20 September 1911: Crop change brings cheaper food, clearer brains, and fewer suicides, but those who are unhappy with the policy are ruthlessly crushed
Chaotong, West China
Yellow instead of white! Fields that once had been white were now covered with golden glory, and the view for miles, as the sun shone, was one of entrancing beauty. At the back of the change of colour is a story which makes the heart of many beat with gladness, for it tells of the new birth-throes of a great nation.
In many parts of China, when the poppy-fields bloom, bright red and rich purple make the landscape appear as if it had been dipped in blood. In the north of the province of Yunnan, in South-west China, where the change of colour I am writing about has taken place, the red and purple poppies were rarely seen. They did not flourish in the local soil, and had been generally discarded in favour of the plants with the pure white flowers. The sight of a great plain covered with the white poppy in full bloom is one that can never be forgotten. To stand on the walls of a Chinese city and look out on a white plain was a privilege to be gained twice in the year – once when the winter snow fell and hid all the bareness of the fields and the dirt of the roads under its soft but cold garment, and again in the late spring when the much-prised opium crop was in full bloom. Then it might seem as though there had been a belated fall of snow, but as the sun shone with great power and the white picture did not melt away but rather got whiter and richer one soon realised that it was not snow but beautiful flowers that covered the fields. Year after year this white picture was the despair of those who were seeking the highest welfare of a great people.