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From Kiakhta, which is at an elevation of two thousand four hundred feet above the ocean, the journey of the mission was constantly ascending, and, as might be expected, they were soon sensible of inereasing cold. On the night of the 18th of September, the thermometer of Reaumer was at 3° below zero; on the the 19th, at 6° below zero; yet in the day the heat was sometimes as great as in midsummer. In winter some of the sheltered vallies have good pasturage, and support large herds of cattle.
The road of our travellers lay over vast spaces void of wood, resembling from the description, the prairies of America, richly coated with grass, and here and there small forests of trees. Wild flax and garlic grow in quantities, as well as rhubarb, which is an article of commerce. Father Rubruquis, in 1254, found from experience that this rhubarb, stirred in with a crucifix, added much to the active efficacy of holy water in expelling devils. To give the recipe complete, we may add, that it is necessary also to reduce the said root to powder with a crucifix, and to read to the patient a chapter of the bible, to dulcify his bitter potion."
Those extensive pastures abound with buffaloes, cows and horses; and goats and stags, wild cats, &c. occupy the mountain. Large flocks of white sheep without borns, and with long ears und broad tails, are also common. As for fruit, peaches, currants and strawberries grow wild, though the Mongols make no use of the last, and probably not of the two first. The rivers abound with ducks, and also fish, and niay long remain so, for the inhabitants believing in the metempsychosis, will
not molest the waters for the sake of the souls of the finny tribes. Bell relates an anecdote on this subject, which is also cited by our author :
" Walking one day, (says be,) on the banks of the Selenga, I perceived among some boys who were fishing, an old man, whose appearance and costume surprised me. He purchased all the fish which they took, and threw them back into the river with an air of gravity. I wished to enter into conversation with him, but he was so engaged that he paid no attention to what I said. The old man, who seemed to be about seventy years old, appeared much delighted at having been able to set these fish at liberty. He spoke a little Russian and Portuguese, and told me afterwards that he had acted from a religious motive; possibly the souls of some of his friends and relatives might have migrated into the bodies of these fish, and be, therefore, considered it his duty to save them from death." Vol. i.
51. The Mongols of this part of the Kalkas possess considerable wealth, and supply the Chinese with great number of cattle,
* Rubruquis' Hist. Gen. des Voy. vol. vii. p. 283.
sheep, &c. Among other articles, they receive in return what is called brick tea, which is indeed the circulating medium of Mongolia.
“The Mongols, (says Mr. Timkowski) and most of the Nomades of Middle Asia, make use of this tea; it serves them for both drink and food. In the tea manufactories, the dry, dirty and damaged leaves and stalks of the tea are thrown aside ; they are then mixed with a glutinous substance, pressed into moulds and dried in ovens. These blocks are called by the Russians on account of their shape, brick tea. The Mongols, the Bouriats, the inhabitants of Siberia, beyond Lake Baikal, and the Kalmucs take a piece of this tea, pound it in a mortar made on purpose, and throw the powder into a cast iron vessel, full of boiling water, which they suffer to stand a long time upon the fire; adding a little salt and milk, and sometimes mixing flour fried in oil. I have drunk brick tea prepared both ways, and found it palatable enough, at least very nourishing; all depends on the skill and cleanliness of the cook.” Vol. i. p. 36.
Bell, in travelling through that country, found the tea savoury; but although not very scrupulous, objected somewhat to the kettle being absterged with a horse's tail previous to the preparation of supper. One of the most surprising articles of commerce is wood, which is carried over-land to China, the northern parts of which has no forests. The general character of the country from the frontier to Ourga, is thus summed up by Mr. Timkowski:
“The country of the Kalkas to Ourga on the Tola, is traversed by various chains of mountains, chiefly granite ; the foot of which are watered by rivers, and their summits frequently covered with wood. There is no great diversity of soil in Mongolia; it is in general, sandy and stony. The banks of the rivers and the mountain vallies abound in good pasture, and in some places near the rivers, there is land fit for tillage ; of which we saw some instances on the Boro, the Shara and the Īro, notwithstanding the aversion of the Mongols for agriculture. The northern part of the Kalkas in particular, would be very suitable for agriculture, if any fortunate concurrence of circumstances should lead to the formation of permanent settlements.” Vol. i. p. 284.
