Open main menu

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

< The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey


By the Editor

The province of Shensi has an area of 75,270 square miles, which is nearly equal to the area of England and Wales combined, or of the State of Nebraska. Its population is estimated at 8,450,182, which is nearly the same as that of Scotland and Ireland together. It derives its name Shensi, or " West of the Passes," from the fact that it is situated to the west of the famous pass of Tungkwan, near the bend of the Yellow Eiver where the three provinces of Shensi, Shansi, and Honan adjoin.

As will be seen under the article on Kansu, this province formerly included Kansu, the Viceroy of the whole of that territory then residing at Sian Eu, whereas he now resides at Lanchow, the Governor alone residing at Sian Fu.

Geographically, the province naturally divides itself into three districts, the two southern districts being the valleys of the two rivers Han and Wei, and the northern high table- land forming the other.

1. The Valley of the Han Eiver. — This valley is separated from the neighbouring province of Szechwan by the Kiutiao mountains on the south, and from the Sian plain on the north by the Tsinling range, which attains an altitude of 11,000 feet. The western portion of the valley widens out into an oval plain about 90 miles long by about 25 miles across at its widest part. The remainder of the valley is very narrow, the mountains reaching to the banks of the river on either side right away into the province of Hupeh. North of the Han valley lies a mass of mountains which need a week's hard travelling if one would cross into the Sian plain. This formidable barrier has not unnaturally led to the result that the people of the Han valley are more akin to the Szechwanese than to the northerners of their own province.

This mass of mountains to the north is generally known as the Tsingling, but it is really composed of many ranges, and Tsingling is the name of one range at the foot of the Taipeh near to Fuping. There are some four passes by which this range can be crossed, but the most accessible is the pass over the Fengling at Feng Hsien, on the main road from Szechwan to Sian Fu. This mountainous country is, with but little exception, unproductive, and is in consequence but sparsely populated.

2. The Sian Plain or the Valley of the Wei Eiver. — Passing north from these mountains the traveller comes to the lower part of the Sian plain on the right bank of the river Wei, which crosses the province longitudinally. This is a populous and (dependent on the rainfall) most fertile district. The part to the west is narrow, but widens further east, while the many streams from the mountains enable the people to irrigate their fields and grow rice. Upon the Sian plain, which is estimated to be about 4000 square miles in area, are crowded together the provincial capital, Sian Fu, four Chow cities, and thirty Hsien cities, with an average of one market town to every square mile, in addition to numberless villages.

3. The Northern portion of the Province. — Looking north across the river Wei, a long line of hills appears to face the traveller, but when the river is crossed and the hills ascended the country is found to be a high, flat table- land, which extends away to the north for some 70 or 80 miles. The loess soil is porous and dependent upon the frequent rains ; the population is not excessive, and when the rainfall is sufficient the supply of food is abundant and cheap, but failure in the rain means famine. This elevated tung, Honan, Hupeh, Szechwan, and Yunnan. We have the man of business in the Shansi merchant, whose care for gain absorbs his whole energies and time ; the opium-sot, sodden, demoralised, in the aboriginal type ; the Honanese — real sons of Han — neither good nor bad, who seem to live in an Epicurean Paradise, indifferent to everything save daily food ; the Shantung man, stalwart, fearless, unceremonious, resolute, proud of his province, even of his poverty ; the Hupeh immigrant, vicious, mean, superstitious, cowardly, a worshipper of everything in the heaven above and earth beneath — a dweller in caves, his heart, like his hamlet, is low. All are comparatively poor — even the natives, because of their opium — and dependent upon the produce of the soil." ' The province has been the victim of what the inhabitants term " four rebellions." First of these was the Taiping Eebellion ; then, about 1874, the great Mohammedan rebellion, when the province suffered severely. During this rebellion practically all the Mohammedans who had taken part were put to death, which measure is estimated to have swept away about half of the people. Then followed the " Eebellion of Nature," in the shape of the famine of 1877-78 ; and finally the rebellion of wolves, which were brought down from their mountain haunts by stress of hunger. The desolation thus caused led the Government to encourage immigration, about which more will be said later on. With regard to the products of this province, what has been said of Kausu largely applies here, though, generally speaking, Shensi is hotter and more fertile than Kansu. ^ Dr. Moir Duncan in B.M.S. Reporn The province is said to be rich in minerals, which have not yet, however, been worked. Iron, salt of an inferior quality, gold, nickel, and magnesia are found in the province. The industries of the province are few, the most noted being ironwork at Tuugkwan, straw -plaiting at Hwayinmiao, incense sticks and bamboo furniture at Chihshui, and coal at Weinan Hsien.

