Infomotions, Inc.Among the Tibetans / Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831-1904



Author: Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831-1904
Title: Among the Tibetans
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): leh; nubra; gyalpo; tibetan; lamas; tibetans; shayok; redslob; chod; kashmir; lhassa; altitude; tent; baggage; snow
Contributor(s): Della Chiesa, Carol, 1887- [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 29,194 words (really short) Grade range: 14-16 (college) Readability score: 46 (average)
Identifier: etext4244
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Title: Among the Tibetans

Author: Isabella L. Bird (Mrs Bishop)

Release Date: July, 2003  [Etext #4244]
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[This file was first posted on December 18, 2001]

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Transcribed by David and Margaret Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk.
From 1894 Religious Tract Society edition.

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AMONG THE TIBETANS




CHAPTER I--THE START



The Vale of Kashmir is too well known to require description.  It is
the 'happy hunting-ground' of the Anglo-Indian sportsman and tourist,
the resort of artists and invalids, the home of pashm shawls and
exquisitely embroidered fabrics, and the land of Lalla Rookh.  Its
inhabitants, chiefly Moslems, infamously governed by Hindus, are a
feeble race, attracting little interest, valuable to travellers as
'coolies' or porters, and repulsive to them from the mingled cunning
and obsequiousness which have been fostered by ages of oppression.
But even for them there is the dawn of hope, for the Church
Missionary Society has a strong medical and educational mission at
the capital, a hospital and dispensary under the charge of a lady
M.D. have been opened for women, and a capable and upright
'settlement officer,' lent by the Indian Government, is investigating
the iniquitous land arrangements with a view to a just settlement.

I left the Panjab railroad system at Rawul Pindi, bought my camp
equipage, and travelled through the grand ravines which lead to
Kashmir or the Jhelum Valley by hill-cart, on horseback, and by
house-boat, reaching Srinagar at the end of April, when the velvet
lawns were at their greenest, and the foliage was at its freshest,
and the deodar-skirted mountains which enclose this fairest gem of
the Himalayas still wore their winter mantle of unsullied snow.
Making Srinagar my headquarters, I spent two months in travelling in
Kashmir, half the time in a native house-boat on the Jhelum and Pohru
rivers, and the other half on horseback, camping wherever the scenery
was most attractive.

By the middle of June mosquitos were rampant, the grass was tawny, a
brown dust haze hung over the valley, the camp-fires of a multitude
glared through the hot nights and misty moonlight of the Munshibagh,
English tents dotted the landscape, there was no mountain, valley, or
plateau, however remote, free from the clatter of English voices and
the trained servility of Hindu servants, and even Sonamarg, at an
altitude of 8,000 feet and rough of access, had capitulated to lawn-
tennis.  To a traveller this Anglo-Indian hubbub was intolerable, and
I left Srinagar and many kind friends on June 20 for the uplifted
plateaux of Lesser Tibet.  My party consisted of myself, a thoroughly
competent servant and passable interpreter, Hassan Khan, a Panjabi; a
seis, of whom the less that is said the better; and Mando, a Kashmiri
lad, a common coolie, who, under Hassan Khan's training, developed
into an efficient travelling servant, and later into a smart
khitmatgar.

Gyalpo, my horse, must not be forgotten--indeed, he cannot be, for he
left the marks of his heels or teeth on every one.  He was a
beautiful creature, Badakshani bred, of Arab blood, a silver-grey, as
light as a greyhound and as strong as a cart-horse.  He was higher in
the scale of intellect than any horse of my acquaintance.  His
cleverness at times suggested reasoning power, and his
mischievousness a sense of humour.  He walked five miles an hour,
jumped like a deer, climbed like a yak, was strong and steady in
perilous fords, tireless, hardy, hungry, frolicked along ledges of
precipices and over crevassed glaciers, was absolutely fearless, and
his slender legs and the use he made of them were the marvel of all.
He was an enigma to the end.  He was quite untamable, rejected all
dainties with indignation, swung his heels into people's faces when
they went near him, ran at them with his teeth, seized unwary
passers-by by their kamar bands, and shook them as a dog shakes a
rat, would let no one go near him but Mando, for whom he formed at
first sight a most singular attachment, but kicked and struck with
his forefeet, his eyes all the time dancing with fun, so that one
could never decide whether his ceaseless pranks were play or vice.
He was always tethered in front of my tent with a rope twenty feet
long, which left him practically free; he was as good as a watchdog,
and his antics and enigmatical savagery were the life and terror of
the camp.  I was never weary of watching him, the curves of his form
were so exquisite, his movements so lithe and rapid, his small head
and restless little ears so full of life and expression, the
variations in his manner so frequent, one moment savagely attacking
some unwary stranger with a scream of rage, the next laying his
lovely head against Mando's cheek with a soft cooing sound and a
childlike gentleness.  When he was attacking anybody or frolicking,
his movements and beauty can only be described by a phrase of the
Apostle James, 'the grace of the fashion of it.'  Colonel Durand, of
Gilgit celebrity, to whom I am indebted for many other kindnesses,
gave him to me in exchange for a cowardly, heavy Yarkand horse, and
had previously vainly tried to tame him.  His wild eyes were like
those of a seagull.  He had no kinship with humanity.

In addition, I had as escort an Afghan or Pathan, a soldier of the
Maharajah's irregular force of foreign mercenaries, who had been sent
to meet me when I entered Kashmir.  This man, Usman Shah, was a stage
ruffian in appearance.  He wore a turban of prodigious height
ornamented with poppies or birds' feathers, loved fantastic colours
and ceaseless change of raiment, walked in front of me carrying a big
sword over his shoulder, plundered and beat the people, terrified the
women, and was eventually recognised at Leh as a murderer, and as
great a ruffian in reality as he was in appearance.  An attendant of
this kind is a mistake.  The brutality and rapacity he exercises
naturally make the people cowardly or surly, and disinclined to trust
a traveller so accompanied.

Finally, I had a Cabul tent, 7 ft. 6 in. by 8 ft. 6 in., weighing,
with poles and iron pins, 75 lbs., a trestle bed and cork mattress, a
folding table and chair, and an Indian dhurrie as a carpet.

My servants had a tent 5 ft. 6 in. square, weighing only 10 lbs.,
which served as a shelter tent for me during the noonday halt.  A
kettle, copper pot, and frying pan, a few enamelled iron table
equipments, bedding, clothing, working and sketching materials,
completed my outfit.  The servants carried wadded quilts for beds and
bedding, and their own cooking utensils, unwillingness to use those
belonging to a Christian being nearly the last rag of religion which
they retained.  The only stores I carried were tea, a quantity of
Edwards' desiccated soup, and a little saccharin.  The 'house,'
furniture, clothing, &c., were a light load for three mules, engaged
at a shilling a day each, including the muleteer.  Sheep, coarse
flour, milk, and barley were procurable at very moderate prices on
the road.

Leh, the capital of Ladakh or Lesser Tibet, is nineteen marches from
Srinagar, but I occupied twenty-six days on the journey, and made the
first 'march' by water, taking my house-boat to Ganderbal, a few
hours from Srinagar, via the Mar Nullah and Anchar Lake.  Never had
this Venice of the Himalayas, with a broad rushing river for its high
street and winding canals for its back streets, looked so
entrancingly beautiful as in the slant sunshine of the late June
afternoon.  The light fell brightly on the river at the Residency
stairs where I embarked, on perindas and state barges, with their
painted arabesques, gay canopies, and 'banks' of thirty and forty
crimson-clad, blue-turbaned, paddling men; on the gay facade and
gold-domed temple of the Maharajah's Palace, on the massive deodar
bridges which for centuries have defied decay and the fierce flood of
the Jhelum, and on the quaintly picturesque wooden architecture and
carved brown lattice fronts of the houses along the swirling
waterway, and glanced mirthfully through the dense leafage of the
superb planes which overhang the dark-green water.  But the mercury
was 92 degrees in the shade and the sun-blaze terrific, and it was a
relief when the boat swung round a corner, and left the stir of the
broad, rapid Jhelum for a still, narrow, and sharply winding canal,
which intersects a part of Srinagar lying between the Jhelum and the
hill-crowning fort of Hari Parbat.  There the shadows were deep, and
chance lights alone fell on the red dresses of the women at the
ghats, and on the shaven, shiny heads of hundreds of amphibious boys
who were swimming and aquatically romping in the canal, which is at
once the sewer and the water supply of the district.

Several hours were spent in a slow and tortuous progress through
scenes of indescribable picturesqueness--a narrow waterway spanned by
sharp-angled stone bridges, some of them with houses on the top, or
by old brown wooden bridges festooned with vines, hemmed in by lofty
stone embankments into which sculptured stones from ancient temples
are wrought, on the top of which are houses of rich men, fancifully
built, with windows of fretwork of wood, or gardens with kiosks, and
lower embankments sustaining many-balconied dwellings, rich in colour
and fantastic in design, their upper fronts projecting over the water
and supported on piles.  There were gigantic poplars wreathed with
vines, great mulberry trees hanging their tempting fruit just out of
reach, huge planes overarching the water, their dense leafage
scraping the mat roof of the boat; filthy ghats thronged with white-
robed Moslems performing their scanty religious ablutions; great
grain boats heavily thatched, containing not only families, but their
sheep and poultry; and all the other sights of a crowded Srinagar
waterway, the houses being characteristically distorted and out of
repair.  This canal gradually widens into the Anchar Lake, a reedy
mere of indefinite boundaries, the breeding-ground of legions of
mosquitos; and after the tawny twilight darkened into a stifling
night we made fast to a reed bed, not reaching Ganderbal till late
the next morning, where my horse and caravan awaited me under a
splendid plane-tree.

For the next five days we marched up the Sind Valley, one of the most
beautiful in Kashmir from its grandeur and variety.  Beginning among
quiet rice-fields and brown agricultural villages at an altitude of
5,000 feet, the track, usually bad and sometimes steep and perilous,
passes through flower-gemmed alpine meadows, along dark gorges above
the booming and rushing Sind, through woods matted with the sweet
white jasmine, the lower hem of the pine and deodar forests which
ascend the mountains to a considerable altitude, past rifts giving
glimpses of dazzling snow-peaks, over grassy slopes dotted with
villages, houses, and shrines embosomed in walnut groves, in sight of
the frowning crags of Haramuk, through wooded lanes and park-like
country over which farms are thinly scattered, over unrailed and
shaky bridges, and across avalanche slopes, till it reaches
Gagangair, a dream of lonely beauty, with a camping-ground of velvety
sward under noble plane-trees.  Above this place the valley closes in
between walls of precipices and crags, which rise almost abruptly
from the Sind to heights of 8,000 and 10,000 feet.  The road in many
places is only a series of steep and shelving ledges above the raging
river, natural rock smoothed and polished into riskiness by the
passage for centuries of the trade into Central Asia from Western
India, Kashmir, and Afghanistan.  Its precariousness for animals was
emphasised to me by five serious accidents which occurred in the week
of my journey, one of them involving the loss of the money, clothing,
and sporting kit of an English officer bound for Ladakh for three
months.  Above this tremendous gorge the mountains open out, and
after crossing to the left bank of the Sind a sharp ascent brought me
to the beautiful alpine meadow of Sonamarg, bright with spring
flowers, gleaming with crystal streams, and fringed on all sides by
deciduous and coniferous trees, above and among which are great
glaciers and the snowy peaks of Tilail.  Fashion has deserted
Sonamarg, rough of access, for Gulmarg, a caprice indicated by the
ruins of several huts and of a church.  The pure bracing air,
magnificent views, the proximity and accessibility of glaciers, and
the presence of a kind friend who was 'hutted' there for the summer,
made Sonamarg a very pleasant halt before entering upon the supposed
seventies of the journey to Lesser Tibet.

The five days' march, though propitious and full of the charm of
magnificent scenery, had opened my eyes to certain unpleasantnesses.
I found that Usman Shah maltreated the villagers, and not only robbed
them of their best fowls, but requisitioned all manner of things in
my name, though I scrupulously and personally paid for everything,
beating the people with his scabbarded sword if they showed any
intention of standing upon their rights.  Then I found that my clever
factotum, not content with the legitimate 'squeeze' of ten per cent.,
was charging me double price for everything and paying the sellers
only half the actual price, this legerdemain being perpetrated in my
presence.  He also by threats got back from the coolies half their
day's wages after I had paid them, received money for barley for
Gyalpo, and never bought it, a fact brought to light by the growing
feebleness of the horse, and cheated in all sorts of mean and
plausible ways, though I paid him exceptionally high wages, and was
prepared to 'wink' at a moderate amount of dishonesty, so long as it
affected only myself.  It has a lowering influence upon one to live
in a fog of lies and fraud, and the attempt to checkmate a fraudulent
Asiatic ends in extreme discomfiture.

I left Sonamarg late on a lovely afternoon for a short march through
forest-skirted alpine meadows to Baltal, the last camping-ground in
Kashmir, a grassy valley at the foot of the Zoji La, the first of
three gigantic steps by which the lofty plateaux of Central Asia are
attained.  On the road a large affluent of the Sind, which tumbles
down a pine-hung gorge in broad sheets of foam, has to be crossed.
My seis, a rogue, was either half-witted or pretended to be so, and,
in spite of orders to the contrary, led Gyalpo upon a bridge at a
considerable height, formed of two poles with flat pieces of stone
laid loosely over them not more than a foot broad.  As the horse
reached the middle, the structure gave a sort of turn, there was a
vision of hoofs in air and a gleam of scarlet, and Gyalpo, the hope
of the next four months, after rolling over more than once, vanished
among rocks and surges of the wildest description.  He kept his
presence of mind, however, recovered himself, and by a desperate
effort got ashore lower down, with legs scratched and bleeding and
one horn of the saddle incurably bent.

Mr. Maconochie of the Panjab Civil Service, and Dr. E. Neve of the C.
M. S. Medical Mission in Kashmir, accompanied me from Sonamarg over
the pass, and that night Mr. M. talked seriously to Usman Shah on the
subject of his misconduct, and with such singular results that
thereafter I had little cause for complaint.  He came to me and said,
'The Commissioner Sahib thinks I give Mem Sahib a great deal of
trouble;' to which I replied in a cold tone, 'Take care you don't
give me any more.'  The gist of the Sahib's words was the very
pertinent suggestion that it would eventually be more to his interest
to serve me honestly and faithfully than to cheat me.

