Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet/Volume 1/Chapter 3
THE SOUTH-EASTERN BORDER OF THE MONGOLIAN PLATEAU.
Peking — First Impressions — The Streets and Walls — European Establishments — Preparations for the Journey — Fire-arms and Outfit — Insufficiency of Funds and its Consequence — Financial Arrangements — Chinese Currency — Inconveniences of the Copper Currency — Passport — Departure from Peking — Preliminary Tour to the North — Ku-pe-kau Gate in Wall — Migration of Wild-fowl — Road to Dolon-nor — Wood on the Way — Jehol — Fauna of the Route — Goitre — Khingan Range — Dolon-nor — Idol Foundry — Shandu River — Tsagan Balgas — Sandhills called Guchin-gurbu or 'the 33' — A Steppe-fire on the Dalai-nor — The Lake Dalai — Birds on the Lake — Mocking-bird — Surveying Difficulties — Mode of Surveying — Suspicions of the Natives — The Route plotted daily — Road back to Kalgan — Steppe Horses — Imperial Pasture Lands — Climate of South-Eastern Mongolia — The two-humped Camel — Its habits, uses, &c. — Arrival at Kalgan.
Peking, or, as the Chinese call, it, Peh-king, was the starting point of our expedition. Here we met with the most cordial hospitality from our countrymen, the members of the diplomatic and clerical missions, and here we abode nearly two months making preparations for the journey. My acquaintance with the city is very superficial. Its great extent and outlandish appearance to European eyes, the strange manners of the Chinese, and, lastly, ignorance of the language, prevented me from acquainting myself in detail with all its marvels. I may candidly confess, however, that the impression it left on my mind was far from agreeable; indeed, a new comer could hardly be pleased with a city in which cess-pools and crowds of naked beggars are the adjuncts of even the best streets. If we add to this the insolent effrontery of the Chinese themselves and the nickname of Kwei-tsz, i.e. 'foreign devils,' with other opprobrious epithets, which they bestowed upon us, it may readily be imagined that Peking is not the pleasantest place in the world for a stroll. To complete the picture, collectors of manure are continually moving about plying their trade with baskets on their arms; the smells are beyond description, and the water used for laying the dust is taken from the sewers.
The principal streets are wide and straight, bordered with rows of shops decorated in every conceivable style, and with mud walls which conceal from view the dwellings of the inhabitants. The town is lighted with paper lanterns stuck on wooden tripods several hundred yards apart, in which are usually placed lighted tallow candles. There is no particular need, however, of nocturnal illumination, because the Chinese generally conclude their out-door business by sunset, so that with the approach of twilight hardly anyone is to be seen abroad even in the most populous quarters of the town.
Peking is divided into two parts, an inner town (Nei-cheng) in which the palace of the Emperor stands, and an outer (Wai-cheng), much smaller than the first, each being surrounded by a battlemented mud wall (on which towers rise at intervals), that of the inner about fourteen miles in circumference, 33 ft. in height and 60 ft. thick, with nine gates, which are closed at sunset and opened at sunrise; that of the outer only ten miles round with seven gates.
The five foreign embassies are all together in the southern quarter of the inner town near the gate of Tsian-men. Our missionary establishment stands in the north-eastern angle of the so-called northern suburb (Peh-kwan); this town also contains four Catholic churches, several Protestant institutions, and a custom-house. These complete the list of European buildings in Peking, no foreign merchants, Russians included, having the right by treaty of trading here.
The task of preparing for our journey was not an easy one. We had no one to consult, for none of the Europeans resident at that time at Peking had travelled beyond the Great Wall in a westerly direction. Our object was to strike the northern bend of the Yellow River, visit the country of Ordos and Lake Koko-nor, and, in fact, explore regions almost entirely unknown to Europeans. We had, therefore, to be guided by our instincts in equipping ourselves with everything needful, and in deciding upon the best means of travelling.
Our winter journey from Kiakhta to Peking, followed by a prolonged residence in the latter city, convinced me that the only chance of success in travelling through the secluded dominions of China lay in entire independence of the inhabitants, who viewed with hostility every attempt of Europeans to penetrate into the more remote regions of their country. We tried in vain to find a Chinese or a Mongol who would accompany us on our proposed wanderings. The offer of liberal payment, the promise of a large reward if the journey were successful, and other tempting baits of this kind, failed to overcome their distrust and cowardice; some at first agreed to our proposals, but afterwards broke their word. Seeing how impossible it was to depend on such auxiliaries for a distant expedition like ours, we determined on buying camels and managing them ourselves, with the assistance of two Cossacks who were to accompany us.
Having procured seven pack-camels and two riding-horses, we proceeded to arrange the baggage and take necessary supplies for a twelvemonth, as this time we did not expect to reach Koko-nor, but intended devoting a year to the exploration of the middle course of the Yellow River, and then returning to Peking. When everything was ready, our impedimenta consisted chiefly of guns and ammunition for the chase, both very ponderous but indispensable: first, as a means of collecting specimens of birds and animals; secondly, because we should have to depend on them for supplying us with food in the districts which had been entirely depopulated by the Dungans, as well as in those parts of China where the inhabitants might refuse to sell us provisions in the hopes of starving us out; lastly, our guns would protect us against robbers, by whom, at all events during the first year, we were unmolested, a circumstance which may be attributed to our being well-armed, and proving the force of the old maxim, 'Si vis pacem para bellum.'
The rest of our baggage comprised the apparatus for preparing specimens and drying plants; such as blotting-paper, pressing-boards, tow for stuffing, plaster-of-Paris, alum, &c., &c. All this was packed into four large boxes which galled the backs of our camels, but, at the same time, were indispensable to contain the collections. Lastly, I purchased a quantity of small articles for the sum of about 40l. to assist me in my assumed character of merchant. This merchandise, however, proved to be a useless incumbrance; the time lost in trafficking interfered with our scientific pursuits, and did not serve to conceal the real object of our journey. The provisions for our immediate wants were a case of French brandy, 36 lbs. of sugar, and two sacks of rice; we hoped to obtain as much meat as we required with our guns.
