Journal directory listing - Volume 11-20 (1966-1975) - Volume 20 (1975)

History and achievements of the Scientific Expedition To The North-western Provinces Of China, 1927-1933
Author: Liu Yen-huai


In 1927,the great scientific expedition to the North-western provinces of China was organized under the leadership of Profes-sor Hsu Ping-chang and Dr. Sven Hedin for the purpose of making a survey of these regions with respect to their geography, geology archaeology, botany, zoology, meteorology and ethnology. The regional problems to be investigated required fields of action dis-tributed over an immense area. The members of the scientific staff choiced their fields of research freely and worked indepen-dently of each other,.
On May 20th 1927 the preliminary expedition started with a caravan of 250 camels from Pao-tou, the terminal of the Peiping-Suiyuan railway at that time. The scientific staff of the expedition had the following composition: geologists: Yuan Fu-li, Ting Tao-heng (both from China), Eric Norin ( Sweden); archaeologists : Hwang Wen-Pi (China), Folke Bergman (Sweden); meteorologist: Waldemar Haude (Germany) assisted by the Chinese students Liu Yen-huai, Li Hsien-chih, Ma Hsieh-chien and Tsui He-feng ; astronomer and radio-operator: Hans Dettmann (Germany); the topographer: Chan Fan-hsun (China); the photographers: Kung Yuan-chung (China.) and Paul Lieberenz (Germany); the quarter-master F. Muehlenweg (Germany); the medical officer David Hummel (Sweden), who also pursued anthropometrical and botani-cal researches; the ethnographer and assistant caravan leader Henning Haslund (Denmark); the caravan lea.der F. A. Larson (Sweden); the interpreter Georg Soederbom (Sweden). German members of aviation staff were Claus Hem pel, Walter Heyder,Bodo von Kaul, Wilhelm Marschall von Bieberstein, Eugen von Massenbach, Franz Walz and Eduard Zimmermann. In 1929 the Germanmembers had all returned home, except Dr. Haude and his assistant Muehlenweg. One Chines geodesist and topographer Parker C. Chen and five Swedes: Nils Ambolt (geodesy), Gerhard Bexell (general geology), Birger Bolin (palaeontology), Nils Hoerner (qu-aternary geology) and Goesta Montell (ethnography) were added as new members of the expedition.
On September 28th, 1927 we arrived at Tsondol on the river Edsen-gol where the first permanent meteorological station was established. In February 1928, Haude and some members arrived at Ti-hwa, the capital of the Sin-kiang Province. A new permanent meteorological station was erected. Since the beginning of July 1928 the permenent meteorological stations in Kuchar and in Cho-chiang (Charklik) were in operation. The author worked for the expedition until March 1930 and then traveled to Germany. After Ambolt returned home in Autumn 1933 the field-work of the members of the expedition was concluded.
Important discoveries and achievements of the expedition 1927-1933 were the following:
1. The discovery of the great iron mines at Bayin-bogdo in Suiyuan Province. The geologists of the expedition discovered the great iron mines at Bayin-bogdo,about 130 Km to the North of Pao-tou. The whole of the southern side of the hill is pure ore, iron and manganese, and the ore bearing horizon stretches right up to the monastery "Tsagan-obo Sume". This discovery happened in July 1927.
2. Discoveries of fossilized vertebrates including dinosaurs of fairly large size in Sin-kiang, Inner Mongolia, Kan-su and Ching -hai.
3. Discoveries of more than 10,000 wooden slats with Chinese writting dated between 127 B.C. and 25 A.C. in the Han ruins of fortresses at different localities along the river Edsan-gol.
4. Metereological investigation of the expedition facilitated the openning of the airway service between the coast and the North western provinces of China. The meteorological conditions of the vast region of the North-west of China were somewhat un known before our investigation. The erection of the metereolo gical stations and the release of pilot-balloons and kite soundings made by the members of the expedition were very important for the planning, and openning of the airway service between the coast and the North-western provinces of China.
5. Detailed Survey enabled the construction and issuing of useful maps. The topographical, geodetical, astronomical, geological, geomagnetical and gravimetrical field works of the members of the expedition obtained an immense cartographical material. Much of this material was subsequently embodied in the "New Atlas of the Provinces of China" in Chinese by C.K. Ting and W.H. Wong of 1948. With help of the U.S.Army Map Service, the "Sven Hedin, Central Asia Atlas" 1:1,000,000 in 13 sheets was issued some years ago.
6. Proof of Sven Hedin's prediction of the wandering lake Lop-nor. 1903 in his work "Central Asia and Tibet" Sven Hedin made the following prediction about the location of the lake Lop-nor in Sin-kiang: "I am convinced that in a few years time, the lake will be found in the locality where it was formerly placed by the Chinese cartographers... "On February 19th. 1928 when the ex-pedition was in Turfan, Hedin heard that 1921 the river Konche-darya went over into the bed of the dry river Kuruk-darya. This information and the later survey of members of the expedition had brought him to the final solution of the riddle of the wande ring lake and Sven Hedin ' s prediction had been fullfilled. Besides the foregoing achievements, the expedition had further some other important accomplishments. The archaeologists found a great amount of worked flint, stone implement, and painted potsherd from the neolithic time at numerous localities. They found also many cultural objects of historical time like bronze and iron tools and weapons; silk fragments; coins made in Han, Tang, Sung and Yuan dynasties; Han writting brushes; statues of Buddha and wall paintings of Tang dynasty. The geologists of the expedition made survey of the ore bearing mines of coal, petroleum, copper, gold and others. They collected a great deal of fauna and flora fossils of different geological ages. Their stratigraphic exploration is very important for the study of the complicated arid previously little known tectonic structure of the mountains in the North-western pro-vinces of China. The ethnographic work and the botanical and zoological collections of the members of the expedition were also valuable scientific achievements.

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