Botanical Pioneer In South West China]
was in the eighteen eighties that the French missionary Delavay sent
back to Europe the first collections of plants from Yunnan, one of
the remotest and at that time least accessible provinces of China.
Nearly half the species he collected proved new to science and it
soon became clear that his work had opened up a unique floral region,
richer perhaps than any area of comparable extent in the world. This
profusion of species has several causes, among them the configuration
of the land itself, of great interest to geographers as well as
botanists; the deeply cut river valleys between the lofty mountain
chains, which are a continuation of the Himalaya though bent round to
the north and south; its location in the middle of an area in which
so many large genera have evolved; and the direction of the mountain
chains, which allowed plants to migrate to warmer climes during the
ice ages and hence escape extinction. The great beauty of many of the
plants and the similarity of the mountain climate to that of Central
Europe roused the interest of gardeners and encouraged patrons of
horticulture to send their collectors to carry on Delavay's work. The
successes achieved by George Forrest were no doubt among the reasons
that persuaded the Austro-Hungarian Dendrological Society at the end
of 1913 to send their general secretary Camillo Schneider to Yunnan
for a year with similar objectives. To broaden the scope of the
expedition the Academy of Sciences in Vienna gave financial support
to enable me to participate and, my return being prevented by the
outbreak of war, continued to finance me for a further four and a
half years. Three of these years were devoted to Yunnan and
south-west Sichuan and the last two to Guizhou and Hunan.
I travelled as a botanist and was fully occupied by my own work, in
this book I have tried to outline my observations in other branches
of knowledge. The geological structure and unique characteristics of
south west China cannot fail to make an impression on the traveller,
more especially as a botanist with an interest in plant geography
must pay some regard to geology and will regard cartographical
surveying as a routine duty. However, I have confined myself to
Nature and her works, among which may be counted primitive man and
the map(1) I have endeavoured to
incorporate the latest topographical surveys and in particular to
give a correct picture of the relief, which is not satisfactorily
depicted in any of the current maps. My map is based on Davies'
map(2) for the western parts and
Stieler's Hand Atlas for the eastern. The course of the Yangzi
Jiang(3) from Tsilidjiang (Qilijiang) to Suifu (Yibin) is
taken from Audemard(4) . Further
information was gleaned from Legendre's(5)
and Bacot's(6) maps, while my own
surveys showed the need for certain amendments near the Lijiang loop
and for redrawing the map of the mountainous country of Zhongdian,
also from Yongning to Yongshen, and from the upper Nu Jiang
(Salwe-en) to the Irrawaddy. In the east some revision is needed in
the remoter areas through which I journeyed. From longitude 103°
to 110", however, I traversed the country only once and in a
more or less straight line, and here I can give only a sketchy
impression of the terrain outside my route(7).
All the Latin names of the plants mentioned in the book are based on
scientific identification of the collected herbarium material, which
has been deposited in the Botanical Institute of Vienna University.
on China usually contain information on art, shooting, sport and such
matters. The reader will find little of that kind, and if
ethnographers feel that their interests have been neglected let them
remember that a botanist spends most of his time far from human
habitations, and when he returns from the field he is fully occupied
in pressing and preserving the plants he has gathered. Nevertheless,
I have recorded all observations that might be of value, briefly,
factually and without comment. I must apologise to those readers who
feel that my account gives a somewhat jaundiced view of the Chinese
people. The war and its aftermath have convinced many thinkers of the
utter wickedness of the entire white race and have prompted them to
look elsewhere in the hope of finding something better
conceivably among the Indians. But I am not a historian and even if I
were I could not allow myself to be deceived by the faded glories of
such a iand as China, where the seamy side of life nowadays
predominates; in the Far East the boundary between history and fable
is in any case extremely blurred and indistinct.
back, one remembers the enjoyment and forgets the hardships such as
the food, which was sometimes revolting, or the unending toil in the
rainy season, which is the botanist's busiest time because most of
the plants flower in those monsoon months. It was my great good
fortune to be free far freer than anyone at home in Austria
during those unhappy years. I set my own tasks; to fulfil them in the
iropical luxuriance of mist-wreathed forests, on the soft carpets of
the world's most gorgeous floral meadows and on the flower-spangled
pastures and ridges of snow-crowned mountains twice the size of our
own was indeed the greatest imaginable delight. Never have I been
more acutely aware of the joy of freedom than in those days, when
mounted on a splendid horse high above the dusty ground and far from
the wretched doings of mankind, I rode through unexplored country
admiring and recording the splendours of Nature.
work in a foreign country by one ignorant of the language is
impracticable without the help of Europeans resident there, and such
help was granted to me in abundant measure. I have expressed my
heartfelt thanks in the pages of this book. But during the
preparations and after my return there were many who showed their
goodwill in the form of active assistance. To them I am deeply
grateful, as I am to the numerous specialists who guided and advised
me during the scientific work on the collections, though that falls
outside the scope of this book. Our Ambassador in Peking, Dr A. von
Rosthom(8), not only granted aid through
diplomatic channels, but lent money and gave unstinting help in
translating the notes made by my collector after I had left China,
and in the transcription of Chinese names.(9)
Camillo Schneider kindly provided two photographs (Figs. 20 & 43,
not reproduced in this edition). My deepest thanks, however, are due
to the Academy of Sciences in Vienna, who financed my travel, and to
my teacher. Professor R. Wettstein, who sponsored my application. To
his unremitting support throughout my absence I undoubtedly owe my
life and health.
submit this account of my travels to the public in the hope that a
feilow-feeling for nature will persuade my readers to overlook the
shortcomings in text and illustrations.
The first edition (1927) includes a coloured map at a scale ol
1:2,500,000 covering all his travels in China.
Davies, Major H.R., Yün-nan - the Link Between India and
the Yangtze, Cambridge University Press, 1909
The Yangzi Jiang, commonly known in English as the Yangtze river, is
normally called Chang Jiang in Chinese (S.G.H.).
La Geographie XXIV.
See footnote on page 3.
Le Tibet révolté 1909.
For details see: Handel-Mazzetti, H.,
Neue Aufnahmen in NW-Yünnan und S-Setschuan Denkschriften
der Akademie der Wissenschaflen in Wien, Vol. 97. also Vol 100
(Hunan) and Kartographische Zeitschrift, Vol. 101 (Guidschou).
In 1891, while serving in the Chinese Maritime Customs, Rosthorn
travelled in Tibet from Kwanhsien via Mungkungtung, Fupien,
Rumitscnango. Maoniu. Gala, and Tatsienlj. He was the lirst European
lo explore this route. Potanin [ravelled it two years later and
Isabella Bishop in the reverse direction in 1896.
(9) Handel- Mazzetti's
method for transcribing Chinese place names was based on the German
phonetic system In this edition all names have been transcribed into
the Pinyin system by Mr Stephen G. Haw. A glossary of place names in
Handel- Mazzetti's version and in Pinyin is provided.