100 Years Ago: September 1919
This is installment fifty-six of my ongoing series of reviews of National Geographic Magazines as they each reach the one hundredth anniversary of their publication.
The first article this month is entitled “The Shattered Capitals of Central America” and was written by Herbert J. Spinden. It contains thirty black-and-white photographs, of which seven are full-page in size. The article also contains one full-page sketch map on page 194.
Map courtesy of Philip Riviere
While the rest of the world was suffering under the man-made calamities of war, Central America was under assault by the blind forces of nature. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have plagued this region for as long as can be remembered. Recently, the city of San Salvador, capital of the Republic of Salvador, was destroyed on June 7, 1917. It was rebuilt quickly but on April 28, 1919 the city was overwhelmed by a still greater catastrophe, with all rebuilt houses destroyed and many more deaths. In December 1917 and January 1918, a series of earthquakes totally destroyed Guatemala City. The heaviest shock occurred on January 24, 1918. In October and November 1918 and as late as 1919 aftershocks were still being felt. Currently, the volcano of Irazu, in Costa Rica, is in a state of eruption.
These recent catastrophes in Central America are but the latest in a long list recorded since the arrival of the Spanish. Almost every city between Mexico and Panama has suffered from the ravages of mother earth. Many have been destroyed, rebuilt in another location, and destroyed again. The coats of arms and other insignia of the Central American republics commonly show volcanoes.
The recent earthquakes in Salvador and Guatemala were strikingly different. While San Salvador’s destruction was associated with a tremendous eruption of lava, the leveling of Guatemala City was cause by a “tremendous shaking”. Both were probably caused by a slipping, or faulting, of the earth’s crust.
A vivid description of San Salvador’s destruction was submitted to the National Geographic Society by Mrs. Martha Toeplitz: “It is Corpus Christi day in Salvador’s beautiful and flourishing capital. Churches and dwellings are decorated and the streets filled with throngs in festal mood. Suddenly rumbling and grumbling below, darkness, crashing walls, cries and screams from the panic-stricken people. What a never-to-be-forgotten contrast! The world seems to have come to an end and Hell has opens her gates. In vain do the bells toll in broken towers; in vain the tears and prayers!” Later she writes: “Days and nights follow without food or shelter, until very, very slowly the quakes become more infrequent”.
The first shock in San Salvador came without warning. It opened a lava vent on the far side of a nearby volcano. About two hours later, a larger quake caused the greater part of the damage, probably due to the release of pressure after a large quantity of lava had run off. Likely the earthquake opened the sealed chimney in the once extinct volcano and, for some time after the lava had run out, the lake in the crater boiled furiously. Then a black mass of cinders and lava forced itself above the water and the lake boiled away. As for the lava flow, it could have filled the Panama Canal twice. It cut highways and rail lines. The people of San Salvador were cut off from help for quite some time.
Founded in 1528, the city of San Salvador has suffered through disastrous earthquakes many times in the past. The most noteworthy are the earthquakes of 1575, 1593, 1625, 1656, 1798, 1839, 1854, 1873, and 1917. The volcano had been inactive all that time until the recent events. There are, however, several other volcanoes in El Salvador, and some have been very active. Santa Ana was very active in the sixteenth century. San Vincente erupted in 1844, and San Miguel produced a lava flow similar to the recent one near San Salvador. In 1770 a new volcano formed near Santa Ana, Izalco. It is now a cinder cone five thousand feet high in what once was a level plain. When active, the clouds of smoke billow high into the air and can be seen far at sea. They can even be seen at night, lit from below by the eruption. Because of this fact, Izalco is known as the lighthouse of Central America.
There are many lakes in El Salvador. Some fill extinct or inactive craters, but one, Lake Guija on the border of El Salvador and Guatemala was caused by a lava dam. The flooded valley behind the dam contains towns submerged beneath the waters.
The series of earthquakes that destroyed Guatemala City began on November 17, 1917 with the nearby town of Amatitlan being heavily damaged. Shocks continued with ten to thirty light quakes per day. The first disastrous earthquake hit the city Christmas night at 10:20; it did considerable damage but saved countless lives because at 11:23 an even stronger quake destroyed much of the city. Another quake on December 29th brought down more walls, and on January 3rd a heavy shock brought down the towers of the cathedral and many other landmarks. Finally, on January 24, 1918 the heaviest earthquake hit leveling what was left, and rebuilt, of the city.
