The special mention of excavations for archaeological, geological and palaeontological purposes and the sending up of pilot-balloons was in accordance with our express wishes, since we had been informed in a telegram from Urumchi that the Governor-General had forbidden these activities. He was of opinion that the excavations irritated the natives, who might believe that we wished to disturb those who were sleeping in their graves; and as for the pilot-balloons, these went quite over his horizon.
To my question as to whether we need wait for an answer from Urumchi the Ministers replied that an order from the Central Government required no answer since in practice it must be obeyed. The Minister for Education considered, however, that we ought to wait until it was ascertained that the telegram had arrived, and since the working of the telegraph in the interior was highly irregular, this might take a long time. He suggested therefore, that we should in the meanwhile visit Hangchow, one of China's most famous cities.
On March 14th we left Nanking, travelling by train to Shanghai in six hours. Even more than formerly, Shanghai gave one the impression of a European, or perhaps rather, of an American city, where life swarmed and seethed in the streets and where Orient and Occident mingled as if in some great witch's cauldron. Everywhere one heard sounds of the feverish pursuit of money. Magnificent business palaces, solid public buildings, huge department stores and endless streets with the shops of the rich Chinese merchants on either side. Banks, hotels, theatres and dubious amusement-saloons. One did not envy the whites who were condemned to live in this gaudy mart of pleasure.
It was with a refreshing feeling of rest that one drove out to Sikawei in the neighbourhood to visit the splendid mission-station of the French Jesuits, where amiable and cultured old Père BOUCHER showed us round some of the scientific buildings and grounds and the schools. Sikawei's observatory has become world-famous through the research-results attained there. By cooperating with a network of other meteorological stations the staff are able to follow typhoons and storm-centres and send out warnings of their approach. In this way they have contributed in no small measure to the security of navigation along the dangerous China coast.
Several members of the government own comfortable dwellings in Shanghai, and spend at least the week-ends and a couple of weekdays in this now seething city, where they find more opportunities of mixing with interesting people than in monotonous Nanking.