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Full text of "A tour in Mongolia"

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http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924023235876 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 




THE Al'THOR 



A TOUR 
IN MONGOLIA 



BY 



BEATRIX BULSTRODE 

(Mrs. EDWARD MAMCO GULL) 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION BEARING ON THE POLITICAL ASPECT 
OF THAT COUNTRY BY 

DAVID FRASER 

(" TIMES " CORRESPONDENT IN PEKING) 



ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR'S PHOTOGRAPHS AKD A MAP 



METHUEN & GO. LTD. 

36 ESSEX STREET W.C. 

LONDON 

(; 



DS77 3.M7 

Firsi Published in igzo 



DEDICATED, BY PERMISSION, TO 

The Right Honourable Sir JOHN NEWELL JORDAN 

G.C.I.E., K.C.B., K.C.M.G. 

H.B.M. Minister in China 



INTRODUCTION 

MRS. GULL (Mrs. Bulstrode as she then 
was) had the fortune, not to mention 
the pluck, to be in Urga at a time when 
history was being made for Mongolia. I well re- 
member the perturbation in British official circles 
in Peking when this adventurous lady, at a time 
when the Chinese were fighting the Mongols, 
sought a passport to take her through the oppos- 
ing lines, and so to the desired destination. 
Needless to say the passport was not forthcoming, 
whereupon Mrs. Gull, without papers, went off by 
herself, and succeeded in making a considerable 
journey which brought her perilously close to the 
unsettled region in which guerilla warfare was 
proceeding. 

Her experiences in Inner Mongolia made it 
plain that getting through to Urga meant a detour 
so long, expensive, and risky as not to be worth 
while. Accordingly, she and her sporting com- 
panion, Mr. E. M. Gull, a fire-eater in the pursuit of 
political developments, went round the back way 
by train and reached Urga from Siberia, no small 



viii A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

adventure, considering the state of Mongolia at 
the time. What they saw Mrs. Gull describes in 
her own taking manner, and I need not say more 
about her book than that it is full of enlightenment 
as regards the character of both people and 
country. Mongolia is one of the few remaining 
great backwaters of the world, neglected because 
so remote from the sea and the civilisation arising 
out of marine communication. Nevertheless, 
through Mongolia, at no distant date, must be 
constructed that line which will link China with 
the Siberia Railway, and constitute part of the 
great trunk route joining Europe with the Far 
East. 

If those of us who dwell in the Far East are not 
very far out in our calculations, the Pacific is to 
be one of the great spheres of economic develop- 
ment in the future. In China there is illimitable 
scope for such development, and it is obvious that 
the question of the control of the quickest route 
between China and the West is one of much im- 
portance to all interested. Mongolia, moreover, 
is not all Gobi desert, nor is the Gobi a desert 
except in an unimportant degree. It is, in fact, a 
monster plateau, huge areas of which are capable 
of cultivation. At present, its pastoral inhabitants 
are like the Arabs of Mesopotamia, roaming the 
land with flocks and herds, but the land is a land 
of much promise. Its mineral wealth has hardly 



INTRODUCTION ix 

been examined at all, though gold and coal are 
known to exist. But, when we recollect the 
known mineral wealth of the whole of the 
mountainous region of the southern confines of 
Siberia, we realise that there is a corresponding 
region over the Mongolian border which is, in fact, 
part of the same mountain system. If the one is 
minerally wealthy, there is every reason to suppose 
that the other is similarly so. In thinking of the 
Mongoha of the future, then, it is only reasonable 
to suppose that, when penetrated by communica- 
tions, it will develop out of all recognition, as 
compared with its present state. 

Mrs. Gull is particularly instructive in her 
analysis of Mongol character. The Mongol is 
simple, happy, good-natured, intensely lazy, and 
apparently entirely lacking in practical qualities. 
His very disposition is the cause of his past and 
present troubles. He is, in short, not fitted to 
compete with the outside world. Therefore, he 
has become the sport of other peoples, and the 
destiny of his land is being decided for him by 
foreigners. To begin at the beginning of recent 
developments, it is necessary to go back only to 
1911. The Japanese defeat of the Russians had 
set the Chinese thinking, and, suffering much 
from foreign pressure at home, they thought to 
assert themselves in distant lands. They initiated 
a forward policy on the Burmah frontier that gave 



X A TOUR m MONGOLIA 

us trouble for some years, culminating in the 
Pienma incident. They invaded Thibet and occu- 
pied Llassa, establishing a degree of control over 
their vassal which they had never claimed before. 
They next turned their attention to Mongolia, 
where, as suzerain, they maintained only a few 
residents with trifling escorts. They planned to 
occupy Urga with a large force, and actually built 
huge barracks there. Meanwhile, Chinese colon- 
ists had been pressing into Inner Mongolia, 
buying land from the nomads and establishing 
great cultivated areas. Chinese bankers had been 
lending money at usurious rates to the simple 
Princes. All trade was in the hands of the 
Chinese. The Mongols became alive to the fact 
that China was acquiring a strangle-hold over them. 
They saw what had happened to their cousins of 
Thibet, and they became alarmed for their free- 
dom, the overwhelming passion of the nomad. 
Russia, sore at the Japanese defeat, also, at this 
time, began to think of a future in which an arisen 
China might prove a danger, as Japan had proved 
dangerous. Chinese designs upon Mongolia 
might presage a threat against her at some far-off 
time. Accordingly it became Russian policy to 
block China in Mongolia, and, if possible, to set up 
Mongolia as a buffer State. To that end, Russian 
agents commenced a propaganda against the 
Chinese, emphasising the danger of absorption by 



INTRODUCTION xi 

China. Then arose a pro-Russian party in Urga, 
urging aUiance with Russia as a protection against 
China. 

Then occurred the Revolution in China. The 
Manchus were dethroned. Then followed the 
expulsion of the Chinese from Thibet, and the 
declaration of independence by the Thibetans. 
Egged on by the Russians, the Mongols did Hke- 
wise, justifying the breaking of the ancient con- 
nection by declaring that their allegiance had 
been to the Manchus, and that, as there was no 
more a Manchu dynasty in China, they no longer 
owed anything to China. Russia promptly recog- 
nised the new State, and signed political and 
commercial treaties with it. The Chinese refused 
to accept the fait accompli, and immediately made 
war upon Mongolia. Fighting was proceeding 
when Mrs. Gull was in Inner Mongolia, and later 
on at Urga. To make a long story short, the 
Chinese troops utterly failed to make any impres- 
sion upon their opponents. Internal difficulties 
forced the Chinese to relinquish the struggle, and 
in 1919 was signed the tri-partite Kiachta Conven- 
tion. This document recognised and confirmed 
the treaties made with Russia, gave Mongolia 
autonomy and a guarantee against the intrusion 
of Chinese troops and colonists into Mongolia. 
The effect of the Convention was to give Russia 
exactly what she wanted — a buffer State. 



xii A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

It is necessary now to jump to the date when 
Japanese troops, in agreement with the AUies, 
entered Siberia. The Japanese found it con- 
venient to maintain at Chita, in Transbaikalia, the 
Cossack adventurer Semenov, a man with Buriat 
(or Mongol) blood in him. Admiral Kolchak 
dismissed Semenov from the command of the 
Trans- Baikal Division for malpractices, but the 
Japanese refused to allow his removal by force. 
Semenov, some months ago, inaugurated a pan- 
Mongol movement for the creation of a Mongol 
State, which should include the Mongols of Barga 
(a region of North Manchuria), the Buriats of 
Transbaikalia and Mongolia. The Hut'ukt'u, the 
Living Buddha of Mongolia, was invited to join, 
and, after consultation with the Princes, refused. 
Semenov next threatened invasion. It is difficult 
to know how much reality there is in Semenov's 
movement, but it is still to the fore, and we are 
warned that developments from it may yet be 
expected. At anyrate, it is established that the 
Japanese have been, and still are, closely associ- 
ated with Semenov, and the assumption is that 
they are perfectly cognisant of the activities of 
their prot6g6. 

Returning to Urga, we find the Mongolians 
dissatisfied with the Russians, for a variety of 
reasons. They had done nothing for the economic 
development of the country, nor had they helped 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

to organise an effective military force. Russia, as 
a protector, having vanished, the Mongols were 
helpless, and they were genuinely alarmed by the 
threats of Semenov. They appealed to the 
Chinese for military assistance, and in the twink- 
ling of an eye, as it were, 4000 Chinese troops 
were in Urga, commanded by a General Hsu Shu- 
cheng, the most aggressive of those militarists 
who have done so much to involve China in 
political and financial trouble. It is instructive to 
note that the forces commanded by Hsu were 
equipped with Japanese money, and that Hsu 
himself is regarded throughout China as being 
entirely in the hands of the Japanese. It will, 
therefore, be perceived that the Mongols were 
frightened into calling in Chinese troops by the 
actions of one prot6g6 of Japan, and that the 
assistance, when it came, proved to be an army 
under another Japanese protdg6 ! The unfortun- 
ate Mongols were soon to be enlightened as to 
the meaning of these manoeuvres. A pro-Chinese 
party, since the collapse of Russia, had been 
urging a return to the Chinese fold, and proposed 
a petition to China cancelling autonomy and 
asking for re-instatement. The Hut'ukt'u and a 
majority of Princes and Lamas were opposed to 
this step. General Hsu Shu-cheng, on arrival at 
Urga, immediately pressed for signature of the 
petition, and, on refusal, delivered an ultimatum, 



xiv A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

threatening deportation to China of the Hut'ukt'u 
and the Premier if his demands were not complied 
with. He further threatened the Mongols with 
Japanese troops from Transbaikalia, which threat 
the Japanese officially denied in Peking had been 
made with authority. The Mongols, however, 
were browbeaten into submission ; the Government 
signed the petition, and the President of China 
has since issued a Mandate denouncing the Kiachta 
Convention and other relative treaties, and grant- 
ing the prayer of the Mongols to become again 
subject to China. Autonomous Mongolia, there- 
fore, is no more. The Chinese plan military 
occupation on a large scale, and will shortly send 
three more brigades into Mongolia. If the Chinese 
were more successful in the administration of 
their own country, it might be said that the 
Mongols would be better off under Chinese rule 
than their own ; for, as Mrs. Gull says, there can 
be no doubt that the Mongols are closely akin to 
their southern neighbours. But the question 
seems to be rather whether Japan is not to be the 
predominant power in Mongolia in the future. 
She openly claims predominance in China, and, 
for the time being, is predominant. Through 
China she may yet acquire control over Mongolia, 
or may arrive at the same result by basing action 
in Siberia. She has plainly told the powers 
seeking to form the banking Consortium for China 



INTRODUCTION xv 

that she wishes Manchuria and Mongolia to be 
excluded from its operations, thereby indicating 
her desire for an exclusive position in Mongolia. 
Most significant is the announcement just 
published in the local press, and confirmed by 
other indications, that the Chinese Government 
propose the immediate extension of the Peking- 
Suiyuan Railway to Urga. The Chinese Govern- 
ment has no money for such an enterprise, and no 
possibility of getting it except by a foreign loan. 
This, above all, is a scheme that should be financed 
by the Consortium, yet it seems far more than 
likely that the railway will be built with Japanese 
money. And whoso builds the railway will 
assuredly be the master. 

DAVID ERASER 

Peking, 'January, 1920 



A word of explanation as to the tardy appearance of .this 
book in relation to the date of its completion seems necessary. 
It will suffice to say that the manuscript reached the publishers 
within a day or two of the declaration of war. The Intro- 
duction by Mr. David Fraser, "Times" correspondent in 
Peking, is designed to give a bird's-eye yet comprehensive 
impression from the date of the visit to Urga up to the present 
time of the political relations existing between Mongolia and 

China. 

B. M. G. 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

Map of Mongolia Inside front cover 

The Author Frontispiece 

PACINO PAOE 

The Author on a Peking Cart at the Starting-point . . 14 

The Great North Gate at Kalqan leading straight into 

Mongolia 14 

A Bird Fancier, Kalgan 28 

Servants in the Courtyard . . 28 

With Doboun, ready to start ... ... 34 

Crossing the Han-o-pa Pass 34 

A Camel Caravan 58 

The Lama in embryo and his little Sister gathering Argol 58 

Carrying Mails 60 

A Well by the Wayside 60 

He drew Reins to take Stock of the Foreigner ... 60 

Methuselah and his Daughter-in-law 70 

One of the largest Camel Caravans I had ever seen . . 70 

A Mongol Bride 72 

A TYPICAL ChAKHAR 74 

Two OR THREE HUNDRED LaMAS SQUATTING ON THE GROUND IN 

THE sunny FORECOURT OF A TEMPLE 78 

Hankarawa 78 

xvii b 



xviii A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

PAClNa PACK 

A Pastoral Scene 98 

Troitze-Casavsk .... 114 

Our Buriat Hostess 114 

The Jamschik and his Tarantass . 114 

A Russian Samson separated the Combatants .... 128 

The Lama and his Maiden 128 

A Mongol and his Family on the Plains near Urga posed 

for my benefit 142 

He invited us to inspect his Caravan 144 

The Summit of the Altai Berg 144 

The Great White Temple, Urga 152 

The Horse and Camel Market, Urga 152 

A beautiful Temple at Mai-mai-ch'bno . . . ... . 158 

A Mongol Princess in her Official Robes, accompanied by 

her two Ladies 158 

Bogdo's Bodyguard 176 

Little Lama Boys play " Tag " round the Barriers . . 176 

Church and State : Mongol Prince and High Lama . . . 180 

The great State Umbrella of Silken Embroidery . . . 182 

In an ecstasy op worship the Monks prostrate themselves 

near the threshold of the sanctuary .... 182 

The Meeting op the Archers : they ranged themselves in 

couples at the stances 184 

Scoring the Hits at the Butts 184 

A Mask at the Dance of the Gods 186 

A Mongol Princess wearing a Headdress of Gold . . 186 

A Mongol Gladiator 190 

A Wrestling Bout 192 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS xix 

FACING PAOB 

Young Lamas 192 

Prisoners at Uroa, shut up for the remainder of their 

LIVES in Iron-bound Coffins 196 

{Reproduced by permission of the Illustrated London News) 

A Tomb in Urga : Daoobas erected over Priests' Graves . 206 

Southern Soldiers 206 

A Mongol Ohton 226 

Continuing the Journey on Ox-carts, drawn by Ponies . , 226 

A REMARKABLE OnE-YEAR-OLD BoY 228 



THE TALE OF A TOUR IN 
MONGOLIA 

CHAPTER I 

" What is outside the world, daddy ? " 

" Space, my child." 
" But what is outside space then ? " 

THE fascination cf the unknown, a deep 
love of the picturesque, and inherent 
desire to revert awhile to the primi- 
tive — these were probably some of the factors 
that made a little tour in Mongolia so essenti- 
ally desirable to me at a period when, instead of 
turning my face homewards, I merely felt the 
compelling desire for more. The remark, ' ' Such 
a pity you did not come here before the old order 
of things passed away," had assailed my ears like 
minute-guns throughout my eighteen months in 
China, and here in Mongolia was at last an 
opportunity of meeting with media3valism un- 
touched. 

The most delightful, and by far the most 
interesting, expedition that lures the traveller for 
a couple of days from the gaiety of life in Peking, 
is that which leads him out to the Ming tombs 



2 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

and little farther on to meditate upon change 
and decay from the summit of the Great Wall. 
The Great Wall may well have been the ultimate 
goal of all his wanderings in China, a goal indeed 
at which to pause and reflect upon all he has 
learned and seen through the months spent in 
journeying up from the turbulent south to the 
heart of China in the north. But even so it is 
a little disappointing upon arriving at the Nank'ou 
Pass to be informed that this, impressive though 
it be, is merely a relatively modern branch of the 
Great Wall itself, added no less than 1700 years 
later to the original construction. To see the 
real Great Wall then, the wall that has withstood 
the ravages both of Huns and Tartars, the wall 
that played a not unimportant part in warfare two 
centuries before the Christian era — this furnished 
me at least with an excuse to get away to Kalgan ; 
and in a visit to Kalgan, the starting-point for 
the historic caravans which penetrate the desert, 
across which prior to the existence of the Trans- 
Siberian railway all merchandise passed to the 
north, I foresaw the germ which might, with 
a little luck, blossom out into a little expedition 
across the frontier. 

At Dr. Morrison's hospitable board, to which 
drift inevitably those travellers who want some- 
thing more than the social round and the sights 
provided for the globe trotter in Peking, I was 
fortunate in meeting a couple of Norwegian mis- 
sionaries who were good enough to make ar- 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 3 

rangements for me to stay in their compound at 
Kalgan. The husband, after many years' work, 
had abandoned the hope of converting the Mongols 
to Christianity, and had placed his unique know- 
ledge of the people and of their country — doubt- 
less in return for a handsome salary (on paper) — 
at the disposal of the new Chinese Government. In 
common with every one else to whom I mentioned 
my project of travelling in Mongolia, these good 
people did their best to put me off, but finally, 
seeing that I intended to carry out my idea willy- 
nilly, they helped me in making my plans, en- 
gaged the Chinese who accompanied me, and lent 
me the various accessories of camp life, etc., in the 
most generous manner possible. 

For some weeks past threatenings and rumours 
of war had been dribbling in from various points 
on the Mongolian frontier. Mongol soldiers (con- 
verted robber bands) in ridiculously small numbers, 
but effectual, as having been armed and trained by 
"the Urga government," which to all intents and 
purposes is another name for Russian officers, 
were said to be marching south, " plundering 
everywhere and killing Chinese and Mongols 
without distinction ". 

The Chinese in Peking were doubtless growing 
uneasy, and the following paragraph which ap- 
peared about this time in the " Peking Daily 
News," a Chinese-owned newspaper with an 
European circulation, suggests that the authori- 
ties were somewhat late in the field with their 



4 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

honours and encouragements for those Mongols 
who even now were perhaps flirting with pres- 
ents of roubles from a more northern source. 
Already the storm was brewing past control : — 

"The Bureau of Mongolian and Tibetan affairs 
(in Peking) reports that a petition from the Shang 
Chia Hut'ukt'u has been received, stating that the 
Shang Chodba has supported the Republican cause 
and requesting that he be rewarded. 

"As Pa-yen-chi-erh-ko-la, the Shang Chodba 
and Dassak Da Lama, has been loyal to the Re- 
public and is highly commendable, he is hereby 
permitted to sit on a Green Cart and to use 
Yellow Reins, as an encouragement." 

No very highly imaginative mind is surely neces- 
sary to conjure up a scene of wonderful pictur- 
esqueness from the foregoing. To see a beaming 
" Da (or great) Lama" seated upon the shafts of 
his new Green Cart and driving a hefty white 
mule with his lately acquired Yellow Reins, feel- 
ing tremendously encouraged thereby in his loyalty 
to China, the recently established republic of Mon- 
golia's suzerain — it was worth while, coute que 
coMe ! 

Peking, so far as I was concerned, had more 
than come up to its reputation for kindness and 
hospitality. I had certainly put the former to the 
test during a short but sharp bout of illness I had 
encountered there, when I can only say that my 
room presented the appearance of a conservatory 
and that rarely an hour passed without some 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 5 

friendly "chit" of enquiry and sympathy. All 
the same, it had been much borne in upon me 
that any deviation from the narrow path to the 
golf links, or from the delightful picnics held in 
one or other of the recognised show places within 
hail of the Legation quarter, was looked upon 
with cold disfavour. Few things seem to cause 
a certain type of mind more annoyance than that 
one should care to travel on lines other than those 
parallel with their own. 

The less, I felt, that I discussed my projected 
plans the better. Therefore, informing merely a 
couple of friends who happened to be dining with 
me the previous evening — and who, by the way, 
did not in the least believe me — that I was off in 
the morning to Kalgan for a few days, I set forth 
for the Shih Chi Men station (the terminus of the 
Peking- Kalgan railway) at the break of one glori- 
ous day of April in 1913. 

Two 'ricshas were necessary for myself and a 
very modest amount of luggage, and to each 
'ricsha two coolies, for the Shih Chi Men is at 
the extreme north-west of Peking, to gain which 
one has to travel diagonally across the Tartar 
city, skirting the rose-coloured walls of the For- 
bidden City through which at that time the traffic 
was not allowed to penetrate. The road is bad and 
exceedingly dusty, and being the sole European 
upon arriving at the station, I had the inevitable 
uproar with my coolies as regards payment. One 
of the untoward influences that we Westerns seem 



6 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

to have exerted upon the Chinese coolie class is 
that they will always try to bully anyone who is 
at a disadvantage — a condition of affairs I never 
once experienced up country, off the beaten track, 
where I met with nothing but chivalry. The 
quartet followed me, shouting and yelling, on to 
the platform — I having taken good care not to pay 
them until my belongings were safely out of their 
hands — only to be buffeted and finally kicked out 
by the station officials. 

The journey from Peking to Kalgan has many 
points of interest, and I decided to break it half- 
way in order to pay a second visit to the tombs 
of the Emperors of the Ming dynasty, stopping 
overnight at the quaint little half-westernised hotel 
kept by a Chinaman at the foot of the Nank'ou 
Pass. There was not much choice as to the 
means of covering the eleven or twelve miles 
between Nank'ou and the tombs, and I decided in 
favour of the solitary pony instead of the unat- 
tractive looking mules, or the chair of the indolent 
which is carried on poles by four coolies. I had 
confidently expected to make the expedition in 
peaceful solitude ; but not a bit of it. A pock- 
marked mafu, or groom, insisted upon accompany- 
ing me on foot, and it was soon evident that he 
set the pace not I. It was some little time too 
before I discovered the reason of the pony's reluct- 
ance to trot except when we came to a strip of 
grass — he had four very tender feet, and my way 
lay across extremely rough country, along the 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 7 

boulder — strewn beds of mountain streams and 
rocky little paths bordering the planted fields. 

The beautiful pail'ou of five arches was the first 
indication that we were nearing our destination, 
but even then there were two or three miles along 
the uneven and loosely flagged avenue of huge 
symbolical stone men and beasts, camels, horses, 
and lions standing in silent attendance on the 
spirits of the departed rulers. The tombs, temples 
in effect, whose golden roofs rise out from among 
deep green cypresses and masses of white blossom, 
are enclosed in many courtyards by high rose- 
coloured walls pierced by magnificent gateways. 

To the chief of these gateways I rode, followed 
by my mafu, and offering the customary fee of 
twenty cents, I proposed to enter. Seeing that 
I was alone, the doorkeeper, an unusually tall man 
even for Chihli, began a bullying argument for 
more money. Not wanting to waste time, I 
compounded finally upon something like three 
times the proper sum, and he opened the great 
doors and admitted me into the courtyard. Here 
amidst the most dreamily beautiful surroundings 
of pure white marble terraces, weathered memorial 
archways, steps carved in low relief and the 
mellowed rose-coloured walls always for back- 
ground, I felt very much at peace with the world 
as I sat and rested in the crook of a blossom- 
covered tree after my hot and wearisome ride. 

Greatly refreshed by the beauty and stately 
solitude of the scene (to say nothing of a delicate 



8 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

little lunch which had been so thoughtfully pro- 
vided for me by my excellent host of the Ching 
Erh hotel), I now felt inspired to explore further, 
and walked over the grass to the entrance of the 
chief temple. Dropping from the clouds (or, what 
seemed more likely, appearing from the nether 
regions) I was again confronted by the same burly 
janitor who rather threateningly barred my way 
and demanded more money. I had now not even 
the support of my pony boy. I had no intention 
of being baulked of the whole object of my long 
ride, neither did I mean to be buUied into paying 
the rascal all over again. Seeing that I was not 
incHned to give in, the man began to lock up 
the great doors, which usually stood open, when, 
turning as though I were going away, I made a 
sudden move, pushed past him, and was inside 
the temple. He was very angry and for the 
moment nonplussed, swore at me volubly, cast- 
ing aspersions doubtless upon my ancestry in 
true Celestial style. Quite unexpectedly, however, 
he stopped, and before I had time to realise his 
intention, he slammed to the door and turned the 
key in the lock. 

I made a desperate effort to escape, but I was 
too late. I was now in pitch darkness and as to 
when or whether he, my gaoler, intended to let 
me out, I did not know. I could hear him walking 
off and clanking his great keys triumphantly as 
he went down the flagged path. I was far too 
angry to be in the least frightened, and of all 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 9 

things, I had no intention of letting the ruffian 
think that he had scored. Recovering a little 
from my surprise, I groped my way about among 
the dusty gods and devils, thinking that probably 
there would be some other exit, and finally 
came upon a low door at the back of the high 
altar. This gave way to my pushing, and opened 
on to a narrow staircase up which I stumbled, 
eventually finding my way out on to the top of 
the open flat roof of the first story of the temple. 
Here at least I could see where I was. Moreover, 
I was in the open air, and I could solace myself 
with the truly lovely view of the surrounding 
temples and the thickly wooded country side. 

Not a soul was to be seen. The wretch evidently 
meant me to stay there until I thought better of 
my sins. For an hour or two I wandered about 
my prison, spending part of the time in speculating 
as to whether my gymnastic ability would enable 
me, with the help of friendly branches, to scale 
forty feet or so of rough wall and thus to escape. 
I decided, however, that to risk a broken limb was 
not worth while, and that to spend a night in a 
temple after all would not kill me. There would 
probably be other visitors turning up next day. 

By this time the afternoon was drawing in, and 
the wonderful colouring ai-ound me was rendered 
even more beautiful by the golden haze from the 
setting sun, when I observed three figures walking 
among the trees in the garden below. They were 
evidently in angry altercation. These were my 



10 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

mafu, the burly ruffian (who was gesticulating 
wildly), and a well-dressed and dignified Chinese 
gentleman. Without losing a moment, I scrambled 
hastily down the dark staircase again, and arrived 
in the temple just as a flood of light was admitted 
by the door being flung open. 

To my astonishment, my unknown friend in 
need addressed me in pidgin English, " Mississee 
mafu talkee my one bad man shutee up Mississee. 
Chlist ! (I am afraid that he believed this to be 
quite a polite expression of amazement) Chlist ! 
What bad man ! " The " bad man " was grinning 
nervously while all this was going on, and in order 
to show him unmistakably what my opinion was 
of his behaviour, I gave him a resounding smack 
on the head as he released me. Even then he 
had the impudence to ask me for a " cumshaw " 
(tip), and in order that he might not lose face 
among the little crowd which had collected at the 
outer gateway, he only laughed as he rubbed his 
head and listened to a tremendous dressing-down 
delivered by the three of us. I decided as I rode 
back to Nank'ou in the twilight that I would 
report the matter to my Legation in Peking, but 
later on I thought better of it. They might have 
said, " I told you so ! " 

Starting early next morning, I continued my 
journey to Kalgan, the line — the only one in 
China constructed, financed, and managed by the 
Chinese — following the course of the Nank'ou 
Pass, tunnelling below the Great Wall a few miles 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 11 

farther on. Travelling second class, from the 
viewpoint of mixing with the people rather than 
from economical motives, the difference in the 
price of tickets being a mere couple of dollars, I 
had for my sole European companion an old 
Swedish missionary who told me that our fellow- 
travellers were consumed with curiosity about 
me. They assumed, to begin with, that my 
husband must be luxuriating in the first-class 
portion of the train, and that among the English 
it was the custom to treat the wives as inferiors. 
Then, seeing the missionary and myself in con- 
versation, they jumped to the conclusion that I 
was wife of the latter, and that I very properly 
only spoke to him when he addressed me. Finally, 
on this being denied, they settled down to the idea, 
on seeing me take a large volume from my bag 
and read it (J. O. P. Bland's absorbingly interest- 
ign "Events in China" by the way) that I was 
a great scholar, and that as such, I of course 
preferred the simple life. That an ordinary 
Englishwoman should travel second class needed 
an explanation in their eyes. 

A wealthy young man, he who had asked most 
of the questions, entertained me greatly during 
the journey. His clothes were very beautiful, 
a long silk-damask lavender coat, fur-lined, 
surmounted by a handsome riding coat in plum- 
coloured broch6. His great treasure seemed, 
however, to be a large silver watch, which he 
kept pulling out in the hope that I might be 



12 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

looking at him. Its going capacity must have 
been precarious for he always listened to it, and 
after looking carefully all round it, he generally 
smelt it as well. It was here that I really learned 
to appreciate the practical use of the two-inch 
thumb-nail which one frequently sees adorning 
the hands of the upper-class Chinese. My friend 
of the lavender coat had purchased a roast duck 
from an itinerant vendor at a wayside station, 
and commanded my admiration by the dexterity 
with which he cut up and ate it, his thumb-nail 
alone serving him as a carver. He was hungry, 
and he finished that bird at a sitting. 

The scenery on the way up was unexciting 
until a tempestuous sunset lighted up the rugged 
mountains, making their snow-covered peaks 
appear like flaming watch-towers until the sun 
went down, and with a snap it all suddenly 
changed. Even in this cold weather we met 
hundreds of coolies travelling down in open 
trucks, many of them equipped with motor goggles, 
which the dust storms of this part of the world 
render an absolute necessity. 

We were two hours late at Kalgan, having 
taken nine hours on the way (one can hardly 
expect a sudden transformation as regards 
punctuality to result from a change of govern- 
ment in China), and I spent a somewhat weary 
time in the dimly lighted carriage wondering 
what on earth I should do if the missionaries 
failed to meet me at the station. Knowing that 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 13 

he would be of no use should I manage to get 
away to Mongolia, I had taken no "boy" with 
me, and I doubted very seriously that my few 
words of Chinese would carry me far in this 
frontier town, which, I had heard, would be a 
babel of tongues, and where among 75,000 in- 
habitants the European population, Russian and 
German traders all told, did not number more 
than about forty or fifty. 

However, no sooner had I landed on the plat- 
form at Kalgan than a cheery voice, unmistakably 
American, hailed me in a friendly manner. 

After giving the required information concerning 
myself and my business to the courteous Chinese 
policeman, who, notebook in hand, awaited the 
train for such purpose, the pleasant young mis- 
sionary, guessing that I was both tired and hungry, 
and not in the least put out on account of waiting 
over two hours on the platform for my train to 
come in, bundled me and my belongings into a 
Peking cart. The latter taking up most of the 
room inside, I sat cross-legged on the shaft, the 
Chinese driver sitting hard against my back on 
the opposite side ; my host walked alongside of 
us. 

There had been the one rain of the season on 
the previous day and what under normal con- 
ditions had been a foot or so of dust, was 
now morass, and we passed through slush that 
reached to the axles of our wheels. " Tuck up 
your feet," sang out the missionary as he took an 



14 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

unanticipated plunge into deep water from the 
pseudo - sidewalk ; but I was prepared. This, 
strange to say, was my first experience of riding 
in a Peking cart, society in the capital having 
long ago voted them out-of-date and even in cold 
weather preferring the 'ricsha. True, I found 
their appearance of comfort somewhat of a de- 
lusion but their picturesque trimness I had always 
greatly admired. These strong, springless carts 
of light wood have solid axles, the ends being 
inlaid with a device in metal, and upon these the 
wheels revolve directly. The pale blue linen 
covers, with little windows made of black gauze 
on either side, all outlined with black velvet, 
present an attractive and cleanly appearance, as 
does also the heavy white leather harness with 
bright brass or silver buckles and ornaments, 
which embellishes the handsome black mule, who, 
at first sight, looks almost too powerful for his 
job. 

Our road lay across the river Yang through the 
heart of the city now, at nearly 10 o'clock, dark and 
silent as the grave — silent that is, save for the 
creaks and excruciating grindings of the wheels 
as the great boulders sent the cart high up on 
one side only to slither down into the slush on 
the other, the mule coming to a standstill from 
time to time in order to let things right them- 
selves. The main street of Kalgan is scarcely a 
credit to the community. After half an hour or 
so of strenuous effort to keep my seat, we turned 




THE AUTHOR ON A PEKING CART AT THE STARTING POINT 




THE GREAT NORTH GATE AT KALGAN LEADING STRAIGHT OUT INTO MONGOLIA 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 15 

abruptly out of a narrow alley into the compound 
of the mission at which I was to board, and 
were welcomed by my hostess, a pretty girl 
in her early twenties, at the door of one of the 
two bungalows. 



CHAPTER II 

" A great army may be robbed of its leader, but nothing can 
rob one poor man of his will " 

— Chinese proverb 

I SHALL always associate Kalgan with wait- 
ing for things to happen. Rumours of war 
were constantly coming to one's ears, news 
of camel caravans on the point of starting for 
Mongolia reached one periodically. Nothing ever 
seemed to culminate. The missionaries, of whom 
there were some half a dozen, were very much 
opposed to my making an expedition alone into 
Mongolia, and with my limited knowledge of 
Chinese it was impossible without their help to 
make any plans for doing so. My hostess, a 
delicate little thing, very much younger than her 
colleagues, stood my friend throughout and did 
what she could to make enjoyable my stay 
within the somewhat circumscribed area of the 
compound. Deeply interested in English manners 
and customs her conversation had an almost 
childish natveU, and circled around our royalties 
and other great English names that had come to 
her ears. She was, she told me "tickled to 
death" at the idea of entertaining an English 
lady, but was frankly disappointed that I bore no 

i6 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 17 

title. As a small girl, she said, she had longed to 
be English, and loved reading about lords and 
ladies (we now know the market for a certain 
class of light fiction), and persuaded her mother 
to call her " Lady Ermyntrude". "Is it true," 
she would ask me, " that if English girls don't 
marry the first man that asks them, they never 
get another chance ? " 

Life in a mission compound can never fail to 
interest the speculative mind, and although wait- 
ing about for plans to resolve themselves is a 
severe tax on one's patience, my days at Kalgan 
are recalled with considerable pleasure notwith- 
standing. What I wanted was an excuse for 
taking a camel cart (which appealed to me as 
being exceedingly comfortable as well as a great 
novelty), and I watched a couple in course of 
preparation for the ill-fated expedition of Messrs. 
Grant and Henningsen who were to journey across 
the Gobi to Urga on telegraph service, which 
for the former was to end so disastrously. Camel 
carts bear a certain amount of similarity to the 
Peking cart, with the following differences : they 
are higher from the ground, having larger wheels ; 
they are covered in entirely, having a window and 
door on the near side ; they are of such ample 
dimensions that one may stretch oneself at full 
length and live in them in considerable comfort. 
In fact, I have in North Mongolia seen a man, 
woman, and two children camping very comfort- 
ably in one cart. 



18 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

One might well be asked what there was to 
prevent me from hiring a camel cart — a very 
natural question when one lives in Europe and 
where money will compass most of one's desires. 
Not so in the East. A solitary camel cart was 
held to be unsuitable for my purpose, for a soli- 
tary camel cart wandering about Mongolia with- 
out escort would undoubtedly attract an undue 
amount of attention. Camel carts usually form 
part of a caravan. 

Kalgan, with its population of some seventy or 
eighty thousand souls, grown out of all proportion 
to the picturesque little walled-in city in its midst, 
the unusual temples, among which a couple of 
Mohammedan mosques came as a surprise to me, 
its many theatres, and little shops containing much 
that was interesting and novel, would under or- 
dinary conditions have satisfied me for weeks ; but 
the nearness to the goal of my desire to some 
extent spoiled it for me, rendering it tantalising 
and me restless. Not once, but many times, did 
I find my way on foot through the thick dust of 
the narrow streets to the wide road leading out 
to the north gate, the Mongol quarter of the city. 
There one met hundreds of camels padding softly 
along in the thick dust laden with immense bales 
of wool from Urga, picking their way over 
boulders polished by the traffic of 1200 years. 
The camels are in their most disreputable condi- 
tion in April ; their wool, being in process of 
shedding, left big bare patches, and made them 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 19 

look singularly naked in places. I loved to see 
their stately walk, and the stolid Mongols sit- 
ting, pipe in mouth, on their backs. Fine beasts. 
Fine men. To see, too, the Mongols themselves 
at their journey's end, galloping recklessly along 
this terrific road, raising clouds of dust in their 
wake, stirrupless as often as not, their ponies 
slithering and stumbling over the concealed 
stones, recovering themselves in a manner per- 
fectly marvellous. They are wonderful horsemen. 
A Russian post plies between Kalgan and Urga, 
suspended now, however, on account of the un- 
rest in the country, and the Mongols cover the 
800 miles in eight days, relays of ponies waiting 
for them every twenty miles or so. They ride at 
full speed during the entire journey, which aver- 
ages ordinarily from thirty to thirty-two days. 

Small wonder that the wares in the innumerable 
little stalls which line this great north road should 
be dirty and unattractive at first glance. One 
must quickly consume one's proverbial peck of dust 
here ; everything in this Mongol market is thick 
with it ; hair, clothes, food, and all. But what is 
the use of troubling about what cannot be helped ? 
A medicine stall was one of the many at which I 
lingered, and from curiosity asked the prices of 
things that were displayed as "cures" — snakes, 
lizards, and similar small fry were kept in bulk. 
A rhinoceros tusk I gathered to be a charm of 
prophylactic nature, but a furry foot altogether 
baffled my intelligence. The vendor was by no 



20 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

means anxious to sell, but being pressed for a 
price said that I might have the object for fifteen 
dollars, i.e. thirty shillings. I discovered later 
that it was the pad of a bear, and esteemed of 
great value from a medicinal point of view. I 
refrained from purchasing it. Two charming 
souvenirs, however, I did pick up in Kalgan — a 
tiny green jade wine cup, and, as a mascot, a jade 
thumb ring guaranteed to bring me great good 
luck on all my wanderings. They were of the 
colour of rivers bringing down the snow from 
mountains, and moreover were bargains at a dollar 
and half a dollar respectively. 

Everything that one could conceivably want for 
the great journey across the desert is to be bought 
from this market, the last link with civilisation, 
and few caravans push straight through this busy 
quarter without a halt for a hank of rope, or 
another string of dried persimmons, or such like. 
To the gregarious Celestial it must indeed be a 
mighty effort to break away from Kalgan and start 
upon that lonely trek so fraught with dangers and 
possibilities unknown. 

The principal theatre in Kalgan is in this neigh- 
bourhood, and more than once I got drawn into a 
crowd of five or six hundred people in the triangular 
piece of waste ground near the north gate. The 
theatre was a pretty little temple, the stage open 
to the heavens on three sides and raised eight or 
ten feet from the ground. The play is as a rule, 
I am told, composed of scenes and episodes 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 21 

from the Chinese classics. Be that as it may, the 
actors, with handsome flowing beards, are as un- 
like the modern Chinese as well could be. 

