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


P. 253.

Shambhala; called in Tibetan b-hbyung, vulgo de-jung ('origin of happiness'), is a fabulous country in the north, the capital of which was Kálapa, a very splendid city, and the residence of many illustrious kings of Shambhala. It was situated beyond the Sita River, and the augmentation of the length of the days from the vernal equinox to midsummer amounted to twelve Indian hours (gharis), or four hours forty-eight minutes.

The Sita is one of the four mighty rivers of the Hindú mythological geography, into which the Ganges breaks after falling upon earth. It is regarded in the Vishnu Purána as flowing eastward, and would find its actual representative in the Tarim, continued to the ocean in the Hoang-ho ; and the Chinese traveller Hwen-thsang does identify it thus. Csoma de Körős, however, interprets it in the Tibetan legend as the Jaxartes, and calculates the latitude of Kálapa as between 45° and 50°.

According to some of the Tibetan books, Dazung, a king of Shambhala, visited Sákya Muni, and the latter foretold to him a great series of the kings to succeed him, followed by the rise of Mahommedanism, and then by the general re-establishment and diffusion of Buddhism,—a prophecy which one is sometimes tempted to think is receiving its accomplishment in modern Europe. Some of the Tantrika doctrines were said in Tibet to have come from Shambhala.[1]

Sambhala is in Hindú mythology the place where Kalki, the final incarnation of Vishnu, is to appear. It is identified by some with Sambhal, a very ancient Hindú town in Rohilkhand, which occurs in Ptolemy's Tables. We learn from Ibn Batuta that the last of the Mongol emperors of China sent an embassy to Sultan Mahommed Tughlak of Dehli, to obtain permission to rebuild a temple at Samhal, near the foot of Himálya, whither his (Buddhist) subjects used to go on pilgrimage. So it is probable that Sambhal may have been associated with these Tibetan legends, though lying in a wrong direction from Tibet.

When Mr. Bogle was at Tashi-lunpo the Teshu-Lama desired him particularly to inquire from the Bengal pundits about 'the situation of a town called Shambul' (Markham, p. 168).

In reference to the apparent identification that had been made between this mystic land of Shambaling and our own Isle of the West, I am tempted to introduce here (somewhat à propos de bottes, I confess) an anecdote extracted, once more, from the valuable letters of Mr. Ney Elias, to whom I have been so much indebted in the compilation of the Introductory Remarks to these volumes. After speaking of a wide-spread belief among the Mongols, and Chinese of Mongolia, in the existence of a race of people in the Alatau range who have the bills of ducks, my correspondent goes on:—

'What would a modern Japanese traveller, for instance, say, if he were to hear from the natives of Northern Mongolia that in unknown lands far to the westward, beyond the Aros (Russians) there existed a race called Inglis, who had but one leg of flesh whilst the other was of wood? He would doubtless regard the story as of a piece with that of the duck-headed mountaineers. . . . There has lived at X——— for many years past one solitary Englishman in the person of Mr. Z———. Z———, who has had the misfortune to lose one of his legs, and who is well known to the Mongols frequenting that border as an Inglis, or a western man who is not a Russian. . . . On my late journey I met with a lama, a native of the neighbourhood of X, who said he knew Mr. Z , the Inglis; but when told that I was a countryman of his, was disinclined to believe it, on account of neither of my legs being of wood!'—[Y.]

  1. See Csoma Körősi, in J. As. Soc. Bengal, ii. 57 &c.; As. Researches, xx. 488.