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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 1 - Chapter Fourteen. Interesting Descriptions of Interior China

On the 8th of February, 1910, we sailed for China on a visit in the interests of the Western Steel Corporation, which corporation proposed budding a plant at Irondale, Puget Sound. Mr. H. E. Law accompanied us on this trip.

On arrival in Shanghai we had a number of conferences with the government officials headed by Sheng Rung Poa, the final result of which was that we were able to make a very favorable contract with them for ore and pig iron. The Western Steel Corporation, however, a year later got into financial difficulties and was unable to carry out its pan of the contract, which was quite a loss to this country, as the Japanese took our place.

The Emperor and Empress Dowager had presented a tablet to the International Institute, and on behalf of the foreigners I was requested to assist in the unveiling. On the platform I was the only foreigner with twelve mandarins. It was quite an unique meeting and ceremony, and was a great honor to me. The hall was crowded with Chinese merchants and officials.

We left Shanghai, March 25, on the steamer "Bessie Dollar," going up the Yangtsze River to Hankow, for which she had a part cargo. The water was low and the pilot would not undertake to take her up until I agreed to go myself and take all responsibility, when he agreed to make the attempt. We got along without any problems although there was no water to spare.


We crossed the outer Woosung bar at high tide with twenty-four feet of water. The water was very muddy. We passed the crossing twenty-five miles from Woosung where the river is about ten miles wide, but shoals extend all the way across except for one thousand feet where we found twenty-four feet of water. From here to Tungchow the river is very wide, land often out of sight on one side. Tungchow, which is sixty miles from Woosung. is a good sized city with large flour and cotton mills. It will he made a treaty port soon and be opened to commerce. The country about is thickly populated and the land is very rich. Four miles below Chinkiang we passed the Grand Canal, going south, and five miles above Chinkiang we passed the canal going north, so boats navigating the canal have to navigate the river for seven miles.

We arrived at Wuhu, having made ten and one-half miles an hour from Shanghai. The customs boat came out and gave us information about the water Reported about fourteen feet at shallowest places, and as we had a customs rivet pass from Woosung to Hankow, nothing more was required and we proceeded. 1 noticed that a large piece of land adjoining the city had been laid out in roads, and some large warehouses had been built by Buttertield & Swire, and the Standard Oil Company. The river front had been substantially bunded, and it looked as if they expected considerable of a foreign colony here.

In delivering and receiving freight at all these river harbors, each company which has steamers on the river has a large hulk. At this low stage of the river these hulks are anchored about three hundred feet from shore and all cargo is transferred in scows between them and the shore. This plan is necessary on account of the extremes of high and low water. At Hankow the variation from extreme high to extreme low water is fifty feet; at Wuhu about thirty-five to forty.

At this place the river is about two miles wide. It is quite picturesque, the hills in the distance, on the left several pagodas on prominent points, and many small rocky islands generally crowned with a temple or a pagoda. The green fields with patches of yellow make -it a beautiful sight, and if we consider the commercial advantages of such a rich country, it is certainly interesting, and always opens up a line of thought to me of what the changes will be when this empire adopts, even on a small scale, our ways of doing things.

We loaded a full cargo on the steamer, as the water was rising as fast as the steamer went: down in the water. The vessel was drawing fourteen feet going up, and twenty-four feet going down the river. This difference was m the space of ten days.

I have taken notice of the number of people who go barefooted. I estimate it to be at least ten per cent of them, and as there are four hundred and fifty millions of people, ten per cent means forty-five millions. To give one pair of shoes and socks to each would mean forty-five millions pairs so that if the purchasing power of the individuals was increased, the trade that would be created would run into such large sums that it is impossible to anticipate what the result might be.

Methods of business in the Orient are very strange. For instance, we engaged a stevedore in Shanghai to discharge this cargo of lumber, two-thirds in Shanghai and one third in Hankow, and to load the return cargo of pig iron. Instead of engaging the men there, he took forty men on this steamer to Hankow. They boarded themselves on the way up, and got pay only for the work at Hankow. So going up the river, we hail over one hundred men on board. The stevedore did the work by the ton, and how he could do it for the small amount we paid is one of the mysteries of his business.

Most of the transportation on this rivet is carried on by six companies, which run about two steamers each way every •lay. The Japanese consolidated four companies and operate them as one, getting a subsidy from their government of nearly enough to pay expenses. The French get a subsidy from their government of an amount sufficient to pay all their expenses and five per cent even if they neither carry freight nor passengers. The two English companies get no government assistance, and I do not think the Germans get any. The Chinese run one line and do a good trade. It shows what foreign nations think of the importance of the Yangtsze River and valley trade when they subsidize steamers to carry freight and passengers from one Chinese port to another. It is rather sad to think that when this trade started the Americans had all the steamers on the river and the Stars and Stripes was the only flag to be seen.

