Billeder på siden


The province of Shansi is in the northern tier of the original eighteen provinces of China, and lies between Latitude 35° and 41° North and Longitude 111° to 114° East. The province is bounded on the north by Mongolia, on the east by Chihli, the metropolitan province, on the south and west by the Yellow River, separating it from Honan and Shensi provinces respectively. The area of the province, not including the districts lying to the north of the Great Wall, is about 56,000 square miles. Its population has been variously estimated from 9,500,000 to 12,000,000.

The importance of the province from an industrial viewpoint lies in two facts: first, it has vast deposits of mineral wealth; second, it is, in a sense, the gateway to the northwest of China and the heart of Asia. Certain lines of travel across the province have long indicated that one of its problems when the awakening to the touch of western civilization comes will be the problem of transportation. The chief problem in its industrial development, however, concerns its mineral wealth.

Before discussing either of these problems it may be well to describe the general topography of the province. Rising from the low plain which covers the greater portion of Chihli Province are ranges of hills extending from north to south. Shansi lies amid these hills. It is made up of successive ranges, bisected by water-courses, and with three elevated plains, or basins. The greater number of streams in the mountains are, naturally, tributary to the Yellow River: the river of chief importance among these is the Fên, which drains the central, largest, and most important of the three plateaus. The lower ranges of hills are of the wonderful loess formation, and are tillable. The higher ranges approach to the dignity of mountains, and are, for the most part,

rocky and with scant vegetation. Broadly speaking, the ranges diminish in altitude as one travels from the north to the south.

The first investigator into the mineral resources of Shansi was a German scholar, Baron von Richthofen. In connection with extensive journeys through all China to determine the industrial possibilities, this indefatigable explorer traveled across Shansi in 1870, approaching from the south and following the great central highway of the province from Pingyangfu to Jaiyuanfu, the provincial capital. He returned some months later for a second visit, reaching on that occasion the northern districts of the province. It is certain that he did not see a great part of the bituminous coal field of Shansi, but he saw the best-known portions of the anthracite field. He also investigated some of the districts where iron is produced. He concluded that the eastern half of the province over-lay a vast bed of anthracite, while in the western half there were extensive bituminous formations, the two fields being separated by the basin of the Fên River. However, the writer has found bituminous mines in the very center of what von Richthofen described as the anthracite field, and there are other indications that the respective fields may not be as regular in outline as he thought. It is probably true, too, that von Richthofen under-estimated rather than overestimated the bituminous fields. Certain very rich districts he did not visit at all. But he was evidently very greatly impressed by what he saw, and wrote that "there is coal enough in Shansi to last the world for thousands of years at the present rate of consumption." A recent writer has said that the anthracite deposits of Shansi alone are equal to all the anthracite deposits of the United States.

The information von Richthofen gave naturally drew some attention to the mineral wealth of Shansi. For a long time, however, no effort was made either by the foreigners or by the Chinese themselves, aside from the crude methods already in vogue, to exploit this mineral wealth. The conditions of transportation, the lack of markets in north China, and the fact that China was still a sealed land, made it

impossible to act upon the information von Richthofen gave for many years. The year 1898 saw far-reaching changes imminent in north China, following the reform program of the Emperor Kuang Hsü. In that year a mining concession in Shansi was granted to the Peking Syndicate. The overthrow of the reform party, and the reactionary policy of the government which followed, culminating in the so-called "Boxer rebellion" in 1900, kept the Syndicate from beginning the development of its concession. Later, however, as the railway from Chêngtingfu to Taiyuanfu penetrated the eastern ranges of Shansi, so affording an outlet by rail to Peking and Tientsin, the Syndicate began to open up its field. Experts were sent in to make careful investigations, especially in the department of Pingting. A base was established in that department and houses erected for the foreign staff.

