan and the Chinese mandarin duck are by some included in the same genera as their American representatives, while by others they are referred to genera apart. Whichever view we take does not alter their close relationship. One wapiti occurs on the Tibetan frontier, and others in Manchuria and Amurland.

As regards mammals and birds, the largest number of generic and specific types peculiar to China are met with in Sze-ch‘uen. Foremost among these is the great panda (Aeluropus melanoleucus), representing a genus by itself, probably related to bears and to the true panda (Aelurus), the latter of which has a local race in Sze-ch‘uen. Next come the snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus), of which the typical species is a native of Sze-ch‘uen, while a second is found on the upper Mekong, and a third in the mountains of central China. In the Insectivora the swimming-shrew (Nectogale) forms another generic type peculiar to Sze-ch‘uen, which is also the sole habitat of the mole-like Scaptochirus, of Uropsilus, near akin to the Japanese Urotrichus, of Scaptonyx, which connects the latter with the moles (Talpa), and of Neotetracus, a relative of the Malay rat-shrews (Gymnura). Here also may be mentioned the raccoon-dog, forming the subgenus Nyctereutes, common to China and Japan. The Himalayan black and the Malay bear have each a local race in Sze-ch‘uen, where the long-haired Fontanier’s cat (Felis tristis) and the Tibet cat (F. scripta) connect Indo-Malay species with the American ocelots, while the bay cat (F. temmincki), a Malay type, is represented by local forms in Sze-ch‘uen and Fu-chow. The Amurland leopard and Manchurian tiger likewise constitute local races of their respective species.

Among ruminants, the Sze-ch‘uen takin represents a genus (Budorcas) found elsewhere in the Mishmi Hills and Bhutan, while serows (Nemorhaedus) and gorals (Urotragus), allied to Himalayan and Burmo-Malay types, abound. The Himalayan fauna is also represented by a race of the Kashmir hangul deer. Of other deer, the original habitat of Père David’s milu (Elaphurus), formerly kept in the Peking park, is unknown. The sika group, which is peculiar to China, Japan and Formosa, is represented by Cervus hortulorum in Manchuria and the smaller C. manchuricus and sika in that province and the Yangtsze valley; while musk-deer (Moschus) abound in Kan-suh and Sze-ch‘uen. The small water-deer (Hydropotes or Hydrelaphus) of the Yangtsze valley represents a genus peculiar to the country, as do the three species of tufted deer (Elaphodus), whose united range extends from Sze-ch‘uen to Ning-po and I-ch‘ang. Muntjacs (Cervulus) are likewise very characteristic of the country, to which the white-tailed, plum-coloured species, like the Tenasserim C. crinifrons, are peculiar. The occurrence of races of the wapiti in Manchuria and Amurland has been already mentioned.

To refer in detail to the numerous forms of rodents inhabiting China is impossible here, and it must suffice to mention that the flying-squirrels (Pteromys) are represented by a large and handsome species in Sze-ch‘uen, where is also found the largest kind of bamboo-rat (Rhizomys), the other species of which are natives of the western Himalaya and the Malay countries. Dwarf hamsters of the genus Cricetulus are natives of the northern provinces. In the extreme south, in Hai-nan, is found a gibbon ape (Hylobates), while langur (Semnopithecus) and macaque monkeys (Macacus) likewise occur in the south, one of the latter also inhabiting Sze-ch‘uen.

To give an adequate account of Chinese ornithology would require space many times the length of this article. The gorgeous mandarin duck (Aix galerita) has already been mentioned among generic types common to America. In marked distinction to this is the number of species of pheasants inhabiting north-western China, whence the group ranges into the eastern Himalaya. Among Chinese species are two of the three species of blood-pheasants (Ithagenes), two tragopans (Ceriornis or Tragopan), a monal (Lophophorus), three out of the five species of Crossoptilum, the other two being Tibetan, two kinds of Pucrasia, the gorgeous golden and Amherst’s pheasants alone representing the genus Chrysolophus, together with several species of the

typical genus Phasianus, among which it will suffice to mention the