The pain of which the man complained seemed to encircle his waist, wherefore the strange physician, having untied his patient's arms from behind, and retied them in front, began his measurements again, this time from the spinal column.
"Chik, ni, sum!" ("One, two, three!") he exclaimed, as he marked the three spots in the same fashion as before, smeared them over with butter, and affixed the cones. Here ensued a repetition of the previous excitement; prayers, agony, and distortions, but the patient was not thoroughly cured, and more cones were subsequently ignited on both his sides, in spite of his protests and my appeals on his behalf. The poor fellow soon had a regular circle of severe burns round his body.
Needless to say, when, two hours later, the operation was over, the sick man had become a dying man. With a view to obtaining a few hints on Tibetan medicine from this eminent physician—the Tibetans held him in great esteem—I sent him a small present and requested him to visit me. He was flattered and showed no desire to keep his methods a secret, but even pressed me to try some of his unique remedies.
According to him, fire would cure most illnesses; what fire could not cure, water would. He had, nevertheless, some small packets of variously coloured powders, for which he claimed extraordinary powers.
"I am afraid your patient will die," I remarked.
"He may," was the reply, "but it will be the fault of the patient, not the cure. Besides, what does it matter whether you die to-day or to-morrow?"
And with this unprofessional dictum he left me.
Tucker village—Chokdens—Houses—Flying prayers—Soldiers or robbers?—A stampede—Fresh provisions—Disappointment—Treachery—Shokas leave me—Observations—Five men, all counted!
WHEN I left the Gomba, having been salaamed to the ground by my new friends the Lamas, I walked about the village to examine all there was to be seen.
Along the water's edge stood a number of dilapidated Chokdens made of mud and stones, with a square base surmounted by a moulding, and an upper decoration in steps, topped by a cylindrical column. They were in a row at the east end of the village, and, as is well known, they are supposed to contain a piece of bone, cloth or metal, and books or parts of them, that had once belonged to a great man or a saint. Roughly drawn images are occasionally found in them. In rare cases, when cremation has been applied, the ashes are collected into a small earthenware urn, and deposited in one of the Chokdens. The ashes are usually made into a paste with clay, on which, when flattened like a medallion, a representation of Buddha is either stamped from a mould, or engraved by means of a pointed tool.
The interior of the houses at Tucker was no more pleasing than the exterior. Each habitation had a walled courtyard, and the top of the wall, as well as the edge of the flat roof, was lined with masses of tamarisk for fuel. In the courtyard, sheep and goats were penned at night; and the human beings who occupied the rooms were dirty beyond all description. There were hundreds of flying prayers over the monastery as well as over each house, and as the people stood on their roofs watching us, laughing and chatting, the place had quite a gay aspect.
While I was strolling about some fifty or sixty men appeared on the scene, armed with matchlocks and swords, and I looked upon them with suspicion, but Kachi reassured me, and said they were not soldiers, but a powerful band of robbers encamped about half a mile off, and on very friendly terms with the Lamas. As a precaution, I loaded my rifle, which was quite sufficient to occasion a stampede of the armed crowd, followed, in the panic, by all the other villagers that had collected round us. Like all Tibetans, they were a miserable lot, though powerfully built, and with plenty of bounce about them.
Early in the morning I had made inquiries about provisions, and had arranged for the purchase of two fat sheep and some 450 lbs. of food (flour, rice, tsamba, ghur, sugar, salt and butter), and several Tibetans stated that they could supply me with any quantity I required. Among others was a trader from Buddhi, Darcey Bura's brother, who promised to bring me within an hour a sufficient quantity of food to last us ten men twenty-five days. I noticed, when these men left, that two of my Shokas ran after them, and entered into an excited discussion with them. Some two or three hours later, the traders returned, swearing that not an ounce of food could be obtained in the place. The way in which these men could lie was indeed marvellous to study. I suspected treachery, and reprimanded my Shokas, threatening to punish them very severely if my suspicions proved to be well founded.
The Shokas, knowing themselves discovered, and partly through fear of the Tibetans, were now again quite unreasonable and demoralised. It was no use keeping them by force and I decided to discharge them. From the moment I had entered the forbidden country I had been compelled to protect myself against them as much as against the Tibetans. I reflected, however, when I made up my mind to let them go, that these fellows had stood for my sake hardships and privations which few men could stand; and in paying them off I therefore rewarded them suitably, and they undertook to bring back safely across the frontier part of my baggage containing photographs, ethnological collections, &c. With infinite trouble I then managed to purchase enough provisions to last five men ten days.
The whole party accompanied me three-and-a-quarter miles farther, where, in sight of the tumble-down Panku Gomba, a mile to the West of us, we halted in order to make the necessary arrangements for our parting, unseen by the Tibetans. I took observations for latitude and longitude. The water of the hypsometrical apparatus boiled at 185 deg. Fahr. fifty feet above the level of the lake, the temperature of the air being 76 deg. and the hour 10 A.M.
We had a high snowy chain to the South of us, extending from 70 deg. to 33 deg. (b.m.), the direction of the range being approximately from South-West to North-East, starting at Nimo Namgil.
When everything was ready, the five Shokas, including Kachi and Dola, left me, swearing by the sun and all that they hold most sacred, that they would in no way betray me to the Tibetans, who so far had no suspicion as to who I was.
Bijesing the Johari and the Kutial Bura Nattoo agreed to accompany me as far as the Maium Pass, so that my party, including myself, now was reduced to only five.
The start with a further reduced party—A reconnaissance—Natural fortress—Black tents and animals—On the wrong tack—Slings and their use—A visit to a Tibetan camp—Mistaken for brigands—Bargaining and begging.
ALL was promising well when, with my reduced party, I started towards the N.E., first following for three-and-a-quarter miles a course of 49 deg., skirting the lake, then ascending over the barren hill ranges in a direction of 90 deg. for a distance of twelve miles. The journey was uneventful, and my four men seemed in the best of spirits. We descended to a plain where water and grass could be found, and having seen a camping-ground with a protecting wall, such as are usually put up by Tibetans at their halting-places, we made ourselves comfortable for the night, notwithstanding the high wind and a passing storm of hail and rain, which drenched us to the skin. The thermometer during the night went down to 34 deg..
At sunrise I started to make a reconnaissance from the top of a high hill wherefrom I could get a bird's-eye view of a great portion of the surrounding country. It was of the utmost importance for me to find out which would be the easiest way to get through the intricate succession of hills and mountains, and to discover the exact direction of a large river to the N. of us, throwing itself into the Mansarowar, the name of which no one could tell me. I started alone towards 352 deg. 30' (b.m.), and three-and-a-half miles' climb brought me to 16,480 feet on the summit of a hill, where I was able to ascertain and note down all that I wished to know. I returned to camp, and we went on towards 73 deg. 30', crossing over a pass 16,450 feet, and ultimately finding ourselves at the foot of a hill, the summit of which resembled a fortress, with flying-prayers flapping to and fro in the wind. At the foot of the hill were some twenty ponies grazing.
With the aid of my telescope I was able to make sure that what at first appeared to be a castle was nothing but a work of nature, and that apparently no one was concealed up there. The ponies, however, indicated the presence of men, and we had to move cautiously. In fact, rounding the next hill, we discerned in the grassy valley below a number of black tents, two hundred yaks, and about a thousand sheep. We kept well out of sight behind the hill, and making a long detour, we at last descended in an extensive valley, in which the river described a semicircle, washing the southern hill ranges, where it was joined by a tributary coming from the S.E. This tributary at first appeared to me larger than what I afterwards recognised to be the main stream, so that I followed its course for four miles (92 deg. 30' b.m.), till I found that it was taking me in a more southerly direction than I wished, and had to retrace my steps along a flattish plateau. Meeting two Tibetan women, I purchased, after endless trouble, a fat sheep out of a flock they were driving before them. These two females carried rope slings in their hands, and the accuracy with which they could fling stones and hit the mark at very great distances was really marvellous. For the sake of a few annas they gave an exhibition of their skill, hitting any sheep you pointed at in their flock, even at distances of thirty and forty yards. I tried to obtain from these dangerous females a little information about the country, but they professed absolute ignorance.
"We are menials," they said, "and we know nothing. We know each sheep in our flock, and that is all, but our lord, of whom we are the slaves, knows all. He knows where the rivers come from, and the ways to all Gombas. He is a great king."
"And where does he live?" I inquired.
"There, two miles off, where that smoke rises to the sky."
The temptation was great to go and call on this "great king," who knew so many things, all the more so as we might probably persuade him to sell us provisions, which, as we had none too many, would be of great assistance to us. Anyhow the visit would be interesting, and I decided to risk it.
We steered towards the several columns of smoke that rose before us, and eventually we approached a large camp of black tents. Our appearance caused a good deal of commotion, and men and women rushed in and out of their tents in great excitement.
"Jogpas, jogpas!" ("Brigands! brigands!") somebody in their camp shouted, and in a moment their matchlocks were made ready, and the few men who had remained outside the tents drew their swords, holding them clumsily in their hands in a way hardly likely to terrify any one.
To be taken for brigands was a novel experience for us, and the warlike array was in strange contrast to the terrified expressions on the faces of those who stood there armed. In fact, when Chanden Sing and I walked forward and encouraged them to sheathe their steels and put their matchlocks by, they readily followed our advice, and brought out rugs for us to sit upon. Having overcome their fright, they were now most anxious to be pleasant.