Every one whose business was not too pressing 
strolled within seeing and hearing distance — there 
were no barriers or enclosures. At the back of 
the crowd, which, with less than half a dozen 
exceptions, was composed of men and boys, 
numbers of ponies and mules waited patiently, and 
among them from their Peking carts a few women 
obtained a good view while not being too much in 
evidence. Kalgan is conservative in preserving 
her traditions concerning the deportment of 
women. Vendors of all sorts of things, from dust- 
ing brushes to cigarettes and pea-nuts, took life 
easily on the outskirts of the laziest, pleasantest, 
smelliest crowd I have ever been in. In the back- 
ground too were several barbers plying their trade, 
their victims gazing at the play while their heads 
were shaved or their queues combed and plaited. 
The quaint mediaeval play, with great clashing of 
cymbals, and lunging about with swords and 
scimitars, was lively enough to please the audience 
tremendously. The whole scene was picturesque 
to a degree, what with bright clothes and action 
on the stage, with a background of the mountains 
surrounding Kalgan, and nearer still the sombre 
old wall of many, many centuries, and again, in 
front of it, the flat and gabled roofs of Chinese 
houses and shops with their ornate fronts and 
gaudy signs and symbols, the gilded lettering in two 



22 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

languages as befits the meeting-place of China and 
Mongolia. Nearer still the handsome mules with 
their richly decorated saddle-cloths, passed and re- 
passed, and now and again a string of dromedaries 
pursued the even tenor of their way, undisturbed 
and unattracted by the babel of the multitude. 
The colour scheme was blue, blue, blue, in every 
conceivable tone, and for variation, soft maizy 
yellow, prune, and mauve — the distant mountains 
deeply purple. 

The old men of China are not the least pleasing 
of its inhabitants. They are so kindly, so dignified, 
so placid, and so really venerable. They stood 
around, dozens of them, with their pet birds in 
pretty wooden cages singing away all the time, 
often held on the flat of their hands high up 
and out of danger from the crowd. The cages 
are frequently finely carved and beautifully made, 
the little seed and water-pots of good porcelain, 
and the fittings of wrought silver or brass. In 
Kalgan a foreign woman is indeed a vara avis, but 
Chinese manners can be beyond reproach. The 
people crowd round one, and certainly in the city 
one never moved without a small following. But 
here, weird object that one must have seemed, 
they seldom made themselves objectionable or 
jeered. One cannot help reflecting upon the 
difference there would be in the case of a Chinese 
visiting a northern English town in his Oriental 
dress and with his stumbling speech. How, one 
wonders, would the crowds treat him ? 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 23 

In pleasant contrast with the dust of the city 
were certain riding expeditions which took me, 
accompanied by my host, to the foot hills sur- 
rounding Kalgan, to inspect at close quarters the 
ruins of the Great Wall and the watch-towers 
which punctuate it every 200 yards. Whether 
he did it to test my riding capabilities or my 
courage before starting me off on my lonely tour, 
I never quite discovered, but vivid in my recollec- 
tion is the climbing my host and I did on one 
occasion. By. no means an accomplished rider, 
the second day out on a new pony is always more 
agreeable to me than the first, but when I saw 
how the little black beast that had been lent to me 
and which I was subsequently to take up-country, 
could scale precipitous banks, keep its feet among 
loose shale lying on hard slippery surfaces, creep 
along narrow, sloping tracks round mountain sides 
— places along which one would never have dared 
to lead, much less ride, a horse at home — my 
confidence developed considerably. In parts it 
was too dangerous to remain in the saddle at 
all, and I shall never forget one thrilling moment 
when my pony insisted upon turning right round 
upon our sole support, which was a bit of a tuft 
overhanging a chasm some forty to sixty feet 
deep. His heels sent the stones flying down, 
and I momentarily expected the whole thing to 
give way, and that we should roll down hope- 
lessly mixed-up, sheer on to the rocks below. 

In connection with the extensive railway works 



24 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

at Kalgan and the projected extension of them, 
is quite an important little community of well- 
educated Cantonese, with some of whom I became 
acquainted by means of an introduction given to me 
in Peking by my friend, Dr. Wu Lien Teh, whose 
research work, especially in connection with 
plague, is well known throughout the scientific 
world. Several of these Cantonese are Christians 
and are keen supporters of the work carried on 
by the missionaries amongst their employees. My 
introduction was presented at a fortunate moment, 
for a feast to celebrate the arrival of a first-born 
son was just then in course of preparation, and 
the presence of a foreign lady apparently lent to it 
a welcome novelty. 

The proud father of the baby. Dr. Shi, knew 
a certain amount of EngHsh, and, in consequence, 
I launched out alone, on to that sea of unknown 
etiquette and custom, feeling a certain degree of 
security. What was my horror on arriving at 
the house to find my host anxiously awaiting my 
somewhat tardy arrival in order to introduce me 
to the sixteen ladies already present so that he 
might hasten off to preside at a similar banquet 
to his men friends at a restaurant near by. Not 
one word of anything but the Cantonese dialect 
did the ladies speak, and my carefully prepared 
sentences of felicitation in the Mandarin tongue 
were in consequence discounted. The company, 
among whom was the baby's mother, greeted me 
with much ceremony and cordiality. The pre- 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 25 

cise form of salutation varies in different parts 
of China, and here the correct bow resembles 
nothing so much as the action of surreptitiously 
pulling up one's stocking. Dr. Shi was careful 
to explain to me that I was the guest of honour, 
and, after showing me where to sit, he departed 
and left me to the tender mercies of the little 
ladies. A little later on, however (and this 
suggests the innate kindness and consideration 
of the Chinese) his heart must have smote him, 
and thinking that chopsticks might be a source 
of embarrassment to me, he flew round from the 
restaurant with a borrowed plate, spoon, and fork. 
As a matter of fact these latter embarrassed me 
far more than the chopsticks had done, for my 
big plate afforded my two generous hostesses 
opportunity to overwhelm me with food which 
the ordinary little bowl would never have con- 
tained. 

Upon the round table were set no fewer than 
sixteen dishes, and these I gathered were only 
accessories to the huge bowls which were brought 
in from the kitchen, whence there appeared at 
least a dozen distinct courses. Eggs served in 
cochineal-stained shells were, it was explained 
to me, in special honour of the new baby, as also 
was the ginger of the same glad hue. The feast 
was heralded in by the customary joy sounds 
of China ; crackers innumerable and deafening 
being fired off immediately outside the room in 
which we were assembled. Little leaden kettles 



26 A TOUR m MONGOLIA 

of "the dew of the rose leaf" (samshui) were 
first of all brought in, and each of us was assisted 
to at least a thimbleful. Then began the " Ch'ing 
chih fan" ("invite you to eat"). Everybody 
" ch'inged " everybody else, and we proceeded 
at the same time to help one another to dainty 
morsels with our own chopsticks. Instead of 
drinking to each other in occidental fashion, the 
Chinese "eat to each other," and when one's 
neighbour planks a toothsome morsel of bird 
or fish into one's bowl, it is etiquette to rise 
slightly in one's chair and say " thank you ". 

Chopsticks, by the way, are like golf — it is 
largely a game of chance and temperament. 
Sometimes one is on one's game, and one manages 
to put away a substantial meal ; at other times one 
" can't hit a ball," and one leaves the table feel- 
ing rather empty. The meal had not progressed 
far before we were on terms of great convivi- 
ality, not to say familiarity. They all laughed at 
the way in which I mismanaged my chopsticks (I 
declined to give in and use a spoon and fork) and 
tried to teach me. It was of no use, I was not 
" on my game " that evening. Next to me was a 
dear old soul in a handsome black velvet coat ; I 
think she must have been a near relation on account 
of the way in which she took me under her wing, 
from time to time popping a choice morsel, a 
chunk of pine-apple, or a gigantic prawn, straight 
into my mouth. At intervals dishes that I really 
enjoyed came on, buried eggs, bearing striking 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 27 

resemblance, by the way, to plover's eggs, crisply 
baked apricot kernels, roast duck (horribly under- 
done), and the seeds of the lotus in syrup, being 
among the most palatable. Half-way through the 
feast my large plate was a horrible sight and full 
of things I felt I could not possibly swallow. 

A charming girl opposite me leaned forward and 
gave me a generous helping of some nice-looking 
whitish stew which nearly made me sick when I 
tried it. It was like eating a very slimy sponge. 
To cover my confusion, and with, I thought, great 
aplomb, I managed with some difficulty to perch 
a beautiful morsel of very raw duck on my chop- 
sticks, which, instead of eating myself, I unsel- 
fishly plunged into the mouth of my old friend on 
my left. The attention nearly choked her. She 
did not expect it of me. But pleasant relations 
were established for the evening, and I received 
several invitations to other dinner parties as a 
result. There was a good deal of giggling at my 
foreign ways, but these, I imagine, were less pro- 
ductive of sheer glee than my attempt to adapt 
myself to their customs. 

At half-time or thereabouts, a woman servant 
of the coolie class, very slatternly, and with her 
own baby upon her back, distributed cigarettes, 
some cheap American brand in a tin, picking them 
out with her dirty fingers and pressing them upon 
us in a most hospitable way. All the servants, 
in fact, urged us on behalf of their master and 
mistress to eat and drink. From time to time 



28 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

they would quietly sneak a cigarette for themselves, 
and go to stand in the doorway to smoke it. One 
of them was quite an old woman, and it amused 
me to watch her casually take one from the table 
and light it between her withered old hands with 
her back turned to the company. Our hostess, 
for whom with two or three other guests there 
was not room at our table, came in periodically 
to see how we were progressing, and would hand 
us one or other of the delicacies persuasively. 
She peeled a Mandarin orange for the old T'ai-t'ai 
next to me. The latter took it, but at once passed 
it on to one of the urchins who were hanging 
around for tit-bits. It seemed ungracious, but I 
suppose it was quite polite. A great tip to be 
remembered at a Chinese feast is this ; entice 
one of the many small children always present to 
your side. You have then, conveniently situated, 
a willing receptacle for the superfluous dainties 
that have been heaped into your bowl, besides 
which you gain merit for your "warm-hearted- 
ness " towards the dear little souls. 

Between ten and half-past — we had sat down 
soon after 6 p.m. — I felt that the time had arrived 
when I might reasonably, though reluctantly, take 
my departure ; but the attempt to do so was met 
by much protestation and conversation, and it 
was borne in upon me that my old friend the 
T'ai-t'ai was inviting me to go back with her to 
her house there to "sit-a-sit". I agreed with 
pleasure, and hand-in-hand we sallied forth in the 




A BIRD FANCIER, KALG»V 




SERVANTS IN THE COURTYARD 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 29 

moonlight, together with her daughter-in-law and 
her little daughter, a pretty little soul, this latter, 
who was the proud possessor of an English watch 
bracelet as well as several distinctly western 
rings and bangles. Their house was not very far 
off, and when we arrived the old lady ushered me 
into a bedroom where her husband and son were 
reading in somewhat n^glig^ costume. They 
quickly invited me into the guest room and, hastily 
donning their long coats of ceremony, joined us. 
The father spoke a little English — he had once 
stayed for three weeks in England, coming over, I 
understood, in the train of Li Hung Ch'ang ; the 
son, with whom I had a most illuminating conver- 
sation on Chinese topics, had been educated in 
England, and another son was at that time an 
undergraduate at Caius College, Cambridge. 



CHAPTER III 

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step " 

— Chinese proverb 

ALTHOUGH I never found Kalgan lacking 
in interest and amusement, I began to feel 
at the end of a week there that my pro- 
spects for setting out for Mongolia did not seem 
to improve. The place teemed with soldiers, and 
reports came in of impending battles between 
Russo-supported Mongols and troops from the 
south which were daily being poured over the 
frontiers. What to believe, and how much reli- 
ance to place upon such information no one 
seemed to know, but the persistency of one re- 
port, of a battle that had lasted six hours at Dolo 
N'or, when the Chinese had to retire in the face 
of superior numbers, found justification later on 
in obvious fact. 

My long-looked-for opportunity came at last, 
however, in the shape of a Finnish missionary 
who wished to journey westward into Mongolia, 
and who expressed himself as not only willing 
but pleased to allow my little caravan to join his 
for our mutual protection. My preparations at 

30 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 81 

once sprang into activity. A Peking cart drawn 
by a strong mule, and a most unpromising pony 
were hired for me, together with a ruffianly look- 
ing Chinese, said to be trusty, at any rate brave 
enough to face the terrors of Mongolia, at the 
rate of four dollars a day. Hearing that we were 
to make an early start, I finished every detail 
of my packing overnight, and was up betimes 
next day, lingering, however, long in the last bath 
that I was likely to get for many a long day. 
I ought by that time to have known that such 
plans as those for leaving early seldom materialise, 
but I felt anyhow that I would not be the one to 
cause delay. Instead of 8 a.m. we were under 
weigh soon after noon. 

I had employed the meantime greatly to my 
own advantage. When I went out to inspect 
my cart, the driver had already more than half 
filled the interior with his own and his companion's 
belongings, sheep-skin coats of doubtful cleanli- 
ness, sacks of fodder, and what not. It is quite 
as typical of Chinese as of menials in other 
countries, to find out by such experiments just 
how far they dare to go, or how much their 
employer will stand — which comes to the same 
thing. My own theory is that if you do not at 
the very outset assume the whip-hand, you will 
get more or less bullied by those who should 
be obeying your orders. I used my own dis- 
cretion here, therefore, and ordered everything 
to be turned out of the cart, including a sort of 



32 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

mattress-cushion which Hned it. They did as 
they were told without a murmur, and laughed 
at my persistence and their own discomfiture 
in the clouds of dust they raised. 

I then had my own things carefully packed 
in, bedding in a hold-all, cushions, water-bottles, 
as well as such articles as my camera, books, and 
a certain amount of food. My box of provisions, 
including tinned meat, Bovril, tea, butter, cheese, 
rice, oatmeal, as well as a plentiful supply of 
walnuts and raisins, and a small box containing 
a change of clothes, were roped securely on to 
the tail of the cart ; fodder for the animals being 
placed on the top of them. Eggs and potatoes 
I could rely upon buying from the Chinese for at 
least three days out from Kalgan. The Southern 
Mongols themselves have nothing at all to sell, 
living as they do on koumiss (soured milk), tsamba 
(a sort of crushed barley), and mutton when they 
can get it. 

A tiresome lad of eighteen or so made his appear- 
ance during the morning, and I foresaw that if he 
came too that I should be bothered with him 
as well as the driver sitting on the shafts of 
my cart and thus obscuring my view when I was 
inside. The missionaries spoke sternly to both 
boy and driver to this effect and told them 
plainly that I refused to allow the former to 
accompany me. They acquiesced; but before 
we were clear of the city the lad turned up again 
smiling, and later on I discovered that he was the 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 33 

owner of the little red demon of a pony, and also 
that he was a very necessary adjunct to my 
party. 

The caravan consisted of the Finnish missionary, 
his two open carts drawn by two horses in each, 
myself in my Peking cart drawn by mule and 
poriy, a saddle pony, three Mongols, two of 
whom were mounted — who, wishing to return to 
their homes on the borders of the Gobi, attached 
themselves to us for safety, and four Chinese to 
attend to the animals — nine of us in all. We 
were accompanied to the city gates by some of 
the missionaries. The government offices, the 
Tartar general's yamen, the Bureau of Foreign 
AfFairs, as also the offices in which business 
connected with Southern Mongolia is transacted, 
are all situated in this part of the city. There 
was some question as to whether I might not 
have difficulty in passing the Chinese guard at 
the gates of the city, since I possessed no pass- 
port even for travelling in Chihli, much less for 
leaving that province and penetrating into the 
wilds of Mongolia. Knowing quite well that had I 
applied for a passport it would have been refused, 
I decided — upon the advice, I may say, of an 
official high up in the Chinese government service 
— to dispense with that formality. The mission- 
aries, good sportsmen that they were, intended 
to acquaint the Chinese Foreign Office with the 
fact that I was in Mongolia after my departure. 
The Chinese, however, take but little account 

3 



34 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

of women, and I passed through the north gate 
on the high road to the goal of my ambition. 

Riding, I soon found, was not much fun over 
this rocky way. I had yet to grow used to trust- 
ing entirely to luck, and to letting the pony have 
his head under such conditions. Moreover, 
knowing nothing of the country one was obliged 
at first to keep within sight of the caravan, which 
hereabouts went forward at a snail's pace. I 
therefore spared my pony for a spell, and giving 
it to the boy to lead, I retired to my cart to lie 
down, and with my feet sticking out over the 
mule's back, meditate on what was before me. 

The road for ten miles or so follows the mud- 
coloured valley where the clusters of houses so 
tone in with their surroundings that one might 
think that they did so upon the theory of pro- 
tective adaptation to their environment. From the 
rocks and boulders with which the road is strewn 
it might well have been a river-bed until the 
steep ascent of some 2400 feet from the level 
to the Chang Chia K'ou, the Kalgam, or Han-o-pa 
(meaning handle) Pass begins. The carts here 
began to progress in brief spasms, and the 
gradient, together with the general conditions, 
made this a somewhat painful experience. Lead- 
ing our ponies, we were able by devious paths 
to discover rather smoother going, and the 
number one Mongol, a charming old man of 
some position, who, having no mount, now seated 
himself (without invitation) on the shaft of my 




WIIH DOBDUN, READY TO STAR [' 




CROSSING THE HAN-O-PA PASS 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 35 

cart, remarked that " The great one must be 
possessed of extraordinary strength to be able 
to walk like that". I learned subsequently that 
a horseless Mongol is just about as much use 
as a seagull with its wings clipped. 

The missionaries had arranged that this same 
old Mongol, Dobdun, by name, should act " boy" 
for me on the way up, i.e. boil water, peel potatoes, 
and spread my bedding at night. I liked him 
very much, but mainly for the sake of his pic- 
turesque appearance, for besides being very stupid, 
extremely lazy, and knowing not one word of 
Chinese, he had not the foggiest notion as to 
how to do anything for my comfort beyond getting 
me hot water, and smiling in a paternal way, 
when, to relieve my beasts, I got out and walked 
up the steep places. 

By the time we were at the top of the pass, 
between five and six thousand feet above sea level, 
it was dusk. We had taken our time over the 
ascent, an icy wind was blowing, and the scene 
before us was desolate indeed. Earlier in the 
day and under normal conditions the traffic here 
is very considerable. Not so at the time of my 
visit, for beyond being overtaken by a couple of 
Mongols trotting swiftly along on camels, who 
drew rein for a few seconds just in order to pass 
the time of day, or, more literally perhaps, to put 
the inevitable question as to our destination, 
before they flew on again, we encountered never 
a soul. I had never seen camels trotting before 



36 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

and they reminded me of leggy schoolgirls fielding 
at cricket, for they scatter their limbs about in 
just such an ungainly way. 

The explanation of the solitude of the pass 
was forthcoming and obvious enough later on, 
when, wheeling into the compound of a Chinese 
inn, we were told that the whole place had 
been commandeered by the Chinese troops. 
It was all very ghostly and mysterious, not 
to say formidable. Under a bright starlit sky, 
the wind was blowing a gale, and the prospect 
of sleeping in the open under such conditions 
by no means appealed to me. Han-o-pa is a 
fair-sized village, but it was only after our fourth 
attempt that we could gain admission to an inn. 

The inns, which are to be found only for thirty 
or forty miles north of the frontier, are similar 
to all inns in North China. Built of mud, the 
one-storied sheds line three sides of the compound 
wall. There are stone posts in the compound 
to which horses and mules are tied up ; in the 
centre is a collection of carts and bales of hides 
and wool all carefully covered up, while occupying 
a corner to themselves a trio of camels was 
tethered. We entered the main room, the 
kitchen, two-thirds of which was taken up by 
the k'ang, a low platform some two feet from the 
ground, covered with a thick layer of hardened 
mud or boards, and heated from underneath by 
means of a small furnace. It is one man's work 
to keep the fire going. With one hand he pulls 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 37 

a sort of bellows in and out, with the other he 
feeds the fire continuously by means of a ladle 
filled with dried horse-droppings. From this time 
onward, argol, the MongoHan word for this dried 
manure, was the only description of fuel I saw 
until my return to civilisation. There is neither 
wood nor coal (unless, maybe, the latter is hid 
from sight in the bowels of the mountain) in Inner 
or South Mongolia. The k'ang was crowded 
with Mongols and Chinese as well as a number 
of soldiers, and I learned that the tiresome boy 
who had insisted upon accompanying me was 
regaling the company with a personal description 
of the foreigner whom he had in tow, more 
especially how that she had had four shots on one 
occasion before her pony would let her mount ; 
a feat which seemed to give rise to great hilarity 
when they saw me — the relation of eleven stone 
to the size of the pony, I imagine. 

In the room adjoining were several Chinese 
traders, and I had to make my choice between, 
sharing a k'ang with these gentlemen and the 
Finn, or sleeping under the stars in the courtyard 
in my cart. Throwing convention to the winds 
(one really could not trouble about Mrs. Grundy 
in Mongolia some five or six thousand feet above 
sea level with a thermometer well below zero 
and an icy blast blowing from the snow-covered 
mountains), I decided upon the former without a 
moment's consideration, and arranged a sheet of 
oilcloth with my cork mattress on the top on the 



38 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

opposite side to that on which the Chinese had 
already stretched themselves. It was late, and 
we lost no time in preparing and eating our 
chief meal of the day. We sat cross-legged on 
our beds, a low Chinese table between us, while 
we ate. We were tired, and very hungry, and to 
save unpacking, I shared my provisions with the 
missionary. Having travelled a good deal about 
Mongolia, he knew the people and the language 
well, and I found him an interesting companion 
in consequence, delightfully ready to pour informa- 
tion put to so keen a listener as I was. I am 
afraid that he thought me quite mad to wish to 
make such a journey from motives other than 
evangelisation or business, and he told me later 
that he was greatly surprised at my powers of 
endurance, and that I could take things as they 
came with such equanimity. Moveover, at the 
end of the journey he expressed his willingness 
to allow me to join his caravan some time in 
the future on an extensive tour over several 
months in the western region of the country — 
which was, I felt, the greatest compliment he could 
have paid me. 

" You won't be able to undress, you know," 
the Finn informed me, as he nervously watched 
me divesting myself of my heavy riding boots ; 
for which superfluous information I politely 
thanked him. I had had no intention of doing so 
in this motley company. One's toilet on such an 
occasion was both brief and simple. I travelled 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 39 

in the only garb possible in that country, a cross- 
seat riding habit, and at night merely divested 
myself of my outer garment in order to put on a 
long sheepskin coat, took off my stock, crammed 
a fur cap down over my ears, and tried to sleep. 
I found this last somewhat difficult on those hard, 
hard k'angs, with a regular orchestra of snores 
bellowing forth from ray neighbours on all sides. 
The boards do not accommodate themselves to 
one's pampered body, and I used to wish there 
were less of me to ache. 

It was not much after 4 a.m. when the Mongols 
woke us next day, and we drank our tea and ate 
some bread and butter to an accompaniment of 
much shouting as they persuaded the animals 
into their harness. There was little inducement 
to wash, for the top of the Han-o-pa Pass was 
intensely cold in April, and what tried me more 
than anything else was the difficulty of keeping the 
skin on my hands and face in that harsh, alkali- 
laden atmosphere. Our Chinese companions, who 
had put us through a perfect catechism before 
we all settled down for the night, we left still 
snoring on the k'ang. Our joint hotel bill for the 
accommodation, and including the tip to the man 
who sat up all night at the bellows, was some- 
where in the neighbourhood pf 3^d., but being 
foreigners, we doubtless paid more heavily than 
did the Chinese. 

Our early start was somewhat discounted by 
the breaking down of one of the wagons half an 



40 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

hour afterwards on the most exposed part of the 
mountain. The wind cut us through and through, 
and the sight of the snow and ice on all sides did 
not tend to make us feel any more comfortable. 
(One learns patience and philosophy in this country, 
if one learns nothing else.) My beautiful old 
Mongol presented his advice to the carters as to 
repairing the wagon, and then proceeded to climb 
up into the other one, thrust himself deep down 
amongst the cargo, and drawing all the available 
covering over his head became, for the time being, 
lost to view. I quickly adapted myself to my en- 
vironment and followed his example, thus begin- 
ning the day by endeavouring to finish the night, 
and sleeping in my cart until nearly nine o'clock, 
when, calling up my pony, I had a delightful ride 
until our next halt, at tiffin time. 

The day had by this time resolved itself into a 
condition of springlike perfection, and we had 
passed from the rugged barrier of the Han-o-pa 
region to a grassy plateau, finding a good deal of 
the land as well under Chinese cultivation, crops 
of wheat artd oats just beginning to show them- 
selves above the ground. By their assiduity, their 
perseverance, thrift, and industry, the Chinese 
here are persistently pressing onward and forward 
into Inner Mongolia, year by year a little more 
and a little more, colonising, and putting land 
under cultivation, ploughing up great tracts which 
perhaps the previous year had furnished grazing 
ground for Mongol live stock, their clusters of 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 41 

little mud houses forming landmarks in the bare 
landscape. 

Long strings of ox-carts were here winding 
their way up towards the mountains — unhappy- 
looking oxen with a vast amount of endurance, 
wretched little carts carrying a load of three sacks 
apiece, weighing from six to seven cwt. They 
travel very slowly, and on this narrow rocky road 
they are compelled to stop and make way for 
everything that either passes or meets them. 
The creaking of a string of ox-carts, sometimes as 
many as a 100 to 150 tied to one another, once 
heard will never be forgotten. The wheels are 
fixed on to solid axles which revolve with them and 
the rest of the structure is the personification of 
simplicity. Held together by wedges, the one 
thing needful to its well-being is water. Allowed 
to become too dry, the ox-cart falls to pieces. 
Kept properly damp, it forms the most service- 
able of all means of transport across the desert. 
The camel for celerity, but slow and sure is 
decidedly the characteriistc of the ox-cart. 

The first camel caravan we saw bearing hides 
and wool down to Kalgan met us hereabouts. 
The Mongols at the rate of one to every fifteen 
beasts, stared and stared at me and my pony, 
while I returned the gaze with interest. The 
staying power of camels is proverbial. The cara- 
vans in Mongolia march from twenty-five to 
twenty-eight miles a day, averaging a little over 
two miles an hour, for a month, after which the 



42 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

animals require a two weeks' rest when they will 
be ready to begin work again. Their carrying 
powers all the same do not bear comparison with 
the ox-cart. The ordinary load for the Bactrian, 
or two-humped Mongolian, camel is about 2 cwt. 
For riding purposes, though despised by the horsey 
Mongol, a good camel may be used with an ordin- 
ary saddle for seventy miles a day for a week in 
spring or autumn without food or water. The 
points of this particular species are a well-ribbed 
body, wide feet, and strong, rigid humps. The 
female camel is pleasanter to ride and generally 
more easy-going than the skittish young bull camel, 
who in the months of January and February is 
likely to be fierce and refractory. I have heard 
it said that if a camel " goes for you " with an open 
mouth, you should spring at his neck and hang on 
with both legs and arms until some one renders 
you timely assistance and ties him up. Generally 
speaking, however, they are not savage. They 
make as though to bite, but seldom actually do. 
The female might, in fact would, try to protect 
her young ; and the cry of a cow camel when 
separated from her calf is as pathetic as that of 
a hare being run down by the hounds. 

It was at a somewhat superior inn we drew 
rein at midday with the double object of resting 
our animals and refreshing ourselves. The 
pleasant Chinese who owned it invited us into his 
private apartment, a relatively clean room, and it 
was here that I made my first cooking experiment 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 43 

on the journey. In a biscuit box, which when we 
set out contained a dozen eggs, was discovered 
the early development of an omelette. Weeding 
the eggshells carefully away from the same, I 
replaced them by chips of cold ham, thus in course 
of time producing what I considered to be a dish 
worthy of the excellent chef to whom I had so 
lately said farewell at the Wagon-lits hotel at 
Peking. 

Alas ! for my well-meant effort. The Finn felt 
extremely unwell after partaking thereof, but in 
a subsequently confidential moment he explained 
to me that the omelette had unhappily not har- 
monised with a vast amount of cake which he had 
during the morning eaten in the sad intervals of 
wakefulness while I was riding and he was snooz- 
ing in my cart out of the wind. The innkeeper 
kept us company, of course, during the meal, when 
he gave us the latest intelligence concerning the 
movements of the Mongol and Chinese troops. 
All along the caravan route to Urga, he told us, 
the Mongols were removing their camps and 
flocks to remoter quarters for fear of being 
pillaged ; and even down here, little more than 
a day's journey from the frontier, most of the 
colonists were ready to pack up their ox-carts at 
an hour's notice and hurry away to the security 
of ChihH. 

The day, which had begun with so much promise, 
developed badly, a high wind sprang up from the 
north, and, laden with alkaline saturated sand 



44 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

lashed one's face into a condition of soreness. 
Riding, as we were, straight into the teeth of it, 
our progress was slow and the hour late when we 
made for an isolated and miserable little compound 
in which to pass the night. So few wayfarers 
had we seen during the day that it seemed reason- 
able to suppose that we should have the place 
almost to ourselves ; but not at all. A most unholy 
looking crew of Chinese and Mongols appeared to 
occupy every possible corner when the door was 
opened, and we were told baldly that there was 
no room for us here at all. There was, however, 
no alternative but to remain, and with a little per- 
suasion on the part of my old Mongol, a few of his 
fellow-countrymen betook themselves to a less 
comfortable shed which the innkeeper had con- 
sidered unworthy of sheltering us. Some of them 
remained, and there was, of course, nothing to do 
but to make the best of it. The Finn told me that 
he thought he could get the Chinese men turned 
out as well if 1 liked, but this would have been a 
desperately unsportsmanlike thing to do, and I felt 
that one could not possibly allow a missionary so 
to prejudice his profession. I could see that he 
was relieved by, and much appreciated, my point 
of view, which I must say seemed merely an ele- 
mentary action in " playing the game ". 

There were some nine or ten of us to share 
the room, and two of the Mongols looked most 
awful villains. I always slept with my revolver 
under my pillow — most people did, I fancy, during 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 45 

those troublous times — and I was amused at the 
Finn remarking, "You should put your trust in 
God rather than in firearms ". I told him that I 
quite agreed with him, but that I had always 
believed that intelligence combined with a straight 
eye had been given to us with a view to helping 
ourselves in tight corners. This same excellent 
man, be it related, never himself travelled with- 
out a revolver in his pocket and was at this time 
the proud possessor of a shot gun into the bargain. 
It struck me afterwards that he was not un- 
reasonably a little nervous as to whom I might 
shoot were I to wake up suddenly frightened in 
the night. As a matter of fact, the known pos- 
session of firearms in such a country is in itself 
a certain amount of security. 

Getting away in the early morning was always 
rather a business. My stubborn mule had some- 
times to be coaked and threatened alternately for 
half an hour before he would allow himself to 
be put between the shafts of the cart, and finally 
our caravan would get under weigh, disentangling 
itself from the apparently inextricable confusion 
of the crowded compound. 

Mongolian dogs, roused by the crackings of 
whips, keeping up an incessant growl, breaking 
into a savage bark should the unwary visitor 
venture too near ; weary ponies with drooping 
heads tethered to the stone pillar in the middle ; 
ill-conditioned pigs nosing about everywhere in 
somewhat hopeless search of provender; and, 



46 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

as souls apart, the stately camels in picturesque 
groups looking superciliously on, snarling and 
snapping as their owners urge them to kneeling 
posture to receive their loads — such is the com- 
position of the inn compound as one hangs around 
shivering in the chilly dawn, ready to hoist oneself 
into the saddle and be off the moment that the 
caravan is on the point of starting. It does not 
need great experience in this sort of travelling 
to be firm in seeing one's entourage set out 
before one departs oneself. 



CHAPTER IV 

" Those who know when they have enough are rich " 

— Chinese proverb 

THE countryside at this point, some seventy 
miles north-west of the Great Wall, 
begins to lose its cultivated aspect and 
to develop into great stretches of undulating 
prairie as far as the eye can see, which would 
have been ideal for riding had one had no retarding 
caravan to be kept in view. By this time I had 
grown quite attached to my pony, for although 
obstinate, as Mongolians must always appear by 
comparison with Europeans, he had a very fair 
mouth and was evidently used to being well 
treated. The monotony of the plains was broken 
not far from the last sign of civilisation, Hara- 
ossu, a place composed of a temple and a few 
houses, to reach which we had the excitement of 
fording a river, the carters making no end of 
a bother about this. First of all they persuaded 
one of the younger Mongols to divest himself 
of his trousers in order to wade out to ascertain 
at which point the animals would best be able to 
negotiate it. He walked into the water gingerly 
enough, the others all pouring advice into his 
ears at the tops of their voices, and after a 

47 



48 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

considerable delay and a ridiculous amount of 
fussing and preparation — the water in the deepest 
part did not come up to our axles — we got over 
with great yelling and shouting. The little red 
pony in my tandem flew over as though demons 
were after him, nearly upsetting the cart by 
rushing up the steep bank on the opposite 
side. My saddle pony went over quietly enough 
with me on his back, I having reassured him by 
letting him drink a little water first, and having 
therefore no difficulty at all. 

The last mud hut, a private house — there being 
no more inns on this side of the Gobi desert — was 
reached long after dark. It was a truly depressing 
habitation, the only virtue of which was that it 
was almost deserted save for an old man and 
his two sons. They may have had relatively 
comfortable quarters, but all that they could 
be induced to give us was the merest little out- 
house, a lean-to shed, from the roof of which 
hung cobwebs heavy with the dust of ages. 
Warmth or comfort there was none. Stacked 
round the walls and in the corners were harness, 
primitive agricultural appliances, a collection of 
fusty bags, and a mass of rubbish. When the 
dim light of our candles penetrated to the rafters 
we saw hanging therefrom a number of skins of 
sheep, goats, etc., some of them quite recently 
disassociated from their carcasses and in sanguin- 
ary condition, as well as a skeleton of what I 
diagnosed as a cat. 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 49 

It was a horrible place and so appallifigly dirty 
that one felt desire neither to eat nor rest in it. 
Packed up on the tail of my cart, however, I 
carried a canvas camp-bed of which I had not 
expected to make use before arriving at Ta-Bol. 
Here it was a great comfort, for at least it raised 
me above the dust-level of the crowded k'ang, 
and one did one's best to become oblivious of the 
surroundings as soon as possible. The owners 
of the place were evidently very nervous, and 
a murmur of conversation kept me awake most 
of the night. They would tell us nothing, how- 
ever, and pretended ignorance of all that was 
taking place in the country. Seeing some fowls, 
we persuaded them with some difficulty to sell 
us a few eggs, which they assured us were per- 
fectly fresh. To my surprise, however, in apply- 
ing the test of spinning them round, they whirled 
like a teetotum, and I learned for the first time 
of the native custom of hard-boiling them as soon 
as they were laid. 

We awoke to very cold weather next day, and 
I found to my sorrow that my pony had developed 
a swollen back and that it would be unwise to 
saddle him. Starting by leading him, I tied him 
up later on to the tail of the cart just in front of 
my own, thinking to keep an eye on him as we 
followed. But this was too undignified for the 
game little beast, and with a toss of his head he 
broke his reins and went off at a gallop, heading 
for the detestable quarters we had left an hour 

4 



50 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

earlier. This delayed us considerably, for we had 
already made a late start owing to my stupid old 
Mongol first breaking the strap which held my 
bedding together and then so packing everything 
into my cart that I could not possibly get into it 
as well. The entire contents had to be disgorged 
and re-arranged. 

By this time I had got my carters pretty well 
into shape, and they were beginning to realise 
that things had to be done in my way, that the cart 
was mine ^ro tern., and that I was not out for their 
sole amusement. In a country where women are 
wont to take such an entirely back seat it needs 
time and perseverance to establish this novel 
state of affairs. As I had foreseen, there being 
two of them to one of me, they tried in a mild 
way to bully me by seating themselves on my 
shafts at the same time, thereby, when I was 
inside, completely obscuring my view, and putting 
me on a level with the native women who are 
neither seen nor heard. It was, too, only by 
considerable firmness that I established a right 
to my favourite possession, a large sheet of 
Chinese oilcloth. My bed was spread upon it 
at night, when it made a sort of neutral territory 
between myself and the many insects by which I 
was likely to be attacked. By day it shielded my 
baggage from the dust and occasional rain storms, 
as well as gladdening my eyes when they rested 
upon its brilliant imperial yellow. Not once but 
many times did my driver try to annex this 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 51 

precious oilcloth in order to protect his fodder 
therewith. 

With two of the Mongols who accompanied us 
for their own convenience, I had very little to do. 
One of them, a son-in-law of the older man, was 
a mere youth, very under sized, of seventeen or 
eighteen, whose wedding, I learned later, was the 
great event of a few months previously in Inner 
Mongolia. The father-in-law treated him with 
much respect and consideration, for the boy is 
rich as Mongols go, and was returning from Kalgan 
with saddle bags filled with purchases for his bride ; 
most uncomfortable they must have been, since 
they pushed out his short legs from the saddle in 
a most ludicrous way. Starting an hour or so 
later than we did, they were handed a packet of 
letters which arrived just after I left, as well as 
a dollar's worth of stamps. They remembered 
to give me the letters a day or two afterwards, 
but I can only conclude that they kept the stamps 
to trade with next time they visited Kalgan, for 
I saw them never at all. 

Mongols pure and simple inhabited the hut at 
which we drew rein for our horses' midday rest, 
and girls with bright chubby cheeks and large 
dark eyes came out to stare at us. After this 
between us and the Gobi there was nothing but 
boundless prairie with an occasional group of 
Mongol yourts, or tents. The air here was so 
clear that the eye carried for a considerable 
distance. Far out on the horizon one may see 



52 A TOUR m MONGOLIA 

objects bobbing up and down, and, like a ship 
upon the high seas the sails of which come into 
view long before her hull, these objects gradually 
resolve themselves into figures, and a couple of 
Mongols mounted upon camels dawn upon one's 
view, swinging along at a great pace, the wind 
at their backs. They are the pioneers of a storm 
and great clouds of dust are rolling up behind them. 
The unusual sight not only of a whirlwind, but of 
a whirlwind walking across the prairie was very 
striking. It revolves at a tremendous rate upon 
its own axis as well as making swift progress. In 
the high wind we found hereabouts, I several 
times saw two or more solid columns of dust 
rising high into the air, apparently stalking each 
other over the plains. Another curious and 
equally amusing sight was that created by lumps 
of camel wool, which, becoming detached, are 
blown along gathering loose dry grass and more 
wool on their way, gradually forming huge 
boluses and trundling along in the high wind with 
an amazing velocity. 

We were now in Mongolia proper, and the 
language of the people we met appealed to me 
as infinitely more musical and harmonious than 
the throaty sounds that emanate from the mandarin 
speaking Chinese. Early in the day we arrived 
at the home of my old Mongol, Dobdun, and here 
in his yourt we were evidently not only eagerly 
expected, but received a very hearty welcome 
from the wives, a lama priest, brother of our host, 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 53 

and from a number of young people and children. 
There were several yourts clustered together, 
and outside the ubiquitous Tibetan prayer flags 
fluttered in the wind. As we rode up, we were 
greeted by a volley of barks from several ferocious 
dogs, and in Mongolia one soon learns never to 
dismount until some one from the yourt comes 
out to control them. When within shouting 
distance of the settlement at which one wishes 
to stop, one should stop and call out the word 
" Nuhuoi " (Mongolian for dogs), which as a 
rule brings out not only the dogs themselves, if 
they are not already on your tracks, but the 
inhabitants of the yourts who are bound by law 
to control them. 