Baltal lies at the feet of a precipitous range, the peaks of which
exceed Mont Blanc in height.  Two gorges unite there.  There is not a
hut within ten miles.  Big camp-fires blazed.  A few shepherds lay
under the shelter of a mat screen.  The silence and solitude were
most impressive under the frosty stars and the great Central Asian
barrier.  Sunrise the following morning saw us on the way up a huge
gorge with nearly perpendicular sides, and filled to a great depth
with snow.  Then came the Zoji La, which, with the Namika La and the
Fotu La, respectively 11,300, 13,000, and 13,500 feet, are the three
great steps from Kashmir to the Tibetan heights.  The two latter
passes present no difficulties.  The Zoji La is a thoroughly severe
pass, the worst, with the exception perhaps of the Sasir, on the
Yarkand caravan route.  The track, cut, broken, and worn on the side
of a wall of rock nearly 2,000 feet in abrupt elevation, is a series
of rough narrow zigzags, rarely, if ever, wide enough for laden
animals to pass each other, composed of broken ledges often nearly
breast high, and shelving surfaces of abraded rock, up which animals
have to leap and scramble as best they may.

Trees and trailers drooped over the path, ferns and lilies bloomed in
moist recesses, and among myriads of flowers a large blue and cream
columbine was conspicuous by its beauty and exquisite odour.  The
charm of the detail tempted one to linger at every turn, and all the
more so because I knew that I should see nothing more of the grace
and bounteousness of Nature till my projected descent into Kulu in
the late autumn.  The snow-filled gorge on whose abrupt side the path
hangs, the Zoji La (Pass), is geographically remarkable as being the
lowest depression in the great Himalayan range for 300 miles; and by
it, in spite of infamous bits of road on the Sind and Suru rivers,
and consequent losses of goods and animals, all the traffic of
Kashmir, Afghanistan, and the Western Panjab finds its way into
Central Asia.  It was too early in the season, however, for more than
a few enterprising caravans to be on the road.

The last look upon Kashmir was a lingering one.  Below, in shadow,
lay the Baltal camping-ground, a lonely deodar-belted flowery meadow,
noisy with the dash of icy torrents tumbling down from the snowfields
and glaciers upborne by the gigantic mountain range into which we had
penetrated by the Zoji Pass.  The valley, lying in shadow at their
base, was a dream of beauty, green as an English lawn, starred with
white lilies, and dotted with clumps of trees which were festooned
with red and white roses, clematis, and white jasmine.  Above the
hardier deciduous trees appeared the Pinus excelsa, the silver fir,
and the spruce; higher yet the stately grace of the deodar clothed
the hillsides; and above the forests rose the snow mountains of
Tilail, pink in the sunrise.  High above the Zoji, itself 11,500 feet
in altitude, a mass of grey and red mountains, snow-slashed and snow-
capped, rose in the dewy rose-flushed atmosphere in peaks, walls,
pinnacles, and jagged ridges, above which towered yet loftier
summits, bearing into the heavenly blue sky fields of unsullied snow
alone.  The descent on the Tibetan side is slight and gradual.  The
character of the scenery undergoes an abrupt change.  There are no
more trees, and the large shrubs which for a time take their place
degenerate into thorny bushes, and then disappear.  There were
mountains thinly clothed with grass here and there, mountains of bare
gravel and red rock, grey crags, stretches of green turf, sunlit
peaks with their snows, a deep, snow-filled ravine, eastwards and
beyond a long valley filled with a snowfield fringed with pink
primulas; and that was CENTRAL ASIA.

We halted for breakfast, iced our cold tea in the snow, Mr. M. gave a
final charge to the Afghan, who swore by his Prophet to be faithful,
and I parted from my kind escorts with much reluctance, and started
on my Tibetan journey, with but a slender stock of Hindustani, and
two men who spoke not a word of English.  On that day's march of
fourteen miles there is not a single hut.  The snowfield extended for
five miles, from ten to seventy feet deep, much crevassed, and
encumbered with avalanches.  In it the Dras, truly 'snow-born,'
appeared, issuing from a chasm under a blue arch of ice and snow,
afterwards to rage down the valley, to be forded many times or
crossed on snow bridges.  After walking for some time, and getting a
bad fall down an avalanche slope, I mounted Gyalpo, and the clever,
plucky fellow frolicked over the snow, smelt and leapt crevasses
which were too wide to be stepped over, put his forelegs together and
slid down slopes like a Swiss mule, and, though carried off his feet
in a ford by the fierce surges of the Dras, struggled gamely to
shore.  Steep grassy hills, and peaks with gorges cleft by the
thundering Dras, and stretches of rolling grass succeeded each other.
Then came a wide valley mostly covered with stones brought down by
torrents, a few plots of miserable barley grown by irrigation, and
among them two buildings of round stones and mud, about six feet
high, with flat mud roofs, one of which might be called the village,
and the other the caravanserai.  On the village roof were stacks of
twigs and of the dried dung of animals, which is used for fuel, and
the whole female population, adult and juvenile, engaged in picking
wool.  The people of this village of Matayan are Kashmiris.  As I had
an hour to wait for my tent, the women descended and sat in a circle
round me with a concentrated stare.  They asked if I were dumb, and
why I wore no earrings or necklace, their own persons being loaded
with heavy ornaments.  They brought children afflicted with skin-
diseases, and asked for ointment, and on hearing that I was hurt by a
fall, seized on my limbs and shampooed them energetically but not
undexterously.  I prefer their sociability to the usual chilling
aloofness of the people of Kashmir.

The Serai consisted of several dark and dirty cells, built round a
blazing piece of sloping dust, the only camping-ground, and under the
entrance two platforms of animated earth, on which my servants cooked
and slept.  The next day was Sunday, sacred to a halt; but there was
no fodder for the animals, and we were obliged to march to Dras,
following, where possible, the course of the river of that name,
which passes among highly-coloured and snow-slashed mountains, except
in places where it suddenly finds itself pent between walls of flame-
coloured or black rock, not ten feet apart, through which it boils
and rages, forming gigantic pot-holes.  With every mile the
surroundings became more markedly of the Central Asian type.  All day
long a white, scintillating sun blazes out of a deep blue, rainless,
cloudless sky.  The air is exhilarating.  The traveller is conscious
of daily-increasing energy and vitality.  There are no trees, and
deep crimson roses along torrent beds are the only shrubs.  But for a
brief fortnight in June, which chanced to occur during my journey,
the valleys and lower slopes present a wonderful aspect of beauty and
joyousness.  Rose and pale pink primulas fringe the margin of the
snow, the dainty Pedicularis tubiflora covers moist spots with its
mantle of gold; great yellow and white, and small purple and white
anemones, pink and white dianthus, a very large myosotis, bringing
the intense blue of heaven down to earth, purple orchids by the
water, borage staining whole tracts deep blue, martagon lilies, pale
green lilies veined and spotted with brown, yellow, orange, and
purple vetches, painter's brush, dwarf dandelions, white clover,
filling the air with fragrance, pink and cream asters,
chrysanthemums, lychnis, irises, gentian, artemisia, and a hundred
others, form the undergrowth of millions of tall Umbelliferae and
Compositae, many of them peach-scented and mostly yellow.  The wind
is always strong, and the millions of bright corollas, drinking in
the sun-blaze which perfects all too soon their brief but passionate
existence, rippled in broad waves of colour with an almost
kaleidoscopic effect.  About the eleventh march from Srinagar, at
Kargil, a change for the worse occurs, and the remaining marches to
the capital of Ladakh are over blazing gravel or surfaces of denuded
rock, the singular Caprifolia horrida, with its dark-green mass of
wavy ovate leaves on trailing stems, and its fair, white, anemone-
like blossom, and the graceful Clematis orientalis, the only
vegetation.

Crossing a raging affluent of the Dras by a bridge which swayed and
shivered, the top of a steep hill offered a view of a great valley
with branches sloping up into the ravines of a complexity of mountain
ranges, from 18,000 to 21,000 feet in altitude, with glaciers at
times descending as low as 11,000 feet in their hollows.  In
consequence of such possibilities of irrigation, the valley is green
with irrigated grass and barley, and villages with flat roofs
scattered among the crops, or perched on the spurs of flame-coloured
mountains, give it a wild cheerfulness.  These Dras villages are
inhabited by hardy Dards and Baltis, short, jolly-looking, darker,
and far less handsome than the Kashmiris; but, unlike them, they
showed so much friendliness, as well as interest and curiosity, that
I remained with them for two days, visiting their villages and seeing
the 'sights' they had to show me, chiefly a great Sikh fort, a yak
bull, the zho, a hybrid, the interiors of their houses, a magnificent
view from a hilltop, and a Dard dance to the music of Dard reed
pipes.  In return I sketched them individually and collectively as
far as time allowed, presenting them with the results, truthful and
ugly.  I bought a sheep for 2s. 3d., and regaled the camp upon it,
the three which were brought for my inspection being ridden by boys
astride.

The evenings in the Dras valley were exquisite.  As soon as the sun
went behind the higher mountains, peak above peak, red and snow-
slashed, flamed against a lemon sky, the strong wind moderated into a
pure stiff breeze, bringing up to camp the thunder of the Dras, and
the musical tinkle of streams sparkling in absolute purity.  There
was no more need for boiling and filtering.  Icy water could be drunk
in safety from every crystal torrent.

Leaving behind the Dras villages and their fertility, the narrow road
passes through a flaming valley above the Dras, walled in by bare,
riven, snow-patched peaks, with steep declivities of stones, huge
boulders, decaying avalanches, walls and spires of rock, some
vermilion, others pink, a few intense orange, some black, and many
plum-coloured, with a vitrified look, only to be represented by
purple madder.  Huge red chasms with glacier-fed torrents, occasional
snowfields, intense solar heat radiating from dry and verdureless
rock, a ravine so steep .and narrow that for miles together there is
not space to pitch a five-foot tent, the deafening roar of a river
gathering volume and fury as it goes, rare openings, where willows
are planted with lucerne in their irrigated shade, among which the
traveller camps at night, and over all a sky of pure, intense blue
purpling into starry night, were the features of the next three
marches, noteworthy chiefly for the exchange of the thundering Dras
for the thundering Suru, and for some bad bridges and infamous bits
of road before reaching Kargil, where the mountains swing apart,
giving space to several villages.  Miles of alluvium are under
irrigation there, poplars, willows, and apricots abound, and on some
damp sward under their shade at a great height I halted for two days
to enjoy the magnificence of the scenery and the refreshment of the
greenery.  These Kargil villages are the capital of the small State
of Purik, under the Governorship of Baltistan or Little Tibet, and
are chiefly inhabited by Ladakhis who have become converts to Islam.
Racial characteristics, dress, and manners are everywhere effaced or
toned down by Mohammedanism, and the chilling aloofness and haughty
bearing of Islam were very pronounced among these converts.

The daily routine of the journey was as follows:  By six a.m. I sent
on a coolie carrying the small tent and lunch basket to await me
half-way.  Before seven I started myself, with Usman Shah in front of
me, leaving the servants to follow with the caravan.  On reaching the
shelter tent I halted for two hours, or till the caravan had got a
good start after passing me.  At the end of the march I usually found
the tent pitched on irrigated ground, near a hamlet, the headman of
which provided milk, fuel, fodder, and other necessaries at fixed
prices.  'Afternoon tea' was speedily prepared, and dinner,
consisting of roast meat and boiled rice, was ready two hours later.
After dinner I usually conversed with the headman on local interests,
and was in bed soon after eight.  The servants and muleteers fed and
talked till nine, when the sound of their 'hubble-bubbles' indicated
that they were going to sleep, like most Orientals, with their heads
closely covered with their wadded quilts.  Before starting each
morning the account was made out, and I paid the headman personally.

The vagaries of the Afghan soldier, when they were not a cause of
annoyance, were a constant amusement, though his ceaseless changes of
finery and the daily growth of his baggage awakened grave suspicions.
The swashbuckler marched four miles an hour in front of me with a
swinging military stride, a large scimitar in a heavily ornamented
scabbard over his shoulder.  Tanned socks and sandals, black or white
leggings wound round from ankle to knee with broad bands of orange or
scarlet serge, white cambric knickerbockers, a white cambric shirt,
with a short white muslin frock with hanging sleeves and a leather
girdle over it, a red-peaked cap with a dark-blue pagri wound round
it, with one end hanging over his back, earrings, a necklace,
bracelets, and a profusion of rings, were his ordinary costume; and
in his girdle he wore a dirk and a revolver, and suspended from it a
long tobacco pouch made of the furry skin of some animal, a large
leather purse, and etceteras.  As the days went on he blossomed into
blue and white muslin with a scarlet sash, wore a gold embroidered
peak and a huge white muslin turban, with much change of ornaments,
and appeared frequently with a great bunch of poppies or a cluster of
crimson roses surmounting all.  His headgear was colossal.  It and
the head together must have been fully a third of his total height.
He was a most fantastic object, and very observant and skilful in his
attentions to me; but if I had known what I afterwards knew, I should
have hesitated about taking these long lonely marches with him for my
sole attendant.  Between Hassan Khan and this Afghan violent hatred
and jealousy existed.

I have mentioned roads, and my road as the great caravan route from
Western India into Central Asia.  This is a fitting time for an
explanation.  The traveller who aspires to reach the highlands of
Tibet from Kashmir cannot be borne along in a carriage or hill-cart.
For much of the way he is limited to a foot pace, and if he has
regard to his horse he walks down all rugged and steep descents,
which are many, and dismounts at most bridges.  By 'roads' must be
understood bridle-paths, worn by traffic alone across the gravelly
valleys, but elsewhere constructed with great toil and expense, as
Nature compels, the road-maker to follow her lead, and carry his
track along the narrow valleys, ravines, gorges, and chasms which she
has marked out for him.  For miles at a time this road has been
blasted out of precipices from 1,000 feet to 3,000 feet in depth, and
is merely a ledge above a raging torrent, the worst parts, chiefly
those round rocky projections, being 'scaffolded,' i.e. poles are
lodged horizontally among the crevices of the cliff, and the roadway
of slabs, planks, and brushwood, or branches and sods, is laid
loosely upon them.  This track is always amply wide enough for a
loaded beast, but in many places, when two caravans meet, the animals
of one must give way and scramble up the mountain-side, where
foothold is often perilous, and always difficult.  In passing a
caravan near Kargil my servant's horse was pushed over the precipice
by a loaded mule and drowned in the Suru, and at another time my
Afghan caused the loss of a baggage mule of a Leh caravan by driving
it off the track.  To scatter a caravan so as to allow me to pass in
solitary dignity he regarded as one of his functions, and on one
occasion, on a very dangerous part of the road, as he was driving
heavily laden mules up the steep rocks above, to their imminent peril
and the distraction of their drivers, I was obliged to strike up his
sword with my alpenstock to emphasise my abhorrence of his violence.
The bridges are unrailed, and many of them are made by placing two or
more logs across the stream, laying twigs across, and covering these
with sods, but often so scantily that the wild rush of the water is
seen below.  Primitive as these bridges are, they involve great
expense and difficulty in the bringing of long poplar logs for great
distances along narrow mountain tracks by coolie labour, fifty men
being required for the average log.  The Ladakhi roads are admirable
as compared with those of Kashmir, and are being constantly improved
under the supervision of H. B. M.'s Joint Commissioner in Leh.