The author of the article arrived at Guatemala City twenty minutes before the January 24th quake hit. He gives a firsthand description of the wreckage from the previous quakes and the drama of the new quake. He secured quarters in the “new” Hotel Roma, built in an old carriage yard in front of the railroad station out of doors taken from the old hotel. Shortly after sunset he sensed the vibrations as the quake approached. Everyone fled the “hotel” into the street as the roof creaked and swayed. People stumbled and fell as they ran. From near and far he could hear the roar of falling walls. Clouds of yellow dust obscured the moon. The trembling died away and ceased, but the dust pall laid over the city.
This latest quake had centered under the city with a radius of destruction measuring thirty miles. The railway to Puerto Barrios was repaired, time and again, after each of the resent quakes to allow supplies to be rushed to the city. Not only were houses ruined, but water mains were broken exposing the people to unsanitary drinking water. In cemeteries, corpses were unearthed and some remains were later cremated. The death toll in Guatemala City was around two hundred.
Only a few broken walls remain of the original site of the Guatemala capital, now known as Ciudad Vieja. Built in 1527 this first Guatemala City was destroyed on September 11, 1541 by an earthquake during a heavy downpour. The nearby Volcan de Agua apparently was not involved in the destruction. The capital was moved to a new location, a few miles away from the base of the volcano. This second capital, Antigua Guatemala, was built in great magnificence as the governmental and ecclesiastical center for Central America and southern Mexico. But numerous earthquakes often associated with eruptions of Volcan de Fuego caused great damage. These started in 1565, and occurred every few years up until its final destruction on July 29, 1773. Today it is a peaceful town dominated by majestic ruins. The current capital was built in 1776 and until Christmas day 1917 had not been damaged by earthquake.
Honduras lies mostly outside the area of active volcanoes but earthquakes still strike the region. Only a few years ago, the town of Gracias was utterly wrecked. The original location of the Nicaraguan city of Leon was destroyed in 1609. It was moved to its present site, but it still suffers from quakes. Volcanoes regularly erupt in Nicaragua. Masaya was active in 1522, and again in 1772, 1858, and 1908. Momotombo, which is almost always smoking, was active in 1764 and 1852. The most impressive eruption was that of Coseguina at the entrance to the Gulf of Fonseca. In 1835 it blew its top. The sun was blocked for days. It was known as “La Oscuridad Grande” – The Great Darkness. Wild and tame animals died by the thousands from thirst and hunger.
Costa Rica boasts of many volcanos in the Cordillera, a mountain range with heights above 11,000 feet. The old capital of Cartago was destroyed on September 2, 1841. It was partly rebuilt but was leveled again on May 4, 1910. The new capital, San Jose, sits next to the volcano of Irazu which erupted in 1723, and again in 1726.
At first glance, it appears this region of the globe is too unsafe to settle, but there is a plus side to all this volcanic activity. These volcanoes from time to time throw out a “vitalizing” dust that enriches the soil better than costly fertilizers. Throughout the world, volcanic regions are ones of heavy population and great productiveness. The rebuilding of Guatemala City will take time but, now that the Great War has ended, it should proceed apace.
The second article is entitled “The Isle of Capri” and was written by John A. Kingman. It has the subtitle “An Imperial Residence and Probable Wireless Station of Ancient Rome”. The article contains seventeen black-and-white photographs of which six are full page in size.
Italian travel literature for the past one hundred and fifty years is full of attempts to describe the picturesque scenery of the Bay of Naples; but in the old days these tours usually ended at the city of Naples. Owing to the striking contrast caused by the meeting of mountains, sea, and mountain islands, much of the charm of the bay can be caught by camera. The fairest of the mountain islands is Capri, the Capreae of the great emperors of Augustus and Tiberius.
Viewed from Naples, Capri is a conspicuous object in the seascape twenty miles to the south. Its profile has been described as resembling a storm-tossed wave, a sphinx, a heap of clouds, a sarcophagus, or a crocodile depending on the observer. Its area is six square miles, but is packed full of beauty and things of interest. Artist flock to Capri each year in a vain attempt to capture its beauty on canvas. Some stay captivated by its charm and many of them marry handsome Capri girls.
The famed Blue Grotto has made Capri a showplace. For nearly a hundred years there has been daily tourist caravans to the grotto. In spite of this traffic, and much tasteless villa building, the island is still essentially unspoiled. The Capri women gave up wearing their costume thirty years before this article was written, and the old Greek form has dropped out of the island speech. There has also been an increase in the comfort of living with additional conveniences. Despite the loss of “picturesqueness”, Capri’s beauty is rugged and perennial.