We passed eight large junks ail together, loaded with poles. Their deck loads extended twenty-five feet on each side and each had a list until the poles rested in the water on one side and were clear of the water three feet on the other. I had never before seen such deck loads.

We passed the Orphan, a lone rock in the middle of the river about two hundred and fifty feet high, a perfect cone rising out of the water. On one side is a monastery where from two to three hundred monks live all the time. It looks almost inaccessible, and the buildings seem to be just stuck on the side of these almost perpendicular cliffs. On a wall that goes along the crest of the high, steep hills that surround it two temples were cut out of the solid rock.

This part of the river is most picturesque. On the left side is a range of high broken bills all jumbled up in great confusion, showing unmistakable indications of minerals. It looks as though an exam nation by an expert would be money well expended. Little or nothing has been done in the way of prospecting although we hear accounts of coal and iron being discovered on the opposite side of the river

This great valley is a level delta as far as the eye can carry, and like the valley of the Nile, it floods every year and the river leaves a rich deposit of silt that fertilizes the soil and makes it an immensely rich valley, from an agricultural viewpoint. I think when the mineral riches are uncovered, it will surprise the world. Some experts have said they believed there was more coal in the Yangtsze valley than in the rest of the world.

We arrived at Kiukiyang and anchored for the night. No steamer should come up without two pilots, one to relieve the other and to avoid laying up at night.

The next day we anchored for a few hours to give us an opportunity of visiting the celebrated Ta Yell mine, which has been described. We then proceeded to Hankow, arriving without mishap, but on three occasions the vessel was within a few niches of the bottom.

From here we went to Peking, a very pleasant eight hundred-mile ride on the railroad. We later visited our establishment at Tientsin, whence we returned to Shangha.


We next visited Hangchow, where they were starting to build a college, and I arranged to give them some material help in the work.

There being no railway connections at this time the trip had to be made by house-boat. The railway has been budt from the Shanghai end about sixty miles, and from the Hangchow end thirty-five miles, leaving yet to be constructed less than forty miles on which they are working at both ends, hoping to have it completed and running by next August. The house-boat was about fifty feet long, fifteen feet wide and four feet deep, drawing when loaded two feet. The lower deck is laid on the frames ten or twelve inches from the outside planking, the upper deck being about six feet in the clear, so to go below into the best quarters there is a door three feet wide and four feet high. There s what is called an officials' room about twelve by twelve, which we had, fare $12.00 Mex. The rest of the under part is fitted into small rooms for two, four or six people, in which there is barely room to turn round. These rooms are fitted with bunks in the old Klondike style of steam schooners, when the rush was on. On the upper deck, sufficient space for a person to lie down, costs 80 cents Mex. This is covered with an awning and the passengers lie thwart slnps, two tiers. The deck being twelve feet wide, they are packed like sardines in a box and there is no room to move around.

The first-class passengers under deck get Chinese food and all carry their own bedding. We also carried our own food and got on very well.

These house boats are towed by tugs drawing about three feet of water. When we started we had three house-boats •n tow, but two were left at cities which we passed. We passed a Japanese liner of the Osaka Shosen Kaisha, so you see the Japanese are in all sorts of navigation no matter how small. There are four different lines of this sort on the river.

THE ORPHAN—An Island In The Yangtsze On Which Is A Monastery


We went up the river from Shanghai about seventy miles and entered the Grand Canal at Kashir.g. All this country is densely populated. We passed many walled cities, in some places the houses being built solid on each side of the canal, giving the appearance of going along a street. The canal varies in width from fifty to one hundred feet and in some places there are small lakes several hundred feet wide. Except the regular line of Iimits all are pulled by men on tow paths. A tow line is fastened to the end of a long bamboo pole so as to facilitate passing each other I saw some rafts of poles going along, twenty feet wide and three hundred feet long. The poles ran from two to ten inches in diameter, all about twenty feet long and all peeled. So that people can travel the canal banks, there are a great many bridges across the small creeks that come into it. Many of the creeks are spanned with a single piece of stone thirty by eight feet and about a foot thick. Others that are wider have very fine arches. Those across the canal itself are especially- fine and symmetrical, showing the builders to have been up-to-date, especially since the canal and bridges have been in constant use since before the Christian era.