Up to Kargil the scenery, though growing more Tibetan with every
march, had exhibited at intervals some traces of natural verdure; but
beyond, after leaving the Suru, there is not a green thing, and on
the next march the road crosses a lofty, sandy plateau, on which the
heat was terrible--blazing gravel and a blazing heaven, then fiery
cliffs and scorched hillsides, then a deep ravine and the large
village of Paskim (dominated by a fort-crowned rock), and some
planted and irrigated acres; then a narrow ravine and magnificent
scenery flaming with colour, which opens out after some miles on a
burning chaos of rocks and sand, mountain-girdled, and on some
remarkable dwellings on a steep slope, with religious buildings
singularly painted.  This is Shergol, the first village of Buddhists,
and there I was 'among the Tibetans.'



CHAPTER II--SHERGOL AND LEH



The chaos of rocks and sand, walled in by vermilion and orange
mountains, on which the village of Shergol stands, offered no
facilities for camping; but somehow the men managed to pitch my tent
on a steep slope, where I had to place my trestle bed astride an
irrigation channel, down which the water bubbled noisily, on its way
to keep alive some miserable patches of barley.  At Shergol and
elsewhere fodder is so scarce that the grain is not cut, but pulled
up by the roots.

The intensely human interest of the journey began at that point.  Not
greater is the contrast between the grassy slopes and deodar-clothed
mountains of Kashmir and the flaming aridity of Lesser Tibet, than
between the tall, dark, handsome natives of the one, with their
statuesque and shrinking women, and the ugly, short, squat, yellow-
skinned, flat-nosed, oblique-eyed, uncouth-looking people of the
other.  The Kashmiris are false, cringing, and suspicious; the
Tibetans truthful, independent, and friendly, one of the pleasantest
of peoples.  I 'took' to them at once at Shergol, and terribly faulty
though their morals are in some respects, I found no reason to change
my good opinion of them in the succeeding four months.

The headman or go-pa came to see me, introduced me to the objects of
interest, which are a gonpo, or monastery, built into the rock, with
a brightly coloured front, and three chod-tens, or relic-holders,
painted blue, red, and yellow, and daubed with coarse arabesques and
representations of deities, one having a striking resemblance to Mr.
Gladstone.  The houses are of mud, with flat roofs; but, being
summer, many of them were roofless, the poplar rods which support the
mud having been used for fuel.  Conical stacks of the dried excreta
of animals, the chief fuel of the country, adorned the roofs, but the
general aspect was ruinous and poor.  The people all invited me into
their dark and dirty rooms, inhabited also by goats, offered tea and
cheese, and felt my clothes.  They looked the wildest of savages, but
they are not.  No house was so poor as not to have its 'family
altar,' its shelf of wooden gods, and table of offerings.  A
religious atmosphere pervades Tibet, and gives it a singular sense of
novelty.  Not only were there chod-tens and a gonpo in this poor
place, and family altars, but prayer-wheels, i.e. wooden cylinders
filled with rolls of paper inscribed with prayers, revolving on
sticks, to be turned by passers-by, inscribed cotton bannerets on
poles planted in cairns, and on the roofs long sticks, to which
strips of cotton bearing the universal prayer, Aum mani padne hun (O
jewel of the lotus-flower), are attached.  As these wave in the wind
the occupants of the house gain the merit of repeating this sentence.

The remaining marches to Leh, the capital of Lesser Tibet, were full
of fascination and novelty.  Everywhere the Tibetans were friendly
and cordial.  In each village I was invited to the headman's house,
and taken by him to visit the chief inhabitants; every traveller, lay
and clerical, passed by with the cheerful salutation Tzu, asked me
where I came from and whither I was going, wished me a good journey,
admired Gyalpo, and when he scaled rock ladders and scrambled gamely
through difficult torrents, cheered him like Englishmen, the general
jollity and cordiality of manners contrasting cheerily with the
chilling aloofness of Moslems.

The irredeemable ugliness of the Tibetans produced a deeper
impression daily.  It is grotesque, and is heightened, not modified,
by their costume and ornament.  They have high cheekbones, broad flat
noses without visible bridges, small, dark, oblique eyes, with heavy
lids and imperceptible eyebrows, wide mouths, full lips, thick, big,
projecting ears, deformed by great hoops, straight black hair nearly
as coarse as horsehair, and short, square, ungainly figures.  The
faces of the men are smooth.  The women seldom exceed five feet in
height, and a man is tall at five feet four.

The male costume is a long, loose, woollen coat with a girdle,
trousers, under-garments, woollen leggings, and a cap with a turned-
up point over each ear.  The girdle is the depository of many things
dear to a Tibetan--his purse, rude knife, heavy tinder-box, tobacco
pouch, pipe, distaff, and sundry charms and amulets.  In the
capacious breast of his coat he carries wool for spinning--for he
spins as he walks--balls of cold barley dough, and much besides.  He
wears his hair in a pigtail.  The women wear short, big-sleeved
jackets, shortish, full-plaited skirts, tight trousers a yard too
long, the superfluous length forming folds above the ankle, a
sheepskin with the fur outside hangs over the back, and on gala
occasions a sort of drapery is worn over the usual dress.  Felt or
straw shoes and many heavy ornaments are worn by both sexes.  Great
ears of brocade, lined and edged with fur and attached to the hair,
are worn by the women.  Their hair is dressed once a month in many
much-greased plaits, fastened together at the back by a long tassel.
The head-dress is a strip of cloth or leather, sewn over with large
turquoises, carbuncles, and silver ornaments.  This hangs in a point
over the brow, broadens over the top of the head, and tapers as it
reaches the waist behind.  The ambition of every Tibetan girl is
centred in this singular headgear.  Hoops in the ears, necklaces,
amulets, clasps, bangles of brass or silver, and various implements
stuck in the girdle and depending from it, complete a costume pre-
eminent in ugliness.  The Tibetans are dirty.  They wash once a year,
and, except for festivals, seldom change their clothes till they
begin to drop off.  They are healthy and hardy, even the women can
carry weights of sixty pounds over the passes; they attain extreme
old age; their voices are harsh and loud, and their laughter is noisy
and hearty.

After leaving Shergol the signs of Buddhism were universal and
imposing, and the same may be said of the whole of the inhabited part
of Lesser Tibet.  Colossal figures of Shakya Thubba (Buddha) are
carved on faces of rock, or in wood, stone, or gilded copper sit on
lotus thrones in endless calm near villages of votaries.  Chod-tens
from twenty to a hundred feet in height, dedicated to 'holy' men, are
scattered over elevated ground, or in imposing avenues line the
approaches to hamlets and gonpos.  There are also countless manis,
dykes of stone from six to sixteen feet in width and from twenty feet
to a fourth of a mile in length, roofed with flattish stones,
inscribed by the lamas (monks) with the phrase Aum, &c., and
purchased and deposited by those who wish to obtain any special
benefit from the gods, such as a safe journey.  Then there are
prayer-mills, sometimes 150 in a row, which revolve easily by being
brushed by the hand of the passer-by, larger prayer-cylinders which
are turned by pulling ropes, and others larger still by water-power.
The finest of the latter was in a temple overarching a perennial
torrent, and was said to contain 20,000 repetitions of the mystic
phrase, the fee to the worshipper for each revolution of the cylinder
being from 1d. to 1s. 4d., according to his means or urgency.

The glory and pride of Ladak and Nubra are the gonpos, of which the
illustrations give a slight idea.  Their picturesqueness is
absolutely enchanting.  They are vast irregular piles of fantastic
buildings, almost invariably crowning lofty isolated rocks or
mountain spurs, reached by steep, rude rock staircases, chod-tens
below and battlemented towers above, with temples, domes, bridges
over chasms, spires, and scaffolded projections gleaming with gold,
looking, as at Lamayuru, the outgrowth of the rock itself.  The outer
walls are usually whitewashed, and red, yellow, and brown wooden
buildings, broad bands of red and blue on the whitewash, tridents,
prayer-mills, yaks' tails, and flags on poles give colour and
movement, while the jangle of cymbals, the ringing of bells, the
incessant beating of big drums and gongs, and the braying at
intervals of six-foot silver horns, attest the ritualistic activities
of the communities within.  The gonpos contain from two up to three
hundred lamas.  These are not cloistered, and their duties take them
freely among the people, with whom they are closely linked, a younger
son in every family being a monk.  Every act in trade, agriculture,
and social life needs the sanction of sacerdotalism, whatever exists
of wealth is in the gonpos, which also have a monopoly of learning,
and 11,000 monks, linked with the people, yet ruling all affairs of
life and death and beyond death, are connected closely by education,
tradition, and authority with Lhassa.

Passing along faces of precipices and over waterless plateaux of
blazing red gravel--'waste places,' truly--the journey was cheered by
the meeting of red and yellow lamas in companies, each lama twirling
his prayer-cylinder, abbots, and skushoks (the latter believed to be
incarnations of Buddha) with many retainers, or gay groups of
priestly students, intoning in harsh and high-pitched monotones, Aum
mani padne hun.  And so past fascinating monastic buildings, through
crystal torrents rushing over red rock, through flaming ravines, on
rock ledges by scaffolded paths, camping in the afternoons near
friendly villages on oases of irrigated alluvium, and down the Wanla
water by the steepest and narrowest cleft ever used for traffic, I
reached the Indus, crossed it by a wooden bridge where its broad,
fierce current is narrowed by rocks to a width of sixty-five feet,
and entered Ladak proper.  A picturesque fort guards the bridge, and
there travellers inscribe their names and are reported to Leh.  I
camped at Khalsi, a mile higher, but returned to the bridge in the
evening to sketch, if I could, the grim nudity and repulsive horror
of the surrounding mountains, attended only by Usman Shah.  A few
months earlier, this ruffian was sent down from Leh with six other
soldiers and an officer to guard the fort, where they became the
terror of all who crossed the bridge by their outrageous levies of
blackmail.  My swashbuckler quarrelled with the officer over a
disreputable affair, and one night stabbed him mortally, induced his
six comrades to plunge their knives into the body, sewed it up in a
blanket, and threw it into the Indus, which disgorged it a little
lower down.  The men were all arrested and marched to Srinagar, where
Usman turned 'king's evidence.'

The remaining marches were alongside of the tremendous granite ranges
which divide the Indus from its great tributary, the Shayok.
Colossal scenery, desperate aridity, tremendous solar heat, and an
atmosphere highly rarefied and of nearly intolerable dryness, were
the chief characteristics.  At these Tibetan altitudes, where the
valleys exceed 11,000 feet, the sun's rays are even more powerful
than on the 'burning plains of India.'  The day wind, rising at 9
a.m., and only falling near sunset, blows with great heat and force.
The solar heat at noon was from 120 degrees to 130 degrees, and at
night the mercury frequently fell below the freezing point.  I did
not suffer from the climate, but in the case of most Europeans the
air passages become irritated, the skin cracks, and after a time the
action of the heart is affected.  The hair when released stands out
from the head, leather shrivels and splits, horn combs break to
pieces, food dries up, rapid evaporation renders water-colour
sketching nearly impossible, and tea made with water from fifteen to
twenty below the boiling-point of 212 degrees, is flavourless and
flat.

After a delightful journey of twenty-five days I camped at Spitak,
among the chod-tens and manis which cluster round the base of a lofty
and isolated rock, crowned with one of the most striking monasteries
in Ladak, and very early the next morning, under a sun of terrific
fierceness, rode up a five-mile slope of blazing gravel to the goal
of my long march.  Even at a short distance off, the Tibetan capital
can scarcely be distinguished from the bare, ribbed, scored, jagged,
vermilion and rose-red mountains which nearly surround it, were it
not for the palace of the former kings or Gyalpos of Ladak, a huge
building attaining ten storeys in height, with massive walls sloping
inwards, while long balconies and galleries, carved projections of
brown wood, and prominent windows, give it a singular
picturesqueness.  It can be seen for many miles, and dwarfs the
little Central Asian town which clusters round its base.

Long lines of chod-tens and manis mark the approach to Leh.  Then
come barley fields and poplar and willow plantations, bright streams
are crossed, and a small gateway, within which is a colony of very
poor Baltis, gives access to the city.  In consequence of 'the
vigilance of the guard at the bridge of Khalsi,' I was expected, and
was met at the gate by the wazir's jemadar, or head of police, in
artistic attire, with spahis in apricot turbans, violet chogas, and
green leggings, who cleared the way with spears, Gyalpo frolicking as
merrily and as ready to bite, and the Afghan striding in front as
firmly, as though they had not marched for twenty-five days through
the rugged passes of the Himalayas.  In such wise I was escorted to a
shady bungalow of three rooms, in the grounds of H. B. M.'s Joint
Commissioner, who lives at Leh during the four months of the 'caravan
season,' to assist in regulating the traffic and to guard the
interests of the numerous British subjects who pass through Leh with
merchandise.  For their benefit also, the Indian Government aids in
the support of a small hospital, open, however, to all, which, with a
largely attended dispensary, is under the charge of a Moravian
medical missionary.

Just outside the Commissioner's grounds are two very humble
whitewashed dwellings, with small gardens brilliant with European
flowers; and in these the two Moravian missionaries, the only
permanent European residents in Leh, were living, Mr. Redslob and Dr.
Karl Marx, with their wives.  Dr. Marx was at his gate to welcome me.

To these two men, especially the former, I owe a debt of gratitude
which in no shape, not even by the hearty acknowledgment of it, can
ever be repaid, for they died within a few days of each other, of an
epidemic, last year, Dr. Marx and a new-born son being buried in one
grave.  For twenty-five years Mr. Redslob, a man of noble physique
and intellect, a scholar and linguist, an expert botanist and an
admirable artist, devoted himself to the welfare of the Tibetans, and
though his great aim was to Christianize them, he gained their
confidence so thoroughly by his virtues, kindness, profound Tibetan
scholarship, and manliness, that he was loved and welcomed
everywhere, and is now mourned for as the best and truest friend the
people ever had.