After the murder of Julius Caesar, in B. C. 44, war raged and, at the battle of Actium, Augustus won the throne. When the battle was won, the future Emperor retired to the Island of Samos. In B. C. 29 he left Asia and returned to Italy. Before reaching Rome, he visited Naples where he met Virgil. He also came to Capri and acquired it as a royal residence. He received Capri from Naples, whose possession it had been for hundreds of years. In return Naples was granted the large, more fruitful island of Ischia. Capri was more intimate and exclusive than Ischia. Capri was much more suited for an imperial domain. Besides, the much more populated Ischia is prone to volcanic eruption and earthquakes. Capri is an outlying island, a strategic point needing defending.
A small garrison could hold the island which, at the time, was twenty feet higher out of the water and even more inaccessible than in the author’s time. Capri was the first place in Campania where the Greeks obtained a foothold. Augustus, in obtaining the island, secured it for the Empire, thus preventing its seizure by enemies or by pirates. Centuries later, in 1806, the English did capture Capri and held it for a while. They called it “Little Gibraltar”.
The ruin of the Capri Pharos, the ancient lighthouse, so close to the largest of the ruined palaces, is an important archeological site. It was one of the most important lighthouses of the time. The name Pharos comes from the enormous structure in Alexandria, built in B. C. 285, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, which stood until the thirteenth century. Due to the low coast, that lighthouse had to be built high. The Romans, being practical, build their lighthouses, wherever possible, on commanding headlands. They made them short and massive. One of these Roman lighthouses, the Tour d’Ordre at Boulogne on the French coast stood until the middle of the seventeenth century. The ruins of the Capri structure are a mass of burned Roman bricks, forty feet square and fifty feet tall. It probably stood taller, but how tall remains a mystery. Height was not necessary as the elevation of the headlands is about one thousand feet above sea level.
These ancient lighthouses served not only as aids to navigation, but also as signal stations. The lighthouse on Capri served as the emperor’s personal wireless station. Signaling was a common military practice among the ancients. By having a network of stations throughout the Empire, Augustus’ successor, Tiberius was able to run the day-to-day affairs of Rome and be kept informed of any intrigue for eleven years without leaving the island. Codes were devised to transmit messages one letter at a time, like a telegraph.
The Greeks invented this theory of communications and the Romans, a century and a half later, perfected its practice by using mirrors. Mirror signal have been seen with the naked eye at a distance of 160 miles.
Roman lighthouses probably operated for navigation only eight months of the year. They were kept alight during the passage of grain fleets. Navigation began in March and ended in November. A small island like Capri would be deforested in one or two years to keep the beacon lit. Fortunately, wood was cheap in the Empire. There were trackless forests all over it.
The distance from Capri to Rome is 130 miles in a straight line, too long for direct signaling. However, along the Tyrrhenian Sea there are several mountains affording relay points for signaling. Monte Circeo, whose summit is 1,775 can be easily seen from Capri. On a clear day, it is possible to stand on the summit and see the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome and, by turning to the south, see Ischia and Capri. Monte Circeo is 77 miles from Capri, a long shot for mirror signaling, but not impossible. It would have been easy to increase the number of relay stations, but the efficient Romans would signal over as long distances as possible. It has been suggested that this “telegraph line” was set up thusly: Rome to Monte Cavo in the Alban Mountains, 18 miles; then from Monte Cavo to Monte Circeo, 39 miles; Monte Circeo to Monte Massico, 44 miles; then on from Monte Massico to Capri, 44 miles.
The use of signaling from Rome to Capri is documented by Tacitus who wrote of how Tiberius was able to foil a conspiracy hatched by his trusted advisor, Sejanus: “Meanwhile he [Tiberius] was upon the watch from the summit of a lofty cliff for signals which he had ordered to be made if anything occurred, lest the messengers should be tardy.”
The fact that Augustus and Tiberius made Capri their special retreat is significant. The island was their favorite home for nearly seventy years. They were two great executives who rule consecutively, whose labor established the supremacy of the Roman Empire. After them, the island drops out of history, but the Pharos still guided the precious grain fleets for many centuries.
The third article is entitled “Shantung – China’s Holy Land”. It was written by Charles K. Edmunds, President Canton Christian College. The article contains Twenty-one black-and-white photographs, four of which are full-page in size. It also contains a sketch map of Shantung on page 235.