The yourt is an umbrella-like framework of 
trellis-wood covered with rather thick felt, which 
when new is perfectly white, and in travelling in 
cold weather I ask for nothing better than to be 
housed in one of these. Some 14 to 18 feet in 
diameter, they are circular in form, having a dome- 
shaped roof. The door, which is originally painted 
red, faces always south or south-east. Upon 
entering the yourt, you are confronted by the 
little family altar, on which is arranged a Buddha 
and perhaps several smaller and subsidiary gods, 
together with sundry little brass cups containing 
offerings of one sort and another. In front of the 
altar is a low Chinese table, and round the sides 
of Dobdun's yourt were some fine old red lacquer 
chests for clothes and valuables. Most of these 



54 A TOUR m MONGOLIA 

had nice old Chinese locks, but on one of them 
the Finn recognised an European padlock as his 
own which he lost when travelling a year ago with 
this same Mongol. He did not call attention to 
the fact ; it would be of little use, for Mongols pick 
up and pocket things when the opportunity occurs 
and think nothing at all of it. 

Dobdun's yourt was exceptionally well-equipped. 
The ground was covered with semi-circular mats 
of very thick white felt with a device appUqu^ in 
black as a border. Some handsome skins were 
also strewn about. The centre of the yourt was 
occupied by an iron basket of flaming argol, the 
smoke from which escaped through a circular 
opening in the roof. Our host, my quondam 
" boy," being a man of means, had some handsome 
cushions for his guests to sit upon, and on these 
we squatted cross-legged. There is a consider- 
able amount of etiquette to be observed in visit- 
ing a Mongol family, and the first thing to be 
remembered is of significant importance. Just 
as one does not carry an umbrella into a London 
drawing-room, neither should one take a whip or 
stick into a Mongol yourt. To do so is tanta- 
mount to an act of aggression, and the proper 
thing is to lay them on the roof outside as one 
enters. Once inside, the usual palaver, as in 
China, takes place as to where one shall sit, and 
it is interesting to reflect how very nearly related 
after all in some respects our own manners are to 
those of the Asiatics. It would surely be a very 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 55 

modern young person who would plump himself 
into the largest armchair before his elders and 
betters were disposed of. 

To the left of the fire are the seats of the lowly, 
and the inevitable invitation to " come up higher " 
necessitates a certain amount of elasticity on the 
part of those unaccustomed to sink gracefully to 
the ground into a cross-legged position. Should 
cramp ensue from squatting thus, the visitor should 
remember that to sit with his feet pointing to the 
back of the tent is a heinous breach of good 
manners. If stretch they must, it should be to- 
wards the door, not the altar. On the other hand, 
if the foreigner divests himself of his headgear, 
which among the Mongols is not customary, he 
must place it higher up than, that is, on the altar 
side of, himself. If the word of greeting has for 
the moment been mislaid, as in my own case it 
invariably was, bows and smiles carry one a long 
way all the world over. Friendliness, but never 
to the point of permitting the least familiarity, 
seemed to me in the East to pave the way as a 
rule. 

With their warm welcome, a good deal of curi- 
osity is naturally combined, and I did not flatter 
myself that it was "love at first sight" which 
made the ladies of the family so anxious to sit 
near to me. Again, as the Chinese do, the Mon- 
gols like to finger one's clothes, get a close look 
at our " funny white eyes and light hair," and if 
one wears a ring, they are as amused as children to 



56 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

be allowed to try it on. But Dobdun, having had 
some experience of Europeans was not going to 
allow his womenkind to over-reach themselves, 
and their share in the entertainment was to initiate 
me into the mysteries of Mongol tea-making, and 
keep the iire going, and then, literally, to take a 
back seat and allow the superior sex to converse. 

Having finally settled into such seats as befitted 
the relative dignity of the visitors, an interchange 
of snuff-bottles took place, but in the case of 
Mongols alone it would be the caller who would 
offer his to the host and then to the others present. 
Of all their personal possessions, there is nothing 
more highly prized by the Mongols throughout 
the country than their snuff-bottles, which, in the 
case of rich men, are frequently made of carved 
jade, crystal, and precious stones. A considerable 
amount of ritual surrounds the offering and receiv- 
ing of the snuff-bottle. Our host, however, pan- 
dering to our foreign ways, produced his snuff, and 
I learned from him to receive it in the palm of my 
hand, lift it slowly to my nose, sniff, and then 
bowing return it with deliberation to the owner. 
Dobdun's habitat, I was warned, was not to be 
taken as an index to all yourts, for the general 
cleanliness, as well as the quality of the tea there, 
were vastly superior to anything else I was likely 
to meet in Mongolia. I was, in fact, being let 
down very easy in my initiation. 

The Mongols are very hospitable and insist upon 
giving the visitor tea and milk. It is at first a 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 57 

trying experience to know that good manners 
compel you to drink from a filthy bowl the still 
filthier milk which you see taken from a skin bag, 
made from the "innards" of a sheep, hanging 
up the side of the yourt, and offered to you by 
hands which from the day they were born appear 
never to have been washed. Brick tea, of which 
there are several qualities, and which in some 
parts of Mongolia still forms the currency, is made 
at Hankow from the dust and sweepings of the 
leaf. It is used throughout the country, and 
forms the staple drink of the Mongols. It is 
brewed by shavings, cut from the slab, being 
pounded up and stewed indefinitely in milk, to 
which salt and a cheesy description of butter 
are added. 

The relation between the tea and the argol was 
somewhat too intimate for my peace of mind, and 
it went sometimes much against the grain to drink 
from a bowl wiped out by the fingers of some dirty 
old woman who the moment before had been 
employed in feeding the fire with the horse or 
camel droppings. The collecting of argol is a 
source of constant occupation throughout the 
spring and summer, when after being spread over 
the ground in the sun, it is piled in great mounds 
near the yourts for use during the winter months. 
It makes a good hot fire and has practically no 
smell at all when burning. While engaged in en- 
deavouring to drink this saline mixture and at the 
same time to convey the impression that I liked it, 



58 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

an elderly man in a loose robe of dark red cotton 
cloth, his head clean-shaved, rode up, dismounted, 
and came in. He was presented to me as "my 
brother, the lama ". He was an old friend of the 
missionary, and they at once entered into an 
animated conversation. 

A particularly handsome small boy with large 
and merry brown eyes made his appearance soon 
after, and to my surprise, lama priests being 
vowed to celibacy, was introduced by Dobdun as 
"the son of my brother, the lama". The Finn 
chaffed the priest gently on the subject of the 
breaking of his vows, whereupon every one laughed, 
including the illegitimate son, who, a fine lad of 
twelve or so, had already been dedicated to the 
temple and was now a lama student. They retali- 
ated, I heard subsequently, by asking the mission- 
ary what on earth he was doing travelling about 
the country with a woman. This might have 
embarrassed me had I known the language. It is 
not the first time that I have experienced the bliss- 
fulness of ignorance. The lama in embryo and 
his little sister were quite willing to be photo- 
graphed later on, and were posed for me by their 
seniors at their usual occupation — gathering argol. 

In spite of Dobdun's constant association with 
missionaries at Kalgan, in spite of the fact that 
he knows by heart quite half of the Bible, that he 
has had every opportunity and every encourage- 
ment to become a Christian, he remains as devout a 
Buddhist as ever he was ; and, although interested 




A CAMEL CARAVAN 




THE LAMA IN EMBRYO, AND HIS LITTLE SISTER GATHERING ARGOL 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 59 

in the religion of the Western world, he regards 
it as similar but vastly inferior to his own faith. 
And so he continues to enshrine his little brass 
figure of the prophet, and at sundry times he 
doubtless makes his prostrations, and fills up the 
many little metal cups with suitable offerings of 
corn and wine to his god. 

Thus my first impression of a Mongol yourt was 
an extremely pleasant one, and I was sorry at the 
end of an hour or more to say farewell to my first 
Mongol friend, little knowing that he had no in- 
tention of letting me very far out of his sight and 
that he would turn up again within the next forty- 
eight hours in order to present his foreign prot6g6e 
to his various friends in the neighbourhood. But 
you never know your luck in travelling, and in 
seeking shelter for the night you are as likely as 
not in winter to find a very different sort of yourt. 
The young calves and lambs share the warmth of 
the stove with their owners, and, if the size of the 
family (a very elastic term here) is out of propor- 
tion to the accommodation of the yourt, they will 
all lie down together, well wedged in with their 
feet towards the fire in the middle, the animals 
squeezing in where they can. 

Delightfully drowsy hours in my cart over 
smooth prairie followed the substantial meal in the 
warmth of the yourt as we pressed on toward 
Ta-Bol, when I was suddenly awakened by an un- 
expected halt, in time to see the Finn dismount 
at the sight of a couple of Mongols on camels who 



60 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

drew up to speak to him. The camel-riders made 
their beasts kneel and they swung themselves out 
of their saddles to shake the missionary warmly 
by both hands. By this time a third man riding 
one and leading another pony appeared on the 
scene and the four men squatted on the ground in 
earnest conference. It transpired that they were 
attached to a great caravan on its way down to 
Kalgan ; that they had already been obliged to 
go much out of their way in order to avoid the 
soldiers ; and that they would be thankful if the 
Finn would give them "written words" in case 
any further effort were made to commandeer their 
camels. I provided them with leaves from my 
note-book for the purpose, and the Finn did what 
he could for them. 

Exactly why his words should have weight with 
Government troops in a country under martial 
law, I could never quite fathom. Perhaps it was 
that the soldiers from China and these Mongols 
from Urga would not be able to speak one 
another's language — more than probable. These 
Mongols at all events departed quite happy and 
apparently much reassured by the missionary's 
advice. The horseman lent the Finn the capital 
little pony he was leading. They would meet 
again before long, he said, and then it could be 
returned to him. That night I reached the most 
northerly point of my little excursion into the 
wilds, and camped out in the vicinity of the only 
mission in the heart of Mongolia. 




< Id 

8g 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 61 

Lack of hospitality has never been one of the 
variety of faults so erroneously attributed to mis- 
sionaries, but the little five-roomed mud structure 
which housed two families as well as three or four 
unattached men and women, to say nothing of an 
adopted Mongol orphan, had its limitations, and 
I was not at all sorry to pitch my own tent rather 
than tax the already overburdened resources of 
this newly established station. It was but a few 
weeks after my visit that this little community 
had to fly for their lives in the face of the pillaging 
Mongols from the north, and up to the present 
time there has been apparently but little hope of 
their returning to rebuild the ruins of their com- 
pound, and to resume their almost hopeless task 
of conversion. Missions in China are making 
quite unprecedented progress at the present time, 
owing doubtless in some degree to the prevailing 
desire for Western education and enlightenment 
in general. But Buddhism, or indeed any other 
form of belief, has nothing approaching so strong 
a hold over the Chinese as Lamaism has over the 
Mongols, where in every family at least one boy 
is dedicated from birth to the priesthood, and 
where lamas are estimated as forming over 60 per 
cent, of the total male population. 

Within hail of this plucky little band I pitched 
my tent, and for the first time experienced the 
diversions of life under canvas in what was practi- 
cally winter and during a gale. Among certain 
things I lay claim to have learnt at Ta-Bol was 



62 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

how to appear cheery and optimistic at breakfast 
time when from early dawn and even earlier one 
had been engaged in finding out all about the ways 
and possibilities of canvas during a raging hurri- 
cane. The Mongols are an astonishingly feckless 
lot of people compared with the Chinese who 
nearly invariably ' ' go one better " and improve 
upon anything one shows them from the Western 
world. The first thing that happened when I 
retired for the night was the collapse of my canvas 
bed. The " boy," to whom the business of erect- 
ing it and my tent had been entrusted, had 
satisfied his conscience by merely hooking the 
ends to the bed supports, and had left the sides 
(literally) to rip. They did. With a tremendous 
effort, the light blowing out at intervals, I managed 
to detach the frame from the canvas and begin 
again. In course of time, and extremely cold, I got 
into bed. By 3 a.m. I was aroused by the flap of 
the tent untying itself and making a most irritat- 
ing noise. There was nothing for it but to wake 
up thoroughly and make it fast. 

I think I could not have been asleep more than 
half an hour before I gradually became conscious 
that my tent appeared to be the sole obstacle in 
the path of a tremendous hurricane on its way 
down from Urga to Peking, for all the force of the 
gale sweeping over hundreds of miles of desert 
seemed to be expending its force upon the canvas. 
The fiap-flap was merely the overture to a grand 
chorus, and the cords on one side of the tent 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 63 

suddenly freeing themselves from the pegs out- 
side, the entire place became transformed in the 
twinkling of an eye into a pandemonium. 

The dust was dense and my belongings blew 
round in it in base imitation of the whirlwinds 
which had amused me so much during the early 
part of the previous day. Loose corners of the 
tent smacked at everything with extraordinary 
vigour, smashing all that came within their reach 
and inflicting stinging slaps as one sought to make 
them fast. Any sort of light was out of the ques- 
tion and chaos reigned for hours. Having made 
the ropes fast again and, regardless of dust, 
deposited everything upon the ground with the 
heavier articles on the top as the only possible 
expedient, I again made a bid for the oblivion of 
a final nap. From sheer exhaustion I managed 
to sleep again even in that storm, to wake up 
shivering with cold and in a gritty condition of 
great discomfort. For the rest — every single 
article in the tent had to be cleaned when the wind 
went down. Among things I noted during that 
eventful night was that it is essential when sleep- 
ing so near to the bosom of mother earth in winter 
to pack as many clothes underneath as on the top 
of one's body in a canvas bed. More than once I 
woke up in the morning quite stiff with c6ld. 

Life, however, is full of contrasts, and "joy 
cometh with the morning". At an early hour 
a missionary called upon me with a pleasing 
proposition from the Mongols, who, hearing that 



64 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

I had a gun, thought that it would be a good 
opportunity to organise a wolf hunt. Wolves are 
the arch enemies of the Mongols on account of 
the tremendous amount of damage they do to the 
stock. The Mongols hunt them with a zest bred 
of vengeance, and ride them down (at a somewhat 
severe cost to their ponies, for the pace is terrific 
and the strain great), finally lassoing them with 
a loop of raw hide attached to the end of a 
pole. The wolf thus caught has a poor time at 
the hands of the revengeful hunter, and I heard 
horrible stories of the unfortunate brutes being 
pegged down to earth, jaws bound, skinned alive 
except the head, and then set free. Of Mongol 
bravery there is no doubt, but the reason they 
give for wolves never attacking men in Mongolia is 
typical of their "bounce" and conceit. Wolves 
certainly "go for" people in Russia immediately 
north, and in Manchuria and China immediately 
to the east and south of Mongolia. The Russians 
and Chinese, say the Mongols, are cowards and 
run away, while they, the Mongols, attack the 
wolves, yelling and shouting. 

A certain she-wolf had for some time carried 
on successful forays in the neighbourhood, and 
had done considerable damage, not only among 
the flocks and herds, but had even pulled down 
a colt quite near to a settlement. Her lair, where 
it was suspected that she was maintaining a litter 
of young cubs, had been located on a distant 
hill-side. Our armament on this occasion was, 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 65 

though varied, quite insufficient, and consisted 
only of our service and two smaller revolvers 
as well as a shot gun. We lacked the essential 
rifle. The expedition, however, was not wholly 
unsuccessful. Taking a line well to leeward of 
the suspected hill-side, four of us with as many 
Mongols, armed with spades and picks, spreading 
ourselves out with a view to cutting off the re- 
treat of the old wolf, should she attempt to dodge 
us, began a silent march over the dried-up grass. 
We had walked for less than half an hour when, 
sure enough, the vibrations of our footsteps 
carried the news of our approach through the 
earth to the lair, and in the distance we descried 
the lady, who, while keeping her weather eye 
upon us, was making off at a swinging lope at 
right angles to us. If only we had had a rifle ! 
Each of us was ready to pose as a certain shot and 
swore to the unquestioned demise of the wolf in 
such a case. A couple of excellent shots from the 
service revolver scuffed up the dust after her 
retreating form, and some of us ran at an angle 
and tried to head her off by shooting in front of 
her. But pack of novices that we were, she got 
well away, her tongue no doubt in her cheek, and 
we watched her regretfully into dim distance. 

Hard woi'k was to take place of suitable 
weapons. The lair was not difficult of discovery. 
The hill-side was a perfect honeycomb of holes, 
and we tried several before settling down to the 
task of a navvy upon the most promising group. 

5 



66 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

We all took our turn in wielding the two Chinese 
spades the Mongols had brought with them, and 
before long we had made a deep gully some eight or 
nine feet in length and four or five in depth which 
we fondly hoped would soon disclose the nest. Our 
disappointment in discovering that we had merely 
turned up a passage which went off sharply to the 
innermost recesses of the slope was great, and 
two of the party threw up the sponge, declaring 
that the game was not in the least worth the 
candle. Personally, I had ulterior motives in 
view, and was nothing loth to getting my muscles 
into trim by such excellent exercise as digging. 
To become the owner of a couple of wolf cubs 
and to take them back with me to Peking and 
possibly ship them home alive seemed to me very 
well worth while. 

We dug all day, and towards evening decided, 
on the advice of the Mongols, to try to smoke 
out the wolves by lighting a fire at another 
entrance to the group of holes upon which we 
were engaged. We were certainly rewarded, 
not by a capture of wolves, but by one of the 
most wonderful sights I had experienced in the 
East. Whether accidental or intentional, it was 
not very clear, but in any case the Mongols 
managed to start a prairie blaze which ran like 
wildfire over acres and acres of dried-up grass. 
It was a wonderful display. Numbers of eagles, 
harrier eagles, they called them, hovered and 
hung over the burning expanse, swooping down 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 67 

with deadly certainty upon any ground game that 
might run. It was very interesting to watch four 
of these great birds hunt and chase a miserable 
white hare which simply had no chance at all. 

There is any amount of sport even in this 
unpromising part of Mongolia ; antelope, prairie 
chicken, and hare offering a welcome variety to 
the everlasting mutton of the stewpot. It was 
fortunate that the fire spread in a direction away 
from the little mission station and the Mongol 
yourts near it. At night the whole horizon to 
the west was glowing, and one could see flames 
leaping high from time to time as they licked up 
some little bush or scrub, the hillocks becoming 
sharply outlined for a while and then part of the 
blaze itself. Had the strong wind of the night 
before kept up we should have been in a tight 
corner. It was an alarming as well as a beautiful 
sight. The relentless progress of the crackling 
flames was awe-inspiring, and the phenomenal 
part of it all was that after laying bare some 
thousands of acres, the whole thing seemed to 
fizzle out almost as rapidly as it had begun. 
I gathered that it was against the law of the 
country to start such fires, but the Mongols 
seemed to think that it all made for good and 
that the new grass would have all the better 
chance by the clearing off of the old. 

At daybreak the following morning a couple of 
us sallied forth once more to the scene of yester- 
day's excavations, and seeing from the distance 



68 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

some movement among the upturned earth we 
fired, to find upon closer inspection that one fluffy 
little cub playing outside the hole had been badly 
peppered and that another one had been killed 
outright. That there were more inside was fairly 
certain, for a litter usually consists of from five to 
seven or more. We decided to continue digging 
operations. After several hours' extremely hard 
work and a display of great bravery on the part 
of one of the missionaries who burrowed into 
the hole, where there might very well have lurked 
the parent wolf, until nothing but his feet could 
be seen outside, we came upon a nest of three 
more cubs as well as a wounded one in a pas- 
sage leading to it. 

The Mongols were delighted with the bag, and 
clamoured for the pretty soft little creatures whom 
it went to my heart to destroy. One was spared 
for me, and I fed it for several days from a Mongol 
baby bottle — but it died. The baby bottle of the 
country, I may mention, is the horn of a cow 
pierced through to the tip, with a teat cut from 
the udder of a sheep attached thereto. A great 
many babies whose mothers have died in child- 
birth are, I am told, brought up in this way. By 
the time we had finished our labours we had dug 
a trench of over twenty feet long, sometimes 
seven feet in depth, to say nothing of various false 
tracks, in the process of which we turned up 
several tons of very tough earth, blistered our 
hands badly, and made a most untidy mess of the 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 69 

hill-side. Over and above their joy at having 
given the happy despatch to no fewer than six 
of their potential enemies, the Mongols were 
delighted to cut up the wolves for the sake of 
their livers, which form one of their most highly 
valued medicines. 



CHAPTER V 

" That the wicked have plenty to eat is no indication of the 
approval of heaven " 

— Chinese proverb 

IT would be unkind to recommend any sensitive 
person to make a first experiment in camp- 
ing out among such a friendly, but inquisitive 
crew as the natives hereabouts, and I could but 
be thankful to have served my apprenticeship in 
this respect in China. After travelling, very much 
off the beaten track, sometimes for eighteen 
months in his country, the Chinese, wherever I 
met him, in Mongolia or in Russia, or in Russo- 
Japanese Manchuria, seemed far more to me like 
" a man and a brother " than the inhabitants of 
any of the latter countries. The casual manner 
in which the Mongol would walk into one's tent 
was, to say the least of it, embarrassing ; and I 
have heard it said that quite a Uttle grievance 
exists among those who from time to time visit 
Peking for trading purposes or on official business 
because the houses of Europeans are not open 
to them as are their hospitable yourts to the 
traveller in their country. 

An old, old man dropped in one day to see me, 
stone deaf, and dumb. I had been hearing a good 

70 



H^^&a-. 




MtTHI'-^ELAH AND HIS DA It .HCr.R ■ IN ■ LAW 




ONE OF THE LARGEST CAMKL <ARAVANS THE AUTHOR HAD EVER SICEN 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 71 

deal and in great variety about their superstitions 
regarding devils, and when this wrinkled old leather- 
face, overshadowed by a sheepskin cap black with 
the dirt of ages, silently approached me in the 
half-light of late afternoon, it was as though the evil 
one had materialised. Very thin — there is no soft 
corner in the Mongol heart, as in the Chinese, for 
the aged — very tattered, and with bleared eyes, 
Methuselah gently fingered all my belongings, 
passing his filthy fingers up and down the bristles 
of my hair- and tooth-brushes with evident enjoy- 
ment. My interest, to say nothing of my aston- 
ishment, was far too great for me to think of 
raising any objection. Poor old man ! 

Far from being venerated on account of ad- 
vancing years the old people in Mongolia run a 
very good chance of being crowded out of their 
yourts by the younger generation, and left to live 
or die with no more possessions than a bit of felt 
covering and a meagre allowance of food on the 
dust heaps surrounding the settlements. 

A son of my old visitor had been a lesser man- 
darin in this part, but was dispossessed as the re- 
sult of having been altogether too grasping in his 
" squeeze " of the soldiers whom he was supposed 
to pay with money that was provided for that 
purpose. Four or five fairly well-to-do yourts 
were the fruit of his ill-gotten gains, and his chief 
wife, the T'ai-t'ai, showed me with pride her 
beautiful headdress which she said was worth over 
one hundred taels, which it was not difficult to 



72 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

believe. A number of relations crowded into the 
yourt when I went to pay my call — an astonish- 
ingly picturesque crowd in blue, purple, and 
lavender coats, mingling with the bright orange 
and dull red of the lamas' habits — all more or less 
dirty, and some very ragged. The men with their 
shaggy fur caps and silver-mounted hunting knives, 
ivory chopsticks hanging in cases, and flint and 
tinder purses slung on silver chains round their 
waists or attached to their girdles ; the women 
with elaborate headdresses of the same metal, 
richly studded with jade, coral, and sometimes 
pearls, are all really very imposing. 

Nothing would satisfy them but that I should go 
to call upon the little bride of the family and their 
son, her boy husband. Escorted by the mother- 
in-law, I made my way to a very new-looking 
yourt covered with clean white felt and with a 
newly painted red door. It formed quite a land- 
mark among the others, which were in varying 
stages of dirtiness and decay. We were received 
by the young bridal couple, who, arrayed in all the 
splendour of their wedding garments in my honour, 
had omitted to tidy up their habitation, which pre- 
sented a sorry spectacle of thriftless disorder. I 
gathered that some of the wedding presents had 
been of a practical nature, for I noticed — inci- 
dentally by hitting them with my head — haunches 
of antelope and joints of muttpn hanging from the 
roof just inside the entrance. The marriage did 
not seem to me to promise particularly well, for 




A MONGOL BRIDE 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 73 

although amply endowed with such worldly goods 
as the Mongol heart could desire, the boy and girl, 
children that they were, seemed distinctly snappy 
with each other, and each kept his or her own key 
of the red lacquer chests which contained their 
respective treasures. 

The girl's bridal coiffure was quite wonderful, 
and back and front her strings of coral and silver 
chains, with their massive ornaments, reached 
almost to the bottom of her coat. I noticed that 
the older women's strings of beads seemed to 
grow shorter with age, and gathered that, as the 
girls of the family married, their headdresses were 
contributed to by the senior generation. A bride, 
therefore, in a poor family possesses much finer 
jewels than does her mother, who, like many a 
mother at home, has been impoverished by the 
wedding. 

The tribe of this region is the Chakhar of South 
or Inner Mongolia, and owing to the proximity of 
China they are, I believe, the least pure bred of 
any. In the main a nomadic people, they move 
their settlements under normal conditions but twice 
in the year, the principal object being, of course, 
fresh pasture for their cattle. They also, how- 
ever, attach some importance to tradition, and 
will move their yourts just a few yards sometimes 
just for the sake of having done so. A fairly 
well-watered country, the locale of the yourts is 
to some extent determined by the wells, but the 
areas are relatively circumscribed, and there is 
little difficulty in discovering at any given time 



74 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

the whereabouts of any particular family one may 
be seeking. 

The great lamaseries are necessarily of per- 
manent structure, and fine temples surrounded by 
a number of yourts and rough houses of Chinese 
type form villages of considerable size. One 
comes upon them unexpectedly like oases in the 
desert. Once a most warlike tribe and foes 
greatly to be feared by their Chinese neigh- 
bours, the Chakhars appear to be now a more 
peaceable folk than their cousins of the North, 
and have not, in unison with the Khalkhas, sought 
to throw off the Chinese yoke with the downfall 
of the Manchu dynasty. I have heard it said that 
the Chakhars are cleaner than other tribes, but 
for the truth of this statement I am unable to 
vouch ; and truly, in view of the fact that it would 
be difficult to be dirtier than they, I myself find 
it hard to believe it. Mongols, generally speaking, 
are an extraordinary dirty people, and one of their 
superstitions is that if they have too much to 
do with water in this life they will become fish in 
the next incarnation. They suffer much from 
contagious diseases, on account of their habits as 
well as owing to their lack of morality. 

The Mongols are, I am told, some of the most 
frankly immoral people in the world, and this is 
not the result of the absence of moral code, for 
theoretically this latter is of the strictest possible 
character. The lamas certainly have an extremely 
bad reputation ; certain orders of them are 




A TYPICAL CHAKHAR 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 75 

allowed to marry, but the great bulk of the im- 
mense population of priests is nominally celibate. 
Among the various orders of the priesthood are 
some whose mission it is to travel about the 
country to collect money for the temples. When 
one of these holy men (the greatest villains un- 
hung, would be my honest opinion) visits a settle- 
ment he is invited to stay in the richest yourt, 
given the best of everything to eat, and the chief 
wife, or, if he prefers her, the daughter, is offered 
to him as a matter of course. There is no ques- 
tion, I believe, of these women, who belong to the 
lamas, being looked down upon — far from it. But 
as far as I could observe and understand, women 
entering into this irregular alliance do not wear 
the distinctive and very beautiful headdress of 
the married woman. 

Lamas throughout Mongolia have their heads 
clean-shaven, and in this region their ordinary 
dress consists of long tunics of coarse cotton in 
varying tones of terra-cotta and yellow, bound 
round the waist with sashes of dark red, as well 
as long folds of the same material which, worn 
ordinarily across the chest, are on ceremonial oc- 
casions and whilst officiating unwound and used 
in shawl fashion. Even were there no other dis- 
tinguishing feature between the Mongol and 
Chinese, by their boots you would know them 
all the world over; clumsy, loose-legged affairs, 
coming two-thirds of the way up to the knee, the 
dignity of the Mongol is very greatly diminished 



76 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

if he has to walk or run in such a footgear. Toes 
upturned, the sole is thick and cumbersome, the 
boot fits nowhere at all, and the walk degenerates 
into a shuffle in consequence. For purposes of 
differentiation the laity are called black men, their 
hair being worn in long handsome pig-tails, the 
front of the head shaved in Chinese fashion. I 
was present on the occasion of the inauguration 
of the first Parliament of China's Republic in 
Peking in the spring of 1913, when the Mongol 
representatives, three of them from Inner Mon- 
golia, were conspicuous in that ultra modern and 
newly cropped assembly by their queues, by their 
high boots, and by their old-world satin-brocade, 
fur-trimmed coats of a richness and quality now 
seldom seen in Peking. 

Men and women are extremely fond of dress and 
ornaments ; the former run to beautiful and valu- 
able snuff-bottles, elaborate decoration of their 
hunting knives, tobacco pouches, chopsticks, and 
flint and tinder boxes. Extremes seem to me to 
meet in the cherished possessions of an old Mongol 
mandarin. He showed me with much pride an 
up-to-date rifle, a splendid pair of Zeiss field- 
glasses, and then his flint and tinder box. 

Ta-Bol, the meaning of which, "five mountains," 
suggests a somewhat distorted view of the slight 
elevations which surround it, proved to be a 
pleasant centre for my short sojourn in the Chak- 
har country, and I managed to get a variety of 
experiences into the time I was there. In a north- 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 77 

westerly direction and distant some 60 li from 
Ta-Bol lies Hankarawa, an important citadel of 
lamaism and the largest temple of Inner Mongolia. 
In perfect weather and over the most delightful 
riding country imaginable, with a good track 
across undulated prairie, an early start was made 
in order to have plenty of time on arrival. My 
star seemed in the ascendant, and it was truly a 
lucky day that I chose for the expedition. 

Forming a suburb to the lamasery were half a 
dozen or less yourts near the entrance, and these 
I found on closer inspection were primitive little 
stores kept by the Chinese for supplying the 
lamas — who here, as in most other places, do no 
work at all and produce absolutely nothing for 
their own use — with the necessities of life. The 
courtly owner of one of them pressed me to enter, 
when he at once offered me the best tea that I 
had had since I left South China. In stumbling 
phrases, I expressed my appreciation and en- 
quired whether the tea was not from the Bohea 
hills of Fukien. This let loose a flood of con- 
versation (of which, I must confess, I hardly 
understood a word), out of which I disentangled 
the fact that my host had come from that province 
and was delighted to speak with one who knew 
and admired his native city, Foochow. As to 
paying for my entertainment, they scouted the 
idea, and when I departed I felt that at least I had 
now one friend in Mongolia. 

As I approached the entrance to the place it all 



78 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

seemed abnormally quiet and deserted. I knew 
there were hundreds of lamas there, but no one 
was about and not a sound was to be heard. It 
was all very mysterious. It was not until I had 
tentatively opened many doors and peered into 
the gloom of sundry temples, in one of which a 
very old lama sat quite alone, droning his prayers 
in the Tibetan tongue, clashing a pair of cymbals 
and beating a big drum with his hands and feet 
respectively all at the same time, that I heard 
sounds as of clapping and applause. I found 
them difficult to locate. Chancing on the entrance 
to an unpromising looking and, as far as I could 
see deserted, compound, I leaned my weight 
against the great painted wooden doors, which 
giving way with a loud creak, precipitated me 
most unexpectedly into the midst of an unlooked- 
for entertainment. My own surprise can hardly 
have been less than the combined astonishment 
of some two to three hundred lamas, ranging from 
little boys to old hoary-heads, all squatting on 
the ground in the sunny forecourt of a temple. 

My sudden appearance with a camera in their 
midst was apparently most disconcerting, and one 
and all they covered their heads with the dark 
red sashes. To take a snapshot on the spur of 
the moment was literally a reflex act on my part, 
and had my life been at stake in the doing of it 
I could not have refrained. As it was, for a 
moment or two perhaps the situation was a trifle 
strained, and whether my intrusion would be 




TWO OR THREE HUNDRED LAMAS SQUATTING ON THE GROUND IN THE 
SUNNY FORECOURT OF A TEMPLE 




'^~K-!z<&ii&sm 



HANKARAWA 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 79 

resented, as it might well have been in that out- 
of-the-way corner of the earth, was exceedingly 
uncertain. Scowls and anger were expressed all 
too plainly on the debased faces of many of the 
younger men, but at a sign from one of the leaders 
they seemed quickly to recover their equanimity, 
resumed their occupation, and offered not the 
slightest objection to my presence, when, by signs, 
I asked permission to walk round the outskirts of 
the gathering. 

The deep red, vivid orange, and pale cinnamon 
of their clothes suggested great borders of parrot 
tulips ranged on either side of a wide flagged 
path leading up to the chief lama, who quite 
possibly had seen, what probably few of the others 
had, white faces visiting the temples in Peking. 
He allowed me to take a photograph at close 
quarters, smiling (at his own cowardice, I presume) 
the while. The little boys made hideous faces at 
me as I strolled round, and the young men of 
twenty or so, an age at which I always feel there 
is most to fear from devilment and cruelty, looked 
at me in an unmistakably hostile manner. 

A little group of men stripped to the waist 
formed the centre of operations, and these it 
transpired were candidates for a degree. They 
were being examined by the seniors and cross- 
examined by their junior colleagues of all ages. 
Each side backed its fancy apparently and all 
indulged in wild clapping and gesticulation, some 
of them rising from the ground in their excitement 



80 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

and yelling approbation or the reverse to the 
victim of the moment. The brown-faced old chief 
lama sat suave and imperturbable throughout. 
The scene was as picturesque as it was interesting 
and fraught with mystery. 

Soon afterwards the assembly dispersed, and, 
freed from the restraint of their elders, the young 
lamas hustled round me in an aggressive and 
pugnacious sort of mood. I have found in my 
limited experience that to meet this kind of thing 
good-humouredly, but never to show the least sign 
of embarrassment, usually has a placating effect. 
I allowed one or two of the more objectionable 
youths to look through my camera, for instance, 
but when one of them wished to take it from 
me for a closer inspection I smacked his hand away 
as I would have done a child's, whereat they 
laughed. Not more than five per cent of the 
uninitiated seem able to see anything through the 
lenses of a camera, but if one or two can be made 
to do so the others are placed at a disadvantage, 
which, to some extent gives one the whip hand. 
' In the same way with the Chinese. On 
rare occasions I was faced with the type of 
swanking young man who conceives it to be 
his mission in life to make the foreigner " lose 
face ". He usually begins by calling attention 
to one's limited knowledge of his language, 
but I succeeded more than once in turning 
the tables by enquiring if he knew " English 
talk," French talk," " Russian talk," and so 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 81 

forth. A contemptuous shrug of the shoulders 
and an expressive movement of the hands, with 
a well-there-you-are look on your face, and the 
crowd laughs with you, while the swanker retires 
to reflect on the fact " that they don't know 
everything down in Judee ". 

On one occasion in Mongolia it became essential 
for me to assert my position. The lad who had 
insisted, against my wishes, upon accompanying 
my caravan up country (I discovered afterwards 
that he was actually the owner of and alone could 
manage the pony which helped to draw my cart) 
declined to carry out my instructions in some 
small matter or other one day, and, moreover, 
when I insisted, he was cheeky, imitating me in 
the way I spoke Chinese almost before my face. 
This could not, of course, be permitted for an 
instant. I waited my opportunity, and later in the 
day on returning from an expedition I asked a 
missionary to explain his misdeeds very carefully 
to him, and to help him to realise that though I 
might not be able to speak his language I did not 
intend to stand any nonsense from him. I stepped 
in at the end of the harangue and seizing him by 
the pigtail I administered the severest chastisement 
I have ever given, boxing his ears soundly several 
times. The crucial question had arisen. Was I 
to lose face, or was he ? I have to admit that I 
was not " hitting a man of my own size," but 
the effect on the Mongol onlookers was excellent, 
and as for the lad himself — well — he and I and a 

6 



82 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

young Mongol spent the greater part of next day 
together hunting for eagles' eggs, far away from 
the camp. That I taught him the approved 
Western method of blowing eggs with one hole 
only (some of them were in an unpleasantly 
mature condition) sealed our relationship, which 
remained friendly until I left China. 

One romantic evening in South Mongolia comes 
back to my remembrance in Europe as it were 
in a dream. I had arranged to accompany my 
old friend the Finn on a visit to a distant settle- 
ment in order to see whether these people there 
with whom he was totally unacquainted would 
give him a hearing at all. After a ride of some 
twenty li or so, we arrived late one Sunday after- 
noon at a group of tents sheltered from the north 
and easterly winds by a belt of low hills, and came 
to a halt a hundred yards away from the most im- 
portant looking yourt with a shout of " Nuhuoi". 

The people emerged from the surrounding 
tents and restrained the very savage dpgs who 
were howling for our blood. Women controlled 
them, kneeling on the ground and holding them 
in by their collars. The moment the dogs see 
that strangers are given a friendly reception there 
is no more trouble with them until the time 
for departure comes, when the same performance 
has to be repeated. The owner of the yourt we 
had selected for our visit was a Mandarin of some 
standing, and his fine manners greatly impressed 
me as he offered us the snuff-bottle in the most 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 83 

courtly fashion imaginable. With him was a 
very handsome man who might from his gentle 
and learned appearance have been — what one 
likes to imagine they are — an Oxford don. This 
was the Mandarin's secretary, and having lived 
from time to time in Peking, he had acquired 
something of the culture and refinement of the 
Chinese upper class. Through him, the Finn 
addressed most of his remarks to the Mandarin 
who was keenly entertained until the subject 
of Western religion was broached, when he com- 
pletely changed his aspect, becoming palpably in- 
different, if not a little sulky, remaining with us 
only because good manners compelled him to do so. 
People from neighbouring tents swarmed in, 
crowding and jostling each other at the entrance 
in order to catch a glimpse of the foreigners. 
The atmosphere became not a little thick, the 
doorway being absolutely blocked up by a solid 
little mass of humanity, little faces even peer- 
ing in between the ankles of the older folk. 
A motley crew indeed, the sun streaming in like 
a brilliant shaft through the hole in the roof, 
the rest of the interior in deep shade, the colours 
of their clothes and the whimsical faces of the 
people making altogether a fascinating study. 
The Finn suggested that I, as a new-comer to 
Mongolia, would like to hear some of the music 
of the country, and there was a great pow-wow 
as to who should perform for my benefit. After 
a prodigious wait, two young lamas disappeared, 



84 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

soon to return, the one with a long multi-stringed 
instrument of wood distantly related, perhaps, 
to the zither family ; and the other bearing a 
banjo-like affair provided with four strings. 