I might say here that this canal is one of the wonders of the world. It runs from Peking to Hangchow, a distance of seventeen hundred miles, so that a boat can go the entire distance, and its commerce at places is enormous. Many times I have seen rows of boats like wagons on a crowded street, carrying every conceivable thing. Our house-boat, in places, had to crowd its way through, bumping some and crowding others out of the way like one elbowing his way through a crowded street. One sees all kinds of boats, from the newly painted war junk with brass cannons, to the small sized sampans and canoe for one man. But the one thought above all others, which comes to us traveling through this country is, that wherever we go we see the enormous mass of humanity, which has never been numbered as yet, as the census taker is unknown in China.

Along the canal are great groves of mulberry trees and a great number of boats were dredging sediment from the bottom to fertilize these trees. Long poles of bamboo with a grab on the end like a clam shell dredger, on a small scale, were used in dredging. The boats had two water-tight bulkheads, and in the center, between these, the mud and water were loaded, the ends being for buoyancy. The mud was taken to the bank and carried in buckets to the trees. I noticed by this being done constantly, it raised the orchards as much as four feet, in some places, higher than the surrounding land.

We did not arrive in Hangchow until evening, having been twenty-four hours from Shanghai. The mission where we stayed was inside the city wall, and was a very good, European style of house. There was a lawn in front, one hundred and twenty feet square, surrounded by very high walls. The streets around are from six to eight feet wide, fairly well paved, but there are no wheeled vehicles in use. Everything is carried by men. Canals run all through the city about every three or four blocks, providing easy and cheap transportation. The streets are narrow and many of them crooked, and the population is very dense. There is also present the usual strong smell, There being no sewers and no water works, the filth has to be carried to boats and taken out to the country, where it is sold for fertilizer. Water is taken from innumerable wells and carried in pails to the houses. The outside city wall is said to be fourteen miles long, the space enclosed being four miles by three. This wall is about thirty feet high arid is in a good state of preservation. The city is divided by outer walls, one section being the Tartar City. All have gates that are shut at night. The size of the city, outside and inside of the wall, is about twelve miles from north to south and, probably, four miles at its greatest width, tapering down to nothing at each end. They claim eight hundred thousand people. Whether there are that many I cannot say, but I do know there are a lot of them.

The gates are massive, a lot of brick and stone being used. Coming from the outside we go through the first gate into a space, say four hundred feet square, surrounded by walls as high as the outside one, then there is a second gate. The extreme north of the city is at the termination of the Grand Canal and the extreme south is on the Tsien Tang River, sometimes called the Hangchow River, which is about one and a quarter miles wide at this point. We visited the site for the Hangchow College, about three miles up the river from the city, and found the situation all that could be desired. It is about one hundred feet to four hundred feet above the river, on a fairly level plateau for the buildings, and altogether a desirable and healthy place for a college.

There is a very large pagoda near by, which has just been remodeled. It was built about one thousand years ago and is strong and substantial yet. We had lunch with the priests in charge.

A peculiarity of this pagoda that I have not seen in others, is the several hundred bells hung from projections from the walls. Whenever there is a breeze blowing the bells ring, and as they are differently toned, the sounds produced are very musical.

Both the pagoda and college grounds command a tine view of the river, which swarms with junks and boats of all descriptions, at all times. This place is only thirty miiles from the ocean. It is on this river that the "bore" occurs at spring tides.

I found the elevation of the Grand Canal to be some forty feet higher than the canals running through the city, and, instead of a lock, several clay slides or causeways, on which clay is thrown to make it slippery, have been made from one system of canals to the other. Small boats with their loads are hauled up this incline with large windlasses: hence the reason we could not go direct to the city.


We visited the celebrated Ling Ying Temple, which is six miles from the city wall, there being a very good paved path the whole way. All of the country roads are about the same, and a description of this one will do for all others. The road bed is about eight feet wide, and well macadamized. In the center are flat stones four inches thick, from three to eight feet long, and about two feet wide, two rows being placed side by side, making the path four feet wide. As they have been in use thousands of years, in many places they are hollow, but as the Chinese nearly all go barefooted, or with straw sandals, the wear is not great, as there are no wheeled vehicles, everything being carried on men's shoulders.

The road to the temple was crowded with pilgrims going to this celebrated shrine. Many professional beggars had built huts on the side of the road, and called loudly for alms from the passing pilgrims. Restaurants were doing a rushing business. The temple grounds occupy several hundred acres; the land, unlike the level country, is rocky and broken. On the rocks are several hundred Buddhas. They are formed by cutting a recess in the rock, there the mage is placed, protected from the weather. None are smaller than life size, and many are three or four times as large. Many legends and wonderful stories are told about this temple. One being that Buddha caused this mountain to be transported bodily from Tndia to this place. The rest are all m keeping with this.

