Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/133

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KARA-ТАNGUTANS. LANGUAGE.

111

Such is the outward appearance of the Tangutans of Kan-su. Those of another branch known as Kara- (or black) Tangutans, inhabiting the basin of Koko-nor, Eastern Tsaidam, and the sources of the Yellow River, are distinguished by a greater stature, darker complexion, and especially by their predatory habits; these again wear no pigtails, shaving the head clean.

Our studies in the language were pursued under extraordinary difficulties, owing to the want of an interpreter, and the suspicious character of the people. If we had written down a word while conversing with one of them we should never have learned anything again; the report of our having done it would soon have been circulated in the neighbourhood and would have excited endless suspicions. My Cossack interpreter, at the best a very indifferent dragoman, did not know a syllable of Tangutan, being able only to hold a conversation with such natives as understood Mongol, and these are met with rarely.[1] There was more chance of finding a Mongol who spoke Tangutan, and such a one we succeeded in obtaining for our summer trip to the mountains. But to carry on conversation through the medium of two interpreters is a tedious and irksome business. I usually spoke in Russian to the Cossack, who interpreted into Mongol, the Mongol in his turn rendering the meaning into Tangutan.

    Ladakh; at least if the custom here referred to is the same which Huc describes (ii. 254) at Lhassa, where he says the women rub their faces with 'a sort of black sticky varnish much like grape jam.' — Y.

  1. Nearly all Tangutans in Kan-su speak Chinese.