Nov. 28th, 2016

lblanchard: (swannfountain)
I've been re-reading On the Eaves of the World, Reginald Farrer's most lighthearted travelogue / botanizing report from his expeditions to the far east. This one was written before World War I had sobered him up a bit.

Farrer's map, with all his made-up names. Click to embiggen

Farrer begins by talking about the delicacy of negotiating with Chinese officialdom and the adventures of assembling a staff. Then he and Bill Purdom (a man who so deeply loved China and its flora that he agreed to go with Farrer on nothing more than the assurance that his expenses would be paid) assembled a ragtag staff and headed out to the remote province of Kanshu on the Tibetan marches. It's hard to follow Farrer's itinerary because he insists on re-naming things according to how he hears the Chinese, or how a feature appears to him -- don't try to find the peak "Thundercrown" on any map.

View from "above the pink temple" outside Siku

Farrer also switches back and forth between an account of his travels and rhapsodizing about the plants. He had previously described the walled city of "Siku" (eventually I'll find the modern equivalent but so far Google has failed me), which was governed by the civil authority of Great Lord Jang and the military authority of Great Man Pung: both, in his eyes, Gilbert and Sullivan-esque figures of comic officialdom. After an interval there, it was off to botanize. Farrer rhapsodizes about the wonderful plants he and Bill encountered on the descent back to Siku, where they were plunged into preparations for war -- the territory was being terrorized by famed brigand Pai-Lang, the White Wolf, whose troops were expected any day. But now I'll let Farrer take over the narrative himself:

Farrer and Purdom save the city )


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