I had scarcely finished breakfast when he called; a man of great
height and strong voice, with a cheery manner, a face beaming with
kindness, and speaking excellent English.  Leh was the goal of my
journey, but Mr. Redslob came with a proposal to escort me over the
great passes to the northward for a three weeks' journey to Nubra, a
district formed of the combined valleys of the Shayok and Nubra
rivers, tributaries of the Indus, and abounding in interest.  Of
course I at once accepted an offer so full of advantages, and the
performance was better even than the promise.

Two days were occupied in making preparations, but afterwards I spent
a fortnight in my tent at Leh, a city by no means to be passed over
without remark, for, though it and the region of which it is the
capital are very remote from the thoughts of most readers, it is one
of the centres of Central Asian commerce.  There all traders from
India, Kashmir, and Afghanistan must halt for animals and supplies on
their way to Yarkand and Khotan, and there also merchants from the
mysterious city of Lhassa do a great business in brick tea and in
Lhassa wares, chiefly ecclesiastical.

The situation of Leh is a grand one, the great Kailas range, with its
glaciers and snowfields, rising just behind it to the north, its
passes alone reaching an altitude of nearly 18,000 feet; while to the
south, across a gravelly descent and the Indus Valley, rise great red
ranges dominated by snow-peaks exceeding 21,000 feet in altitude.
The centre of Leh is a wide bazaar, where much polo is played in the
afternoons; and above this the irregular, flat-roofed, many-balconied
houses of the town cluster round the palace and a gigantic chod-ten
alongside it.  The rugged crest of the rock on a spur of which the
palace stands is crowned by the fantastic buildings of an ancient
gonpo.  Beyond the crops and plantations which surround the town lies
a flaming desert of gravel or rock.  The architectural features of
Leh, except of the palace, are mean.  A new mosque glaring with
vulgar colour, a treasury and court of justice, the wazir's bungalow,
a Moslem cemetery, and Buddhist cremation grounds, in which each
family has its separate burning place, are all that is noteworthy.
The narrow alleys, which would be abominably dirty if dirt were
possible in a climate of such intense dryness, house a very mixed
population, in which the Moslem element is always increasing, partly
owing to the renewal of that proselytising energy which is making
itself felt throughout Asia, and partly to the marriages of Moslem
traders with Ladaki women, who embrace the faith of their husbands
and bring up their families in the same.

On my arrival few of the shops in the great place, or bazaar, were
open, and there was no business; but a few weeks later the little
desert capital nearly doubled its population, and during August the
din and stir of trade and amusements ceased not by day or night, and
the shifting scenes were as gay in colouring and as full of variety
as could be desired.

Great caravans en route for Khotan, Yarkand, and even Chinese Tibet
arrived daily from Kashmir, the Panjab, and Afghanistan, and stacked
their bales of goods in the place; the Lhassa traders opened shops in
which the specialties were brick tea and instruments of worship;
merchants from Amritsar, Cabul, Bokhara, and Yarkand, stately in
costume and gait, thronged the bazaar and opened bales of costly
goods in tantalising fashion; mules, asses, horses, and yaks kicked,
squealed, and bellowed; the dissonance of bargaining tongues rose
high; there were mendicant monks, Indian fakirs, Moslem dervishes,
Mecca pilgrims, itinerant musicians, and Buddhist ballad howlers;
bold-faced women with creels on their backs brought in lucerne;
Ladakis, Baltis, and Lahulis tended the beasts, and the wazir's
jemadar and gay spahis moved about among the throngs.  In the midst
of this picturesque confusion, the short, square-built, Lhassa
traders, who face the blazing sun in heavy winter clothing, exchange
their expensive tea for Nubra and Baltistan dried apricots, Kashmir
saffron, and rich stuffs from India; and merchants from Yarkand on
big Turkestan horses offer hemp, which is smoked as opium, and
Russian trifles and dress goods, under cloudless skies.  With the
huge Kailas range as a background, this great rendezvous of Central
Asian traffic has a great fascination, even though moral shadows of
the darkest kind abound.

On the second morning, while I was taking the sketch of Usman Shah
which appears as the frontispiece, he was recognised both by the
Joint Commissioner and the chief of police as a mutineer and
murderer, and was marched out of Leh.  I was asked to look over my
baggage, but did not.  I had trusted him, he had been faithful in his
way, and later I found that nothing was missing.  He was a brutal
ruffian, one of a band of irregulars sent by the Maharajah of Kashmir
to garrison the fort at Leh.  From it they used to descend on the
town, plunder the bazaar, insult the women, take all they wanted
without payment, and when one of their number was being tried for
some offence, they dragged the judge out of court and beat him!
After holding Leh in terror for some time the British Commissioner
obtained their removal.  It was, however, at the fort at the Indus
bridge, as related before, that the crime of murder was committed.
Still there was something almost grand in the defiant attitude of the
fantastic swash buckler, as, standing outside the bungalow, he faced
the British Commissioner, to him the embodiment of all earthly power,
and the chief of police, and defied them.  Not an inch would he stir
till the wazir gave him a coolie to carry his baggage.  He had been
acquitted of the murder, he said, 'and though I killed the man, it
was according to the custom of my country--he gave me an insult which
could only be wiped out in blood!'  The guard dared not touch him,
and he went to the wazir, demanded a coolie, and got one!

Our party left Leh early on a glorious morning, travelling light, Mr.
Redslob, a very learned Lhassa monk, named Gergan, Mr. R.'s servant,
my three, and four baggage horses, with two drivers engaged for the
journey.  The great Kailas range was to be crossed, and the first
day's march up long, barren, stony valleys, without interest, took us
to a piece of level ground, with a small semi-subterranean refuge on
which there was barely room for two tents, at the altitude of the
summit of Mont Blanc.  For two hours before we reached it the men and
animals showed great distress.  Gyalpo stopped every few yards,
gasping, with blood trickling from his nostrils, and turned his head
so as to look at me, with the question in his eyes, What does this
mean?  Hassan Khan was reeling from vertigo, but would not give in;
the seis, a creature without pluck, was carried in a blanket slung on
my tent poles, and even the Tibetans suffered.  I felt no
inconvenience, but as I unsaddled Gyalpo I was glad that there was no
more work to do!  This 'mountain-sickness,' called by the natives
ladug, or 'pass-poison,' is supposed by them to be the result of the
odour or pollen of certain plants which grow on the passes.  Horses
and mules are unable to carry their loads, and men suffer from
vertigo, vomiting, violent headache and bleeding from the nose,
mouth, and ears, as well as prostration of strength, sometimes
complete, and occasionally ending fatally.

After a bitterly cold night I was awakened at dawn by novel sounds,
gruntings, and low, resonant bellowing round my tent, and the grey
light revealed several yaks (the Bos grunniens, the Tibetan ox), the
pride of the Tibetan highlands.  This magnificent animal, though not
exceeding an English shorthorn cow in height, looks gigantic, with
his thick curved horns, his wild eyes glaring from under a mass of
curls, his long thick hair hanging to his fetlocks, and his huge
bushy tail.  He is usually black or tawny, but the tail is often
white, and is the length of his long hair.  The nose is fine and has
a look of breeding as well as power.  He only flourishes at altitudes
exceeding 12,000 feet.  Even after generations of semi-domestication
he is very wild, and can only be managed by being led with a rope
attached to a ring in the nostrils.  He disdains the plough, but
condescends to carry burdens, and numbers of the Ladak and Nubra
people get their living by carrying goods for the traders on his
broad back over the great passes.  His legs are very short, and he
has a sensible way of measuring distance with his eyes and planting
his feet, which enables him to carry loads where it might be supposed
that only a goat could climb.  He picks up a living anyhow, in that
respect resembling the camel.

He has an uncertain temper, and is not favourably disposed towards
his rider.  Indeed, my experience was that just as one was about to
mount him he usually made a lunge at one with his horns.  Some of my
yak steeds shied, plunged, kicked, executed fantastic movements on
the ledges of precipices, knocked down their leaders, bellowed
defiance, and rushed madly down mountain sides, leaping from boulder
to boulder, till they landed me among their fellows.  The rush of a
herd of bellowing yaks at a wild gallop, waving their huge tails, is
a grand sight.

My first yak was fairly quiet, and looked a noble steed, with my
Mexican saddle and gay blanket among rather than upon his thick black
locks.  His back seemed as broad as that of an elephant, and with his
slow, sure, resolute step, he was like a mountain in motion.  We took
five hours for the ascent of the Digar Pass, our loads and some of us
on yaks, some walking, and those who suffered most from the 'pass-
poison' and could not sit on yaks were carried.  A number of Tibetans
went up with us.  It was a new thing for a European lady to travel in
Nubra, and they took a friendly interest in my getting through all
right.  The dreary stretches of the ascent, though at first white
with edelweiss, of which the people make their tinder, are surmounted
for the most part by steep, short zigzags of broken stone.  The
heavens were dark with snow-showers, the wind was high and the cold
severe, and gasping horses, and men prostrate on their faces unable
to move, suggested a considerable amount of suffering; but all safely
reached the summit, 17,930 feet, where in a snowstorm the guides
huzzaed, praised their gods, and tucked rag streamers into a cairn.

The loads were replaced on the horses, and over wastes of ice, across
snowfields margined by broad splashes of rose-red primulas, down
desert valleys and along irrigated hillsides, we descended 3,700 feet
to the village of Digar in Nubra, where under a cloudless sky the
mercury stood at 90 degrees!

Upper and Lower Nubra consist of the valleys of the Nubra and Shayok
rivers.  These are deep, fierce, variable streams, which have buried
the lower levels under great stretches of shingle, patched with
jungles of hippophae and tamarisk, affording cover for innumerable
wolves.  Great lateral torrents descend to these rivers, and on
alluvial ridges formed at the junctions are the villages with their
pleasant surroundings of barley, lucerne, wheat, with poplar and
fruit trees, and their picturesque gonpos crowning spurs of rock
above them.  The first view of Nubra is not beautiful.  Yellow,
absolutely barren mountains, cleft by yellow gorges, and apparently
formed of yellow gravel, the huge rifts in their sides alone showing
their substructure of rock, look as if they had never been finished,
or had been finished so long that they had returned to chaos.  These
hem in a valley of grey sand and shingle, threaded by a greyish
stream.  From the second view point mountains are seen descending on
a pleasanter part of the Shayok valley in grey, yellow, or vermilion
masses of naked rock, 7,000 and 8,000 feet in height, above which
rise snow capped peaks sending out fantastic spurs and buttresses,
while the colossal walls of rock are cleft by rifts as colossal.  The
central ridge between the Nubra and Upper Shayok valleys is 20,000
feet in altitude, and on this are superimposed five peaks of rock,
ascertained by survey to be from 24,000 to 25,000 feet in height,
while at one point the eye takes in a nearly vertical height of
14,000 feet from the level of the Shayok River!  The Shayok and Nubra
valleys are only five and four miles in width respectively at their
widest parts.  The early winter traffic chiefly follows along river
beds, then nearly dry, while summer caravans have to labour along
difficult tracks at great heights, where mud and snow avalanches are
common, to climb dangerous rock ladders, and to cross glaciers and
the risky fords of the Shayok.  Nubra is similar in character to
Ladak, but it is hotter and more fertile, the mountains are loftier,
the gonpos are more numerous, and the people are simpler, more
religious, and more purely Tibetan.  Mr. Redslob loved Nubra, and as
love begets love he received a hearty welcome at Digar and everywhere
else.

The descent to the Shayok River gave us a most severe day of twelve
hours.  The river had covered the usual track, and we had to take to
torrent beds and precipice ledges, I on one yak, and my tent on
another.  In years of travel I have never seen such difficulties.
Eventually at dusk Mr. Redslob, Gergan, the servants, and I descended
on a broad shingle bed by the rushing Shayok; but it was not till
dawn on the following day that, by means of our two yaks and the
muleteers, our baggage and food arrived, the baggage horses being
brought down unloaded, with men holding the head and tail of each.
Our saddle horses, which we led with us, were much cut by falls.
Gyalpo fell fully twenty feet, and got his side laid open.  The
baggage horses, according to their owners, had all gone over one
precipice, which delayed them five hours.

Below us lay two leaky scows, and eight men from Sati, on the other
side of the Shayok, are pledged to the Government to ferry
travellers; but no amount of shouting and yelling, or burning of
brushwood, or even firing, brought them to the rescue, though their
pleasant lights were only a mile off.  Snow fell, the wind was strong
and keen, and our tent-pegs were only kept down by heavy stones.
Blankets in abundance were laid down, yet failed to soften the
'paving stones' on which I slept that night!  We had tea and rice,
but our men, whose baggage was astray on the mountains, were without
food for twenty-two hours, positively refusing to eat our food or
cook fresh rice in our cooking pots!  To such an extent has Hindu
caste-feeling infected Moslems!

The disasters of that day's march, besides various breakages, were,
two servants helpless from 'pass-poison' and bruises; a Ladaki, who
had rolled over a precipice, with a broken arm, and Gergan bleeding
from an ugly scalp wound, also from a fall.

By eight o'clock the next morning the sun was high and brilliant, the
snows of the ravines under its fierce heat were melting fast, and the
river, roaring hoarsely, was a mad rush of grey rapids and grey foam;
but three weeks later in the season, lower down, its many branches
are only two feet deep.  This Shayok, which cannot in any way be
circumvented, is the great obstacle on this Yarkand trade route.
Travellers and their goods make the perilous passage in the scow, but
their animals swim, and are often paralysed by the ice-cold water and
drowned.  My Moslem servants, white-lipped and trembling, committed
themselves to Allah on the river bank, and the Buddhists worshipped
their sleeve idols.  The gopa, or headman of Sati, a splendid fellow,
who accompanied us through Nubra, and eight wild-looking, half-naked
satellites, were the Charons of that Styx.  They poled and paddled
with yells of excitement; the rapids seized the scow, and carried her
broadside down into hissing and raging surges; then there was a
plash, a leap of maddened water half filling the boat, a struggle, a
whirl, violent efforts, and a united yell, and far down the torrent
we were in smooth water on the opposite shore.  The ferrymen
recrossed, pulled our saddle horses by ropes into the river, the gopa
held them; again the scow and her frantic crew, poling, paddling, and
yelling, were hurried broadside down, and as they swept past there
were glimpses above and among the foam-crested surges of the wild-
looking heads and drifting forelocks of two grey horses swimming
desperately for their lives,--a splendid sight.  They landed safely,
but of the baggage animals one was sucked under the boat and drowned,
and as the others refused to face the rapids, we had to obtain other
transport.  A few days later the scow, which was brought up in pieces
from Kashmir on coolies' backs at a cost of four hundred rupees, was
dashed to pieces!