In the dim light from the setting sun, and with 
a shyness charming to behold in these usually 
somewhat truculent youths, they twanged their 
strings in pretty little minor chords, and from 
time to time one of them would sing quietly and 
very bashfully of the prowess of his historic 
forebears. The singer of the settlement, a girl, 
was, I gathered, too shy to appear at all. It 
was all so weird and barbaric, so remote from 
life as I had known it, and so extraordinarily like 
a dream. The Mongols, as I learnt during my 
months in Peking, are totally unlike the Chinese 
in their relation to music. While I was in Peking 
the last of the Manchu empresses departed from 
the disturbed life of her country, and the lamas, 
of course, played an important part at the funeral 
ceremonials. Grouped in a little temple-like 
structure to one side of the platform upon which 
the obeisance to the memorial tablet of the dead 
empress was made, some forty or fifty priests 
in brilliant togas of Imperial yellow satin intoned 
a solemn dirge which was absolutely in harmony 
with the atmosphere of mourning. Many people 
who deny entirely the least suggestion of musical 
sense to the Chinese were, I remember, greatly 
struck with the extraordinarily deep and rich 
tones that came from the Mongol throats in their 
Gregorian-like chanting. 



CHAPTER VI 

" The best riders have the hardest falls ' 

— Chinese proverb 

THE people in the neighbourhood of Ta-Bol 
were quite a friendly lot, and I was fre- 
quently invited to go and have a chat in 
the various yourts. To persuade one inside and 
therefore to be at close enough quarters to enjoy 
a thorough inspection of the foreigner's clothes, 
hair, "light eyes," etc., was a source of much 
enjoyment to some of the younger women, and 
turning a blind eye, that sine qua non of all good 
travellers, upon the dirt and disorder, I managed 
to see the people under more or less normal con- 
ditions, which one seldom succeeds in doing when 
journeying with a definite goal and object. In 
some of the yourts, each one, it seemed to me, 
dirtier than the last, were delightful babies, con- 
fiding little creatures who had never known harsh- 
ness, some of whom wore really beautiful charms 
of jade and lumps of amber round their brown 
necks, which nothing could induce the mothers to 
sell, for fear of jeopardising the fortunes of their 
little ones. From what I saw of them, both in 
the north as well as in the south, I came to the 

85 



86 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

conclusion that the youthful Mongolian, until he 
arrives at such an age to be dedicated to the 
vicious life of the lamasery, is a particularly happy 
little person. The boy baby dominates the yourt 
as much as he dominates the palace, but I imagine 
his little sister has a rather fairer chance in life 
than she often enjoys in the Chinese family. At 
any rate, I never saw a child being ill-used in 
Mongolia, and to hear one cry is of rare occur- 
rence. Families all over Mongolia are, I am told, 
small, and in one yourt when the mother of twins 
was presented to me as a somewhat phenomenal 
person, she apologised for the fact and said, " The 
foreigner will regard me as being like a dog to 
produce two children at one birth ". 

Upon returning one evening to my camp, I found 
that the local Mandarin had sent across one of his 
camels in response to a remark of mine that I had 
never ridden one. The natives, I think, expected 
a fine entertainment, for there were several un- 
wonted loafers hanging about the compound. The 
camel looked a nice gentle young thing, and we 
took to each other at first sight. At a word from 
the man who brought her, she knelt in order to 
receive me in the saddle, which was the usual sort 
of Mongol affair with very short stirrups. Hav- 
ing neither reins nor bridle is at first disconcerting, 
but I was assured that it was simple enough to 
steer with the single rope of camel's hair which 
is attached to a wooden pin running through the 
cartilage of the animal's nose. I was lucky in not 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 87 

coming off at once, for it takes a little experience 
to remember that in rising, hind legs first, the 
camel pitches you forward against the front hump 
and then shoots you back again when the fore- 
quarters of the creature come into position. I 
had no intention, however, of making merry for 
the Mongols, and blithely declining to be led (I 
somehow trusted that camel), I started off at a 
gentle pace, wondering how on earth I would stop 
her should Madame la Chamelle take it into her 
head to run away with me. 

Days of see-saws and swings are to me a still 
cherished reminiscence. I by no means disliked 
the undulating motion which to many people re- 
calls the Dover-Calais boats, and, gaining as- 
surance, I dug my heels in and essayed a gentle 
amble. Madame obliged me, and we were, I 
fondly believe, mutually satisfied, when I, becom- 
ing rashly familiar upon so short an acquaintance, 
used a word I had learned from the Chinese when 
riding a donkey along the dusty roads near the 
Imperial summer palace at Peking. " Dok, Dok," 
I gaily remarked to Madame, merely (and quite 
unnecessarily) to suggest that she should pick 
up her feet and not stumble. I forgot that her 
scholastic attainments included only her mother 
tongue and that she did not know the Chinese 
language. The effect was striking in more senses 
than one. She came to a sudden standstill and 
with a tremendous heave shot me on to her front 
hump as she plumped down upon her knees. It 



88 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

was but by the mercy of providence that my neck 
was not broken, and that with the second move- 
ment reversed I regained my seat. Fortunately 
we were well out of sight of onlookers, but my 
confidence was badly shaken, and it was only when 
it occurred to me that " Sok, Sok," was the ex- 
pression of the Mongols when they wished their 
camels to kneel to be loaded up that I felt forgiv- 
ing and able to forget the little misunderstanding. 

The expression of a camel's face is always one 
of supreme contempt. Camels remind me of 
certain elderly and aristocratic spinsters who, 
possessing no money and but little brain, have 
one asset, their social superiority. But I like it 
all the same, breeding in camels or spinsters 
either as far as that goes. 

During the whole time that I was at Ta-Bol 
rumours came daily to our ears of the increasingly 
disturbed condition of the country, of fighting that 
had taken place or was expected to take place at 
no very great distance. The missionaries were 
warned by the authorities that they must hold 
themselves in readiness for flight at an hour's 
notice, and that they would be wise if they lost no 
time in sending their women and children into 
regions of safety. A trio of Chinese officials were 
located somewhere in the vicinity, and the utmost 
secrecy was observed in regard to their movements 
while the general atmosphere of unrest and 
nervousness prevailed. 

It was not difficult to see that if I wanted to 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 89 

carry my whole scheme into effect, which was to 
return to Peking, make my preparations, and start 
again at once for Europe by way of the Gobi 
and Siberia, I had better lose no time. This little 
expedition was merely by way of a preliminary 
canter in order to gain experience for the more 
ambitious journey right across the desert, as well 
as to test my capacity for really rough travelling 
and primitive living. My journey back to China 
promised to be a lonely one. I should this time 
have neither Finn nor Mongols riding with me for 
company, but merely the two Chinese who were 
daily becoming more uneasy and restless at the 
news from the north, and who were pestering me 
with enquiries as to when we were to return to 
the safety of Kalgan. 

Disliking anything savouring of monotony and 
being, moreover, interested in the possibilities of 
Inner Mongolia from the European point of view, 
I decided to go back to Kalgan by a different route 
from that by which we came. I had heard in 
Peking of a large horse-farm financed by a small 
syndicate in China, at which lived a solitary Ger- 
man overseer, a long day's journey to the south- 
east of Ta-Bol at a place called Dol-na-gashi. I 
was told that this would be interesting to visit. 

Although it was only early May, I had on the 
whole been most fortunate as regards weather 
during my trip, but at the time of my proposed 
departure a typical Gobi gale sprang up and de- 
layed me for a couple of days, during which time 



90 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

it was impossible to do anything at all. The only 
satisfaction I had was that all my belongings were 
packed up and out of the dust. 

My Chinese driver demanded money before 
starting ; he had apparently run up a bill with 
some Mongol, for fodder, he said, and he would not 
be allowed to go before he paid up. I had stayed 
away longer than my servants had anticipated, 
the original arrangement being that half their 
total hire should be paid down at starting, and 
the remainder handed over when they delivered 
me safe and sound in Kalgan again. I certainly 
believe that it added considerably to my safety 
to travel very light as regards money : I took 
with me but a few dollars. 1 was careful now 
to give my men money enough only for their 
immediate necessities, and to retain the whip 
hand by keeping the bulk of it until the end of 
the journey. I am afraid that we were a some- 
what surly trio as we turned our backs upon 
Ta-Bol and set our faces homewards in the icy 
wind and stinging dust. The Chinese were an- 
noyed at having to make this d6tour by — to them 
— an unknown route, while I have to admit being 
rather " under the weather " myself. 

A Mongol rode with us some distance to put 
us in the right direction for the horse-farm, and 
before nightfall we arrived at a substantially 
built and very comfortable bungalow, planked 
down in the middle of interminable prairie, upon 
the borders of an extensive shallow lake which 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 91 

provided resting place for numbers of wildfowl. 
Surrounding the bungalow were yourts, and long, 
low stables, in which I learned later the magni- 
ficent Russian stallions who were to improve the 
breed of Mongol ponies were housed. Con- 
cealing his astonishment at the unexpected ap- 
pearance of an European lady at his door, the 
German overseer, speaking excellent English, 
gave me a most cordial welcome. The interior 
of the bungalow contained all the comfort of 
a farmhouse in Saxony, and glad I was to stay 
there for a night, and thus to reduce by one the 
number of uncomfortable inns to be experienced 
on the way back to Kalgan. After the ugly, 
undersized though serviceable little Mongol ponies 
to which one had become accustomed, the mag- 
nificent horses — Russian crossed with German, 
if I remember aright — looked like giants. Their 
powerful build with short arched necks and small 
heads was very dignified indeed, and for the first 
time in all my wanderings I felt a suggestion of 
Jiomesickness as I looked at them, and wondered 
how far the development of the motor-car would 
have gone to oust the horses which are seen to 
greater advantage in London during the season 
than anywhere else in the world. 

A bunch of 500 Mongol ponies scattered about 
the prairie was the material with which my host 
had to work. He had not, he told me, so far had 
particularly good luck with them owing to sickness 
amongst the mares, and he did not seem to think 



92 A T9UR IN MONGOLIA 

that the immediate prospects as regards financial 
success were any too rosy. One point about this 
horse-farm that interested me particularly iwas 
that with all their horsey proclivities, their 
vaunted horsemanship, and general prowess, the 
German overseer preferred to employ Chinese 
to Mongols as infinitely more reliable with the 
animals in all respects. 

We made an early start next day. The weather 
had cleared again. A handful of cigarettes be- 
tween them transformed my Chinese into the 
cheeriest and most considerate companions. 
Previous to this they had been, perhaps, rather 
rubbed up the wrong way — most unintentionally, 
I am sure — by first one person and then an- 
other conveying instructions to them. But now 
that they were solely responsible for me and 
to me, no one could have behaved better. Once 
succeed in giving your Chinese employee a real 
sense of responsibility and you have one of the 
most trustworthy men in the world to deal with 
is not only my own experience, but that of men 
who have lived half a lifetime in China. Those, 
indeed, who live there longest like them best. I 
have long since come to the conclusion that as far 
as is practicable with virtually no knowledge of 
their language the more one manages one's native 
servants oneself and without assistance the better 
one will hit it off with them. As soon as ever 
the third person intervenes, misunderstandings, 
ill-temper, and disagreement result. 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 93 

I was certainly pleased with my drivers when 
they told me that if I did not mind cutting tiffin 
and the midday rest, they thought that they could 
take me to a distant inn where I should be much 
more comfortable than at the obvious halt. 
Nothing loth, and quite content with a diet of 
walnuts and dates, since that was all that was 
accessible in my cart, we travelled for twelve 
solid hours on end. The men were in high 
spirits, shouting " Whoa, whoa," to the animals 
(which in Chinese topsey-turveydom means of 
course " hurry up " — I was taken in by this every 
time) and cracking jokes all day, because, as the 
Yankees say, they "felt so good". It was cer- 
tainly a hard day, and at the end of it we met, 
what to me was a never-failing joy, one of the 
largest camel caravans I had ever seen. Slowly 
climbing up over the horizon it loomed between 
us and a gorgeous sunset, gradually dawning upon 
our vision as it came swaying along in the golden 
haze, richly dressed Mongols lolling easily upon 
the camels' backs. There must have been over 
200 camels and sixteen or eighteen men, all fully 
armed, riding them, bright patches of colour in 
their blue, purple, or priestly red. 

So completely was I absorbed in this beautiful 
picture that I did not notice, neither apparently did 
the men, that we were approaching the compound 
of an inn on the off-side, until suddenly our lead- 
ing pony made a tremendous dash right through 
the middle of the caravan across the track, 



94 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

scattering the camels and causing something 
of a stampede. The little brute was hungry 
and had no intention of allowing a few camels 
to stand between him and his supper. The 
camels, who are only loosely roped together in 
order to save their pierced noses should any 
untoward incident, such as a stumble or cast 
load, occur, spread out in all directions, and for 
the moment the air was rendered sultry with 
Mongol execrations. No harm was, however, 
done, and every one laughed at the d'hivilment 
of the fiery little red pony. But our destination 
was not yet, and it was long after dark when we 
arrived " at the haven where we would be ". A 
long parley at the gateway of the inn filled me 
with fear that we were going to have trouble in 
securing accommodation, but after much wheed- 
ling on the part of my pock-marked Chinese, we 
were allowed to enter, and without a word from 
me some men were turned out of a room in 
order that I might have it to myself. 

The lad whose head I had so severely smacked 
but a few days previously behaved admirably, 
setting up my bed, fetching me hot water, and 
then staying to see me eat my supper. It was 
only by presenting him with the greater part of 
a leg of mutton (I detest old mutton !) that I got 
rid of him at all. Alone for a short spell, I settled 
down to a hearty meal composed of the various 
remains in my food box, and hurried off to bed 
with the uncomfortable recollection that the boy 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 95 

had held up four fingers as indicating the hour at 
which we were to start, or at least at which I was 
to be called, on the morrow. Expecting to reach 
Kalgan within twenty-four hours, I bestowed 
certain articles of food upon the coolies who stood 
round watching me pack up next morning, and 
was amused to see that my men got a quid pro quo 
for anything I gave away. A copy of " Punch" 
was the means, I observed, of purchasing fodder 
for the red pony from the inn proprietor. 

Another somewhat strenuous day brought us to 
the top of the Han-o-pa Pass, and by the time 
we reached the heights the colouring was superb. 
Purple and pale blue mountains pushed through 
a misty atmosphere, the sun shone brilliantly, and 
great masses of clouds shed their deep shadows 
over the gateway to North China. It was here 
that the road from Dolo N'or joined our caravan 
route, and we had indeed the evidence of our own 
eyes that the fighting of which we had heard so 
much was no mere myth. We overtook ox-cart 
after ox-cart escorted by small detachments of 
Chinese soldiers, bringing down knapsacks, ac- 
coutrements, and caps belonging to the poor 
Chinese who had fallen to the splendid marksman- 
ship and dash of the Mongol troops at the battle 
of Dolo N'or. The Chinese are much too thrifty 
(and poor) to allow their caps to be buried with 
the soldiers. More than once, too, we saw some 
miserably wounded officer being carried down 
that terribly rocky pass on a rough stretcher. 



96 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

One man had had to pass the night at the last inn 
at which I stopped, and it was pitiful to see the 
agony he suffered in being lifted on to his 
stretcher again. He had been badly shot in the 
lower part of the body, and I am sure he must 
have wished that he had been killed outright. 
People say that the Chinese are insensitive, and 
that relatively speaking that they do not suffer. 
One thing I know about them is that some of them 
have the power of self-control very wonderfully 
developed. As to their sensitiveness to pain, I 
should not like to speak, but I am very certain 
that it is rash to generalise. 

It is strange what a haven of comfort and 
security one's headquarters, however temporary, 
become for the time being, and my last day on 
the road was marked by the now-we-shall-soon- 
be-home feeling. By way of a final experi- 
ence, we encountered for three hours over the 
highest part of the pass the thickest dust storm 
that it has ever been my lot to see in the East. 
So dense it was, that covering myself up com- 
pletely with the oilcloth I cowered as far back 
as I could get in my cart, and breathed in air 
which might have been caused by a practical joker 
with .a bag of flour, while for safety, as well as 
out of sheer humanity, I gave my motor goggles 
to my perspiring driver. Appearances do not 
trouble me much off the beaten track, but the 
whole of the day following was devoted by my- 
self and a " boy " in trying to drive the dust out 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 97 

of the riding kit which I had worn in the storm, 
and even from the few things which were carefully 
packed away in a small box. 

The-descent from the heights some fifteen miles 
north of Kalgan was one of continuous jolt, 
joggle, bang-joggle, bang, jolt. One wheel would 
mount a time-worn boulder, linger a second on the 
top, and slide off with a gulp into the soft sand. 
The other meanwhile, would execute a " pas seul " 
on a rock newly disintegrated from the mountain 
side. Packed even by an old hand well versed 
in Chinese travelling, everything breakable got 
broken on my journey down over the Kalgan Pass, 
and even the sides of my books were ground 
against each other until the cardboard showed 
through the cloth covers. As for my camera, 
my cherished old Kodak which for over fifteen 
years had served me well and in many countries, 
and which especially in Mongolia had given me 
cent per cent of good results, I did not mean to 
let it get broken if I could possibly help it, and I 
saved its life by carrying it slung round my neck 
so that it rested on my chest, thus providing a 
certain amount of resistance against the jarring. 
The reason of this somewhat excessive destruc- 
tion was that we came down the mountain side 
at top speed, reckless as to driving, in order to 
reach Kalgan before the closing of the city gates. 

Away down on the level all our troubles were 
forgotten in the compensating peacefulness of 
shelter from the wind. The road along the Kalgan 

7 



98 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

valley was very beautiful, very soothing, and full 
of incident. The rugged mountains round us 
were bathed in the soft warm glow of sunset, the 
shadows closing in behind us fell in rich violet 
tones. The trees, which little more than a month 
ago had been bare, were now fully clad in their 
daintiest, freshest green, and what had been a 
frozen river-bed was once again a running stream. 
Many men and boys watering their horses greeted 
my drivers, and incidentally myself, as heroes who 
had deeds of daring done, and welcomed us as 
travellers returned in safety from a distant and 
dangerous land. The Chinese are horribly afraid 
of the Mongols. 



CHAPTER VII 

" With coarse food to eat, water to drink, an4 the bended arm 
as a pillow, happiness may still exist " 

— Chinese proverb 

SO greatly had I enjoyed my experiences of 
travel in Inner Mongolia, that it was in 
a sanguine frame of mind I returned to 
Peking to engage in the pleasant task of making 
my preparations for a more extensive expedition. 
I had not, however, been long in the capital 
before I received from an authentic quarter 
news which made my prospects of carrying 
my plans into effect look somewhat dubious. 
Confirming the rumours I had heard at Ta-Bol, 
a Reuter's telegram was published to the effect 
that a battle in which 1200 Chinese soldiers had 
been routed had taken place immediately north 
of that place, and that the Hung-hu-tzes, once 
a robber band, now authorised Mongol soldiery, 
were plundering within a few hundred li of 
Kalgan, and killing Mongols and Chinese i without 
distinction. 

The next thing that happened was that one 
afternoon at the British Legation, forty-eight 
hours only after my return from the north, I met Mr. 

99 



100 A TOUR, IN MONGOLIA 

Edward Manico Gull, then of the Chinese Maritime 
Customs Service, who, like myself, undeterred by 
the question of risks, was keenly desirous of cross- 
ing the Gobi and of visiting Urga with a view of 
learning at first hand something of the political 
conditions which led up to the rebellion of Mon- 
golia against Chinese rule. A few days later he 
propounded the very practical suggestion that 
it would be decidedly economical, and, what was 
of far greater importance, very much safer, if we 
joined forces in order to make the attempt. Plans 
then grew apace. Mr. Gull left for Kalgan almost 
immediately, and spent a weary fortnight in 
making strenuous efforts to secure first camels, 
and then a Mongol to accompany us as guide. 
Only people who have had this sort of experi- 
ence can realise the constant disappointment, 
the promises, the breaking of promises, the end- 
less procrastinations and delay that attend an 
endeavour to persuade the Asiatic into doing 
something concerning which he has misgivings — 
it resolves itself into a perfect see-saw of antici- 
pation and disillusion. 

At extortionate rates, camels were commis- 
sioned over and over again ; a southern Mongol 
undertook the duties of guide. When the time 
arrived for their appearance there were no camels. 
The Mongol backed out of his bargain. For my 
part, I undertook the purchase of stores — a 
somewhat unknown quantity, for under the 
unsettled conditions of the country it was wise 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 101 

to be prepared for all emergencies, such as 
dodging the fighting forces, which conceivably 
might mean making a ddtour taking weeks. I 
also bought a capital pony — alas ! only to sell him 
back again to his owner a few days later. But 
I at Peking was less sanguine than my friend at 
Kalgan. The little experience I had already had of 
Mongolia had taught me something of the diffi- 
culties of the situation, and by then the frontiers 
were so tremendously guarded that there was never 
the ghost of a chance of getting out of China nor of 
our caravan going through the lines. 

To the kindness of certain friends at Peking 
at this time I owe more even than perhaps they 
realise. Plans had of necessity to be kept private 
under the circumstances, and the sympathy as 
well as the practical assistance in preparing my 
outfit that were given to me in the most generous 
manner possible by the two people who were in my 
confidence can never be forgotten. But to cut a 
long, and to me a heartrending, story short, we had, 
after straining every nerve to achieve our object, 
to abandon the notion of crossing the Gobi, and, 
travelling by train in the most prosaic manner 
possible through Manchuria and Siberia, we 
arrived at Verkne-Oudinsk on the Eastern side 
of Lake Baikal. The journey thither, had not 
the vision of all we had missed in being forced to 
cut out the Gobi from our calculations loomed 
large on our horizon, would have been very 
interesting. As it was, I broke my journey by 



102 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

the South Manchurian Railway for twenty-four 
hours in order to see something of the old capital 
and metropolis of Manchuria, Moukden, while Mr. 
Gull travelled on to spend a few days with some 
friends at Harbin. 

Moukden attracted me on several counts. I 
wanted to see with my own eyes something of 
the effect of the Japanese influence (the line 
from Peking to Ch'angch'un is Japanese) on the 
Chinese in Manchuria, as well as to visit what had 
been the scene of great slaughter during the Russo- 
Japanese war. Most of all was I anxious not to 
miss the opportunity of inspecting the small but 
fine collection of Ch'en Lung pictures which 
interested me deeply. These, together with an 
enormous collection of porcelain, are kept, thick 
with dust and but rarely seeing the light of 
day, in the old palace, the ancestral home of 
the late dynasty, perilously exposed, it seemed, 
to danger from fire, but perhaps safer as regards 
looting than they might be in China proper. One 
of these days one fears that a needy Government, 
if it continues to sail under Republican colours, 
will cast its predatory eye on this mass of treasure, 
and a long purse from the United States will 
replenish the coffers of the iconoclasts at the 
expense to the nation of some of the most precious 
heirlooms of the faded monarchy, the priceless 
possessions of Ch'en Lung the magnificent. The 
tombs of the Manchu sovereigns a few miles out 
of the city also helped to convince me that it had 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 103 

been well worth while to break my journey at 
Moukden. 

From Ch'angch'un to Harbin one travels under 
Russian auspices on the Chinese Eastern Rail- 
way. Never in all my experience have I arrived 
at a more depressing place than Harbin, some 
eighteen hours' journey on from Moukden. Never 
have I felt more of a stranger in a strange land. 
Chaos reigned among the cosmopolitan crowds on 
the platforms, and I was in despair at securing 
my luggage before the train went on. A friend 
in need, in the person of a hotel porter, came to 
my assistance after I had effected the whole 
business myself, and haled me off to the dreariest 
hotel it has ever been my lot to enter. Of 
mushroom growth consequent on the opening 
of the Siberian Railway, there is little that is 
attractive in Harbin, and it was depressing to 
find that Russian holidays, when all shops are 
closed, necessitated remaining there for several 
days in order to make final purchases. I could 
find no redeeming feature in Harbin, although it 
was there that an extraordinary piece of good luck 
befell us. In a dismal tea garden, Mr. Gull and 
I were using up a great deal of energy in the en- 
deavour to persuade a Russian waitress to provide 
us with bread and butter, when a handsome old 
man turned round and in dulcet tones said, " Would 
you like me to interpret for you ? " We did 
indeed like, and still more did we enjoy the 
conversation that ensued. We learned that our 



104 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

friend, a much^ travelled man, had been in Urga, 
and was therefore able to give us most valuable 
information as to the means of getting there. In 
the kindness of his heart, he even presented us 
with introductions to a Russian who had it in his 
power to be exceedingly useful to us, but who 
unfortunately was i absent from Mongolia when we 
arrived there. This kindness on the part of a 
perfect stranger was truly refreshing, not to say 
inspiring. 

Leaving Peking as we had done by so entirely 
different a route from that we had projected, we had 
been unable to provide ourselves with the permits 
necessary for carrying firearms in Russia. The 
Russian customs are the bugbear of trans-Siberian 
travel. Even when all is in one's favour, pass- 
ports duly vis^d, every detail en regie, endless 
difficulties are apt to crop up, and sad and varied 
are the stories with which passengers regale each 
other of lost luggage, missed trains, and other 
uncalled-for troubles, one and all resulting from — 
shall we say excess of zeal ? — at the customs. 
The Russians still seem to think that they are 
doing one a favour in allowing one to travel in 
their unattractive and expensive country, in which 
I for one certainly encountered more sheer dis- 
comfort than in any other place I have stayed in. 

The settlement, it is scarcely worthy of being 
called a town, of Manchuli is separated by some 
forty-eight hours' journey from Harbin. It is solely 
of importance as being the Russian frontier, and is 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 105 

the scene therefore of all that is exasperating 
in connection with customs. It was here that we 
anticipated trouble with our guns, revolvers, and 
ammunition. But good fortune was beginning to 
shine upon us, and owing to a little kindly advice 
from another casual acquaintance, we experienced 
no difficulty at all. We had been warned that 
if the guns were too much in evidence they 
would unquestionably be confiscated and that im- 
prisonment without the option of a fine would 
result without doubt. Stories of the awful dun- 
geons on the Volga floated through my mind. 

My gun, therefore, was taken from its case (the 
latter being sent back by post to Peking) and the 
three sections wrapped up and packed among the 
underwear in my trunk. The ammunition, I was 
advised, should be so distributed as to give no 
clue to its presence. This was by no means an 
easy matter. Over a hundred rounds packed 
away into a tin jug and basin, with walnuts placed 
on the top, were made into an untidy brown paper 
parcel. The remainder was carried in a haversack. 
It being generally agreed that the less likely of 
the two of us to be suspected was myself, I 
undertook to do my best to perpetrate the de- 
ception. Underneath my Burberry I slung the 
Mauser pistol and a large Colt revolver ; my 
smaller weapon I carried in my pocket. The 
ammunition for all these I had also spread about 
my person. Outside my coat was the haversack, 
the strap concealed round my neck, and in order 



106 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

to suggest the lightness of — food, shall we say ?— I 
carried this jauntily on the tips of two fingers. 
The total was somewhat weighty, and I felt for 
all the world like a Gilbert and Sullivan pirate. 

The examination of my small trunk was to me 
a nerve-racking performance. To present a bland 
appearance to the officials who conducted the 
search was, under the circumstances, rather hard. 
Layer after layer was lifted out, but when on the 
verge of disclosing my disjointed gun the gener- 
alissimo in command stayed the hands of his 
underling and all was well. But it was touch 
and go. 

Upon our box of stores we had fully expected 
to pay duty, since everything entering Russia is 
liable, and a few days previously I had been told 
of a lady travelling home by this route with her 
baby being charged full price on sixteen tins of 
milk which she had purchased for her journey. 
But the officials were content with the turning 
out of the entire contents of the box, when finding 
that there was no one article in sets of dozens, 
they were good enough to pass the lot through 
without charging us a penny. 

The remainder of the journey to our destination, 
Verkne-Oudinsk, was pleasant enough by the 
ordinary trans-Siberian daily express, and with- 
out incident worth recording. There was no 
restaurant car, but the station buffets all along 
this route are excellent, and in taking advantage 
of these for meals we were able to husband the 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA / 107 

contents of the food box for Mongolian emer- 
gencies. We drew up at more or less suitable 
times for meals thrice daily, and soon learned to 
accommodate ourselves to these or to go without 
altogether. At the buffets we found capital food 
at very reasonable prices, and it was usually 
cooked to the minute of the train's arrival. At 
wayside stations too, we were able to buy wild 
raspberries in any quantity, but never were we 
able to hit these off at the same station at which 
we bought beautiful cream — the equivalent of 
about half a pint for a penny. Food on such a 
journey (there were about fifty hours between 
Manchuria and Verkne-Oudinsk) plays no unim- 
portant 'part, and for the sake of those who 
fear lest they may go hungry should they have 
the courage to travel other than by the train de 
luxe, I will just mention in passing that the little 
spatch-cock chickens fried in egg and breadcrumb, 
after a liberal helping of the famous Russian 
Bortsch (which indeed is a meal in itself) make a 
dinner hard to beat. Travelling second class for 
economy's sake — for we were in utter ignorance 
as to how our financial resources would hold out 
in Mongolia — our travelling companions were 
mainly Russian officers and their families, and 
from time to time a couple of priests of the Greek 
Church would get in. But one of all these knew 
any language other than his mother tongue. To 
find the wonderful linguists with which Russia is 
usually accredited one must go, I fancy, into the 



108 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

society of Petersburg or Moscow. This particular 
linguist, a priest, had lived in America. The 
conductors on the trains, though civil enough, 
spoke Russian only. The well-equipped wash- 
rooms at the end of each compartment were 
dreadful traps for losing things, and an unpleasing 
coincidence occurred when we discovered the loss 
of our respective watches both on the same day. 
They were undoubtedly stolen. Mine was less 
easily explained than that of my fellow-traveller. 
For less than two minutes he had left it on the 
edge of the lavatory basin, and on becoming 
aware of this second loss it seemed that the time 
had comeifor complaint. Complaint in Russian, 
however, is not so easy when one does not know 
one word of the tongue, and we resorted to the 
primitive method of drawing the watch, and then 
making pantomimic enquiries of our companions — 
at that time a couple of priests and the two sons 
of one of them. It was one of these latter we 
had reason to suspect, and going sternly up to them, 
I brandished the drawing in their faces and de- 
manded the watch. The father broke out to our 
astonishment in voluble English, and assured us 
(what parent would not have done ?) that his were 
good little boys, and would not think of keeping 
the watch had they found it. Our surprise was 
even greater when the second priest produced his 
cigarette case, opened it, and disclosed the watch. 
He presented it to me with an unctuous bow, ex- 
plaining that not knowing to whom it belonged he 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 109 

had retained it. I am afraid that we must have 
mingled incredulity with our gratitude, or perhaps 
his uneasy conscience smote him, for he pulled 
forth a large crucifix from his voluminous garment, 
kissed it sanctimoniously, held out his hands to 
both of us, and before we had time to realise the 
situation kissed first one and then the other of us 
amid great protestations of honesty. A most re- 
volting person. 



CHAPTER VIII 

" Whom Heaven has endowed as a fool at his birth it is a waste 
of instruction to teach " 

— Chinese proverb 

OUR real difficulties had, however, barely 
begun, and it was upon arrival at the 
Hotel Siberie at Verkne-Oudinsk that we 
felt completely at sea in the absence of one word 
of a common language. Reaching our destination 
late at night we had the greatest trouble in making 
them understand that we were hungry and wished 
to have supper before seeking our rooms. Eggs, 
we thought, would be the simplest and most easily 
obtainable fare. I therefore drew an egg. What 
they did not think it was meant for can hardly be 
described ; that it was an egg never occurred to 
them. Certainly an egg drawn in a hurry might 
be many things. Therefore I added an egg-cup 
to my sketch ; and at this they stared in blank 
astonishment. I think they had never seen such 
a thing. I then tried to draw a chicken ; at which 
they laughed, but had no conception as to my 
intention. With all the resourcefulness of the 
superior sex, Mr. Gull had a brilliant notion. Out 
of all patience — he is a peppery little man — he 

no 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 111 

pointed to my picture, and, violently flapping his 
arms, he squawked "Cock-a-doodle-doo" at the 
top of his voice. Delight on the part of the staff. 
The demonstration had penetrated their thick 
skulls, and we had eggs for supper that night. 
Next day our intention was to find out all about 
the steamboat which was to carry us up the 
Selenga River to Kiachta, but how to encompass 
this was almost an insurmountable problem. The 
clerks of the telegraph office had been our solitary 
hope, but on acquaintance we found that this 
means was worse than useless. They knew not 
one word of French, German, or, of course, 
English. We wandered, somewhat disconsolate, 
along the dusty streets, wondering what we should 
be able to do, when, when coming away from a 
private house, we encountered the amiable counten- 
ance of a Chinaman. We seized upon him, and 
our troubles were, for the time being at least, at 
an end. What he did not know himself, he put us 
in the way of finding out, and retracing his steps 
into the house he invited the master thereof to 
come forth and to speak with us. This gentleman 
turned out to be a German-speaking Russian en- 
gaged in one of the more important businesses of 
the place, and of his kindness we have the most 
grateful recollection. He helped us to order 
dinner, he walked with us, and drove with us. 
He took us to the steamship company's office, 
purchased our tickets, and finally put us and our 
luggage on board the " Rabatka," waving us 



112 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

farewells from the wharf like the good friend that 
he was. 

Verkne-Oudinsk is not a place of many attrac- 
tions. Once a penal settlement, now a military 
stronghold, its main feature is the huge white 
prison standing on the banks of the Selenga River 
a short distance outside the town ; it seems 
out of all proportion to the population of some 
40,000 inhabitants. This prison is capable of con- 
taining 600 men and women, and in some of the 
rooms there are as many as seventy persons 
herded together. Criminals of the worst order, 
as well as those prisoners who have escaped and 
been recaptured, are isolated, confined in dun- 
geons, and wear fetters on their ankles. Of 
Verkne-Oudinsk's 40,000 inhabitants some 10,000 
are said to be Chinese, while of the remainder an 
appreciable proportion is no doubt composed of 
Russian political exiles and ticket-of-leave men 
with their families, or their descendants. 

In relation to the size and position of the place 
the shops of Verkne-Oudinsk are fairly good. 
There are also a couple of factories, while a brisk 
trade is carried on at certain hours of the day in 
the big market square. Considerable business is 
transacted in Verkne-Oudinsk in connection with 
skins, fur, wool, and timber. The first-named are, 
however, exported in their raw condition and 
therefore not a great many people are employed 
in this trade. As in most Russian towns, the 
church forms the dominant feature, and that in 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 113 

Verkne-Oudinsk, with its copper-green roof and 
white walls, is decidedly attractive to the eye, 
standing as it does, on the banks of a flowing river. 

The houses, mainly of wood, and often composed 
of rough logs with the bark remaining, are for the 
most part of one story and border the roads on 
which the dust is habitually ankle deep. The only 
possibility of comfort under such conditions is to 
wear the long soft top boots of the country. Yet 
it is only the men of the place who do so, and the 
women for the most part go about in trodden-down 
slippers and with shawls over their untidy heads. 

The weather was by this time growing hot, and 
the prospect of two days' travelling on a river 
steamboat sounded exceedingly pleasant after the 
shadeless, dust-laden streets of Verkne-Oudinsk. 
But we had reckoned without the mosquitoes. 
The " Rabatka" can hardly be called a luxurious 
boat, and the vibration and noise from the paddle- 
wheels were at first not a little trying. The cabins, 
arranged with three hard, velvet-covered seats in 
place of berths, were very small, while the neces- 
sity that arose for the thick wire-gauze screens 
over the windows as soon as the sun went down, 
rendered them almost unendurably hot. There 
was a roomy upper deck upon which we had 
fondly contemplated spending all our time, but 
alas ! the funnel emitted, not smoke, but a con- 
tinuous rain of red-hot charcoal, and in view of 
the danger from fire there was, of course, no 
awning, 
s 



114 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

The scenery, which was mildly pretty as we 
passed between the pine-clad hills outside Verkne- 
Oudinsk, soon became flat and uninteresting. 
Selenginsk, the only village of any size and with 
the usual large white church with green domes, 
was passed about half-way between our starting- 
point and Ost-Kiachta, and may be remembered 
as having been during the early part of last 
century the field of a group of English mission- 
aries who established there an excellent work 
among the Buriats (a Russian-nationalised tribe 
of Mongols). They lived there in complete exile 
until Nicholas Imperator ordered them out of the 
country in the early forties, the reason being that 
it was English influence and not the Christianising 
of the Buriats that was feared by the authorities. 

Delightful indeed it was to reach the little port 
of Ost-Kiachta in the cool of the morning, to 
make a bad bargain with the owner of a tarantass, 
and to find ourselves driving along through coun- 
try which was in refreshing contrast to that we 
had recently left — stretches of flowery moorland 
bordered with pines and silver birches. At one 
point across a shallow valley drifted sounds of 
melody, which, we discovered later, arose from 
the tents of an encampment of Russian soldiers. 
This part of Siberia, in fact, bristles with bayonets, 
and the ulterior motives of massing such numbers 
of soldiers in territory so obviously peaceful is 
significant enough. We must have driven for 
some ten miles or more when we dashed through 




TROlTZK CASAVSK 




OUR BURIAT HOSTESS 




THE JAMSCHIK AND KIS TARANTASS 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 115 

the gay little town of Troitze-Casavsk, in which 
churches and barracks seemed to dominate every- 
thing right up to the door of the unpretentious, 
one-storied, barn-hke erection which called itself 
the H6tel Metr6pole. 

The place presented a depressed aspect, and 
the bedrooms, like cells, opening off a long and 
odoriferous passage, were far from cheering. 
The washing arrangements, just a trickle of water 
coming from a tin receptacle of doubtful cleanli- 
ness fixed above a basin, and the sheetless, blanket- 
less beds were by no means inviting. The landlord, 
however, a portly Serb, was a pleasant enough 
fellow, and sent us in an appetising lunch, which, 
after our picnicing experiences on both boat and 
train was welcome. Kiachta, of which Troitze- 
Casavsk is merely a division on the northern 
side, we found to be a far more interesting place 
than Verkne-Oudinsk. A great military centre, 
with newly-erected barracks of strikingly ugly 
design and capable of accommodating over 15,000 
soldiers, mars the foreground of what would other- 
wise be a most charming view extending as far as 
the eye can reach into Mongolia. 

