1902 Encyclopedia > China > Chinese Provinces (3) - Shan-se [Shanxi]

(Part 9)


Province 3: Shan-se [Shanxi]

The province of Shan-se is bounded on the N. by Mongolia, on the E. by Chih-li, on the S. by Ho-nan, and on the W. by Shen-se. It occupies an area of 53,268 square miles, and contains besides its capital, Tae-yuen Foo, eight prefectural cities. The population is returned as being 14,004,210. The configuration of Shan-se is noteworthy, forming, from its southern frontier to as far north as Ning-woo Foo—an area of about 30,000 square miles—a plateau elevated from 5000 to 6000 feet above the level of the sea, the whole of which is one vast coal-field. The northern and western limits of the plateau are bounded by high mountain ranges trending south-west and north-east. Down the central line of the province from north to south lies a curious series of deep depressions, all f which are ancient lake basins. But though forming a series it is plain that these lakes were not formerly connected with each other, some being separated from those next adjoining by high ridges, and being drained by different rivers and in different directions.Shan-se is one of the most remarkable coal and iron regions in the world, and Baron von Richthofen gives it as his opinion that the world, at the present rate of consumption of coal, could be supplied for thousands of years from Shan-se alone. The neighbourhood of Tse-chow Foo in the south of the province abounds in both coal and iron, and has probably, partly by reason of its situation being within reach of the populous plain of Hwai-king Foo, of the Yellow River, of Taou-kow Chin and Sew-woo Heen (the shipping places for Tien-tsin and the Grand Canal), and of Ho-nan Foo, furnished more iron to the Chinese than any other region of a similar extent in the empire. The iron is of great purity and is easily fusible, while the necessary means for manufacturing it, such as all sorts of clay and sand for crucibles, moulds, &c., and a very superior anthracite coal, lie ready to hand. The coal is of two kinds, bituminous and anthracite, and the line of demarcation between the two is formed by the hills which are the continuation of the Ho-shan range, the fields of bituminous coal being on the west of these hills, and those of anthracite on the east. In the neighbourhood of Ping-ting Chow the extent of the coal-field is incalculable; and speaking of the whole plateau, Baron von Richthofen says, "These extraordinary conditions, for which I know no parallel on the globe, will eventually give rise to some curious features in mining. It may be predicted that, if a railway should ever be built from the plain to this region—and there is no other means of ever bringing to their due account its mineral resources—branches of it will be constructed within the body of one or other of these beds of anthracite, which are among the thickest and most valuable known anywhere, and continue for miles underneath the hills west of the present coal-belt of Ping-ting Chow. Such a tunnel would allow of putting the produce of the various coal-beds immediately on railroad carts destined for distant places." Salt is produced in the prefecture of Ping-yang in the south of the province, both from a salt lake and from the alluvial soil in the nieghbourhood of the Fun River. In agricultural products the province is poor, and as the means of transport at present existing are rude and insufficient, all kinds of food command usually high prices. Meat is a rare luxury, and salt fish, the usual substitute for meat, is consumed only by the wealthier classes. As a rule the people are poor, and in the mountainous districts are subject to famine and starvation. The only wagon road leading into and through Shan-se is the great highway from Peking to Se-gan Foo, which enters Shan-se west of Ching-ting Foo, and leaves the province at the Tung-kwan at the great bend of the Yellow River.

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