"Kiula gunge gozai deva labodu!" ("You have nice clothes!") I began the conversation, attempting flattery, to put the chieftain at his ease.
"Lasso, leh!" ( "Yes, sir") answered the Tibetan, apparently astonished, and looking at his own attire with an air of comical pride.
His answer was sufficient to show me that the man considered me his superior, the affirmative in Tibetan to an equal or inferior being the mere word lasso without the leh.
"Kiula tuku taka zando?" ("How many children have you?") I rejoined.
"Chuwen bogpe, tsamba, chou wonĭ?" ("Will you sell me flour or tsamba?")
"Middu—have not got any," he replied, making several quick semicircular movements with the up-turned palm of his right hand.
This is a most characteristic action of the Tibetan, and nearly invariably accompanies the word "No," instead of a movement of the head, as with us.
"Keran ga naddoung?" ("Where are you going?") he asked me eagerly.
"Nhgarang ne Koroun!" ("I am a pilgrim!") "Lungba quorghen neh jelghen." ("I go looking at sacred places.")
"Gopria zaldo. Chakzal wortzie. Tsamba middu. Bogpe middu, guram middu, die middu, kassur middu." ("I am very poor. Please hear me. I have no tsamba, no flour, no sweet paste, no rice, no dried fruit.")
This, of course, I knew to be untrue, so I calmly said that I would remain seated where I was until food was sold to me, and at the same time produced one or two silver coins, the display of which to the covetous eyes of the Tibetans was always the means of hastening the transaction of business. In small handfuls, after each of which the Tibetans swore that they had not another atom to sell, I managed, with somewhat of a trial to my patience, to purchase some twenty pounds of food. The moment the money was handed over they had a quarrel among themselves about it, and almost came to blows, greed and avarice being the most marked characteristic of the Tibetans. No Tibetan of any rank is ashamed to beg in the most abject manner for the smallest silver coin, and when he sells and is paid, he always implores for another coin, to be thrown into the bargain.
 All bearings given are magnetic.
What the men were like—Their timidity—Leather work—Metal work—Blades and swords—Filigree—Saddles and harness—Pack saddles.
THE men of the party were extremely picturesque, with hair flowing down their shoulders and long pigtails ornamented with pieces of red cloth, circles of ivory and silver coins. Nearly all had the stereotyped pattern coat, with ample sleeves hanging well over the hands, and pulled up at the waist to receive the paraphernalia of eating-bowls, snuff-box, &c., employed in daily life. Most of them were dressed in dark red, and all were armed with jewelled swords.
With flat, broad noses and slits of piercing eyes, high cheek-bones and skin giving out abundant oily excretions, most of the men stood at a respectful distance, scrutinising our faces and watching our movements apparently with much interest. I have hardly ever seen such cowardice and timidity as among these big, hulking fellows; to a European it scarcely seems conceivable. The mere raising of one's eyes was sufficient to make a man dash away frightened, and, with the exception of the chief, who pretended to be unafraid, notwithstanding that even he was trembling with fear, they one and all showed ridiculous nervousness when I approached them to examine their clothes or the ornaments they wore round their necks, the most prominent of which were the charm-boxes that dangled on their chests. The larger of these charm-boxes contained an image of Budda, the others were mere brass or silver cases with nothing in them.
I was struck here, as well as in other camps, by the skill of the Tibetans in working leather, which they tan and prepare themselves, often giving to it a fine red or green colour. As a rule, however, the natural tint is preserved, especially when the leather is used for belts, bullet and powder-pouches, and flint-and-steel cases. The hair of the skins is removed by plucking and scraping, and preference is shown for skins of the yak, antelope, and kiang. The Tibetans are masters of the art of skinning, the hides being afterwards beaten, trodden upon and manipulated to be rendered soft. There were simple ornamentations stamped upon some of the leather articles, but in most instances either metal or leather ornaments of various colours were fastened on the belts and pouches, iron clasps inlaid with silver or silver ones being the commonest.
These metals are found in the country, and the Tibetans smelt and cast the ore when sufficient fuel is obtainable for the purpose. Earthen crucibles are employed to liquefy the metals, and the castings are made in clay moulds. For the inlaid work, in which the Tibetans greatly excel, they use hammer and chisel. Inlaid ornamentation is frequently to be seen on the sheaths of Tibetan swords, the leaf pattern, varied scrolls and geometrical combinations being most commonly preferred. The process of hardening metals is still in its infancy, and Tibetan blades are of wrought-iron, and not of steel. They succeed, however, in bringing them to a wonderful degree of sharpness, although they entirely lack the elasticity of steel blades. Grooves to let in air, and thus make wounds incurable, are generally ground in the sides of the daggers, but the blades of the common swords are perfectly smooth and made to cut on one side only. As can be seen from the illustrations, these weapons are hardly adapted to meet the requirements of severe fighting, as they do not allow a firm grip, nor have they any guard for the hand. The sheaths and handles of some of the more valuable swords are made of solid silver inlaid with turquoises and coral beads, others of silver with gold ornamentations. At Lhassa and at Sigatz (Shigatze), silver filigree decorations are used on the best daggers; but nowhere else in Tibet is fine wire-making practised.
It must not be inferred from the above remarks that there are no steel swords in Tibet, for indeed many fine blades of excellent Chinese steel can be seen all over the country in the possession of the richer officials, such as the huge two-handed, double-edged swords of Chinese importation, used by Tibetan executioners.
The saddles, though possibly lacking comfort, are nevertheless skilfully made. The frame is made of solid wood (imported) and set in hammered iron (often inlaid with silver and gold, as in the saddle here reproduced), which, like a Mexican saddle, is very high in front and at the back. Lizard skin or coloured leather is employed to decorate certain parts, and a pad covers the seat. A rug is, however, invariably placed over this pad for comfort, and the short iron stirrups compel one to sit with legs doubled up, a really not uncomfortable position when one gets used to it. Breastpiece, crupper, bridle and bit are of leather ornamented with inlaid metal pieces. Double bags for tsamba, butter, &c. are fastened behind the saddle, together with the inevitable peg and long rope, with which no Tibetan rider is unprovided, for the tethering of his pony at night.
Pack-saddles for yaks are made on the same principle, but are of much rougher construction, as can be judged from the illustrations, in which the two saddles I used on my journey are represented. The baggage is made fast by means of ropes to the two upper bars. To keep the saddle in position on the yak, and to prevent sores being inflicted, pads and blankets are laid upon the animal's back. Add to this protection the long coat possessed by the beast itself, and it will be clear why it very seldom sustains the slightest injury from these apparently cruel burdens.
 See page 223.
Rain in torrents—A miserable night—A gorge—A gigantic inscription—Sheltered under boulders—A fresh surprise—Only two followers left.
WHEN night came on, I did not consider it safe to encamp near the Tibetans. We moved away, driving our yaks before us and dragging the newly purchased sheep. We marched two-and-a-half miles, and then halted in a depression in the ground (16,050 feet), where we had a little shelter from the wind, which blew with great force. To our right lay a short range of fairly high mountains running from North to South, and cut by a gorge, out of which flowed a large stream. At that time of the evening we could not hope to cross it, but an attempt might be made in the morning, when the cold of the night would have checked the melting of the snows. Heavy showers had fallen frequently during the day, and the moment the sun went down there was a regular downpour. Our little tente-d'abri had been pitched, but we had to clear out of it a couple of hours later, the small basin in which we had pitched it having been turned into a regular pond. There was no alternative for us but to come out into the open, for where the water did not flood us the wind was so high and the ground so moist that it was not possible to keep our tent up. The pegs would not hold. The hours of the night seemed very long as we sat tightly wrapped up in our waterproofs, with feet, hands and ears frozen, and the water dripping down upon us. At dawn there were no signs of the storm abating. We had not been able to light a fire in the evening, nor could we light one now, and we were cold, hungry and miserable. The thermometer had been down to 36 deg.. Towards noon, the rain still pouring down in torrents and there being no sign of its clearing, we loaded our yaks and entered the gorge between the snow-covered mountains. With difficulty we crossed the tributary we had so far followed, and then proceeded along the right bank of the main stream to 23 deg. 30", then to 25 deg..
We were so exhausted and wet that, when towards evening we came to an enormous cliff, on the rocky face of which a patient Lama sculptor had engraved in gigantic letters the everlasting characters, Omne mani padme hun, we halted. The gorge was very narrow here, and we managed to find a dry spot under a big boulder, but as there was not sufficient room for all five, the two Shokas went under the shelter of another rock a little way off. This seemed natural enough, nor could I anticipate any danger, taking care myself of the weapons and the scientific instruments, while the Shokas had under their own sheltering boulder the bags containing nearly all our provisions except tinned meats. The rain pelted all night, the wind howled, and again we could not light a fire. The thermometer did not fall below 38 deg., but the cold, owing to our drenched condition, seemed intense. In fact, we were so frozen that we did not venture to eat, but, crouching ourselves in the small dry space at our disposal, we eventually fell fast asleep without tasting food. I slept soundly for the first time since I had been in Tibet, and it was broad daylight when I woke up, to find the man Nattoo from Kuti, and Bijesing the Johari, departed from under their sheltering rock, together with the loads entrusted to them. I discovered their tracks, half washed away, in the direction from which we had come the previous night. The rascals had bolted, and there would have been comparatively little harm in that, if only they had not taken with them all the stock of provisions for my two Hindoo servants, and a quantity of good rope, straps, and other miscellaneous articles, which we were bound to miss at every turn and which we had absolutely no means of replacing.