Map courtesy of Philip Riviere
The ancient Kingdom of Lu, now the Province of Shantung, is China’s Holy Land. It contains the highest of the five sacred mountains of China, a great Mecca for devout pilgrams. It is also the birthplace of Confucius and the philosopher Mencius. People from all parts of China ascend the sacred mountain and visit the birthplace, temporary homes, and final resting place of Confucius.
The people of Shantung are rather conservative in their attitudes towards foreigners and foreign things. The chief manufactures include fabrics of wild silk and excellent rugs of all types. The streets of Tsinan, the capital, are wider than in the south of China, where carts, and even barrows are practically unknown. Here the deep ruts in the granite slabs of the street attest to the traffic they have bored. The shops are all open to the street, the fronts being boarded up at night. The sign boards are colorful in contrast to the gray brick of the buildings.
The most striking building was the police station and jail. The police system and the treatment of criminals has been greatly improved in recent years. The author did see three men in a neck-stock, a punishment used for minor misdemeanors. The crueler forms of punishment are no longer much in use. The author secured a photograph of a cage execution that occurred a few years before.
Tsinan lies six miles from the Yellow River, known as “China’s Great Sorrow” because it frequently changes course which causes flooding in this densely populated region. The last serious break in the dikes occurred in September 1902. The original breach was 1,500 yards wide. After much work, the final 55 feet wide opening was effectively close in March 1903. Hordes of workers with baskets and barrows were set to work on top of the dike bringing material to reinforce the repaired section.
Mr. Edmund’s journey from Tsinan took ten days by cart over rough Chinese roads. Besides the author, the party included an interpreter, a cook, and three carts with carters. The carts carried food and bedding, but had no springs so the party did not ride in them and the surveying instruments were carried by three additional men. The caravan advanced about 25 miles a day. After reaching Taian, they were joined by two soldiers. For the most part, the party lived off the land. Vegetables, meats, and fruits were readily obtained. When supplemented with tinned goods they ate rather well.
The region was densely populated and all the many villages had inns. These were crude and uncomfortable but provided shelter for the eleven souls and three cart-mules. For a good part of the journey, the road ran along the banks of a wide, shallow river. Its tributaries were dry during the author’s visit, but must be torrents during the rainy season judging by the height of the bridges and the markings on the land. Even the smaller hamlets had a grocery shop and the larger villages had a temple. The level and gently sloping parts of the country are heavily cultivated. The hills are barren from the ruthless cutting of all timber. Robbed of natural fertilizer and unable to retain water, this has contributed to the cycle of floods and famine. The chief crops are peanuts and sweet potatoes.
It took two and a half days to reach Taian, at the foot of the holy mountain, Tai Shan. According to records, Tai Shan was the “Holy Mountain of the East” and was visited and prayed to as a god by monarchs of old. It is mentioned in the Shu King, the Book of History, as where Shun sacrificed to heaven B. C. 2254. The monarch was expected to visit it every five years, or at least once in his reign. Ch’in Shih-huang, the builder of the Great Wall and unifier of China, visited in 200 B. C. and left two obelisks to commemorate the fact, one at the top and one at the bottom of the mountain. A hundred years later, Emperor Han Wu-ti planted cypress trees a few yards east of the lower obelisk and built a temple there. This temple grew into the present temple Tai Miao, the nucleus of Taian city.
The principal business of Taian is catering to the needs of the thousands of pilgrims who throng her streets. Tai Miao, the “great temple” has grown up since the time of the Caesars and mostly rebuilt toward the end of the Sung Dynasty (1020-1120 A. D.). That expansion helps accommodate the large number who come to worship but cannot make the climb. The walls of the main hall are covered in frescoes showing hordes of pilgrims. The inner shrine holds the image of the “Goddess of Mercy”.
They left the city by the north gate and travelled a mile across a plain to reach the mountain towering high among the other peaks in the range. On the slopes temples of every sect have been built, Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian. A vast, wretched throng of beggars beset the road to the summit. The great pilgrimages occur in February and March. As many as 10,000 persons per day make the ascent. The Pan Lu is a broad evenly paved pathway that goes from the north gate to the summit of the mountain. It rises 4,700 feet in five miles. The steep parts consist of well-laid steps, 6,600 in all. Every few hundred yards is a temple, the most prominent being the “Little Tai Shan”. This is visited chiefly by old women and young girls who can climb no further. Some other temples include “The Hall of Ten Thousand Fairies” and “The Place of Thanksgiving”.