This meagre supply for our personal consumption was occasioned by the slenderness of our finances. The first year of our travels we received from the War Department, the Geographical Society, and the Botanical Gardens of St. Petersburg the aggregate sum of 350l., including my salary; in the second and third the amount was increased to 500l.; my travelling companion, M. Pyltseff, received the first year 40l. and the two following 80l. I state the case plainly as to our monetary resources simply because the want of means was the greatest possible hindrance to us. In proof of this, I may remark that as each Cossack was entitled to 28l. a year salary, which I paid regularly in silver, I could not afford more than two men. My companion and I were, therefore, obliged to load the camels ourselves, to pasture them, to collect argols for fuel, &c., in fact, do all the drudgery; whereas, under other circumstances, the time thus spent might have been devoted to scientific observations. Again, I could not afford a good interpreter of the Mongol language, thoroughly conversant with his duties, who would have been of the greatest service on several occasions. My Cossack-dragoman was by turns labourer, herdsman, cook, constantly employed in one or other of these capacities, and only able now and then to spare a short time for his legitimate business. Lastly, our poverty was the cause of our actually suffering from hunger more than once, when no game was obtainable and we could not pay the extortionate price demanded for a sheep. On returning to Peking after the first year, I could not help smiling on hearing a member of one of the foreign embassies enquire how we managed to carry about with us so large a quantity of silver, gold not being current in Mongolia. What would this gentleman have thought of us if he had known that on starting from Peking we only took 65l. in cash?
To add still more to our embarrassment, the moneys assigned for our use were not even paid in full, but were remitted to Peking in half-yearly instalments by the War Department, and a year in advance by the Geographical Society and Botanical Gardens. The obliging assistance of General Vlangali rescued us from the critical position in which we should otherwise have found ourselves, and I received out of the Mission fund a loan of the annual amount payable to me, and, on starting for the second time, even more.
Silver rubles are exchanged at Peking at the rate of two for one liang (taël) of Chinese silver (5s. 6d.). I should also mention that, with the exception of the small cash, made of copper alloyed with zinc, there is no coinage in China. Silver is always paid and received by weight, and according to assay. The unit is the liang (taël or ounce), its tenth part is a kiang (also pronounced tsiang); the tenth of a kiang is a feng; 16 liangs make a king (or hing). The weight of the ounce varies according to the three different scales used, viz. government, market, and hand-balance. The purest silver is cast in wedge-shaped ingots, each weighing about 50 ounces and bearing the government mark, or the stamp of the private firm which has cast them. There is less alloy in this than in any other. In paying small sums you cut off bits from the ingot as you require them, weighing them in a hand-balance; for larger dealings a pair of scales and two bowls are used. In these transactions the experienced Chinaman invariably gets the better of you, by inclining the balance one way or the other, according as he has to pay or receive; he will also cheat you, in the quality, particularly when in small lumps, which are apt to contain a good deal of bad metal.
I should also mention that petty transactions are ordinarily settled with cash, which are so heavy that a ruble's worth (about 2s. 8d.) weighs on an average 8. lbs. Of course you cannot take enough coins with you, and are, therefore, obliged to exchange your silver as you find it necessary; your difficulties are further increased by the different rates of exchange in almost every town and in many of the villages in China. In some places, 30 cash count as a hundred, in others 50, 78, 80, 92, 98 are worth no more: an absurdity which could only be met with in this country. But these local exchanges do not exclude the general rate which equalises the values of the coin. The latter is known to the Mongols under the name of 'manchan,' the former as 'dzelen.' Before buying anything you must always ask whether the price is according to the general or local rate; otherwise, you may find yourself out in your calculations. If, in addition to all this, it be considered that weights and measures differ all over the Empire, you may form an idea of the fraud and dishonesty to which the traveller is exposed even in the most trifling purchases. In order to avoid disputes in weighing silver, and also for the sake of economy, I bought the medium or market scales; but they seldom answered our purpose. We lost heavily by exchanging silver into copper, as we were often unable to ascertain the local rate, which varies every ten miles or so. Indeed, from first to last we paid a large premium to the roguery and rascality of the natives, and were imposed upon in the most scandalous way.
Through the courteous intervention of our Ambassador we received a passport from the Chinese Government, permitting us to travel in South-eastern Mongolia and Kan-su; and having completed our preparations, we started from Peking on March 9th, accompanied by every good wish for our happiness and success from our countrymen resident in that city, amongst whom we had passed our time so agreeably. Those pleasant days were now gone by, and in the bustle and anxiety of present arrangements we had little time even to think of the future, with all its hopes and fears.
In addition to the Cossack who had accompanied us from Kiakhta, another, attached to our embassy at Peking, was ordered to join our party. Both these men were only to remain with us temporarily, and were to be replaced by two others who had not yet arrived. Under these circumstances we could not at once enter the heart of Mongolia, and therefore determined to explore such parts of it as lie north of Peking in the direction of the town of Dolon-nor. Here I wished, in the first place, to acquaint myself with the nature of the hilly region which, just as at Kalgan, forms the border-land of the plateau, and secondly, to observe the spring flight of birds of passage. For the latter purpose, lake Dalai-nor was a convenient station, situated on the table-land itself, 100 miles north of Dolon-nor. From its shores we purposed again descending to Kalgan, changing our Cossacks for the newcomers whose arrival we expected about that time, and then turning westwards in the direction of the northern bend of the Hoang-ho. In order to burden ourselves as little as possible, we despatched part of our effects direct to Kalgan, only taking with us what was absolutely necessary for two months. Having been unsuccessful in hiring a Mongol or Chinaman, even for so short a time, we started a party of four.
Our route first lay in the direction of Ku-peh-kau, which commands the pass through the Great Wall, and is nearly seventy-seven miles north of the capital. At first the appearance of the country does not change; the level plain watered by the Peiho and its tributary the Cha-ho is thickly studded with villages, and small towns and hamlets recur frequently along the road-side; but on the second day the mountains, which had been hitherto hardly visible in the distance, appeared nearer, and thirteen miles from Ku-peh-kau we entered the outlying hills of this marginal range. It is somewhat different from that at Kalgan. The two chains, which we will call the Kalgan and Nankau ranges (after the towns at the foot of the passes by which they are respectively descended), unite towards Ku-peh-kau in a broad belt, which continues to form an outer barrier to the high plateau.
Ku-peh-kau is a small place enclosed on three sides by mud walls, while on the fourth it is shut in by the Great Wall. A little over a mile from the town stands a mud fort commanding the road to Peking through a small narrow defile. The mountains only really begin on the northern side of Ku-peh-kau.
Although early in March, the weather was warm and springlike in the plains; it was even hot during the day, and the thermometer registered 59° Fahr. in the shade. The Peiho was free of ice, and flocks of wild duck (Anas rutila, A. boschas) and merganser (Mergus merganser and M. serrator) could be seen. These birds and other varieties of waterfowl and wading-birds make their appearance here in numerous flocks in the first half of the month, not only in the environs of Peking, but even near Kalgan where the climate is sensibly colder. Not venturing to continue their flight to the north where the breath of spring has not yet made itself felt, they keep to the flooded fields, which at this season are irrigated by the agricultural Chinese. One fine clear morning the impatient flocks essay a flight over the high lands, but if met by cold or bad weather they again return to the warm plains, where day by day their numbers increase, till at length the expected hour arrives; the deserts of Mongolia are slightly warmed, the ice-bound soil of Siberia has begun to thaw, and flock after flock hasten to leave their confined quarters in a foreign land and wing their way towards their haunts in the distant north.
