Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet/Volume 1/Chapter 2



The Mongols — Physical characteristics — Modification of character on the Chinese border — Pigtail introduced — Costume — The Yurta or Felt Tent — Uncleanliness — Tea-drinking — Food and beverages — Gluttony — Animal food — Cattle — Importance of their herds — Indolent habits — Physical capabilities and defects — Cowardice — Sagacity and obtuseness — Curiosity — Points of the compass — Estimation of distance — Calendar and Year-Cycle — Language and diversities — Literature— Love of gossip — Songs — Mongol women — Marriage customs and domestic relations — Hospitality and polite customs — Freedom of manners — Lamaism — Religious service ‘Om mani padmi hom’ — The Dalai Lama — Pilgrimages — The Clergy — Monasticism — Superstitions — Masses for the dead — The Authors view of Missions — Administrative organisation of the Mongol tribes — Grades of rank among chiefs, and their salaries — Population — Laws, punishment, and taxation — Military force — Decay of martial spirit.

The present chapter is specially devoted to the Ethnology of Mongolia, in order that in continuing the narrative of our journey, anecdotes relating to the inhabitants may be mentioned incidentally and not dwelt on in detail. In describing the physical geography and nature of the country we visited, and the various episodes of our wanderings, the most noticeable traits of its inhabitants might have been scattered here and there through the volume, and thus have escaped the attention of the reader. To avoid this, I resolved to devote an entire chapter to a description of the people of Mongolia and the peculiar characteristics of their nomad life, merely making casual mention of them afterwards. Let us begin with their external appearance, taking as our model the inhabitants of the Khalkas country, where the purity of the Mongol race is best preserved.

A broad flat face, with high cheek-bones, wide nostrils, small narrow eyes, large prominent ears, coarse black hair, scanty whiskers and beard, a dark sunburnt complexion, and, lastly, a stout thick-set figure, rather above the average height: such are the distinguishing features of this race. In other parts of Mongolia, but especially on the south-east, where for some distance it borders with China Proper, the original type is much less distinct; and, although the nomads reconcile themselves with difficulty to a settled life, still in some way their neighbours have exercised such influence over them that in those districts lying immediately outside the Great Wall they have almost become Chinese. With few exceptions, the Chinese Mongol still dwells in his yurta or felt tent, tending his herds; but in appearance and still more in character he is a decided contrast to his northern brethren, and bears a close resemblance to his adopted countrymen He follows their fashions in his dress and domestic habits; and, owing to frequent intermarriages with their women, his coarse flat features are cast in the more regular mould of the Chinese face. His very character has undergone a remarkable change; the desert has become distasteful to him, and he prefers the populous towns of China, where he has learnt the advantages and pleasures of a more civilised existence. But, in thus gradually departing from his former life, the Chinese Mongol adopts only the worst qualities of his neighbour, retaining his own inherent vices, until he has become a degenerate mongrel, demoralised, instead of rising to a higher social grade, under Chinese influence.

The Mongols, like the Chinese, shave the head, only leaving sufficient hair on the crown to plait into a long tail behind, whilst the heads of their lamas are left entirely bare.[1] Whiskers and beard, naturally of scanty growth, are worn by none.

The pigtail was introduced into China by the Manchus, after their conquest of the Celestial Empire about the middle of the seventeenth century. Since then it has been considered an external mark of submission to the reigning (Ta-tsin) dynasty, and all Chinese subjects are compelled to wear it.

The Mongol women allow the hair to grow, and plait it in two braids, decorated with ribbons, strings of coral, or glass beads, which hang down on either side of the bosom. Silver brooches, set with red coral, which is highly esteemed in Mongolia, are fastened in the hair. The poorer women substitute common beads for coral, but the brooches, which are secured above the forehead, are generally of silver, or as a rare exception, of brass. Large silver earrings and bracelets are also customary.

The dress of the Mongols consists of a kaftan or lопg robe made of blue daba,[2] Chinese boots, and a wide hat turned up at the brim. Shirts or under-clothing of any kind are unusual; warm trousers, sheepskin cloaks, and fur caps are worn in winter. In summer the dress, consisting of Chinese silk, is sometimes more elaborate; the robe or fur cloak is always fastened round the waist with a belt, to which are attached those invariable appendages of every Mongol, a tobacco pouch, pipe, and tinder-box. Besides these, the Khalka people carry a snuff-box, which they offer on first meeting an acquaintance. But the pride of the Mongol lies in the trappings of his horse, which are thickly set with silver.

The dress of the women differs from that of the men; their upper garment is a short sleeveless jacket without a belt. The dress, however, of the fair sex, and style of wearing the hair, varies in different parts of Mongolia.

The universal habitation of the Mongol is the felt tent or yurta, which is of one shape throughout the country. It is round, with a convex roof, through an opening in which smoke escapes and light is admitted. The sides are of wooden laths,[3] fastened together in such a way that, when extended, they resemble a lattice with meshes a foot square. This frame-work is in several lengths, which, when the yurta is pitched, are secured with rope, leaving room on one side for a wooden door three feet high, and about the same in width. The size of these dwellings varies, but the usual dimensions are from 12 to 15 feet in diameter, and about 10 feet high in the centre. The roof is formed of light poles attached to the sides and doorway by loops, the other ends being stuck into a hoop, which is raised over the centre, leaving an aperture 3 to 4 feet in diameter, which answers the double purpose of chimney and window.

When all is made fast, sheets of felt, of double thickness in winter, are drawn over the sides and door and round the chimney, and the habitation is ready. The hearth stands in the centre of the interior; facing the entrance are ranged the burkhans (gods), and on either side are the various domestic utensils. Round the hearth, where a fire is kept burning all day, felt is laid down; and in the yurtas of the wealthier classes even carpets for sitting and sleeping on. In these, too, the walls are lined with cotton or silk, and the floors are of wood.

This habitation is indispensable to the wild life of the nomad; it is quickly taken to pieces and removed from place to place, whilst it is an effectual protection against cold and bad weather. In the severest frost the temperature round the hearth is comfortable. At night the fire is put out, the felt covering drawn over the chimney, and even then, although not warm, the felt yurta is far more snug than an ordinary tent. In summer the felt is a good non-conductor of heat, and proof against the heaviest rain.