SHENSI is regarded as the cradle of the Chinese race, from which centre the people spread eastward toward Shantung, south towards the Yangtse, and west towards Szechwan. "While very early history is shrouded in mystery and myth, early reliable records give many facts of interest concerning the province. The city of Sian Fu, which is the largest city in that part of North China, is second to none for historical interest. Not far to the west lived the famous founders of the Chau dynasty. Wen Wang and Wu Wang. Sian Fu itself was founded by Wu Wang, the Martial King, in the twelfth century B.C., or about the time of Samuel. In some respects this city surpasses Peking in historical interest and in its records. At this city the Emperors of the first Han dynasty reigned for about two hundred years, 206-24 B.C. It was also the capital of the great T'ang dynasty, a.d. 618-905.

It was to this city that the Nestorian missionaries made their way in a.d. 635, and it was here they suffered severely under the usurping Empress -Dowager Wu, a woman re- markably like the present Empress -Dowager for power. Sian Fu was also the city of refuge for the Chinese Court during its flight from Peking in 1900. "The southern half of the city is entirely Chinese, but the northern is a mixture, the Tartar city occupying the entire north-east segment and containing a rather large Tartar population, perhaps 50,000. In the north-west is the Mohammedan quarter, which, although not separated by walls from the Chinese, is very distinctly Mohammedan. They have, if I remember rightly, eight mosques in the city, seven of the eight being in the north-west."

" Sian Fu was the starting-point of all those religious Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/268
The Chinese Empire A General & Missionary Survey djvu 269.jpg

Montagu Bvauchantp. The Nestorian Tablet. This famous Tablet, discovered at Sian Fu, the capital of Shensi, records the arrival at that city, then the capital of the Empire, of the Nestorian Priest Olopun from Syria with the true sacred books, iu a.d. ti35. It -states the main points of Nestorian teaching, and that the sacred books were translated in the Imperial library. The Tablet was erected a.d. 781, and gives a brief summary of the Nestorian Christians in China from A.D. 63.J to that date, nearly l.'iO years. The inscription is in Chinese and the Estrangelo Syrian characters. Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/271 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/272 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/273 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/274 Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/275 months" in Sian Eu. In the following year he reported that "a house has been rented in Siau Fu and peaceably occupied." The sales of the Book-shop during twenty-one months had amounted to £321. At this time the Rev. E. Morgan joined the workers. In 1898 Dr. Creasey Smith entered Shensi to open up medical work. In consequence of various necessary changes, the Baptist Missionary Society has not been able to keep a strong staff in this field. In 1902 Dr. Moir Duncan removed to the Taiyuan Fu University and Mr. Morgan was transferred to Shansi, so that Mr. and Mrs. Shorrock have been compelled to labour practically alone, for Mr. Cheesman, who was appointed to join them, soon died. In one of the last reports of the Baptist Missionary Society, however, it was stated that, "The little band of thirty (87 ? see p. 207) Christians who emigrated from Shantung and settled in Shensi some fourteen years ago has now grown into a Church of 618 members and 1200 learners, with over 400 scholars. This community embraces people from four different provinces."

The only other Society having any workers in this province is the British and Foreign Bible Society, which has an agent at Sian Fu.