The Temple of Ling Ying was first built in 326 A. D. It is situated in a beautiful park of trees 5ft a valley, the hills on each side being quite rocky. There are caves and shrines of all descriptions. In 1280 Marco Polo visited this place. History tells us that, ifl 1729, the temple was extensively enlarged and put in good order, and the grounds and gardens also much improved. The main budding is called Central Hall, and its size is two hundred and fifty feet in length by eighty feet wide. The building at the side of it is called the Temple of Five Hundred Gods, as it contains five hundred idols. They are considerably over life size. The building immediately back of the Central Hall is one hundred and twenty-five feet by fifty feet in area, and is now the principal temple which the worshippers frequent, as the Central Hall was burned in 1861 by the Taiping rebels. In fact, nearly all the buildings were sacked and burned at this time, but I was told by one of the priests that. When they came to this one, they were frightened at the great number of gods and Hed before applying the torch. The building and images are still in good condition.


His Excellency, Sheng Kung Poa, learning that Americans were about to build a large college nearby for the education of Chinese boys, was prompted to rebuild the Central Hall in all its former greatness and splendor—in its day it was the most magnificent of all Chinese temples. For this purpose he ordered twenty-eight of the largest round timbers that could be bought in America. They ran. in size, as long as one hundred and five feet and forty-eight inches, in diameter, at the butt. They were perfectly straight and as fine pieces of timber as e\er left America. The largest one weighed over twenty tons. I donated the timbers, and sent them over on the deck of the steamer "M. S. Dollar" to Shanghai, where they were put into rafts and taken up to the end of the Grand Canal, a distance of two hundred miles to Hangchow. From there to the site of the temple they were carried a distance of five miles, over the narrow paved path, by two hundred and fifty men. one hundred and twenty-five on each side. A bamboo pole for each two men was tied to the timber by a small rope, the poles angling slightly, to permit the man on one side, to carry on his right shoulder, and his associate at the other end. on his left shoulder; all lifting steadily and together until the word of command for all to straighten up. when overseers rushed back and forth along the line to see no one shirked his duty. The emblem of the overseer's office is a bamboo rod six feet long, sharpened at one end, with which he prods some in the ribs or whacks others over the shoulders. They reminded me of the ox-teamster, familiarly called the bull puncher, in the old days, in the lumber woods.

When the enormous weight of the log is lifted clear of the ground, all the. men keep step with military precision, moving on without any apparent difficulty: This primitive method of lifting these logs to a perpendicular position without the aid of steam, was used by their forefathers thousands of years ago. It shows how great weights can be transported and lifted without machinery, and accounts for the way the great stones in the walls of various cities in China, and the Pyramids of Egypt, were lifted and put together.

At another temple a priest told me through an interpreter, that all the timber required to build the original temple, which was built nine hundred years ago, had come from Foo Chow, three hundred miles distant, by an underground passage, the end of which was n a well which he pointed out. Tins caused me to smile, and the old man ran away and I thought I had grievously offended htrn, but he returned with three candles and a long line. He lit the candles and lowered them into the well, where he proudly pointed out the end of the last log, stating that, if they took that one out, another one would come in its place, and so on indefinitely.

Dr. Duncan Main has had a hospital here for nearly twenty-eight years, which we visited. He is a medical missionary and has done so much good that it would be impossible to describe it. He started on a very small scale, and has added on and bought more land until he has a very large establishment. Those who can pay are charged a good price, and those who are unable to pay are treated free. There is a constant flow of patients. Next door is a Chinese hospital, carried on by one of his graduates, a Christian, who is doing a great work Dr. Main has also established a hospital for lepers, which I visited. There were thirty-five or forty of them in different stage* of the disease. They try to find employment for them as much as possible, cultivating gardens and doing what work they are able to do. I saw one man who looked to be over sixty, but was only twenty-eight. On top of a nearby hill, Dr. Mam has some buildings used for convalescents where they can get fresh air and he away from the stench of the city in summer. The work is now self supporting. He has a chapel, in which services are held once a day, and which all must attend It is the nicest church inside that I have seen in a long time. Stereopticon views of Christ's life, with a full explanation ija Chinese are given once a month.