The first thing which strikes the traveller in the life of the Mongol is his excessive dirtiness: he never washes his body, and very seldom his face and hands. Owing to constant dirt, his clothing swarms with parasites, which he amuses himself by killing in the most unceremonious way. It is a common sight to see a Mongol, even an official or lama of high rank, in the midst of a large circle of his acquaintances, open his sheepskin or kaftan to catch an offending insect and execute him on the spot between his front teeth. The uncleanliness and dirt amidst which they live is partly attributable to their dislike, almost amounting to dread, of water or damp. Nothing will induce a Mongol to cross the smallest marsh where he might possibly wet his feet, and he carefully avoids pitching his yurta anywhere near damp ground or in the vicinity of a spring, stream, or marsh. Moisture is as fatal to him as it is to the camel, so that it would seem as if his organism, like the camel's, were only adapted to a dry climate; he never drinks cold water, but always prefers brick-tea, a staple article of consumption with all the Asiatic nomads. It is procured from the Chinese, and the Mongols are so passionately fond of it that neither men nor women can do without it for many days. From morning till night the kettle is simmering on the hearth, and all members of the family constantly have recourse to it. It is the first refreshment offered to a guest. The mode of preparation is disgusting; the vessel[4] in which the tea is boiled is never cleansed, and is occasionally scrubbed with argols, i.e. dried horse or cow dung. Salt water is generally used, but, if unobtainable, salt is added. The tea is then pared off with a knife or pounded in a mortar, and a handful of it thrown into the boiling water, to which a few cups of milk are added. To soften the brick-tea, which is sometimes as hard as a rock, it is placed for a few minutes among hot argols, which impart a flavour and aroma to the whole beverage. This is the first process, and in this form it answers the same purpose as chocolate or coffee with us. For a more substantial meal the Mongol mixes dry roasted millet in his cup, and, as a final relish, adds a lump of butter or raw sheep-tail fat (kurdiuk). The reader may now imagine what a revolting compound of nastiness is produced, and yet they consume any quantity of it! Ten to fifteen large cupfuls is the daily allowance for a girl, but full-grown men take twice as much.[5] It should be mentioned that the cups, which are sometimes highly ornamented, are the exclusive property of each individual; they are never washed, but after every meal licked out by the owner; those belonging to the more wealthy Mongols are of pure silver, of Chinese manufacture; the lamas make them of human skulls cut in half, and mounted in silver. The food of the Mongols also consists of milk prepared in various ways, either as butter, curds, whey, or kumiss. The curds are made from the unskimmed milk, which is gently simmered over a slow fire, and then allowed to stand for some time, after which the thick cream is skimmed off and dried, and roasted millet often added to it. The whey is prepared from sour skimmed milk, and is made into small dry lumps of cheese. Lastly, the kumiss (tarasum),[6] is prepared from mares' or sheep's milk; all through the summer it is considered the greatest luxury, and Mongols are in the habit of constantly riding to visit their friends and taste the tarasum till they generally become intoxicated. They are all inclined to indulge too freely, although drunkenness is not so rife among them as it is in some more civilised countries. They buy brandy from the Chinese when they themselves visit China with their caravans, or from itinerant Chinese merchants, who in summer visit all parts of Mongolia, exchanging their wares for wool, skins, and cattle. This trade is very profitable to the latter, as they generally sell their goods on credit, charging exorbitant interest, and receiving payment in kind, reckoned at prices far below the real value.

Tea and milk constitute the chief food of the Mongols all the year round, but they are equally fond of mutton. The highest praise they can bestow on any food is to say that it is 'as good as mutton.' Sheep, like camels, are sacred; indeed all their domestic animals are emblems of some good qualities. The favourite part is the tail which is pure fat. In autumn, when the grass is of the poorest description, the sheep fatten wonderfully, and the fatter the better for Mongol taste.[7] No part of the slaughtered animal is wasted, but everything is eaten up with the utmost relish.

The gluttony of this people exceeds all description. A Mongol will eat more than ten pounds of meat at one sitting, but some have been known to devour an average-sized sheep in the course of twenty-four hours! On a journey, when provisions are economised, a leg of mutton is the ordinary daily ration for one man, and although he can live for days without food, yet, when once he gets it, he will eat enough for seven.

They always boil their mutton, only roasting the breast as a delicacy. On a winter's journey, when the frozen meat requires extra time for cooking, they eat it half raw, slicing off pieces from the surface, and returning it again to the pot. When travelling and pressed for time, they take a piece of mutton and place it on the back of the camel, underneath the saddle, to preserve it from the frost, whепсе it is brought out during the journey and eaten, covered with camel's hair and reeking with sweat; but this is no test of a Mongol's appetite. Of the liquor in which he has boiled his meat he makes soup by adding millet or dough, drinking it like tea. Before eating, the lamas and the more religious among the laity, after filling their cups, throw a little into the fire or on the ground, as an offering; before drinking, they dip the middle finger of the right hand into the cup and flick off the adhering drops.[8]

They eat with their fingers, which are always disgustingly dirty; raising a large piece of meat and seizing it in their teeth, they cut off with a knife, close to the mouth, the portion remaining in the hand. The bones are licked clean, and sometimes cracked for the sake of the marrow; the shoulder-blade of mutton is always broken and thrown aside, it being considered unlucky to leave it unbroken.

On special occasions they eat the flesh of goats and horses; beef rarely, and camels' flesh more rarely still. The lamas will touch none of this meat, but have no objection to carrion, particularly if the dead animal is at all fat. They do not habitually eat bread, but they will not refuse Chinese loaves, and sometimes bake wheaten cakes themselves. Near the Russian frontier they will even eat black bread, but further in the interior they do not know what it is, and those to whom we gave rusks, made of rye-flour, to taste, remarked that there was nothing nice about such food as that, which only jarred the teeth.

Fowl or fish they consider unclean, and their dislike to them is so great that one of our guides nearly turned sick on seeing us eat boiled duck at Koko-nor; this shows how relative are the ideas of people even in matters which apparently concern the senses. The very Mongol, born and bred amid frightful squalor, who could relish carrion, shuddered when he saw us eat duck à l'Europénne.

Their only occupation and source of wealth is cattle-breeding, and their riches are counted by the number of their live stock, sheep, horses, camels, oxen, and a few goats—the proportion varying in different parts of Mongolia.[9] Thus, the best camels are bred among the Khalkas; the Chakhar country is famous for its horses, Ala-shan for its goats; and in Koko-nor the yak is a substitute for the cow.

The Khalka country ranks first in the wealth of its inhabitants, who are mostly well off; even after the cattle-plague had destroyed countless oxen and sheep, large herds were still owned by individuals, and there is hardly a native but possesses some hundred of the fat-tailed sheep. In Southern Mongolia, i.e. in Ordos and Ala-shan, the sheep are of a different breed, and at Koko-nor they have yet another kind with horns eighteen inches long. As all the requirements of life: milk and meat for food, skins for clothing, wool for felt, and ropes, are supplied by his cattle, which also earn him large sums by their sale, or by the transport of merchandise, so the nomad lives entirely for them. His personal wants, and those of his family, are a secondary consideration. His movements from place to place depend on the wants of his animals. If they are well supplied with food and water, the Mongol is content. His skill and patience in managing them are admirable. The stubborn camel becomes his docile carrier; the half-tamed steppe-horse his obedient and faithful steed. He loves and cherishes his animals; nothing will induce him to saddle a camel or a horse under a certain age; no money will buy his lambs or calves, which he considers it wrong to kill before they are full-grown. Cattle-breeding is the only occupation of this people; their industrial employment is limited to the preparation of a few articles for domestic use, such as skins, felt, saddles, bridles, and bows; a little tinder, and a few knives. They buy everything else, including their clothes, of the Chinese, and, in very small quantities, from the Russian merchants at Kiakhta and Urga. Mining is unknown to them. The inland trade is entirely one of barter; and the foreign trade is confined to Peking and the nearest towns of China, whither they drive their cattle for sale, and carry salt, hides, and wool to exchange for manufactured goods.

