C. GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF CHINA PROPER
Province 14: Sze-chuen [Sichuen]
Sze-chuen, "the Four Streams," is the largest province in China. It is bounded on the N, by Kokonor, Kan-suh, and Shan-se, on the E. by Hoo-pih and Hoo-nan, on the S. by Kwei-chow and Yun-nan, and on the W. by Tibet. Its population is estimated at 35,000,000; it occupies an area of 220,000 square miles, and contains fifteen prefectural cities, inclusive of Ching-too Foo, the provincial capital. The western portion of the province forms part of the mountain-lands of Central Asia, and the eastern portion, comprising about 100,000 square miles, is, with the exception of the plain on which the city of Ching-too Foo is situated, emphatically a hilly region. The boundaries of this hilly region may be described by lines drawn from Lung-gan Foo to Kwei-chow Foo on the N., from Kwei-chow Foo to Yung-ning Heen on the S.E., and from this latter place to Lung-gan Foo on the W. The ethnological and commercial boundaries are clearly and sharply drawn by these physical features. The mountain districts are poorly cultivated, and are inhabitants by "Ejin," or Barbarians, who are distinguished under the tribal names of Se-fan, Lo-lo, and Man-tsze, and whose allegiance to the Chinese Government sits but lightly on them, while the eastern portion is exclusively Chinese, and is one of the most thriving and populous regions in the empire. Through the southern portion of its runs the Yang-tsze Keang, which is there navigable throughout the year, while it is traversed by three large rivers, the Min-keang, the To-keang, and the Kea-ling Keang, all of which take their rise in the mountains on its north-west border, and empty themselves into the Yang-tsze Keang at Seu-chow Foo, Loo Chow, and Chung-king Foo respectively. The whole province is intersected by numerous but difficult roads. The Ta-pih-loo, or great north road, leads from Ching-too Foo to Peking. From the same centre there branches out one to Chung-king Foo, one to Paou-ning Foo, and one to Ya-chow Foo, while another road connects Chung-king Foo with Kwei-chow Foo on the Yang-tsze Keang and beyond with E-chang Foo in Hoo-pih. From Ya-chow Foo again, start two important roads, one leading into Tibet by way of Yung-king Heen. Tsing-ke Heen, Ta-tseen loo, Le-tang, Pa-tang, and Tsiamdo, and the other to Western Yun-nan viâ Tsing-ke Heen, Ning-yuen Foo, and Yen-yuen Heen to ta-le Foo. From Ta-le Foo this road continues through Momien to Bhamo in Burmah. Another road connects Pa-tang and Le-keang Foo with Ta-le Foo, and yet another crosses the southernmost corner of the province connecting Tung-chuen Foo in Yun-nan with Ta-le Foo in the same province.
The products of Sze-chuen are varied and valuable, and, unlike those of the northern provinces of China, are eminently suitable for foreign export. First on the list stands silk, and of this article of commerce a larger quantity is produced in eastern Sze-chuen than in any other province of the empire. There are few districts in this region in which silk is not produced, and though it is somewhat inferior in quality to that produced in Che-keang yet in strength and durability it is so far superior to it that it is able to compete successfully with the finer kind in the market. Large quantities are exported to Shen-se, Shan-se, Kan-suh, Peking, Yun-nan, Tibet, Kwei-chow, Kwang-se, Hoo-nan, and Hoo-pih, and lately it has begun to figure in the Shanghai returns as an article of foreign export. The cultivation of the poppy is largely carried on in the same portion of the province. The opium produced is, however, of an inferior quality, and the exportation therefore is limited to those provinces which from exceptional circumstances are unable to procure the better description of drug from elsewhere. White wax is another of the most valuable articles of the Sze-chuen trade. It is made exclusively in the department of Kea-ting Foo, the climate of which appears to favour the propagation of the disease among the insects which is said by the natives to be the cause of the plentiful secretion of wax. This belief is borne our by the fact, that in the districts where the insects breed only a small quality of wax is produced, and experience has therefore taught of wax is produced, and experience has therefore taught the natives the advantage of breeding the insects in one district and producing the wax in another. The region of Keen-chang in the south of the province has been found most suitable for breeding purposes, and it is there, therefore, on the insect trees, which are evergreens with large and pointed ovate leaves, that the breeding processes are carried on. At the end of April the producers start with a load of the eggs of the insects for the districts of Kea-ting Foo, a journey which on foot occupies about a fortnight. The road between the two districts is every mountainous, and as exposure to the heat of the sun would hatch the eggs too rapidly, the travelers journey only during the night. At Kea-ting Foo they are eagerly brought up, and are at once put upon the wax tree. Baron von Richthofen thus describes the subsequent process:"When are egg balls are procured they are folded up, six or seven together, in a bag of palm leaf. These bags are suspended on the twigs of the trees. This is all the human labour required. After a few days the insects commence coming out. They spread as a brownish film over the twigs, but do not touch the leaves. The Chinese describe them as having neither shape, nor head, nor eyes, nor feet. It is known that the insect is a species of occurs. Gradually, while the insect is growing, the surface of the twigs becomes encrustated with a white substance; this is the wax. No care whatever is required. The insect has no enemy, and is not even touched by ants. In the latter half of August the twigs are cut off and boiled in water, when the wax rises to the surface. It is then melted and poured into deep pans. It cools down to a translucent and highly crystalline substance. Ten taels weight of eggs produce from two to three catties of wax." Tobacco is another article which occupies a prominent place among the productions of Sze-chuen. It is grown very generally throughout the province, and is exported in large quantities to Se-fan, Tibet, Yun-nan, Hoo-nan; and the export to Han-kow alone is estimated at 50,000 piculs annually. The best is grown in the district of Pe Heen; the next quality is said to come from Kin-lang Heen, and the third quality from She-hand Heen, all these districts being in the plain of Ching-too Foo. The habit, which is unknown in other provinces, smoking the tobacco leaves rolled up in the shape of cigars obtains largely in Sze-chuen. Salt is also produced in Sze-chuen in large qualities from brine, which is raised form wells. Tzse-lie-tsing, in Tsze Chow, Woo-tung-keauo, near Kea-ting Foo, Paou-ning Foo, and Tung-chuen Foo, are the districts where the wells are most abundant. The brine is raised from the well with long bamboo tubes and bamboo ropes, and is then led to large pans for evaporation. In the district of Tsze-liu-tsing petroleum is struck at a depth of from 1800 to 2000 feet, and is used for evaporating the brine. Coal and iron are found in many parts of the province, but the only coal which is worked is of an inferior quality, and the iron is smelted with wood alone. Sugar, tung oil, wheat, barley, beans, rice, Indian corn, potatoes, &c., are among the other products of Sze-cheun. From the list of exports and re-exports from Han-kow in the Trade Returns for 1871, Baron von Richthofen has made a list of the proximate value of the exports of Sze-chuen in this direction.