Story of China - R. Van Bergen

Shih Pah Seng, or the Eighteen Provinces

We have seen that China Proper is divided into eighteen provinces. The most important of these provinces is Chih-li (chee-lee), because it contains the capital, Peking, the seat of the government. It has an area of about 57,000 square miles, the same as Illinois, and a population of about 36,000,000, which is more than eight times that of Illinois. The principal city it Tientsin, on the Pei-ho, which is also a treaty port, that is, a city where foreigners may live and engage in business. There is a large trade with Mongolia, Manchuria, and Russia, most of which is carried on by caravans. Camels are frequently seen at Peking. The principal exports are hides and furs.

Shan-si (shahn-see) has an area of 66,000 square miles, that is, it is nearly as large as Missouri. Its population is said to be 17,000,000, or more than five times that of Missouri. The southern part of this province, or about 30,000 square miles, is a plateau from 5,000 to 6,000 feet above the level of the sea, and is one vast coal field. The people are poor, because there are no means of transportation, and they can not carry their produce to market. It happens very often that the harvest fails, and people die from starvation. The province contains eight large cities, besides the capital Tai yuen Fu (tie yooen foo).

Trade Caravan at rest


Shan-tung (shahn-toong) has an area of 53,000 square miles and a population of probably 30,000,000; that is, it is a little larger than Alabama and has seventeen times its population. It is very fertile, and its land tax produces more revenue than that of any other province. Its mineral wealth is very great. There are four great coal fields, and the finest iron ore comes from Shan-tung. The natives are among the strongest and best in China. The Chinese government prefers them as sailors for the navy.

The important port of Kiao-chao (kee-ah-oh-chah-oh), once held by the Germans, is in this province. At the close of the World War it was awarded to Japan by whom it had been taken from Germany. Che-foo (chee-foo), on the north coast, is an open port. Twenty-seven miles east of it, is Wei-hai-wei (way-hie-way), where the Chinese fleet was captured or sunk by the Japanese (1895). It was leased to Great Britain in 1898. Within this territory Great Britain has sole jurisdiction.



The province of Ho-nan (ho-nahn) contains a portion of the Great Plain, has an area of 67,000 square miles and a population of 29,000,000, that is, it is as large as the New England States and has almost six times their population. That portion of Ho-nan near the Yellow River (Hoang-ho) is very densely settled. The capital is Kai-fung (kie-foong), near the river. For almost three hundred and fifty years (A.D. 780-1129) Kai-fung was the capital of the Chinese Empire.

Kiang-su (keeahng-soo) lies south of Shan-tung. It has an area of 40,000 square miles, or that of Kentucky, and a population of 40,000,000, or almost twenty times the number of inhabitants of that State. This province is exceedingly fertile and has a complete network of waterways, lakes, rivers, and canals. The capital is Nanking, or Southern Capital. It was the seat of the Imperial Government from A.D. 317-592, and again from 1368-1403. The second city, and the first in importance, is Shanghai (shahn-gye). It has obtained its preeminence since 1842, when it was opened as a treaty port. It well deserves to be called the Model Settlement of the Far East. Since 1895, when foreigners were allowed to manufacture in China, a large number of modern factories have been established in Shanghai. From twenty to thirty steamers arrive and depart each day. It has a fine city government, churches, schools and hospitals.

Another important city is Soochow, close to Tahu (tahhoo) Lake, with water routes to different parts of the Empire. Between Soochow and Shanghai the road is almost one continuous line of towns and villages. In the opinion of the Chinese it is a garden spot. They say: "To be happy on earth one must be born in Soochow, live in Canton, and die in Hang-chow."

An-hui (ahn-hwee) has an area of 54,000 square miles and a population of over 36,000,000. It is about the same size as Arkansas, and has thirty times its population. It lies in the central and southern parts of the Great Plain. Its general aspect resembles Kiang-su, but it has not so many cities and is not so fertile.

Kiang-si (keeahng-see) and Kiang-su are often spoken of as the Two Kiangs. The area of Kiang-si is 68,000 square miles, with a population of 26,000,000. In area this province nearly equals the State of Missouri, but it has almost ten times the number of inhabitants. The surface is rolling and hilly, but well watered and fertile. Manufacturing is a leading occupation.

Che-Kiang (chay-keeahng) covers 35,000 square miles and has 8,000,000 inhabitants. It is the smallest of the provinces, being somewhat larger than Maine, with more than ten times its population. It. is one of the healthiest and most beautiful provinces of the Empire. Fine forest and fruit trees abound. There are many large towns. Marco Polo said of the capital, Hang-chow, that of all the cities, it was "beyond dispute the noblest in the world."

Fuh-Kien (foo-kien) is one of the coast provinces facing the Formosa Strait. Within an area of 45,000 square miles it supports 23,000,000 inhabitants. As large as the State of Pennsylvania, it has almost four times its population. Most of this, province is highly cultivated, and the people are comparatively prosperous. Two of its cities, Amoy (ah-moy) and Foochow, are treaty ports.