A ribbon of no man's land divides Kiachta from 
Mai-mai-ch'eng (buy-sell city), a pretty little 
Chinese township which fringes the northern- 
most border of Mongolia opposite Kiachta — the 
neutral territory being defined by a couple of 
stone pillars on the strip of dusty waste. But 
Russia has long ago broken the laws of neutral 



116 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA. 

territory by the establishment of barracks within 
five miles of the frontier, and Mai-mai-ch'eng is 
depressed. They are very depressed indeed, for 
the Russians are pressing the Chinese very hard 
here, and, while the latter doubtless squeezed the 
Mongol to the limits of his endurance, they in 
their turn are being ground down and out of 
existence by dues and taxation on both incoming 
and outgoing goods, in face of the special protec- 
tion which is afforded to all Russian products. 
The Chinese were very ready to talk about their 
grievances, and we sat in their little shops and 
drank excellent tea, in Russian fashion, in vast 
quantities one hot afternoon while they poured 
these grievances into our sympathetic ears. 
Chinese, Mongols, and Russians live cheek by 
jowl in Kiachta, but all told, apart from the 
military, the total population numbers not many 
more than a thousand souls. 

It is here in Kiachta that one first makes the 
acquaintance of the Khalkha or Northern Mongol. 
In the streets, in the market place, in the burn- 
ing heat where the sand refracts every atom of 
glare, they arei to be encountered. Always 
mounted, they presented the most extraordinarily 
picturesque appearance, and the first impression 
fascinated me. One couple, an elderly rake and 
his pretty young wife, we followed about while 
they made their purchases. The girl, sitting 
easily and gracefully on her pony, bartered for 
things at the various stalls, while her elderly 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 117 

swain doled out the roubles with a cheeriness 
which made me think that she must surely be the 
wife of " the other fellow " — it certainly was not 
marital. At a Chinese booth she drank, what 
looked like, sherbet, made an awful face over it, 
whereat Don Yuan laughed derisively. Riding 
astride, she appeared both eminently practical and 
unpractical at the same time — the curious spread- 
ing coiffure looking as though it would catch the 
wind to any extent when she was going fast. This 
seemed to me as though it might possibly have 
been the forerunner of the Manchu headdress 
which strikes one as being so attractive the first 
time one sees it in Peking. The typical Mongol 
swagger, of which later we were to see plenty, 
was not absent from the pair, and the maiden 
evidently enjoyed our interest, and was, moreover, 
quite coy about it. 

How to get away from Kiachta was a problem 
somewhat difficult of solution. Wild rumours 
regarding the turbulent soldiery and the Hung- 
hu-tzes, or "red-beards," as these murderous 
robbers are called, sent up the prices alarmingly. 
By an European we had met in Verkne-Oudinsk 
we had been told that our route might be infested 
by such, and that on meeting a bunch of mounted 
men in Russian boots and slouch hats we were to 
shoot at sight and not to wait for them " to plug 
the lead in first ". Hung-hu-tzes have the reputa- 
tion of killing first and robbing afterwards. How 
sound this advice may have been it is difficult to 



118 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

determine now, for fortunately we never had 
occasion to put it into practice. Through the kind 
offices of a solitary Dane in charge of the tele- 
graph system at Kiachta, to whom we were lucky 
in having an introduction, we were able to come 
to terms with the owner of a tarantass. The latter 
is a rough cradle-like, hooded structure, virtually 
springless, on four wheels, drawn by three fiery 
horses, driven by a Jamschik or Russian coach- 
man. For sixty roubles (nearly £7), ten of them 
in advance (which we inadvertently forgot to 
deduct when we got to our journey's end), our 
ruffianly looking driver undertook to convey us to 
Urga, but, he said, owing to the rivers at this 
time of year being in flood, he would not guarantee 
to do so under a week. From my point of view 
this was no drawback; lingering on the road 
enables one frequently to obtain an intimacy with 
the local conditions which hurrying through 
against time and under contract completely frus- 
trates. 

I was glad to shake the dust of Russia from my 
feet for a while and depart from the hotel which 
at 8 o'clock on this perfect summer's day was 
still slumbering and slothful. Evidence of the 
previous night's debauch sufficed to make break- 
fast in the dining-room an unattractive experience, 
and it was not a place in which one cared to re- 
main longer than absolutely necessary. A charge 
in our bill of something over five shillings for a 
cooked cauliflower was proof enough that the 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 119 

Russians love money though they do not love 
work. Rather a Mongol yourt at any time than 
an Hotel Metropole in Siberia. Civilisation, so 
called, is all very well, but more often than not it 
destroys simplicity while in no sense augmenting 
comfort. 



CHAPTER IX 

" The Great Way is very easy, but all love the by-paths " 

— Chinese proverb 

THE sheer discomfort of our crowded 
tarantass could not quench the glorious 
optimism with which on the last day of 
June we sallied forth on the highway to Urga. 
Our driver, though he looked a ruffian, was not 
unpromising on further acquaintance, and we 
ended up by liking him very much. On the day 
previous to our departure he had called to see 
exactly how much luggage we wanted to take 
with us, and this he was inclined to limit severely. 
Needless to say it had expanded considerably 
during the night, and we cudgelled our brains as 
to how to get it into the tarantass without exciting 
his criticism too much. The Jamschik was all 
smiles in the morning however, and took no notice 
as package after package was stowed away. 
The awful thought passed through my mind that 
perhaps he was in league with the Hung-hu-tzes 
and felt that the more the stores the better the 
booty. We were far too crowded to be comfort- 
able. Experience, however, had taught us that 
in due course one shakes down to anything, and 

130 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 121 

anyhow we were feeling altogether too pleased 
with life to worry much at this juncture. With 
us, surrounding us, and suspended above our 
heads from the roof of the tarantass, making hard 
corners and lumps when we tried to sit on or lean 
against them, were our food supplies for the double 
journey (which as regards time limit was exceed- 
ingly vague), a modicum of personal baggage, our 
bedding, and, not least, our cameras, firearms and 
cartridges. The weapons had to be so arranged 
as to be immediately available. We had but one 
desire — to get to Urga. 

The tarantass was drawn by three horses 
abreast with a fourth tied up and trotting alongside 
always — in the way, poor little chap, being crowded 
up banks when the road narrowed and coming 
in for the sharpest cuts from the long whip on 
account of his ill-luck every time. Our last stop, 
long before we had shaken down into anything 
like comfort, was at Mai-mai-ch'eng, just across 
the frontier, where we had hoped to lay in a stock 
of cigarettes, to purchase fresh bread, and to post 
final letters. But, Russian influence prevailing, 
Mai-mai-ch'eng had not waked up, the post-office 
and bakers' shops were still shut, and our sole 
catch was cigarettes. Once out of Kiachta and 
through Mai-mai-ch'eng we were actually in 
Mongolia proper, speeding over undulating country 
on tracks rather than on roads, driving across 
flowery prairie, having said good-bye to all 
civilisation and houses for the time being. At 



122 A TOUR m MONGOLIA 

midday we fetched up at the first Russian rest- 
house, a new and therefore fairly clean log-hut, 
and congratulated ourselves upon the prospect of 
simple comfort when a blue-eyed, blue-bloused 
young Russian produced the ubiquitous samovar 
and made for us even here tea the like of which 
you can get neither for love nor money out- 
side Russia. While we ate our lunch the Jamschik 
amused himself by detaching and thoroughly 
oiling the wheels of the tarantass, a business 
which delayed us considerably and which it seemed 
to us might very well have been performed before 
we started. 

The day which had begun so well grew dull, 
and grey clouds turned into steady rain which 
made us anxious as to what the night might have 
in store for us. Through pretty country, grassy 
and well sprinkled with flowers, a small species 
of scarlet and yellow tiger-lily growing in 
abundance everywhere, we drove on for four 
or five hours before pulling up in a torrent of 
rain at dusk, at an unexpected shanty surrounded 
by three or four yourts out of which several 
Mongols promptly appeared. On further ac- 
quaintance we came to the conclusion that they 
were Buriats, but be their nationality what it 
may, they gave us a warm welcome ; the woman 
who appeared to rule the roost there did her 
best to make us comfortable, dusting the rain 
from us and even going so far as to wipe the 
mud from Mr. Gull's mackintosh with my sponge 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 123 

which I had unfortunately unpacked a thought 
too soon. The family appeared to be extensive, 
both numerically and in size. They all helped to 
carry in, and were eager to unpack, our belong- 
ings. The good lady soon had a samovar bubbling 
cheerily and a fire crackling in the mud stove 
which occupied quite a third of the floor space. 
She conveyed to us, entirely by pantomime and 
we afterwards verified her statement that she 
had once been in the Russian consul's service, 
that she was a Christian — there was an icon in 
the corner of the room to which she pointed — 
and that therefore she loved us very much and 
would do anything she could for us. 

The men brought in a goodly supply of wood — 
it was cold even in the early July nights — and 
then stood and gazed at us solemnly. The entire 
family and many friends from the neighbourhood 
entered quite unceremoniously from time to time 
to have a look at us. They would walk straight 
in, stand and stare for a minute or two, finger 
anything that attracted their notice, and go on 
their way. Not so the little boys, of whom there 
were three or four, who refused to leave us and 
from whom, while they were picking up little bits 
of food, we tried to pick up a word or two of 
Mongolian. The sheep and goats too, squeezing 
together under the eaves, tried to enter each time 
the door was opened, and would have crowded 
us out had we not been firm. As it was, they 
kept up a melancholy '^' Baa, ba-a," throughout 



124 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

the greater part of the night. There was here, 
of course, no Kangue, and following our Jamschik's 
example, we spread all the available clothes and 
rugs upon the floor. I lay awake for, it seemed to 
me, many hours, the men snoring on the other side 
of the stove, listening to the rain beating down, 
and thankful to be in such relatively comfortable 
quarters. Before 7 a.m. we were up again, 
spreading our hard biscuit with blackberry jam 
(how I regretted not having insisted upon taking 
over the commissariat department and buying 
bread !) and drinking our cocoa as hot as possible 
in order to warm ourselves. The children came 
in for the dregs, in return for which they did 
their best to teach me to count up to six in their 
mother tongue. I do not think that their own 
knowledge went beyond the figure. 

It had rained all night and continued to do so all 
the next day, and the night following that again, and 
we were not sorry when our Jamschik intimated to 
us that we had better for the moment stop where 
we were. We knew that we had shortly to cross 
a river, and when he raised his arms above his 
head and said " Ura Gol," we rightly concluded 
that the river, swollen high, was impossible to 
negotiate. Besides, next night might, for all 
we knew, mean camping in the open, and this 
under the present conditions of weather was by no 
means enticing. We had a very lazy day, writing 
a little, reading and talking, playing with any small 
Mongols who happened to put in an appearance. 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 125 

By the following morning the river was said 
to have gone down sufficiently for us to cross, 
and we were well under weigh by 6 a.m. in none 
too promising weather. The Ura Gol was not far 
off, and we crossed the rushing waters by means 
of a flat-bottomed barge pulled over by wire 
hawsers. We all crowded together on our tar- 
antass, horses, and men, paying the Mongols who 
thus transported us about three shillings for their 
trouble. The banks were flat, and there was 
nothing to charm the eye in this part of the river 
or in the bleak and hilly landscape over which 
a watery sun was making a futile attempt to 
shine. By tiffin time we had accomplished our 
third stage and drew up at a mud hovel depressing 
to a degree. The heavy rains had partially de- 
stroyed the roof and the floor was in consequence 
a morass of filth. There were living here in 
melancholy exile three or four unkempt and 
murderous looking men, and a very unhappy 
woman with three little boys clinging about her 
draggled skirts — miserable and dissolute Russians 
upon whom the hand of fate had fallen too heavily 
to admit even the faintest ray of hope upon 
their horizon. There is something peculiarly 
pathetic in the sight of the reversion to this 
condition of animal existence by people who 
have obviously at some time or another belonged 
to civilisation. What they lived on here was 
more of a mystery than how they lived. 

The day had cleared to a perfect brilliance, and 



126 A TOUR m MONGOLIA 

the world seemed a cheery place as we ascended 
from the mosquito-ridden and marshy valleys and 
wended our way among the hills to the highlands. 
Coming over a long and somewhat tedious pass, 
a tremendous view rewarded us at the top of the 
climb — an immense plain, ascending by gentle 
slopes to the mountains, a ribbon of wheel-tracks 
running across it. It was evening when our 
Jamschik suddenly turned in his seat and, point- 
ing with his whip, shouted out something as unin- 
telligible as it was exhilarating. In the twinkling 
of an eye we seemed to be transplanted into 
another life. There, right at our feet, was a huge 
Mongol settlement, girdled about on all sides by 
the low-lying mountains. Numbers of yourts, 
clustered in twos or threes, formed the centre of 
great activity. Colour, form, and motion were 
literally rampant. What in the distance had 
looked like ant-hills with ants swarming around 
them turned out to be the yourts surrounded by 
cattle and flocks. Brilliantly dressed Mongols 
galloped around in every direction ; hundreds of 
horses were scattered about in herds over the 
foothills. The men were rounding them up for 
the night. From time to time some wayward 
little beast would break away from the rest, pro- 
posing to spend the night in mountain solitude. 
A gaudy stalwart would dart off after it, standing 
in his stirrups, leaning well forward in his saddle, 
reins held high in one hand, while in the other he 
trailed behind him what looked like a fishing-rod 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 127 

ft 

ending up in a loop of raw hide. With a twirl of 
his wrist he would bring this flying round at the 
right moment, and lasso the pony with great 
adroitness, hauling it, subdued at once by the 
tightening thong, back to the herd. 

Nearer the camp, the women coped with the 
gentler cattle and sheep, and by the time we 
arrived numbers of cows were tethered with their 
calves reluctantly allowing a modicum of their 
milk to be diverted from its natural destiny. The 
milking of a Mongol cow is less easy than it might 
appear. The latter has far more character than 
that cow which is confined to the proverbial three 
acres, and on no account will the Mongol bovine 
yield up her milk until her calf has had its whack. 
I have seen them myself arching up their backs 
and persistently refusing to allow one drop to be 
drawn. 

" We shall be able to get new milk here," re- 
joiced my travelling companion, to which I replied, 
"The newer the better," and foraged for a jug 
among the contents of our food basket. He was 
all for buying some from the pail of a laughing 
maiden who was drawing freely on the teats of a 
cow tethered near by. I, however, having been 
brought up for so many years under the direct 
jurisdiction of those who frame the public health 
laws, did not fancy the milk that had filtered 
through dirty fingers into a still more questionable 
sheepskin pail. I therefore waded in on my own 
account, and, tin jug in hand, walked up to the 



128 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

nearest cow, laughing and joking with the Mongols 
who crowded round me, oblivious of a murmtired 
protest in connection with my "lappalling cheek" 
from Mr. Gull, and proceeded to milk her. But 
no, the cow did not see the joke. She declined 
to be milked by an impertinent foreigner. I 
turned to another, a gentler creature, who was 
quite willing. The Mongols greeted my attempt, 
my successful attempt, I may proudly add, with 
the utmost hilarity, and my jug was half -full when 
— what I thought was — a furious old woman pushed 
through the ring, and gave me very plainly to 
understand that this was her cow, and that if I 
stole any more milk she would set her equally 
furious dog, which was barking loudly at her 
heels, upon me. The other Mongols urged me 
to continue, and soundly rated the old — man, I 
discovered him to be — on his lack of hospitality. 
To them it was a stupendous joke, and so popular 
did the incident for the moment make me that I 
might have milked eVery cow in the place after 
that had I wanted to. My companion, while 
strongly condemning my action, drank the milk 
with keen appreciation — " Adam " ! 

In the meantime, Mr. Gull and the Jamschik 
had fixed up our quarters for the night. A hand- 
some young lama had pressed the hospitality of 
his yourt upon us, and intimated that the only 
other occupants would be himself and the maiden 
who appeared to be attached to him. There were 
from thirty to forty yourts on the plain, some clean 




t*»^s(S--,- -'? 






^ .'f'-.a. ft. 



A RUSSIAN SAMSON SEPARATES THE COMBATANTS 




THE LAMA AND HIS MAIDEN 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 129 

and new, others filthy and in the last stage of 
dilapidation. Ours was reasonably clean, and the 
felt, with an effective decoration in black for 
a border, was in good condition. As I returned 
from my milking exploit, the lama beckoned me 
to enter, and as I did so, mindful of my manners, 
I laid my stick on the roof above the door. To 
my surprise, the priest picked it up and brought 
it inside — he evidently thought that such a hand- 
some foreign stick would be too great a tempta- 
tion to his enemies. A great fire sending forth 
volumes of smoke was blazing in the centre of the 
yourt, and I found my fellow-traveller suffering 
greatly in consequence as he struggled with our 
baggage and the unpacking of the food box pre- 
paratory to the evening meal. We had arrived at 
a satisfactory division of labour — the culinary side, 
which included "washing up," fell to my lot, the 
unpacking, repacking and cording — which had to 
be done with great thoroughness — was carried 
out by my companion. The great tip in a smoky 
yourt is to squat on one's heels and so keep one's 
head out of the smoke which rises at once to the 
roof leaving the ground more or less clear. 

Half a dozen Mongols besides our host and 
hostess came and sat on the opposite side of the 
yourt as we spread our supper in front of us. 
They boiled the water for us and I made tea, 
when a happy thought struck me. I poured out 
two mugs full of tea, added plenty of sugar and 
milk, and rising, we handed them respectively to 

9 



130 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

the priest and to the girl. They were delighted, 
and the others chortled at the unexpected good 
manners of the foreigners. They rose to the 
occasion at once, poured the tea from our mugs to 
their bowls (for which I was thankful), and, turn- 
ing to the pail of milk behind them, filled the mugs 
and gave them back to us. In phraseology jour- 
nalistic, " an excellent impression was produced ". 
After supper, in total ignorance as to the rules 
of procedure for going to bed in a yourt, we walked 
about and watched night falling on the camp. 
The fierce guard dogs were let loose, and we were 
left alone with two or three little lama boys who 
never ceased pestering us for cigarettes. Then 
we turned in ; our rugs and waterproof sheeting 
spread along the periphery of the yourt in order 
to catch all the air that was moving. They had 
evidently been waiting for us. The lama entered 
soon afterwards, and undressing to the extent of 
only divesting himself of his long coat and boots 
disposed himself quite near to my head and was 
soon sound asleep. By and by, the little girl 
crept quietly in, and pulling off her great boots 
with their embroidered tops of black and green, 
she curled herself round like a kitten at the priest's 
feet, and with sundry little grunts settled down 
for the night. Shortly afterwards, the deep silence 
of the wilds was unbroken save for the snores 
of our trusty Jamschik, whose hefty form lay 
stretched across the entrance to the yourt. 
I lay^awake for some time trying to realise the 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 131 

strangeness of my environment ; trying to realise 
that I had attained the desire of my heart for the 
moment — primitive life among an unmistakably 
primitive people — realising alas ! too well, that the 
freshness and novelty of all things wear quickly 
away in the face of one's amazing adaptability to 
the immediate requirements and realities of life. 
Then gradually, with that easy exaggeration that 
attends the semi-conscious condition, I dawdled 
off into the land of the wildest dreams, becoming 
merged into that essential factor which is common 
to all existence, be it primitive or civilised — sleep. 
Dawn broke amazingly soon it seemed to me, 
and by 5 o'clock we had spread our breakfast in 
the pale golden sunshine on the grass outside the 
yourt. By degrees the settlement awoke once 
more. The camp was alive again. The women 
drove the flocks hither and thither suckling, their 
babies at the same time, astonishingly picturesque 
in their wonderful headdresses of hair flattened 
out into the shape of rams' horns, finished off with 
long plaits, at the extremities of which were sus- 
pended coins, as often as not of Russian origin. 
There was again a great deal of tearing about on 
ponies, and one could but admire the splendid 
horsemanship as the men sorted out their animals 
and drove them to browse upon fresh pastures. 
After breakfast, I watched our hostess of the pre- 
vious night making little cakes of koumiss, which 
she did by squeezing the thickened mares' milk 
through her grubby little hands. She presented 



132 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

me with a cake, and watched to see whether or 
no I would eat it. As she finished them she placed 
the cakes on a large bamboo sieve and put them 
to dry in the sun on the roof of the yourt. If one 
could dissociate the taste from the appearance of 
the fingers that had made it, the koumiss was not 
at all bad, and reminded me strongly of a certain 
cheese which, but a few years ago, promised long 
life wholesale to mankind on the dictum of a great 
name in science. I should have liked to remain 
there for weeks, and we left the settlement most 
reluctantly. That one experience alone made my 
visit to the East worth while. 



CHAPTER X 

" I would that I were as I have been, 
Hunting the Hart in Forest Green, 
With bended bow and bloodhound free, 

O that's the life for Joy and me " 

— Scott 

THE wisdom of an early start soon became 
apparent when we were obliged literally 
to cut our way through forest under- 
growth for hours on end. Starting with a steep 
climb, we had to dodge the water which was 
pouring down in rivulets between the trees. The 
erstwhile track had been washed away and now 
formed the bed of a torrential river, which having 
scattered the loose material was in parts quite 
deep. The horses floundered about in great dis- 
tress and uncertainty for some time, and finally 
we decided that there was nothing for it but to 
make a path for ourselves through the thicket — 
fortunately not of a particularly dense description. 
To make the whole concern narrower, one pony 
was unhitched, and I led him, while the men 
struggled to get the tarantass through the trees, 
branches from which had from time to time to 
be hacked off in order to let it pass. Frequently 
we had to negotiate rushing streams. One of us 

133 



134 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

would leap over first to receive the leading rein 
of the loose pony — anything but a docile little 
beast — which would then jump across. It went 
down once, but fortunately was none the worse, 
and the Jamschik was on ahead and did not see it. 
I also went down once, in the very middle of a 
stream, the banks of which had not afforded a 
very good take-off. Amusement in that instance 
seemed to deprive my fellow-traveller of all 
sympathy. 

Our gymnastic feats, however, were not such as 
to swamp our appreciation of the scenery around 
us. It was as though one gardener had decided 
to make a rockery of ferns and foliage whilst the 
other had come along and sewn seeds of every 
variety of flowers among them. We feasted on 
the sight and scent. It was marvellously pretty 
here, and we lamented that the Jamschik saw fit 
to press on, and bring us, after some strenuous 
hours, to an open hill-side before he would allow 
us to outspan and have tiffin. Certainly it was 
dry enough there ; hot beyond expression. The 
weather had undergone a sharp reaction, and we 
sat grilling in the sun until our thoughtful driver 
rigged up a sailcloth, when the effect of our hard 
morning's work, to say nothing of lunch, induced 
us to succumb promptly to a siesta in its shade. 

As to why the Jamschik should loaf now when 
but a few hours previously he had hurried us un- 
comfortably, we could not fathom until in the late 
afternoon we arrived on the banks of the Hara 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 135 

Gol, the most important river on our route, and 
found it to be so high that it might be another 
two days before we could get over in safety. 
Other people had been hung up in the same way, 
and we fraternised with a large family of Russians 
whose destination was the gold-mining district 
to the north-east of Urga. It was here that my 
fellow-traveller and I had our first — and almost 
our only — difference of opinion. I had my own 
notions as to suitable places for camping out, and 
did not at all wish to do so upon ground that from 
time to time was cove,red with water, and which 
after all was only temporarily dried-up swamp. I 
was certain that we should be much harassed by 
mosquitoes. We were both rather tired, and — 
shall I admit it ? — I, at least, felt a bit irritable. 
In turn we had each indulged in a considerable 
bath in the river, but I, being in no sense a strong 
swimmer, had to content myself with a muddy back- 
water, instead of plunging into the stream. On 
my return I found that the superior sex had settled 
matters and had unpacked upon a piece of ground 
about 300 yards only from the little encampment 
belonging to our Russian neighbours, instead of, 
as I had wished, driving back a mere mile to a 
delightful hill-side where we should be free from 
the pest which had been my greatest trial through- 
out my sojourn in the East. As a matter of fact, 
the Jamschik had had, I suppose, the casting 
vote ; moreover, our neighbours might have felt 
hurt had we gone so far away, so, with his usual 



136 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

consideration for the feelings of others, my fellow- 
traveller had given way during my absence. 

I was, again I admit it, decidedly cross, and found 
great relief in putting my gun together (for the first 
time, for it was practically a new toy), stuffing my 
pockets full of ammunition, and stalking off by my- 
self to some marshy land at a considerable distance 
from the camp. My new toy was tremendously 
soothing to my feelings, and I banged away a dozen 
or so cartridges — incidentally killing a wild fowl 
which I was unable to retrieve — with great satis- 
faction. A small lame boy appeared from no- 
where, and followed me about in delighted antici- 
pation of empty cartridge cases. I tried to kill at 
too great a range. There were wild geese and 
duck in plenty, but they circled above my head, 
making derisive squawks at me ; and finally with 
the lightest of light bags I got back to our camp 
happy and hungry. I managed to maintain a 
dignified reserve throughout dinner, at the end of 
which, however, rested and replete, we decided 
that formality and strained relations on the banks 
of a river a thousand miles away from civilisation 
were hardly consistent with our philosophy. A 
confidential little talk during our after-dinner stroll 
in the dusk put matters right again. 

As a matter of fact we scored decidedly in 
making friends with the Russian miners. One of 
the party spoke a little German, and we were 
thus enabled to trade tinned food and chocolate 
for the fresh meat and bread which they had 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 137 

killed and baked on the river banks. Next day 
we fed royally, and I maintain that the best 
rigout I have ever tasted was the result of my own 
genius in allying well-soaked, dried apricots with 
half a leg of mutton, and stewing the lot for hours. 
The apricots made an admirable substitute for the 
vegetables we were unable to procure. The smell 
arising from our delicious stew, must, we thought, 
be making the Jamschik's mouth water consider- 
ably, and at some sacrifice to ourselves — it was 
hungry work, this trekking — we decided to invite 
him to share the feast. What was my disgust, 
chagrin, when he dug his jack-knife into the 
saucepan and speared out the meat, deliberately 
pouring off all the gravy and apricots upon the 
ground. There was nothing to be done, but I 
swore there and then that this was the last time 
I would invite any foreigner to share pot luck of 
my providing. 

But if the Jamschik did not appreciate the 
ragout, the dogs did. I had been driven by the 
onslaughts of the mosquitoes to sleeping rather 
uncomfortably in the tarantass, and all through the 
night I was disturbed by these horrible animals 
prowling about underneath, sniffing round the sleep- 
ing forms of the men under the sailcloth. They did 
not appear to be conscious of them, but later I dis- 
covered that the Jamschik slept with one ear at 
least on the " qui vive," for apparently he knew his 
own horses' footsteps among a hundred, and got 
up in the dead of night to hobble them when they 



138 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

wandered together with scores of others too near 
to the camp. 

Apart from the dogs, the persistently inquisitive 
Mongol boys, and the mosquitoes, camping on the 
banks of the Hara Gol returns to my memory as 
one of the pleasantest episodes in the journey. I 
found a perfect bathing place a little lower down 
the river, with a hard, shingly bottom, and though 
not in the current it was perfectly clear and away 
from the public gaze. From yourts far and near 
we were visited by Mongols, who usually, when 
they found that we did not speak their language 
and could convey no news to them in consequence, 
spent but a few minutes in making their inspection 
and rode off again. On one occasion we witnessed 
a very amusing sight. We had given a particularly 
ragged lama some odds and ends of food, and 
a squabble immediately arose between him and 
another. They quickly came to blows, when the 
smaller man, finding himself outmatched, stopped 
suddenly, and picking up a large boulder proceeded 
to hammer the head of his adversary. The 
Russian sense of f airplay could not stand this, and 
a huge man with the ruddy countenance of a 
David and the flaming beard combined with the 
muscularity of a Samson, walked in, and seizing 
each man by the scruff of his neck, hurled the 
twain apart, to the great glee of the onlookers. 

At a very early hour of our third day's camp, I 
was awakened with the news that the river had 
gone down sufficiently to admit of a trial trip to 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 139 

cross it. A great deal of preparation was neces- 
sary in order to keep things dry, and when we 
were about the middle of the river it was just 
" touch and go " lest the water would overflow the 
sides of the tarantass. A great caravan of us 
crossed together, Russians, Chinese, and a rabble 
of Mongols, who, stripped almost naked, carried 
over our loads on their saddle bows. I regretted 
afterwards that I took no photograph of the 
crossing, but I was far too much occupied in 
keeping my camera and cartridges dry to think 
of doing so. 

The next two stages offered no special attrac- 
tion in the matter of scenery, and we broke into 
the routine of the day only by leaving our tarantass 
for the space of an hour that we might inspect at 
closer quarters what looked uncommonly like a 
foreign building about half a mile away from the 
road. It turned out to be quite a large flour mill 
called Wang Ch'ang Shan, belonging to a Chinese 
firm, and employing apparently some twenty-five 
to thirty men. Although they offered us tea and 
sold us some eggs and stodgy little dough rolls at 
high prices, they maintained that baffling reserve 
as to their business, which amounts only to the 
polite Chinese method of telling you to mind yours. 
Another couple of hours brought us to an un- 
expected little oasis in the shape of a promising 
and well-built house in Russian style, but owned 
fortunately by a young Chinaman, who welcomed 
us most warmly and who could not do enough for 



140 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

us. We sat on chairs and ate a delicious tiffin of 
lightly boiled eggs, toasted dough rolls, and 
samovar tea, at a table in great comfort, after 
which Mr. Gull thought to crown all by indulg- 
ing in a luxurious siesta in — ^what looked like — a 
nice clean little bedroom adjoining. I sat and 
read a book over a final cup of tea. I had not 
settled down for more than ten minutes when 
the peace was suddenly disturbed by execrations 
coming from the other room, and an earnest en- 
treaty that I should send in the Chinese proprietor 
at once "to see". He did so, and found the 
usually philosophical Englishman rampant and 
furious. Biting him, crawling over his clothes 
and on the cork mattress which he had taken in 
with him, were numbers of large and lively-— I 
must write it — bugs. Nothing but a complete bath 
in a very small basin, followed by a change of 
all his clothes — which involved the entire unpack- 
ing of the tarantass — would soothe him. The in- 
cident had really a humorous side, for we had, in 
theory, contemplated encounter with every variety 
of carnivorous insect on our journey ; and then at 
first sight to produce such a hullabaloo ! 

Our Chinese host was careful to explain that 
the majority of his guests who made use of his 
rooms were less cleanly than ourselves, and that 
the Russians who were his most frequent visitors 
were "dirty pigs". He was himself suffering 
from a highly inflamed condition of both eyes, 
and was mightily pleased when I gave him some 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 141 

"foreign medicine" with the use of which I 
predicted a speedy cure, as well as showing him 
how to open his eye in a wine-glass. I bore the 
mild contempt of my fellow-traveller with the 
patience bred of faith, and nobly refrained, when 
some weeks later we returned from Urga and 
found that the solution of boracic acid had done 
its work in effecting a complete cure, from saying, 
"I told you so". 

The night following we were far away from all 
humanity and passed the night sheer out on the 
open hill-side down by the wheels of the tarantass. 
We had had a long and somewhat dreary drive, 
twelve hours in all, exclusive of a midday rest. To 
go to sleep with a vision of heaven beyond the 
twinkling stars is one thing — to wake up in the 
cheerless grey dawn, saturated with dew and stiff 
with cold, is another. We had little difficulty in 
starting off at four o'clock that morning, and I do 
not remember that there was a great deal of 
conversation between the three of us for the 
first couple of hours or so. 



CHAPTER XI 

" Better good neighbours than relations far away " 

— Chinese proverb 

OUR proximity to Urga became now ap- 
parent in the increasing traffic over the 
prairie. From the hill-side on which 
we halted at breakfast time we watched the life 
of the plains — little groups of horsemen sitting 
casually in their saddles, turning round to stare 
at us, standing in their stirrups, sped quickly past. 
A settlement was in process of striking camp ; 
the trellis and felt of the yourts were folded up 
and piled on the backs of the unwilling camels. 
A splendid Mongol riding proudly at the head of 
a string of camel carts came along from the 
west, dismounted, stretched himself, and climbed 
up to see what we were doing. By unmistakable 
signs he invited us to descend to his caravan 
below. In the first cart were his wife and two 
little sons, the joUiest little creatures imaginable. 
In pukka Oriental style I admired and fingered 
the headdress of the lady, and then dandled the 
children, expressing my appreciation of their 
weight and beauty. The man quite grasped the 
photographic idea, and posed his family for my 

143 




A MONGOL AND HIS FAMILY ON THE PLAINS NEAR URGA, POSED FOR THE AUTHOR'S BENEFIT 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA \ 143 

benefit. Afterwards he surprised us greatly by 
asking for money ; despite the fact that one 
string of his wife's pearls would have fetched 
far more than we were able to raise between us. 
But he did not resent our refusal, and hailed us 
with the cheery greeting of " San bainu " when 
we overtook him later in the day. 

Moving on from the plains which stretched 
away into the mountains and valleys on all sides, 
we soon began the steep ascent of the Urga Pass 
when the subtlety of our Jamschik showed itself 
in suggesting that in the bordering woods here- 
abouts there was any amount of game. We 
jumped out of the tarantass — which was soon out 
of sight — in a sanguine frame of mind, and guns 
over our shoulders we trudged and trudged up 
that mountain side. Tiring it was, in the fierce 
July sun, beyond expression, and we got — never 
a shot. But the scenery here was well worth 
the fag of the climb. Range upon range of 
mountains disclosed themselves as we ascended 
among a perfect wilderness of flowers. Peonies, 
roses, and delphiniums, Japanese anemones, blue 
columbines, red and yellow lilies — a background 
of dark pine forest, and away in the distance, 
blue mountains beneatlji a canopy of soft masses 
of rolling clouds. 

Half-way up, we were overtaken by a number 
of Russian officers who looked, as well they might, 
in astonishment at the sight of a couple of Eng- 
lish people, apparently without belongings or 



144 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

conveyance, calmly strolling up a mountain in 
the heart of Mongolia. We met them again at 
the summit of the Altai Berg. Their Mongols 
were having a rest, and incidentally, I dare say, 
" gaining merit " by adding a few stones to the 
great cairn, from which numbers of dirty rags 
serving as prayer flags fluttered. I think the 
officers were waiting in order to discover what on 
earth we were doing there and what was our 
object in going to Urga. They did not, however, 
make much headway with us. Their knowledge 
of German was very limited and we on our side 
did not see the force of burdening them at this 
juncture with our confidences. They, needless to 
say, had remained in their conveyances all the 
way up. The latter were being drawn Orton 
fashion by four mounted Mongols. A pole is 
fixed across the thin ends of the shafts, and is 
carried by the Mongols between the pummel of 
their saddles and their stomachs. Usually a couple 
of men ride on either side of the shafts. Six to 
eight Mongols accompany each carriage, women 
as well as men taking turn and turn about. They 
laugh and fool about all the time, tearing up hill 
and down dale, the tarantass swaying about with 
plenty of play at the other end of the shafts. They 
are absolutely reckless and care not one straw 
what happens — as we learned to our cost later 
on. 

Our Jamschik greeted us cheerily when we met 
him again at the top of the pass, and at once 




THE AT'T1[OR's party IS'SPEriING A rARA\\\ 




THE SUMMIT OF THE ALTAI BERG 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 145 

" took on " the Mongol outriders for a race down 
into Urga. We did not know the Russian for 
"not so quick" or "steady," and we flew over 
the ground holding on like grim death, our three 
horses galloping and taking the most reckless 
short cuts at breakneck speed. Down, down we 
tore, over the roughest and most impossible 
tracks to an accompaniment of terrific jolts and 
bangs. The Mongols kept up, yelling and laugh- 
ing as they rolled about in their saddles. It was 
no less terrifying than it was painful, but person- 
ally I was far too tired to care much what 
happened, or to feel as alarmed as I do even 
now in retrospect. But we got in ahead of the 
Russians, which was a great crow over for us. 

Urga was at length in view. Situated on the 
north bank of the Tola River, it lies 600 miles 
north of the Chinese frontier at Kalgan, and 200 
miles south of the Russian frontier at Kiachta. 
A long straggling vista of gaudy temples and 
groups of yourts, little wooden houses enclosed 
by high palisades, numbers of brightly painted 
sheds which we found afterwards to contain the 
Tibetan prayer wheels, a few foreign bungalows 
looking like dolls' houses and built of pitch-pine, 
as well as clusters of Chinese houses — such was 
our first impression of Mongolia's capital. On 
the western side lies the Holy City, where, it is 
estimated, dwell some thirty thousand lamas, and 
in which no lay man or woman may remain after 
sundown. The Chinese city, Mai-mai'ch'eng 



146 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

again, is situated to the east, and between the 
twain are a number of untidy, depressing little 
shanties, as well as the pleasant Russian consulate, 
out of all harmony and character with the rest, 
belonging to the ever-increasing army of Russian 
traders. Closed in on all sides by mountains, some 
of considerable altitude and densely wooded, the 
sacred mountain of Bogdo N'or dominates the 
city. Bogdo N'or abounds in game, but nothing 
must here be killed, and no one may pitch a tent on 
that side of the Tola River which separates the 
holy ground from the plains upon which Urga is 
situated. Death is the punishment for the Mongol 
who so far forgets his traditions as to kill bird, 
beast, or fish on Bogdo N'or, and imprisonment 
for life — the far worse fate — for any foreigner who 
should be rash enough thus to transgress. 

One trusts to luck very largely in travelling 
under such circumstances, and we had no very 
definite idea as to what we were going to do 
when we reached Urga. At the time of our visit, 
exclusive of Russians there were only two Euro- 
peans in Urga, probably in Mongolia, and Mr. 
Gull and I were the sole representatives of Great 
Britain and Ireland. The two Europeans were a 
Norwegian and a German, both engaged in trading 
with the Mongols. The latter I had already met 
in Kalgan, and he was certainly as good as his 
word and twice as hospitable when I saw him 
again in Urga. To the former Mr. Gull had an 
introduction, and on arrival we made straight for 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 147 

his compound where he received us most kindly, 
allowing us to make our headquarters with him 
during our stay in Urga, as well as letting us go 
shares in his commissariat for the time being. The 
Russian Agent, to whom we reported ourselves 
next day, treated us with the greatest hospitality 
and contributed greatly to our comfort by lending 
me some chairs and other luxuries for the tiny 
Chinese house provided for me in the Norwegian's 
compound. Our luck held good. 

Anxious to see the Mongols as they really are 
and through the unprejudiced eyes of those un- 
connected with political considerations, we were 
fortunate indeed in having for our host a man of 
such intellectual qualities and broad sympathies 
as Mr. Mamen. Speaking their language as one 
of themselves — he had, I believe, lived in MongoHa 
for under two years — this young Norwegian of the 
appearance and stature of a Viking, was on friendly 
terms with most of the Mongol princes and offi- 
cials, evidently being well-liked and trusted by 
them. 

