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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Fourteen

It is impossible to give an idea of the number of boats passing here; they run into the thousands, and each big junk has from 100 to 120 men on board. They are all hired by the run, which takes about six weeks. The current wage paid is "Mex." $2 or Gold SI. In addition they receive their food, two bowls of rice a day. Taking into consideration that this is the most hazardous occupation I have ever come across, the wage is certainly low, although in years gone by in our Chinese lumber yards we only paid from eight to ten cents "Mex." a day, and the men boarded themselves. But when we take into consideration the risk, which statistics show to be over one thousand deaths by drowning a year, it certainly exceeds anything I have yet come across. They all appeared to be hardy young men, stark naked except that they usually wore a hat. The captain was dressed, but always bareheaded and barefooted.

The following, copied from Captain Plant's book, is about as good a description of the trackers as can be obtained.

"Most interesting it is to watch a big junk manoeuvring through some difficult passage. Seventy or eighty men ashore hitched to the stout bamboo hawser by bandoleers of cotton line, are straining with bent backs and swinging arms, their fingers nearly touching the ground, whilst the head men as naked as they were born, armed with split bamboos, rush madly up and down the double row of trackers, shouting themselves hoarse testing each man's bandoleer as they run along, by tapping on them with their bamboos, with the acuteness of a grand piano tuner, and dealing out whacks on the bare backs of the slackers. Away in the rear of the trackers three or four men are stationed at intervals along the tow line, and it is their business to clear from the boulders and projecting rocks, the tow line which is constantly catching. It is a job involving great risk of bad falls, broken bones, and drowning. Perched


on the rocks, away out in the swift running' river those naked men may he seen, ready to wade or swim in the wake of the tow line, throwing it clear as they go. Powerful swimmers all of them, they perform the most daring feats, often swimming long distances.

On our arrival we had a real Chinese receptionóboats decorated with flags, luncheon set out for us, a great big brass band, and receptions by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and other organizations; addresses of welcome and then thousands of lire crackers. The following is one of the addresses, translated from Chinese:

"Sir, you are well known in our country. We have been very anxious to see you. Now you personally pay a visit of inspection to Chungking and do honour to us. We are very fortunate and very happy.

"It was very difficult formerly for passengers and cargoes to pass through the Yangtse River, because there were very few steamers sailing on it. With a view to helping and benefiting the passengers and cargoes, you began to build many steamers and sail them about this river. Only one year more the communication of waterway from Chungking to Shanghai is much more convenient than before. Such good results are accomplished by you, Sir, and Harold Dollar. We have nothing to say but that we hope you and your company are as constantly prosperous in the abundance as the sun is in its journey through the heavens."

"Your servants,

"Dah Lai Chuen, "Y. A. Young."

If I had been their long lost brother they could not have done more. They acted as if I had been acquainted with them for fifty years, and this was my first visit. Then when I went over to our office, which is situated on the principal street of the city, which is about ten feet wide, there was such an explosion of fire crackers that travel was suspended for a few minutes. There was a great concourse of people going back and forth all the time. I was ashamed that they paid so much respect and attention to me. The office is about five hundred feet from the custom house and eight hundred feet from the postoffice.

The census shows Chungking to be a city of 800,000 people, and the size of it fully justifies that number, as it is solidly built, and the streets are only alleys, mostly from six to eight feet wide. Its commercial importance justifies a city of that size, to say nothing of the very rich country that backs it up. While Chungking is called the head of navigation, it is quite possible for our steamers to go from 200 to 300 miles further. Two small boats make this run now to Sui Fu, where the Yangtse changes its name to Kin Sha Ho RiveróRiver of Golden Sands. This river is also navigable for 100 miles.

When I see the richness of this great province from both a mineral and agricultural point of view, I am completely lost in trying to think of its future during the next twenty or thirty years, as it is only commencing to be opened up to foreign commerce, which is so infinitesimal that it is not worth being called by that name. Take the capital, Chentu, 200 miles inland, which had a system of irrigation introduced before the Christian Era, and is in perfect condition and in use today. It has been examined by modern engineers who pronounced it as good as it is possible to build today. When we consider that the population of the province is about seventy millions, self-contained and raising and producing everything it wants, and and does not have to depend on the outside world for anything; and when one sees so many cities, towns and villages, so thickly populated, it well reminds one that one-half of the world does not know how the other half lives. The Chinese cities generally have red filed roofs, but all the houses in Szechuen Province are covered with blue colored tiles which give the cities a dull, dark appearance, and at first make them appear strange.

I learned that in the Roman Catholic Diocese there are over 50,000 converts shepherded by sixty-five native priests and forty-two European priests, and that in the province there are 160,000 converts. T have not the statistics of the Protestants, which I think must be considerable, so a great start has been made to christianize that far away province.


There is a fine large arched bridge, as good as can be seen in any country, across the Little River, which is navigable for sixty miles. The City of Chang Pei is on the other side of the river from Chungking. The day I was there happened to be Water Festival Day, and it was certainly a great affair. Canoes had been constructed for the occasion, long and only wide enough for two men to sit abreast, and from fifty to sixty men in each canoe, everyone paddling and keeping time to the tap of a drum, the captain standing up and also keeping time by waving a flag. All wore pants but no other clothing. There were some thirty canoes and over 1500 men. They raced from the bridge down to the Yangtse and back. The course was in front of our property, so I had a good opportunity of seeing it. There was an enormous crowd out, and every point of vantage was taken. But the great thing was to have a place to stand in tlie water, those farthest out had only their heads, Visible, then as they approached the shore, the great rush was to secure a place and get their feet in the water, if possible. Those in the canoes threw water on themselves. This evidently was the religious belief that some good luck would come out of being wet with the river water that day. Great crowds were also in swimming. It looked as if the whole city had turned out in holiday attire to see the festival. One canoe preceded them and in its center was a great altar and a figure on it, which I supposed to be the real dragon himself. Be that as it may, they certainly had a great holiday.