The most striking trait in their character is sloth. Their whole lives are passed in holiday making, which harmonizes with their pastoral pursuits. Their cattle are their only care, and even they do not cause them much trouble. The camels and horses graze on the steppe without any watch, only requiring to be watered once a day in summer at the neighbouring well. The women and children tend the flocks and herds. The rich hire shepherds, who are mostly poor homeless vagrants. Milking the cows, churning butter, preparing the meals, and other domestic work, falls to the lot of the women. The men, as a rule, do nothing but gallop about all day long from yurta to yurta, drinking tea or kumiss, and gossiping with their neighbours. They are ardent lovers of the chase, which is some break to the tedious monotony of their lives, but they are, with few exceptions, bad shots, and their arms are most inferior, some having flint-and-steel muskets, while others have nothing but the bow and arrows. An occasional pilgrimage to some temple, and horse-racing, are their favourite diversions.

With the approach of autumn the Mongols throw off some of their laziness. The camels, which have been at pasture all the summer, are now collected together and driven to Kalgan or Kuku-Khoto[10] to prepare for the transport of tea and merchandise to and from Klakhta, and to carry supplies from Kuku-Khoto to the Chinese forces stationed between Uliassutai and Kobdo. Some few are employed in carrying salt from the salt lakes of Mongolia to the nearest towns of China Proper. In this way, during the autumn and winter, all the camels of Northern and Eastern Mongolia are earning large profits for their owners. With the return of April, the transport ceases, the wearied animals are turned loose on the steppe, and their masters repose in complete idleness for five or six months.

The Mongol is so indolent that he will never walk any distance, no matter how short, if he can ride; his horse is always tethered outside the yurta, ready for use at any moment; he herds his cattle on horseback, and when on a caravan journey nothing but intense cold will oblige him to dismount and warm his limbs by walking a mile or two. His legs are bowed by constant equestrianism, and he grasps the saddle like a centaur. The wildest steppe-horse cannot unseat its Mongol rider. He is in his element on horseback, going at full speed; seldom at a foot's pace, or at a trot, but scouring like the wind across the desert. He loves and understands horses; a fast galloper or a good ambler is his greatest delight, and he will not part with such a treasure, even in his direst need. His contempt for pedestrianism is so great that he considers it beneath his dignity to walk even as far as the next yurta.

Endowed by nature with a strong constitution, and trained from early childhood to endure hardships, the Mongols enjoy excellent health, notwithstanding all the discomforts of life in the desert. In the depth of winter, for a month at a time, they accompany the tea-caravans. Day by day the thermometer registers upwards of -20° of Fahrenheit, with a constant wind from the north-west, intensifying the cold until it is almost unendurable. But in spite of it they keep their seat on their camels for fifteen hours at a stretch, with a keen wind blowing in their teeth. A man must be made of iron to stand this; but a Mongol performs the journey backwards and forwards four times during the winter, making upwards of 3,000 miles. As soon as you set him to do other work, apparently much lighter, but to which he is unaccustomed, the result is very different. Although as hard as nails, he cannot walk fifteen or twenty miles without suffering great fatigue; if he pass the night on the damp ground he will catch cold as easily as any fine gentleman, and, deprived of his brick-tea, he will never cease grumbling.

The Mongol is a slave to habit. He has no energy to meet and overcome difficulties; he will try and avoid, but never conquer them. He wants the elastic, manly spirit of the European, ready for any emergency, and willing to struggle against adversity and gain the victory in the end. His is the stolid conservatism of the Asiatic, passive, apathetic and lifeless.

Cowardice is another striking trait of their character. Leaving out of the question the Chinese Mongols, whose martial spirit and energy has been completely stamped out, the Khalka people are vastly inferior to their ancestors of the times of Chinghiz and Okkodai.[11] Two centuries of Chinese sway,[12] during which their warlike disposition has been systematically extinguished and suffered to stagnate in the dull round of nomad existence, have robbed them of every trace of prowess and bravery. The recent incursions of the Dungans into their territory proved how degenerate they had become. The very name of Hwei, Hwei, i.e. Mussulmans, created a panic and caused them to fly ignominiously without offering the least resistance to their foes. And yet every advantage was on their side; they were in their own country, and were of course well acquainted with the localities — a matter of some importance in warfare, particularly in an arid desert like the Gobi; they could always outnumber the Dungans, who were badly armed and undisciplined. But, despite all this, the latter ravaged Ordos and Ala-shan, captured Uliassutai and Kobdo, although defended by Chinese regulars, invaded the Khalka country several times, and would have taken Urga had it not been for the presence of some Russian soldiers.

We cannot deny that, besides cunning, dissimulation and deceit, — qualities especially prevalent among the natives of the border-land of China, — the Mongols exhibit great sagacity. Among those of pure blood immorality is chiefly confined to the lamas; the common people, or, as they are called, the Kara-Kung, i.e. black folk, when uncontaminated by Chinese or lama teaching, are kind and simple-minded. But even their sagacity is very one-sided. The intimate knowledge they have of their native plains excites one's admiration; they will extricate themselves from the most desperate situation, foretell rain, storms, and other atmospheric changes; follow the almost imperceptible tracks of a stray horse or camel, and are sensible of the proximity of a well; but when you try and explain to them the simplest thing which does not come within their daily routine, they will listen with staring eyes and repeat the same question without understanding your answer. The obtuseness of the Mongol is enough to exhaust one's patience; you are no longer talking to the same man you knew in his native state, you have now to do with a child, full of curiosity, but incapable of understanding what you tell him. Their inquisitiveness is often carried to an excess. When the caravan enters a populous district, the inhabitants appear from all sides, some of them from a distance, and after the usual salutation, 'mendu,' i.e. 'How do you do?' they begin asking you 'Whither are you travelling?' 'What is the object of your journey?' 'Have you nothing to sell?' 'Where did you buy your camels?' and 'How much did you pay for them?' and so on. No sooner is one gone than another takes his place; sometimes a troop rides up, always with the same questions. At the halting-place your patience is sorely taxed. Hardly are the camels unloaded before they are upon you, examining and handling your property, and even entering your tent. The smallest article excites their curiosity; your arms, of course, but even such trifling objects as boots, scissors, padlocks, are all handled in turn, and they all ask you to give them first one thing, then another. There is no end to it. Every new-comer begins afresh, and the previous visitors explain and show him all your possessions, and, if they get the chance, make off with something by way of a keepsake.

One of their peculiarities cannot fail to arrest the attention of the stranger, and that is, their habit of moving from place to place without ever using the words right or left, as though the ideas they express were unknown to them. Even in the yurta a Mongol will never say to the right hand or to the left, but always such or such a thing is east or west of him. It may be worth mentioning here that the points of their compass are the reverse of ours; their north is our south, and therefore the east is on the left, not on the right, of their horizon.[13]

They calculate distances by the time occupied in travelling with camels or horses, and have no other accurate scale of measurement. If you ask how far it is to any given place, the answer is always so many days' journey with camels, or so many days' ride on horseback. But as the rate of travelling and length of marches vary according to circumstances and the disposition of the rider, they never fail to add 'if you ride well,' or 'if you travel slowly.' A day's journey in Khalkas is twenty-eight miles with camels, and from forty to forty-seven on horses. About Koko-nor they travel more slowly with the former, not over twenty miles a day. A good camel will average about three miles an hour with a load on its back, or four without one.