One has but to forego for a short time what 
are regarded as the commonplaces of existence in 
order to appreciate them at their true value, and, 
after a week of far from restful nights, I could 
have dilated at length upon the sheer luxury of a 
very tenth-rate bed. It was a day or two after I 
reached Urga that I felt my old appetite for sight- 
seeing return, and this was whetted by a curious 
little ceremony of daily recurrence, a good view of 



148 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

which was obtainable without going beyond the 
limits of the compound. Less than two hundred 
yards away there appeared above the compound 
wall a small stage about four or five feet square 
supported by a rough scaffolding of perhaps 
twenty-five feet high. Each day when the sun 
was well up, two lamas, climbing laboriously up 
to their perch, would don their official yellow 
Chanticleer pull-on caps, queer ragged capes of 
many colours, and proceed to call their gods to 
the Temple. Turning to the east, north, west, 
and always ending up with the south, thus facing 
the sacred mountain, they would, first one and 
then the other, produce prolonged and continuous 
blasts by blowing upon a conch shell, the melan- 
choly and hollow note of which seems to come 
back to me over time and space. 

Living as we were in the Chinese quarter of the 
place, and an intolerably gritty road of almost two 
miles in extent separating us from West Urga, 
obviously the first thing to be done was to obtain 
ponies. I was all for purchasing a couple out- 
right, but other counsels prevailed and we hired 
them, thus placing ourselves at the mercy of a 
scallywag horse-dealer, a lesser mandarin by the 
way, who imposed upon us from beginning to end. 
The price, small though it sounds at home, was 
high at thirty roubles (then £3) a month for each 
nag (in a place where one can purchase a very 
nice little beast for less than double that amount), 
even though it included such feed as could be 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 149 

picked up on the plains during the night, and 
when we were not using them. I really think 
their owner must have had his tongue in his 
cheek when he sent along the first pair for us to 
try. Mine had the appearance of a worn-out van- 
horse — a tall, thin brute, with a mouth of iron and 
legs that scattered in all directions when I forced 
him into a canter — which was not very often. 
I kept him for one day only. For Mr. Gull 
a miniature pony was provided. It had a sore 
mouth which made it extremely irritable. To- 
gether we certainly presented a very comical 
appearance. But any mount in dusty Urga is 
preferaljle to none, and on sight-seeing bent it 
really did not matter much that our nags were 
"crocks"; the fact that with patient, drooping 
heads they would stand for any length of time, 
was perhaps, under the circumstances, rather con- 
venient than otherwise. 



CHAPTER XII 

" He that does not believe in others finds that they do not 
believe in him ' 

— Chinese proverb 

OUR very first ride took us right into — what 
any Mongol other than a lama would, I 
am sure, describe as-— the heart of Urga. 
At the foot of the hill upon which the holy city, 
K'urun, stands is the centre of activity in Mon- 
golia's capital — the horse and camel market. All 
day and every day the bartering goes on, and it is 
here perhaps that you may study with the greatest 
advantage the salient characteristics of the race. 
The Chinese, I believe, invariably score off the 
Mongols in business transactions, but not so in 
connection with horses. The Mongol is born, 
bred, gets drunk, and dies in the saddle, and, like 
many others with a knowledge of horse flesh, he 
would cheat his own grandmother over a deal of 
this nature — except for the fact that the old lady 
would probably be one too many for him. 

In a dusty expanse, fringed on either side with 
small Chinese shops crowned with low curved 
roofs, painted poles, and swinging signs with gold 
characters carved large on them, stand the ponies 

150 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 151 

in their hundreds, and the supply would seem to 
be well-nigh inexhaustible. Generally speaking, 
the animals are small and unattractive looking, 
and it would certainly require the " seeing eye " 
to make a selection from this mass of unkempt 
little beasts who, until they are mounted, show 
not the least suggestion of the spirit that is in 
them. The camels are few and far between, and 
I have never seen anything approaching a fine 
beast on sale here. One has to penetrate into 
the compounds of the camel owners in order to 
buy the best, I think, for usually it is but the 
indifferent and unwanted that find their way into 
the open market. 

Urga, the Da Huraz (the first monastery) or 
Bogda Lama en Hurae (the encampment of the 
supreme lama) as it is severally described by the 
Mongols themselves (Urga being probably a 
Russian corruption), Urga, the religious centre 
as well as the capital of Mongolia, may be split 
up into three distinct and separate divisions, the 
market-place serving as a link between two of 
them, the holy city and the Russian quarter. 
The former, in shape resembling a gigantic dust 
mound and in appearance a piece of crazy patch- 
work, is covered with a perfect rabbit warren of 
compounds, in most of which felt yourts take the 
place of buildings. By circuitous paths between 
the high palisades which cut one compound off 
from another, one reaches as one nears the top 
the so-called University buildings, " the Gando," 



152 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

from which at certain hours of the day lamas in 
their thousands may be seen pouring forth. 

Crowning the hill is the great white temple, 
newly erected and barely finished when I saw it. 
In walking round a temple, either in or outside, 
foreigners should remember that sacred objects 
should always be kept on the right hand as a 
mark of respect. Inside the temple is one of the 
largest Buddhas in the world ; an immense brazen 
figure with four arms rising nearly one hundred 
feet out of the centre of the symbolic lotus flower. 
This was presented by Bogdo, the ruler, spiritual 
and temporal, of Mongolia — a thank-offering for 
restored eyesight (which I heard is now as bad 
as ever) at a cost of 1 ,500,000 roubles. Facing 
the idol, and in direct violation of all Buddhistic 
principles which ordain the celibacy of its priest- 
hood, two thrones, equal in every respect and 
draped in royal canary-coloured silk damask, are 
placed for the lama pontiff and — his consort. 
This really beautiful temple, with its mass of 
gilding and harmonious decoration, forms a 
perpetual testimony to the inability of the 
Mongols to go far independently of Chinese 
assistance, for one does not contemplate as a 
likely event in the near future the building and 
decoration by Russian workmen of what they 
would regard as pagan edifices. This Mongolian 
building, with all its Tibetan ornamentation and 
detail, was erected entirely by Chinese hands, 
the brass for the Buddha being brought across 




THE GREAT WHITE TEMPLE, tiRGA 




THE HORSE AND CAMEL MARKET, URGA 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 153 

the desert from Dolo N'or. In no sense do 
politics come within the sphere of my observa- 
tions, but having seen a certain amount of Chinese, 
Russians, and Mongols in juxtaposition, there 
appears to me to be but little doubt as to vsrhich 
two nations form natural allies. The Mongols, 
beyond breeding ponies and cattle, making the 
felt of their yourts and engaging in a certain 
amount of transport business, do practically 
nothing, make practically nothing, for themselves. 
Their very clothes and ornaments are of Chinese 
manufacture, and certainly it is the Chinese who 
are alone responsible for anything that is beautiful 
in Urga. 

I, as other travellers in Mongolia have done, 
found it very difficult to buy any characteristic- 
ally and exclusively Mongolian objects, and was 
therefore delighted to discover, not many days 
before my departure, that a Mongol auction was 
in progress immediately outside the great temple, 
r went boldly in amongst the crowd and made 
bids for various things belonging, so far as I could 
make out, to departed lamas. The articles on 
sale were in the main clothes, altogether too 
dirty to handle, but with a few interesting little 
objects connected with the temple services among 
the rubbish, of which two, a priest's bell and 
a small brass drumstick, passed into my posses- 
sion. A fine milk-jug in white metal with thick 
raised repouss6 bands became mine at the price 
of five roubles. Instead of an aperture, the top 



154 A TOUR m MONGOLIA 

was covered in and holes pierced through the 
metal to allow the milk to be poured into the jug. 
Thus, there was not the faintest chance of its 
ever being properly washed out, which, seeing 
the use to which it was to be put, seemed a 
drawback, 

A very decorative pail, of copper and brass, 
much worn, and certainly without great expecta- 
tion of life before it from an utilitarian point of 
view, greatly excited my envy, and I made a bid 
for it — two roubles. A Mongol promptly offered 
a few kopecks more, and my price finally rose to 
three roubles or six shillings. No one outbidding 
me, so far as I could see, I was fully under the 
impression that the pail was now my property; 
but not so. In company with the auctioneer and 
three or four others, I went the round of the 
neighbouring yourts to find out whether or no 
anyone else wanted it and would give more. The 
man, however, whom the auctioneer thought 
might care to make a higher bid was not at 
home, and after hanging about for fully a couple 
of hours I came away without my pail, and learned 
once more that hurry is a word unknown in the 
East. There is apparently no time limit for bids 
at a Mongol auction, and a transaction frequently 
takes several days to complete. 

The Russian quarter is adjacent to the holy 
city and separated therefrom, as I have said, by 
the horse market and the Chinese shops. It 
boasts of some half a dozen general stores, at 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 155 

which tinned foods, boots, and materials for 
clothes can be purchased at ridiculously inflated 
prices ; there is also a restaurant of a most 
depressing description, as well as a chemist's shop. 
It may well be imagined that, the majority of the 
Chinese traders having been driven forth during 
the rebellion in 1912 on the one hand, and the 
virtual suppression of Chinese goods by a grind- 
ing - taxation on the other, Russian retail trade in 
Urga is in a flourishing condition. 

The Mongols are now to all intents and pur- 
poses forced very largely into dealing with 
Russian stores, and when one is told that 40 
to 50 per cent is regarded as a reasonable profit, 
one can only wonder how long it will be before 
the natives realise that they have exchanged the 
frying pan for a remarkably fierce fire. But 
it is to be trusted that this condition of affairs 
will right itself again in time. Russian enterprise 
— should it develop — will probably fail through 
lack of labour. Their own command of labour 
in these regions is practically nil, and the cost 
of imported energy would be likely to spell failure 
to anyone engaging in business. On the other 
hand, the Mongols never have worked and it is 
highly improbable that they ever will. Mongol 
requirements are simple, but such as they are 
it is clear that they need the Chinese to supply 
them. 

This Russian quarter forms the least attractive 
division of Urga. The houses are small, squalid, 



156 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

and untidy ; their inhabitants possess apparently 
not the faintest knowledge of sanitation. What 
must he, the civilising effect, of which one hears, 
of the Russian influence upon the Mongols, it is 
not difficult to foretell. The Chinese may be 
dirty, are extremely dirty in some respects, no 
doubt, but at least they do not appear to lose 
their sense of the artistic for all their defects 
in this direction, and under normal conditions 
even in the poorest quarters of their cities, a 
certain "esprit," a "joie de vivre," is seldom 
absent. It is exceedingly difficult to arrive at 
anything representing even an approximate 
estimate of the number of Russians in Urga. 
Of civilians, perhaps 1000 forms a liberal esti- 
mate, but all enquiries as regards the military 
strength are politely but firmly repulsed. The 
people in the Russian quarter, in the shops, 
restaurant, and on the streets, are a surly looking 
lot. Their suspicious character is plainly painted 
upon their uncouth faces, and every one with 
whose business in life they are not entirely " au 
fait," they regard as a spy of some sort. 
Throughout our stay in Urga it was significant 
that we rode nowhere but that we met the same 
Buriat soldier ostentatiously uninterested in our 
existence. 

Urga must have presented a gayer appearance 
under Chinese rule, when the great untidy stretch 
of waste land reaching almost from West Urga 
into Mai-mai'ch'eng, waste land formerly bordered 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 157 

with Chinese shops and houses, would have had 
a far more cheery atmosphere than it possesses 
nowadays. Now the few Mongol yamens stand 
isolated and unsupported, and the merry " va-et- 
vient " of commercial prosperity is no more. At 
night it is said to be rash to venture across it un- 
accompanied, and indeed on more than one occa- 
sion we encountered a Cossack riding full pelt 
across the stony expanse, brandishing his naked 
revolver in his right hand. But latterly there 
appears to have been a somewhat arbitrary planning 
out and dividing up of the main part of Urga by 
the Russians, and an expanse which must be of 
dimensions approaching something like two miles 
long by three-quarters of a mile wide in the very 
heart of Urga, and in the centre of which the 
Russian consulate happens to stand, is to be doled 
out in concessions to Russians and to Russians 
only. To the north of this desolate scene are 
sundry temples, and outside them stand a number 
of brightly painted little sheds containing the well- 
known Tibetan prayer wheels. Sexagonal in 
form, and with the characters representing " Om 
Mani Padme Hum " painted in red letters upon 
the panels, these prayer cylinders turn on a central 
pin, and anyone giving a hefty swing to them as 
he passes says his prayers with a minimum of 
trouble for a maximum of result. The Mongols, 
both lamas and laity, use the wheels devoutly, and 
one's ears grow accustomed to the light creaking 
sound long before one realises whence it comes. 



158 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

The Russian consulate, in the midst of a hetero- 
geneous collection of barracks, officers' quarters, 
and outbuildings, is a pleasant house enough, 
English in style and furnished, the Russian diplo- 
matic agent told me, ito resemble an English 
country house inside as far as possible. Of modest 
dimensions, it stands back from the road in an 
untidy compound, over the gates of which the 
Imperial standard looms large and menacing. The 
present agent is a man of marked ability, and 
speaks, I believe, no less than eight modern 
languages w^ith a fluency equal to his native 
tongue. He has obviously succeeded in bringing 
the Mongol authorities to heel in a surprising 
degree as was evidenced not long ago when he 
insisted that the Hut'ukt'u, the ruler of all the 
Mongols, supported by some of the chief men of 
his country, should toe the line in person and 
make profound apology at the consulate for some 
slight that had been shown to the Russian flag. 
Whether or no this was a well-calculated action 
has yet to be proved. But that the Mongols are 
making a desperate effort not to be swallowed up 
exclusively and irrevocably by Russia is strongly 
suggested by their recently expressed desire to 
the other powers that the latter should be repre- 
sented by consuls in Urga " in order to conclude 
treaties of commerce and friendship " . It is more- 
over rumoured that the Mongolian Government 
has recently issued an order forbidding the Chinese 
to sell any land in Mongolia to Russians. The 




A BEAUTIFUL TEMPLE AT MAIMAl CH ENG 




A MONGOL PRINCESS IN HER OFFICIAL ROBES, ACCOMPANIED BY -HER TWO LADIES 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 159 

only other house of any size or importance is the 
hideous red-brick erection which forms the head- 
quarters of the Mongolore Company, which repre- 
sents an important concession of gold-mining rights 
granted to the Russians prior to the declaration 
of independence. 

In so far as the structural picturesque is con- 
cerned, this is undoubtedly now centred in and 
confined to the Chinese quarter, Mai-mai'ch'eng, 
where fine gateways and a very beautiful little 
temple remain as evidence of the prosperity en- 
joyed under Chinese rule. Now the entire place, 
which is surrounded by a strong stockade of 
fourteen or fifteen feet high, which, in a country 
where stone is so rare and labour so expensive, 
takes the place of the usual encompassing wall, is 
almost entirely deserted, and one may walk from 
end to end without encountering half a dozen 
people. The courtyard and temple far surpass in 
decoration and cleanliness anything that I saw in 
China. The mural paintings illustrate Chinese 
fables and are exceptionally well carried out and 
preserved. They have evidently been most care- 
fully cherished by the guild of Shansi merchants, 
the Shih Erh Chia, of whom it is the headquarters. 
The Mongols use the temple as much as the 
Chinese do, and I watched a Mongol princess in 
her official robes, accompanied by her two ladies, 
most devoutly performing her prostrations one 
day. She allowed me afterwards to take two or 
three photographs of her, but it was difficult to 



160 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

persuade her into sufficient light to make a very 
satisfactory picture. 

Immediately outside the north gate of Mai-mai' 
ch'eng is the Chinese cemetery, where hundreds 
of unburied coffins are piled awaiting, I gathered, 
the far distant day when they might be carried 
back to be interred in Chinese soil. The poorer 
Chinese, for whom there was never such happy 
prospect, are buried in alien earth behind the 
Russian consulate — a series of little mounds like 
magnified molehills being all that remains to indi- 
cate the fact. 



CHAPTER Xni 

" Since men live not for a hundred years it is vain to scheme 
for a thousand " 

— Chinese proverb 

WHEREAS in Inner Mongolia I did not 
see the Chakhars in sufficient num- 
bers to enable me to form even an 
impression upon which to base a generalisation 
as to typical characteristics, the Khalkha or 
Northern Mongol struck me as being of rather 
superior build. Roughly speaking, I think that 
the average height of a Khalkha man must be in 
the neighbourhood of five feet eight inches, while 
a large number of them are really tall. The 
women are strikingly smaller, and, generally con- 
sidered, are not less than ten or twelve inches 
shorter than the men. The recollection I have 
carried away of them is that they are a fairly 
handsome race. Masses of black hair surmount 
almond-shaped, strikingly bright and responsive 
eyes ; the cheek-bones are high and slightly 
flattened. Small, well-formed aquiline noses 
above shapely mouths and firm chins lend a sug- 
gestion of strong character. The teeth are, as 
a rule, beautiful, and a ruddy colouring showing 

11 i6i 



162 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

through the sun-scorched, wind-weathered skin, 
gives them a very healthy appearance. 

The principal difference in dress between the 
northern and southern Mongol lies in the arrange- 
ment of the hair of the married women. In 
Inner Mongolia the form of headdress might be 
described as a skull cap of silver filagree, from 
which long chains studded with precious stones 
are suspended. The hair is fastened up and 
hardly shows at all. 

The Khalkha matron, however, is contented 
with nothing so simple. Her sleek locks are 
strained over a wire frame which spreads out like 
wings above her ears, and are held together by 
some resinous preparation, with jewelled slides at 
intervals to keep the whole in place. Surmount- 
ing this is the filagree skull cap, often richly set 
with turquoises and pearls, and from it hang 
tassels of pearls ten or twelve inches in length. 
In poorer circumstances the jewelled slides have 
their counterparts in little strips of bamboo, and 
the pearls would be substituted byichains of silver 
and strings of coral. One and all adopt this 
obviously inconvenient style of coiffure, the un- 
married girl alone wearing her hair in long plaits 
and entirely unadorned. The Khalkha women 
must have exceedingly long tresses, for although 
nine or ten inches are thus taken up by the wings, 
the remainder is of sufficient length to form into 
long plaits which, as shown in the picture of the 
princess, are either confined in highly decorative 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 168 

silver tubes, or are allowed to fall free on each 
side of the figure to the waist. 

Hat pins being an unknown weapon in Mon- 
golia, it was a matter of much conjecture to me 
as to how these ladies contrived to keep their 
smart little hats so securely perched on the sum- 
mit of this elaborate headdress. The hats them- 
selves are very trim and dainty. Made of course 
by the Chinese, who are always great hands with 
the paste pot, a shape is first created from bamboo 
paper, hard and unpliable, not unlike a jelly mould. 
Over this is stretched yellow satin, while the brim 
is turned up with black velvet in summer, or with 
a handsome piece of fur in winter. The crown of 
the hat tapers to a point embellished by a gold or 
silver ornament, which in the case of men sup- 
ports the ball of coloured crystal denoting by its 
colour the rank of the wearer. Men's hats are 
otherwise similar to women's, and if the wearer 
belongs to the mandarin class a peacock's feather 
protrudes horizontally from below the crystal ball. 
The main difference, headdress apart, between 
men's and women's clothes is that the former 
sport a sash bound round and round their waists 
with the ends tucked in. All wear long coats 
and trousers, the women having their shoulders 
padded up into little peaks such as were worn in 
Elizabethan days. All have very long sleeves, 
the cuffs of which are turned up with pale blue — 
no matter what the colour of the coat — and 
cover the finger-tips. 



164 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

The material from which the clothes of the 
more wealthy are made is such as we use for our 
Court trains. In really beautiful satin brocades 
and thick soft silks both men and women are 
attired in this remote corner of the globe, and I 
can well believe that dress forms a heavy item in 
Mongol expenditure. Extremely fond of colour, 
the Mongol taste, or rather that of the Chinese 
Worth or Paquin who dictates to them, runs to 
rich harmony rather than to garishness, while their 
constancy to the prevailing fashion, which here is 
the very reverse of fleeting since it probably has 
not modified in any way for the past hundred 
years — maybe much more — renders the finish and 
workmanship quite excellent. While possessing 
small and well-shaped hands and feet, the Mongols 
thrust these latter into clumsy boots which we 
should consider many sizes too large for them. 
They are made of inferior looking leather and the 
toes turn skywards ; their loose tops, coming half- 
way to the knee, are usually ornamented with 
very pretty green and white sticking. 

Of their character one must speak of course 
almost entirely by hearsay. Their very name is 
suggestive, "Mong" meaning "brave," while 
volumes might be filled with legends concerning 
their prowess. It would indeed be absurd to 
generalise at all upon those with whom one came 
into personal contact in the space of a few weeks, 
and in the complete absence of knowledge of the 
language. That they have a keen sense of humour 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 165 

is apparent to the most casual observer, and any- 
thing in the way of a practical joke played off on 
the foreigner or equally upon one of their number 
will produce hilarious merriment. In common 
with most people who preserve a simple life and 
do not allow their desires to advance beyond the 
possibility of fulfilment, the Mongols are, in the 
absence of a cause which provokes them to anger, 
very good-tempered, and most distinctly are they 
philosophical. An angry Mongol is, however, an 
ugly sight, and one, if possible, to be avoided. Of 
his capacity for endurance there can be no doubt. 
It is constantly exemplified in everyday life. I 
have indeed heard it stated that a Mongol will 
ride 600 miles in nine days, using the same horse 
throughout. An instance of their toughness was 
shown by the cheery old mafu who looked after 
our host's ponies and occasionally rode with us 
while we were in Urga. A somewhat heavy fall 
from his horse one day resulted in a trio of broken 
ribs, and the man, whose age must have been in 
the neighbourhood of sixty, remained huddled up 
in his yourt for twenty-four hours. For bed, how- 
ever, in our sense of the term, the Mongol has 
but little use, and if he cannot live his ordinary life 
he usually dies in preference. The mafu turned 
up the day following his accident, and upon 
enquiry as to the damage to his ribs, admitted that 
"It hurts a little when I cough". On another 
occasion, in the depth of winter, one of the ponies 
in his charge strayed, and for thirty hours was 



166 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

missing. Taking another horse, the old mafu 
went out into the neighbouring mountains to find 
him, and as the hours went on his employer grew 
anxious. Night fell, and the thermometer de- 
scended two or three degrees below zero. It was 
evening on the following day when he re-appeared, 
none the worse for his exposure, nor from the 
fact that he had not broken his fast throughout 
the day and a half he had been absent. 

That the Mongols are wantonly cruel, I have 
never heard any evidence. Certain cruelty arises 
from a dogma in their faith rather than from any 
direct idea of being maliciously hurtful. They 
will, for instance, leave an animal to die in anguish 
rather than put it out of its misery, for nominally 
they are not allowed to take life, and consequently 
do not trouble themselves to perform an act of 
humanity for its own sake. That they will be 
brutally cruel when it is a question of revenge 
there can be no doubt. On the other hand, that 
they are capable of real devotion to their animals 
is, I think, suggested by the following incidents, 
written down as told to me one evening by the 
Norseman, when we were sitting on a river bank 
waiting for wild duck to come up. 

"The man will never get over it," he said. 
" He was overwhelmed by his grief. He loved 
those two fine dogs of his and he kept them only 
for his hunting. He took them with him to the 
mountains to hunt lynx in the dense forest which 
cover them over there. Three or four days at a 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 167 

time, he would go out and his bag was never less 
than two or three, sometimes four or five, skins, 
worth from twenty to thirty roubles apiece. 
Then for two days he would sit in his yourt, rest- 
ing, and cleaning his guns, feeding heavily, and 
perhaps drinking the vodka the Russians had 
given him when he ^old his skins. Pig should be 
his next object, he decided, and with one com- 
panion and his two dogs he sallied forth to the 
mountain side. From a thicket, out rushed four 
great boars. Off flew the lynx hounds after 
them. Bang, bang, went the guns, and the quarry 
was slain. But alas ! the trusty hound who had 
leapt up to it was slain too — shot through the 
heart. The hunter returned to his yourt on the 
plains near Urga, leaving the slaughtered pig 
behind him on the mountain side, but bearing with 
him only the corpse of his dog. Never before 
has a Mongol been seen to weep like this man. 
For three days he sorrowed terribly. He would 
take no food. He desired speech with no man. 
In life there was no comfort for him because of 
the thought that with his own hands he had shot 
his dog. And now he goes hunting, taking with 
him his one lynx hound only, and does not do so 
badly. The better of the two dogs is the survivor, 
but the hunter will never admit this fact. 

" It was this man's own cousin I often went 
out with," continued my companion, " and he was 
every bit as keen on dogs. Once when I was with 
him up beyond that ridge to the west there, a 



168 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

powerful bull elk broke cover, and in the twinkling 
of an eye the dogs were upon him. A careful aim 
was taken by the Mongol and — his gun dropped. 
With a tremendous kick the elk had freed himself 
from his pursuers, and uttering a cry of acute 
agony the dog fell and lay helpless on the turf. 
The elk's hoof had caught her full in the muzzle, 
and the space of time during which she would 
have the power to breathe through the pouring 
blood could be but short. His master ran up, 
calling to the other man to hurry. ' Do what you 
can for her, do all you can to save her life.' He 
knew it was hopeless, and he left to his friend's 
care his dying dog. Revenge surged up in his 
heart. He thought of nothing but that cruel kick 
from the elk's hoof, and nothing did he consider 
as to where he was going, nor as regards pro- 
vision for the hunt. For two days he pursued 
his prey, foodless, drinkless — and he returned 
empty handed to the camp. ' I have killed that 
elk,' was all that he vouchsafed when he came 
back, and he straightway went out to look at the 
frozen body of his dog with its mangled muzzle." 

The Mongols are astonishingly fine shots, and 
it would take a very accomplished sportsman to 
compete with them in potting the pretty little 
sable-like tarbagans, whose heads flash in and out 
of their holes on the prairie hereabouts with 
lightning-like rapidity. While some of the well- 
to-do Mongols possess fine weapons (rifles of the 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 169 

most modern design, which I was told were im- 
ported from Germany on very easy terms), the 
majority of the hunting fraternity content them- 
selves with old muzzle loaders. Practically all 
Mongols rest their guns on some support when 
aiming, and the muzzle loaders frequently have a 
forked attachment which can be let down and 
fixed in an instant. 

The Mongols possess that most enviable capa- 
city for putting away an immense amount of food 
at a sitting, following which they can, if necessary, 
fast for a very considerable time. The staple food 
of the Khalkha Mongol appears to be meat in 
direct relation to the length of his purse ; horse, 
camel, mule, antelope, mutton, nothing seems to 
come amiss ; he takes, too, preparations of milk, 
farinaceous food, such as koumiss and millet, as 
well as brick-tea made with milk. Added to these, 
the well-to-do in Urga doubtless buy such delicacies 
as the Russian shops provide when it takes their 
fancy. In a general store we met one day a 
charming old mandarin of obvious refinement and 
high breeding. He was in company with several 
ladies for whom he was buying sweets in the most 
approved Western style. There were six of them 
altogether, four ladies and two men. All were 
gorgeously dressed, the ladies with most wonder- 
ful ornaments and string upon string of pearls. 
The men had fine single stones, one a pearl, and 
the other a large aqua marine, set in front of their 
caps. They tasted two or three kinds of sweets. 



170 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

and finally, going in for quantity rather than 
quality, the doyen of the party purchased a 7-lb. 
tin of rather unattractive looking pear-drops, 
which was wrapped in paper and tied up for hira. 
A moment afterwards the string broke and the 
tin fell to the ground, burst open, and part of the 
contents scattered on the questionable boards. 
They took it most good humouredly, laughing in- 
ordinately, and all of them went down oji their 
knees on the floor to retrieve the sweets. To us 
they were exceedingly friendly, and the older 
mandarin chatted away to us in indifferent Chinese 
irrespective as to whether we understood or not. 
Drunkenness, said to be on the increase, is, 
relatively speaking, far more common among the 
Mongols than among the Chinese, and in Urga it 
is no unusual thing to see two or three men going 
about with the cangue, a wooden collar nearly 
two feet square, padlocked round their necks as 
a punishment for the recent lapse from the paths 
of sobriety. A frequent repetition of the offence 
results in the culprit being marched off to the 
yamen and being severely beaten. The most 
usual method of becoming intoxicated is by drink- 
ing arac, a spirit which is produced by fermenting 
mares' milk. I understand that one has to drink 
this in large quantities to attain to the condition, 
but bulk, if in the end the object is achieved, 
seems to offer no drawback to the inebriate, for 
I have known Breton peasants who would put 
away as many as ten litres and become gloriously 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 171 

drunk before half their day's work was done. A 
certain amount of Chinese whisky derived from 
grain is imported, but it is very much more ex- 
pensive, of course, and, generally speaking, even 
with its more tardy result, distilled mares' milk is 
preferred by the Mongols. The lamas, whose 
vows in addition to those of celibacy include 
abstinence from strong drink and the flesh of 
animals, are also to be found amongst the bibu- 
lous. 

The more degenerate Chakhar is said to be 
addicted in a very slight degree only to the use 
of opium, but so far as I was able to ascertain 
the vice in Outer Mongolia is practically unknown. 
In view of this fact it was interesting to read in 
"The Times" immediately on my return from 
Mongolia that an English syndicate at Harbin 
had been reported to have made a proposal to 
the Mongol Government to pay them £100,000 
annually for the privilege of importing opium into 
their country. Upon the Russian Agent at Urga 
protesting, the Mongol Government replied to 
the effect that the danger arising from opium in 
Mongolia was in no sense commensurate with the 
advantages to be derived from the annual receipt 
of a million roubles ; also, that the opium would 
not be for the consumption of the Mongols. 
Under the present conditions of their relations 
with China and the flight of the vast majority of 
Chinese from Mongolian territory, this latter con- 
tention carries its own confutation. The Chinese 



172 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

in Mongolia are certainly in nothing approaching 
sufficient numbers at the time being to justify 
any syndicate in paying £100,000 per annum for 
the privilege of providing them with the perni- 
cious drug. Besides, away from the influence of 
Russians, whom he now undoubtedly resents as 
having got the better of him, the Mongol when 
you meet him on his own ground is a cheery, 
friendly person enough, and under the most try- 
ing and arduous conditions of travel it is the 
Mongol who keeps his temper best and who re- 
mains complacent when every one else is inclined 
to grumbling and irritability. His utter laziness 
and hopeless lack of gumption make him useless 
in an emergency, and where, I always felt, the 
Chinese are our superiors in their wonderful re- 
sourcefulness and quick adaptability, the Mongol 
is stupid and shiftless in the extreme. 

Tremendously under the influence of their 
priests, the result of their religion or, perhaps it 
would be better to put it, the application of their 
religion, is not such as to compel one's admira- 
tion. Humanity, for instance, is by no means 
one of their salient characteristics, and their 
behaviour to old people, whom they will turn out 
of their yourts to die on the dust heaps, is ab- 
solutely barbarous. 

The loose matrimonial relations prevailing 
amongst the Mongols are much condemned 
amongst the Chinese, who, although they take 
temporary wives during their sojourn in Mongolia, 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 173 

where Chinese law will not allow their own 
women-kind to accompany them, they never attach 
themselves to Mongol women in any legal sense. 
The Mongol women, on the other hand, are said 
to prefer the Chinese to their own race as hus- 
bands on the grounds that the former possess 
kinder and gentler dispositions. The children 
resulting from these mixed alliances, of which 
there are a great many in Urga, are called 
"orles" or half-breeds, by the Mongols. They 
are easily distinguishable from the others. 

Women have no very respected position or 
locus standi in Mongolia. If anything in the life 
of the country can be called drudgery at all, it 
certainly falls to the lot of the women. Their 
claim on their menkind appears to be mainly 
sexual, for while they are young and pretty they 
seem to enjoy life and " have a good time " (I am 
speaking, of course, of life in the capital). They 
are often very pretty, chic, and healthy looking, 
for, in sharp contrast with their Chinese sisters, 
they lead a life of freedom and of open air, ride 
about everywhere with the men, attend all the 
festivities that are going on, wear gorgeous ap- 
parel and lovely jewels, and, generally speaking, 
" go the pace ". 

What they do not know about the gentle art of 
flirtation is not worth knowing, and the young 
woman who is unable to attract two or three 
lovers to her side is, they say, generally looked 
down upon. The northern Mongols appeared to 



174 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

me to be remarkably merry and bright as com- 
pared with the southern. There is on occasions 
a great sense of gaiety in Urga when the people 
seem full of the joy of life, and perhaps the women 
are wise enough to accept their privileges rather 
than to worry too much about their rights. Mon- 
gols, however, are said to mistrust women greatly, 
never taking them into their confidence, or allow- 
ing them a finger in the pie of any important busi- 
ness transaction. 



CHAPTER XIV 

" Each path with robes and various dyes bespread, 
Seems from afar a moving tulip bed" 

— Tickell 

OUR visit to Urga had been most fortunately 
timed, and we were delighted to hear 
within a few days of reaching the capital 
that the great semi-religious, semi-athletic festival 
of the Ts'am Haren, or sacred dance, was to take 
place during the second week in July. A more 
bewilderingly picturesque and fantastic sight than 
this presented day after day — held at intervals 
it prolonged itself over a fortnight — I never ex- 
pect to see. Proceedings included the presen- 
tation of tribute to the Hut'ukt'u, followed by an 
archery competition, continued with the dance of 
the gods, a great wrestling tourney, and wound 
up with a race meeting. 

Reminiscent in some degree of their past glories, 
the Mongol princes and their banner-men came 
from distant principalities of the dominion to take 
part in these feats of strength and skill, and at the 
same time to present their gifts and to do homage 
to their spiritual and temporal chief. Bogdo, the 
Hut'ukt'u ("he who is born again"), the Living 

175 



176 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

God of Mongolia, is nominally the ruling spirit of 
these festivities, but although his chair of state 
was always prominently in position, this mighty 
ruler, whom his subjects believe to be the richest 
as well as the most potent monarch in the world 
(has he not 2000 white ponies and a 1000 white 
camels?), did not come to sit in it. On one 
occasion only did "He that can do no wrong" 
put in an appearance, and that was when lamas 
and princes assembled to hand over to him the 
money and presents that had been begged from, 
and squeezed out of, his subjects throughout the 
length and breadth of Mongolia. Great were the 
rejoicings when it became known that Bogdo was 
to be present in person, to receive with his own 
fair hands the offerings that had been brought to 
Urga. Bogdo, the Djibson Dampa Lama (Holy 
Reverence) Edsen Han, as he is severally styled, 
the chief of all the Hut'ukt'us, by birth a Tibetan, 
being son of a steward to the Dalai Lama, is a 
man of middle age, already decrepit, in appearance 
bloated, dissipated, uninspiring. The spiritual 
head of the Mongolian Buddhists, he now lays 
claim, since Mongolia is no longer subject to 
Chinese rule, to temporal authority as well. In- 
deed the position of this lama pontiff is of unusual 
character, and might almost be said to embrace a 
dual personality. On the one hand, the celibate 
ruler of priests, the religious leader of the faith. 
On the other, the crowned emperor of the 
Mongols ; crowned with his wife, and firmly in- 




BOGDO S BODYGUARD 




LITTLE LAMA BOYS PLAY TAG ROUND THE BARRIERS 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 177 

sistent that their ten-year old son should be 
crowned as his heir, that there should be no 
room for doubt as to his intentions in regard to 
the succession to the Mongol throne. 

That all actions of the Hut'ukt'u must of neces- 
sity be right is ingrained in the minds of his people, 
and taken quite literally by his adherents. That 
he, the reincarnation of the sainted historian Tar- 
anatha, should openly, and I use the word advisedly, 
for Mongolia is a wonderful country for winking 
at things nominally taboo, take unto himself a wife 
must, even though such action is a violation of all 
Buddhistic principles, be right, because Bogdo 
can do no wrong. There are many stories rife as 
to the iniquities of their ruler, and one that I my- 
self heard on good authority made him responsible 
for the cruel murder of a well-known Mongol 
official, whom he is said to have forced into drink- 
ing in his presence a cup of poisoned wine. 

Into Bogdo's house we did not penetrate. It 
would have been difficult enough under ordinary 
circumstances to have obtained an audience, but, 
as it was, the Hut'ukt'u was in a bad state of 
health, and moreover it was rumoured that an 
addition to his family was daily expected. A 
pleasant ride along the valley of the Tola River 
brought us to the confines of Bogdo's compound, 
and we were interested in the queer mixture of 
styles the house presented. Built of wood, the 
main part of the structure might have been an 
English farm-house, but out of all character with 



178 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

this was the square green tower in the middle of 
it, and the many little Chinese turrets and pavilions 
with yellow-tiled roofs. The compound was sur- 
rounded by a rough fir tree fence and the place 
presented an untidy appearance. There was 
nothing to suggest the immense wealth with which 
Bogdo is credited, beyond the insignificant fact 
of a small herd of antelope inside a neighbouring 
compound. Far more picturesque, at a stone's 
throw distant, was the residence of the Choi Gin 
Lama, Bogdo's brother, a well-planted garden 
surrounding a number of small houses and a temple, 
all with green roofs and Tibetan in style. 

The general arrangements for the Ts'am Haren 
were carried out with great forethought and 
method ; the discipline and general order as one 
event followed another would really rival the 
management of like festivities in the Western 
world. Our main difficulty was that we could 
seldom ascertain within a few hours as to when 
the performances began, and in consequence of 
this we were always up to time and had a good 
deal of waiting about. For the presentations to 
Bogdo great preparations were made ; the ap- 
proaches to the temple were well protected by 
southern soldiers who supplement the body-guard 
of the Hut'ukt'u, and the barriers around which 
the little lama boys played " tag," or a Mongolian 
form of it, fenced off great spaces across which the 
unwary foreigners might otherwise have cantered 
their horses in disrespectful light-heartedness. 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 179 

The Temple of the Gods, situated on the north 
side of the stony expanse between the Consulate 
and West Urga was the centre of a brilliant scene. 
The body-guard in royal blue silk damask coats 
with black velvet facings outlined with silver braid, 
prune coloured waistcoats and pale lemon cum- 
merbunds, formed a valiant looking band enough ; 
their weapons were modern in type, and their 
clothes apart from being picturesque were, what 
is far rarer in the extreme East, smart, clean, and 
in good condition. Quite satisfied with the im- 
pression their appearance produced upon me, they 
showed no little keenness to be photographed. 

Inside the barriers the ground was lined on one 
side with a number of marquees, under which in 
deep shadow sat the Mongol mandarins, silently 
contemplative and out of the glare, the richness 
of the blue-purple and chocolate of their silken 
garments looking all the richer in the half light. 
Opposite them, at a distance of 150 yards or so, 
the rank and file of the lama community were 
herded together, squatting on the ground and 
standing in the back rows, thousands of them, 
from whom from time to time darted forth some 
naughty boy with the object of exchanging his seat 
for a better one. A mass of dull Indian red was 
the effect they produced, unrelieved but for the 
wonderful banners that had been erected on great 
frames of wood opposite the temple entrance. 
The mob was kept within bounds by angry lamas 
who cut at the people if they pressed forward or 



180 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

got out of place with sharp little switches. The 
faces of these men were quite diabolically hideous ; 
their expressions evil and cruel. There is some 
idea, no doubt, that the uglier the face the more 
alarming it is. 