Beyond Ku-peh-kau in the direction of Dolon-nor the mountains form a belt 100 miles in width, composed of a number of parallel chains running east and west, of no great elevation, yet often alpine in character. The valleys are not wide (about half a mile) occasionally narrowing into ravines, hemmed in by lofty rocks of gneiss and granolite. The road is crossed by several small streams, none amounting to rivers, with the exception of the Shandu-gol or Luan-ho, which takes its rise on the northern slope of the mountains nearest to the plateau; and after flowing past the town of Dolon-nor forces its way through the entire range and debouches in the plains of China Proper. The steep hillsides were thickly covered with grass, and as we penetrated farther into the range, by brush-wood and trees; the latter chiefly consisting of oak, black, or more rarely white birch, ash, pine, and an occasional spruce. Elms and poplars grow in the valleys. The commonest bushes were the evergreen oak, rhododendron, wild peach, sweet briar, and hazel.Woods are only met with on the northern bank of the Luan-ho as far east as the town of Jehol,
RUINS OF EMPEROR'S SUMMER PALACE.
the summer residence of the Emperor. These forests used formerly to be strictly preserved for the Imperial chase, but the death of Kia-king in 1820 while hunting put a stop to this amusement. Notwithstanding the foresters placed there to protect it, the timber is undergoing wholesale destruction and judging from what we saw, hardly a good-sized tree remained, the number of stumps evidencing recent and extensive fellings.
The only animal we found was the pygarg (Cervus pygargus); the natives, however, asserted that there were roe-deer and tigers. Pheasants (Phasianus torquatus), partridges (Perdix barbata, P. chukar), and rock-doves (Columba rupestris) were plentiful; woodpeckers (Picus sp.), buntings (Emberiza ciodes?) and Pterorhinus Davidii more scarce. The ornithology was not very varied, perhaps because the season was not far enough advanced for the migratory birds.
This border district forms part of the circuit of Chen-tu-fu, and belongs to the province of Chihli. Although outside the Great Wall, i.e. beyond the boundary of China Proper, its inhabitants are exclusively Chinese, not a single Mongol being found among them. The valleys are covered with villages or detached farm-houses, surrounded by cultivated fields. But they are so confined as to be ill adapted for human habitation, and some of the inhabitants are dreadfully disfigured by goîtres.
We passed numerous trains of carts, asses, and a few camels on the road, employed in the transport of rice and millet to Peking; large droves of swine were also being driven to the capital, pork being the favourite food of the Celestials. As we left behind the plains of China the climate gradually became colder, the thermometer at sunrise only marked 7° Fahr., but during the day it was warm, and snow had entirely disappeared, except on the northern slopes of the higher mountains.
The ascents are very gradual. Ku-peh-kau on the southern side of the mountains is only 700 feet above sea-level; while Dolon-nor, situated on the elevated plain, which spread out before us on issuing from the mountains, is 4,000 feet high. On the Mongolian side this region is sharply defined by an alpine chain which, as the inhabitants told us, extends a long distance to the north, and is probably the great Khingan range, separating Manchuria from Mongolia. Where we crossed, only one side of the range — that towards the mountains, is fully developed; on the other the wild scenery is suddenly transformed into low, rounded hills; vegetation undergoes as marked a change in the absence of trees and bushes. No more bold cliffs and pointed peaks, but in their stead vast uneven plains surround the spectator, where the marmot, the antelope, and the Mongol lark reappear.
On March 29th, we arrived at the town of Dolon-nor, which, according to my observations of the Polar star, lies in 42° 16′ north latitude. Followed by a gaping crowd, we marched through the streets for a long while in search of a night's lodging, but were refused admittance at every inn on the pretext of there not being room for us. Exhausted by the length of our march, and chilled to the bones, we determined to follow the advice of a Mongol and seek shelter at a temple. Here they gladly received us, and placed at our disposal a house where we could warm ourselves and rest after our fatigues.
Dolon-nor, or, as the Chinese call it, Lama-miau, like Kalgan and Kuku-khoto, is an important place of trade. Hither the Mongols drive their cattle, and bring wool and skins to barter for brick-tea, tobacco, cotton, and silk. The town is not walled, but stands in a barren sandy plain watered by the Urtin-gol, a tributary of the Shandu-gol. The Chinese quarter is rather over a mile in length by about half a mile in width; its population is large, but the streets are narrow and dirty. The Mongolian quarter, distant half-a-mile from the former, contains two large temples standing close together, surrounded by houses, inhabited by about 2,000 lamas, whose numbers in summer are greatly augmented by the arrival of pilgrims. Near these temples stands a school for boys destined to become lamas.
Dolon-nor is remarkable for its foundry of idols and other religious appurtenances, which are despatched hence all over Mongolia and Tibet. The images are of cast iron or bronze, of various shapes and sizes, and are wonderfully executed, considering that they are all made by artificers working in separate houses.
We remained here a day and then started for Lake Dalai-nor, 100 miles to the north. Our road soon crossed the Shandu-gol, near the ruins of an ancient town known to the Mongols under the name of Tsagan-balgas, signifying 'White Walls.' Nothing remains except a half-ruined quadrilateral brick wall ten to fourteen feet high, inclosing an area about a quarter of a mile in length by about 200 yards wide, which has the appearance of a field without any visible trace of habitations. The Mongols could tell us nothing of its past history.
Twenty-seven miles beyond Dolon-nor we entered the aimak (principality) of Keshik-ten; from this point of the road a succession of sandy hillocks, called by the natives Guchin-gurbu, i.e. thirty-three, extends as far as Dalai-nor. This name probably denoted the countless number of the hills, which vary in height from thirty to fifty, and in some instances 100 feet, and lie in close proximity to each other without any regularity. They are chiefly sand, in some places quite bare, but more frequently covered with grass or willow bushes, interspersed with an occasional oak, lime, and black and white birch. Quantities of hares and partridges are found in the underwood; pygargs and wolves in smaller numbers. We passed an occasional valley suited to cultivation, but the Mongol encampments were rare owing to the scarcity of water, although an occasional Chinese village might be seen. The numerous cart-tracks of Chinese, who come here from Dolon-nor to obtain wood for fuel, cause one easily to lose one's road without a guide, which happened to us several times during our first day's journey among the Guchin-gurbu. There are no landmarks to steer by, one hill is exactly like another, and as soon as you have ascended one, dozens more, all as though cast in the same mould, rise up in front of you. The Mongols say that these hills begin at the sources of the Shara-muren and continue for upwards of 150 miles to the west of Dalai-nor.
No sooner had we reached the shores of this lake than we witnessed the magnificent sight of a steppe fire. Although we had seen many such conflagrations in the mountains on the border, purposely lighted by the inhabitants to consume last year's withered grass, this spectacle far surpassed any we had yet beheld.
Towards evening a small light was visible on the horizon, which in the course of two or three hours became a long line of fire advancing rapidly across the open plain. A solitary hill in the centre was soon enveloped in flames, and appeared like a great building burning above the rest. The heavens were cloaked with clouds refulgent with a purple glow, which threw a lurid glare far and wide over the steppe; columns of smoke rose in fantastic shapes till they were lost to the eye in a confused, indistinct mass. In the foreground lay the vast plain lighted up by the burning belt; behind, the darkness of night, which seemed blacker and more impenetrable than ever; the lake resounded with the loud cries of startled birds, while all was still and quiet on the plain.
Dalai-nor lies to the north of the hills of Guchin-gurbu, and is the largest of the lakes of South-east Mongolia. In shape it is a flattened ellipse with an axis elongated from north-east to south-west. Its western shore is indented by several bays, but the remainder of its coast-line is almost unbroken. Its water is salt, and, according to the natives, very deep; but we could hardly believe this statement, because at a distance of several hundred paces from the shore its depth is not more than two or three feet. It is about forty miles in circumference, and is joined by four small streams: the Shara-gol and Gungir-gol on the east; the Holeh-gol and Shurga-gol on the west. The lake abounds in fish, of which we caught three kinds, Diplophysa sp., Squalius sp., and Gasterosteus sp. In summer the fish enter the mouths of the streams in large numbers; and in early spring several hundred Chinese, mostly houseless vagrants, make their appearance on its shores for the purpose of fishing, and remain till late in the autumn.
On the north and east it is bordered by saline plains, and on the west by rolling steppes; the hills of Guchin-gurbu closely approach its southern shore. Here stands a small group of hills, at the foot of which is the temple of Darhan-ula and a Chinese village. The inhabitants of the latter trade with the Mongols, who come here in large numbers during the summer for religious worship, and sometimes buy live fish from the fishermen, returning them to the lake in order to atone for their sins.
Dalai-nor lies at an elevation of 4,200 feet above the sea, its climate is, therefore, as rigorous as the rest of Mongolia. In the middle of April its shores were still frozen, and the ice on the lake itself is three feet thick. It does not entirely thaw till the first half of May.
Situated in the midst of the arid plains of Mongolia, Lake Dalai-nor serves as a great rendezvous for migratory birds belonging to the orders Natatores and Grallatores. In the beginning of April we found large numbers of ducks, geese, and swans here; divers, gulls, cormorants, less numerous, as were also cranes, herons, spoonbills and avosets. The two latter kinds and others belonging to the same order (Waders) first appeared in the second week of April; birds of prey and small birds were very scarce.
For a detailed description of the flight and habits of these birds I must refer the reader to the second volume of this work, which will be especially devoted to the Ornithology; for the present I will only add that all birds of passage hasten their flight across the deserts of Mongolia, for on cold, stormy days the lake was crammed with ducks and geese, but no sooner did the weather improve than it proceeded rapidly to empty, until a fresh flight took place.
The violent and cold winds prevalent on Dalai-nor wеге a great hindrance to our shooting excursions; however, we killed duck and geese enough to provide ourselves with food, sometimes more than sufficient for our wants, but we shot for the mere love of sport; for the swans, which were very shy, we almost always used the rifle.
After passing thirteen days on the shores of the lake, we retraced our road to Dolon-nor, in order to proceed thence to Kalgan. The hills of Guchin-gurbu appeared as uninteresting as ever, but their stillness was occasionally enlivened by the beautiful notes of the flesh-coloured stonechat (Saxicola Isabellina), met with throughout the whole of Central Asia; it not only utters its own notes, but borrows those of other birds, imitating them very sweetly. We have heard it mock the cry of the kite, chatter like a magpie, scream like a curlew, sing like a lark, and even try to mimic the neighing of a horse.
Surveying in a country where there are so few landmarks was most difficult. Indeed, it was always very troublesome work to combine the accuracy and secresy which were alike indispensable. Had the natives, particularly the Chinese, discovered that I was mapping their country, our difficulties would have been doubled, and we should have found it next to impossible to pass through the populous districts. Fortunately I was never surprised with the map, and no one ever knew that I was sketching my route. My surveying instrument was a Schmalkalder compass, which is usually fixed on a tripod stand; but as this would have excited suspicion and interfered with the success of the expedition, I determined to do without it, and steadied the compass in my hands. If the needle continued in motion for more time than I could conveniently spare, I read off the mean degrees between the extreme points of oscillation. In measuring distances I reckoned by the number of hours of travel and our rate of progress. The scale of my map was 10 versts to the inch. I carried a small field-book for noting all conspicuous objects, as it is never safe to trust to one's memory in such work, where accuracy is of the highest importance. At the end of every day's journey I transferred the field survey to my diary, keeping the map on ruled sheets carefully stowed away in one of the boxes.
My plan was this: After taking bearings in the direction we were going and noting the time by my watch, I drew a line in my pocket-book corresponding as nearly as possible with that of our march; at the end of it I entered the degrees and marked off the intersections with figures in their regular order. Then as we advanced I sketched in the country on either side, taking bearings of the more important objects only. When we altered our course, I calculated the distance we had come, made an entry of it in my note-book, and took fresh bearings for the new direction. This was sometimes difficult to determine when we had no guide; in such case I took several bearings, and afterwards underlined the bearing that proved to be the one followed. It often happened that I was prevented making an entry at any given place owing to our being watched by Chinese or Mongols: in such case I deferred it to a more suitable opportunity, reckoning the distance we had come backwards to the point of deviation. When travelling in a thickly populated district, some one or other of the inhabitants would be constantly with us. To avoid observation I would then ride in advance or remain behind the caravan; if a guide were with us, we had figuratively to 'throw dust in his eyes,' which we usually managed in the following way. On first making the acquaintance of the new travelling companion I would show him my field-glass, explaining to him that I was in the habit of looking for game with it. The unsophisticated Mongol did not distinguish between the field-glass and the compass, and as we often shot antelope and birds he was fully convinced that I could discover their presence by looking into 'the artful machine.' In this way, time after time, I succeeded in deceiving the officials. When they pestered me with questions and were curious to know why I carried a compass, I would speedily substitute the field-glass and place it before them, as I always had it with me during the march.
Sometimes it would be necessary to take compass bearings when a number of these inquisitive fellows were watching. My companion would then try and divert their attention whilst I was thus occupied. Numerous were the stratagems and artifices to which we were obliged to have recourse in fulfilling our task in the midst of a people who (in the case of the Chinese, at all events), were hostile to us.
