1902 Encyclopedia > China > Chinese Provinces (12) - Shen-se [Shaanxi]

(Part 18)


Province 12: Shen-se [Shaanxi]

The province of Shen-se is bounded on the N. by the Great Wall, on the W. by the province of Kan-suh, on the S. by the province of Sze-chuen, and on the E. by Shan-se, from which it is separated by the Yellow River. It contains an area of 67,400 squre miles, and its population was said to number upwards of 10,000,000 before the outbreak of the late Mahometan rebellion. Se-gan Foo is the provincial capital, and besides this there are seven prefectural cities in the province. Shen-se is divided into two parts by a barrier of mountains, consisting of the Foo-new Shan and the Tsing-ling Shan, which runs across the southern portion of the province from east to west. To the north of the mountains lie the basins of the Wei River and of several other tributaries to the Hwang-ho. The position of the Wei basin is peculiar. Cut off from the rest of China on the east by the Yellow River, and on the south by the mountains, it yet forms the great channel of communication with Central Asia. Its position, therefore, in a strategical point of view is at once apparent. Were it in the hands of an enemy the Chinese colonies in Central Asia would be completely severed from the mother country, and hence the eagerness which has been evinced by the Government throughout all history to retain possession of the region. For upwards of 2000 years, with the exception of intervals, from 1122 B.C. to 1127 A.D., the city of Se-gan Foo, which lies in the basin, was the capital of the empire. Its walls enclose a square space of six geographical miles each way and unlike most Chinese citi4es, its fortifications are kept in perfect repair. During the late Mahometan rebellion it was closely invested fro two years by the rebels, who however failed to make themselves masters of it. From Se-gan Foo radiate a number of roads going east, south, and west. The east road is the great Tung-kwan road, which forms the principal means of communication between Peking and the north0eastern provinces of the empire, and Sze-chuen, Yun-nan, and Tibet. To the south, one road crosses the mountains to Shang-Chow, and on to the Tan, River, an affluent of the Han River, and is thus connected with the trade of the Yang-tsze Keang; and another leads to Han-chung Foo and Sze-chuen. Leaving the west gate of the city two roads lead to lan-chow Foo, from which town commences the great high road into Central Asia by way of Leang-chow Foo, Kan-chow Foo and Suh-chow to Hami, where it forks into two branches, which follow respectively the northern and sourthern foot of the Teen-shan range, and are known as the teen-shan pih loo and the Teen-shan nan loo, It was along these roads that the fame of China first reached Europe, and it was by the Teen-shan nan loo that Marco Polo entered the empire. To defend this line of communication the Great Wall was extended to beyond Suh Chow, and the Kea-yu gate, which is the door of the empire, was built. During the reign of Hea-woo Te of the Han dynasty Chinese colonies and high roads lined with fortified cities were established along this route lined with fortified cities were established along this route, and though at times the Government have lost possession of the line beyond the Great Wall, it has always succeeded in re-establishing its supremacy over it, and the earlier emperors of the present dynasty established a firmer hold over the Teen-shan pit loo and Ili than any of their predecessors had been able to acquire. Occupying a position, then, at the confluence of the roads which connect north-eastern China with its western and south-western portions, Se-gan Foo is naturally a city of great commercial importance. Producing no manufacturers of its own, its trade consists principally in the importation of silk from Ch_-keang and Sze-chuen, tea from Hoo-pih and Hoo-nan, and sugar from sze-chuen, and in the exportation of these andother articles of commerce to Kan-suh, Russia, and Central Asia. Shen-se is purely an agricultural province, and produces nothing for the foreign markets. Its principal products are cotton, wheat, and opium, and these it exchanges with the neighbouring provinces for coal, iron, salt, &c. But besides these, kaou-leang, pulse, millet, maize, groundut, barley, beans, pease, Lucerne, and rape seed are grown. The Wei basin is the greatest agricultural country in the north-west. Being a loess region it is unfit for rice, but for the same reason it produces fine crops of the kinds mentioned at a minimum expenditure of labour. The Shen-se opium is much valued by smokers, and ranks next to the Shan-se drug, which is second only to that produced in Kan-suh. Coal abounds in the northern part of the province, but owing to difficulty of transit it is not worked to any great extent. The winters are cold, but short, and though fruit trees abound and are most productive, no evergreen trees or shrubs are to be met with within the province.

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