The mission found neither bridge nor boat at the rivers; they crossed them in beams of fir hollowed out, called komygas, which one fond of studying a common origin of languages, could readily detort into kapoes. The following extract will shew that these houseless Mongols have taste and elegance sometimes:
“ On the summit of the mountain we met a young Dzassak,* from the banks of the Selenga. He was surrounded by the Mongols of his
* A Dzassak is the hereditary chief of a kouchoun or division, generally composed of two thousand families. Tinkorrski.
Kouchoun, armed with bows and arrows; and was accompanied by his mother, wife and younger brother, his sisters, and a numerous suite, all mounted on fine horses. This troop was distinguished by its splendid appearance; the women in particular were remarkable for their rosy countenances, and the richness of their dresses. Their robes were of beautiful blue satin, their caps of sable : their silken zones interwoven with silver, and adorned with large carnelians, with which even their saddles were decorated. The fair Amazons approached us without timidity, and condescended to honour us with their notice." Vol. i.
Certainly this account does not altogether agree with Malte Brun's sweeping description of the Mongols, as squat, shapeless monsters.* In general, “they are of middling stature; they have black hair which they shave over the temples and foreheads, and form it into a braid which hang3 down their backs; their faces are round, their complexions tawny; their eyes hollow but very lively; their cheek bones high; their noses flat, and their beards scanty.” Carpini says that in his time (1246) they plucked out the beard, as has been also said of our Indians. Many of them, according to Mr. Timkowski, are fair and handsome, and would be counted handsome in Europe. Marco Polo says they are as fair as Europeans, meaning, we presume, the upper classes, and this agrees with Gerbillon. We know that the labouring classes in many parts of Europe, and even the South of France are tanned by exposure as dark as the Quadroons of the West Indies.
On approaching Ourga, a messenger went before to announce the exact number of the mission, horses, &c. which is always done with great particularity in all missions to China. The mission arrived at Ourga on the 15th of September, having taken fifteen days to accomplish the distance, 261 wersts. Notwithstanding the anxiety of the mission to depart before the cold weather set in, it was detained ten days under various pretexts, and it was only at Pekin they ascertained the true cause of the delay.
“ The Emperor of China had died after Mr. Timkowski had left Kiakhta, but the news of his death did not reach Ourga till after the mission had passed the frontier. Youngdoungdordzi, the Vang of Ourga, not wishing to embarrass our government by sending the mission back to Kiakhita, proposed to the tribunal of foreign affairs in Pekin, that it should be allowed to come to Pekin this year, only making such arrangements that we should not arrive till after the expiration of the hundred days of mourning. To suffer strangers to enter the capital before tbat time, would have been, in the opinion of the Vang, very impolitic, because the Russians, who do not conform to foreign customs,
* Vol. ii. p. 359, American edition. VOL. IV.NO. 7.
might have made their entry into Pekin dressed in clothes, the materials and colour of which were not agreeable to the Chinese forms of mourning ” Vol. i. p. 330.