Of thirty picked servants who had started with me, twenty-eight had now abandoned me, and only two remained: faithful Chanden Sing and Mansing the leper!
The weather continued horrible, with no food for my men and no fuel! I proposed to the two to go back also and let me continue alone. I described to them the dangers of following me farther, and warned them fully, but they absolutely refused to leave me.
"Sahib, we are not Shokas," were their words. "If you die, we will die with you. We fear not death. We are sorry to see you suffer, sahib, but never mind us. We are only poor people, therefore it is of no consequence."
My time fully occupied—Our own yak drivers—A heavy blow—Along the stream—Soldiers in pursuit of us—Discovered.
THIS last disaster should, I suppose, have deterred us from further progress, but it somehow made me even more determined to persist than I was before. It was no light job to have to run afield oneself to capture the yaks, which had wandered off in search of grass; and having found them and driven them back to our primitive camping-place, to tie upon their backs the pack-saddles, and fasten on them the heavy tin-lined cases of scientific instruments and photographic plates. This task was only part of the day's routine, which included the writing up of my diary, the registering of observations, sketching, photographing, changing plates in cameras, occasionally developing them, surveying, cleaning of rifles, revolver, &c. &c. The effort of lifting up the heavy cases on to the pack-saddles was, owing to our exhausted condition, a severe tax on our strength, and the tantalising restlessness of the yaks forced us to make several attempts before we actually succeeded in properly fastening the loads, particularly as we had lost our best pieces of rope and leather straps. Our sole remaining piece of rope seemed hardly long enough to make the final knot to one of the girths; anyhow neither my bearer nor Mansing had sufficient strength to pull and make it join; so I made them hold the yak by the horns to keep him steady while I pulled my hardest. I succeeded with a great effort, and was about to get up, when a terrific blow from the yak's horn struck me in the skull an inch behind my right ear and sent me rolling head over heels. I was stunned for several moments, and the back of my head was swollen and sore for many days, the mark of the blow being visible even now.
We proceeded along the right bank of the river on a course of 85 deg. between reddish hills and distant high snowy mountains to the N.W. and E.S.E. of us, which we saw from time to time when the rain ceased and the sky cleared. The momentary lifting of the clouds would be followed by another downpour, and the marching became very unpleasant and difficult, as we sank deep in the mud. Towards evening, we suddenly discovered some hundred and fifty soldiers riding full gallop in pursuit of us along the river valley. We pushed on, and having got out of their sight behind a hill, we deviated from our course and rapidly climbed up to the top of the hill range; my two men and the yaks concealed themselves on the other side. I remained lying flat on the top of the hill, spying with my telescope the movements of our pursuers. They rode unsuspectingly on, the tinkling of their horse-bells sounding pleasant to the ear at that deserted spot. They made a pretty picture, and, thinking probably that we had continued our way along the river, they rode past the spot where we had left the path, and, possibly owing to their haste to catch us up, did not notice our tracks up the hillside.
Rain began to fall heavily again, and we remained encamped at 17,000 feet with all our loads ready for flight at any moment; the night being spent none too comfortably. I sat up all night, rifle in hand, in case of a surprise, and I was indeed glad when day dawned. The rain had stopped, but we were now enveloped in a white mist which chilled us. I was very tired, and telling Chanden Sing to keep a sharp watch, tried to sleep for a while.
"Hazur, hazur! jaldi apka banduk!" ("Sir, sir, quick, your rifle!") muttered my bearer, rousing me. "Do you hear the sound of bells?"
The tinkling was quite plain. As our pursuers were approaching, evidently in a strong body, there was no time to be lost. To successfully evade them appeared impossible, so I decided to meet them, rather than attempt flight. Chanden Sing and I were armed with our rifles, and Mansing with his Gourkha kukri, and thus we awaited their arrival. There came out of the mist a long procession of grey, phantomlike figures, each one leading a pony. The advance guard stopped from time to time to examine the ground; having discovered our footprints only partially washed away by the rain, they were following them up. Seeing us at last on the top of the hill, they halted. There was commotion among them, and they held an excited consultation; some of them unslung their matchlocks, others drew their swords, while we sat on a rock above and watched them with undivided attention.
An interview—Peace or war?—Gifts and the scarf of friendship—The Kata—The end of a friendly visit.
AFTER hesitating a little, four officers signalled to us that they wished to approach.
"You are a great king!" shouted one at the top of his voice, "and we want to lay these presents at your feet," and he pointed to some small bags which the other three men were carrying. "Gelbo! Chakzal! Chakzal!" ("We salute you, king!")
I felt anything but regal after the wretched night we had spent, but I wished to treat the natives with due deference and politeness whenever it was possible.
I said that four men might approach, but the bulk of the party was to withdraw to a spot about two hundred yards away. This they immediately did, a matter of some surprise to me after the warlike attitude they had assumed at first. They laid their matchlocks down in the humblest fashion, and duly replaced their swords in their sheaths. The four officers approached, and when quite close to us, threw the bags on the ground and opened them to show us their contents. There was tsamba, flour, chura (a kind of cheese), guram (sweet paste), butter, and dried fruit. The officers were most profuse in their humble salutations. They had removed their caps and thrown them on the ground, and they kept their tongues sticking out of their mouths until I begged them to draw them in. They professed to be the subordinates of the Tokchim Tarjum, who had despatched them to inquire after my health, and who wished me to look upon him as my best friend. Well aware of the difficulties we must encounter in travelling through such an inhospitable country, the Tarjum, they said, wished me to accept the gifts they now laid before me, and with these they handed me a Kata, or "the scarf of love and friendship," a long piece of thin silklike gauze, the end of which had been cut into a fringe. In Tibet these Katas accompany every gift, and no caller ever goes about without one, which instantly on arrival he produces for presentation to his host. The high Lamas sell them to devotees, and one or more of these scarves is presented to those who leave a satisfactory oblation after visiting a lamasery and temple. If a verbal message is sent to a friend, a Kata is sent with it, and among officials and Lamas small pieces of this silk gauze are enclosed even in letters. Not to give or send a Kata to an honoured visitor is considered a breach of good manners and is equivalent to a slight.
I hastened to express my thanks for the Tarjum's kindness, and I handed the messengers a sum in silver of three times the value of the articles presented. The men seemed very pleasant and friendly, and we chatted for some time. Much to my annoyance, poor Mansing, bewildered at the sight of so much food, could no longer resist the pangs of hunger and, caring little for the breach of etiquette and likely consequences, proceeded to fill his mouth with handfuls of flour, cheese and butter. This led the Tibetans to suspect that we must be starving, and with their usual shrewdness they determined to take advantage of it.
"The Tarjum," said the oldest of the messengers, "wishes you to come back and be his guest, when he will feed you and your men, and you will then go back to your country."
"Thank you," I replied; "we do not want the Tarjum's food, nor do we wish to go back. I am greatly obliged for his kindness, but we will continue our journey."
"Then," angrily said a young and powerful Tibetan, "if you continue your journey we will take back our gifts."
"And your Kata!" I rejoined, sending first the large ball of butter flying into his chest, and after it the small bags of flour, tsamba, cheese, fruit, &c., a minute earlier prettily laid out before us.
This unexpected bombardment quite upset the Tibetans, who, with powdered coats, hair and faces, scampered away as best they could, while Chanden Sing, always as quick as lightning when it was a case of hitting, pounded away with the butt of his rifle at the roundest part of one ambassador's body, as in his clumsy clothes he attempted to get up and run.
Mansing, the philosopher of our party, interrupted in his feed but not put out, nor concerned in what was going on, picked up the fruit and cheese and pieces of butter scattered all over the place, mumbling that it was a shame to throw away good food in such a reckless fashion.
The soldiers, who had been watching attentively from a distance the different phases of the interview, considered it prudent to beat a hasty retreat, and, mounting their steeds with unmistakable dispatch, galloped pell-mell down the hill, and then along the valley of the river, until they were lost to sight in the mist, while the poor ambassadors, who had been unable to rejoin their ponies, followed as quickly as possible under the circumstances, considering the rarefied air and rough ground.
Their cries of distress, caused by fear alone, for we had done them no harm, served to strengthen the contempt in which my men by now held the Tibetan soldiers and their officers.
The scene really was comical, and I made as much capital as I could out of it, laughing with my companions and ridiculing to them the supposed valour of Tibetans.
When the Tibetans were out of sight, Chanden Sing and I pocketed our pride and helped Mansing to collect the dried dates, apricots, the pieces of chura, butter and guram. Then having loaded our yaks we marched on.
Rain in torrents—A swampy plain—The sun at last—Our yaks stolen and recovered.
WE were not in luck. The weather continued squally in the morning, and in the afternoon the rain was again torrential. We went towards 78 deg. over uninteresting and monotonous grey country with a chain of snowy peaks stretching from South-West to North-East. We waded through a fairly deep and very cold river, and subsequently rose over a pass 17,450 feet. A number of Hunyas, with flocks of several thousand sheep, came in sight, but we avoided them. They did not see us.
