The Rise and Splendour of the Chinese Empire

The Rise and Splendour of the Chinese Empire

The Rise and Splendour of the Chinese Empire

The Rise and Splendour of the Chinese Empire

Excerpt

Asiatic civilization is the product of "Mesopotamias", of great alluvial plains where the natural fertility of the soil stimulated man's agricultural vocation. Such was the case of Babylon in western Asia; such is the case of the "Central Plain" of China in eastern Asia.

This great plain, from Peking in the north as far as the Huai River in the south, from the approaches of Loyang in the west to the mountain spur of Shantung in the east, covers more than one hundred and twenty-five thousand square miles, an area greater than England and Ireland. In the same way that Egypt, according to Herodotus, is a "gift of the Nile", the Central Plain is a gift of the Yellow River and its tributaries. "At a relatively recent period-- using that adjective in the sense which geologists give to it--this plain was an arm of the sea, the cliffs of Shansi were lashed by its waves and the present-day peninsula of Shantung was an island." Since time immemorial the Yellow River has carried away immense accretions of mud from the plateaux of yellow earth farther west and deposited them in this area, thus creating a marvellously fertile alluvial soil. As a result of this accumulation of muddy sediment, the sea has been checked and the coastline has receded ever farther eastward; a process which is still continuing today. Thus it has come about that year after year the mud has raised the bed of the Yellow River and the riverside dwellers have been obliged to build up their embankments proportionately, with the result that the river has ended by flowing in a great gutter above the level of the plain; a paradoxical situation and one fraught with extreme danger.

Towards the west and beyond the Central Plain stretch the . . .

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