Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/228

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The Great Sea-wall

JUST when and how and at what cost the present substantial seawall was built are now matters for more or less conjecture, the chroniclers of the province neglecting such information as irrelevant in comparison with fanciful legends to be retold in connection with so great a work.[1] One of the most interesting of these stories refers to what was perhaps the first attempt at anything like an adequate sea-wall. It is to the effect that in the region of Emperor Huang Wu (25 A.D.) an official, Hua Hsin, proposing to build a sea-wall opposite the present site of Hangchow, issued a proclamation offering 1,000 "cash" (about fifty cents gold) for every man-load of earth that the people should bring to the river bank. On the appointed day great crowds of men, women and children came to carry earth. At a signal every one took up his load and carried it to the spot indicated by Hua Hsin's lieutenants. At this juncture Hua Hsin himself appeared and, feigning surprise when told of the large wage to be paid per manload, he ordered the people away, saying it was utter nonsense to talk of such high pay. Indignantly the people threw down their loads and walked away, thus unwittingly dropping the earth just where the wily official wanted it. "Thus in one day Hua Hsin, by his trickery, built a sea-wall of great height, and one that withstood the briny waters for many years."

In spite of this assertion of the native chronicler, however, a dyke built in this fashion was sure to prove too flimsy to withstand the impacts of such tides as sweep the bay, and we are not surprised to find frequent references to daily sacrifices and prayers to the Water Dragon for protection against the powerful waters. It was not until the period of the Five Rulers that these prayers were answered by the appearance of a man of works as well as of faith, the "great Prince Ch'ien," Hangchow's most famous man. Many places of interest about the city still bear his name in recognition of his great services to the people, which included besides the less tangible, though none the less real, benefits of a wise and capable government, the more "substantial" benefits arising from the efficient fortification of the

  1. For a fuller account of these legends see F. D. Oland's "Hangchow," Shanghai, 1906.