At the point where we crossed it, the main stream turns in a graceful bend to 140 deg. (b.m.). We climbed over hilly and barren country to an altitude of 17,550 feet, where several small lakelets were to be found, and, having marched in all fourteen and a-half miles in a drenching rain, we descended into a large valley. Here we had great difficulty in finding a spot where to rest for the night. The plain was simply a swamp, with several lakes and ponds, and we sank everywhere in mud and water. All our bedding and clothes were soaked to such an extent that it really made no difference where we halted; so we pitched our little tent on the banks of a stream coming out of a valley to the North, from which, extending in an easterly direction, rose a series of pyramidal mountains, covered with snow, and all of almost equal height and base. To the South were high peaks with great quantities of snow upon them. This valley was at an elevation of 17,450 feet, and the cold was intense.
At night the rain came down in bucketsful, and our tente d'abri gave us but little shelter. We were lying inside in water, and all the trenches in the world could not have kept it from streaming in. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that the whole valley was a sheet of water from one to several inches deep. Of course, we suffered intensely from cold, the thermometer dropping to 26 deg. at 8 P.M., when a South-East wind blew furiously; and the rain fell mixed with sleet for a time, and was followed by a heavy snowstorm. We lay crouched up on the top of our baggage, so as not to sleep on the frozen water, and when we woke in the morning our tent had half collapsed owing to the weight of snow upon it. During the day the temperature went up and rain fell afresh, so that when we resumed our marching, we sank into a mixture of mud, snow and water several inches deep. We had to cross three rivers, and to skirt five lakes of various sizes, following a course of 83 deg. 45'.
Seven miles of this dreary marching saw us encamped (17,380 feet) by the foot of a conical hill 17,500 feet, where an almost identical repetition of the previous night's experience took place. The thermometer was down to 32 deg., but fortunately the wind subsided at eight in the evening. As luck would have it, the sun came out the following day, and we were able to spread out all our things to dry, during which process we had yet another novel experience.
Our two yaks had disappeared. I climbed up to the summit of the hill above camp, and with my telescope scoured the plain. The two animals were some distance off being led away by ten or twelve men on horseback, who drove in front of them a flock of about five hundred sheep. By their clothing I recognised the strangers to be robbers. Naturally I started post haste to recover my property, leaving Chanden Sing and Mansing in charge of our camp. I caught them up as they marched slowly, though, when they perceived me, they hastened on, trying to get away. I shouted three times to them to stop, but they paid no heed to my words, so that I unslung my rifle and would have shot at them had the threat alone not been sufficient to make them reflect. They halted, and when I got near enough I claimed my two yaks back. They refused to give them up. They said they were twelve men, and were not afraid of one. Dismounted from their ponies, they seemed ready to go for me.
As I saw them take out a flint and steel to light the fuses of their matchlocks, I thought I might as well have my innings first, and, before they could guess at my intention, I applied a violent blow with the muzzle of my rifle to the stomach of the man nearest to me. He collapsed, while I administered another blow to the right temple of another man who held his matchlock between his legs, and was on the point of striking his flint and steel to set the tinder on fire. He, too, staggered and fell clumsily.
"Chakzal, chakzal! Chakzal wortzie!" ("We salute you, we salute you! Please listen!") exclaimed a third brigand, with an expression of dismay, and holding up his thumbs, with his fist closed in sign of approval.
"Chakzal," I replied, shoving a cartridge into the Mannlicher.
"Middu, middu!" ("No, no!") they entreated, promptly laying down their weapons.
I purchased from these men about thirty pounds of tsamba and eight of butter, and got one of them to carry this to my camp, while I, without further trouble, recovered my yaks and drove them back to where Chanden Sing and Mansing were busy lighting a fire to make some tea.
Travelling Tibetans—Over a high pass—A friendly meeting—A proffered banquet—Ascent to 20,000 feet—Looking for the Gunkyo Lake—Surprised by a phantom army.
TOWARDS noon, when our things had got almost dry in the warm sun, the sky became overclouded, and it again began to rain heavily. I was rather doubtful as to whether I should go over a pass some miles off to 93 deg. (b.m.), or should follow the course of the river and skirt the foot of the mountains. We saw a large number of Tibetans travelling in the opposite direction to ours, and they all seemed much terrified when we approached them. We obtained from them a few more pounds of food, but they refused to sell us any sheep, of which they had thousands. I decided to attempt the first-mentioned route and, making our way first over a continuation of the flat plateau, then over undulating, ground, we came to two lakelets, at the foot of the pass in question. The ascent was comparatively gentle, over snow, and we followed the river descending from the top. About half-way up, on looking back, we saw eight soldiers galloping toward us. We waited for them; and as soon as they came up to us, they went through the usual servile salutations, depositing their arms on the ground to show that they had no intention of fighting. A long friendly palaver followed, the Tibetans professing their friendship for us and their willingness to help us to get on in any way in their power. This was rather too good to be true, and I suspected treachery, all the more so when they pressed and entreated us to go back to their tents, where they wished us to remain as their highly-honoured guests, and where we should have all the luxuries that human mind can conceive showered upon us. On further specification, these were found to consist of presents of chura, cheese, butter, yak milk, and tsamba, and they said they would sell us ponies if we required them. The description was too glowing; so, taking all things into consideration, and allowing for the inaccuracy of speech of my interlocutors as well as of Tibetans in general, I thanked them from the bottom of my heart and answered that I preferred to continue my way and bear my present sufferings.
They perceived that I was not easy to catch, and, if anything, they respected me the more for it. In fact they could not disguise their amazement at my having got so far with only two men. When I had given my visitors some little present, we parted at last, in a very friendly manner.
We climbed up to the pass (18,480 feet), and before us on the other side found a large stretch of flat land, some two thousand feet lower. I could see a lake, which I took to be the Gunkyo. Nevertheless, to make certain of it, I left my men and yaks on the pass and went to reconnoitre from a peak 19,000 feet high, N.E. of us. There was much snow and the ascent was difficult and tedious. When I got to the top another higher peak barred the view in front of me, so descending first and then ascending again, I climbed this second summit, finally reaching an elevation of 20,000 feet, and obtaining a good bird's-eye view of the country all round. There was a long snowy range to the North, and, directly under it, what I imagined to be a stretch of water, judging from the mist and clouds forming above it, and from the grass on the lower portion of the mountains.
A hill range stood in my way, just high enough to conceal the lake behind it. I rejoined my men and we continued our march down the other side of the pass, sinking in deep, soft snow. We pitched our tent at a spot about five hundred feet higher than the plain below us, in a gorge formed by the two mountain sides coming close together. Notwithstanding that I was now quite accustomed to great altitudes, the ascent to 20,000 feet had caused a certain exhaustion, and I should have been glad of a good night's rest.
Mansing and Chanden Sing, having eaten some food, slept soundly, but I felt very depressed. I had a peculiar sense of unrest and of some evil coming to us during the night.
We were all three under our little tent, when I began to fancy there was some one outside. I do not know why the thought entered my head, for I heard no noise, but all the same I felt I must see and satisfy my curiosity. I peeped out of the tent with my rifle in hand, and saw a number of black figures cautiously crawling towards us. In a moment I was outside on my bare feet, running towards them and shouting at the top of my voice, "Pila tedau tedang!" ("Look out, look out!") which caused a stampede among our ghostlike visitors. There were, apparently, numbers of them hidden behind rocks, for when the panic seized them, the number of runaways was double or even treble that of the phantoms I had at first seen approaching. At one moment there seemed to be black ghosts springing out from everywhere, only, more solid than ghosts, they made a dreadful noise with their heavy boots as they ran in confusion down the steep descent and through the gorge. They turned sharply round the hill at the bottom and disappeared.
When I crawled inside the tent again Chanden Sing and Mansing, wrapped head and all in their blankets, were still snoring!
A sleepless night—Watching our enemy—A picturesque sight—A messenger—Soldiers from Lhassa—Taken for a Kashmeree—The Gunkyo Lake.
NATURALLY I passed a sleepless night after that, fearing that the unwelcome visitors might return. We speculated much as to how the Tibetans had found us, and we could not help surmising that our friends of the previous afternoon must have put them on our track. However, such was the inconceivable cowardice shown on every occasion by the Tibetans, that we got to attach no importance to these incidents, and not only did they not inspire us with fear, but they even ceased to excite or disturb us much.
We went on as usual, descending to the plain, and when we had got half-way across it, I scoured the hills all round with my telescope to see if I could discern traces of our pusillanimous foes.
"There they are," cried Chanden Sing, who had the most wonderful eyesight of any man I have known, as he pointed at the summit of a hill where, among the rocks, several heads could be seen peeping. We went on without taking further notice of them, and then they came out of their hiding-place, and we saw them descending the hill in a long line, leading their ponies. On reaching the plain they mounted their steeds and came full gallop towards us. They were quite a picturesque sight in their dark-red coats or brown and yellow skin robes and their vari-coloured caps. Some wore bright red coats with gold braiding, and Chinese caps. These were officers. The soldiers' matchlocks, to the rests of which red and white flags were attached, gave a touch of colour to the otherwise dreary scenery of barren hills and snow, and the tinkling of the horse-bells enlivened the monotony of these silent, inhospitable regions. They dismounted some three hundred yards from us, and one old man, throwing aside his matchlock and sword in a theatrical fashion, walked unsteadily towards us. We received him kindly, and he afforded us great amusement, for in his way he was a strange character.