The unit in the Mongol's scale of distances is a day and a night; he has no idea of dividing them into hours. Their almanac is the same as the Chinese, and is printed at Peking in Mongol characters. The months are all lunar, some containing twenty-nine, others thirty days. Hence there is a week over every year to complete the revolution of the earth in its solar orbit. Every fourth year the extra weeks make a month, which is added to the winter, summer, or one of the other seasons, according to the calculations of the Peking astronomers.[14] This month has no special name, but is called after one of the others, so that in Leap-year there are two Januaries or two Julys, &c. The new year commences on the first day of the white month, Tsagan Sar, corresponding with the middle of February; which marks the beginning of spring, and is kept as a great holiday in all Buddhist countries. The 1st, 8th, and 15th days of every month are also festivals, and are also called Tserting.[15]

Their cycle is twelve years, each year having the name of some animal, thus:—

The 1st year Kuluguna (mouse). The 7th year Mori (horse).
The 2nd year Ukyr (cow). The 8th year Honi (sheep).
The 3rd year Bar (tiger). The 9th year Meehit (monkey).
The 4th year Tolai (hare). The 10th year Takia (fowl).
The 5th year Lu (dragon). The 11th year Nohoi (dog).
The 6th year Mogо (serpent). The 12th year Hakhai (pig).

Five of these cycles make a larger one, answering to our century. A man's age is computed by the lesser cycles; thus, if you are twenty-eight you are said to be in the year of the hare, i.e. two complete cycles of twelve years in each have elapsed since your birth, and you have entered the fourth year of your third cycle.

With regard to the language, I must confess that, with the multifarious occupations of the expedition, and in the absence of a good dragoman, we were unable to study it closely, or pay much attention to the different dialects. This was a serious omission, but it was chiefly caused by our want of funds; if we had been able to dispose of ample means, I could have hired a good interpreter thoroughly conversant with his business; but circumstanced as we were, ours could not spare a minute for days together for his proper duties; and his limited intelligence made him of very little use on occasions when tact and address were required.

The Mongolian language prevails throughout the country. It is rich in words, and has several forms and dialects, which, however, are not very distinct, except as between Northern and Southern Mongolia, where the difference is strongly marked.[16] Words in use among Southern Mongols are perfectly

1 Thus —

Among Khalkas. In Ala-shan. Night is Shuni Su Sheep „ Honi Hoi Evening „ Udishi Ashin Teapot „ Shahu Debir Boots „ Gutul Gudusu Meat „ Mahan Ideh Cloak „ Dehl Dibil

Among Khalkas. In Ala-shan. Khalat (Tunic) is Zupsa Labishik Bowl is Imbu Haisa Cloth „ Tsimbu Dahar Gunpowder „ Dari Shoroi Milk „ Su Yusu Hither „ Nasha Naran Thither „ In-shi Tigehi unintelligible to the Khalkas, and the pronunciation of the former is softer; thus, k, ts, ch, become respectively kh, ch, and g, e.g. Tsagan (white), becomes Chagan, Kuku-hoto becomes khuhu-khoto, and so on.

Even the construction of the sentence changes, and our interpreter sometimes could not understand expressions used by the Mongols of the South, although he could not explain why they were unintelligible. All he would say was, 'They talk nonsense.'

It appears to me that very few Chinese words have been introduced into the Mongol language, but that in the neighbourhood of Koko-nor a great deal is derived from the Tangutan. In South-Eastern and Southern Mongolia, Chinese influence prevails, and is evidenced in the character of the people as well as in their language, not so much from the number of foreign words introduced into it as by a general change, and a more monotonous and phlegmatic pronunciation than that of the true Khalka Mongols, who talk in loud, energetic accents.

The written characters, like the Chinese, are arranged in vertical columns, but are read from left to right.[17] There are a good many printed books, the Chinese Government having appointed a special commission, at the end of the last century, to translate into Mongol historical, educational, and religious works. The numerals are also peculiar to the people, and are used in business transactions equally with the Manchu. There are schools at Peking and Kalgan for teaching the language, and an almanac and some books are from time to time printed in it. The lettered classes are the princes, nobles, and lamas, the latter also learning Tibetan, the princes and nobles Mongol and Manchu. The common people are in general illiterate. All Mongols are fond of talking. Their greatest pleasure is to sit and chat over a cup of tea. On meeting them, their first question is, 'What's the news?' and they will ride twenty or thirty miles to communicate some bit of gossip to a friend. In this way rumours fly through the country with astounding celerity, almost equal to the telegraph. During our journey, the inhabitants, hundreds of miles ahead of us, knew all about us, down to the smallest details — of course with all sorts of exaggerations.

The first thing which strikes a stranger in talking to them is the frequent use of the words tse and se, both signifying 'very good,' and occurring in nearly every phrase. They are also used as affirmatives, 'yes,' 'it is so.' In receiving an order or listening to an anecdote from an official, the Mongol utters his invariable tse or se. If he wish to express a good or bad quality in anything, approval or censure, besides repeating these two syllables, and sometimes without, he holds up the thumb or forefinger of the right hand, as the case may be, the
Mongolia, the Tangut Country, and the Solitudes of Northern Tibet - Mongol Girl.jpg


Madame de Bourboulon, who accompanied her husband across Northern Mongolia on their way from Shanghai to Moscow in 1862, describes the occupants of a Yurta as follows:

'They wore vests of green and red velvet, and over these a long robe of violet silk falling to the feet, which were shod with boots of purple leather decorated with glass beads. Their costume was in other respects the same as their father's, with the exception of their long and fine black hair divided into numberless small tresses, intermixed with ribbons and coral beads.'—Le Tour du Monde, xi. p. 248.

former for praise, the latter for blame. He addresses his equal as nohor, i.e. 'comrade,' as we should say 'sir.'

Their songs are always plaintive, and relate to their past life and exploits.[18] They usually sing on a caravan journey, and occasionally in the yurta, but the women's voices are not heard so often as the men's. Troubadours or wandering minstrels always secure an appreciative audience. Their musical instruments are the flute and guitar; we never saw them dance, and they are probably unskilled in the art.

The lot of the woman is most unenviable. The narrow sphere of nomad life is even more restricted for her. Entirely dependent on her husband, she passes her time in the yurta nursing the children and attending to domestic duties. In her spare time she works with the needle, stitching clothes or some piece of finery made of Chinese silk. Some of the handiwork is in good taste and beautifully finished.

A Mongol can only have one lawful wife, but he may keep concubines, who live with the real wife, the latter taking precedence in rank and ruling the household; her children enjoy all the rights of the father, while those of the concubines are illegitimate, and have no share in the inheritance. An illegitimate child can be legitimised by the sanction of government.

At the marriage festivals the relatives of the husband are treated with respect; those of the wife are of no account. To ensure the happiness of the young couple an auspicious reading of the stars[19] under which they were born is indispensable. If the omens are unpropitious, the marriage does not take place.