A halt for Sunday in an apricot grove in the pleasant village of Sati
refreshed us all for the long marches which followed, by which we
crossed the Sasir Pass, full of difficulties from snow and glaciers,
which extend for many miles, to the Dipsang Plain, the bleakest and
dreariest of Central Asian wastes, from which the gentle ascent of
the Karakorum Pass rises, and returned, varying our route slightly,
to the pleasant villages of the Nubra valley.  Everywhere Mr.
Redslob's Tibetan scholarship, his old-world courtesy, his kindness
and adaptability, and his medical skill, ensured us a welcome the
heartiness of which I cannot describe.  The headmen and elders of the
villages came to meet us when we arrived, and escorted us when we
left; the monasteries and houses with the best they contained were
thrown open to us; the men sat round our camp-fires at night, telling
stories and local gossip, and asking questions, everything being
translated to me by my kind guide, and so we actually lived 'among
the Tibetans.'



CHAPTER III--NUBRA



In order to visit Lower Nubra and return to Leh we were obliged to
cross the great fords of the Shayok at the most dangerous season of
the year.  This transit had been the bugbear of the journey ever
since news reached us of the destruction of the Sati scow.  Mr.
Redslob questioned every man we met on the subject, solemn and noisy
conclaves were held upon it round the camp-fires, it was said that
the 'European woman' and her 'spider-legged horse' could never get
across, and for days before we reached the stream, the chupas, or
government water-guides, made nightly reports to the village headmen
of the state of the waters, which were steadily rising, the final
verdict being that they were only just practicable for strong horses.
To delay till the waters fell was impossible.  Mr. Redslob had
engagements in Leh, and I was already somewhat late for the passage
of the lofty passes between Tibet and British India before the
winter, so we decided on crossing with every precaution which
experience could suggest.

At Lagshung, the evening before, the Tibetans made prayers and
offerings for a day cloudy enough to keep the water down, but in the
morning from a cloudless sky a scintillating sun blazed down like a
magnesium light, and every glacier and snowfield sent its tribute
torrent to the Shayok.  In crossing a stretch of white sand the solar
heat was so fierce that our European skins were blistered through our
clothing.  We halted at Lagshung, at the house of a friendly
zemindar, who pressed upon me the loan of a big Yarkand horse for the
ford, a kindness which nearly proved fatal; and then by shingle paths
through lacerating thickets of the horrid Hippophae rhamnoides, we
reached a chod-ten on the shingly bank of the river, where the
Tibetans renewed their prayers and offerings, and the final orders
for the crossing were issued.  We had twelve horses, carrying only
quarter loads each, all led; the servants were mounted, 'water-
guides' with ten-foot poles sounded the river ahead, one led Mr.
Redslob's horse (the rider being bare-legged) in front of mine with a
long rope, and two more led mine, while the gopas of three villages
and the zemindar steadied my horse against the stream.  The water-
guides only wore girdles, and with elf-locks and pig-tails streaming
from their heads, and their uncouth yells and wild gesticulations,
they looked true river-demons.

The Shayok presented an expanse of eight branches and a main stream,
divided by shallows and shingle banks, the whole a mile and a half in
width.  On the brink the chupas made us all drink good draughts of
the turbid river water, 'to prevent giddiness,' they said, and they
added that I must not think them rude if they dashed water at my face
frequently with the same object.  Hassan Khan, and Mando, who was
livid with fright, wore dark-green goggles, that they might not see
the rapids.  In the second branch the water reached the horses'
bodies, and my animal tottered and swerved.  There were bursts of
wild laughter, not merriment but excitement, accompanied by yells as
the streams grew fiercer, a loud chorus of Kabadar!  Sharbaz!
('Caution!' 'Well done!') was yelled to encourage the horses, and the
boom and hiss of the Shayok made a wild accompaniment.  Gyalpo, for
whose legs of steel I longed, frolicked as usual, making mirthful
lunges at his leader when the pair halted.  Hassan Khan, in the
deepest branch, shakily said to me, 'I not afraid, Mem Sahib.'
During the hour spent in crossing the eight branches, I thought that
the risk had been exaggerated, and that giddiness was the chief
peril.

But when we halted, cold and dripping, on the shingle bank of the
main stream I changed my mind.  A deep, fierce, swirling rapid, with
a calmer depth below its farther bank, and fully a quarter of a mile
wide, was yet to be crossed.  The business was serious.  All the
chupas went up and down, sounding, long before they found a possible
passage.  All loads were raised higher, the men roped their soaked
clothing on their shoulders, water was dashed repeatedly at our
faces, girths were tightened, and then, with shouts and yells, the
whole caravan plunged into deep water, strong, and almost ice-cold.
Half an hour was spent in that devious ford, without any apparent
progress, for in the dizzy swirl the horses simply seemed treading
the water backwards.  Louder grew the yells as the torrent raged more
hoarsely, the chorus of kabadar grew frantic, the water was up to the
men's armpits and the seat of my saddle, my horse tottered and
swerved several times, the nearing shore presented an abrupt bank
underscooped by the stream.  There was a deeper plunge, an
encouraging shout, and Mr. Redslob's strong horse leapt the bank.
The gopas encouraged mine; he made a desperate effort, but fell short
and rolled over backwards into the Shayok with his rider under him.
A struggle, a moment of suffocation, and I was extricated by strong
arms, to be knocked down again by the rush of the water, to be again
dragged up and hauled and hoisted up the crumbling bank.  I escaped
with a broken rib and some severe bruises, but the horse was drowned.
Mr. Redslob, who had thought that my life could not be saved, and the
Tibetans were so distressed by the accident that I made very light of
it, and only took one day of rest.  The following morning some men
and animals were carried away, and afterwards the ford was impassable
for a fortnight.  Such risks are among the amenities of the great
trade route from India into Central Asia!

The Lower Nubra valley is wilder and narrower than the Upper, its
apricot orchards more luxuriant, its wolf-haunted hippophae and
tamarisk thickets more dense.  Its villages are always close to
ravines, the mouths of which are filled with chod-tens, manis,
prayer-wheels, and religious buildings.  Access to them is usually up
the stony beds of streams over-arched by apricots.  The camping-
grounds are apricot orchards.  The apricot foliage is rich, and the
fruit small but delicious.  The largest fruit tree I saw measured
nine feet six inches in girth six feet from the ground.  Strangers
are welcome to eat as much of the fruit as they please, provided that
they return the stones to the proprietor.  It is true that Nubra
exports dried apricots, and the women were splitting and drying the
fruit on every house roof, but the special raison d'etre of the tree
is the clear, white, fragrant, and highly illuminating oil made from
the kernels by the simple process of crushing them between two
stones.  In every gonpo temple a silver bowl holding from four to six
gallons is replenished annually with this almond-scented oil for the
ever-burning light before the shrine of Buddha.  It is used for
lamps, and very largely in cookery.  Children, instead of being
washed, are rubbed daily with it, and on being weaned at the age of
four or five, are fed for some time, or rather crammed, with balls of
barley-meal made into a paste with it.

At Hundar, a superbly situated village, which we visited twice, we
were received at the house of Gergan the monk, who had accompanied us
throughout.  He is a zemindar, and the large house in which he made
us welcome stands in his own patrimony.  Everything was prepared for
us.  The mud floors were swept, cotton quilts were laid down on the
balconies, blue cornflowers and marigolds, cultivated for religious
ornament, were in all the rooms, and the women were in gala dress and
loaded with coarse jewellery.  Right hearty was the welcome.  Mr.
Redslob loved, and therefore was loved.  The Tibetans to him were not
'natives,' but brothers.  He drew the best out of them.  Their
superstitions and beliefs were not to him 'rubbish,' but subjects for
minute investigation and study.  His courtesy to all was frank and
dignified.  In his dealings he was scrupulously just.  He was
intensely interested in their interests.  His Tibetan scholarship and
knowledge of Tibetan sacred literature gave him almost the standing
of an abbot among them, and his medical skill and knowledge, joyfully
used for their benefit on former occasions, had won their regard.  So
at Hundar, as everywhere else, the elders came out to meet us and cut
the apricot branches away on our road, and the silver horns of the
gonpo above brayed a dissonant welcome.  Along the Indus valley the
servants of Englishmen beat the Tibetans, in the Shayok and Nubra
valleys the Yarkand traders beat and cheat them, and the women are
shy with strangers, but at Hundar they were frank and friendly with
me, saying, as many others had said, 'We will trust any one who comes
with the missionary.'

Gergan's home was typical of the dwellings of the richer cultivators
and landholders.  It was a large, rambling, three-storeyed house, the
lower part of stone, the upper of huge sun-dried bricks.  It was
adorned with projecting windows and brown wooden balconies.  Fuel--
the dried exereta of animals--is too scarce to be used for any but
cooking purposes, and on these balconies in the severe cold of winter
the people sit to imbibe the warm sunshine.  The rooms were large,
ceiled with peeled poplar rods, and floored with split white pebbles
set in clay.  There was a temple on the roof, and in it, on a
platform, were life-size images of Buddha, seated in eternal calm,
with his downcast eyes and mild Hindu face, the thousand-armed Chan-
ra-zigs (the great Mercy), Jam-pal-yangs (the Wisdom), and Chag-na-
dorje (the Justice).  In front on a table or altar were seven small
lamps, burning apricot oil, and twenty small brass cups, containing
minute offerings of rice and other things, changed daily.  There were
prayer-wheels, cymbals, horns and drums, and a prayer-cylinder six
feet high, which it took the strength of two men to turn.  On a shelf
immediately below the idols were the brazen sceptre, bell, and
thunderbolt, a brass lotus blossom, and the spouted brass flagon
decorated with peacocks' feathers, which is used at baptisms, and for
pouring holy water upon the hands at festivals.  In houses in which
there is not a roof temple the best room is set apart for religious
use and for these divinities, which are always surrounded with
musical instruments and symbols of power, and receive worship and
offerings daily, Tibetan Buddhism being a religion of the family and
household.  In his family temple Gergan offered gifts and thanks for
the deliverances of the journey.  He had been assisting Mr. Redslob
for two years in the translation of the New Testament, and had wept
over the love and sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He had even
desired that his son should receive baptism and be brought up as a
Christian, but for himself he 'could not break with custom and his
ancestral creed.'

In the usual living-room of the family a platform, raised only a few
inches, ran partly round the wall.  In the middle of the floor there
was a clay fireplace, with a prayer-wheel and some clay and brass
cooking pots upon it.  A few shelves, fire-bars for roasting barley,
a wooden churn, and some spinning arrangements were the furniture.  A
number of small dark rooms used for sleeping and storage opened from
this, and above were the balconies and reception rooms.  Wooden posts
supported the roofs, and these were wreathed with lucerne, the
firstfruits of the field.  Narrow, steep staircases in all Tibetan
houses lead to the family rooms.  In winter the people live below,
alongside of the animals and fodder.  In summer they sleep in loosely
built booths of poplar branches on the roof.  Gergan's roof was
covered, like others at the time, to the depth of two feet, with hay,
i.e. grass and lucerne, which are wound into long ropes, experience
having taught the Tibetans that their scarce fodder is best preserved
thus from breakage and waste.  I bought hay by the yard for Gyalpo.

Our food in this hospitable house was simple:  apricots, fresh, or
dried and stewed with honey; zho's milk, curds and cheese, sour
cream, peas, beans, balls of barley dough, barley porridge, and
'broth of abominable things.'  Chang, a dirty-looking beer made from
barley, was offered with each meal, and tea frequently, but I took my
own 'on the sly.'  I have mentioned a churn as part of the
'plenishings' of the living-room.  In Tibet the churn is used for
making tea!  I give the recipe.  'For six persons.  Boil a teacupful
of tea in three pints of water for ten minutes with a heaped dessert-
spoonful of soda.  Put the infusion into the churn with one pound of
butter and a small tablespoonful of salt.  Churn until as thick as
cream.'  Tea made after this fashion holds the second place to chang
in Tibetan affections.  The butter according to our thinking is
always rancid, the mode of making it is uncleanly, and it always has
a rank flavour from the goatskin in which it was kept.  Its value is
enhanced by age.  I saw skins of it forty, fifty, and even sixty
years old, which were very highly prized, and would only be opened at
some special family festival or funeral.

During the three days of our visits to Hundar both men and women wore
their festival dresses, and apparently abandoned most of their
ordinary occupations in our honour.  The men were very anxious that I
should be 'amused,' and made many grotesque suggestions on the
subject.  'Why is the European woman always writing or sewing?' they
asked.  'Is she very poor, or has she made a vow?'  Visits to some of
the neighbouring monasteries were eventually proposed, and turned out
most interesting.

The monastery of Deskyid, to which we made a three days' expedition,
is from its size and picturesque situation the most imposing in
Nubra.  Built on a majestic spur of rock rising on one side 2,000
feet perpendicularly from a torrent, the spur itself having an
altitude of 11,000 feet, with red peaks, snow-capped, rising to a
height of over 20,000 feet behind the vast irregular pile of red,
white, and yellow temples, towers, storehouses, cloisters, galleries,
and balconies, rising for 300 feet one above another, hanging over
chasms, built out on wooden buttresses, and surmounted with flags,
tridents, and yaks' tails, a central tower or keep dominating the
whole, it is perhaps the most picturesque object I have ever seen,
well worth the crossing of the Shayok fords, my painful accident, and
much besides.  It looks inaccessible, but in fact can be attained by
rude zigzags of a thousand steps of rock, some natural, others
roughly hewn, getting worse and worse as they rise higher, till the
later zigzags suggest the difficulties of the ascent of the Great
Pyramid.  The day was fearfully hot, 99 degrees in the shade, and the
naked, shining surfaces of purple rock with a metallic lustre
radiated heat.  My 'gallant grey' took me up half-way--a great feat--
and the Tibetans cheered and shouted 'Sharbaz!' ('Well done!') as he
pluckily leapt up the great slippery rock ledges.  After I
dismounted, any number of willing hands hauled and helped me up the
remaining horrible ascent, the rugged rudeness of which is quite
indescribable.  The inner entrance is a gateway decorated with a
yak's head and many Buddhist emblems.  High above, on a rude gallery,
fifty monks were gathered with their musical instruments.  As soon as
the Kan-po or abbot, Punt-sog-sogman (the most perfect Merit),
received us at the gate, the monkish orchestra broke forth in a
tornado of sound of a most tremendous and thrilling quality, which
was all but overwhelming, as the mountain echoes took up and
prolonged the sound of fearful blasts on six-foot silver horns, the
bellowing thunder of six-foot drums, the clash of cymbals, and the
dissonance of a number of monster gongs.  It was not music, but it
was sublime.  The blasts on the horns are to welcome a great
personage, and such to the monks who despised his teaching was the
devout and learned German missionary.  Mr. Redslob explained that I
had seen much of Buddhism in Ceylon and Japan, and wished to see
their temples.  So with our train of gopas, zemindar, peasants, and
muleteers, we mounted to a corridor full of lamas in ragged red
dresses, yellow girdles and yellow caps, where we were presented with
plates of apricots, and the door of the lowest of the seven temples
heavily grated backwards.

The first view, and indeed the whole view of this temple of Wrath or
Justice, was suggestive of a frightful Inferno, with its rows of
demon gods, hideous beyond Western conception, engaged in torturing
writhing and bleeding specimens of humanity.  Demon masks of ancient
lacquer hung from the pillars, naked swords gleamed in motionless
hands, and in a deep recess whose 'darkness' was rendered 'visible'
by one lamp, was that indescribable horror the executioner of the
Lord of Hell, his many brandished arms holding instruments of
torture, and before him the bell, the thunderbolt and sceptre, the
holy water, and the baptismal flagon.  Our joss-sticks fumed on the
still air, monks waved censers, and blasts of dissonant music woke
the semi-subterranean echoes.  In this temple of Justice the younger
lamas spend some hours daily in the supposed contemplation of the
torments reserved for the unholy.  In the highest temple, that of
Peace, the summer sunshine fell on Shakya Thubba and the Buddhist
triad seated in endless serenity.  The walls were covered with
frescoes of great lamas, and a series of alcoves, each with an image
representing an incarnation of Buddha, ran round the temple.  In a
chapel full of monstrous images and piles of medallions made of the
ashes of 'holy' men, the sub-abbot was discoursing to the acolytes on
the religious classics.  In the chapel of meditations, among lighted
incense sticks, monks seated before images were telling their beads
with the object of working themselves into a state of ecstatic
contemplation (somewhat resembling a certain hypnotic trance), for
there are undoubtedly devout lamas, though the majority are idle and
unholy.  It must be understood that all Tibetan literature is
'sacred,' though some of the volumes of exquisite calligraphy on
parchment, which for our benefit were divested of their silken and
brocaded wrappings, contain nothing better than fairy tales and
stories of doubtful morality, which are recited by the lamas to the
accompaniment of incessant cups of chang, as a religious duty when
they visit their 'flocks' in the winter.

The Deskyid gonpo contains 150 lamas, all of whom have been educated
at Lhassa.  A younger son in every household becomes a monk, and
occasionally enters upon his vocation as an acolyte pupil as soon as
weaned.  At the age of thirteen these acolytes are sent to study at
Lhassa for five or seven years, their departure being made the
occasion of a great village feast, with several days of religious
observances.  The close connection with Lhassa, especially in the
case of the yellow lamas, gives Nubra Buddhism a singular interest.
All the larger gonpos have their prototype in Lhassa, all ceremonial
has originated in Lhassa, every instrument of worship has been
consecrated in Lhassa, and every lama is educated in the learning
only to be obtained at Lhassa.  Buddhism is indeed the most salient
feature of Nubra.  There are gonpos everywhere, the roads are lined
by miles of chod-tens, manis, and prayer-mills, and flags inscribed
with sacred words in Sanskrit flutter from every roof.  There are
processions of red and yellow lamas; every act in trade, agriculture,
and social life needs the sanction of sacerdotalism; whatever exists
of wealth is in the gonpos, which also have a monopoly of learning,
and 11,000 monks closely linked with the laity, yet ruling all
affairs of life and death and beyond death, are all connected by
education, tradition, and authority with Lhassa.

We remained long on the blazing roof of the highest tower of the
gonpo, while good Mr. Redslob disputed with the abbot 'concerning the
things pertaining to the kingdom of God.'  The monks standing round
laughed sneeringly.  They had shown a little interest, Mr. R. said,
on his earlier visits.  The abbot accepted a copy of the Gospel of
St. John.  'St. Matthew,' he observed, 'is very laughable reading.'
Blasts of wild music and the braying of colossal horns honoured our
departure, and our difficult descent to the apricot groves of
Deskyid.  On our return to Hundar the grain was ripe on Gergan's
fields.  The first ripe ears were cut off, offered to the family
divinity, and were then bound to the pillars of the house.  In the
comparatively fertile Nubra valley the wheat and barley are cut, not
rooted up.  While they cut the grain the men chant, 'May it increase,
We will give to the poor, we will give to the lamas,' with every
stroke.  They believe that it can be made to multiply both under the
sickle and in the threshing, and perform many religious rites for its
increase while it is in sheaves.  After eight days the corn is
trodden out by oxen on a threshing-floor renewed every year.  After
winnowing with wooden forks, they make the grain into a pyramid,
insert a sacred symbol, and pile upon it the threshing instruments
and sacks, erecting an axe on the apex with its blade turned to the
west, as that is the quarter from which demons are supposed to come.
In the afternoon they feast round it, always giving a portion to the
axe, saying, 'It is yours, it belongs not to me.'  At dusk they pour
it into the sacks again, chanting, 'May it increase.'  But these are
not removed to the granary until late at night, at an hour when the
hands of the demons are too much benumbed by the nightly frost to
diminish the store.  At the beginning of every one of these
operations the presence of lamas is essential, to announce the
auspicious moment, and conduct religious ceremonies.  They receive
fees, and are regaled with abundant chang and the fat of the land.

In Hundar, as elsewhere, we were made very welcome in all the houses.
I have described the dwelling of Gergan.  The poorer peasants occupy
similar houses, but roughly built, and only two-storeyed, and the
floors are merely clay.  In them also the very numerous lower rooms
are used for cattle and fodder only, while the upper part consists of
an inner or winter room, an outer or supper room, a verandah room,
and a family temple.  Among their rude plenishings are large stone
corn chests like sarcophagi, stone bowls from Baltistan, cauldrons,
cooking pots, a tripod, wooden bowls, spoons, and dishes, earthen
pots, and yaks' and sheep's packsaddles.  The garments of the
household are kept in long wooden boxes.

Family life presents some curious features.  In the disposal in
marriage of a girl, her eldest brother has more 'say' than the
parents.  The eldest son brings home the bride to his father's house,
but at a given age the old people are 'shelved,' i.e. they retire to
a small house, which may be termed a 'jointure house,' and the eldest
son assumes the patrimony and the rule of affairs.  I have not met
with a similar custom anywhere in the East.  It is difficult to speak
of Tibetan life, with all its affection and jollity, as 'family
life,' for Buddhism, which enjoins monastic life, and usually
celibacy along with it, on eleven thousand out of a total population
of a hundred and twenty thousand, farther restrains the increase of
population within the limits of sustenance by inculcating and rigidly
upholding the system of polyandry, permitting marriage only to the
eldest son, the heir of the land, while the bride accepts all his
brothers as inferior or subordinate husbands, thus attaching the
whole family to the soil and family roof-tree, the children being
regarded legally as the property of the eldest son, who is addressed
by them as 'Big Father,' his brothers receiving the title of 'Little
Father.'  The resolute determination, on economic as well as
religious grounds, not to abandon this ancient custom, is the most
formidable obstacle in the way of the reception of Christianity by
the Tibetans.  The women cling to it.  They say, 'We have three or
four men to help us instead of one,' and sneer at the dulness and
monotony of European monogamous life!  A woman said to me, 'If I had
only one husband, and he died, I should be a widow; if I have two or
three I am never a widow!'  The word 'widow' is with them a term of
reproach, and is applied abusively to animals and men.  Children are
brought up to be very obedient to fathers and mother, and to take
great care of little ones and cattle.  Parental affection is strong.
Husbands and wives beat each other, but separation usually follows a
violent outbreak of this kind.  It is the custom for the men and
women of a village to assemble when a bride enters the house of her
husbands, each of them presenting her with three rupees.  The Tibetan
wife, far from spending these gifts on personal adornment, looks
ahead, contemplating possible contingencies, and immediately hires a
field, the produce of which is her own, and which accumulates year
after year in a separate granary, so that she may not be portionless
in case she leaves her husband!

It was impossible not to become attached to the Nubra people, we
lived so completely among them, and met with such unbounded goodwill.
Feasts were given in our honour, every gonpo was open to us, monkish
blasts on colossal horns brayed out welcomes, and while nothing could
exceed the helpfulness and alacrity of kindness shown by all, there
was not a thought or suggestion of backsheesh.  The men of the
villages always sat by our camp-fires at night, friendly and jolly,
but never obtrusive, telling stories, discussing local news and the
oppressions exercised by the Kashmiri officials, the designs of
Russia, the advance of the Central Asian Railway, and what they
consider as the weakness of the Indian Government in not annexing the
provinces of the northern frontier.  Many of their ideas and feelings
are akin to ours, and a mutual understanding is not only possible,
but inevitable. {1}

Industry in Nubra is the condition of existence, and both sexes work
hard enough to give a great zest to the holidays on religious
festival days.  Whether in the house or journeying the men are never
seen without the distaff.  They weave also, and make the clothes of
the women and children!  The people are all cultivators, and make
money also by undertaking the transit of the goods of the Yarkand
traders over the lofty passes.  The men plough with the zho, or
hybrid yak, and the women break the clods and share in all other
agricultural operations.  The soil, destitute of manure, which is
dried and hoarded for fuel, rarely produces more than tenfold.  The
'three acres and a cow' is with them four acres of alluvial soil to a
family on an average, with 'runs' for yaks and sheep on the
mountains.  The farms, planted with apricot and other fruit trees, a
prolific loose-grained barley, wheat, peas, and lucerne, are oases in
the surrounding deserts.  The people export apricot oil, dried
apricots, sheep's wool, heavy undyed woollens, a coarse cloth made
from yaks' hair, and pashm, the under fleece of the shawl goat.  They
complained, and I think with good reason, of the merciless exactions
of the Kashmiri officials, but there were no evidences of severe
poverty, and not one beggar was seen.

It was not an easy matter to get back to Leh.  The rise of the Shayok
made it impossible to reach and return by the Digar Pass, and the
alternative route over the Kharzong glacier continued for some time
impracticable--that is, it was perfectly smooth ice.  At length the
news came that a fall of snow had roughened its surface.  A number of
men worked for two days at scaffolding a path, and with great
difficulty, and the loss of one yak from a falling rock, a fruitful
source of fatalities in Tibet, we reached Khalsar, where with great
regret we parted with Tse-ring-don-drub (Life's purpose fulfilled),
the gopa of Sati, whose friendship had been a real pleasure, and to
whose courage and promptitude, in Mr. Redslob's opinion, I owed my
rescue from drowning.  Two days of very severe marching and long and
steep ascents brought us to the wretched hamlet of Kharzong Lar-sa,
in a snowstorm, at an altitude higher than the summit of Mont Blanc.
The servants were all ill of 'pass-poison,' and crept into a cave
along with a number of big Tibetan mastiffs, where they enjoyed the
comfort of semi-suffocation till the next morning, Mr. R. and I, with
some willing Tibetan helpers, pitching our own tents.  The wind was
strong and keen, and with the mercury down at 15 degrees Fahrenheit
it was impossible to do anything but to go to bed in the early
afternoon, and stay there till the next day.  Mr. Redslob took a
severe chill, which produced an alarming attack of pleurisy, from the
effects of which he never fully recovered.

We started on a grim snowy morning, with six yaks carrying our
baggage or ridden by ourselves, four led horses, and a number of
Tibetans, several more having been sent on in advance to cut steps in
the glacier and roughen them with gravel.  Within certain limits the
ground grows greener as one ascends, and we passed upwards among
primulas, asters, a large blue myosotis, gentians, potentillas, and
great sheets of edelweiss.  At the glacier foot we skirted a deep
green lake on snow with a glorious view of the Kharzong glacier and
the pass, a nearly perpendicular wall of rock, bearing up a steep
glacier and a snowfield of great width and depth, above which tower
pinnacles of naked rock.  It presented to all appearance an
impassable barrier rising 2,500 feet above the lake, grand and awful
in the dazzling whiteness of the new-fallen snow.  Thanks to the ice
steps our yaks took us over in four hours without a false step, and
from the summit, a sharp ridge 17,500 feet in altitude, we looked our
last on grimness, blackness, and snow, and southward for many a weary
mile to the Indus valley lying in sunshine and summer.  Fully two
dozen caresses of horses newly dead lay in cavities of the glacier.
Our animals were ill of 'pass-poison,' and nearly blind, and I was
obliged to ride my yak into Leh, a severe march of thirteen hours,
down miles of crumbling zigzags, and then among villages of irrigated
terraces, till the grand view of the Gyalpo's palace, with its air-
hung gonpo and clustering chod-tens, and of the desert city itself,
burst suddenly upon us, and our benumbed and stiffened limbs thawed
in the hot sunshine.  I pitched my tent in a poplar grove for a
fortnight, near the Moravian compounds and close to the travellers'
bungalow, in which is a British Postal Agency, with a Tibetan
postmaster who speaks English, a Christian, much trusted and
respected, named Joldan, in whose intelligence, kindness, and
friendship I found both interest and pleasure.



CHAPTER IV--MANNERS AND CUSTOMS



Joldan, the Tibetan British postmaster in Leh, is a Christian of
spotless reputation.  Every one places unlimited confidence in his
integrity and truthfulness, and his religious sincerity has been
attested by many sacrifices.  He is a Ladaki, and the family property
was at Stok, a few miles from Leh.  He was baptized in Lahul at
twenty-three, his father having been a Christian.  He learned Urdu,
and was for ten years mission schoolmaster in Kylang, but returned to
Leh a few years ago as postmaster.  His 'ancestral dwelling' at Stok
was destroyed by order of the wazir, and his property confiscated,
after many unsuccessful efforts had been made to win him back to
Buddhism.  Afterwards he was detained by the wazir, and compelled to
serve as a sepoy, till Mr. Heyde went to the council and obtained his
release.  His house in Leh has been more than once burned by
incendiaries.  But he pursues a quiet, even course, brings up his
family after the best Christian traditions, refuses Buddhist suitors
for his daughters, unobtrusively but capably helps the Moravian
missionaries, supports his family by steady industry, although of
noble birth, and asks nothing of any one.  His 'good morning' and
'good night,' as he daily passed my tent with clockwork regularity,
were full of cheery friendliness; he gave much useful information
about Tibetan customs, and his ready helpfulness greatly facilitated
the difficult arrangements for my farther journey.