The author was struck by the vast number of inscriptions etched into the rocks. All along the path the special spots were given picturesque names. The whole road is called “The Broad Way to Heaven”. An especially large boulder is carved with the title “The Pillar Supporting the Left Side of Heaven”. On the slopes beside of the path cypresses grow up to about 3,000 feet. Cedars grow about that level. The upper part of the road is very steep and starts at an arch called the “Stopping Horse Arch”. Then it goes past the “Upper Gate of Heaven” to the last eighteen flight of stairs, which has iron chains hung on their sides to aid the pilgrims in their ascents. These eighteen flights end at the court of the middle temple group. The chief Buddhist shrine, “Nurse or Mother of Heaven”; the Confucian temple contains a replica of the large image of the Sage, which is in the temple at Kufu; and at the topmost knoll is the Taoist temple to the “Emperor of the Sky”, Yu-Huang. The view from summit is breathtaking. At 5,100 feet, the horizon is some 85 miles away. Confucius and Yentzu visited the peak two dozen centuries ago. The Sage claimed to be able to see the gates of Soochow, some 400 miles away.
All the cities and villages of Shantung and in surrounding provinces have stones from the mountain. These talismans are used to ward off evil spirits. Some are inscribed, “A stone from Tai Shan. Who dares come this way?”
The days of leisure for the carters while the author was on the mountain spoiled them and they were so much trouble that they needed to be discharged. The party proceeded on foot with a convoy of carrier coolies, straight to Tsining, on the Grand Canal, where they hired a cart with a pair of mules and a well-behaved driver. They rode to Kufu, the birth and burial place of Confucius and back in three days by way of Yenchow. They sent their military guards ahead to secure guides for the temple and cemetery.
When one sees one temple in China, one has seen them all, but when one has seen all the temples in Chine, there is still the temple of Kufu to see. It was much the same as any other temple, and there are some that are larger, but there was an air of respectability from antiquity that made a deep impression on the author. It is the model for all Confucian temples throughout China. The approach to the temple was a wide avenue being the main street of the city, treeless shut in on both sides by high walls. Within the gates of the temple grounds, one notices a small forest of stone tablets, five to ten feet high and three or four feet wide which line the pathway commemorating imperial visits. The buildings stand in a park of splendid cypress trees, one of which is said to have been planted by Confucius himself. The temple is an enormous and magnificent place, occupying with its grounds the whole of one side of the town.
It took several centuries before the Confucian doctrines gained recognition. As its popularity grew, a temple was erected near the birthplace of the Sage. Successive emperors enlarged and beautified the edifice. The reign of Yung Cheng (1723-1736) saw a restoration of the old buildings. This is what the author probably visited. The main temple stands on a terrace in the center of the grounds. The outer extremities of the roof are supported by great stone pillars fifteen feet high, ten on each side of the building. The pillars at the front are rounded and carved with immense dragons coiled around each pillar. These carvings are four inches deep in granite. The marble stairs and ramps are finely done as well. The pillars on the sides and back are octagonal and trace carved in a cloud effect.
The building is called “The Hall of Perfection”. It contains a canopied statue of Confucius. There are no more than two or three duplicates of this image throughout China. Ordinarily, a Confucian temple contains a simple tablet and not an image of the Sage. The fine carving and decoration show the imperial rank ascribed to Confucius. The size and beauty of the altar are imposing. All is heavily lacquered and richly gilded. Handsome silk hangings are both decoration and protection. The statue is carved wood, larger than life size, and shows the Sage seated, holding an imperial scepter symbolizing his sovereignty in the realm of thought. He wears a hat with twelve tassels, representing the signs of the zodiac; and twelve silk garments embroidered with imperial emblems.
The grounds house several other buildings including a “Palace of Rest”, a memorial to the wife of Confucius. It is set in the midst of beautiful trees. One building contains some 120 stone tablets, about 12 by 17 inches, carved with scenes from the life of the Sage. The terrace on which the main building stands is flanked by two rows of small building containing tablets honoring his many disciples. The temple grounds are separated from the rest of the town by the street that marks the site of the ancient village where Confucius was born. The actual site of the house is marked by the Duke’s palace. The Holy Duke K’ung is the seventy-sixth lineal descendant of the Sage. Four times a year the Duke worships in this temple.