"I am only a messenger," he hastened to state, "and therefore do not pour your anger upon me if I speak to you. I only convey the words of my officers, who do not dare to come for fear of being injured. News has been received at Lhassa, from whence we have come, that a Plenki (an Englishman) with many men is in Tibet, and can be found nowhere. We have been sent to capture him. Are you one of his advance guard?"
"No," I replied drily. "I suppose that you have taken several months to come from Lhassa."
"Oh no! Our ponies are good," he answered; "and we have come quickly."
"Chik, ni, sum, shi, nga, do, diu, ghieh, gu, chu, chuck chick, chuck ni," the Tibetan counted up to twelve, frowning and keeping his head inclined towards the right as if to collect his thoughts, at the same time holding up his hand, with the thumb folded against the palm, and turning down a finger as he called each number. The thumbs are never used in counting. "Lum chuck ni niman!" "Twelve days," said he, "have we been on the road. We have orders not to return till we have captured the Plenki. And you?" asked he inquisitively, "how long have you taken to come from Ladak?"
He said that he could see by my face that I was a Kashmeree, I being probably so burnt and dirty that it was hard to distinguish me from a native. The old man cross-examined me to find out whether I was a pundit sent by the Indian Government to survey the country, and asked me why I had discarded my native clothes for Plenki (European) ones. He over and over again inquired whether I was not one of the Plenki's party.
"Keran ga naddo ung?" ("Where are you going?") he queried.
"Nhgarang no koroun Lama jehlhuong." ("I am a pilgrim," I replied, "going to visit monasteries.")
"Keran mi japodu." ("You are a good man.")
He offered to show me the way to the Gunkyo Lake, and was so pressing that I accepted. However, when I saw the 200 soldiers mount and follow us, I remonstrated with him, saying that if we were to be friends we did not need an army to escort us.
"If you are our friend, you can come alone, and we will not injure you," I gave him to understand; "but if you are our enemy we will fight you and your army here at once, and we will save you the trouble of coming on."
The Tibetan, confused and hesitating, went to confabulate with his men, and returned some time after with eight of them, while the bulk of his force galloped away in the opposite direction.
We went across the plain to 355 deg. (b.m.), until we came to a hill range, which we crossed over a pass 17,450 feet high. Then, altering our course to 56 deg. 30', we descended and ascended several hills, and at last found ourselves in the grassy sheltered valley of the large Gunkyo Lake, extending from South-East to North-West. With a temperature of 68 deg. (Fahr.) the water in hypsometrical apparatus boiled at 183 deg. 31/2' at 8.30 in the evening. The lake was of extraordinary beauty, with the high snowy Gangri mountains rising almost sheer from its waters, and on the southern side lofty hills forming a background wild and picturesque, but barren and desolate beyond all words. At the other end of the lake, to the North-West, were lower mountains skirting the water.
We encamped at 16,455 feet, and the soldiers pitched their tent some fifty yards away.
In pleasant company—Unpopularity of the Lamas—Soldiers—Towards the Maium Pass—Grass—Threats—Puzzled Tibetans—The Maium Pass—Obos.
DURING the evening the Tibetans came over to my camp and made themselves useful. They helped us to get fuel, and brewed tea for me in Tibetan fashion. They seemed decent fellows, although sly if you like. They professed to hate the Lamas, the rulers of the country, to whom they took special pleasure in applying names hardly repeatable in these pages. According to them, the Lamas had all the money that came into the country, and no one but themselves was allowed to have any. They were not particular as to the means used to obtain their aim; they were cruel and unjust. Every man in Tibet, they said, was a soldier in case of emergency, and every one a servant of the Lamas. The soldiers of the standing army received a certain quantity of tsamba, bricks of tea and butter, and that was all, no pay being given in cash. Usually, however, they were given a pony to ride, and when on travelling duty they had a right to obtain relays of animals at post-stations and villages, where also they were entitled to claim supplies of food, saddles, or anything else they required, to last them as far as the next encampment. The weapons (sword and matchlock) generally belonged to the men themselves, and always remained in the family; but occasionally, and especially in the larger towns, such as Lhassa and Sigatz, the Lamas provided them: gunpowder and bullets were invariably supplied by the authorities. The arms were manufactured mostly in Lhassa and Sigatz. Although the Tibetans boasted of great accuracy in shooting with their matchlocks, which had wooden rests to allow the marksman to take a steady aim, it was never my pleasure to see even the champion shots in the country hit the mark. It is true that, for sporting purposes and for economy's sake, the Tibetan soldier hardly ever used lead bullets or shot, but preferred to fill his barrel with pebbles, which were scarcely calculated to improve the bore of the weapon. Furthermore, gunpowder was so scarce that it was but very seldom they had a chance of practising.
At sunrise the view of Gunkyo was magnificent, with the snow-covered mountains tinted gold and red, and reflected in their minutest details in the still waters of the lake. We loaded our yaks, the Tibetans giving us a helping hand, and started towards the Maium Pass, following a general course of 109 deg. up the river, which throws itself into the Gunkyo Lake.
The valley was very narrow, and ran in continuous zigzags; but although the altitude was great, there was abundance of grass, and the green was quite refreshing to the eyes, tired as we were of snow and reddish barren mountains and desert-like stretches of land. We came to a basin where, on the opposite bank of the stream, was a large Tibetan camping-ground with a high wall of stones. Behind it I could see smoke rising, which made me suspect that there were people concealed there.
Our Tibetan friends asked what we were going to do, and begged me to stop there to talk and drink tea. I said I had had quite enough of both, and would proceed.
"If you go on we will kill you," said one of the soldiers, getting into a temper, and taking advantage of our politeness towards him and his mates.
"Nga samgi ganta indah" ("If you please"), I answered with studied courtesy.
"If you go another step, we will cut off your head, or you will have to cut off ours," cried two or three others, stretching their bare necks towards me.
"Taptih middu" ("I have not got a small knife"), I replied, quite seriously, and with assumed disappointment, twirling my hand in the air in Tibetan fashion.
The Tibetans did not know what to make of me, and when I moved towards the pass, on which hundreds of flying prayers flapped in the wind, after politely bidding them good-bye with tongue out, and waving both my hands palms upwards in front of my forehead in the most approved Tibetan style, they took off their caps and humbly saluted us by going down on their knees and putting their heads close to the ground.
We crossed the plain, and slowly wended our way up the pass. Near the top we came to a track, the highway from Ladak to Lhassa via Gartok, along the northern side of the Rakstal, Mansarowar and Gunkyo Lakes. On the pass itself were planted several poles connected by means of ropes, from which flying prayers waved gaily in the breeze. Obos, or mounds of stones, had also been erected here. The slabs were usually white, and bore in many instances the inscription "Omne mani padme hun." Yak skulls and horns, as well as those of goats and sheep, were laid by the side of these Obos, the same words being engraved on the bone and stained red with the blood of the animal killed.
These sacrifices are offered by Tibetans when crossing a high pass, especially if there is a Lama close at hand to commemorate the event. The meat of the animal killed is eaten by the people present, and, if the party is a large one, dancing and singing follow the feast. As I have already remarked, these Obos are found all over the country; they indicate the points marking the passes or summits of hills, and no Tibetan ever goes by one of them without depositing on it a white stone to appease the possible wrath of their God.
The Maium Pass—Into the Yutzang province—Its capital—The Doktol province—Orders disregarded—The sources of the Brahmaputra—Change in the climate—The valley of the Brahmaputra—Running risks.
THE Maium Pass (17,500 feet), to which from where I started no Englishman had ever penetrated, is a great landmark in Tibet, for not only does one of the sources of the great Tsangpu, or Brahmaputra River, rise on its S.E. slopes, but it also separates the immense provinces of Nari-Khorsum (extending West of the Maium Pass and comprising the mountainous and lacustrine region as far as Ladak) from the Yutzang, the central province of Tibet, stretching East of the pass along the valley of the Brahmaputra and having Lhassa for its capital. The word Yu in Tibetan means "middle," and it is applied to this province, as it occupies the centre of Tibet. To the North of the Maium lies the Doktol province.
I had taken a reconnoitring trip to another pass to the N.E. of us, and had just returned to my men on the Maium Pass, when several of the Tibetan soldiers we had left behind rode up towards us. We waited for them, and their leader, pointing at the valley beyond the pass, cried: "That yonder is the Lhassa territory and we forbid you to enter it."
I took no notice of his protest, and driving before me the two yaks I stepped into the most sacred of all the sacred provinces, "the ground of God."
We descended quickly on the Eastern side of the pass, while the soldiers, aghast, remained watching us from above, themselves a most picturesque sight as they stood among the Obos against the sky-line, with the sunlight shining on their jewelled swords and the gay red flags of their matchlocks, while over their heads strings of flying prayers waved in the wind. Having watched us for a little while, they disappeared.