The Leh, which I had left so dull and quiet, was full of strangers,
traffic, and noise.  The neat little Moravian church was filled by a
motley crowd each Sunday, in which the few Christians were
distinguishable by their clean faces and clothes and their devout
air; and the Medical Mission Hospital and Dispensary, which in winter
have an average attendance of only a hundred patients a month, were
daily thronged with natives of India and Kashmir, Baltis, Yarkandis,
Dards, and Tibetans.  In my visits with Dr. Marx I observed, what was
confirmed by four months' experience of the Tibetan villagers, that
rheumatism, inflamed eyes and eyelids, and old age are the chief
Tibetan maladies.  Some of the Dards and Baltis were lepers, and the
natives of India brought malarial fever, dysentery, and other serious
diseases.  The hospital, which is supported by the Indian Government,
is most comfortable, a haven of rest for those who fall sick by the
way.  The hospital assistants are intelligent, thoroughly kind-
hearted young Tibetans, who, by dint of careful drilling and an
affectionate desire to please 'the teacher with the medicine box,'
have become fairly trustworthy.  They are not Christians.

In the neat dispensary at 9 a.m. a gong summons the patients to the
operating room for a short religious service.  Usually about fifty
were present, and a number more, who had some curiosity about 'the
way,' but did not care to be seen at Christian worship, hung about
the doorways.  Dr. Marx read a few verses from the Gospels,
explaining them in a homely manner, and concluded with the Lord's
Prayer.  Then the out-patients were carefully and gently treated,
leprous limbs were bathed and anointed, the wards were visited at
noon and again at sunset, and in the afternoons operations were
performed with the most careful antiseptic precautions, which are
supposed to be used for the purpose of keeping away evil spirits from
the wounds!  The Tibetans, in practice, are very simple in their
applications of medical remedies.  Rubbing with butter is their great
panacea.  They have a dread of small-pox, and instead of burning its
victims they throw them into their rapid torrents.  If an isolated
case occur, the sufferer is carried to a mountain-top, where he is
left to recover or die.  If a small-pox epidemic is in the province,
the people of the villages in which it has not yet appeared place
thorns on their bridges and boundaries, to scare away the evil
spirits which are supposed to carry the disease.  In ordinary
illnesses, if butter taken internally as well as rubbed into the skin
does not cure the patient, the lamas are summoned to the rescue.
They make a mitsap, a half life-size figure of the sick person, dress
it in his or her clothes and ornaments, and place it in the
courtyard, where they sit round it, reading passages from the sacred
classics fitted for the occasion.  After a time, all rise except the
superior lama, who continues reading, and taking small drums in their
left hands, they recite incantations, and dance wildly round the
mitsap, believing, or at least leading the people to believe, that by
this ceremony the malady, supposed to be the work of a demon, will be
transferred to the image.  Afterwards the clothes and ornaments are
presented to them, and the figure is carried in procession out of the
yard and village and is burned.  If the patient becomes worse, the
friends are apt to resort to the medical skill of the missionaries.
If he dies they are blamed, and if he recovers the lamas take the
credit.

At some little distance outside Leh are the cremation grounds--desert
places, destitute of any other vegetation than the Caprifolia
horrida.  Each family has its furnace kept in good repair.  The place
is doleful, and a funeral scene on the only sunless day I experienced
in Ladak was indescribably dismal.  After death no one touches the
corpse but the lamas, who assemble in numbers in the case of a rich
man.  The senior lama offers the first prayers, and lifts the lock
which all Tibetans wear at the back of the head, in order to liberate
the soul if it is still clinging to the body.  At the same time he
touches the region of the heart with a dagger.  The people believe
that a drop of blood on the head marks the spot where the soul has
made its exit.  Any good clothing in which the person has died is
then removed.  The blacksmith beats a drum, and the corpse, covered
with a white sheet next the dress and a coloured one above, is
carried out of the house to be worshipped by the relatives, who walk
seven times round it.  The women then retire to the house, and the
chief lama recites liturgical passages from the formularies.
Afterwards, the relatives retire, and the corpse is carried to the
burning-ground by men who have the same tutelar deity as the
deceased.  The leading lama walks first, then come men with flags,
followed by the blacksmith with the drum, and next the corpse, with
another man beating a drum behind it.  Meanwhile, the lamas are
praying for the repose and quieting of the soul, which is hovering
about, desiring to return.  The attendant friends, each of whom has
carried a piece of wood to the burning-ground, arrange the fuel with
butter on the furnace, the corpse wrapped in the white sheet is put
in, and fire is applied.  The process of destruction in a rich man's
case takes about an hour.  During the burning the lamas read in high,
hoarse monotones, and the blacksmiths beat their drums.  The lamas
depart first, and the blacksmiths, after worshipping the ashes,
shout, 'Have nothing to do with us now,' and run rapidly away.  At
dawn the following day, a man whose business it is searches among the
ashes for the footprints of animals, and according to the footprints
found, so it is believed will be the re-birth of the soul.

Some of the ashes are taken to the gonpos, where the lamas mix them
with clay, put them into oval or circular moulds, and stamp them with
the image of Buddha.  These are preserved in chod-tens, and in the
house of the nearest relative of the deceased; but in the case of
'holy' men, they are retained in the gonpos, where they can be
purchased by the devout.  After a cremation much chang is consumed by
the friends, who make presents to the bereaved family.  The value of
each is carefully entered in a book, so that a precise return may be
made when a similar occasion occurs.  Until the fourth day after
death it is believed to be impossible to quiet the soul.  On that day
a piece of paper is inscribed with prayers and requests to the soul
to be quiet, and this is burned by the lamas with suitable
ceremonies; and rites of a more or less elaborate kind are afterwards
performed for the repose of the soul, accompanied with prayers that
it may get 'a good path' for its re-birth, and food is placed in
conspicuous places about the house, that it may understand that its
relatives are willing to support it.  The mourners for some time wear
wretched clothes, and neither dress their hair nor wash their faces.
Every year the lamas sell by auction the clothing and ornaments,
which are their perquisites at funerals. {2}

The Moravian missionaries have opened a school in Leh, and the wazir,
finding that the Leh people are the worst educated in the country,
ordered that one child at least in each family should be sent to it.
This awakened grave suspicions, and the people hunted for reasons for
it.  'The boys are to be trained as porters, and made to carry
burdens over the mountains,' said some.  'Nay,' said others, 'they
are to be sent to England and made Christians of.'  [All foreigners,
no matter what their nationality is, are supposed to be English.]
Others again said, 'They are to be kidnapped,' and so the decree was
ignored, till Mr. Redslob and Dr. Marx went among the parents and
explained matters, and a large attendance was the result; for the
Tibetans of the trade route have come to look upon the acquisition of
'foreign learning' as the stepping-stone to Government appointments
at ten rupees per month.  Attendance on religious instruction was
left optional, but after a time sixty pupils were regularly present
at the daily reading and explanation of the Gospels.  Tibetan fathers
teach their sons to write, to read the sacred classics, and to
calculate with a frame of balls on wires.  If farther instruction is
thought desirable, the boys are sent to the lamas, and even to the
schools at Lhassa.  The Tibetans willingly receive and read
translations of our Christian books, and some go so far as to think
that their teachings are 'stronger' than those of their own,
indicating their opinions by tearing pages out of the Gospels and
rolling them up into pills, which are swallowed in the belief that
they are an effective charm.  Sorcery is largely used in the
treatment of the sick.  The books which instruct in the black art are
known as 'black books.'  Those which treat of medicine are termed
'blue books.'  Medical knowledge is handed down from father to son.
The doctors know the virtues of in any of the plants of the country,
quantities of which they mix up together while reciting magical
formulas.

I was heartily sorry to leave Leh, with its dazzling skies and
abounding colour and movement, its stirring topics of talk, and the
culture and exceeding kindness of the Moravian missionaries.
Helpfulness was the rule.  Gergan came over the Kharzong glacier on
purpose to bring me a prayer-wheel; Lob-sang and Tse-ring-don-drub,
the hospital assistants, made me a tent carpet of yak's hair cloth,
singing as they sewed; and Joldan helped to secure transport for the
twenty-two days' journey to Kylang.  Leh has few of what Europeans
regard as travelling necessaries.  The brick tea which I purchased
from a Lhassa trader was disgusting.  I afterwards understood that
blood is used in making up the blocks.  The flour was gritty, and a
leg of mutton turned out to be a limb of a goat of much experience.
There were no straps, or leather to make them of, in the bazaar, and
no buckles; and when the latter were provided by Mr. Redslob, the old
man who came to sew them upon a warm rug which I had made for Gyalpo
out of pieces of carpet and hair-cloth put them on wrongly three
times, saying after each failure, 'I'm very foolish.  Foreign ways
are so wonderful!'  At times the Tibetans say, 'We're as stupid as
oxen,' and I was inclined to think so, as I stood for two hours
instructing the blacksmith about making shoes for Gyalpo, which kept
turning out either too small for a mule or too big for a dray-horse.

I obtained two Lahul muleteers with four horses, quiet, obliging men,
and two superb yaks, which were loaded with twelve days' hay and
barley for my horse.  Provisions for the whole party for the same
time had to be carried, for the route is over an uninhabited and arid
desert.  Not the least important part of my outfit was a letter from
Mr. Redslob to the headman or chief of the Chang-pas or Champas, the
nomadic tribes of Rupchu, to whose encampment I purposed to make a
detour.  These nomads had on two occasions borrowed money from the
Moravian missionaries for the payment of the Kashmiri tribute, and
had repaid it before it was due, showing much gratitude for the
loans.

Dr. Marx accompanied me for the three first days.  The few native
Christians in Leh assembled in the gay garden plot of the lowly
mission-house to shake hands and wish me a good journey, and not a
few who were not Christians, some of them walking for the first hour
beside our horses.  The road from Leh descends to a rude wooden
bridge over the Indus, a mighty stream even there, over blazing
slopes of gravel dignified by colossal manis and chod-tens in long
lines, built by the former kings of Ladak.  On the other side of the
river gravel slopes ascend towards red mountains 20,000 feet in
height.  Then comes a rocky spur crowned by the imposing castle of
the Gyalpo, the son of the dethroned king of Ladak, surmounted by a
forest of poles from which flutter yaks' tails and long streamers
inscribed with prayers.  Others bear aloft the trident, the emblem of
Siva.  Carefully hewn zigzags, entered through a much-decorated and
colossal chod-ten, lead to the castle.  The village of Stok, the
prettiest and most prosperous in Ladak, fills up the mouth of a gorge
with its large farm-houses among poplar, apricot, and willow
plantations, and irrigated terraces of barley; and is imposing as
well as pretty, for the two roads by which it is approached are
avenues of lofty chod-tens and broad manis, all in excellent repair.
Knolls, and deeply coloured spurs of naked rock, most picturesquely
crowded with chod-tens, rise above the greenery, breaking the purple
gloom of the gorge which cuts deeply into the mountains, and supplies
from its rushing glacier torrent the living waters which create this
delightful oasis.

The gopa came forth to meet us, bearing apricots and cheeses as the
Gyalpo's greeting, and conducted us to the camping-ground, a sloping
lawn in a willow-wood, with many a natural bower of the graceful
Clematis orientalis.  The tents were pitched, afternoon tea was on a
table outside, a clear, swift stream made fitting music, the
dissonance of the ceaseless beating of gongs and drums in the castle
temple was softened by distance, the air was cool, a lemon light
bathed the foreground, and to the north, across the Indus, the great
mountains of the Leh range, with every cleft defined in purple or
blue, lifted their vermilion peaks into a rosy sky.  It was the
poetry and luxury of travel.

At Leh I was obliged to dismiss the seis for prolonged misconduct and
cruelty to Gyalpo, and Mando undertook to take care of him.  The
animal had always been held by two men while the seis groomed him
with difficulty, but at Stok, when Mando rubbed him down, he quietly
went on feeding and laid his lovely head on the lad's shoulder with a
soft cooing sound.  From that moment Mando could do anything with
him, and a singular attachment grew up between man and horse.

Towards sunset we were received by the Gyalpo.  The castle loses
nothing of its picturesqueness on a nearer view, and everything about
it is trim and in good order, it is a substantial mass of stone
building on a lofty rock, the irregularities of which have been taken
most artistic advantage of in order to give picturesque irregularity
to the edifice, which, while six storeys high in some places, is only
three in others.  As in the palace of Leh, the walls slope inwards
from the base, where they are ten feet thick, and projecting
balconies of brown wood and grey stone relieve their monotony.  We
were received at the entrance by a number of red lamas, who took us
up five flights of rude stairs to the reception room, where we were
introduced to the Gyalpo, who was in the midst of a crowd of monks,
and, except that his hair was not shorn, and that he wore a silver
brocade cap and large gold earrings and bracelets, was dressed in red
like them.  Throneless and childless, the Gyalpo has given himself up
to religion.  He has covered the castle roof with Buddhist emblems
(not represented in the sketch).  From a pole, forty feet long, on
the terrace floats a broad streamer of equal length, completely
covered with Aum mani padne hun, and he has surrounded himself with
lamas, who conduct nearly ceaseless services in the sanctuary.  The
attainment of merit, as his creed leads him to understand it, is his
one aim in life.  He loves the seclusion of Stok, and rarely visits
the palace in Leh, except at the time of the winter games, when the
whole population assembles in cheery, orderly crowds, to witness
races, polo and archery matches, and a species of hockey.  He
interests himself in the prosperity of Stok, plants poplars, willows,
and fruit trees, and keeps the castle maims and chod-tens in
admirable repair.

Stok Castle is as massive as any of our mediaeval buildings, but is
far lighter and roomier.  It is most interesting to see a style of
architecture and civilisation which bears not a solitary trace of
European influence, not even in Manchester cottons or Russian
gimcracks.  The Gyalpo's room was only roofed for six feet within the
walls, where it was supported by red pillars.  Above, the deep blue
Tibetan sky was flushing with the red of sunset, and from a noble
window with a covered stone balcony there was an enchanting prospect
of red ranges passing into translucent amethyst.  The partial ceiling
is painted in arabesques, and at one end of the room is an alcove,
much enriched with bold wood carving.