The great Confucian cemetery lies outside the city. After obtaining permission, and paying a considerable fee, the author obtained permission to visit this ancient burial ground. A wide avenue lined with cypress trees lead from the northern city gate about a mile to the cemetery. To enter the cemetery, one passes through the portal to Sheng-ling. It is a park-like enclosure of over 500 acres. It houses the graves of the Sage and all of his descendants. Undoubtedly there are several tens of thousands of graves here, when a family holds together for 2,500 years. About 70% of the population in these parts claim membership to the clan.
The Sage’s tomb is in an inner enclosure, “The Grove of the True Sage”. The further one goes inward, the more ancient the monuments are. Very near the center are two hillocks that cover the remains of Confucius and his son. In front of each is a simple stone altar and an inscribed pillar. The one in front of Confucius reads “Most Holy Ancient Teacher”.
The party left Kufu early the next morning and headed to Yenchow by 9 A.M. They reached Tsining on the Grand Canal by nightfall. The hired a house boat and cruised down the canal to the Yangtze, about 500 miles, in fifteen days, the last stage being made by steam-launch. The Grand Canal extends from Tientsin to Hangchow, about 1,000 miles. It was started in the sixth century B. C. and was finished in A. D. 1283. The most ancient part of the canal is the central section. The southern section was built from A. D. 605 to 617. The northern section was built in three years 1280-1283 A. D. The party’s journey started in the northern section, traversed the central section, and ended in the southern section of the canal. Along the norther section of the canal, owing to a scarcity of water, there are numerous dams and locks.
The trip down the canal put the authors party again in rail connection to Shanghai. Upon reaching Shanghai itself, the author felt suddenly awakened, as if from a spell which his visit to Shantung, China’s Holy Land, had put on him. It seemed obvious to him that in 1913 the President of the Republic would appeal to Chinese nationalism by appealing to the peoples’ loyalty to Confucius.
The fourth article is a companion piece to the third. It is entitled “The Descendants of Confucius” and was written by Maynard Owen Williams, author of “Russia’s Orphan Races”, “Between Massacres in Yan”, etc. It contains sixteen black-and-white photographs, two of which are full-page in size.
The article is about the people of Shantung, their exports and their overseas labor force. From hair nets weaved from human hair to suits made from silk, Shantung produces much that Americans take for granted. But it is our purchase of these and other products that put food on the Chinese table. The doughboys returning from the war tell of the ever-smiling Chinese making roads in France. The Shantung coolies are among the world’s best laborers. One hundred and fifty thousand of them left their peninsula to find better work opportunities.
Now, some of them are returning to Shantung, a bit cocky because of their earnings, addicted to cinema, but straighter, cleaner, and more alert than before. The author witnesses some of them in Tsinan and Tsingtau. When China needs a railway built or a canal dug, they are the labor force she uses. An American company is preparing to dredge the Grand Canal. These coolies are ready workers for that endeavor. The Grand Canal cuts across the very base of Shantung.
With a population of 30,000,000 in an area the size of Iowa, the province must either industrialize or experience periodic migrations to less settled parts of the world. To their credit, their idea of a work day is 16 hours. In the summer they mine gold along the Amur and harvest soy beans in Manchuria. They have laid thousands of miles of track on the Trans-Siberian, and they have fought both for and against the Bolsheviks. On the frigid Armenian plateau, a company of Shantung coolies brought wheat to the ruined city of Van.
The Japanese will soon build a railway across China from Kaomi to Hsuchowfu with its link to the Trans-Siberian. Another Japanese line will run from Tsinan to Shuntehfu on the Peking-Canton line. In building these railways the Shantung coolie can be proud he helped link his home province to the capitals of Eurasia from Madrid to Tsinan.
The rivers of China have not only shaped the land, but also the character of Chinese people. There are the “trackers”, the coolies who tow huge junks upstream against heavy current with woven bamboo cables. The Yangtze below the gorges is a much tamer stream. The Hwang-ho, or Yellow River, floods its banks often and sometimes changes course altogether. It emptied into the Gulf of Pechili, near Tientsin, until the time of the crusades. Then, in a single week, it swung its mouth southward 400 miles and emptied into the Yellow Sea. In 1852 it shifted again and now empties facing Port Arthur. Today the river is a constant menace to millions of people. It is confined to its present course by huge dikes. For centuries the Shantung coolies have constantly kept the dikes repaired. Even so, every few years the Hwang-ho overflows its banks and wreaks havoc. The workers battle the “dragon” until it is again confined and then return to farming and other work.
