Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/40

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20

TRADE CARAVANS. DZERENS.

fire while writing to prevent the ink in it from congealing. And I always preferred writing my journal in ink, only using a pencil in extreme cases — the latter rubs out so easily and becomes illegible.

Every day caravans passed us on their way from Inner Mongolia, Uliassutai, and Kobdo to Koko-nor. They carried leather and wool to barter with the Chinese for millet, tea, tobacco, flour, cotton yarn, and other articles of domestic use. With the exception of tea, all the other articles might be supplied by the Russians if our commercial relations with Mongolia were more extensive. Kobdo, Uliassutai and Urga, the chief places in the north and the richest part of the country, are almost adjacent to our Siberian frontier, and yet all the imports to these towns are derived from China, and it is to China that the inhabitants go to make their purchases, travelling thousands of miles across the desert and passing months on the way.

On fine calm days I went after dzerens, which were plentiful at a distance of three miles from camp. At that time the dzerens were attacked by an epidemic producing great weakness, soon followed by death. Numbers of their dead bodies strewed the steppe, where they were devoured by crows and wolves, and were also collected for food by the Chinese, who came from Kuku-khoto for this purpose.

Although we were not on the best of terms with the inhabitants, whose character we thoroughly understood by this time, Mongol visitors would often