A HERMIT IN THE HIMALAYAS
gone, broken in seven months. But for the aeroplane the Italians
would have needed seven years to conquer those dreary deserts
and rocky purple mountains which support the tablelands.
Why are these narrow-eyed, high-cheeked Tartars of Tibet so
obstinately and deliberately keen on keeping their frontiers closed?
Why do they reinforce Nature's majestic mountainous isolation with
their own unyielding determination? Why do they cling to such
excessive suspicion as tenaciously as the immaculate snows cling
to the sides of the ranges that keep guarded watch over their land?
The reasons are twofold—religious and material.
The rulers of Tibet are the priesthood. The high Lamas are all-
powerful. They appoint the sovereign—the Dalai Lama—and
compose his Council of Ministers. They hold the mass of people
within their material and spiritual grip.
They know that the coming of foreigners will be fatal to their
rule. They regard the foreigner as the bearer of materialism or
alternatively as the bearer of a strange religion—both of which are
antipathetic to their own faith, and consequently dangerous to their
They hold his fancied materialism in bitter scorn and do not
hesitate to apply the epithet "barbarian*' to the Western intruder,
who knoxvs so little of the psychic and religious mysteries whose
secrets are written down in the guarded libraries of the great
More vital, in these matter-of-fact days, is the little-known fact
that there is probably as much gold within the frontiers of Tibet as
within the frontiers of any other country in the world. There may
even be a great deal more, for no trained geologist has ever been
allowed to make a proper survey of the country's untouched lodes.
Even the gold-mines which are being worked today, under guards
of troops, lie in a forbidding and most difficult region, and are being
worked by the most primitive unscientific methods. The methods
which were used two thousand five hundred years ago are still good
enough for the modern Tibetans. They are scarcely worthy the name
of mining. No one knows with any accuracy how vast are the hoards
belonging to the great lamaseries, nor how immense are the lodes of
gold lying still unmined in the mountains. There is more than one
temple with a roof of solid gold.
Will the white faces seek to rifle Tibetan earth of its gold?
WTill Western avarice remain forever content with being kept out?
Far greater than the Lamas are the forces which today force
East and West together and make the old mingle with the new*