On arriving at the halting place, after unloading the camels, pitching the tent, collecting argols, and doing other necessary work which we shared with the Cossacks, I would transfer to the ruled sheets of paper the survey of that day, taking the precaution of shutting myself in the tent and stationing a guard at its entrance to avoid interruption. But even then visitors would arrive and interfere with my work, which could not be resumed till they were got rid of, when I would finish and put it by till the following day.
I drew on the map the line of our march, marking all the settled habitations (towns, villages, houses, temples, but never nomad encampments), wells, lakes, rivers, and streams, however small, and lastly, mountains, hills, and the general outline of the country on both sides of our road. Important data obtained by hearsay only were entered with an asterisk, to denote that they had not been verified by actual observation. To ensure accuracy in the map, I determined by means of a small universal instrument the latitude of eighteen important places. The work of surveying, simple though it may seem, was one of our most arduous labours; for, independent of every device to escape notice, the frequent necessity for dismounting added greatly to our fatigues, especially in the heat of summer. Even in the hottest weather, instead of taking advantage of the cool nights, we often had to travel by day for the sake of our survey, in this way exhausting our own strength as well as that of our camels.
We continued our journey from Dolon-nor, where I only stopped to make a few necessary purchases, to Kalgan, a distance of 150 miles by a good road all the way. The traffic is very large, and numerous Chinese two-wheeled bullock carts passed us laden with all kinds of merchandise; salt is also transported by this road to Kalgan, from a salt lake (so the natives told us) 130 miles north of Lake Dalai-nor. Caravanserais stand by the road-side for the convenience of travellers; but we never made use of them, preferring a clean tent and pure air to the dirt and smells of Chinese inns, besides avoiding the impertinent curiosity of the Mongols or Chinese, who invariably crowded round us whenever we stopped near their habitations.
There are Chinese villages and numerous Mongol yurtas on the Dolon-nor road, and countless herds of sheep, cows, and horses in every part of the steppe.
Topographically, this region may be described as a series of vast uneven plains with a sandy, and, in some places, saline soil, but covered everywhere with rich excellent grass. There is an utter absence of trees or bushes, but streams and small lakes are more numerous here than in other parts of Mongolia. The water, however, in the latter is filthy; to have an idea of it, take a tumbler of water mixed with a tea-spoonful of dirt, flavour with a pinch of salt, add a little lime for colour and goose droppings for smell, and you will then obtain a liquid similar to that in most of the Mongolian lakes. The natives, however, far from showing any repugnance to this nectar, boil their tea in it the whole year round, and even we were fain to drink it for want of better. The great steppe country through which we passed on our way from Dolon-nor is the pasture land of the Imperial horses. Every herd (called dargu by the Mongols) of these animals numbers 500, and is under the charge of an officer, a superior functionary being placed over all. They supply the cavalry remounts in time of war.
Let us now say a few words about the Mongol horses. They are rather under the average height, their legs and neck thick, their head large, and their coat long and shaggy. They possess wonderful powers of endurance, remaining out in the open in the extreme cold, and contenting themselves with the scanty herbage, or, if there be none, with budarhana and bushes, the food of camels. In winter the snow serves them for water; in fact, they will live where other horses would perish in a month's time. They roam almost at liberty over the pasture lands of Northern Khalka and the country of the Chakhars. The larger herds are usually broken up into smaller troops of ten to thirty mares, led by a stallion who guards them with the greatest jealousy, and never lets them out of his sight. The leaders often have pitched battles with one another in spring.
Mongols are passionately fond of horses, and will tell you their good points at a glance; their favourite amusement is horse-racing, and every summer they meet at some of the principal temples to indulge in this sport. The great race-meeting is held at Urga, attracting competitors for many hundreds of miles. The prizes are distributed by the Kutukhtu in person; the winner of the first prize receiving a quantity of cattle, clothes, or money.
The Imperial pasture lands are mostly in the principality (aimak) of the Chakhars, whose territory extends upwards of 330 miles to the west of Keshik-ten till it touches that of the Durbutes. The Chakhars or Chinese-Mongols are divided into eight (illegible text) take it in turn to do military service. We have already remarked how completely they have lost the character and appearance of the true Mongols.
It was fortunate for us that we had no need of their services, for a greater set of knaves and rogues does not exist. Our tent was our house, and we lived on what we shot. Antelope were plentiful, we had no lack of meat, and were never constrained to buy a sheep, for which we had to pay through the nose, if it were not, as often happened, absolutely refused. The fear inspired by our guns and revolvers was a protection against thieves; our skill in shooting birds on the wing, or bringing down antelope with the rifle at long distances, instilled into them a wholesome dread, and every robber knew that he would pay the penalty of his life if caught in the act of stealing.
The temperature in spring in South-eastern Mongolia was cold, with constant winds and a dry atmosphere.
The night frosts continued as late as the early part of May. On the 2nd of that month the surface of a small lake near which we were encamped was covered at sunrise with ice an inch thick, strong enough to bear a man's weight. Sudden changes in temperature occur even later, as we shall have occasion presently to remark.
North-westerly gales prevailed almost without Intermission during spring. It was seldom, and only for a few hours, calm. The violence of the wind, generally accompanied by cold, was very trying, and we now fully realised the true nature of these steppes. Clouds of sand and dust, mixed with fine particles of salt from the marshes, filled the air, darkening the sun's rays, which shone dimly as if through smoke; sometimes they were entirely obscured, and it was twilight at noon. Hills half a mile off were invisible; and large particles of sand were driven with such force by the wind, that even the camels accustomed to the desert would turn their backs to the storm and wait till its fury had abated. We could not keep our eyes open when facing it; our heads ached, and there was a singing in our ears as though we were in the throes of suffocation. Everything in the tent was thickly covered with dust; and when it had been blowing hard all night we could hardly open our eyes in the morning for the layer of dirt which covered them. Now and then, in the intervals between the squalls, hail and rain would come in buckets-full, driven into the finest sleet by the force of the gale. After a few minutes of this, there would be a lull for a quarter of an hour, succeeded by another hurricane and another downpour of rain. Although our tent was fastened to the ground with twelve iron pegs, each more than a foot long, it seemed about to be torn up every minute, and we were obliged to secure it to the packs with all the ropes we had.
The total quantity of rain and snowfall is, however, small; very little, if any, occurring in March and April.
The constant frosts and winds on these high plains during the spring delay the flight of birds and retard vegetation. Towards the end of April the young grass certainly begins to shoot up under the influence of the sun's warmth, and an occasional little flower bursts forth, but nature is in general still inanimate at this season. The appearance of the steppe is but slightly changed from what it was in winter, except that the withered grass is transformed by the spring conflagrations into a sable shroud. Spring in these regions is unaccompanied by any of those delights which herald its approach in more temperate climates. Birds of passage shun these cheerless plains, where they can find neither food, nor drink, nor shelter. If a flock now and then rest in its flight on the shore of some lake, it is only for a while, soon to depart on its way to more favoured haunts in the north.
