The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey/The Province of Kwangsi


By the Rev. Louis Byrde, B.A., Church Missionary Society.

Situation. — The province of Kwangsi — "Extensive West" — stretches roughly for 450 miles from west to east between longitude 105° and 112° east, and for 250 miles from north to south between 26° and 22° latitude north. Though situated in the south of China, it is entirely cut off from the sea, its natural coast-line, on the Gulf of Tongking, being reckoned to the neighbouring province of Kwangtung.

Size. — Its area as given in The Statesman's Year-Book is 77,000 square miles, but as no attempt has been made to scientifically fix the positions of its borders, such figures are only approximate.

Physical Features. — The outstanding feature of Kwangsi is its river system. The West River, rising in Yunnan, enters the province above Peh-Seh (or Pose, Cantonese Pak-Shek), where navigation begins, and generally following the southern border of the province, leaves it five or so miles below Wuchow, flowing thence through Kwangtung to the sea below Kongmoon. At Hslinchow (Kwaipeng), 90 miles above Wuchow, the main stream is joined by an important branch, which itself is formed by the Red Water River (geographically the longest but the least important), and the Liuchow (Willow) River, made up of two important affluents rising in Kweichow. Two other important tributaries are the Left River to Longchow, a treaty port 35 miles from the French Tongking border, and the Cassia (or Fu) River to Kweilin, the provincial capital. This latter is connected by a canal with the Siang River, and so onwards to the Yangtse. This great river system provides complete water communication to almost every part of the province, albeit on occasions dangerous.

As regards mountains and hills, Kwangsi has its full share, there being no plains. To the north and west the land rises continuously—in fact, on the north there is a very abrupt rise of some thousands of feet up to the highlands of Kweichow. To its generally hilly surface are due the great and often disastrous freshets on the tributaries and the sudden rises of the great West River. This river has a maximum summer rise of 70 feet at Wuchow. Its breadth also varies from half to three-quarters of a mile, comparing not unfavourably with the Yangtse in the proportion of one to three.

Climate.—About one-third of the province lies within the Tropic of Cancer, but in spite of this it is not really tropical, although the summer is hot and somewhat damp. In the north the summer is shorter and drier, and in the winter snow and frost are by no means uncommon. In an average year January is dry; February, March, uncertain; April to June, wet; July, August, uncertain; September to December, dry. But, as elsewhere, weather forecasting is an unprofitable business. A sudden fall of temperature, as much as 20° in a few hours, when the wind suddenly changes and blows down from the highlands on the north, is a cause of much sickness resulting from chill.

Population.—Concerning Chinese populations "fools venture where wise men fear to tread." The Statesman's Year-Book gives 5,000,000. This is probably a minimum, for some estimates are as high as 10,000,000. That the population was much larger in the past than at present is evidenced by the fact that much land in many parts once cultivated is now waste. The slaughters, often wholesale, the inevitable accompaniments of rebellions with which Kwangsi has been cursed for sixty years or more, fully account for this decrease. Even as recently as two years ago the official returns for a few counties gave over 20,000 as the number of executions following on the actual suppression of a local rising. This dearth of population has made Kwangsi a field for immigration, about 30 per cent apparently of the passengers in steamers alone from Kwangtung remaining in the province, amounting to about 40,000 per annum. In the northern prefectures a large immigration of Hunanese continually goes on, tens of thousands of them being found in Kweilin city alone.

For this, if for no other reason, the attempt to recruit for the South African mines was foredoomed to the failure it turned out to be. In this respect Kwangsi is in marked contrast to Kwangtung, with its surplus population flowing out to the ends of the earth.

Though reckoned among the poor provinces of China, its poverty is not the result of overcrowding as elsewhere, but may, in fact, be due to this very want of population, coupled, of course, with the chronic unrest and the absence of easy means of communication apart from the rivers. As is natural under the circumstances, a large proportion of the population is found in the navigable river valleys.

Aboriginal Tribes. — That numerous aboriginal tribes exist is an undoubted fact, particularly in the north-west, but to acquire facts about them is another matter. They are separated into tribes under chiefs, who render some sort of homage to the Chinese officials. The names of some of these tribes are Miao, Tao, Tong, Chuang, Chong, and Lolo. In speech as in custom, etc., they are quite distinct from the Chinese, but some are akin to the Burmans and others to the Tibetans. Some tribes are believed to have a rudimentary form of writing, but others use, if necessary, Chinese characters. The French Roman Catholic missionaries have reduced one or two of their languages to writing. No other Mission work has been attempted among them, although they seem peaceable and friendly people. Their chief industry is cutting timber in the mountains and floating it down to the main rivers. In point of numbers they are quite in a minority among the general population. (Mr. A. Little in The Far East, p. 136, suggests 50 per cent, but this is far too high an estimate.)

Les Lolos, by Paul Vial, Shanghai, 1898, gives informa- tion about this particular tribe.