A little rivulet, hardly six inches wide, descended among stones in the centre of the valley we were following, and was soon swollen by other rivulets from melting snows on the mountains to either side. This was one source of the great Brahmaputra, one of the largest rivers of the world. I must confess that I felt somewhat proud to be the first European who had ever reached these sources, and there was a certain childish delight in standing over this sacred stream which, of such immense width lower down, could here be spanned by a man standing with legs slightly apart. We drank of its waters at the spot where it had its birth, and then, following a marked track to 125 deg. (b.m.), we continued our descent on a gentle incline along a grassy valley. The change in the climate between the West and South-east sides of the Maium Pass was extraordinary. On the Western side we had nothing but violent storms of hail, rain and snow, the dampness in the air rendering the atmosphere cold even during the day. The soil was unusually marshy, and very little fuel or grass could be found. The moment the pass was crossed we were in a mild, pleasant climate, with a lovely deep blue sky over us and plenty of grass for the yaks, as well as low shrubs for our fires; so that, after all our sufferings and privations, we felt that we had indeed entered the land of God. Notwithstanding that I expected great trouble sooner or later, I was not at all sorry I had disobeyed the soldiers' orders and had marched straight into the forbidden territory—it was a kind of wild satisfaction at doing that which is forbidden.
The Brahmaputra received three small snow-fed tributaries descending rapidly from the steep mountains on either side of us; and where the main stream turned sharply to 170 deg., a fourth and important tributary, carrying a very large volume of water, came down to it through a gorge from 20 deg. (b.m.).
We encamped near the junction of these rivers, on the right bank of the main stream, at an altitude of 16,620 feet. From the Maium Pass a continuation of the Gangri chain of mountains runs first in a South-easterly direction, then due East, taking a line almost parallel to the higher Southern range of the Himahlyas, and forming a vast plain intersected by the Brahmaputra. On the Southern side of the river can be seen minor hill ranges between the river course and the big range with its majestic snowy peaks and beautiful glaciers. This Northern range keeps an almost parallel line to the greater range southward; and, though no peaks of very considerable elevation are to be found along it, yet it is of geographical importance, as its Southern slopes form the Northern watershed of the holy river as far as Lhassa.
The valley enclosed between these two parallel ranges is the most thickly populated valley in Tibet. Grass is abundant, and fuel easily obtainable, and therefore thousands of yaks, sheep, and goats can be seen grazing near the many Tibetan camps along the Brahmaputra and its principal tributaries. The trade route taken by the caravans from Ladak to Lhassa follows this valley; and, as I came to Tibet to see and study the Tibetans, I thought that, although I might run greater risks, I could in no part of the country accomplish my object better than by going along this thickly populated track.
 I passed the other source on the return journey.
Expecting trouble—Along the Brahmaputra—A thunderstorm—A dilemma—A dangerous river—Swamped—Saved—Night disturbers—A new friend.
WE slept very little, as we expected the soldiers to attack us during the night to try and stop our progress, but all was quiet and nothing happened; our yaks, however, managed to get loose, and we had some difficulty in recovering them in the morning, for they had swum across the stream, and had gone about a mile from camp on the other side.
The night had been very cold, the thermometer dropping as low as 321/2 deg.. We did not pitch our little tent, in case of emergencies, and we were tired and cold after the long march of the previous day. There was a South-westerly breeze blowing and I found it hard to have to cross the river, chase the yaks and bring them back to camp. Then, exhausted as we were, we had in addition to go through the daily routine of loading them. We followed the right bank of the stream to bearings 170 deg. (m.), then to 142 deg. 30' (b.m.), where it wound in and out between barren hills, subsequently flowing through a grassy valley three-quarters of a mile wide and a mile and a half long. It then went through a narrow passage to 17 deg. 30' (b.m.) and turned to 103 deg. and farther to 142 deg. through an undulating grassy valley two miles wide, in crossing which we were caught in a terrific thunderstorm, with hail and rain. This was indeed an annoying experience, for we were now before a very large tributary of the Brahmaputra, and the stream was so swollen, rapid and deep that I was much puzzled as to how to take my men across: they could not swim, and the water was so cold that a dip in it would give any one a severe shock. However, there was no time to be lost, for the river was visibly rising, and as the storm was getting worse, difficulties would only increase every moment. We took off every stitch of clothing and fastened our garments, with our rifles, &c., on the pack-saddles of the yaks, which we sent into the water. They are good swimmers, and though the current carried them over a hundred yards down stream, we saw them with satisfaction scramble out of the water on to the opposite bank. Notwithstanding the faith that Chanden Sing and Mansing had in my swimming, they really thought that their last hour had come when I took each by the hand and asked them to follow me into the stream. Hardly had we gone twelve yards when the inevitable took place. We were all three swept away, and Chanden Sing and Mansing in their panic clung tight to my arms and dragged me under water. Though I swam my hardest with my legs, we continually came to the surface and then sank again, owing to the dead weight of my helpless mates. But at last, after a desperate struggle, the current washed us on to the opposite side, where we found our feet, and were soon able to scramble out of the treacherous river. We were some two hundred yards down stream from the spot at which we had entered the river, and such was the quantity of muddy water we had swallowed that we all three became sick. This left us much exhausted, and, as the storm showed no signs of abating, we encamped (16,320 feet) there and then on the left bank of the stream. Though we sadly needed some warm food, there was, of course, no possibility of lighting a fire. A piece of chocolate was all I had that night, and my men preferred to eat nothing rather than break their caste by eating my food.
We were asleep under our little tent, the hour being about eleven, when there was a noise outside as of voices and people stumbling against stones. I was out in a moment with my rifle, and shouted the usual "Palado" ("Go away"), in answer to which, though I could see nothing owing to the darkness, I heard several stones flung from slings whizzing past me. One of these hit the tent, and a dog barked furiously. I fired a shot in the air, which had the good effect of producing a hasty retreat of our enemies, whoever they were. The dog, however, would not go. He remained outside barking all night, and it was only in the morning, when I gave him some food and caressed him in Tibetan fashion, with the usual words of endearment, "Chochu, Chochu," that our four-footed foe became friendly, rubbing himself against my legs as if he had known me all his life, and taking a particular fancy to Mansing, by whose side he lay down. From that day he never left our camp, and followed us everywhere, until harder times came upon us.
Leaving the course of the river—A pass—An arid plain—More vanishing soldiers—Another river—A mani wall—Mirage?—A large Tibetan encampment—The chain of mountains North of us.
THE river was turning too much towards the South, so I decided to abandon it and strike across country, especially as there were faint signs of a track leading over a pass to 110 deg. (b.m.) from camp. I followed this track, and along it I distinguished marks of hundreds of ponies' hoofs, now almost entirely washed away. This was evidently the way taken by the soldiers we had encountered on the other side of the Maium Pass.
Having risen over the col 17,750 feet, we saw before us an extensive valley with barren hills scattered over it. To the South we observed a large plain some ten miles wide, with snowy peaks rising on the farther side. In front was a hill projecting into the plain, on which stood a mani wall; and this latter discovery made me feel quite confident that I was on the high road to Lhassa. About eight miles off to the NNW. were high snowy peaks, and as we went farther we found a lofty mountain range, with still higher peaks, three miles behind it. We had travelled half-way across the waterless plain, when we noticed a number of soldiers' heads and matchlocks popping in and out from behind a distant hill. After a while they came out in numbers to observe our movements, then retired again behind the hill. We proceeded, but when we were still half a mile from them they abandoned their hiding-place, and galloped away before us, raising clouds of dust. From a hill 16,200 feet, over which the track crossed, we perceived a group of very high snowy peaks about eight miles distant. Between them and us stood a range of hills cut by a valley, along which flowed a river carrying a large volume of water. This we followed to 126 deg. (b.m.), and having found a suitable fording-place, we crossed over at a spot where the stream was twenty-five yards across, and the water reached up to our waists. We found here another mani wall with large inscriptions on stones, and as the wind was very high and cutting, we made use of it to shelter us. Within the angle comprised between bearings 240 deg. and 120 deg. (b.m.) we could observe a very high, snowy mountain range in the distance (the great Himahlyan chain), and lower hill ranges even as near as three miles from camp. The river we had just crossed flowed into the Brahmaputra, and we were now at an elevation of 15,700 feet. We saw plainly at sunset a number of black tents before us at bearings 120 deg.; we calculated them to be two miles distant. We counted about sixty, as well as hundreds of black yaks.
At sunrise the next morning, much to our surprise, they had all vanished; nor, on marching in the direction where we had seen them the previous night, were we able to find traces of them. It seemed as if it must have been mirage. Eventually, however, some fourteen miles away, across a grassy plain bounded to the North-East by the range extending from North-West to South-East, and with lofty snowy peaks at 72 deg. some five miles off, we came upon a very large Tibetan encampment of over eighty black tents at an altitude of 15,650 feet. They were pitched on the banks of another tributary of the Brahmaputra, which, after describing a great curve in the plain, passed West of the encampment. Five miles off, in the arc of circle described from 310 deg. to 70 deg. (b.m.), stood the chain of mountains which I had observed all along; but here the elevations of its peaks became gradually lower and lower, so much so that the name of "hill range" would be more appropriate to it than that of "mountain chain." Behind it, however, towered loftier peaks again with their snowy caps.