I will conclude this chapter with a description of the Camel, the most characteristic and remarkable animal of Mongolia. The constant companion of the nomad, and often the source of his prosperity, it is invaluable to the traveller who crosses the desert. For three years we were never separated from our camels, watching them under all circumstances; we had therefore ample opportunity of studying their nature and habits.
The two-humped or Bactrian camel is characteristic of Mongolia, where the one-humped species common in Turkestan is unknown. The general Mongol name for it is Timeh; the entire camel is called Burun; the gelding Atan; and the female Inga. Its good points are — a well-ribbed body, wide feet, and high upright humps far apart. The first two qualities denote strength; the last, i.e. the upright humps, show that the animal is fat, and can withstand a long journey in the desert. A very tall beast is not necessarily a good one; moderate size, with all the above points well developed, is better than great height. However, if it be well proportioned, the larger it is the better.
The largest and best camels, endowed with great powers of endurance, are bred among the Khalkas. Those of Ala-shan and Koko-nor are much smaller and weaker; the latter are also distinguished by their shorter and thicker muzzles, and the former by the darkness of their hair; peculiarities so marked as almost to form a distinct breed of the camels of Southern Mongolia.
The boundless steppe or desert is the home of the camel; here, like its master, the Mongol, it can be perfectly happy. Both the man and the beast shun fixed abodes. Confined in an enclosure, although supplied with an abundance of the best food, the camel will pine and die; excepting, perhaps, a few kept by the Chinese to transport coal, corn, or other loads. But they are poor, miserable creatures, compared with their fellows of the steppe; and even they will not bear confinement all the year round, and must be let loose in summer to pasture on the neighbouring plains and recruit their strength.
The habits of the camel are very peculiar. It is anything but dainty in its food, and may serve as a model of moderation; but this is only true on the desert: take it to pasturage such as we have at home, and instead of becoming fat it grows leaner every day. We experienced this with ours in the rich meadows of Kan-su; and the merchants at Kiakhta, who had tried keeping them for the transport of tea, told us the same thing. In either case they deteriorated for want of the food to which they had been accustomed. The lavourite food of the camel here consists of onions and budarhana (Kalidium gracile); in Ala-shan, dirisun, scrub wormwood, zak or saxaul (Haloxylon sp.) and kharmik (Nitraria Scoberi) — particularly when the sweet, brackish berries are ripe. It cannot thrive without salt, and eats with avidity the white saline efflorescence called gudjir, which covers all the marshes, and often exudes from the soil on the grass steppes of Mongolia. If there be none of this, it will eat pure salt, which, however, is not so beneficial, and should only be given twice or thrice a month. If kept without salt for any length of time camels will get out of condition, however plentiful food may be, and they have been known to take white stones in their mouths mistaking them for lumps of salt. The latter acts on them as an aperient, especially if they have been long without it. The absence of gudjir and saline plants probably explains the reason why they cannot live in good pasture lands in a hilly country, to say nothing of the want of a desert to roam over in summer.
We ought also to mention that some camels are omnivorous, and will eat almost anything; old bleached bones, their own pack saddles stuffed with straw, straps, leather, &c., &c. Ours once ate up some gloves and a leathern saddle belonging to our Cossacks; and the Mongols told me of camels which had been without food for a long while, and which devoured an old tent of their master's in the coolest manner possible. They will even eat meat and fish; ours stole meat we had hung up to dry; one voracious brute actually made off with the birdskins ready for stuffing, and relished dried fish and the remains of the dogs' food; but this was a singular instance, and his eccentric tastes were not shared by the others.
Camels at pasture appease their hunger in two or three hours, after which they lie down and rest, or wander about the steppe. They cannot go without food for more than eight or ten days, nor can they go without water in spring and autumn for more than seven, requiring it in the height of summer every third or fourth day. Much, however, depends on the powers of endurance of the particular animal; the younger and fatter it is, the longer can it exist without nourishment. It only happened to us once during the whole course of the expedition, viz. in November 1870, to keep our camels without water for six consecutive days, notwithstanding which they went well; in summer they were never more than forty-eight hours without it. At this season they should be watered daily, but in spring and autumn every second or third day is quite sufficient, and in winter snow answers the same purpose.
The intelligence of camels is of a very low order; they are stupid and timid. A hare starting from beneath their feet has been known to throw a whole caravan into confusion; and a large stone or heap of bones to cause them to bolt altogether. If the saddle or load roll off its back the camel is terrified, and runs in any direction, followed by its companions; and when attacked by a wolf it never attempts to defend itself, although one blow from its powerful foot would kill its enemy; it only cries and spits, expectorating the chewed food with the saliva, a proof of the terror which takes possession of it. When angry it will also strike the ground with its hoof, and curl up its unsightly tail. Malice indeed is not in its nature, probably on account of its apathetic temperament; but the males become vicious during the rutting season, which is in February, and they will then fight with one another, and sometimes attack mankind. The interference of man is needed to bring the sexes together. The period of gestation is thirteen months, at the expiration of which the dam gives birth to one, or as an exception two, foals. Human assistance is also required at the time of parturition. The newborn camel is the most helpless creature imaginable; it must be lifted by hand and placed under the mother's teats; but as soon as it can walk, it follows her about everywhere, and the latter is so attached to her offspring that she cannot bear to be separated from it.
The young camel enjoys but a short period of liberty. When a few months old it is tied near the yurta to separate it from the mother, which is then regularly milked by the Mongols. In the second year of its existence, its nostrils are slit and a short wooden stick inserted, to which a rope (burunduk) is afterwards fastened which serves as a halter. It is then taught to lie down at the word of command, by being pulled by the burunduk while the word 'sok, sok, sok' is repeated. In its third year it is taken with the caravan to accustom it to travel in the desert; at the age of three it may be ridden; at four it is strong enough to carry a small load; and at five it is quite fit for work.
A camel can bear a load till old age, i.e. to twenty-five and upwards; between five and fifteen it is considered in its prime. It will live upwards of thirty years, and under favourable circumstances to forty.
In loading it, the saddle is first fastened on its back, and afterwards the pack placed upon it. In the Khalka country six or eight pieces of felt are used to wrap round the back and humps underneath the saddle, a light wooden framework is then laid over these to take off the pressure of the packs. In Northern Mongolia bags filled with straw (bambai) are used instead of felt, the woodwork being the same. Great care must always be taken in loading camels, otherwise they are apt to get sore backs and become unfit for work. The Mongols wash the wounds with brine or the like, and sometimes let their dogs lick them. In summer when flies lay their eggs in the sore, the healing process becomes very tedious.