Language. — KwANGSi is roughly divided into two language areas by a line drawn diagonally a little north of Nanning to a little south of Pingloh. North of this line is Mandarin-speaking, south of it Cantonese with kindred dialects. Colonies of Hakkas also exist. The aboriginal tribes speak their own (non - Chinese ?) languages as mentioned above.

Ancient History. — KwANGSi, along with the south generally, was originally inhabited by uncivilised tribes, the descendants of whom possibly are found to-day in the Miaotse, etc., where intermarriage with the Chinese has not obliterated the chief differences. The region was then known as "Yueh." The great emperor Shih Hwangti in 216 B.C. annexed and partly subdued Yueh, designating it the province of Kweilin. About 206 B.C. Chao-to, one of his celebrated generals, raised the standard of revolt and rapidly extended his authority over all Southern Yueh. Chao-to's grandson, who succeeded him, failed to keep possession, and the Hans later regained the ascendency. Han Wu-ti in 111 B.C. again had to send large forces to suppress a rebellion (vide The Far East, p. 147).

From that day to this KwANGSi has been in the balance, oscillating between successful and abortive rebellions. Whenever the ruling powers in the north have been weak, KwANGSi has been left alone; when strong, Kwangsi has suffered, and nursing her wrongs, has waited for the next favourable opportunity to throw off the yoke. Until quite recent times the relation to the central Government has been more that of a dependency than a province, the existence of 34 hereditary Tu-sze governing counties plainly revealing this.

In the reign of Cheng Hua, a.d. 1465, of the Ming dynasty, a bridge of boats was constructed at Wuchow across the Cassia river, of which, however, no trace remains Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/349 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/350 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/351 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/352 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/353 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/354 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/355 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/356 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/357 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/358 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/359 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/360 than French, could be imported into the province. This has probably become a dead letter, but it did not tend to decrease the feeKngs of distrust on China's part. The continued rebellions and risings in the west have provided excellent grounds of grievance on the part of France, but all offers of men or money to repress the same have been steadily refused, and when threats of intervention followed offers of help, the Chinese authorities have over and over again risen to the occasion and suppressed the risings.

As an offset to French influence at the treaty port of Lungchow and also at Nanning, the Chinese have for eight years been trying to have Nanning opened as a treaty port. There being no particular commercial reason why it should be so opened, its actual opening has been, delayed until now, January 1907. At the same time, the Government is appointing a Tao-tai, with powers equal to a provincial governor, to have general superintendence over the west. This is as an alternative to the other suggestion, that the capital be removed from Kweilin to Nanning.

In every way possible the French colonial authorities are trying to gain a predominating influence in Kwangsi, speaking of it as " Our Kwangsi," as the Germans are reported to speak of "Our Shantung"; but the suspicions of the Chinese being fully aroused, such a consummation seems less likely than ever, quite apart from what other nations might have to say on the subject. The two " French " schools at Nanning and Kweilin are said to be subsidised by the French colonial authorities.

Roman Catholic Missions

Roman Catholic missionaries of "Les Missions ^fitrangeres" of Paris have, in modern times, been working in Kwangsi since about 1850, formerly making Kwei-hsien their headquarters. Latterly Nanning has become their principal centre, where several important buildings, among which a large foreign style cathedral with two towers, in red and white, seating 800, have been erected. At both this place and Kweilin, boys' high schools, under the charge of Marist lay brothers, have been opened, where a modern education, including French and English, is given. About 150 students attend. A seminary for training priests, with fourteen students, has also been opened at Nanning. About eight stations are occupied by foreigners, Wuchow being held as an agency.

Since the Chinese Government has taken a firmer stand about interference in Yamen affairs, their local influence is perhaps less, and therefore better, than it used to be.

Roman Catholic Statistics for 1905
Members 3201
Chapels 50
Bishop 1
Priests 24
Lay brothers ...
Sisters 3
Chinese priests 4
Chinese catechists 40
Schools 45
Scholars 510
Dispensaries 5
Baptisms, heathen 611
{{{1}}} heretics 9
{{{1}}} children 198

Protestant Missions: History

Until recent years Kwangsi had no resident Protestant missionaries. About forty years ago Dr. Graves of Canton itinerated as far as Kweilin, followed at a later date by Mr. Wells of the L.M.S., Hongkong. Some C.I.M. missionaries also once reached Kweilin from Kweichow. Bishop Burdon, C.M.S., Hongkong, also paid evangelistic visits to the southern regions. The American Presbyterians established a medical mission at Kwaipeng on the West River, but were driven out by a local riot. The American Baptists, South, for many years carried on work by means of Chinese workers at Wuchow, from whence they were repeatedly expelled, and also farther west. From 1894, however, the missionaries of the Alliance Mission began to regularly itinerate, and succeeded in 1896 in occupying a house in Wuchow. After the opening of that port in June 1897, residence became easier, and two other Missions, the Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/363 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/364 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/365