A commotion—An invitation declined—The tents—Delicacies—The Chokseh.
WE wanted food, and so made boldly for the encampment. Our approach caused a great commotion, and yaks and sheep were hastily driven away before us, while men and women rushed in and out of their tents, apparently in a state of much excitement. Eight or ten men reluctantly came forward and entreated us to go inside a large tent. They said they wished to speak to us, and offered us tea. I would not accept their invitation, distrusting them, but went on across the encampment, halting some three hundred yards beyond it. Chanden Sing and I proceeded afterwards on a round of calls at all the tents, trying to purchase food and also to show that, if we had declined to enter a particular tent, it was not on account of fear, but because we did not want to be caught in a trap. Our visit to the different golingchos or gurr (tents) was interesting enough. The tents themselves were very cleverly constructed, and admirably adapted to the country in which they were used; and the various articles of furniture inside attracted my curiosity. The tents, black in colour, were woven of yaks' hair, the natural greasiness of which made them quite waterproof. They consisted of two separate pieces of this thick material, supported by two poles at each end, and there was an oblong aperture above in the upper part of the tent, through which the smoke could escape. The base of the larger tents was hexagonal in shape: the roof, generally at a height of six or seven feet above the ground, was kept very tightly stretched by means of long ropes passing over high poles and pegged to the ground. Wooden and iron pegs were used for this purpose, and many were required to keep the tent close to the ground all round, so as to protect its inmates from the cutting winds of the great plateau. Long poles, as a rule numbering four, with white flying prayers, could be seen outside each tent, or one to each point of the compass, the East being taken for a starting-point. Around the interior of the larger tents there was a mud wall from two to three feet high, for the purpose of further protection against wind, rain and snow. These walls were sometimes constructed of dried dung, which, as time went on, was used for fuel. There were two apertures, one at either end of the tent; that facing the wind being always kept closed by means of loops and wooden bolts.
The Tibetan is a born nomad, and shifts his dwelling with the seasons, or wherever he can find pasture for his yaks and sheep; but, though he has no fixed abode, he knows how to make himself comfortable, and he carries with him all that he requires. Thus, for instance, in the centre of his tent, he begins by making himself a goling, or fireplace of mud and stone, some three feet high and four or five long, by one and a half wide, with two, three, or more side ventilators and draught-holes. By this ingenious contrivance he manages to increase the combustion of the dried dung, the most trying fuel from which to get a flame. On the top of this stove a suitable place is made to fit the several raksangs, or large brass pots and bowls, in which the brick tea, having been duly pounded in a stone or wooden mortar, is boiled and stirred with a long brass spoon. A portable iron stand is generally to be seen somewhere in the tent, upon which the hot vessels are placed, as they are removed from the fire. Close to these is the toxzum or dongbo, a cylindrical wooden churn, with a lid through which a piston passes. This is used for mixing the tea with butter and salt, in the way I have described as also adopted by the Jogpas.
The wooden cups or bowls used by the Tibetans are called puku, fruh, or cariel, and in them tsamba is also eaten after tea has been poured on it, and the mixture worked into a paste by means of more or less dirty fingers. Often extra lumps of butter are mixed with this paste, and even bits of chura (cheese). The richer people (officials) indulge in flour and rice, which they import from India and China, and in kassur, or dried fruit (namely, dates and apricots) of inferior quality. The rice is boiled into a kind of soup called the tukpa, a great luxury only indulged in on grand occasions, when such other cherished delicacies as gimakara (sugar) and shelkara (lump white sugar) are also eaten. The Tibetans are very fond of meat, though few can afford such an extravagance. Wild game, yak and sheep are considered excellent food, and the meat and bone cut in pieces are boiled in a cauldron with lavish quantities of salt and pepper. The several people in a tent dip their hands into the pot, and having picked up suitable pieces, tug at them with their teeth and fingers, grinding even the bone, meat eaten without bone being supposed to be difficult to digest.
The Tibetan tents are usually furnished with a few tildih (rough sitting-mats) round the fireplace, and near the entrance of the tent stands a dahlo, or basket, in which the dung is stored as collected. These dahlos, used in couples, are very convenient for tying to pack-saddles, for which purpose they are specially designed. Along the walls of the tent are the tsamgo or bags of tsamba, and the dongmo or butter-pots, and among masses of sheepskins and blankets can be seen the little wooden chests in which the store of butter is kept under lock and key.
The first thing that strikes the eye on entering a Tibetan tent is the chokseh or table, upon which are lights and brass bowls containing offerings to the Chogan, the gilt god to whom the occupiers of the gurr (tent) address their morning and evening prayers. Prayer-wheels and strings of beads are plentiful, and lashed upright to the poles are the long matchlocks belonging to the men, their tall props projecting well out of the aperture in the roof of the tent. Spears are kept in a similar manner, but the swords and smaller knives are carried about the person all day, and laid on the ground by the side of their owners at night.
Refusal to sell food—Women—Their looks and characteristics—The Tchukti—A Lhassa lady.
THE inhabitants of this encampment were polite and talkative. Notwithstanding their refusal to sell us food on the plea that they had none even for themselves, their friendliness was so much beyond my expectation that I at first feared treachery. However, treachery or not, I thought that while I was there I had better see and learn as much as I could. Women and men formed a ring round us, and the fair sex seemed less shy than the stronger in answering questions. I was particularly struck, not only in this encampment but in all the others, by the small number of women to be seen in Tibet. This is not because they are kept in seclusion; on the contrary, the ladies of the Forbidden Land seem to have it all their own way. They are actually in an enormous minority, the proportion being, at a rough guess, backed by the wise words of a friendly Lama, from fifteen to twenty males to each female in the population; nevertheless, the fair sex in Hundes manages to rule the male majority, playing thereby constantly into the hands of the Lamas.
The Tibetan female, whether she be a lady, a shepherdess, or a brigandess, cannot be said to be prepossessing. In fact, it was not my luck to see a single good-looking woman in the country, although I naturally saw women who were less ugly than others. Anyhow, with the accumulated filth that from birth is undisturbed by soap, scrubbing or bathing; with nose, cheeks and forehead smeared with black ointment to prevent the skin cracking in the wind; and with the unpleasant odour that emanates from never-changed clothes, the Tibetan woman is, at her best, repulsive to European taste. After one has overcome one's first disgust she yet has, at a distance, a certain charm of her own. She walks well, for she is accustomed to carry heavy weights on her head; and her skull would be well-set on her shoulders were it not that the neck is usually too short and thick to be graceful. Her body and limbs possess great muscular strength and are well developed, but generally lack stability, and her breasts are flabby and pendent—facts due, no doubt, to sexual abuse. She is generally of heavy frame, and rather inclined to stoutness. Her hands and feet show power and rude strength, but no dexterity or suppleness is noticeable in her fingers, and she has therefore no ability for very fine or delicate work.
The Tibetan woman is, nevertheless, far superior to the Tibetan man. She possesses a better heart, more pluck, and a finer character than he does. Time after time, when the males, timid beyond all conception, ran away at our approach, the women remained in charge of the tents, and, although by no means cool or collected, they very rarely failed to meet us without some show of dignity.
On the present occasion, when all were friendly, the women seemed much less shy than the men, and conversed freely and incessantly. They even prevailed upon their masters to sell us a little tsamba and butter.
Tibetan women wear trousers and boots like the men, and over them they have a long gown, either yellow or blue, reaching down to their feet. Their head-dress is curious, the hair being carefully parted in the middle, and plastered with melted butter over the scalp as far down as the ears; then it is plaited all round in innumerable little tresses, to which is fastened the Tchukti, three strips of heavy red and blue cloth joined together by cross bands ornamented with coral and malachite beads, silver coins and bells, and reaching from the shoulders down to the heels.
They seemed very proud of this ornamentation, and displayed much coquetry in attracting our notice to it. Wealthier women in Tibet have quite a small fortune hanging down their backs, for all the money or valuables earned or saved are sewn on to the Tchukti. To the lower end of the Tchukti one, two or three rows of small brass or silver bells are attached, and therefore the approach of the Tibetan dames is announced by the tinkling of their bells, a quaint custom, the origin of which they could not explain to me, beyond saying that it was pretty and that they liked it.
The illustration that I give here of a travelling Tibetan lady from Lhassa was taken at Tucker. She wore her hair, of abnormal length and beauty, in one huge tress, and round her head, like an aureole, was a circular wooden ornament, on the outer part of which were fastened beads of coral, glass and malachite. The arrangement was so heavy that, though it fitted the head well, it had to be supported by means of strings tied to the hair and others passed over the head. By the side of her head, and hanging by the ears and hair, were a pair of huge silver earrings inlaid with malachite, and round her neck three long strings of beads with silver brooches.
Considerable modifications necessarily occurred in these garments and ornaments, according to the locality and the wearer's condition in life, but the general lines of their clothing were practically everywhere the same. Often a loose silver chain belt was worn considerably below the waist, and rings and bracelets were common everywhere.
Polyandry—Marriage ceremonies—Jealousy—Divorce—Identification of children—Courtship—Illegitimacy—Adultery.
THAT the Tibetans legally recognise polyandry and polygamy is well known. Very little, however, has hitherto transpired as to the actual form of these marital customs, so that the details which follow, startling as they may seem when regarded from a Western standpoint, will be found not without interest.
