Page images

here and there among the rocks. Investigation showed the cause of the disturbance to be a least weasel. From the disturbance which these conies made, it was inferred that they had recognized the weasel as an enemy and were doing their best to spread the alarm among their neighbors. It is improbable that birds of prey, hawks and owls, levy much toll, because of the protected situation in which the cony lives; and there are no large snakes to search out and devour the animals, as would be the case if the latter lived at lower altitudes.

Conies seem to be most active during the early morning and evening hours; but they evince more or less activity at all times of the day, and they have been heard “bleating" on moonlight nights. They seem to enjoy coming out and running about or sitting on their observation-posts just as the afternoon shadows have begun to creep over the rock-slides. Sometimes they will sit quietly for considerable periods of time, and the observer must do likewise if he expects to catch sight of them.

As yet information concerning the breeding habits of the Yosemite cony is rather meager. We know that three or four young are produced at a time. The breeding season would seem to be rather extended, as in mid-July, 1915, young two-thirds to three-fourths grown were already abroad, while a number of the females had not yet given birth to their young. The young conies are notably precocious, and, like rabbits, begin to forage independently by the time they are only one-fourth to one-third grown.

To the critical reader the account here given will seem superficial and fragmentary, but it contains all we were able to find out during the few weeks spent by us in the home of the cony. A fascinating field for additional discovery lies at the disposal of those persons more fortunate than we who are able to visit the High Sierra year after year. The Sierra Club member who is not intent merely upon establishing a record in miles of trail covered will find in the painstaking study of the habits of the cony, as also of many another animal of the high mountains, enough to afford enjoyable and productive recreation for many summers.

Berkeley, California, October 10, 1916



CLIMB Tai Shan, the Most Sacred Mountain of China,

Tis ,

blur, nor can any western pride of accomplishment thereafter ever quite banish the oriental certainty that man is as the white breath of oxen in winter, and the little shadow that goeth before the sun. Other mountains, when one has climbed many, tend to grow indistinct in the memory. Their shapes blend and blur confusedly. But Tai Shan, in memory as in reality, is part of no chain of lesser mountains. It stands alone, surrounded by a little cluster of foothills, set down as arbitrarily as a child's toy mountain in the great brown plain of the Middle Kingdom. And in memory it will always seem that heaven is very near its summit.

For Tai Shan is the oldest place of continuous worship in the world. Its beauty is not so much the sheer, breath-taking beauty of nature as the piteous beauty of the eternal hope and aspiration in the soul of man. When we first find Tai Shan, in the dawn of one of the oldest histories of mankind, its origin as a place of worship is already legendary. In the days of Confucius, who lived five hundred years before Christ, men were already telling one another that since the birth of time heaven had been worshiped from the summit of the Most Sacred Mountain, and today thousands of their descendants in flapping coats of dark-green silk climb its rocky gorge each year, their women beside them borne in chairs or toiling in agony on their tiny tortured feet. Religions have come, flourished, and decayed, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, but still heaven is worshiped from the cloudy summit of Tai Shan.

There is something very beautiful and simple about the old Chinese conception which has remained till today in the worship on Tai Shan and in the Altar of Heaven in Peking. "Heaven" is quite impersonal, the great source of all blessing and of all malediction, the beginning and the end. But this pure form is inevitably mixed with local superstitions and vagaries. Tai Shan has a god, of course. His name seems to be simply that of the mountain itself, Tai Shan. He is the rain-god, and, oddly enough to a western mind, the god of the stability of the earth's surface. But his daughter, the Goddess Pi-hsia-yuan-ch'un, Princess of Colored Clouds, is now more important than he. She is a Buddhist deity, the thousand-handed goddess of the dawn, and she has two acolytes, the “Goddess of Family Increase” and the "Goddess of Good Sight.” It is to the latter that the Chinese women pray to prevent the dreaded ophthalmic blindness in their children.

The beautiful temple with the golden roofs which crowns the summit-the rock which by nature was the highest point juts up in the center of a small courtyard—is dedicated to this goddess, and it is typical of the mixture of religions in China that, while the temple itself is Buddhist, the priests who serve in it today are Taoist. This temple is a modern affair, hardly two hundred years old, but some sort of an altar has been there for many centuries. The temple is now open only one day in the year, for the spring festival, and on that day the steep steps swarm with thousands of pilgrims of all stations in life. Many emperors have been among them, and the humblest is not forbidden.

From the standpoint of an experienced mountain-climber the ascent itself is insignificant, the height of the summit above the plain being hardly more than forty-five hundred feet, and the actual height between five and six thousand feet. Information of precision is very hard to find in China, but everyone is agreed that the distance along the trail is forty-two li, about fourteen miles.

This trail is really a small highway, about ten feet wide during the entire distance, and decorously paved. The latter part of the way, however, one is glad to walk on it, as it is cut out of the solid rock and climbs otherwise very difficult places. It contains six thousand steps.

The foundation of the rock seems to be blue granite, which predominates largely, broken by ledges of white and pink quartz. But there are many colors among the stones that are built into the steps and line the trail. There are green stones

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][graphic][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »