Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/262

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by the same author, on the New American Phalænidæ and the Cave Fauna of Indiana.

Seventh Annual Report of the Superintendent of Missouri Public Schools.

Eleventh Annual Meeting of the Missouri State Teachers' Association.


The Coal-Fields of China.—The coal-fields of the Chinese Empire cover an area of 400,000 square miles, and yet China imports large quantities of coal from England. In the great province of Hunan, says Iron, a coal-field extends over an area of 21,700 square miles. Hunan boasts of two distinct coal-beds, one bearing bituminous coal, and the other anthracite—the latter being favorably situated for water-transit, covering an area equal to that of the anthracite coal-fields of Pennsylvania, and yielding anthracite of the best quality. The coal-area of the province of Shansi is 30,000 square miles, enough to supply the whole world for thousands of years, even at the present rapid rate of consumption. An immense supply of iron-ore adds to the mineral wealth of this great province.

If it be asked, in view of these facts, why it is that China imports foreign coal, we have only to consider the methods of mining followed by the Chinese, and the want of good roads, in order to get a satisfactory reply. The mode of working, says the writer in Iron, is at once tremendously severe and ludicrously ineffectual: the shafts are not perpendicular, but are inclined planes, 400 or 500 feet in length, running down a slant of about 45°. Up this slant the men carry the coal in baskets, one being attached to each end of a short carrying pole, which is borne upon the left shoulder. The shafts are about seven feet high, and about the same width, with a wooden roof, beams on both sides for support, and wood along the floor, so arranged as to form steps, up which the miner pulls himself by catching the projection of a step above him with a small curved staff, which he carries in his right hand. Even with cheap labor, this barbarous method proves expensive.

But the great difficulty is conveyance. The famous canals of the Chinese Empire are confined to the lower basin of the Yangtze. The roads are simply in a state of nature. Mere lines of deep ruts mark the track of the primitive vehicles of the country. The only repairs are effected by the rains, which wash them level; and then the sun hardens the slushy mass. In some provinces two-wheeled vehicles are employed, but in the central provinces only the primeval wheel-barrow, and in the hilly districts these rude machines give way to beasts of burden. The cost of transportation is, of course, enormous. In the province of Shansi, coal which costs about 25 cents per ton at the mine rises to six dollars at the distance of 30 miles; so that only those who live almost at the pit's mouth derive any benefit from the coal-mines of the Celestial Empire. This difficulty, amounting almost to impossibility of transit, presses with equal weight upon every department of Chinese industry. The crops are splendid, but there are no means of reaching the market, and the apathy produced by the want of means of transit amply explains why famine is a chronic scourge in the land of plenty.

The introduction of a railway system into China would not only enrich the proprietors, but would confer immeasurable benefit on the inhabitants of the country. It has been proposed to tap the great province of Hunan by extending a railway from Upper Burmah to the confines of the Celestial Empire, and there is little doubt that within a few years the shriek of the steam-whistle will be heard within the confines of the "Empire of the Sun and Moon."

Sericulture in Brazil.—The Italian newspapers, says La Nature, give some interesting information with regard to the measures now being taken in Brazil to forward the production of a silk yielded by a peculiar species of butterfly, which is as yet but little known in that country, and quite unknown in Europe. This butterfly (Bombyx saturnia), commonly called the porta-espejos, has a spread of wings four times as great as that of the common silk-worm moth. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of the Ricinus communis and also of the Anacardium Occidentale. The cocoon differs very widely in appearance from the common cocoon. It is enveloped in a bag--