|From Peking to Mandalay
Reginald Fleming Johnston
This fascinating journey details the local traditions and characteristics of a China that has since disappeared. With tales of the mystic temples and monasteries, stories of a 1000 year old monk, and areas not yet open to the modern railway or airplane, Johnston’s writings could easily have been the inspiration for James Hilton’s Lost Horizon.
His journey up-stream, past Ichang, is, of course, well known ; at Wan-hsien the great river was abandoned, the hardy boatsmen paid off, and the land journey to Chengtu-fu commenced. At Chengtu-fu and elsewhere light was shed on some of Mr. E. C. Baber’s researches, not the least interesting points referred to being the temples and the prehistoric cave dwellings of Chiating, and the wonderful fascination of Mount Omei the highest precipice in the world, with its strange atmospheric phenomenon of a gleaming aureole, the “Glory of Buddha.” At Ta-chien-lu the author had to carefully consider his further route, and eventually, after encounter¬ing great opposition from the local authorities, decided to diverge from the Batang road and explore the Yalong valley and the mountainous road south-west of Ta-chienlu. Along this section of the route his only predecessors had been M. Bonin and Mr. Amundsen.
The inhabitants of these parts seem all Tibetan, for between Cheto and Likiang in Yunnan-about a month’s journey-the author did not meet a single Chinese, even the language being entirely unknown. At Muli, which looks strangely like a bit of the Austrian Tyrol, Captain H. R. Davies’s route was struck, and European associations were further called up by the excellent chanting of the monks in the lamasery, which reminded Mr. Johnston of Palestrina. A little further south the remarkably acute bend of the Yangtze was reached, a geographical feature only revealed to science within the last ten years.
His familiarity with Chinese, and careful study of ethnological and other questions, and of the native literature, invest his notes with special value, which would hardly attach to the researches of an ordinary traveller, while his concluding chapter contains some exceedingly well-weighed and instructive reflections on the relations between China and Western nations.