Before the departure of the caravan in autumn the camels which have been at grass all summer, and have put on too much flesh, are prepared for work by being fastened by their halters to a long rope stretched along the ground and secured at the ends to two poles driven firmly into the ground. In this way they are kept standing without any food for ten days, or even more, only receiving a little water every third or fourth day: this hardens them and takes down their spare flesh.
The average load of a camel is about 4 cwts., or four chests of tea each weighing 1 cwt. Entire camels (buruni) can bear 5 cwts., and have to carry an additional fifth chest; but they are not numerous, and are mostly reserved for the stud, as they are less tractable, and therefore not so serviceable for transport, as either geldings or mares.
The size of the load is not less important than its weight. A large unwieldy pack offers too much resistance to the wind and retards the progress of the animal; while, on the other hand, a small heavy one injures its back, the pressure being too great in one part of the saddle; thus more than 2¼ cwts. of silver is never put on a beast which carries with ease 4 cwts. of tea. Laden camels average twenty-eight miles a day, a rate of progress which can be kept up for a month. After ten days or a fortnight's rest the caravan is ready for another journey; working in this way all through the winter, i.e. for six or seven months. At the end of that period the camels grow very thin, and are given their liberty for the whole summer; this holiday and the run of the steppe restores their strength, but without it they would not last more than a year. The reason of our losing so many was the necessity for driving them continuously without ever resting them.
In March they begin shedding their coats, and at the end of June the hair has entirely disappeared, leaving the skin quite bare; at such times they are susceptible to cold, rain, and every change of weather; they are weak, and a small load soon galls their backs; but before long a fine, short, mouse-like hair begins to cover their whole bodies, and by the end of September the new coat is fully grown. The males, especially the stallions, then look their best, with long manes and tufts of hair underneath the neck, and below the knees of the fore legs.
On a winter journey the camels are hardly ever unsaddled ; but on arriving at the halting place are at once let loose to graze. In summer and hot weather the saddles must be removed every day, yet with every care and precaution sore backs cannot be always avoided. Nothing will induce an experienced Mongol to undertake a journey on camels in the hot season; our objects were of course different, and we consequently injured many of our animals.
The camel is a sociable beast, and will not forsake a caravan as long as it has strength to keep up. If from exhaustion it stop and lie down no blows will make it rise again, and it is generally left to its fate. The Mongols, however, sometimes ride to the nearest yurta and give their tired-out animal in charge of its inhabitants; when, if supplied with food and drink, it will in a few months regain sufficient strength to move about.
A camel which has fallen into a swamp is injured for life and soon grows thin; but accidents of this kind are rare in Mongolia where there are so few marshes. After rain camels cannot keep their footing in clayey soil, slipping on the flat soles of their feet and sometimes falling; but they are invaluable in a mountainous country, as we ourselves experienced in the highlands of Kan-su, where we accomplished 330 miles each way, including eight passes, all upwards of 12,000 feet above sea level; the camels certainly suffered a great deal, but what we have said proves at least that they may be taken over any alps. The road to Lhassa across Northern Tibet ascends and descends passes 16,000 feet high, and even upwards, yet these beasts accomplish the journey, although they frequently perish from the rarefaction of the atmosphere. Camels which have been at such heights are considered spoilt for ever, and the Mongols say never recover on the lower pasture lands of the Khalkas. On the other hand, the camels from the latter country thrive perfectly at Koko-nor, which is twice the elevation, and soon eat their fill on the saline meadows near the lake. In summer camels roam over the steppe unguarded, only coming once a day to their master's well for water. On a journey they are picketed for the night in a row near the tent; in winter when frost is very severe the drivers sleep with them to keep themselves warm; on the road they are tied to one another by their burunduks, and these must never be knotted, lest the animal should tear its nostrils by a sudden movement to one side, or by a step backwards.
Camels are also ridden or driven in carts. In riding the same kind of saddle as that used for horses is put on their backs; the rider mounts, and orders the animal to rise. In dismounting the camel is in general made to kneel down, but the rider may jump from the stirrup when in a hurry. Its paces are a walk or a trot, never a gallop or a canter; some will trot as fast as a good horse can gallop, and you may ride a camel seventy miles a day for a week.
Besides serving as a beast of burden and for riding, the camel supplies the Mongol with wool and milk; the latter is as thick as cream, but sweet and disagreeable; the butter made from it is far inferior to ordinary butter, and is more like boiled fat. The hair is spun into rope, which is mostly sold to the Chinese. The wool is obtained by shearing the animal when it begins to shed its coat, i.e. in March.
With a constitution as strong as iron, the camel is so accustomed to a dry atmosphere that it fears damp. After ours had lain a few nights on the moist ground in the Kan-su highlands, they caught cold and began coughing; their bodies too were covered with nasty boils; and if we had not gone on to Koko-nor, in a few months they would all have died, a misfortune that actually befell a lama who arrived in Kan-su with his camels at the same time as we did. The commonest form of illness to which they are subject is the mange, homun in Mongol. The sick beast is gradually covered with festering sores, loses its coat, and at length dies. Glanders is another malady from which they occasionally suffer. The treatment adopted by the Mongols in the former case is to pour a soup made from goats' flesh down the animal's throat, and to rub its sores with burnt vitriol, snuff, or gunpowder. At Koko-nor rhubarb is the universal remedy for camels as well as for all domestic animals, but the Mongols like to make a mystery of their medicines. In damp weather camels are very liable to coughs: the best remedy in such cases is to give them tamarisk bushes to eat, which grow abundantly in the valley of the Hoang-ho, and in other parts of Southern Mongolia.
On long journeys, particularly in those parts of the Gobi where there is a quantity of small shingle, they often become footsore, and in a little while quite unable to walk; the Mongols then cast the lame animal, and sew a piece of thick leather under the worn sole; a painful operation for the poor brute, because holes must be bored right through its foot with a thick awl in order to sew the leather on firmly; but when once this has been done, it soon recovers from its lameness and is fit for use.
On May 6th we again stood on that point of the marginal range of Mongolia where the descent to Kalgan commences. Again the grand panorama of mountain scenery lay at our feet, the bright green plains of China sparkling like emeralds in the distance. There it was warm and springlike, here on the plateau Nature was only just waking from her long winter's sleep. At every step in the descent we became more sensible of the warmth of the plains; at Kalgan itself trees were in full leaf, and we gathered thirty kinds of flowering plants in the neighbouring hills.
- Peh-king, i.e. 'northern capital.'
- The beggars in Peking are said to number 40,000; they have a king or chief of their own, who exacts a certain tribute from all the shops in the town.
