Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/841

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
821
IRRIGATION IN CHINA.

IRRIGATION IN CHINA.[1]
By GENERAL TCHENG KI TONG.

I PURPOSE to describe what has been accomplished in utilizing the natural waters in our country, where for four thousand years we have sought to get all we could out of them. By means of economical utilization our lands, notwithstanding the extraordinary multiplication of our people, have furnished us ample supplies of food. One of our proverbs says, "Always have children; Providence, which brings them to light, will not let them die of hunger." You never see insects, creatures of nature as we are, dying of hunger; why should men suffer more from it than these little ones? Every one, therefore, ought to find support on the ground he lives upon; but to do this we must take advantage of all the circumstances. If the ground is not sufficient for our wants, we should add to it the fruitfulness of water, subjected to our use. While the Western people have done much to utilize water wherever it seems available, there are, to my view, many defects in their management. I believe water is made to be used everywhere, and yet, notwithstanding the progress of science, this rule is not always conformed to in the West. With all their engineering works, well-water fails in the large cities, and that from the rivers has to be used. It is impure, and consequently un-wholesome. In China, where we have had the same difficulty to contend with, we applied the remedy long ago by always boiling such water previous to using it—applying the anti-microbic remedy before the existence of microbes had been scientifically determined.

The efforts of our ancestors to subject the waters to their use date from an enormous antiquity; I have documents that show how this was done forty centuries ago. Notwithstanding the numerous modern inventions to facilitate the labor and manipulation, we have resolved the most difficult problems in such a manner that nothing can be shown to this day that surpasses what has been accomplished among us by the most primitive methods. By virtue of our system of irrigation our fields give us three crops a year without asking for any intervals of rest. Our liberally watered land is like a peasant woman ignorant of the refinements and weariness of the society woman, whose children follow one after another in the regular order of nature. This comparison may seem a little vague; but in China we believe that the sky is masculine and the earth feminine; that the one acts and the other produces; and that all fertility is the result of the

  1. An address, delivered July 26, 1889, before the Congress for the Utilization of Waters.