Evidently it is held in different places at different times as on the way up the river we saw a small demonstration, when at Wang Hsing two days after all the people had turned out; they had about ten or twelve canoes at this place and possibly 600 men.

The Chinese arranged to give me a banquet in the city and as the city gates close promptly at sunset and do not open until sunrise, we arranged to have it between four and six o'clock in the evening.

I went in our gasoline launch to see the pontoon we are building. As is usual with gas engines, it decided it had gone far enough for that day, and refused to budge. After trying for a long time we got the launch out into the river hoping it would drift down to the city so that we could attend the banquet, but we failed to get there on time. Besides I was determined to see our landing place, so we hired a sampan and got over and saw the landing, and incidentally the dragon festival. I his completed a very busy day, as it was dark when we got back to the Robert Dollar II. That was not all, however, as several Chinese came to talk over future business and I stood it until 11:3() p. m. before going to bed. Harold Dollar finished the conference at 2 :30 a. m. the next day, and the steamer sailed at 4:30 o'clock.

I noticed some high, well built bridges around the outside of the wall, providing a roadway between the river and the wall, which is very high and strong. Across the Yangtse from Chungking are some godowns and places of business, but not very numerous. The few foreigners who are located there, live up on the lulls on this side, but it is very steep and sedan chairs have to be used, and it takes considerable time to come and go morning and night, which is quite a disadvantage.

As to the trip down the river, we started as soon as it was daylight. The up-trip had been full of new experiences, but we had other and far more exciting experiences on this downward voyage. At Kwei Fu we found that the water had fallen fourteen feet in the three days since we had passed. This released a great fleet of junks which were waiting for this favorable turn, as too high water is extremely dangerous for them. This brought a new menace to the steamers as we passed junks in every position. One would naturally think they would be heading straight down stream, but this was not the case, as they are unable to keep steerage way and the currents and whirlpools sent them out of their course, and it was no unusual occurrence to find them crosswise of the channel. For instance, in the narrow crooked channel of the Tan Rapid, we overtook a junk that had been whirled around and broadside to the channel and at first it appeared impossible for us to avoid running it down, but at the last minute, by a fortunate swirl of the current and by the almost superhuman efforts of the crew at the fifty-foot bow sweep, we passed them with not more than three feet to

Above the mantel is the Memorial Tablet

spare. I could see the captain on top of the poop jumping and gesticulating like a demon. No doubt, if what he was roaring had been understandable, it would not have been fit for Sunday School literature.

Remember, the steamer was rushing down this rapid with a speed of at least twenty miles an hour. One is apt to ask, "'Why rush at this breakneck speed?" The current was running at fifteen miles an hour; therefore, the steamer was only going through the water at a little over five miles an hour, which was the lowest speed possible and maintain steerage way on her; moving slower than this, the current wrould have twisted her broadside to the stream as it had the junk, which would have resulted in her landing on the1 rocks. The captain had no choice but to keep right on. The steamer went through one rapid four miles long in less than ten minutes. The entire distance of 460 miles was made in nineteen hours on the return trip, whereas it took us three and one half days to go up. We saw a great many temples that we had overlooked on the way up, all perched in the most inaccessible of places. How the priests manage to have the necessities of life carried up to them is a conundrum. There are many pagodas scattered throughout the country chiefly of seven stories, although in this district I saw some of eight stories. On a number of high elevations near cities, we saw great fortifications which are called robbers' castles. Brigands tenant some, but others are occupied by the Tuchau "generals," therefore the name is absolutely correct as the Tuchans and their substitutes are worse than brigands. They are the real curse of China today.

Following are some of the crimes perpetrated by the robbers with the sanction of the commanding general: the destruction of the Ichang Chamber of Commerce building by fire as well as looting it, setting afire hundreds of buildings and commandeering two steamers to carry away the stolen goods. A few days afterwards the general demanded money from the chamber. When they replied that their property had been destroyed and they had no money, he gave them a few hours' in which to get some or be shot. They gathered $3000. He was very much displeased at receiving so small an amount and told them to get ready as he would be back in a few days. As a sequel to this looting, the soldiers took the steamers to Hankow where 300 of them boarded a train. Fifty miles out the train was switched on to a siding and the engine detached. All along the siding, another general who disapproved of these depredations had his machine guns placed and riddled the train with bullets. The result was so effective that only one man, badly wounded, was known to have escaped. Many ran from the train into a field, but w ere killed. A friend of mine passed there the day following and counted forty men dead on one side of the track and ninety-five on the other side, besides those that were killed in the cars. All this, however, was no lesson to them as the night we were in Ichang, soldiers broke into four stores that had been overlooked and helped themselves to what they wanted. To show what a farce was being enacted, a poor coolie was marched all through the town by the soldiers (who are the real thieves) and was beheaded in the park because he had probably stolen something from a soldier.

China will never be herself again until all the soldiers are disbanded. They are not needed, as the citizens are peaceable, law-abiding people and soldiers are not required.

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