About this time the Chinese themselves awoke to the possibilities of the concession they had given. The terms of the concession were manifestly not liberal to the Chinese. They made it practically impossible for the native mine-owners to work their mines by modern methods, or for native capital to open up new mines. An agitation against the Syndicate was begun, given some dramatic touches by the students in the provincial capital, and carried to an issue that the people of Shansi esteemed successful when, in 1907, the Syndicate was ousted from the province. The concession was given up, but the people of the province indemnified the Peking Syndicate to the amount of 2,750,000 taels. Every sincere wellwisher of China must regret that this outcome was necessary. Had the terms of the concession been fair and liberal to the Chinese, the Peking Syndicate might today be in possession of its concession, at work in that magnificent field, and paying regular dividends to satisfied and happy stockholders.

Prior to the ousting of the Peking Syndicate the Chinese themselves had organized a company, called, the "Pao Chin Kung Ssu," i.e., the "Corporation for the Protection of Shansi," Chin being an ancient name of Shansi. This company took over the buildings erected by the Peking

Syndicate in the Pingting department and endeavored to supersede that corporation in its program for that field. It employed as its foreign engineer a young man whose chief qualifications for the office were that he had lived a good many years in China and spoke the Chinese language. That he knew nothing of mining engineering was, evidently, not considered a disability. Under the guidance of this expert (?) the corporation did not make any great progress, at least in adopting modern methods of working. The engineer traveled extensively throughout the district, but left neither maps of his journeys nor memoranda of his investigations. The company bought coal delivered by pack-animals at the railway stations, and sold it in yards opened in Peking and Tientsin. That is the method being followed today. The area from which the coal is drawn is comparatively limited, and the methods of mining employed are still of thecrudest.

In the district of Hsiao-yi, 80 miles southwest of the provincial capital, a company of Chinese has installed modern machinery for pumping and hoisting. The cost of transporting the machinery from the coast was enormous and installing it was a long and expensive process. The German engineers sent to supervise the installation of the machinery were far from being experts in that line of work. In due time they turned the mines over to the Chinese again and with a result as inevitable as it was deplorable. Success in hoisting unheard of quantities of coal led to experiments in the lower levels of the mine. Props gave way, fifty or sixty lives were crushed out, the mine was flooded, and a lot of expensive machinery is rusting in and about that pit.

The natives have both surface and pit mines in Shansi. In the latter the coal is hoisted with a windlass, turned by animal power or by hand. In one mine I have visited, the only light possible in the pit is from lighted sticks of punk, giving an illumination considerably less than the glowing tip of a cigar. Labor under such conditions must be extremely difficult. In this mine the men were paid a wage 20 per cent in advance of the cost of other lines of manual labor in that region, yet an excellent quality of soft coal sold at the pit's mouth at the equivalent of 90 cents a ton. When the

competition was keener the price had been as low as 60 cents a ton.

The chief iron producing districts of the province are the prefecture of Tsêhchow in the southwest, and the department of Pingting in the east, the latter tapped by the narrow-guage Chêng-ting-Taiyuan railway. Other iron deposits are in the Yungning and Ninghsiang districts in the west of the province, where some pig-iron of poor quality is produced, and used locally, and in the Ningwu prefecture in the north of the province. The Tsêhchow and Pingting fields have been quite extensively worked in the crude native fashion; its must be, however, that they are capable of great development under improved methods.

While speaking of the mineral wealth of the province we must not neglect the saline deposits. In the southwest near the walled town of Yün-chêng is a salt lake, farmed out to a large number of native companies, and from which the government derives so considerable a revenue that an official staff is stationed there to care for it. There is also a deposit of gypsum in this neighborhood. In the central plain of the province in the Taiyuan prefecture, the natives have opened numerous salt wells. The salt from these wells is very bitter and decidedly inferior in quality to that from the Yün-chêng lake. There are saline deposits, also, in Suiyuan in the extreme north of the province on the Mongolian border, and in Fêngchên in the northeast, the latter district also producing some soda.

From the above it will be seen that the mineral resources of the province are rich, especially in coal and iron. The problem is, to develop these resources by improvements in the methods and by putting them in touch with the markets. This leads us naturally to consider the problem of transportation.

In the palmy days of the Manchu dynasty Shansi reached a high degree of affluence, but it was not through the development of the natural resources of the province. Great fortunes were made by bankers and pawn-shop men in the four corners of the empire and the fruits of those fortunes were escorted into Shansi over almost impassable trails to the

« ForrigeFortsæt »