The first view of K’un-ming came at midday on December 23. Under the clear blue sky, they saw the great city in the distance, its crenelated walls rising in stark relief.
This was the biggest city they had seen since they left Saigon. despite the damage inflicted during the assaults mounted by the rebels at the beginning of the decade, the city’s fortified walls were in good repair. The streets were lively with constant streams of passersby. and there seemed every evidence that here in K’un-ming the fabled riches of southwestern China were present in abundance. Shop front succeeded shopfront; the merchants’ goods were displayed in carefully arranged cases. The uniform color of the buildings was relieved in the commercial quarters of the city by the thousands of golden painted character hung above the shop fronts proclaiming the nature of the merchandise for sale.
The population of Yun-nan City could hardly be estimated at the time of our visit to more than 50,000. The immense suburbs, partly destroyed, which extend over a length of a league outside the enclosure, were to quadruple this number before the war.
The enclosure has a rectangular shape and measures approximately 3 kilometers in the north and south direction, and 2 kilometers in the perpendicular direction. It has six bastion gates born: two on the east side, two on the south side and one on each of the other two sides. The ditch is supplied with water by a canalized river which runs along the east face of [enclosure. The land on which the city is built slopes down towards the lake, and a few hillocks hit the northern part. Between two of these mounds, in a depression in the ground, extend gardens and rice fields which almost completely occupy the northwest corner of the enclosure. There are a few restaurants, a few pleasure villas, and these tea houses in China that replace our singing heads.
Garnier, Le Tour de Monde (series): 525-526
VISIT TO THE LAO PAPA
I went to his house with Commandant de Lagrée and the Provicaire. A large gallery of the faithful respectfully attended this conference, which was to bring out in their eyes the profound knowledge of their master. A magnificent telescope erected on a tripod, a few maps spread out on a table, completed the scene.
It wasn’t long before I noticed that the use of these objects was unfamiliar to their owner. The telescope in particular had never been used, and the Lao papa confided to us with some embarrassment that, despite the high price he had given it in Singapore, this instrument must have been damaged in the roll, because since its arrival in Yun -nan we had never been able to see anything there. The adjustment maneuver, which was done by means of a screw, had completely escaped the learned Mohammedan priest.
I replaced the astronomical eyepiece with a terrestrial eyepiece; I directed the telescope towards a point far from the lake that you could see from the windows of the apartment; I declared, to save my host’s self-esteem, that there had indeed been something wrong with the mechanism of the instrument, and that I had been able to repair it; then I invited him to use it. His joy was overwhelming when he recognized that this beautiful machine, brought to Yun-nan at such great expense and so far useless in his hands, had recovered its optical powers.
The whole assembly passed successively in front of the telescope and put its power to the test, searching all points of the horizon. I then, by changing glasses, contemplated the sun, and Lao papa took the opportunity to make the theory of this star. Father Fenouil made me use the most suitable language and best suited to highlight the knowledge of the priest and to increase the admiration of his audience: from that moment the friendship of Lao papa was irrevocably acquired to us. We then confided to him our travel plan and the fears that we felt of seeing our research and scientific mission hampered.
Garnier, Le Tour de Monde (series): 537