A group of high lamas in gorgeous vestments 
of orange and scarlet sat enveloped in their loose 
folds out of the sun beating down upon an arch- 
way, their hard gilded hats, in shape reminding 
one of the tops of raised pies, glittering where 
the light filtered through the roof with a metallic 
brilliance. The crowds are moving now, lamas 
and "black men" are mingled, although it is 
an essentially lamaistic occasion and the pre- 
dominating tones range from lemon to vermilion. 

Final preparations are now being made, yards 
upon yards of Imperial yellow cloth are stretched 
in a golden pathway from the yourts hidden 
away inside an inner compound, ' through the 
great p'ailou, under which the priests shelter 
from the sun, and away and beyond to the main 
entrance to the Temple of the Gods. The yourts 
behind the palisade form the robing and refresh- 
ment rooms for the Hut'ukt'u, and we note a 
cart drawn by a magnificent bullock pull up 
outside in order that the huge pots of mares' 
milk may be lifted from it. Bogdo is within the 
gates, and none but prelates and princes have 
access to the sacred precincts. At the portals 
high lamas sit, and two tall figures support the 
great state umbrellas of silken embroidery on 




rHURCH AND STATE : MONGOL PRINCE AND HIGH I,AMA 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 181 

either side. The heat is intense, and a row of 
sleepy dignitaries doze uncomfortably on the long 
benches under the portico. There is a drowsiness 
about the day, and the hum of conversation is 
subdued and soothing. 

Suddenly there is a stir, and a thrill of expecta- 
tion runs through all of us. A crowd of princes 
and mandarins and their sons hurries forth from 
the little tents and forms up in lines on either side 
of the golden pathway. Lama officials come 
forward and thrust lighted joss-sticks into each 
of the outstretched hands. Space is left between 
the long rows for three people to walk abreast. 
A look of intense eagerness, even of anxiety, 
spreads over the bronzed faces, for their god is 
but a sick man. A harsh trumpeting presages 
the approach of their incarnate deity ; continuous 
and raucous. Two heralds, each holding what we 
suppose to be a glorified " hatag " on his upturned 
wrists but made of leopard's skin stuffed in the 
form of an elongated sausage, made their appear- 
ance. Following them are the trumpeters, first 
one and then the other producing a long unbroken 
wail from his copper and brass instrument which 
resembles that which I bought as a war trophy 
months past in Peking. 

A posse of lamas in robes and the mitred head- 
dress of high ceremony, looking for all the world 
like a perambulating bed of nasturtiums in full 
bloom, precede their pontiff, who, fat, pallid, and 
ponderous, his diseased eyes protected by round 



182 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

black glasses, supported (held up, it seemed to 
us) by a priest on either side, walks labouringly 
along the yellow cloth. The bearers of the 
embroidered umbrellas are close upon his heels, 
and the crowd of privileged persons, priests, and 
laity, jostling each other for priority, follow in 
his train to the Temple of the Gods. Humbler 
lamas from remote corners of Mongolia stand 
about in little groups. They are there to watch 
the passing of their god. The feeling is tense. 
Fervid adoration shines from their straining eyes. 
Clasped hands stretch forth in expression of pro- 
found emotion as the procession winds its way 
into the temple, up to the tribute throne. There 
is silence, save for the sound of the heavy footsteps 
of the central figure as he stumps over the yellow 
tissue covering the boarded pathway. In an 
ecstasy of worship the monks prostrate them- 
selves near the threshold of the sanctuary. They 
have beheld him whom they would fain see : him 
whom they have travelled footsore and hungry 
so many miles, for so many weeks, to honour. 
They are happy. Their faces are sublime. They 
have reached the haven of their desire. 

Lined up along a wall not far from the great 
gateway to the temple, waiting with radiantly 
expectant countenances, and bearing their gifts 
in their hands, are some hundreds of ragged 
pilgrims. Fifty men of Bogdo's guard are in 
attendance here, ready when the time comes to 
marshal them into the Presence. They have 




THE GREAT STATE I'MBRELLA OF SILKEN EMBROIDERY 





m^ 



IN AN ECSTASY OF WORSHIP THE MONKS PROSTRATE THEMSELVES NEAR THE THRESHOLD 
OF THE SANCTUARY 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 183 

been waiting since dawn, but in a state of 
supreme exaltation. They have drawn the lucky 
number amongst their fellows, and carry their 
offerings on trays and platters — little ornaments 
for the temple altars, sometimes even food have 
they brought to lay at the feet of their spiritual 
sovereign. But their turn is not yet. Precedence 
has been given to the princes and rich men in fine 
raiment, and these, holding aloft in both hands 
costly tribute hidden from sight in silken coverings 
of daffodil yellow, make a wonderful procession 
as the crowd opens out for them, and they pass 
from a blaze of sunshine into the dimly mellow 
light of the great temple interior. A low droning 
chant rises and falls from the throats of Urga's 
priests as the doors open and close on the bearers 
of treasure, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They 
are so numerous that they can only be admitted 
in sections of a hundred or so at a time. 

Less stirring perhaps, but every whit as 
picturesque, was the meeting of the archers held 
on the great grassy expanse between the sacred 
mountain and the city. I rode out to it to find a 
scene which suggested a herbaceous flower-bed 
in bright autumn sunshine. A background of 
wooded hills rose up in the distance across the 
Tola River to some 1500 or 1600 feet. The 
garments of the crowds — the laity were in pre- 
ponderating forces to-day — ^were indeed a study 
in contrasts and harmonies. Pointsettia scarlet 
vied with pure turquoise and lapis-lazuli blue ; 



184 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

lavender and rich violet, sober mouse colour, 
pale lemon chrome ranging to vivid orange — the 
brilliance of a field of parrot tulips such as brought 
back to my memory the bulb farms in full bloom 
which surround Haarlem. Cup day at Ascot 
would seem pale and anaemic as compared with 
this Mongolian toxophilite display. 

At one end of the ground were half a dozen 
little marquees, light or dark blue linen appliqud 
with yellow and white devices. Under them, 
upon comfortable square cushions, sat the princes 
and princesses, the mandarins and their wives, 
with sundry other officials. Surrounding them 
were the crowds, and again, like a wall beyond, 
hundreds and hundreds of ponies were tethered, 
for no one ever dreams of walking in Mongolia. 
In front of the tents at the south end of the 
ground were half a dozen stances for the archers. 
They shot in pairs, princes and peasants alike, 
and undistinguished save for the badge of office 
in the form of the peacock's feather which 
protudes horizontal from the crown of the round 
pork-pie hat with red streamers, and by the richer 
material of the garments. They had four shots 
apiece, and their range was about seventy to 
seventy-five' yards distance. 

The competitors were in great force, and 

coming out eight or ten at a time they ranged 

themselves in couples at the stances, bowed low 

to the magnates in the marquees, saluted the 

^butts likewise, and let fly their heavy, ivory-tipped 




THE MEETING OF THE ARCHERS 
' RANGED THEMSELVES IN COUPLES AT THE STANCES ' 




SCORING THE HITS AT THE BUTTS 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 185 

arrows — not at targets, but at birch-bark rings 
piled loosely as a child might build a "castle" 
with his bricks one on top of the other, and 
making little low walls of perhaps ten or twelve 
feet in length by eighteen inches high. At the 
butts were a number of men scoring the hits, and 
as the arrows flew they flapped their long arms 
above their heads and chanted a sort of dirge-like 
incantation, not dissimilar to that with which our 
sailors accompany the hauling in of anchor cables. 

The song rose and fell, crescendo and diminu- 
endo, in harmony with the success or failure of 
the competitors. A gentle swaying movement 
of the crowds as their eyes followed the arrows 
was like a corn-field shivering in waves as the 
breeze stirs it. The umpires stood right in the 
line of the hurtling missiles, and little lamas in 
embryo, bare-footed and bare-limbed, gathered 
the arrows as they fell, tripping back with them 
to the archers like sun-kissed amorini with their 
quivers full. The utmost order prevailed, and 
this event, as were also the others, was organised 
to perfection. 

The Dance of the Gods which took place in 
the spacious outer courtyard of the temple was 
similar in effect to the Devil Dances I had 
watched with such interest at the lama temple 
in Peking in the previous spring. The ground 
was marked out in sections and all operations 
were directed towards a canopy of yellow silk 
ornamented with conventional devices in blue, 



186 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

beneath which the throne of the Hut'ukt'u was 
placed. That he would be present in persona 
propria nobody expected, but in his absence all 
honour was paid to the space which should have 
been occupied by him. 

The status of Russia was officially recognised 
by the erection of a special marquee not far 
from that of the Bogdo, and under this the 
Russian Consul sat cross-legged and perspiring, 
supported by a number of officials, an interpreter, 
and his handsome Persian valet at his elbow. 
A large number of Russians also stood and looked 
on at the weird gyrations of the masked dancers 
which continued untiringly hour after hour beneath 
a fierce sun beating mercilessly down upon the 
thousands of spectators fringing this gritty and 
treeless expanse. Picturesque and novel though 
the dancing was, it became monotonous after 
a while as troop after troop of actors, concealed 
beneath the most grotesque masks which covered 
their heads and shoulderjs, issue4 forth in turn, 
and went through what appeared to us to be the 
same evolutions one after the other. It is very 
difficult to arrive at any exact interpretation of 
such religious dances, but the most likely ex- 
planation is that the scenes gone through are 
a representation in pantomime of incidents in 
the early history of Buddhism. The dancers are 
masked to represent the gods, mythological 
animals, and hideous devils, and they prance 
about the chalked-in area to the strains of 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 187 

Tibetan trumpets and other weird sounds. The 
gods, whose amiable and pallid countenances 
very naturally bear strong resemblance to the 
sublime expression of contemplation admired 
by the Chinese, overcome the devils in due 
course, but to our disappointment by the means 
of peaceful exorcism and not by muscular conflict. 
This sort of thing continued for the best part of 
a day, and it was easy to see that the spectators 
grew bored, for the majority were as ignorant, 
we were told, as we ourselves as to what it was 
all about. 

Attendance at the sacred dance may to some 
extent have been a matter of obligation on the 
part of a considerable proportion of the audience, 
but for the subsequent event, the annual wrestling 
competition, it was a very different story, and the 
approaches to the ground were thronged by men, 
women, and children, about whose keenness there 
was little room for doubt. As far as the arrange- 
ment of the ground was concerned, proceedings 
followed to a large extent those of the previous 
occasions. The main diff^erence, as far as I was 
able to observe, seemed to be that all the 
princesses in Urga (if they were all princesses) 
were present in order to lend encouragement 
to their swains. Seated demurely enough in 
rows, these charming little ladies displayed their 
wonderful jewels and clothes to vast advantage. 
Beneath their hats was to be discerned the gold 
headdress that is worn only on very special 



188 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

occasions. In shape similar to an inverted finger- 
bowl and of open-work design, many of them 
were made of gold and must have been uncomfort- 
ably heavy on this hot day. Suspended from the 
frame were strings of pearls, and a modest 
estimate of these suggested that some of these 
grand ladies wore from 300 to 400 pearls, many 
of them as large as peas and quite perfect in 
colour. In this great mixed assembly they 
doubtless felt that their dignity behoved them 
to present a formal appearance, but the brown 
eyes and rosy lips looked merry enough, and one 
caught mocking and seductive glances shooting 
backwards and forwards in spite of all their 
primness. 

The loose long coats worn habitually by the 
Mongol men conceal successfully their propor- 
tions and claims to physical development, and 
it was with some interest that we watched the 
wrestlers prepare for the ring. Their faces, 
burned alternately by the strong sun and rasped 
by icy winds, are usually weathered to the colour 
of old copper, and one is astonished to see when 
they are stripped that their bodies are as fair as 
those of the average Englishman. Strong rather 
than agile in appearance, these braves, lamas and 
laymen alike, practice from the time they are 
little boys and train seriously when the opportun- 
ity offers ; they are as hard as nails when the 
time comes for their prowess to be put to the 
test. 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 189 

The signal is given, and four pairs of com- 
petitors enter the gladiatorial ring, each being 
arranged at a given point and closely watched 
by a couple of umpires, who^ acting as backers 
into the bargain, never cease pouring advice 
and encouragement upon them, occasionally even 
punctuating their sentiments by administering 
resounding smacks on the softer portions of their 
anatomy. Before getting to work, however, 
convention has prescribed, doubtless from time 
immemorial, that salutations shall be offered to 
the gods, or to the presiding deity, be he who 
he may. Alas for the influence of Western ways ! 
The feet of the deity who should have presided 
have developed perhaps just a shade too big even 
for his Mongol boots, and salutations must be 
made instead to that empty symbol of sovereignty, 
the unoccupied throne of the absent Hut'ukt'u. 

Moving in single file towards the northern end 
of the ground, exclaiming as they go, the gladiators 
advance one by one to the empty chair literally by 
leaps and bounds. Their prancing action brings 
the knees up to the stomach with every step, and 
they present the most ludicrous sight imaginable. 
Arrived at the dais, the braves leap in the air, fall on 
their knees, and touching the ground three times 
with their foreheads, perform profound obeisance. 

The bout began, and to the eyes of the uniniti- 
ated it appeared in some instances a trial of brains 
rather than of muscles. A smart trick would send 
one man down with lightning celerity, and at once 



190 A TOUR m MONGOLIA 

the victor would prance off again to tell that 
vacant throne that he had won. In other cases a 
pair would remain in close embrace for several 
minutes, motionless, and apparently thoughtful. 
Here one could only suppose that endurance was 
playing its part, since for no apparent reason one 
of the men would suddenly collapse, and the other 
would fly off to tell the story. Notwithstanding 
my lack of technical knowledge, I found this an 
absorbingly interesting form of entertainment, and 
rejoiced to hear from the Norwegian, German, 
Russian, and Englishman that these , well-made 
specimens of humanity were sportsmen in every 
sense of the word, that they played the game 
as well as any Westerner. Indeed they may be 
said in one respect to set an example to the 
Western world in the total disparity of the reward 
to the merit that had attained it. A handful of 
little cakes, the greater part of which were dis- 
tributed among his friends by the victor, formed 
the entire "purse" for which he fought. The 
honour of the thing is good enough for these un- 
civilised Mongols. 

The closing event of the festival of Ts'am was 
most enjoyable of all, and I feel that I cannot 
improve upon the description given by Mr. Gull 
in the paper which he read before the Central 
Asian Society on his return to England. "The 
race meeting was held in a beautiful green valley 
a little east of Urga. We rode out to it in a merry 
party of Mongols and their wives, who, though in 




A MONGOL GLADIATOR 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 191 

gala array, rode astride. There were thirty entries 
for a race over flat open country for five miles. 
The jockeys were little boys and girls, the youngest 
eight, the oldest not more than fourteen. The 
ponies, their riders up and singing in chorus, 
paraded in a circle between tents coloured light 
and dark blue. Presently a lama in flowing robes 
of yellow with a pennon at the end of a lance 
placed himself at the head of the line, and the 
slow parade broke into a trot. Four or five times 
the circle was completed till the trot momentarily 
quickening became a fast canter. Then the ex- 
citement of the ponies worked up to a pitch, the 
lama gave the signal. With a sweep of his lance 
he shot off at a gallop the circle behind him un- 
coiling like a lasso. It spread out towards the 
plain racing towards a bend in the hills, the actual 
starting-point. We followed for a little and then 
dismounting we waited until in straggling file, 
flanked by those who had gone all the way, the 
competitors reappeared. The first home was a 
girl with a sash of orange bound round her jet 
black hair. A mounted lama caught her bridle 
and led her up to each of the tents in turn. Be- 
fore each he intoned a prayer, and at the last the girl 
was handed a bowl of milk, and milk was poured 
over her pony's head. Each of the competitors 
was then taken up to the tents in turn, and each 
pony anointed in the same way. At the end of 
the afternoon the owners and others stripped off 
their clothes and wrestled until the sun, crowned 



192 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

with a floating splendour of flame sank behind the 
hills." 

The friendliness of the Mongols towards Euro- 
peans was on this occasion decidedly marked, and 
in company with half a dozen Russian officers who 
had brought over a number of their men to see the 
sport, we were entertained " at tea " in one of the 
pale blue tents near the winning-post. We all 
sat on the ground in a row, cross-legged, and the 
lamas handed round queer little Chinese cakes and 
bowls of mares' milk. The latter looked dirty but 
was really not at all bad to taste. 

Our meeting under these strange but pleasant 
circumstances with the Russian officers led to the 
establishment of cordial relations between us, in 
spite of the fact, which surprised us not a little, 
that one only of their number knew any language 
other than their own. This great burly fellow, a 
Captain in a Siberian rifle corps, was hail-fellow- 
well-met directly he saw us, and, coming from the 
Baltic provinces, spoke German fluently. We 
took advantage a few days later of his invitation 
to ride over to his quarters that we might see 
something of the extensive new barracks which 
are being built by the Russians. The soldiers are 
at present mainly housed in barracks which were 
begun by the Chinese, who in 1910 proposed to 
keep a small force there. Anyone more hospitable 
than these gallant Russians I have seldom met, 
but their notions of entertainment did not run on 




A M'RESll.lNG BOUT 




YOUNG LAMAS. 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 193 

lines exactly parallel with our own, and it was 
impossible to persuade them that I really did not 
like my tea half-and-half with neat brandy, and 
that in view of a very solitary ride home across 
dangerous country there were limits to my capa- 
city for drinking vodka. 

I fancy that some of these officers, though 
nominally this Mongolian exile is very distasteful 
to them, manage to amuse themselves and to take 
advantage of the great possibilities of sport that 
this region offers ; they extended to us a variety 
of inducements such as expeditions after bear, lynx, 
and wolves, to say nothing of wild- fowl shooting, 
if we would remain in Urga long enough. There 
is plenty of bird and animal life both in South and 
North Mongolia, harrier eagles, vultures, shel- 
drakes, bustards, geese, ducks, magpies, crows 
and larks abounding, while in North Mongolia 
beautiful herons, always seen in couples, were so 
tame that they allowed one to get within very 
short range before spreading their wings and sail- 
ing away. 



13 



CHAPTER XV 

" It is only kindness and not severity that can impress at the 
distance of a thousand miles " 

— Chinese proverb 

AMONG all the brightness and sparkle of 
life in Urga, there is alas ! a very dark 
and sinister side. Day after day, we 
rode past a certain little inconspicuous enclosure 
surrounded by a rough pine stockade, little reck- 
ing of the appalling amount of misery it encom- 
passed. How far circumstances and how far 
sheer native cruelty are responsible for the terrible 
condition under which the Mongols drag out a 
ghastly existence in punishment for crimes either 
great or small, and even prior to condemnation, 
it would be difficult to establish. Deprivation of 
liberty and rigorous confinement is the accepted 
form of punishment held by the Mongols in com- 
mon with all nations of modern civilisation, and 
the present form probably originated before there 
was any other way of imprisoning malefactors 
than the felt yourt of the nomad, from which, of 
course, any prisoner could escape in ten minutes. 
Few, if any, Europeans other than Russians 

have seen the inside of this Mongol prison ; and 

194 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 195 

truly the dungeons at Urga beggar description. 
Through the kind offices of one of our Russian 
friends we obtained a pass from the Mongol 
Government to enable us to visit the prisoners. 
The authorities were not a little suspicious as to 
our object in wishing to do so, and since a reason 
had perforce to be furnished, they were informed 
that we were merely humane travellers who de- 
sired to distribute largesse among the suffering 
inmates. Accompanied by a couple of Mongol 
officials, three Russians, and Mr. Gull, I was taken 
over the entire place, and I believe that none of 
its horrors escaped me. 

It would indeed be a hard heart that did not 
open to the hopeless misery of the prisoners. 
Within a small compound fenced in by high spiked 
palisades are five or six dungeons. The dungeons 
are thrice enclosed by a stockade of rough pine- 
wood some eighteen feet high, and to gain access 
to them many heavily bolted doors have to be 
unbarred. All the doors were double, and two 
great padlocks ensured the security of each. As 
we entered, the gaolers, who struck us as being a 
most unholy looking couple who literally gloated 
over the misery of the prisoners in their power, 
met us, and called our attention, quite unneces- 
sarily, to a trio of pale-faced Mongols sitting on 
the ground just inside the gates. Their hands 
and feet were heavily chained together, and they 
fell on their knees when they saw us. We had 
each contributed three roubles before entering the 



196 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

prison, and, having reduced it to small change, 
one of the party doled it out, making the sum go 
as far as possible among the miserable suppliants. 
Passing on to the interior, we came upon a 
heavy wooden chest, some 4 to 4J feet long by 2^ 
feet deep, iron-bound and secured by two strong 
padlocks. To our horror we discovered that it 
contained a man — one might have imagined that 
a wild beast to be sent by train was temporarily 
imprisoned therein ! But a man ! The hole in the 
side was of sufficient size to enable the prisoner 
to thrust out his manacled hands. This also 
provided the sole means of ventilation. But 
this unfortunate creature was well off compared 
with the others we saw subsequently. At least 
he was breathing in the open air. The dungeons, 
we were told, were so full that this prisoner had 
to remain outside. While we were discussing his 
pitiable lot, clank, clank, went the great bars and 
bolts, and the gaoler had opened the double doors 
leading into the first dungeon. There must have 
been from twenty to thirty coffins in this, some 
piled on the tops of the others, and the atmosphere 
was absolutely putrid. The two Mongol officials, 
whose general tone I cannot say impressed us 
very favourably, now very ostentatiously held 
their long sleeves over their noses, accustomed to 
smells though they were. One imagines that 
there may have been some means of cleaning out 
the coffins from underneath as is the case in 
cages in a menagerie, for it was most strongly 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 197 

impressed upon us that never under any circum- 
stances whatsoever are the prisoners allowed to 
come out except for execution or — rarely — to 
be set free. The majority are in for life sen- 
tences. 

One's eyes growing accustomed to the darkness 
—the only light that penetrates it is from the 
doors when they are opened — one became gradu- 
ally aware of wild shaggy heads poking through 
the round holes in the coffin's sides. I was stand- 
ing, quite unconsciously, close to a coffin, when, 
glancing down, I saw a terrible face, nothing 
more, almost touching the skirt of my riding coat. 
Beside one coffin was a pool of blood which told 
its own tale. Within it there was a poor devil 
coughing his lungs up. The Russian officer, 
knowing Mongolian well, spoke a few words to 
one or two of them, but they seemed too dazed to 
understand. Their minds, like their limbs, quickly 
atrophy in this close confinement. After a breath 
of fresh air in the tiny space that separates the 
dungeons, which, by the way, are four or five feet 
below ground level, another double door was un- 
barred for us, and we entered the second dungeon 
where there were a similar number of Chinese, in 
the coffins. It struck us as infinitely sad to find 
these gentle, highly civilised Chinese here, Shansi 
merchants most of them, friends and neighbours 
no doubt of the men with whom we had drunk tea 
in their charming guild rooms adjoining the little 
temple in Mai-mai-ch'eng. There they were, shut 



198 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

up for the remainder of their lives in heavy iron- 
bound coffins, out of which they could never under 
any conditions or for any purpose move. They 
could not lie down flat, they could not sit upright, 
they were not only manacled but chained to the 
coffins. They saw daylight but for a few minutes, 
when their food was thrust into their coffins 
through a hole four or five inches in diameter, 
twice daily. In one way only did they score over 
their Mongolian fellow-sufferers. Their narrower 
Chinese skulls enabled them, painfully and with 
difficulty, to protrude their heads through the 
hole in the coffin side. The Mongol cranium is 
too wide to do so at all. 

Mr. Gull talked to the Chinese as long as the 
brutal-looking gaolers would let him, and I admired 
the pluck which enabled him to remain so long in 
that fearsome atmosphere. The men told him 
that all they knew was that they were suspected 
of supporting the Chinese Republic at the time of 
the Mongol declaration of independence. They 
had apparently had no trial, and they saw not the 
slightest chance of escape from this appalling 
situation. They seemed thankful to have a few 
words with anyone in their own tongue. 

There were five dungeons and we went into 
all of them. It was impossible in the dim light to 
estimate how many prisoners they contained, and 
one got very varying figures, but I imagine that 
the total must be in the neighbourhood of 150. 
One of the Russians wished to take a photograph 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 199 

of the three prisoners outside, and the brutes of 
gaolers held their hands when they tried to cover 
their faces. I felt that one ought not insult their 
misery by doing such a thing. Indeed, no matter 
what their crimes, one had nothing but the deepest 
pity for the prisoners. We were profoundly 
moved by all the experiences of the afternoon 
and rode back much saddened in the twilight to 
Mai-mai-ch'eng. Nothing I can ever see in the 
future will wipe out the memory of that terrible 
prison. 

What I had learned of the prison system in 
Urga helped me the better to understand what I 
saw later on. I was present, not indeed from any 
morbid curiosity, but in order to witness the much- 
vaunted Mongol courage in the face of death, at 
the execution of three Mongol soldiers, who six 
months before had murdered their general. Gen 
Dung Geng, and since that time had been dragging 
out their lives in those awful coffins. 

A perfect July morning. The ride over the 
short turf for miles along the wide valley to the 
north-east of Urga made us forgetful for the time 
being of the gruesome object of our expedition. 
Three of the soldiers who had murdered their 
general — the prince, who had led them 400 strong, 
against 4000 Chinese within the walled city of 
Kobdo, and whose title was the reward of his con- 
quest — were to be executed. Discipline among 
his ranks had been terribly severe ; his soldiers 
hated him, and the glory with which they were 



200 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

covered as a consequence of their victory did not 
outweigh the rancour in their hearts. A chosen 
few were supported without exception by their 
fellows. They were unanimous to a man. 

The prince must die. They rose against him 
on the morning of an ice-bound day in January, 
and twenty Mauser rifles emptied their lead into 
his body. Miraculous seemed the strength pos- 
sessed by the General. A bullet shattered his 
thigh, but he continued to run. The soldiers 
hesitated when they saw that he did not fall. 
For one EngHsh mile he fled from his pursuers, 
Hmping but swift. To the city he fled, and people 
ran out from their dwellings to ask the reason for 
such doings. They were out of earshot when the 
answer came flinging back to them. But as he 
ran he called to those that would have come up 
with him, " Stand away from me, or you also will 
surely be killed," and in his agony he pushed into 
a place of safety some little children who were 
in his path. His heart was tender in spite of the 
severity of his discipline. 

He ran ; and coming to a gateway where he 
might hope to find sanctuary, he threw himself 
with all his force against the door. He was a 
strong man, and the door fell in, and he with it. 
He lay as he fell. His own soldiers came quickly 
up with him, and to the first he cried, " Kill me, 
then, that I may enter the new life without further 
delay". And straightway the man shot him 
through the head. 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 201 

. . . And we sat on the hill-side and waited, 
while our ponies found fodder more luscious than 
that to which they were accustomed on the nearer 
plains. We waited for over two hours. The 
Mongols are not a punctual people. 

Presently, riding in twos and threes, they came 
straggling over the hill ; the hill that shall obscure 
from view the bloody deed which must be carried 
out without the knowledge of the gods, which on 
no account may take place within sight of the 
sacred mountain of Bogdo-N'or upon whose face 
all Urga gazes. 

The horsemen rode slowly across the mountain, 
for they knew that more slowly still would the 
ox-carts with their mounted escort of soldiers from 
the south wend their way around its foot. Be- 
sides, there was no hurry. The prince's soldiers, 
three only of the many who were eating their 
hearts out in those awful dungeons, were to die 
to-day for his murder. 

Some sixty or seventy Chinese herded together 
near us, a cheery, chattering crowd, make a jar- 
ring note in this sombre atmosphere. They 
rejoice to witness death, more especially when 
a Mongol is to die. They sit apart from all 
others. There is no natural affinity between 
these warring races ; and the chances just now 
are that in the near future Mongolia's relations 
with her celestial neighbours may be fundamen- 
tally altered. 

Suddenly round the bend of the valley appears 



202 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

a multi-coloured little group of riders, the pre- 
dominant tint being the blue uniforms of the 
southern soldiers making general harmony with 
the grey-green of the grass on the slopes. They 
are quickly within range, and by the peacock 
plumes in their velvet hats one sees that many 
officials accompany the criminals. There, in the 
midst of the soldiers, are the primitive little ox- 
carts, two of them, and in them sit, arms tightly 
bound to their backs, the shock-headed criminals. 
Shock-headed and bearded they have become 
during their sojourn in the coffins in which they 
have been closely confined in Urga's dungeons. 
Death is indisputably preferable to imprisonment 
in Mongolia. One of the trio, in spite of the 
terrible six months through which he has passed, 
is full of life and vigour, and he shouts up in a truc- 
ulent manner to the officials who have gathered 
together in a little tent overlpoking the stakes to 
which later on the prisoners are to be bound, 
" Hi, you there," he calls, " don't go and hide your- 
selves inside the tent. You have to watch our 
execution. Come out and see us die." And 
when the simple meal, with which they are served 
immediately before the execution takes place, is 
served to them — unable to feed themselves, the 
bowls are held to their lips by the gaolers — this 
same man demands his rights, and asks for meat 
and tea instead of the water and tsamba which 
are given to him. 

And then — having satisfied their hunger, they 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 203 

are quickly and securely bound in kneeling posture 
to the stakes. For the last time the sturdy 
ruffian expostulates at not being allowed to face 
the fire. " Why do you not let us face the guns ? " 
he argued. "Why will you not allow us to die 
like soldiers?" This position is ignominious. 
It is unworthy Qf their traditions. But no notice 
is taken of him, and perhaps his earlier discipline 
impels him to submit without further demur. 
A lama, carrying in his hands a framed picture of 
the Great Prophet, walks in front of the captives. 
What he says to them we cannot hear, but one 
replies, " I only want to be a soldier when I am 
born again ". The three gaze reverently enough 
at the Buddha, and perhaps pray to him that their 
lot in the speedy re-incarnation, which they con- 
fidently anticipate, may be cast in pleasanter 
places. The lama retires, and with a startling 
rapidity, three blue-clad soldiers have placed 
themselves at close range, five yards at most from 
the murderers, and then — thud, thud, and the dust 
on the hill beyond puffs up in three little clouds. 
The heads of two of the men fall backwards with 
a jerk on their necks. The bullets have done their 
work. But custom demands that a second and 
even a third round shall be fired. Then we see 
that one of the men, the central figure of the 
group, is still alive, and the awful thing is that no 
one but ourselves appears to give heed to the fact, 
until the Norwegian runs down the hill to the un- 
fortunate victim and calls the attention of the 



204 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

Mongols to his condition. Five minutes— they 
seem like hours — pass before one of the troop 
of soldiers, already mounted and galloping up the 
hill towards Urga, is called back. He dismounts, 
kneels, and takes aim and fires. There is no mis- 
take about the despatch this time. The poor 
wretch has died hard indeed. 

We are a very quiet little party as we ride 
slowly homewards through the valleys. Away 
behind us the kites circle round the spot we have 
just left ; waiting until the last of the crowd has 
taken himself off. A human vulture has paid a 
few kopecks for the privilege of stripping those 
three poor bodies of the filthy clothes in which 
they so bravely expiated their crime, and he too 
waits until we are all out of sight before he com- 
mences his gruesome task. And the dogs, the 
ghoulish dogs that infest Urga, will compete with 
the vultures. 



CHAPTER XVI 

" Those who know do not speak ; those speak who do not know " 

— Chinese proverb 

THE Mongol belief in an immediate re-incar- 
nation leads them to be entirely careless 
of their dead, and the only description 
of tomb I saw in Urga were a couple of dagobas 
erected over priests' graves. " What does it 
matter ? " they say. " The body is only a case for 
the spirit, and the spirit is at once born again 
into a new case." I think that herein lies the 
reason they never seem to trouble to wash their 
"cases". Corpses are carried out on to the 
hill-side on the tail of an ox-cart, a lama accom- 
panying the man in charge of it. The lama 
selects an auspicious spot ; the man whips up his 
pony, jerks the corpse to the ground, and they 
drive quickly off without looking back. The rest 
is left to luck. If the body is rapidly devoured 
by wild beasts and birds of prey, the virtue of the 
deceased is established in the face of any evidence 
to the contrary. If, however, the process of dis- 
solution is protracted, a bad name will cling to 
the reputation of the departed and also reflect 

305 



206 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

inconveniently on his surviving family as long as 
spiteful memory permits. 

A lasting impression of Urga is that of a city 
strewn with bones, and horrible, ghoulish, and 
terribly savage dogs prowling among them. You 
may count these dogs sometimes in hundreds 
about the refuse heaps that surround Urga. 
Often they may be seen silently gnawing, gnaw- 
ing away at something which makes you shudder 
as you ride quickly past. One never ventures 
outside one's door unarmed, for in winter the 
dogs are very fierce with hunger, and in summer 
there is always danger of meeting a mad brute. 
Only a few months before we stayed there a 
young lama from the temple just outside our 
compound was torn to pieces by these pariah 
dogs. He was a fine strong young man, but had 
gone forth alone one winter's day and was with- 
out a weapon. A number of dogs attacked him 
and before anyone could respond to his cries they 
had dragged him away to a neighbouring refuse 
heap and there torn him limb from limb. The 
dogs belong to nobody, and as well as being a 
constant source of danger, they are most repul- 
sive looking creatures, always unsightly from 
some horrible disease that seems to beset them. 
The Mongol view is that these dogs act as 
scavengers and so save them the trouble of dis- 
posing of their refuse. 

Cut off completely from the world, as it seemed, 
I received neither letters nor news of outside 




A TOMB IN URGA 
DAGOEAS ERECTED OVNR PRIESTS' GRAVES 




SOUTHERN SOLDIERS 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 207 

affairs, nor did I observe during this gala time at 
Urga much evidence as to the unsettled state of 
Chinese and Mongolian political matters. An oc- 
casional telegram was received by my host from 
his colleague at Kalgan telling him something of 
the movements of the two opposing forces, but it 
was little that we learned as to what was happen- 
ing, and if one had remained much longer there 
one would certainly have come to regard Urga 
as the centre of the universe, and to attach para- 
mount importance to Mongolia as a political unit. 
The news, therefore, that Mr. Grant, a young 
Scotsman engaged in the Chinese telegraph ser- 
vice, had been murdered by Mongol soldiery at 
Ta-Bol was a great shock. We had met the com- 
panion who set out with him, the preparations 
for whose expedition I had watched with such 
interest three months before from the mission 
compound at Kalgan, when we passed through 
Verkne-Oudinsk, and were told by him that Mr. 
Grant would probably reach Urga before we left 
it. The story as it came to us through Mongol 
sources was that Hung-hu-tzes had descended 
upon this poor young fellow for food at an isolated 
telegraph station, and that when they had ex- 
hausted his supplies, he, though resenting their 
importunities, had despatched urgent messages 
to the Chinese Government for relief. It is said 
that a telegram was sent to Yuan Shih K'ai him- 
self ; but the Chinese Government were apathetic, 
or they did not see the force of feeding this robber 



208 A TOUR m MONGOLIA 

band whose object was to destroy their men, when 
it was all they could do to supply their own soldiers 
with the barest necessities. In any case, no relief 
came, and Grant in desperation, no Chinese or 
Mongol being willing to undertake the journey, 
finally set off to Kalgan that he might obtain the 
stores necessary in order to continue his tour of 
inspection north. Why the authorities allowed 
him to return under the conditions prevailing in 
Inner Mongolia at that time it is difficult to under- 
stand. Be that as it may, upon reaching Ta-Bol 
again in company with three Chinese he was ap- 
parently captured by Mongol soldiers, who met 
him with the demand that he should hand over 
his supplies and his Chinese as well to them. He 
should go free, they said, if he complied, but if he 
refused they would kill him. 

To his eternal honour be it recorded that Grant 
stood by his Chinese companions. The Mongols, 
although they murdered him in cold blood, have 
at least been forced to admit that the white man 
was their equal in their boasted bravery ; that he 
knew something of which they know nothing — the 
supreme virtue of self-sacrifice. He did not die 
with the satisfaction of knowing that he was 
saving the life of others in so doing — one hopes 
that many of us would be capable of paying that 
price for such a reward. He died because he 
would not save his own life at the price of blood 
even though that blood was inevitably to be shed. 
From Mongol lips the account of the final scene 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 209 

comes to us. Announcing their intention of 
putting him to death, soldiers crowded round him 
to take him captive. He jeered that so large a 
number should be necessary to bind a single man. 
" We will soon stop your laughing," they said, and 
lining up twenty men they shot him down. 

Grant met his death in such a manner as to 
make his nation proud of him. His action, com- 
bined with his last brave words, was of a gallantry 
that places him high in the company of heroes. 
" You may kill me, but you can never frighten 
me," he said. A month or more later his body 
was found with a bullet through the head, as were 
the bodies of the three Chinese with whom he 
died rather than leave to their fate. Though the 
murderers had fled, the camp near which the bodies 
were found still remained, and it was on that 
account that they were found undisturbed ; that 
the wolves and vultures had left them untouched. 
It would almost seem as though the Mongols, 
having done their worst, had guarded the remains ; 
as though they realised that a hero's death must 
surely be avenged. 

Although, as I have said, there was little enough 
on the surface in the capital to suggest that a 
few hundred miles away fighting was in progress 
and unrest was prevalent, one could not describe 
Urga as being either a peaceful or a soothing 
place in which to settle. The fact that one must 
always keep a loaded rifle at hand does not make 
for that. A somewhat " nervy " little experience 



^10 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

of my own one night was when I heard rifle and 
revolver shots too near to be exactly a lullaby. 
Creeping out into the compound, my revolver at 
full cock, and taking cover under shadow of the 
low Chinese buildings that bordered it, I discovered 
that a Mongol was sitting upon my roof taking 
pot shots at his enemy over the wall. This is 
the one and only time that I think I can claim 
literally to have been " under fire ". 

Another uncomfortable moment was one night 
in riding home in the dark after dining with our 
Russian friends, when we inadvertently disturbed 
a horde of pariah dogs very busily engaged in 
gnawing at — heaven knows what ! Several of 
them leapt up angrily at us, and there was 
temporary uncertainty as to whether we might 
not be in for an extremely ugly time of it. At 
night, too, our ponies were fearfully nervous, and 
after a violent " shy " because my fellow-traveller 
struck a match to light a cigarette, my little brute 
chucked me over his head most unexpectedly 
when, on reaching the compound gates, I essayed 
to rouse the inmates by banging on the doors 
with my riding-crop. We learned before leaving 
Urga that to be out after dark was looked upon 
as exceedingly rash and unwise, and before we 
left that city an order was issued by the Mongol 
Government to the effect that no one was to go 
outside his house after 8 p.m. ; that in one house 
in every twelve a man was to sit up all night 
in order to give warning should Hung-hu-tzes 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 211 

threaten ; and that in every house or yourt a 
light was to be kept burning all night. 