- The terms 'inner 'and 'outer' are incorrect inasmuch as both lie close together, but one does not include the other. The palace is situated in the Imperial town (Hwang-cheng), which occupies the centre of the inner. A detailed description of the capital of the Celestial Empire has been translated from the Chinese by Père Hyacinthe.
- The whole of Peking, exclusive of its suburbs, is about 20 miles (58 li) in circumference. The number of its population is uncertain, but cannot be very large, because there are so many ruins and empty spaces in the town.
- English, Russian, French, German, American.
- The southern suburb, in which the diplomatic mission-buildings are situated, is called 'Yuen-kwan.'
- Peh-tang, Nan-tang, Si-tang, and Dum-tang. [Tung-tang? i.e. North, South, West, and East. — Y.]
- Twelve liangs average about a pound in weight. [Col. Prejevalski generally writes lan.]
- To facilitate calculations 500 cash are strung on a cord by means of a square hole in each.
- 15l. worth of copper cash weigh 6½ cwts., or about three camel-loads, whilst the cost of each camel is nearly 35l.!
- For instance, at Peking a liang (taël) of silver is worth 1,500 cash, at Dolon-nor 1,600, at Kalgan 1,800, at Ta-jing (in Kan-su) 2,900, and at Tonkir (also in Kan-su) 5,000. The enormous difference between the two latter towns is probably only temporary, and is caused by the excessive rise in price of every article of consumption in those districts after the Dungan desolation.
- There is one other pass between Kalgan and Ku-peh-kau; it is closed by the fortress (if a square mud wall is deserving of that name) of Tu-shi-kau.
- There are no very remarkable peaks, and the snowy Peh-cha, mentioned by the missionaries Gerbillon and Verbiest as 15,000 feet high, and by Ritter following them, is certainly not here. The statement of its existence was, however, contradicted by MM. Vassilieff and Semenoff as early as 1856. See the Russian edition of Ritter's 'Erdkunde von Asien,' translated by Semenoff, i. 292-295.
- Marked Shangtu-gol or D'Anville's map. — M.
- Dwarf limes are even more scarce.
- The name 'Jehol,' also pronounced 'Jehor' or 'Jeh-ho,' means 'hot-water,' after the springs in the neighbourhood. Ritter calls this place the Chinese 'Sans Souci,' probably on account of its delightful situation, salubrious climate, and for its being the favourite residence of the great Emperor Kien-Long. It was here that Lord Macartney's embassy was received in 1793. The town itself is large and imposing when you enter it, and contains about a quarter of a million inhabitants. It stands in a fruitful valley surrounded by mountains, on which are palaces, temples, and gardens. About a day's ride to the west are the Imperial hunting-grounds, set aside for the use of his dynasty by Kia-king, the grandfather of the late Emperor. The inscriptions on the gates of the walls and buildings are in four languages — Chinese, Manchu, Tibetan, and Mongol. ('Erdkunde von Asien,' i. 132-138. See also 'A Month in Mongolia,' 'The Phœnix,' ii. 114, 120.) — M.
- According to the most recent changes Chihli or Peh-chihli, the northern province, extends about fifty miles to the north of Dolon-nor, and ten to the east of Kalgan. See 'A Month in Mongolia,' 'The Phœnix,' ii. 1 13. — M.
- There are no towns here like those in China Proper; and we only passed two settlements, Pu-ning-sha and Gau-dji-tun.
- According to the observations of the Jesuits, Dolon-nor is situated in 0° 11′ 50″ longitude, west of Peking, and 42° 25′ north latitude. (See Klaproth's note in 'Timkowski's Travels,' i. 206); but Fritsche, director of the Peking Observatory, has calculated the latitude to be 42° 16′ 48″. See Dr. Bushell's 'Notes of a Journey outside the Great Wall of China,' J.R.G.S., vol. xliv. p. 81. — M.
- The Chinese name, Lama-miau, means 'lama monastery;' the Mongol name, Dolon-nor, signifies 'seven lakes,' which actually existed at one time near the town, but are now covered with sand-drift.
- This was a favourite resort of the Mongol emperors; Marco Polo relates that Kublai-khan had a summer residence here, which he used on his hunting excursions to the neighbouring plains and lakes. Gerbillon mentions that the Emperor Kang-hi, during his campaigns against the Oliuths in 1696, built a small square fortress here — Tsagan Balgassu — the ruins of which are perhaps those mentioned in the text. ('Erdkunde von Asien,' i. 124-141, and Yule's 'Marco Polo,' i. 260-269. See also, 'Timkowski,' i. 269.) — M. [See Supplementary Note.]
- Keshik-ten is the Mongol for 'happy,' a name which they told us was given it because in dividing Eastern Mongolia into the present aimaks it was the last that remained.
- The translation of its Mongol name is 'lake-sea.'
- According to the Mongols this river flows out of lake Hanga-nor, about thirteen miles to the east of Dalai-nor; at its mouth there is a good-sized marsh, the only one at Dalai-nor.
- We could not catch more because the lake was still frozen, and there were very few fish in the rivulets.
- The most numerous of the ducks were Anas boschas, A. crecca, A. glocitans, A. acuta, A. falcata; less numerous were Anas rutila, A. tadorna, A. clypeata, A. pœcilorhyncha, A. strepera, and Fuligula clangula.
- Anser segetum was most common; A. cinereus, in sufficient numbers; A. cygnoides and A. grandis, rare.
- Cygnus musicus and C. color. The former were the most numerous, although the latter were also seen in considerable numbers.
- Mergus merganser, M. albellus, M. serrator — not many.
- Larus ridibundus and L. occidentalis?
- Phalacrocorax carbo.
- Grus monachus and G. leucauchen, the latter rare.
- Ardea cinerea.
- Platalea leucorodia.
- Recurvirostra avocetta.
- The most numerous of the birds of prey were Milvus Govinda and Circus rufus.
- This will not form part of the present translation. — M.
- The scale of the map accompanying this translation is reduced to one-eighth of the scale of the original sketch map. — M.
- A pack animal averages two and a-half to three miles per hour, according to the nature of the ground. The rate of travel varies so much in a mountainous country that one has often to measure distances by the eye.
- Every guide we had was of course a spy, with whom we had to be more on our guard than with the local population.
- Unfortunately, I could not fix the longitudes of the same points, even by means of chronometers, for we had none.
- These pasture lands extend almost as far as Kuku-khoto.
- A camel's hump is sometimes broken; in such case it will not stand erect but that docs not matter, provided it be hard and large.
- The female camel is granted its liberty for a whole year after parturition, so that it only foals every other year.
- The pack is always securely fastened to the saddle with ropes; except in the case of tea chests, which are simply slung over the saddle.
- One of our Kalgan merchants assured me that he has kept his camels in this way without food (only watering them every other day), for seventeen days.