The bridegroom pays the parents of the bride, according to agreement, sometimes a good sum as purchase-money, either in cattle, clothes, or, more rarely, in coin; the wife provides the yurta, with all its fittings, as her portion.[20] If the marriage turn out unhappily, or even to gratify some whim or caprice, the husband may put his wife away, but the latter may also desert a husband who is not affectionate. In the first case the purchase-money is not usually returned, and the man may only retain part of the dower; but if the wife desert her husband she must repay part of the ante-nuptial settlement. This custom often gives rise to little romantic episodes, enacted in the heart of the steppe, which never find their way into a novel.

The women are good mothers and housewives, but unfaithful wives. Immorality is most common, not only among the married women, but also among the girls. Adultery is not even concealed, and is not regarded as a vice. In the household the rights of the wife are nearly equal to those of the husband, but in all out-door arrangements, as in moving camp, paying debts, buying and selling, the authority of the men is supreme, and no reference even is made to the women; but, as there is no rule without an exception, so we have seen Mongol ladies who not only managed their household, but interfered in other affairs as well — in fact, completely henpecked their husbands.

The appearance of the women is not attractive. The typical features of their race, the flat face and high cheekbones, spoil their looks; and the rough life in the yurta, exposure to the weather and dirt, deprive them of any feminine grace and delicacy, and all attractiveness to European eyes. As a rare exception, but only in some princely families, a beautiful face may now and then be seen, its fortunate possessor being surrounded by a crowd of adorers, for the Mongols are very susceptible to the charms of the fair sex. The women are far less numerous than the men, a fact which is accounted for by the celibacy of the lamas. The Mongol is an excellent father, and passionately fond of his children. Whenever we gave them anything they always divided it equally among all the members of their family, were it a lump of sugar, and the portion of each individual only a crumb. The elders are always held in great respect, especially old men, whose opinions and commands are implicitly followed. They are very hospitable. Any one who enters the yurta is regaled with tea and milk, and, for old acquaintance sake, a Mongol will open a bottle of brandy or kumiss, and will even slaughter a sheep.

On meeting an acquaintance, or even a stranger, the Mongol salutes him with a 'mendu,' 'mendu-seh-beina.' A pinch of snuff is interchanged, and the greeting is renewed 'mal-seh-beina,' 'ta seh-beina,' i.e. 'How are your cattle?' This is always one of the first questions, and they make no enquiry after your health until they have learned that your sheep, camels, and horses are fat and well to do. In Ordos and Ala-shan the usual greeting is 'Amur se,' 'Are you well?' but in Koko-nor it is substituted by the Tangutan 'Tehmu,' 'How do you do?' The friendly pinch of snuff is unusual in Southern Mongolia, and unknown in Koko-nor. Some amusing anecdotes are related, illustrating the custom of enquiring after cattle in the case of young travellers, journeying for the first time from Kiakhta to Peking. A young officer, bearing despatches for Peking, and happening to change horses at one of the Mongol stations, he was soon surrounded by natives, who began their respectful enquiries as to the health of his sheep, &c. Learning from the interpreter the meaning of their questions, he emphatically shook his head and denied possessing any; but they could not believe that a personage of his exalted rank could exist without sheep, cows, horses, or camels. We often had the most detailed questions asked us, such as: 'In whose care had we left our cattle before our departure on so long a journey?' 'What was the weight of the kurdiuk (fat tail) on each of our sheep?' 'Did we enjoy the luxury of eating this delicacy at home?' 'How many good amblers did we possess, and how many fat camels?' In Southern Mongolia, as a mutual token of good-fellowship, hadaki (silk scarves) are interchanged by the host and his guest; these scarves are bought of the Chinese, the quality varying with the rank of the recipient.[21]

When these salutations are over, tea is offered, and, as a special mark of civility, lighted pipes are handed round. The visitor never wishes his host good-bye on taking his departure, but gets up and walks straight out of the yurta. The host always escorts his guest to his horse, which is tethered a few paces from the tent, — a sign of respect invariably shown to lamas of importance and government officials.

Although servility and despotism are so strongly developed among them that the will of the superior generally replaces every law, a strange anomaly is observable In the freedom of intercourse between rulers and the ruled. At the sight of an official the Mongol bends the knee and does reverence, but after this obsequious token of submission he takes his seat beside him, chats and smokes with him. Accustomed from childhood to perfect liberty, he cannot endure restraint for any length of time, but soon gives free rein to his habits. This freedom of manners and equality may surprise the inexperienced traveller, but, if he look more deeply into it, he will find it is nothing but the wild unbridled nature of the nomad, requiring liberty for his childish habits, and perfectly indifferent to the awful despotism of social life. The very official, who to-day sits beside his inferior and smokes a pipe with him on terms of good-fellowship, may to-morrow punish his companion, confiscate his sheep, or practise any injustice he likes with impunity.

Bribery and corruption are as prevalent here as in China; a bribe will work miracles, and nothing can be done without it. The worst crime may go unpunished if the perpetrator gives a good purse to the proper authorities; on the other hand, a good act has no merit without a certain offering, and this system pervades the whole administration, from the lowest to the highest.

Turning to their religion, we see how deeply Lamaism has struck root in their midst, more so perhaps than in any other Buddhist country.[22] Holding contemplation to be the ideal of all perfection, it exactly suits their indolent character, and has laid the foundation of that terrible asceticism which induces them to sever themselves from all desire for progress, and to seek, in obscure and abstract ideas of the Divinity and life beyond the tomb, the sum and end of man's earthly existence.[23]

Their religious service is performed in Tibetan,[24] which is also the language of their sacred books. The most famous is the Ganjur, comprising 108 vols., including, besides religion, such subjects as history, mathematics, astronomy, &c. Service in the temples is performed three times a day: at morning, midday, and in the evening. The call to prayers is by blowing trumpets made of large sea-shells; when the congregation are assembled, the lamas, seated on the floor or on benches, chant passages from the sacred books. From time to time this monotonous chanting is interrupted by exclamations from the presiding lama, repeated after him by the others, and at certain intervals cymbals or brass plates are clashed, which add to the general noise. The service continues for some hours; when the Kutukhtu is present in person, the ceremonial observed is of course more imposing. He always occupies a throne, robed in vestments, with his face towards the idols, while the attendant lamas swing censers in front of him and read the prayers.

The frequently repeated prayer, constantly on their lips, is 'Оm mani padmi hom.'[25] We tried in vain to discover its meaning. The lamas assured us that it contained the whole mysticism of their religion, and was inscribed not only on the temples, but on other buildings. Besides the usual temples[26] in those localities far removed from them, duguni, i.e. oratories, are arranged in the huts. Lastly, on the passes and high mountains large heaps of stones, called obo, are piled up in honour of the guardian spirits. These 'obo' are held in superstitious reverence, and a Mongol never passes one without adding a stone, rag, or tuft of camels' hair, as an offering. In summer religious services are held at them, and the people meet here on holidays.

