Researching Locations in Virtual Earth and Sky

We have been away this summer, on the California coast channeling John Steinbeck and Ed Rickets into our 2014 California Intertidal Ecology Survey, and have neglected posting here about Yang Shen Book II or other related subjects. Earlier this year, we did privately print four copies for reviewers of the first four chapters of Book II and those worthies have dutifully returned their copies with comment and corrections. As the tide of our survey has ebbed (in spite of what they say, however, we are still waiting tidally on others before we can post the final reports), we shall return now to posting at Old China Books occasional snippets about our progress with the novel.

Guanfulin to Qingpu by water 2We are working now on the setting for the last part of Chapter 32, which requires a journey of fourteen miles through the Yangtze delta at midnight. As always we labor to imagine the time and place, what it looked and felt like, with sufficient detail to make it real for a fastidious reader. The landscape is essential, as Lawrence Durrell wrote in The Spirit of Place, but our task is more than to become a tuned-in traveler ̶ we can travel through the space and time of our locations only aboard our imagination. Maybe, if we just close our eyes and breathe softly, we will hear as Durrell suggested the whispered message of a landscape, “I am watching you  ̶  are you watching yourself in me?” However, there are now some other resources we have been exploring.

First, though, we delved into Chinese sources for the country between Kuangfulin (Guangfulin) and Ch’ing-p’u (Qingpu, or “Tsingpoo” as foreigners knew it then), as well as in Sir Garnet Wolseley’s Soldier’s Pocket-Guide concerning recon methods in 1860. One source with some detail about the waterways around Kuangfulin is the Sungkiang Local History Museum Kuangfulin Documents website 松江地方文献主题馆  ̶ 松江特色文 广富林市镇, which has extracts from old gazetteers. …其中沈泾塘是松江连接苏州的主航道 of the two rivers, the Shen Jing Tang is the principal waterway [from Ch’ing-p’u] to Sungkiang. …秀州塘与沈泾塘相接 the Xiu Zhou Tang and Shen Jing Tang meet [here].

 广富林西南镇口,沈泾塘与油墩港分叉,三江之口俗名“牛头矶”。江面宽阔,水流湍急。牛头矶前的“急水滩”,漩涡深达二十多米。南北来往的船只,必须依潮汛行驶。The Shen Jing Tang and the You Dun Gang meet at the SW entrance to Kuangfulin, where the mouth of the three rivers [秀州塘, 沈泾塘 and 油墩港?] is locally called Ox Head Jetty. The river is wide [more than 300 yards] and the flow rapid, and the “rapids beach” in front of Ox Head Jetty has eddies and whirlpools to a depth of 20 meters.

Vessels coming from north and south must cope with the tides. 等待潮汛的船只,带来了信息,带来了贸易的物资,带来了天南海北的文化。Vessels waiting on the tides bring news, commercial goods, and culture from everywhere. 明清时期,朝廷在此设立“广富林营汛”(营汛:军队驻地)。During the Ming and the Qing, the Imperial palace established military encampments [here]. 明代青浦县哨船(巡逻的兵船)有六,清代有九,广富林各占其一。太平天国战役中“‘贼’数十万迭犯广富林、塘桥,直逼郡城。” 就松江府而言,广富林在政治、经济等诸多方面都具有重要地位。Also in the Ming and Qing, Kuangfulin was an important station for Qingpu sentry boats (military patrol boats), [starting with] 6, then 9 in the Qing Dynasty. During the Taiping military campaigns, several 10,000 rebels attacked Kuangfulin, Tang Chiao, and threatened the County Seat. Speaking of Songjiang, government and economy in Kuangfulin had an especially important position in many areas.

Google Earth was a great help in mapping the route from Kuangfulin to Ch’ing-p’u, using the Ruler and Path features to trace the route along the canals, and view several photos of points on the route (folks upload their personal photos to GE with the location and GE adds them to its satellite maps). Between these maps and photos, and the moonset info below, sufficient detail can be worked up to fill out the narrative of this Yang Shen Book II chapter.

