Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/141

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OCCUPATION; FOOD AND BEVERAGES.

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known to the Tangutans in Kan-su is the span of their arms; so that the measurement of the piece, and therefore the price to be paid for it, depends on the stature of the buyer!

The sole occupation of the Tangutan is tending cattle; this is some break to the absolute idleness to which he gives up his whole life. For hours together grown-up men and women and children sit round the hearth doing literally nothing but drink tea, which is as indispensable to them as it is to the Mongols. In the Tangut country, where, in consequence of the Dungan disturbances, the price of brick tea has considerably risen, dried yellow onion heads are used as a substitute, after undergoing a process somewhat similar to the preparation of tobacco. This 'tea' is chiefly manufactured at Tonkir,[1] and gets its name from that place. The natives drink large quantities of this nasty decoction, mixed with milk. A tea-kettle is simmering all day long on the hearth, and tea-drinking goes on at least ten times a day, guests being always invited to join.

Dzamba (barley- meal) is invariably mixed in the tea; a small quantity being put into a cup half filled with tea, and stirred with the finger, till it thickens into the consistency of paste. To this mess curds are sometimes added by way of a relish, but only by the rich; the poor have to content themselves with tea and dzamba. This disgusting mess is their

  1. This town is thirteen miles WNW. of Si-ning. [It is evidently the Tang-keu-eul of Père Huc, which no doubt is the pronunciation of the Chinese characters representing the name. — Y.]