Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/163

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TEMPLE ON ISLAND. LEGEND.

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about six or seven miles in compass, on which stands a small temple inhabited by ten lamas, who have no means of communication with the main land during summer, for there is no boat on the lake, and none of the inhabitants understand the use of one. In winter pilgrims cross over the ice, and bring presents of butter and barley-meal to the hermits, who at this season come out of their cells to collect alms.

Koko-nor abounds in fish, but you find only a score or two of Mongol fishermen on its shores, and these send all that they catch to the town of Tonkin. Their nets are small, and the fishing is chiefly carried on at the mouths of the streams which flow into the lake. The only kind of fish that we saw was the Schizopygopsis nov. sp., which we captured ourselves; we heard that though there were many other species, owing to the badness of the nets they were rarely caught.

The local tradition[1] of the origin of Koko-nor represents it to have once been an underground lake in Tibet, in the place where Lhassa now stands, and to have been transferred to its present site before the memory of man. The story runs thus: —

In olden days, before the present residence of the Dalai-Lama was built, one of the sovereigns of Tibet bethought him of erecting a splendid shrine in honour of Buddha, and so having selected a site he began to build. Thousands of workmen were em-

  1. This legend is related by Huc (Souvenirs d'un Voyage, &c., vol. ii. p. 189-194). The only new point that I have been able to add is the story of the origin of the island.