1902 Encyclopedia > China > Lakes of China. Loess.

(Part 6)


Lakes of China. Loess.

Lakes.—There are numerous lakes in the central provinces of China. The largest of these is the Tung-ting Lake in Hoo-nan, which, according to Chinese geographers, is upwards of 800 le, or 266 miles, in circumference. In native gazetteers its various portions are known under distinct names; thus it is said to include the Tsing-tsaou, or Green Grass Lake; the Ung, or Venerable Lake; the Chih-sha, or Red Snad Lake; the Hwang-yth, or Imperial Post-house Lake; the Gan-nan, or Peaceful Southern Lake; and the Ta-tung, or Great Deep Lake. In ancient times it went by the name of the of the Kew-keang Hoo, or Lake of the Nine Rovers, from the fact that nine rivers flowed into it., During the winter and spring the water is so low that the shallow portions become islands, separated by rivers such as the Seang and Yuen, and numberless streams; but in summer, owing to the rise in the waters of the Yang-tsze Keang, the whole basin of the lake is filled. The Poyang Lake is also subject to a wide difference between high and low water, but quite to the same extent as the Tung-ting Lake, and its landmarks are more distinctly defined. The Tai lake, in the neighbourhood of Soo-chow Foo, is also celebrated, for its size and the beauty of its surroundings. It is about 150 miles in circumference, and is dotted over with islands, on which are built temples for the devotees of religion, and summer-housed for the votaries of pleasure from the rich and voluptuous cities of Hang-chow and Soo-chow. The boundary line between the provinces of Che-keang and Keang-soo crosses its blue waters, and its shores are divided among thirteen prefectures. Besides these lakes there are, among others, two in Yun-nan, the Teen-che near Yun-nan Foo, which is 40 miles long and is connected with the Yang-tsze Keang by the Poo-to River, and the Urh-hai to the east of the city of Ta-le.

Loess.—One of the most remarkable features in the physical geography of China is the existence of a vast region of loess in the northern portion of the empire. This peculiar formation covers the province of Chih-li (with the exception of the alluvial plain), Shan-se, northern Shen-se, Kan-suh, and northern Ho-nan, constituting altogether an area of about 250,000 square miles. Loess is a solid but friable earth of a brownish-yellow colour. It spreads alike over high and low grounds, smoothing off the irregularities of the surface, and is often to be found covering the sub-soil to a depth of more than 1000 feet. It has a tendency to vertical cleavage, and wherever a river cuts into it, the loess encloses it between perpendicular cliffs, in many places 500 feet in the height. These when washed by the water are speedily undermined, and the loess breaks off in vertical sheets, which fall into the river and are carried down by the stream. In this way have been deposited the sediments which to a great extent constitute the great plain, and render the Gulf of Pih-chih-li and the Yellow Sea so shallow. From an economical point of view the loess is invaluable be the natives of the north of China. In its perpendicular cliffs which are removed from the action of running water are dug out innumerable caves, in which a large majority of the people inhabiting the loess region dwell, while its surface yields abundant crops, requiring no application of manure and but slight expenditure of labour in preparation. Wherever it is found, therefore, whether on the plain or at an elevation of 7000 or 8000 feet, it is available for agricultural purposes. The Chinese call it Hwang-too, or "Yellow Earth," and it has been suggested that the imperial title Hwang-te, "Yellow Emperor," "Ruler of the Yellow," has had its origin in the fact that the emperor was lord of the loess or the "Yellow Earth."

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