These were not exactly reassuring auspices 
under which to make our way back along the 
lonely tracks to civilisation. It decided us, in 
fact, to give up the idea of taking a different route 
back in order to visit the gold mines in the Iro 
district, for it was especially in that neighbour- 
hood that there was most Hkelihood of meeting 
desperate and evil characters. Anxious therefore 
to prolong our stay in Urga to the limit of the 
time we had at our disposal, we decided to cut 
the journey back to Siberia as short as possible 
and travel " orton " in as rapid stages as might 
be. The Russian Consul was very good in 
helping us to make our arrangements. In fact, 
the uncomfortable feeling lingered unexpressed at 
the backs of our minds that friendly though he 
had been, he would not be sorry to see us turn 
our faces from Urga. It is obvious that the 
Russians would not like a couple of inquisitive 
foreigners poking their noses into all sorts of 
corners, especially in a country where Russian 
jurisdiction is in the balance and control by no 
means complete. 

An antediluvian tarantass was procured, and 
we were told that the owner lived in Kiachta 
and that we might deposit it there for him. The 
small sum of ten roubles seemed to ensure 
sufficient repair being carried out on it to see us 
through the two hundred miles that lay between 



212 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

Urga and our destination. The first day of 
August was spent in packing up and making 
preparations for our journey, which we hoped to 
compass in four instead of the seven days we had 
taken in coming. The friends we had made 
during our stay came to speed us on our way and 
regaled us during tea-time with stories of ad- 
ventures that travellers had met with on previous 
occasions over the same road. The Consul, 
very genial and cheery himself, brought us our 
"huchaos" as well as the passes which would 
enable us to carry our weapons out of Mongolia 
and through Russian territory. Our last evening, 
as we fondly thought, we spent on the banks 
of the Tola River, and with the whitened skull of 
a camel for a target we tried to improve our 
marksmanship with the Mauser in the twilight, 
using up all the ammunition we dared spare from 
the possible requirements on the journey home. 



CHAPTER XVII 

" To spoil what is good by unreasonableness is like letting off 
fireworks in the rain " 

— Chinese proverb 

AGAIN we had reckoned without our — 
Mongols. Rising betimes and being 
from an early hour in a state of pre- 
paredness, we sat down and waited for the 
appearance of our tarantass, our horses, and our 
men. We waited all day, and in the evening gave 
them up as a bad job and went off for a final 
ride over the short springy turf among the foot- 
hills surrounding the holy city. Next day, five 
weeks exactly since we had left Kiachta, the 
Mongols arrived befoije 8 a.m., but such are their 
feckless and procrastinating ways, that it was 
noon before they were ready to start. Our first 
halt came all too soon, for we were not more 
than 300 yards from the compound gates when 
we had smash number one. This, by the way^ 
was the first and last time that I have ever seen 
a Mongol unseated, and to do him justice, the 
man came off his pony, not from having lost his 
grip, but in preference to being crushed against 
the palings of the temple we were passing. 

213 



214 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

We had started off three men short, and one 
of the ponies, never having been used to draw 
anything before, and being, moreover, extremely 
fresh, took advantage of the situation to jib, throw 
its rider, and bolt off across the valley. Without 
a moment's delay, the other Mongol freed his 
steed from the tarantass and sped off after the 
runaway. We were left sitting in the tarantass. 
The pony, after a wild chase, was caught again, 
and then in order to knock the stuffing out of him 
a little, his owner, belabouring him freely, took 
him for a sharp gallop. Meanwhile, and just as 
we were ready to depart once more, the rascally 
horse-dealer, who, by the way, had been our 
next-door neighbour as well, rode up, obviously 
in a state of indignant excitement. Mr. Mamen, 
our Norwegian friend, who, hearing of our smash, 
had come along to help if he could, explained that 
the man was very angry and was under the im- 
pression that we had insulted him. 

The story of the skull, the casus belli with the 
horse-dealer, brings back to me considerable 
regret. Ten days or so prior to our departure 
I had found on a hill-side some distance from 
Urga a fine, and apparently, clean, specimen of 
Mongol skull, and tyro in the subject that I was, 
thought that to possess and take it home with 
me would be interesting from an anthropological 
point of view. Threading a bit of string through 
the eye socket, therefore, I tied the skull to my 
saddle and rode back with it. My friends very 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 215 

kindly, instead of crushing my aspirations, sug- 
gested that to let it steep for a few days in a pail 
of disinfectant might be a wise and sanitary 
precaution. When, however, I wanted to pack it 
up, I found on pouring off the disinfectant, that 
the dogs and vultures had not performed their 
functions with the thoroughness that I had anti- 
cipated, and that the cranium was still half full 
of decomposed cerebral matter. My Chinese boy, 
of course, would not look at it, and I could per- 
suade neither of my European companions to 
clean out the thing for me. The easiest way 
out of the difficulty seemed to be to leave the 
skull behind. As soon, however, as we had 
taken our departure, the boy in clearing up took 
the pail and its contents to a neighbouring dust- 
heap and deposited the latter thereon. 

Our Mongol horse-dealer had unfortunately 
been cognisant of the proceedings, and, on the 
look out, no doubt, for a grievance, had jumped 
on his horse that he might overtake us and 
complain of our action in leaving the skull so 
near to the confines of his compound. We apolo- 
gised, of course, and tried to impress upon him 
the fact that we had intended no insult. Noticing 
that he still appeared irate, my noble fellow- 
traveller, with the object, I believe, of leaving 
nothing but pleasant impressions behind, offered 
to go back and to remove the skull from the 
vicinity. A further delay, and he re-appeared, 
bringing with him a bulky parcel tied up in 



216 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

a newspaper. My penitence was not assumed, 
and coals of fire were heaped on my head when 
not one soHtary word of reproach was uttered 
as we packed my very gruesome possession away 
in the bottom of the tarantass. Even now it was 
in no pleasant condition for transporting by 
civilised routes through Europe, and I willingly 
agreed that it would be as well to rid ourselves 
of the encumbrance at the first opportunity. To 
remind me of that incident, even ever so gently, 
during the rest of the journey was to render me 
immediately docile and amenable to any scheme, 
no matter how distasteful it might be. 

We picked up our remaining Mongols in Urga, 
and bade adieu to the Russian officer. Captain 
Gabriek, who came to see us off, give us some 
parting words of advice, and take a photograph 
of us as a souvenir. We were nearing the top 
of the first hill out of the capital when smash 
number two occurred. The new pole which had 
been fixed across the shafts of the tarantass 
and was being carried in the usual way athwart 
the saddles of four Mongols, suddenly broke in 
two, and, without a moment's warning, thie 
tarantass began to trundle backwards down the 
incline. We sat tight, expecting to turn over 
every minute, the Mongols, who are useless in 
a crisis, looking on aghast at what had happened. 
We fetched up against a heap of stones in a 
manner truly providential, when, keeping the 
right side uppermost, we disembarked, and set 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 217 

the Mongols to work on mending the broken pole. 
The opportunity having arrived, I took advantage 
of all their attention being concentrated elsewhere 
to walk off with the newspaper parcel containing 
the skull, and sauntering away to some distant 
bushes, I concealed my burden amongst them. 
Years hence some Sherlock Holmes will doubtless 
discover it, and making four out of two plus three, 
will with his customary acumen come to the con- 
clusion that a dastardly crime has been committed 
here ; that some brutal Englishman has murdered 
a Mongol and disposing of the body (heaven 
knows how !) has attempted to conceal the head 
by wrapping it in a copy of the " North China 
Herald," and leaving it by the wayside. You 
never can tell. 

We were forced into the position of making 
the best of a very bad job as far as the repair 
to our broken pole was concerned, and came to 
the conclusion that it would not bear the severe 
strain of descending the long road which led 
down to the farther side of the Urga Pass, up 
which we had trudged so cheerily little more than 
a month before. So, with a couple of ropes to 
haul the tarantass back in order to avoid weight 
on the pole, we allowed the now somewhat sub- 
dued Mongols to take it down, while we ourselves 
led their ponies. Our accident delayed us for 
over an hour, and this, combined with our tardy 
start, made us very late in arriving at the end 
of the first stage. Here a relay of men and 



218 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

horses was forthcoming, and we did our best 
to instil into them caution as regards the fragile 
condition of our conveyance. The way diverged 
considerably from the route our Jamschik had 
taken in bringing us, and before reaching our 
night quarters we had a somewhat disconcerting 
stream to negotiate. Under ordinary conditions 
the Mongols would have raced over and torn 
up the steep bank on the farther side with wild 
"Hoop-la's". Our broken pole necessitated a 
very different procedure, and there was nothing 
for it but "all hands to the wheels" and to 
push the heavy tarantass across. They gave me 
one of the ponies to ride, but what with the water 
being deep and the pony splashing about I think 
I got as wet as they did. Mongols detest getting 
even their feet wet and made a prodigious fuss 
before they could be induced to wade. 

Our men on this stage were not a particularly 
ingratiating set, and, though the subject did not 
come up for discussion, neither of us felt any too 
safe in their hands. Their character was dis- 
closed when we arrived at our destination for the 
night, and they tried to force us into paying eight 
roubles instead of the usual three, or the actual 
five, which we offered them. The Mongols bluffed 
all they knew, and swore (one of them spoke 
enough Chinese to act as interpreter) that the 
sum of eight roubles was entered in black and 
white upon our " huchao," or posting permit. My 
less pugnacious companion was for paying and 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 219 

thus saving discussion, but I felt that to give in 
at so early a stage would mean being bullied at 
every subsequent one, and I therefore gave them 
to understand that I would go back to Urga with 
them in the morning to settle matters rather 
than be imposed upon in such a manner. They 
made as though they would depart without the 
money, but finally caved in before our firm stand, 
and after a pow-wow which had lasted over an 
hour, they settled down to tea and cigarettes 
before taking their departure, by which time it 
was nearly ten o'clock. 

Tired out with our long parley, thankful to see 
the last of them, but pleased that we had managed 
to keep our tempers and that we had finally scored 
off these Mongols, we fed hastily and settled down 
in the traveller's yourt for the night with as little 
preparation as might be, feeling none too secure 
in this obviously hostile camp. In the wee sma' 
hours a sound of soft footsteps wakened me, and 
I sat up to listen. I could hear from the deep 
regular breathing of the other occupants of the 
yourt that nervousness was not troubling them 
unduly. But the slight sounds developed, and a 
sudden creaking outside woke Mr. Gull up too. An 
unexpected rush of horses' hoofs and more creak- 
ing presented in a fla.sh to me what was happen- 
ing outside. " They are stealing our tarantass," I 
whispered, and grasped my revolvers, one in each 
hand. We sat still and waited in silence for a 
while, when lights and voices reached us through 



220 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

the chinks and crevices of the yourt. "Those 
brutes have come back to rob us," muttered Mr. 
Gull, and crawling quietly to the door I could see 
through the crack above it a crowd of faces. 

" What the devil do you want ? " shouted one of 
us, and rejoicing to find my hand steady as a rock, 
I prepared to fire at the first indication of attack. 
Indeed I was veritably within an ace of pulling the 
trigger, when suddenly I became conscious of 
a fair moustachioed, blue-eyed face, topped by a 
forage cap, gazing at me in gentle amazement. 
I could have fallen upon the neck to which it was 
attached in the reaction from what we believed to 
be a desperate situation. The Mongols were not 
there to attack us, but merely to usher in to the 
traveller's yourt a Russian officer and his servant 
who were posting through to Kiachta in like 
manner to ourselves. We quickly helped them to 
settle in, plied them with food and brandy (which 
seemed to please them enormously), and the lot 
of us were soon sleeping soundly and securely, I 
with the comfortable feeling that together we 
would be able to account for a good many Mongols 
were the ruffians to come back and raid us. 

We had rather hoped that we might be able to 
continue our journey in this pleasant, if speech- 
less, company, but the Russians were travelling 
very light, and were up and off by daybreak, while 
we had to wait for a new pole ; a young Scotch 
fir being cut down, smoothed a bit, and sold to us 
for fifty kopecks for the purpose. I was interested 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 221 

in watching the toilet of the officer, whose servant 
stood at attention opposite him holding a small 
saucepan full of water in which he washed and 
gargled with great thoroughness. 

The appearance of the group of Mongols who 
were to take us on our next stage did not impress 
us favourably, and we felt that our men of yester- 
day had probably done their best to make things 
difficult for us. The other people in the camp too, 
seemed truculent and surly, begging for food from 
us in no too pleasant a manner. One of our new 
men was indeed a formidable looking ruffian, six 
feet tall, and with a scowl that never left his face. 
The others consisted of a " black man," two girls, 
and a lama of twenty or so. The younger girl 
was very pretty. She obviously mistook me for 
a man, and all the time she was off duty she rode 
alongside the tarantass making overtures to me for 
sweets (we had laid in a good supply on finding a 
particularly pleasing brand in a Russian shop in 
Urga), pins, flowers, or any other trifle she espied 
and as promptly coveted. She was so coy and 
merry that I felt quite sorry for my companion 
that all her attentions should thus be squandered 
upon myself. It annoyed some one else too. The 
young lama whose beloved, I gathered, she was, 
seemed distinctly uneasy, and his head was much 
more frequently turned in our direction than to 
his business of guiding the tarantass. At one halt 
he appeared to be telling her plainly what he 
thought of her frivolous behaviour, but although 



222 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

she pouted very prettily it was all to no avail, and 
her swain tied up again, figuratively speaking, be- 
tween the shafts of the tarantass,the minx relapsed 
once more into her engaging little ways. 

At the end of the stage there was the fuss we 
had anticipated, and our scowling outrider looked 
by no means a pleasant customer when he began 
bullying argument for a double fare. We were, 
however, at this time of day in no mood to be 
trifled with, and throwing the money on the ground, 
waved our " huchao " in the face of the head man 
of the settlement and demanded fresh horses 
without delay. Two can play at a game of bluff, 
and we were the winning side this time. With a 
lively crew of no less than eight youngish men — 
dare-devil scallywags they looked — we were soon 
under way again. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

" When the mind is enlarged the body is at ease " 

• — Chinese proverb 

THE antiquity of our tarantass was a 
source of constant anxiety to us, and 
minor mishaps, ropes wearing out, shafts 
slipping, and nuts becoming loose, were of frequent 
occurrence. Two of our riders were mere boys — 
one a lama, of fifteen or sixteen — who when they 
were drawing us insisted on riding at a reckless 
pace over some very rough country. I protested 
several times and finally, after they had repeatedly 
disregarded my injunctions, succeeded in bringing 
them to a halt. Things were soon again as bad 
as ever however, and we were travelling at a 
tremendous rate when snap, scurrrr, scuff ! our 
front axle-tree had broken clean in two, and a 
wheel rolled clear away on the near side. We 
were now in a sorry plight, and what we were 
going to do we had not the slightest idea. The 
Mongols looked on helplessly, and were quite 
subdued when I told the two young ruffians, who 
had been so entirely responsible for the damage, 
in fluent English exactly my sentiments regarding 
themselves at that moment. By the sheer in- 
tervention of Providence we were saved from an 

aa3 



224 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

uncommonly awkward situation. In the dim 
distance, the forms of a couple of Russians riding 
along were descried by one of our Mongols, and 
leaping into his saddle he had galloped away to 
solicit their aid before we had diagnosed what was 
passing in his mind. 

Of the resourcefulness, the kindness, and 
general bon camaraderie of those Russians I can 
hardly say enough. Our troubles were at an end. 
Of the pair, we diagnosed one as being perhaps 
a cattle-dealer in low-water — his shaggy and 
disreputable appearance maybe belied him : the 
other man was a raw young soldier carrying 
despatches to Kiachta. The first was a man of 
brains. He took in the situation at a glance and 
immediately set the Mongols to work ; one to cut 
down a sapling, others to clear out some of the 
wreckage. Meanwhile he gave them such a 
dressing down as did my heart good to hear. By 
transforming the sapling into a sort of sleigh 
runner, he achieved what had seemed next to 
impossible, a means of conveying the tarantass, 
which now had a tremendous list to starboard, 
with our belongings inside to the next stage of 
the journey. 

Thankful to have got even so far, we were 
preparing to pay ofF and dismiss the Mongols who 
had been responsible for so much trouble, but the 
Russian stopped us and gave us to understand 
that in consequence of the smash it would be 
better to give them nothing, and we therefore 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 225 

got rid of them by writing a letter on the spot 
to the Yamen at Urga, setting forth our complaint 
and explaining that we had been obliged to 
abandon the tarantass at the fourth stage of our 
journey. The headman appeared to support the 
Russian's judgment, and moreover cautioned the 
new set of men who were to take us along in 
gingerly fashion in our three-wheeled and almost 
disabled tarantass to our resting-place for the 
night. Fortunately this turned out to be a very 
short stage, and we walked almost all the way. 

Having travelled by a. different, although, I 
presume, more or less parallel road from Urga, 
we were agreeably surprised to find ourselves 
when night fell at the little wooden shanty occupied 
by the young Chinese whose eyes I had treated 
on the downward journey, but with whose house 
my fellow-traveller had less pleasant associations. 
His quarters, however, were taken up by Chinese 
travellers, and we therefore put up with a family 
of Russians who occupied the adjoining rooms. 
As regards cleanliness this was certainly no im- 
provement on the apartment next door, and I think 
Mr. Gull, who decided to sleep in the tarantass, 
had the better part. I had quite anticipated 
sharing the room with the Russian family who 
at supper time ate their meal in one corner while 
we, with the soldier and our friend in need as 
guests, had ours in the other. But they all 
dwindled away after their repast and I felt some- 
what nonplussed when, after I had retired to my 
15 



226 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

plank bed, they trooped in one by one to say 
their prayers in front of the icon which decorated 
the corner of my abode. The men, of whom there 
seemed to be a nondescript half-dozen, appeared 
to find sleeping accommodation in odd carts and 
corners in the yard, and I heard next morning 
that the compound had not been such a qujet 
place of repose after all ; that the cows lowed, 
the pigs grunted, that cocks crowed long before 
dawn, and finally that snores were to be heard 
coming from every direction. 

From this time forward the two Russians, 
civilian and soldier, were as our brothers. For the 
sake of their company and from sheer gratitude 
for their helpfulness and resource we welcomed 
them gladly, and willingly shared with them all 
that we had in the way of provisions. We had 
every reason to believe that our " huchao " carried 
the cattle-dealer through the remaining stages 
free of expense, and not once but many times I 
gathered from an intelligible word here and there 
that he described us to the Mongols as near 
relations of the Hut'ukt'u, and therefore that 
there must be no further nonsense about over- 
charging us. This must have been the explanation 
of the fact that at one stage the Mongols refused 
payment altogether, and I am afraid it must ever 
remain on our consciences that we were benefiting 
from what was in effect an offering to the living 
God. 

The damage to our vehicle was examined by 




MONGOL ORTON 




CONTINUING THE JOURNEY ON OX-CARTS DRAWN BY PONlES 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 227 

every man, woman, and child within reach, and a 
general concensus of opinion was arrived at to 
the effect that repair was impossible, and that the 
alternatives available were either to continue our 
journey by ox-carts drawn by ponies and to 
abandon our tarantass, or to remain where we 
were for a very precarious fortnight while a new 
axle was made and sent down to us from Kiachta. 
The latter course was out of the question, and we 
gaily embarked upon a journey of some 120 miles 
on ox-carts, little recking of the possibilities of 
discomfort that this means of transit involved. 
On one cart, which we did our utmost to keep in 
sight and in front of us, we packed the baggage, 
on the other we somewhat perilously perched our- 
selves. There was no protection either at the 
back or sides of the rough conveyance, and it 
was some time before we could learn to balance 
ourselves with any degree of comfort or feeling of 
security. 

Arriving at the next stage about midday we 
were so tired with the jolting and the strain of 
keeping our seats that we were literally too ex- 
hausted to unpack our food, and merely stretched 
our cramped limbs on the grass and dozed while 
the ponies were caught and put between the 
shafts and a new relay of Mongols carried out 
their customary pow-wow with the last lot. The 
stages were now of shorter duration, and as the 
carts were the property of the Mongols at various 
points, their capacity for comfort presented a 



228 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

pleasing variety. None of them, however, would 
in our luxurious and extravagant country, I am 
sure, be • considered worthy of carrying manure 
from the farmyard to the field. The description 
of ox-carts which cross the Gobi and which I 
constantly met in Inner Mongolia applies equally 
to those of this region. 

A further stage was rendered lively and really 
interesting by the discovery of the most remark- 
able one-year-old boy it has ever been my lot to 
meet. To say that the child could walk and talk 
like a four-year-old is to mention the least strik- 
ing of his accomplishments. Mr. Gull, at the ap- 
pearance of the baby in his mother's arms, was 
smoking a cigarette, and by unmistakable signs, 
to say nothing of sounds which were apparently 
inteUigible to the surrounding Mongols, he ex- 
pressed his desire for one too. He was forth- 
with presented with a cigarette, and we quite 
expected him to do what all normal children of 
his age would have done, pull it to pieces. But 
not so this child. He put it in his mouth most 
carefully, and looking round gravely to watch the 
effect he had produced, he allowed it to be 
lighted, when he puffed it for a moment or two 
before struggling to his feet and toddling off to 
the yourt to show his trophy to a doting grand- 
father. It was quite evident that that baby, as 
certain other babies of my acquaintance, ruled 
not only the yourt of his parents, but his various 
kith and kin in the camp to boot. 




REMARKABLi; ONE- YF,AR-OLD BOY 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 229 

The settlement thus dominated appeared to us 
to be of a somewhat more wealthy character than 
others at which we had rested — at least, it pro- 
duced a slightly superior cart, larger, and with a 
plank upon which to sit, while the harness had 
the high Russian arc-like arrangement attached 
to the shafts. Between this and the next stage 
we again crossed the Hara-Gol (at a point higher 
up the river than last time) and found it almost 
unrecognisable, so greatly had its volume de- 
creased. That the Mongols do not devote the 
pick of their herds to supplying the traveller with 
horse-flesh for the journey between Urga and 
Kiachta goes without saying. As a rule, however, 
the ponies that were available were more or less 
docile, and on two stages only did we seem in 
peril of never reaching our destination at all ; 
once on account of too great a pace, on another 
on account of no pace at all. 

Starting at 5 o'clock on the morning after we 
had re-crossed the Hara-Gol, and with a very 
good-looking and pleasant young priest as out- 
rider — it should be mentioned that to each cart 
was attached one pony only and that this was led 
by a mounted Mongol — we seemed likely to take a 
short cut across the Great Divide. The wheeler 
was hopeless, beginning with a tremendous tussle 
on being put between the shafts ; and it was more 
than probable that this was his first experience 
of such encumbrances as cart and harness. The 
Mongol, whose own steed was in none too good 



230 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

a temper, held him up short against his bridle, 
and from time to time seemed likely to be pulled 
from his saddle by the jerks and tugs with which 
the little brute tried to free himself. 

Our Russian friend and the soldier had ridden 
ahead, and there seemed every Hkelihood that we 
were in for a lively time. After a while, however, 
the pony appeared to have come to terms and to 
settle down to the fact that he had met his master. 
The strain, however, had been too much for the 
harness, and a piece of the raw hide that formed 
it, parting compajny from the rest, gave the animal 
his chance. Without an instant's warning he was 
off, helter-skelter, over the prairie. Our lama, 
taken off his guard by the fracture, was left 
behind for a moment, but, recovering himself, 
darted away at a little distance, and instead of 
trying to catch us up did his best to head the 
pony up the hill, instead of allowing us to be 
dragged to certain destruction along a narrow 
road which wound up with a steep incline down 
to the dried-up bed of a river. There was noth- 
ing for it but to sit tight and hope for the best, 
and holding on to one another like grim death, 
we danced about like parched peas on a drum 
head. Sitting tight seemed to suggest relative 
security for a moment or two, but in front of us 
was a bank, and heaven knows what beyond it. 
"The bank will stop him," I cried; but no such 
luck. Up he went, and to our breathless amaze- 
ment we found we had leapt, cart, pony, our- 



A TOUR m MONGOLIA 281 

selves, and all, not only the bank but the gully 
that was on the other side as well. It said much 
for the stability of our cart no less than for our 
nerves. But there were limits to the little beast's 
powers, and the sharply ascending ground to which 
he turned to avoid his master was too much for 
him, and, completely played out, he allowed him- 
self to be caught. By this time our Russian 
friend, not understanding our delayed appearance, 
had very thoughtfully ridden back, and, practical 
man that he was, mended the harness, swearing 
volubly at the lama meantime. That we were 
alive to tell the tale seemed to us a miracle 
indeed. 

Our next experience was a great contrast, for 
on the north bank of the Iro-Gol where we again 
changed horses, we picked up the slowest brute 
I met during the whole time I was in the East. 
So slow it was that the Russian lent me his whip 
in order that I might urge it on a bit from the 
cart. This and the fact that on one occasion I 
touched it gently on the back with the toe of my 
boot rather annoyed the Mongol who led it, and 
turning round he informed us in Chinese that his 
horse was " li h'ai " (terrible). Once and once 
only did it suggest the least justification of the 
statement, and that was when nearing camp it 
appeared suddenly to call its traditions, and made 
a very respectable entry, dashing up to the travel- 
lers' yourt in fine style. 

This proved to be a very friendly settlement, 



232 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

and the people crowded round the yourt to bid us 
welcome. I dare say friendliness was mingled 
with curiosity. Seeing me pour a drop or two 
of eau-de-Cologne on a handkerchief and pass it 
over my face, they were keenly desirous of pay- 
ing me the compliment of imitation, and held out 
their hands for the bottle. Mongols are not back- 
ward in asking for what they want, and are quite 
of the belief that to him who asks shall be given. 
"Ai-iaa" they ejaculated delightedly. Most of 
them liked the scent, but one woman who sniffed 
it up too hard from the palm of her hand was 
greatly annoyed when it stung her nose, shaking 
her head like a dog, and walking off in high dud- 
geon when the others roared with laughter at 
her. They all copied my method of using it, and 
were smearing their faces over with their dirty 
hands, when our Russian took a rise out of a new- 
comer who had not been present at the first 
operation. Seeing every one rubbing their cheeks 
he wished of course to take part in the game, and 
the Russian pouring the questionable dregs of 
a water bottle into his outstretched palms, the 
trusting lama applied it to his face. The rest 
keenly appreciated the joke and the man himself 
took it in good part when he found that they were 
fooling him. As consolation I administered a 
lump of sugar dipped in tea, and this was much 
relished. They were a cheery lot of people here 
who played with us and each other like so many 
children. 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 233 

We woke up next morning to make the ac- 
quaintance of a learned professor from the Uni- 
versity of Tomsk, who had arrived during the 
night, coming in so quietly that he had disturbed 
no one. We learnt that he was on a surveying 
expedition to UUiasutai and Kobdo. We left him 
planting his theodolite on the top of a hillock near 
the camp, the Mongols regarding his movements 
with the greatest suspicion and dislike. Another 
couple of stages brought us near the end of our 
journey, and as we jogged along within sight of 
Kiachta we reviewed our experiences during the 
weeks in wild Mongolia, with, to quote my fellow- 
traveller, "at all events this result — that at the 
end of the journey we both wished we were back 
again at the beginning ". 

Kiachta looked picturesque enough as we ap- 
proached its quasi-civilisation once more. Still, 
we had no desire to remain there an hour longer 
than was necessary, and now that Mongolia 
was for the time being a thing of the past — a 
veritable castle in Spain which this time at any 
rate had materialised — I looked forward with pleas- 
ure to the — to me — unknown capital of Russia. 
The journey down the Selenga River contrasted 
pleasantly as regards duration with the up-river 
trip, and arriving once more at dusty Werkne- 
Udinsk, we lost no time in embarking upon the 
express train to Chelyabinsk, passing through 
Transbaikalia in rainy gloom. At Chelyabinsk 
we changed and boarded a very inferior train for 



234 A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 

St. Petersburg, the first-class carriages of which 
were small and less comfortable than the average 
second class in any other country. Petersburg 
in late summer was quiet enough to be restful 
after our wanderings, while the cleanliness and 
comfort that attends sightseeing in the orthodox 
manner were, I am bound to admit, distinctly 
refreshing. But the essence of life lies in its con- 
trasts, and after returning to London by means of 
the luxurious boats which ply from point to point 
among the beautiful islands of the Baltic, it was 
not many weeks before one looked back with long- 
ing to the simple life, the simple customs of 
a primitive people — veritably a call to the wild. 
Mongolia fascinated me in anticipation; in 
materialisation ; in retrospect ; and most of all 
in the prospect of going back again — some day. 



INDEX 



Altai Berg, summit of, 144. 
Archers, meeting of, 183. 
Architecture at Mai-mai-ch'eng, 159. 

Baltic Provinces, 192. 

Bogdo, compound, structure of his, 
177 ; Mongolia, ruler of, 152. 

Bogdo N'or, 146, 201 ; sacred moun- 
tain of, 146. 

Bohea, Fukien hills of, 77. 

British Legation at Peking, 99. 

— perturbation at Mrs. Gull's in- 

tentions, vii. 
Buriats, Mongols, Russian national- 
ised tribe of, 114. 
Burmah frontier, Chinese and, ix. 

Cemetery, Chinese, at Mai-mai-ch'- 
eng, 160. 

Chang Chia K'ou, 34. 

Ch'angch'un, 102, 103. 

Chelyabinsk, author's departure for, 
233. 

Ch'en Lung, pictures, collection of, 
102. 

Chihli, 7, 33, 43. 

China, 64, 70, 72, 76, 82, 89, 92, 95, 
101, 102, 159. 

— economic possibilities of, viii. 

— foreign policy of, ix. 

— form of salutation in, 25. 

— Mongolian petition to, xiii. 

— North, inns of, 36, 95. 

— Revolution in, xi. 

— unsettled political state of, 207. 

— war between, and Mongolia, xi. 
Chinese at Urga, vii. 

— banquet in honour of baby, 24. 

— Foreign Office, 33. 

— Inner Mongolia, gradual invasion 

of, by, 40. 
Choi Gin Lama, the residence of, 

178. 
Consortium, banking, for China, xiv. 



Dance of the Gods, 185. 
Dassak Da Lama, 4. 
Dol-na-Gashi, horse-farm at, 89. 
Dolo N'or, 30, 95, 153. 

Empress of China, death of, in 
Peking, 84. 

FooCHOW, 77. 

Fukien, Bohea hills of, 77. 

Gen Dung Geng, General, 199. 
Gobi, viii, 17, 33, 48, 51,89, 100, 101, 

228. 
Gold-mining, Mongolore Co. at Urga, 

159. 
Grant, Mr., murder of, at Ta-Bol, 

207. 
Great Divide, 229. 

— Wall, 2, 10, 23, 47. 

Haarlem, 184. 

Hankarawa, Inner Mongolia, largest 

temple of, 77. 
Hankow, 57. 
Han-o-pa Pass, 34, 39, 40, 95. 

— village of, 36. 
Hara-Gol, 134, 138, 229. 
Haraossu, 47. 

Harbin, 102, 103, 104, 171. 
Holy City of Mongolia, 145. 
Horse-breeding at Dol-na-Gashi, 89. 
Hsu Shu-cheng, General, xiii. 
Hut'ukt'u, the ruler of the Mon- 
gols, 158, 175, 176, 180. 

Inner Mongolia, 51, 73, 76, 77, 89, 

99, 164, 228. 
Chinese gradual invasion to, 

40. 

fuel of, 37. 

headdress of, 162. 

Northern Mongols of, 161. 

Iro-gol, 231. 



335 



236 



A TOUR IN MONGOLIA 



Japan and Mongolia, xiv. 

— future of, xiv. 

— troops of, in Siberia, xii. 
Japanese-Russo War, effect of, ix. 

Kalgan, 13 ; 2, 3, 6, 12, 14, IS, 18, 
19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 30, 32, 34, 
51, 58, 89, 90, 91, 100, 101, 145, 
146, 207, 208. 

— consignment of wool and hides 

to, 41. 

— departure for, 5. 

— descent from heights north of, 

97. 

— inhabitants, number of, 75,000, 

13. 

— journey continued to, 10. 

— Pass, 97. 

— plunder of, by band of Hung-hu- 

tzes, 99. 

— Valley, road along, 97. 
Kiachta, 118, 121, 211, 213, 220, 224, 

227, 233. 

— convention of, xi. 

— cosmopolitan inhabitants, 116; 

problem of departure from, 
117. 

— Selenga River to. 111 ; Troitze- 

Casavsk, division of, 115. 
Kobdo, 199, 233. 
Kolchak, Admiral, xii. 

Llassa, occupation of, by Chinese, 

X. 

Mai-mai-ch'eng, architecture of, 
159, 160; 116, 156, 197, 199. 

— Chinese township of, 115. 

— halt at, 121. 

— situation of, 145. 
Manchu dynasty, xi, 74. 
IVlanchuli, settlement of, 104. 
IHanchuria, 64, 101, 102, 107. 
Mission compound, life in, 17. 
Mongol family, visit to, 54. 

— State, suggested creation of, 

xii. 
Mongolia, 13, 17, 31, 33, 37,40,41, 
56, 57, 67,71, 73, 75, 77, 81, 82, 
83, 97, 104, 107, 115, 144, 146, 
147, 153, 158, 161, 162, 171, 
172, 176, 177, 181, 184, 193, 
201, 202, 208, 212, 233, 234. 

— Chinese policy in, viii. 

— departure for, 30. 

— Independence of, xi. 



Mongolia, Inner, 51, 73, 76, 77, 89, 

99, 164, 228. 

fuel of, 37. 

gradual invasion of Chinese 

to, 40. 

headdress of, 162. 

Northern Mongols of, 161. 

— Japan and, xiv. 

— North, 17, 161, 193. 

bird and animal life in, 193. 

— Northern, headdress of, 162. 
— ■ proper, arrival in, 52. 

— re-incarnation, believed in, 205. 

— Russia and, xi. 

— unsettled state of, 207. 

— Urga, capital of, 145. 

— — religious centre of, 151. 

— war, rumours of, 16. 

— wolf hunt in, 64. 

— women's position in, 173. 
Mongolian frontier, . war, rumours 

of, 3. 

— Government, order issued to 

Chinese by, 158. 
Mongolians and Chinese, move- 
ments of, 43. 

— character of, ix, 165. 

— dress of the, 164. 

— Europeans, friendliness to, 192. 

— food of, 169. 

Mongolore Gold-mining Co., head- 
quarters of, at Urga, 159. 

Moscow, 108. 

Moukden, tombs of the Manchu 
Sovereigns, 102 ; 103. 

Nank'ou Pass, 2, 6, 10. 
North China, inns of, 36 ; 95. 

Ost-Kiachta, 114. 
Outer Mongolia, 171. 

Pa-yen-chi-erh-ko-la, 4. 

Peking, 4, 5, 10, 24, 43, 62, 66, 70, 

79, 83, 87, 101, 102, 105, 117, 

181, 185. 

— British Legation at, 99. 

— Chinese in, 3. 

— death of Manchu Empress in, 

84. 

— departure from, 104. 

— first Parliament, inauguration of, 

76. 

— to Kalgan, journey from, 6. 

— preparations for return to, 89. 
return to, 99. 



INDEX 



237 



Peking-Suiyuan Railway, xv. 
Punishment, barbarous methods of, 
170. 

Re-incarnation, belief of, Mongol- 
ians in, 205. 

Republican cause, Shang Chodba, 
supporter of, 4. 

Russia, 64, 115, 118. 

— alarm of, at Chinese policy, x. 

— and Mongolia, xi. 

— establishment of barracks on 

neutral front, 116. 

— treaties with, recognised by 

China, xi. 
Russian Consulate in Urga, 158. 

— post, between Kalgan and Urga, 

19. 

— retail trade of Urga, 155. 
Russo-Japanese War, effects of, ix. 

St. Petersburg, 108, 234. 

Selenga River, journey down, 233 ; 
111,112. 

Selenginsk, 114. 

Semenov, General, xii. 

Shang, Chia Hut'ukt'u, 4. 

Shang Chodba, supporter of Re- 
publican cause, 4. 

Shih Chi Men, 5. 

Station, departure for, 5. 

Shih Erh Chia, Shansi merchants, 
headquarters of, 159. 

Siberia,89, 101, 114,119,211. 

— Japanese troops in, xii. 
Siberian Railway, viii, 103. 
South Manchurian Railway, 102. 

Ta-Bol, departure from, 90. 

— journey towards, 59. 

— meaning of, 76. 

— rumours of war, 88. 

— Mr. Grant, murder of, at, 207. 

— visiting at, 85 ; 61, 77, 89, 99. 
Tartar City, 5. 

Temple of the Gods, position of, 179. 

main entrance to, 180. 

procession to, 182. 

Thibet, Chinese invasion of, x. 

— Independence of, suggested, xi. 
Tola River, 145, 146, 177, 183, 212. 
Transbaikalia, 233. 
Trans-Siberian Railway, 2. 
Troitze-Casavsk, 115. 



Ts'am Haren, arrangements for, 
178. 

— race meeting at, 190. 

Ulliasutai, 233. 

Ura Gol, crossing the, 125 ; 124. 

Urga, 3, 17, 19, 43, 60, 62, 100, 104, 
118, 121, 135, 141, 144, 145, 
146, 147, 165, 167, 169, 174, 
176, 183, 187, 190, 193, 195, 
199, 201, 202, 204, 205, 206, 
207, 209, 210, 211, 212, 214, 
216, 221, 225. 

— capital of Mongolia, 145. 

— Chinese rule in, 156. 
troops in, xiii. 

— departure for, 120. 
from, 213. 

— division of main part of, 157. 

— headquarters of Mongolore Gold- 

mining Co., at, 159. 

— mixed alliances in, 173. 

— Pass, ascent of, 143 ; 217. 

— prison at, 194. 

— proximity to, 142. 

— punishments in, 170. 

— religious centre of Mongolia, 151. 

— Russian Consulate in, 158. 

quarter of, 155. 

retail trade of, 155. 

— Russians at, xi. 

— Ts'am Haren, sacred dance at, 

175. 

— University buildings of, 151. 

— visit to heart of, 150. 

— West, 148 ; 156, 179. 

— wool from, 18. 

Verkne-Oudinsk, 101, 107, 110, 113, 
115, 117, 207. 

— main features of, 112. 

— remainder of journey to, 106. 

— scenery of, 144. 
Volga, 105. 

Wang Ch'ang Shan, flour mill of, 

139. 
Werkne-Udinsk, arrival at, 233. 
West Urga, 148 ; 156, 179. 
Wolf hunt in Mongolia, 64. 
Women's position in Mongolia, 173. 

Yang River, 14. 



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