The Dalai Lama of Tibet, residing at Lhassa, is the head of the whole Buddhist hierarchy, and sovereign of Tibet, acknowledging fealty, however, to China; but this submission is merely nominal, and is only outwardly shown by gifts sent three times a year to the Emperor.[27]

Equal to the Dalai Lama in sanctity, but not in political importance, is another Tibetan saint, Pan-tsin-Erdeni;[28] the third and last personage in Buddhism is the Kutukhtu of Urga. Next in rank come the remaining Kutukhtus or Gigens, who live at the different temples dispersed throughout Mongolia or in Peking; there are upwards of a hundred of them[29] in Mongolia. They are all terrestrial saints, of highly-developed holiness, who never die, but pass from one body to another. A newly-born gigen is discovered by the lamas of the temple to which his predecessor belonged, and is confirmed in office by the Dalai Lama. It devolves upon the latter dignitary to appoint a successor to himself, but the Chinese Government secretly exercises great influence in the election, which usually falls on some poor unknown family. The personal insignificance of the Dalai Lama, in the absence of family ties in the country, is the best guarantee the Chinese can have of the submission of Tibet, or, at all events, of their own security from an unruly neighbour. They have indeed good cause to be watchful, for if a talented, energetic person were to appear on the throne of the Dalai Lama, he might with one word, like the voice of a god, cause a rising of the nomads from the Himalayas to Siberia. Deeply imbued with religious fanaticism and the bitterest hatred for their oppressors, the wild hordes would invade China and cause it great injury.

The influence of the gigens is unlimited; a prayer offered up to one of them, the touch of his garments, his benediction, are regarded in the light of the greatest blessings humanity can enjoy; but they are not to be had gratis. Every believer must bring his offering, which, in some cases, is very large. The temples of Mongolia, especially the larger and more, famous, attract wealthy pilgrims from far distances.

These pilgrimages, however, are, if we may so call them, private enterprises. Lhassa is the sacred city; hither large caravans of worshippers annually come, and, regardless of the difficulties of the long journey, esteem it a special mark of Divine favour to be allowed to fulfil their religious obligations. The Dungan insurrection put a stop to them for eleven years, but, as soon as the Chinese forces occupied Eastern Kan-su, they were renewed. Women sometimes take part in them, but, let it be said to their credit, are not such hypocrites as the men. This may be from the fact that all domestic work is done by them, and they have less time to spare for religion. The inhabitants of the border-land are also far less devout than those in the heart of the country.

The clergy, or so-called lamas,[30] are very numerous, and comprise a third, if not more, of the male population, who are thereby relieved from the payment of all taxes.[31] It is not difficult to become a lama. Parents must voluntarily dedicate their son to this profession while he is an infant, shave his head, and dress him in a red or yellow robe. This is an external mark of the future vocation of the child, who is afterwards given over to the temple, where he is taught his letters and the Buddhist mysteries by the elder lamas.[32] In some of the most important of these establishments, for instance at Urga or Kumbum,[33] special schools are built for the purpose, and divided into faculties. On completing his studies, the lama is attached to some temple, or practises as a physician.

Promotion to the highest ranks is effected by an examination in the Buddhist books. The ranks of the clergy are as follow: Kamba, Hehlung, Hehtsul, and Bandi — each having a distinctive dress[34] and station during prayer-time, and separate rules for the regulation of their lives. The highest grade is the Kambu or Kianbu, ordained directly by the Kutukhtu, with the right of conferring ordination on the lower ranks. The Kutukhtus are also obliged to pass through the different degrees, but they reach them sooner than ordinary mortals.

The lamas discharge certain duties in the temple according to their rank. The Tsiabartsi is the sacristan; the Piarba, housekeeper; Kesgui, ecclesiastical superintendent; Umzat, precentor; Duntsi, treasurer; Sordji, superior or abbot.

Besides these, several hundred (sometimes a thousand or more) lamas are attached to every temple, who do nothing but pray, subsisting on the alms of the faithful. Some have never been sent to school by their parents, and are, therefore, illiterate, but they wear the same red robes as the others, and bear the title of their office, which is considered honourable.

All lamas must be celibates, an abnormal state, which gives rise to every kind of immorality. Women above a certain age may enter this profession, for which they are regularly ordained. Their heads are shaved, they are compelled to swear the observance of a strict life, and have the privilege of wearing yellow, like the lamas. They are often met with among aged widows, and are called shab-gantsa.

Lamaism is the most frightful curse of the country, because it attracts the best part of the male population, preys like a parasite on the remainder, and, by its unbounded influence, deprives the people of the power of rising from the depths of ignorance into which they are plunged.

But although this religion has taken so strong a hold on them, superstitions are equally prevalent. Evil spirits and witchcraft beset the Mongol's path. Every unfavourable phenomenon of nature is ascribed to the wicked spirit; every sickness is caused by him. Their everyday lives are full of superstitious observances. Thus, they will not give or sell milk in cloudy weather or after sunset, lest their cattle should die; it is considered unlucky to sit in the entrance of the yurta, or to eat seated on the heels, some accident will surely happen afterwards; a journey must never be discussed beforehand, bad weather or a hail-storm will be certain to follow; the names of father or mother must not be mentioned; nothing should be sold or given away for three days after the recovery of one of the cattle, and so on.

But all these customs are a mere fraction of their superstitions. Soothsaying and sorcery are strangely developed among them, and are exercised not only by the shamans and lamas, but also by ordinary mortals, women excepted. The soothsayers carry rosaries or strings of Chinese copper money, and make use of sundry exorcisms. If a beast be lost, a pipe or tinder-box mislaid, recourse is always had to the prophet to learn where to look for the missing property; when a journey is about to be undertaken the auguries must be consulted; if a drought occur, the whole tribe must apply to a shaman, and large sums are paid to induce him to make the heavens send down to earth the life-giving moisture; if attacked by a sudden illness, the Mongol calls in a lama to drive away the devils which have entered his body. Time after time the impositions practised by sorcerers and magicians are exposed, yet the Mongol never loses his childish reliance on them. One fortunate result is sufficient to wipe out the recollection of all previous failures, and the reputation of the prophet stands as high as ever. Some are so artful that they discover beforehand all that is necessary to know for the successful practice of their profession, and after deceiving others so often they at length themselves believe in their own supernatural powers.

The Mongols expose the bodies of their dead to be devoured by birds and beasts of prey, their lamas deciding in which direction the head should lie. Princes, gigens, and lamas of importance are interred or burnt after death. Masses are said for the departed for forty days on payment of a sum of money. The poor who cannot afford to pay are deprived of this honour, but the rich distribute cattle among the different temples where masses are said for their deceased relatives for the space of two or three years.

A Mongol, who might claim, apart from inevitable defects in intelligence and morality, to be called a good and religious man, will show himself to be a true barbarian in giving vent to his passions. It is only necessary to see the savage way in which they behave to the Dungans. The very man who would scruple to kill a lamb, because he considered it wrong, will cut off the head of his prisoner with the utmost sangfroid. Neither sex nor age is respected; the captives are slaughtered indiscriminately. The Dungans certainly retaliate in like manner; but I only mention this to prove how powerless is religion alone, without other civilising influences, to soften and transform the barbarous instincts of a nation. Buddhism inculcates principles of lofty morality, but it has not taught the Mongol to look upon every man as his brother and respect even an enemy.