Kwang-tung (kwanhng-toong) has an area of 90,000 square miles and a population of 20,000,000. Although not quite so large, it has fifty times the population of the State of Oregon. Its capital is Canton, the largest city of China, and the one best known to us, since before 1842 it was the only place where foreigners were permitted to trade. It is situated on the Pearl River. Its inhabitants number some of the wealthiest merchants of China.

The coolies and laundrymen, so common in the United States, come, without any exception, from this province.

Kwang-si (kwahng-see) extends over 80,000 square miles, and has a population of 8,000,000. Smaller than Kansas, it has five times the number of inhabitants. Its principal waterways are the West River and its tributaries. Woo Chow and Nanning, on the West River, are the largest trading towns.

Yun-nan (yoon-nahn), the southwest province, has an area of 122,000 square miles and a population of 6,000,000. It suffered greatly from the Mohammedan rebellion, and the plague which followed. In size it compares with New Mexico, but it has thirty-five times the number of people. It is mountainous and high, and its mineral wealth is immense. The Yang tsz' River runs through it, bearing the name of River of the Golden Sand.

Kwei-chow (kwhy-chow) has 64,000 square miles, and about 6,000,000 people. It is not as large as Washington, but it has nearly fifteen times as many people. Agriculture, although largely engaged in, brings poor returns, and its great mineral wealth is almost untouched, owing to lack of transportation. The result is that the people are poor.

Shen-si (shen-see) has about 80,000 square miles, and a population of about 8,000,000. Less in extent than Minnesota, it has over five times its population. This province is the greatest agricultural part of the northwest. It has such natural defenses that it is called "the center of resistance of Middle China." Sian-Fu (seeahn-foo), its capital, was the capital of the Empire for a long, long time. During the Tang Dynasty, that is, while the Tang family reigned over China (A.D. 618-903), China was probably the most civilized country in the world. Sian-Fu was then called Chang-ngan. It is often thought that the present government of China will move from Peking to this ancient capital.

Kan-suh (kahn-soo) is the largest of the provinces, as it extends over 260,000 square miles, with a population of about 20,000,000. Its size is greater than Colorado and Wyoming taken together, and it has thirty-six times the population of these States. It borders upon Thibet, and its altitude is great.

Sze-chuen (szay-chooen) is the richest and most populous of the provinces. Within an area of about 180,000 square miles, it has a population of probably 60,000,000, or as much as the United States east of the Mississippi, although it is not as large as Nebraska and Nevada. As New York is sometimes called the Empire State, so Sze-chuen deserves the name of the Empire Province. "In the mountains," says Mrs. Bishop, "there are a number of large and handsome farmhouses, each with its cedar and cypress groves; and mandarins' country-houses, rivaling some of our renowned houses in size and stateliness, are frequent. As the country grows more open, there are fortified refuges on rocky heights, great temples with porcelain fronts in rich coloring, paper and flour mills, and every town and large village has its special industry—silk-weaving, straw-plaiting, hat-making, dressing hides, iron or brass work, pottery and china, chair-making, dyeing, carving and gilding idols, making the red paper used for religious and festive purposes, and the imitation gold and silver coins burnt as offerings, etc.—everything indicates industry and prosperity and a certain security for the gains of labor."

Chung-king (choong-king) is the only treaty port in Szechuen. Chingtu, the capital, lies on the Min River.

Chinese farmyard


Hu-peh (hoo-pay) has an area of 70,000 square miles and 28,000,000 inhabitants, or is about as large as North Dakota, with a population about ninety times as great as that State. Its southeastern part is thought to be the most fertile in China. Three large cities—Wu-chang (woo-chang), the capital, Han-Kow and Han-yang—lie opposite on the Yang tsz', the Han River separating Han-Kow from Han-yang.

Han-Kow was intended to be, and probably will be at sometime, the railroad center of China, being almost at equal distances from Peking and Canton. Large workshops have been established at Han-yang.

Hu-nan (hoo-nahn) contains 83,000 square miles, or is about the same size as Idaho, and has a population of 20,000,000, or about one hundred and thirty times that of Idaho. The province is rich, but the people are quarrelsome and hate foreigners.

 ProvincesArea (sq.mi.)Population
1.Chih-li (chee-lee)57,00036,000,000
2.Shan-si (shahn-see)66,00017,000,000
3.Shan-tung (shahn-toong)53,00030,000,000
4.Ho-nan (ho-hahn)67,00029,000,000
5.Kiang-su (keeahng-soo)40,00040,000,000
6.An-hui (ahn-hwee)54,00036,000,000
7.Kiang-si (keeahng-see)68,00026,000,000
8.Che-Kiang (chay-keeahng)35,0008,000,000
9.Fuh-Kien (foo-kien)45,00023,000,000
10.Kwang-tung (kwahng-toong)90,00020,000,000
11.Kwang-si (kwahng-see)80,0008,000,000
12.Yun-nan (yoon-nahn)122,0006,000,000
13.Kwei-chow (kwhy-chow)64,0006,000,000
14.Shen-si (shen-see)80,0008,000,000
15.Kan-suh (kahn-soo)260,00020,000,000
16.Sze-chuen (szay-chooen)180,00060,000,000
17.Hu-peh (hoo-pay)70,00028,000,000
18.Hu-nan (hoo-nahn)83,00020,000,000