Ourga contains about seven thousand inhabitants, of whom one-fifth are priests; yet with this population, the greatest part of the town consists of tents. Its shops are numerous, and filled with goods of all kinds, and an immense trade is carried on with China and the Russian frontier. The goods are all brought by caravans, of which, Mr. Timkowski during his route through Mongolia, fell in with great numbers, often amounting to two and three hundred camels at a time. Ourga is looked upon by the Mongols with almost as much veneration as Mecca by the followers of Mahomet. Since the thirteenth century they have been followers of Boudhism. They reverence the Dalai Lama of Tibet as the high priest, and the Koutouktou of Ourga as next in dignity; they believe that the Koutouktou remits sins, that he knows the present, past and future. Like the Dalai Lama, he never dies; but when he casts off the mortal coil of one body, animates another. One of these transmigrations had just occurred when the mission arrived at Ourga. All Mongolia is overrun with Lamas or priests of this religion, whose yellow dresses entitle them to respect wherever they go. The principles they profess are beneficent; but often yield to the attacks of the world, the flesh and the devil. They live in luxury, and many of them possess great wealth. Mr. Timkowski more than once suffered from their thieving hands. Celibacy is enjoined on them; but in travelling, the rigour of the injunction is somewhat moderated, and they are great travellers. Malte Brun says, with admirable naivetè, “Quand ils voyagent ils ont le droit de partager le lit de leurs hôtesses, et ils voyagent souvent.* They constantly repeat the Hindoo words om ma ni bat me khom, which they do not always understand ; but they do not consider the understanding of them as at all necessary to the efficacy of the prayer. The same words are seen on temples throughout Mongolia, and often on mountains in colossal letters, as on the Khan Ola. These all-powerful and redeeming words mean nothing more than “Oh! precious Lotus." For those who cannot read, the priests have a patent method of praying, by which the hands may discharge the duty of the heart-they give the votary a box on an axis, with prayers engraved on the sides, and he has nothing but to turn it like a hand-organ, exclaiming om ma ni bat me khom, to be thoroughly shriven. Many of the ceremonies of this religion are so much like those of the Catholic
* Vol. ii. p. 483. See also Du Halde, vol. ii. p. 256.
ritual, that the first missionaries to China declared it was a trick of the devil to mortify them. Gerbillon thinks, indeed, that Christian priests were formerly in Mongolia, and that being cut off from communication with their brethren, the religion was corrupted by the intermingling of heathen ceremonies, till it gradually lost its Christian character. Mr. Timkowski tried to get a view of the temples, but was prevented by the high walls around them—he could merely see that they had roofs painted green, and round one of them a splendid gilt lattice. In a walk which he afterwards took, his curiosity was, probably, more fully gratified, though he describes things only in general.
“From this hill we enjoyed an extensive prospect over the Tola, and the town with its splendid temples. On the south rises Mount Khan Ola; on the north, the town is sheltered from the cold winds by a chain of high mountains; in the west, we saw the houses of the Vang and the Aniban, a number of tents which form part of the town, vast meadows, and in the blue horizon, the summits of a chain of mountains; to the east, plains and mountains, the maimatchin, and in the distance, masses of naked granite. The numerous tents, designed for the abode of the faithful who came to adore the Koutouktou, their horses and camels, gave an extraordinary animation to this place, which otherwise has a rude and desolate appearance." Vol. i. p.
125. On the 25th of September, the mission left Ourga.* Up to that place, the scenery and the productions were so similar to those of their own frontier, that the travellers could almost fancy themselves in Russia, but they felt that they were in a different country at the very first step beyond the Tola. They “drank a glass of fresh water out of the pure and transparent stream, and entered on the dreary, melancholy deserts of Mongolia.” The region of towns, villages, and even houses was now past, and the only mansions of man were occasionally solitary tents, like bee-hives on the waste.
Hills and even mountains lay in their course; more frequently they traversed boundless sterile plains, unbroken by forests and unrefreshed by rivers. The soil was not invariably sandy ; sometimes it was covered with gravel or fragments of rock, calcareous stones, white and grey marble, and huge rocks of red granite ; sometimes were scattered over the ground, in vast profusion, yellow and white feldspar, quartz, carnelians, jasper, agates, cherry coloured spar, grey, dark blue, white, veined, and sky blue chalcedonies, glittering in the sun with their varied hues like a brilliant
* Stations have been established from Ourga to China for the accommodation of the Russians.