Shantung is a land of villages, but it has two modern towns, Tsingtau and Tsinan. Tsingtau is the Atlantic City of the China coast. Its climate is excellent and it boasts golf courses, hotels, fine roads, and of clean streets. The town is backdropped by charming tree-covered hills, a remnant of German occupation. Germany developed a political and naval base in Tsingtau; now the Japanese are building an industrial city. Tsinan has undergone a similar transformation. A Chinese city with a German veneer has overnight become an outpost of Japan. New buildings and barracks have sprung up. One of the most powerful wireless stations in the Far East has been installed.
During the past few years Shantung has suffered seriously from banditry and the buying up of copper cash, which is the currency of the poor. Various forms of money have been used in Shantung for 3,000 years. At first, they used knives. Later other shapes like axes and spades were used. The Chou dynasty introduced round coins in 600 B. C. These round “cash”, with a square hole or several round holes in the middle, were more convenient than the older coins. The old coins remained the standard for some time, and the new coins bore inscriptions showing their values as one “knife-coin” or one “axe-coin”. When the war sent the price of brass and copper soaring, thousands of tons of these copper and brass coins were melted down. This deprived the populace of their medium of exchange.
Fruits and vegetables in Shantung are excellent and varied. While most Chinese pears are all but inedible, the Shantung pear is delicious. Peanuts and persimmons of Shantung are famous. Chefoo cabbages are sold throughout the Far East. The Chinese “date”, really a jujube, is plentiful in Shantung. They can be had in Chinese restaurants in America and are exported by the mule load.
The Shantung coolies were of great use during the war and now there are plans to recruit another quarter million more to help the reconstruction of France. American trained Chinese will teach these new laborers several courses including phonetic writing. After their work in France is complete the Shantung coolies will return to their homeland and by binding it with bands of steel and crowded waterways make it into a worthy republic.
The last article in this issue has the alliterative title “America’s South Sea Soldiers”. It was written by Lorena MacIntyre Quinn. It contains eight black-and-white photographs. Five of those photographs are full-page in size.
Most people overlook the fact that the American flag flies over a group of six small islands in the South Seas, known as American Samoa. Our government maintains a naval station on the island of Tutuila, at Pago Pago. This station is strategically located on two trade routes, one from America to Australia and the other between the Panama Canal with South America and the Far East.
America and Germany had a dispute over the Samoa islands in 1888. Each country sent a fleet and both fleets were destroyed in a storm. An agreement was reached that provided a hybrid form of government for the islands but this proved unworkable. In 1899 a treaty gave each side what they wanted – Germany got a colony and the United States, a coaling station. Early in the World War, German Samoa was captured by New Zealand troops and thus became British Samoa.
American Samoa is under the supervision of the Navy Department. The naval officers stationed at Pago Pago form the governing body of Tutuila and the five other small islands. The native soldiers are called the Fita-Fitas. Their fatigue uniform consists of a black kilt with a bright red stripe around the border, a leather belt with dagger, and a bright red turban. For dress uniforms they include a sleeveless white undervest. Besides their military duties, the Fita-Fitas serve as policemen in Pago Pago, guarding prisoners at the jail and settling fights when called upon. Frequently these fights involve disputes over cricket games between rival villages. The Fita-Fitas are also used as escorts for the Governor of American Samoa when he makes a tour of inspection of Tutuila.
The principal feature of the Fita-Fita organization is the band. In a little more than a decade, these natives went from never seeing a brass instrument to having a repertoire of classical and popular airs. When a steamer visits the harbor, the band will go aboard and play while the passengers dance. They play from the docks when a ship is departing. The band is most impressive when they play the national anthem at “colors”.
The favorite form of recreation for the Fita-Fitas is cricket. English missionaries taught the game to the Samoans and it is very popular. Instead of having the regulation eleven on each side, the natives have as many as forty or fifty, assuming the proportions of a miniature battle. The spectators can get quite rowdy, beating wooden drums and wildly chanting. At the end of the game there is a serpentine dance as practiced after football games in America.
The allies called on their subjects in the South Sea isles to join in the vast struggle. The British had her Fiji Islanders and Maori and France had her Tahitian subjects. If the war had continued longer, the United States would have called upon Fita-Fitas to do their bit for their mother country.