Again, the custom of exposing the dead to be devoured by wild animals, a sight which may be seen by any traveller near Urga, where hundreds of corpses are annually devoured by dogs and crows, revolting to the rudest nature, but not so to the Mongol, who coolly drags his nearest and dearest relatives to this spot, and sees the dogs tear his father, mother, or brother to pieces as unconcernedly as though he were a senseless creature.

Let this be a lesson to Christian missionaries in these countries, not to teach the mere outward observance of religion, but to accompany their doctrines with refining influences of civilisation and the culture of a superior race. First wean the Mongol from his dirt; convince him that idleness and sloth are vices and not among life's pleasures; impress upon him that God requires of every man good works, and not merely a certain number of set prayers; and then, if you will, explain to him the forms of the Christian religion. The new doctrines must not only open his mind to a new spiritual and moral life, but must effect a radical change in his domestic and social state. Then only will Christianity bear fruit and throw out new shoots sowing good seed among the rude untutored inhabitants of Mongolia.[35]

At the end of the seventeenth century the Chinese, after subduing almost the whole of this country, allowed its separate organisation to remain unchanged; only introducing a more efficient system of administration; and while maintaining the independence of its princes in local affairs, they placed them under the strict supervision of the Government of Peking. All the business connected with Mongoliа is transacted by the Foreign Office (Li-fan-yuen), matters of high importance being referred to the Emperor. It is governed on the basis of a military colony; its chief divisions or principalities are called aimaks,[36] each comprising one or more koshungs, i.e. banners which are subdivided into regiments, squadrons, and tens. The aimaks and koshungs are governed by hereditary princes, who acknowledge

Group of Khalkas Mongols.

the Emperor of China as their lord paramount, and may not enter into any relations with foreign powers without reference to Peking. The tosalakchi, whose office is also hereditary, rank next; each banner has one, two, or four of these officials; the prince, who is military chief of the banner, has two lieutenants (meiren zanghin); every regiment has its colonel (chialan zanghin), and captains of squadrons (somun zanghin).[37] The whole military force of the aimak is under a tsiang-tsiun (general), chosen from among the Mongol princes.

The princes of the koshungs or banners assemble once a year for the gathering[38] (chulkan), presided over by one of their number who must have been confirmed in his authority by the Emperor. These assemblies, at which local questions are decided, are under the control of the governors of the nearest provinces of China.[39]

Some parts of the country bordering with China Proper are modelled entirely after the Chinese system; such as the district of Cheng-ta-fu beyond the Great Wall, north of Peking, the aimak of Chakhar, north-west of Kalgan, and the district of Kuku-hoto (Kwei-hwa-cheng), still further to the west, near the northern bend of the Yellow River. Western Mongolia (Dzungaria) until the recent insurrection was divided into seven military circuits[40] under a different form of government.

The princely caste has six grades ranking in the following order: Khan, Tsin-wang, Tsiun-wang, Behleh, Behzeh, and Kung. Besides these are the nobles owning land (Tsasak-tai-tsi),[41] the greater number tracing their descent from Chinghiz-Khan. The title descends to the eldest son by lawful marriage if he has attained the age of nineteen, Imperial permission having been first obtained. If there be no legitimate sons, the title may be transmitted to one of the natural children or to the nearest male relative, but not without the consent of the Emperor; the other children rank as nobles (tai-tsi) divided into four classes. In this way the princes never increase in number (there are 200 altogether), but the nobility are constantly becoming more numerous.

The princes, as we have said, enjoy no political rights, and are under the absolute authority of the Peking Government, which watches their actions with jealousy. Their salaries[42] are received direct from the Emperor, who promotes them at will from one class to another. Princesses of the Imperial family[43] are sometimes given in marriage to Mongol princes, in order to strengthen by family ties the power of China over their nomadic subjects. Every prince must appear at court once every three or four years to pay his respects to his sovereign; on these occasions they bring gifts, mostly camels or horses, receiving in return silver, silk, costly dresses, caps adorned with peacocks' feathers, &c., always of far greater value than those brought. Indeed Mongolia costs China a round sum every year;[44] on the other hand, the Middle Kingdom is secured from any possible invasion by the ruthless nomads.

The exact population of Mongolia is unknown. Père Hyacinthe estimates it at three millions, Timkowski at two; in any case the number is insignificant in proportion to the extent of country. This could hardly be otherwise if we consider the conditions of nomad life, and how barren the Mongolian deserts for the most part are. The increase of population is also very slow, owing to the celibacy of the lamas, and the diseases which at times cause great ravages.

The Mongols are divided into four classes: princes, nobles (tai-tsi), clergy, and common people. The first three enjoy all civil rights; the last are semi-independent military settlers, who are not liable to a land tax or to military service. Their laws are embodied in a separate code published by the Chinese Government, to which the princes must conform in their administration; proceedings of minor importance are, however, decided according to traditional usage. The punishments are fines and banishment, and for crimes and robberies with violence, in some instances, death. Corporal punishment is inflicted on the common people as well as on nobles and officials judicially degraded. Bribery, corruption, and every kind of abuse in the administration and judicial proceedings are most prevalent.

The people only pay a cattle tax to their princes; but on extraordinary occasions, such as when the latter travel to Peking or to the assembly, on the marriage of their children, or on removal of camp, special collections are levied. The Mongols pay no tax whatever to China, and are only liable to military service, from which, however, the clergy are exempt. The army is exclusively cavalry; one hundred and fifty families form a squadron; six squadrons a regiment, the regiments of one koshung a banner. The people defray the cost of military equipments, but government provides arms. If the whole nation were called out for military duty, Mongolia ought to supply 284,000 men,[45] but less than one-tenth of that number would be available. The tsiang-tsiuns (generals) of the aimaks (districts) ought to inspect the forces and examine their arms, but it is usual for every koshung to avoid this by bribery. The indolent Mongol will rather pay his money than turn out for military service. The Chinese Government is in one sense content with this, because it proves that the ancient martial spirit of the nomads is year by year becoming extinct.