I visited a Chinese wholesale and retail drug manuiac-taring plant. In an enclosure were about thirty deer, destined for slaughter, and to be manufactured into medicines, similar, I think, to Radwav's Ready Relief or St. Jacob's only I was told, that with the exception of the horns, the entire animal is used. They were manufacturing pills by the ton from various kinds of berries, nuts, roots, bark and various things I had never seen before.

The Alumni of the college gave us a Chinese dinner at which were the Senior class of this year and all the professors, three of whom are Americans, the balance being Chinese. The old Chinese pastor was there. He was the first convert to Christianity in Hangchow—a very fine old man. His son has the Chinese hospital of which I spoke The young men would be a credit to any college, and were a line looking lot of fellows, and many of them are making their mark. It is of the greatest benefit to the cause of Christianity, when men get into positions of trust in the Government employ. I urged them to endeavor to create a better and stronger reeling of friendship between the Americans an<l Chinese nations, telling them that our country was the best trend they had, in the following remarks:

"It is a very great pleasure to meet so many young men here tonight, who have received a Christian education and who have gone out in the various vocations to make their way in the world. You have been highly privileged and you should benefit your countrymen by endeavoring to uplift them, both by precept and example; and I would ask of you to do all in your power to bring about a united patriotic China so that your country may take its proper place amongst the great nations of the world. To use a common expression, when China wakes up. she will be one of the greatest nations, perhaps the greatest nation in the world, and yon can depend on America to assist you to accomplish that end. No nation is so friendly to China as the United States, and i ask you to do your utmost to retain and increase that friendship so that they may assist you in the desired uplift of your country.

"When that will he accomplished no one can predict what the result will he, especially in the world's commerce. As proof of our nation's friendship, I would just remind you of the calling together of the International Opium Commission, the returning of part of the Boxer indemnity, and the recent understanding arrived at between our country and Japan, in which there were live clauses, three of which related to China.

"Mr. Tbng Shai Yi has been to America and arranged to send one hundred Chinese young men to be educated in America, and the total amount of the returned Boxer indemnity will be expended in this manner. This will have a very good effect when those young men take their place in Government and commercial circles of this country. The opening of the Panama Canal and the waking up of China are destined to change and revolutionize the commerce of the world, and I hope you will all do your part to help accomplish the great results which we expect from your empire.''

The railroad was open for twelve miles, so we took advantage of it. to go from the city to the boat landing, six miles distant. This road is patterned after American roads; the cars are Similar, and the locomotives, which are built ;n America, are tine, large ones and are run by Chinese. The roadbed is very good, and is laid with eighty-live pound rails. The bridges are all of steel. When the railroad :s completed to Shanghai it will open up this country as nothing else could. The road is well patronized by passengers, considering the short distance opened. They were running ten large passenger coaches, with trains every two hours during the day .

We went across bv rail from Hankow to Peking, and from there went to Tientsin, returning to Shanghai. The day before sailing for home, on Apr 18th, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce gave us a banquet, which was a grand affair, at which I delivered the following address:

I thank you for the honor you have conferred on me, in having so many representative Chinese merchants to meet me here tonight around the festive board; gentlemen not only from Shanghai, but from many distant centers of commerce. 1 am pleased to greet so many of you, as it is by these meetings we get in closer touch with each other. The great drawback ;n this country is the lack of more and better acquaintance with each other, which would enable you to understand one another better. The customs and manners of our two countries are so different that it requires a great (leal of intercourse between us.

In the large transaction, winch my- associates and I have just closed with the Han Yang Iron Works, it was brought about by my getting well acquainted and keeping in close touch with the managers on this side, otherwise the parties to the contract would not have been brought together. We have a slogan in my country, "America for the Americans"; and you have gotten up one in this country. "China for the Chinese." This I consider right and proper, and I trust it will draw you together politically as well as commercially. I would caution you, however, to use good judgment as to how far this is carried. If it means the keeping out of foreigners it will cause you great losses and be detrimental to the advance of China. You need us, and we need you. What benefit would it have been to Hankow and vicinity if this deal that I have just referred to had been prohibited. It means the expending of over two million dollars a year for fifteen years. I am sure no one can say that the expenditure of that amount of money amongst the working people can be other than a great benefit to the country.

If hundreds of other such transactions could be made in China, the country would be on the high road to prosperity. But for trade to be lasting it must be reciprocal, and, while we buy from you, you must buy from us. So trade must be increased, not only in exports to America but also in imports from us. I hope that the visit of our merchants to your country next September will result in increased trade between the two nations. This is the best way to increase friendship. We also look forward to good results from the anticipated return visit to our country of Chinese merchants.

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