First of all, I may say that there is not such a thing known in Tibet as a standard of morality amongst unmarried women of the middle classes; and, therefore, from a Tibetan point of view, it is not easy to find an immoral woman. Notwithstanding this apparently irregular state of affairs, the women's behaviour is better than might be expected. Like the Shoka girls, they possess a wonderful frankness and simplicity of manner, with a certain reserve which has its allurements; for the Tibetan swain, often a young man, being attracted by the charms of a damsel, finds that his flirtation with her has become an accepted engagement almost before it has begun, and is compelled, in accordance with custom, to go, accompanied by his father and mother, to the tent of the lady of his heart. There he is received by her relations, who have been previously notified of the intended call, and are found seated on rugs and mats awaiting the arrival of their guests.
After the usual courtesies and salutations, the young man's father asks, on behalf of his son, for the young lady's hand; and, if the answer is favourable, the suitor places a square lump of yak murr (yak butter) on his betrothed's forehead. She does the same for him, and the marriage ceremony is then considered over, the buttered couple being man and wife.
If there is a temple close by, Katas, food and money are laid before the images of Buddha and saints, and the parties walk round the inside of the temple. Should there be no temple at hand, the husband and wife make the circuit of the nearest hill, or, in default of anything else, the tent itself, always moving from left to right. This ceremony is repeated with prayers and sacrifices every day for a fortnight, during which time libations of wine and general feasting continue, and at the expiration of which the husband conveys his better half to his tent.
The law of Tibet, though hardly ever obeyed, has strict clauses regulating the conduct of married men in their marital relations. So long as the sun is above the horizon, no intercourse is permitted; and certain periods and seasons of the year, such as the height of summer and the depth of winter, are also proscribed.
A Tibetan girl on marrying does not enter into a nuptial tie with an individual but with all his family, in the following somewhat complicated manner. If an eldest son marries an eldest sister, all the sisters of the bride become his wives. Should he, however, begin by marrying the second sister, then only the sisters from the second down will be his property. If the third, all from the third, and so on. At the same time, when the bridegroom has brothers, they are all regarded as their brother's wife's husbands, and they one and all cohabit with her, as well as with her sisters if she has any.
The system is not simple, and certainly not very edifying, and were it not for the odd savoir faire of the Tibetan woman, it would lead to endless jealousies and unpleasantness: owing, however, largely, no doubt, to the absolute lack of honour or decency in Tibetan males and females, the arrangement seems to work as satisfactorily as any other kind of marriage.
I asked what would happen in the case of a man marrying a second sister, and so acquiring marital rights over all her younger sisters, if another man came and married her eldest sister. Would all the brides of the first man become the brides of the second? No, they would not; and the second man would have to be satisfied with only one wife. However, if the second sister were left a widow, and her husband had no brothers, then she would become the property of her eldest sister's husband, and with her all the other sisters.
It must not be inferred from these strange matrimonial laws that jealousy is non-existent in Tibet among both men and women; trouble does occasionally arise in Tibetan house- or tent-holds. As, however, the Tibetan woman is clever, she generally contrives to arrange things in a manner conducive to peace. When her husband has several brothers, she despatches them on different errands in every direction, to look after yaks or sheep, or to trade. Only one remains and he is for the time being her husband; then when another returns he has to leave his place and becomes a bachelor, and so on, till all the brothers have, during the year, had an equal period of marital life with their single wife.
Divorce is difficult in Tibet and involves endless complications. I inquired of a Tibetan lady what would she do in case her husband refused to live with her any longer.
"'Why did you marry me?' I would say to him," she exclaimed. "'You found me good, beautiful, wise, clever, affectionate. Now prove that I am not all this!'"
This modest speech, she thought, would be quite sufficient to bring any husband back to reason, but all the same a number of Tibetans find it convenient occasionally to desert their wives, eloping to some distant province, or over the boundary. This procedure is particularly hard on the man's brothers, as they all remain the sole property of the abandoned bride. On the same principle, when a husband dies, the wife is inherited by his brothers.
A very painful case came before the court of the Jong Pen at Taklakot. The husband of a Tibetan lady had died, and she, being enamoured of a handsome youth some twenty years younger than herself, married him. Her husband's brother, however, came all the way from Lhassa after her and claimed her as his wife, though he had already a better half and a large family. She would not hear of leaving the husband of her choice, and after endless scenes between them, the case was heard by the Jong Pen of Taklakot. The Tibetan law was against her, as, according to it, she decidedly belonged to her brother-in-law; but money is stronger than the law in the land of the Lamas.
"For the peace of all, you can arrange things this way," was the advice of the Jong Pen. "You can divide your property, money and goods, into three equal parts: one to go to the Lamas, one to your husband's brother, and one to be retained by yourself."
The woman consented; but, much to her disgust, when two parts had been paid out and she was hoping for peace, a question was raised by the Jong Pen as to why she should even retain one-third of the fortune if she no longer made part of the deceased man's family? Thus orders were instantly given that she should be deprived of everything she possessed.
However, the woman was shrewd enough to deceive the Jong Pen's officers, for one night, having bundled up her tent and her goods and chattels, she quietly stepped over the boundary and placed herself under British protection.
The mode of knowing and identifying children in Tibet is peculiar. It is not by the child's likeness to his parent, nor by other reasonable methods, that the offspring is set down as belonging to one man more than to another, but this is the mode adopted. Supposing that one married man had two brothers and several children, the first child belongs to him; the second to his first brother, and the third to his second brother, while the fourth would be again the first man's child.
The rules of courtship are not very strict in Tibet, yet intercourse with girls is looked upon as illegal, and in certain cases not only are the parties, if discovered, made to suffer shame, but certain fines are inflicted on the man, the most severe of all being that he must present the young lady with a dress and ornaments. In the case of "gentlefolks" the question is generally solved to the satisfaction of everybody by the man marrying the woman, and by his gracefully presenting "veils of friendship" to all her relations and friends, together with articles of food; but if by mischance she should be placed in an awkward position before the eyes of the world, and the man will not hear of a matrimonial union, then efforts are made to prevent the birth of the child alive. If these are not successful, the mother must be maintained until after the child's birth. In such cases the illegitimate child remains the man's, and suffers the usual indignities of illegitimacy.
Sixteen in the case of women, and eighteen or nineteen in that of men, is regarded as the marriageable age. Motherhood continues until a fairly advanced age, and I have seen a woman of forty with a baby only a few months old. But, as a rule, Tibetan women lose their freshness while still quite young; and no doubt their custom of polyandry not only contributes to destroy their looks but also is the chief cause that limits the population of Tibet.
The Lamas are supposed to live in celibacy, but they do not always keep to their oath, tempted, no doubt, by the fact that they themselves invariably go unpunished. If, on the other hand, in cases of adultery, the culprit be a layman, he has to pay compensation according to his means to the husband, the amount being fixed by the parties concerned and their friends, or by the law if applied for.
In ordinary cases of marital trespass, presents of clothing, tsamba, chura, guram, kassur (dried fruit) and wine, accompanied by the never-lacking Kata, are sufficient to allay the injured husband's anger and to fully compensate him for any shame suffered.
The only serious punishment inflicted is, however, in the case of the wife of a high official eloping with a man of low rank. Then the woman is subjected to flogging as a penalty for her infidelity, her husband is disgraced, and her lover, after being subjected to a painful surgical operation, is, if he survives, expelled from the town or encampment.
High officials, and a few wealthy people who are not satisfied with one wife, are allowed by the law of the land to keep as many concubines as their means allow them.
Tibetan funerals—Disposal of their dead—By cremation—By water—Cannibalism—Strange beliefs—Revolting barbarity—Drinking human blood—The saints of Tibet.
TIBETAN funerals are interesting, but they so closely resemble those of the Shokas, which I have described at length, that any detailed account of them would be a mere repetition of what I have already written.
For the disposal of the dead body itself, however, the Tibetans have curious customs of their own. The most uncommon method, owing to the great scarcity of fuel, is that of cremation, which is only employed in the case of wealthy people or Lamas, and is effected in exactly the same fashion as among the Shokas. Another and more usual plan is to double up the body, sew it into skins, and let it be carried away by the current of a stream. But the commonest method of all is the revolting ceremony which I now proceed to describe.
The body of the deceased is borne to the top of a hill, where the Lamas pronounce certain incantations and prayers. Then the crowd, after walking seven times round the body, retire to a certain distance, to allow ravens and dogs to tear the corpse to pieces. It is considered lucky for the departed and his family when birds alone devour the greater portion of the body; dogs and wild animals come, say the Lamas, when the deceased has sinned during his life. Anyhow, the almost complete destruction of the corpse is anxiously watched, and, at an opportune moment, the Lamas and crowd, turning their praying-wheels, and muttering the everlasting "Omne mani padme hun," return to the body, round which seven more circuits are made, moving from left to right. Then the relatives squat round. The Lamas sit near the body, and with their daggers cut to pieces what remains of the flesh. The highest Lama present eats the first morsel, then, muttering prayers, the other Lamas partake of it, after which all the relations and friends throw themselves on the now almost denuded skeleton, scraping off pieces of flesh, which they devour greedily; and this repast of human flesh continues till the bones are dry and clean!