Qingpu in Google Earth 00This large-scale map shows the Kuangfulin – Ch’ing-p’u (Qingpu) route relative to Shanghai (the red line is the route, shown larger in the next image).

Qingpu in Google Earth 02bCloser look at route, in red (Doufubang 豆腐浜, Beancurd Creek, is a smaller cut off the canal).

Qingpu in Google Earth 01The old town of Ch’ing-p’u (Qingpu) is the bean-shaped area surrounded by a large canal. The inset shows the Wanshou Pagoda next to where the south gate was located, at the end of today’s South Gate Road.

Qingpu in Google Earth 03The images superimposed on these maps were copied from the images that pop up when a photo icon is clicked in a Google Earth map at any given location and, in these cases, provide an idea of what some of the landscape might have looked like in Fletcher’s day. This first inset is located about halfway between Kuangfulin and Ch’ing-p’u; the black line points from the image to the location along the route of the canals the Foreign Rifles will take, which is marked in red.

Qingpu in Google Earth 04The next insert shows the location where the canal from Kuangfulin meets the Tianp’u River opposite the old south gate of Ch’ing-p’u, indicated by the black line. The fog in the image is not unusual anywhere in the Yangtze delta, where it rolls up the Yangtze River from the East China Sea and spreads inland along the canals. On the far side of the river is the Wanshou Pagoda.

Qingpu in Google Earth 05The third Google Earth image is of the place where three canals (the Xiu Zhou Tang 秀州塘, Shen Jing Tang 沈泾塘, and the Zhang Jia Bang 张家浜) meet near Kuangfulin at the Ox Head Jetty 牛头矶 mentioned above; two images are superimposed. A yellow line points from the image on the left to where the Xiu Zhou Tang 秀州塘 and the Shen Jing Tang 沈泾塘 meet. A short red line points from the image on the right to a small island in the center of the confluence of these canals.

Qingpu in Google Earth 06Obviously, the tourists and locals are on a first name basis with these canals and can put their names to the photos regardless of how difficult it may be for others to locate the names on maps. In the Google Earth image on the right, the yellow line points to the approximate location (in Yang Shen) of the Foreign Rifles Kuangfulin encampment and shows the width of the canal there, enough for even large junks but not for the larger steamers in Book I.

Our next procrastination was to use the Tour feature in Google Earth to “travel” the water route from Kuangfulin to Ch’ing-p’u, as well as the water routes from Kuangfulin to Sungkiang that appear in earlier chapters.

Ox-head Jetty Google Earth 2In this screen print we are entering Ox Head Jetty 牛头矶, mentioned above as the confluence of the Xiu Zhou Tang 秀州塘 and the Shen Jing Tang 沈泾塘.

The “tour” flies above the marked route from beginning to end; if the canals now are the same as they were in 1860, then this tour gives a quick visual confirmation of the width available for vessels and many obstacles to navigation such as bridges and shallows ̶ the resolution of the satellite view of the canals is such that sand bars are quite clear (when observed more closely than in this view).

Fletcher will go on Ah Shan’s junk fourteen miles up the Shen Jing Tang 沈泾塘 to Ch’ing-p’u from Kuangfulin, and must first go once in daylight to reconnoiter and note landmarks because the Foreign Rifles will advance along the canal to Ch’ing-p’u in the dark. For that reason, moonlight again needs to be checked as it was for July, now for the early morning of the attack  ̶  however, after our laptop crashed last March, we find our old planetarium program won’t run under our new Windows 8.1. We googled around for a free replacement; checked websites and tutorials on YouTube to determine which (of many) programs have the same features we had before, and downloaded one called Stellarium. A display of one Stellarium result below shows moonset in Shanghai on the morning of August 1 1860 was about 2:30AM. So the moon will have already set by the time the Foreign Rifles arrive near Ch’ing-p’u; however, someone will notice that Mars also is setting and bemoan the bad omen ̶ Mars was rising when the Foreign Rifles were victorious at Sungkiang two weeks earlier!

Moonset, 1860-08-01 2-30AM Shanghai China


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