Cycling in China.

Pelotome –
around China on a bicycle.

~ Around The World on a Bicycle, Thomas Stevens (1888).

My Life and Times

by Jerome K. Jerome

From £4,75

October 1886 – Published 1888.

Around the World on a Bicycle.

“From Teheran to Yokohama” was the second illustrated volume of Tom Steven’s pioneering ride around the globe and covers the second half of his journey on a fifty-inch Pope “Columbia” high-wheeler, from Persia to Japan, complete with observations presumably even deemed racist at the time.

Arriving in Canton (Guangzhou) on an opium steamer from Calcutta, India, via “an hour or two” ashore in Singapore, and a brief stop in Hong Kong, he explores the city while awaiting his passport, before continuing his journey on 12th October 1886.

Given his problems with the language, his route is hard to trace, however from Guangzhou, he passes through “Fat-shan” (Foshan), before following a path leading “distinctly toward the northwest” to “the large village of Chun-Kong-hoi” and “the town of Si-noun, on the south bank of the Choo-kiang,” (Pearl River or Zhujiang River).

“I strike a trail across-country in a north-westerly direction that must sooner or later bring me to the banks of the Pi-kiang” (Beijang River?). “Sam-shue” (Shaoguan?) “is at the junction of these two rivers, the one flowing from west to east and the other from north to south; by striking across-country, but one side of a triangle is traversed instead of the two formed by the rivers. My objective point for the night is Lo-pow, the first town of any size up the Pi-kiang.”

“Chin-yuen” (Qinyang?), his “next halting-place, forms something of a crescent on the west shore of the river, and is distinguished by a seven-storied pagoda at the southern extremity of its curvature.”

After struggling for a few miles up and down steps, he reaches “a temple occupying a romantic position in a rocky defile, and where a flight of steps leads down to the water’s edge. All semblance of anything in the nature of a continuous path terminates at the temple, and hailing a sampan bound up stream,” he continues to the end of the canyon before continuing “to the town of Quang-shi, after an awful tugging through sand-hills, unbridged ravines and water.”

Catching a boat, “Chao-choo-foo is the next city” he aims for, along the river emerging “into a more open country; straight ahead can be seen an eight-storied pagoda,” “on the opposite shore, the town of Yang-tai (?).” “A few miles from No-foo-gong and a rocky precipice towers up on the west shore, something like a thousand feet high.” while upstream “reveals a curious two-storied cave temple, with many gayly dressed people, pleasure sampans, and bamboo rafts. This is the Kum-yam-ngan, a Chinese Buddhist temple dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy.” (Guanyin).

Still on the river, he passes a place “known as Tan-tsy-shan, or Bullet Mountain”, with its “moon-like hole” before arriving at what, “from various indications, it is surmised, as I seek my couch, that the city opposite is Chao-choo-foo” (Shaoguan?), (“two hundred and eighty miles” from Canton).

From “Schou-chou-foo”, ” in a general sense, along the right bank of the Pi-kiang,” the bicycle is carried through “Nam-hung” (Nanxiong), “up, up, up, to the summit of the Mae-ling Pass” (Mei Pass), “as far as the city of Nam-ngan” (Nankang) “on the head waters of the Kan-kiang” (Zhangzui River), “said to be two hundred miles distant.”

Entering Jiangxi, he catches a boat to “Kantchou-foo” (Ganzhou), but is chased out of town by a mob and, crossing the river by ferry, is escorted “considerably over a hundred” miles – instead of the “fifty miles south” indicated on his map, – towards “Ki-ngan-foo”, passing “another large walled city with a magnificent pagoda”, which he believed to be “Lin-kiang”, only to be informed it was “Ta-ho”.

At “Ki-ngan-foo” he is attacked by a mob who mistake him for a Frenchman (the Sino-French War having ended barely a year earlier). and he is saved by the authorities who smuggle him out of town on a boat in the middle of the night, anchoring at another walled city, which he believes to be “Ki-shway.”

For his own safety, he is escorted for the rest of his journey and he writes, “it now becomes apparent that my bicycling experiences in China are about ending, and that the authorities have determined upon passing me down the Kan-kiang by boat to the Yang-tsi-kiang. I am to be passed on from city to city like a bale of merchandise, delivered and receipted for from day to day.”

He sails along the river to “Sin-kiang”, before making his way “for a few miles across country to Lin-kiang, which is situated on a big tributary stream a few miles above its junction with the Kan-kiang,” before “at length the river-voyage comes to an end at Wu-chang” (Nanchang?), “on the Poyang Hoo” (Poyang Lake). and he is escorted by land to “Kiu-Kiang” (Jiujiang), where he boards a steamer for “a pleasant run down the Yang-tsi-kiang to Shanghai,” before transferring to a Japanese steamer for Nagasaki, on 19th November 1866.

  • By Thomas Stevens.
  • Published by Sampson, Lowe, Marston, Searle and Rivington, London.


“I now know as much about the road to Sam-shue as I did before reaching Fat-shan, and have learned a brief lesson of Chinese city experience that is anything but encouraging for the future.

The feeling of relief at escaping from the narrow streets and the garrulous, filthy crowds, however, overshadows all sense of disappointment.

The lesson of Fat-shan it is proposed to turn to good account by following the country paths in a general course indicated by my map from city to city rather than to rely on the directions given by the people, upon whom my words and gestures seem to-be entirely thrown away.”

~ Around The World on a Bicycle, Thomas Stevens (1888).

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