“The scenery in the Ta-pa-shan (Daba Mountains) is of great beauty and diversity. Small villages are nestled between the rocks, and some ground is cultivated; but the area of wilderness prevails, and the population is very thin. The Kia-ling-kiang (Jialing River) flows through gloomy gorges with perfectly vertical limestone walls."
Von Richthofen is the famous German geographer who first coined the term “Silk Road” for China’s foreign trade routes and the term “Red Basin” for the hilly, red sandstone plain occupying much of eastern Sichuan. He was also the first to deduce that the origin of the loess soil deposits of north China was a fine Aeolian dust originally blown into China from the desert regions to the west and gradually deposited over many centuries. His first trip to the Far East was in 1860 as a member of a Prussian commercial expedition. Between 1868 and 1872 he traveled through 11 of the 18 provinces of China doing geographic and geologic research. His trip was partly funded by the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce and he compiled a series of reports for them on his travels which were printed in English in 1900 under the title Baron Von Richthofen’s Letters. On one of his journeys during this period he traveled the entire Road to Shu via the Linking Cloud Road in the North and the Golden Oxen Road in the south. His record of this trip in English is contained in the compilation of his letters written for the Chamber of Commerce which was published in 1900. After four years of travel and field work in China, he returned to Germany to teach and write his monumental five-volume geological treatise accompanied by a two-volume atlas entitled China Cartographica. Published between 1877 and 1912, this was the first serious European study on Chinese geography and remained the standard for many years. A more detailed account of his trip along the Linking Cloud Road in German also appears in China Cartographica. In addition to working on this mulit-volume work, he spent his later years as a Professor of Geography at various German Universities and Sven Hedin, the Swedish explorer/traveler in Mongolia and Tibet, was one of his pupils.