  1. They use Chinese knives in shaving, and soften the hair with warm water.
  2. Chinese cotton stuff.
  3. The wood required for yurtas is mostly brought from the Khalka country, which abounds in forests.
  4. Their domestic utensils are anything but numerous. They are — an iron saucepan, for boiling their food in, teapot, a skimmer, a leathern skin or wooden tub to hold water or milk, a wooden trough for serving the meat in. To these must be added an iron fire-dog, tongs to hold the argols, and occasionally a Chinese axe.
  5. Mongols have no regular hours for meals: they eat and drink whenever they feel disposed, or have the opportunity.
  6. See Supplementary Note.
  7. They have a remarkable way of killing their sheep: they slit up the creature's stomach, thrust their hand in, and seize hold of the heart, squeezing it till the animal dies.
  8. This is one of the ancient Mongol practices. See 'Marco Polo,' 2nd ed., i. p. 300. — Y.
  9. The price of cattle varies in different parts of the country thus:
      In Khalka
    In the Chakhar
    In Koko-nor.
    Sheep  2 to 3  2 to 3 1 to 1½ Chinese lans=5s. 6d.per head.
    Oxen 12 „ 15 15  7 „ 10
    Camels 30 „ 35 40 25
    Horses 12 „ 15 15 25
  10. Kwei-hwa-cheng.
  11. Okkodai, the third son and successor of Chinghiz-Khan, established his capital at Karakorum, and founded the walls and palace in 1234. See 'Marco Polo,' 2nd ed., i. p. 228. — M.
  12. That is to say, from the time when the Khalkas became subject to China in 1691, during the reign of Kanghi. Western Mongolia, the so-called Dzungaria, was conquered by the Chinese in 1756.
  13. See Supplementary Note.
  14. See Supplementary Note.
  15. On the New Year's Day, or White Feast of the Mongols, see 'Marco Polo,' 2nd. ed. i. p. 376-378, and ii. p. 543. The monthly festival days, properly for the Lamas days of fasting and worship, seem to differ locally. See note in same work, i. p. 224, and on the Year-cycle, i. p. 435.—Y.
  16. 1
  17. The present Mongol letters were acquired in the thirteenth century of our era, in the reign of Kublai-Khan. [See Supplementary Note.]
  18. The most common song in Mongolia is 'Dagn-khara,' i.e. 'The Song of the Black Colt.'
  19. They reckon their period of twelve years by the signs of the Zodiac. [Surely the Author here means to refer to the Cycle signs (supra, p. 64), not the Zodiac. — Y.]
  20. A full description of a Mongol wedding will be found in 'Timkowsky's Travels,' vol. ii. pp. 303-311, and in Huc's 'Souvenirs d'un Voyage dans la Tartarie et le Thibet,' vol. i. pp. 297-301.
  21. Among the Khalkas the scarves serve as currency, but are rarely used for presents. [The polite interchange of the scarf (Khata of the Tibetans) is noted again in one of the later chapters on Tangut. — Y.]
  22. It is not known exactly when Buddhism was introduced into Mongolia; a few traces of Shamanism, one of the oldest religions of Asia, are still left in the country.
  23. We have nothing to do with the philosophy of Buddhism in this work; this subject has been treated in the Russian language by Professor Vassilieff, entitled 'Buddhism.'
  24. Which the lamas themselves do not always understand. The Tibetan letters are arranged in horizontal lines, not like the Chinese and Mongolian, which are in vertical columns.
  25. Klaproth's explanation of this prayer, which, he says, is composed of four Hindu words, meaning 'Oh! precious lotus,' is unsatisfactory. See Timkowski's 'Travels,' English edition, London, 1827, vol. ii. p. 349, note.

    Mr. Wilson found these words beautifully inscribed on stones in some parts of the Himalayas, even high up the mountains. In reference to their meaning, he quotes Koeppen's remarks in the 'Lamaische Hierarchie und Kirche,' p. 59, which are most striking. See 'The Abode of Snow,' by Andrew Wilson. Blackwood, London, 1875. pp. 329-332. — M. (See Supplementary Note.)

  26. Called in Mongolia sumo, less frequently kit or datsan.
  27. The Chinese Government maintains a division of troops and an envoy plenipotentiary at Lhassa [which seems somewhat inconsistent with merely 'nominal' subjection. — Y.]
  28. See p. 11, supra. — Y.
  29. 103 in all. Hyacinthe's 'Statistical Description of the Chinese Empire,' part ii. p. 60.
  30. Properly speaking, the word 'lama' is only applied by Mongols to their superior clergy; an ordinary member of that profession is called Huvarak. But the former name is much more generally used than the latter.
  31. Lamas holding important posts at the temples are entirely freed from imposts; those non-officiating are paid for by their families.
  32. Lamas unattached to a temple, but who live in yurtas, also take pupils.
  33. The temple of Kumbum is in the province of Kan-su, near Si-ning.
  34. The dress of the lamas is invariably yellow, with a red belt or band over the left shoulder. At prayer-time, special yellow mantles and tall caps are worn, differing in appearance according to their rank.
  35. [Col. Prejevalski's opinion seems to be that when the tree produces its fruits, then, and not till then, is the time to plant it. — Y.] Geographically Mongolia of to-day comprises the extent of country from the upper waters of the Irtish on the west to Manchuria on the east, and from Siberia on the north to the Great Wall and the Mahomedan countries lying near the Thian Shan on the south. Its southern boundary, however, is south of the Great Wall, in the basin of lake Koko-nor, where the frontier takes a deep bend to the south.
  36. Northern Mongolia, i.e. the Khalka country, is composed of 4 aimaks and 86 koshungs; Inner and Eastern Mongolia, with Ordos, of 25 aimaks, divided into 51 koshungs; the country of the Chakhars into 8 banners; Ala-shan forms 1 aimak, with 3 koshungs; Koko-nor and Tsaidam, 5 aimaks, and 29 koshungs. Western Mongolia, so-called Dzungaria, comprises 4 aimaks, and 32 koshungs; but as the numbers of its Mongol inhabitants were small in comparison with the Chinese immigrants before the insurrection, it was divided into seven military circuits. The aimak of Uriankhai includes 17 koshungs. Full details on the administrative divisions of Mongolia may be found in Hyacinthe's 'Statistical Description of the Chinese Empire,' part ii. p. 88-112; and in 'Timkowsky's Travels' (English translation, edited by Klaproth, London, 1827, vol. ii. p. 223-292). From these two sources I have derived my information on the territorial divisions and government of Mongolia. [Aimak is properly a division of persons, not of territory, though it may have acquired a localised sense. Originally all the organisation of Mongol authority had reference to persons, who might be on the Volga one year, on the Amur another. — Y.]
  37. Every squadron has two officers, six under-officers, and 150 rank and file.
  38. Assemblies are also summoned on extraordinary occasions.
  39. The governor of Kuku-hoto has the charge of Ordos, Western Tumit, and the nearest aimaks of Mongolia; Koko-nor and Tsaidam are placed under the governor of Si-ning (in Kan-su); the two westernmost aimaks of Khalkas are governed by the tsiang-tsiun of Uliassutai, and so on.
  40. Two of these (Urumchi and Barkul) were included in the province of Kan-su.
  41. The name 'Tsasak' is given to every proprietary chief in Mongolia.
  42. The salaries of the princes alone amount to 120,000 lans of silver and 3,500 pieces of silk annually.
  43. These princesses also receive fixed salaries from the Emperor, and are only allowed to come to Peking once in ten years.
  44. A prince of the 1st rank receives 2,000 lans of silver and 25 pieces of silk.

    A prince of the 2nd rank receives 1,200 lans of silver and 15 pieces of silk.

    A prince of the 3rd rank receives 800 lans of silver and 13 pieces of silk.

    A prince of the 4th rank receives 500 lans of silver and 10 pieces of silk.

    A prince of the 5th rank receives 300 lans of silver and 9 pieces of silk.

    A prince of the 6th rank receives 200 lans of silver and 7 pieces of silk.

    Tsasak tai-tsi (nobles), receive 100 lans of silver and 4 pieces of silk.

  45. Men are liable to military duty from the age of eighteen to sixty; one man in three of a family is relieved from service. The arms are exceedingly bad, consisting of spears, swords, bows, and matchlock guns.