The Gyalpo was seated on a carpet on the floor, a smooth-faced,
rather stupid-looking man of twenty-eight.  He placed us on a carpet
beside him, and coffee, honey, and apricots were brought in, but the
conversation flagged.  He neither suggested anything nor took up Dr.
Marx's suggestions.  Fortunately, we had brought our sketch-books,
and the views of several places were recognised, and were found
interesting.  The lamas and servants, who had remained respectfully
standing, sat down on the floor, and even the Gyalpo became animated.
So our visit ended successfully.

There is a doorway from the reception room into the sanctuary, and
after a time fully thirty lamas passed in and began service, but the
Gyalpo only stood on his carpet.  There is only a half light in this
temple, which is further obscured by scores of smoked and dusty
bannerets of gold and silver brocade hanging from the roof.  In
addition to the usual Buddhist emblems there are musical instruments,
exquisitely inlaid, or enriched with niello work of gold and silver
of great antiquity, and bows of singular strength, requiring two men
to bend them, which are made of small pieces of horn cleverly joined.
Lamas gabbled liturgies at railroad speed, beating drums and clashing
cymbals as an accompaniment, while others blew occasional blasts on
the colossal silver horns or trumpets, which probably resemble those
with which Jericho was encompassed.  The music, the discordant and
high-pitched monotones, and the revolting odours of stale smoke of
juniper chips, of rancid butter, and of unwashed woollen clothes
which drifted through the doorway, were over-powering.  Attempted
fights among the horses woke me often during the night, and the sound
of worship was always borne over the still air.

Dr. Marx left on the third day, after we had visited the monastery of
Hemis, the richest in Ladak, holding large landed property and
possessing much metallic wealth, including a chod-ten of silver and
gold, thirty feet high, in one of its many halls, approached by gold-
plated silver steps and incrusted with precious stones; there is also
much fine work in brass and bronze.  Hemis abounds in decorated
buildings most picturesquely placed, it has three hundred lamas, and
is regarded as 'the sight' of Ladak.

At Upschi, after a day's march over blazing gravel, I left the
rushing olive-green Indus, which I had followed from the bridge of
Khalsi, where a turbulent torrent, the Upshi water, joins it,
descending through a gorge so narrow that the track, which at all
times is blasted on the face of the precipice, is occasionally
scaffolded.  A very extensive rock-slip had carried away the path and
rendered several fords necessary, and before I reached it rumour was
busy with the peril.  It was true that the day before several mules
had been carried away and drowned, that many loads had been
sacrificed, and that one native traveller had lost his life.  So I
started my caravan at daybreak, to get the water at its lowest, and
ascended the gorge, which is an absolutely verdureless rift in
mountains of most brilliant and fantastic stratification.  At the
first ford Mando was carried down the river for a short distance.
The second was deep and strong, and a caravan of valuable goods had
been there for two days, afraid to risk the crossing.  My Lahulis,
who always showed a great lack of stamina, sat down, sobbing and
beating their breasts.  Their sole wealth, they said, was in their
baggage animals, and the river was 'wicked,' and 'a demon' lived in
it who paralysed the horses' legs.  Much experience of Orientals and
of travel has taught me to surmount difficulties in my own way, so,
beckoning to two men from the opposite side, who came over shakily
with linked arms, I took the two strong ropes which I always carry on
my saddle, and roped these men together and to Gyalpo's halter with
one, and lashed Mando and the guide together with the other, giving
them the stout thongs behind the saddle to hold on to, and in this
compact mass we stood the strong rush of the river safely, the
paralysing chill of its icy waters being a far more obvious peril.
All the baggage animals were brought over in the same way, and the
Lahulis praised their gods.

At Gya, a wild hamlet, the last in Ladak proper, I met a working
naturalist whom I had seen twice before, and 'forgathered' with him
much of the way.  Eleven days of solitary desert succeeded.  The
reader has probably understood that no part of the Indus, Shayok, and
Nubra valleys, which make up most of the province of Ladak, is less
than 9,500 feet in altitude, and that the remainder is composed of
precipitous mountains with glaciers and snowfields, ranging from
18,000 to 25,000 feet, and that the villages are built mainly on
alluvial soil where possibilities of irrigation exist.  But Rupchu
has peculiarities of its own.

Between Gya and Darcha, the first hamlet in Lahul, are three huge
passes, the Toglang, 18,150 feet in altitude, the Lachalang, 17,500,
and the Baralacha, 16,000,--all easy, except for the difficulties
arising from the highly rarefied air.  The mountains of the region,
which are from 20,000 to 23,000 feet in altitude, are seldom
precipitous or picturesque, except the huge red needles which guard
the Lachalang Pass, but are rather 'monstrous protuberances,' with
arid surfaces of disintegrated rock.  Among these are remarkable
plateaux, which are taken advantage of by caravans, and which have
elevations of from 14,000 to 15,000 feet.  There are few permanent
rivers or streams, the lakes are salt, beside the springs, and on the
plateaux there is scanty vegetation, chiefly aromatic herbs; but on
the whole Rupchu is a desert of arid gravel.  Its only inhabitants
are 500 nomads, and on the ten marches of the trade route, the bridle
paths, on which in some places labour has been spent, the tracks, not
always very legible, made by the passage of caravans, and rude dykes,
behind which travellers may shelter themselves from the wind, are the
only traces of man.  Herds of the kyang, the wild horse of some
naturalists, and the wild ass of others, graceful and beautiful
creatures, graze within gunshot of the track without alarm, I had
thought Ladak windy, but Rupchu is the home of the winds, and the
marches must be arranged for the quietest time of the day.  Happily
the gales blow with clockwork regularity, the day wind from the south
and south-west rising punctually at 9 a.m. and attaining its maximum
at 2.30, while the night wind from the north and north-east rises
about 9 p.m. and ceases about 5 a.m.  Perfect silence is rare.  The
highly rarefied air, rushing at great speed, when at its worst
deprives the traveller of breath, skins his face and hands, and
paralyses the baggage animals.  In fact, neither man nor beast can
face it.  The horses 'turn tail' and crowd together, and the men
build up the baggage into a wall and crouch in the lee of it.  The
heat of the solar rays is at the same time fearful.  At Lachalang, at
a height of over 15,000 feet, I noted a solar temperature of 152
degrees, only 35 degrees below the boiling point of water in the same
region, which is about 187 degrees.  To make up for this, the mercury
falls below the freezing point every night of the year, even in
August the difference of temperature in twelve hours often exceeding
120 degrees!  The Rupchu nomads, however, delight in this climate of
extremes, and regard Leh as a place only to be visited in winter, and
Kulu and Kashmir as if they were the malarial swamps of the Congo!

We crossed the Toglang Pass, at a height of 18,150 feet, with less
suffering from ladug than on either the Digar or Kharzong Passes.
Indeed Gyalpo carried me over it stopping to take breath every few
yards.  It was then a long dreary march to the camping-ground of
Tsala, where the Chang-pas spend the four summer months; the guides
and baggage animals lost the way and did not appear until the next
day, and in consequence the servants slept unsheltered in the snow.
News travels as if by magic in desert places.  Towards evening, while
riding by a stream up a long and tedious valley, I saw a number of
moving specks on the crest of a hill, and down came a surge of
horsemen riding furiously.  Just as they threatened to sweep Gyalpo
away, they threw their horses on their haunches, in one moment were
on the ground, which they touched with their foreheads, presented me
with a plate of apricots, and the next vaulted into their saddles,
and dashing up the valley were soon out of sight.  In another half-
hour there was a second wild rush of horsemen, the headman
dismounted, threw himself on his face, kissed my hand, vaulted into
the saddle, and then led a swirl of his tribesmen at a gallop in
ever-narrowing circles round me till they subsided into the decorum
of an escort.  An elevated plateau with some vegetation on it, a row
of forty tents, 'black' but not 'comely,' a bright rapid river, wild
hills, long lines of white sheep converging towards the camp, yaks
rampaging down the hillsides, men running to meet us, and women and
children in the distance were singularly idealised in the golden glow
of a cool, moist evening.

Two men took my bridle, and two more proceeded to put their hands on
my stirrups; but Gyalpo kicked them to the right and left amidst
shrieks of laughter, after which, with frantic gesticulations and
yells of 'Kabardar!', I was led through the river in triumph and
hauled off my horse.  The tribesmen were much excited.  Some dashed
about, performing feats of horsemanship; others brought apricots and
dough-balls made with apricot oil, or rushed to the tents, returning
with rugs; some cleared the camping-ground of stones and raised a
stone platform, and a flock of goats, exquisitely white from the
daily swims across the river, were brought to be milked.  Gradually
and shrinkingly the women and children drew near; but Mr. -'s Bengali
servant threatened them with a whip, when there was a general
stampede, the women running like hares.  I had trained my servants to
treat the natives courteously, and addressed some rather strong
language to the offender, and afterwards succeeded in enticing all
the fugitives back by showing my sketches, which gave boundless
pleasure and led to very numerous requests for portraits!  The gopa,
though he had the oblique Mongolian eyes, was a handsome young man,
with a good nose and mouth.  He was dressed like the others in a
girdled chaga of coarse serge, but wore a red cap turned up over the
ears with fine fur, a silver inkhorn, and a Yarkand knife in a chased
silver sheath in his girdle, and canary-coloured leather shoes with
turned-up points.  The people prepared one of their own tents for me,
and laying down a number of rugs of their own dyeing and weaving,
assured me of an unbounded welcome as a friend of their 'benefactor,'
Mr. Redslob, and then proposed that I should visit their tents
accompanied by all the elders of the tribe.



CHAPTER V--CLIMATE AND NATURAL FEATURES



The last chapter left me with the chief and elders of the Chang-pas
starting on 'a round of visits,' and it was not till nightfall that
the solemn ceremony was concluded.  Each of the fifty tents was
visited:  at every one a huge, savage Tibetan mastiff made an attempt
to fly at me, and was pounced upon and held down by a woman little
bigger than himself, and in each cheese and milk were offered and
refused.  In all I received a hearty welcome for the sake of the
'great father,' Mr. Redslob, who designated these people as 'the
simplest and kindliest people on earth.'

This Chang-pa tribe, numbering five hundred souls, makes four moves
in the year, dividing in summer, and uniting in a valley very free
from snow in the winter.  They are an exclusively pastoral people,
and possess large herds of yaks and ponies and immense flocks of
sheep and goats, the latter almost entirely the beautiful 'shawl
goat,' from the undergrowth at the base of the long hair of which the
fine Kashmir shawls are made.  This pashm is a provision which Nature
makes against the intense cold of these altitudes, and grows on yaks,
sheep, and dogs, as well as on most of the wild animals.  The sheep
is the big, hornless, flop-eared huniya.  The yaks and sheep are the
load carriers of Rupchu.  Small or easily divided merchandise is
carried by sheep, and bulkier goods by yaks, and the Chang-pas make a
great deal of money by carrying for the Lahul, Central Ladak, and
Rudok merchants, their sheep travelling as far as Gar in Chinese
Tibet.  They are paid in grain as well as coin, their own country
producing no farinaceous food.  They have only two uses for silver
money.  With part of their gains they pay the tribute to Kashmir, and
they melt the rest, and work it into rude personal ornaments.
According to an old arrangement between Lhassa and Leh, they carry
brick tea free for the Lhassa merchants.  They are Buddhists, and
practise polyandry, but their young men do not become lamas, and
owing to the scarcity of fuel, instead of burning their dead, they
expose them with religious rites face upwards in desolate places, to
be made away with by the birds of the air.  All their tents have a
god-shelf, on which are placed small images and sacred emblems.  They
dress as the Ladakis, except that the men wear shoes with very high
turned-up points, and that the women, in addition to the perak, the
usual ornament, place on the top of the head a large silver coronet
with three tassels.  In physiognomy they resemble the Ladakis, but
the Mongolian type is purer, the eyes are more oblique, and the
eyelids have a greater droop, the chins project more, and the mouths
are handsomer.  Many of the men, including the headman, were quite
good-looking, but the upper lips of the women were apt to be 'tucked
up,' displaying very square teeth, as we have shown in the preceding
chapter.

The roofs of the Tsala tents are nearly flat, and the middle has an
opening six inches wide along its whole length.  An excavation from
twelve to twenty-four inches deep is made in the soil, and a rude
wall of stones, about one foot high, is built round it, over which
the tent cloth, made in narrow widths of yak's or goat's hair, is
extended by ropes led over forked sticks.  There is no ridge pole,
and the centre is supported on short poles, to the projecting tops of
which prayer flags and yaks' tails are attached.  The interior,
though dark, is not too dark for weaving, and each tent has its loom,
for the Chang-pas not only weave their coarse woollen clothing and
hair cloth for saddlebags and tents, but rugs of wool dyed in rich
colours made from native roots.  The largest tent was twenty feet by
fifteen, but the majority measured only fourteen feet by eight and
ten feet.  The height in no case exceeded six feet.  In these much
ventilated and scarcely warmed shelters these hardy nomads brave the
tremendous winds and winter rigours of their climate at altitudes
varying from 13,000 to 14,500 feet.  Water freezes every night of the
year, and continually there are differences in temperature of 100
degrees between noon and midnight.  In addition to the fifty dwelling
tents there was one considerably larger, in which the people store
their wool and goat's hair till the time arrives for taking them to
market.  The floor of several of the tents was covered with rugs, and
besides looms and confused heaps of what looked like rubbish, there
were tea-churns, goatskin churns, sheep and goat skins, children's
bows and arrows, cooking pots, and heaps of the furze root, which is
used as fuel.

They expended much of this scarce commodity upon me in their
hospitality, and kept up a bonfire all night.  They mounted their
wiry ponies and performed feats of horsemanship, in one of which all
the animals threw themselves on their hind legs in a circle when a
man in the centre clapped his hands; and they crowded my tent to see
my sketches, and were not satisfied till I executed some daubs
professing to represent some of the elders.  The excitement of their
first visit from a European woman lasted late into the night, and
when they at last retired they persisted in placing a guard of honour
round my tent.

In the morning there was ice on the pools, and the snow lay three
inches deep.  Savage life had returned to its usual monotony, and the
care of flocks and herds.  In the early afternoon the chief and many
of the men accompanied us across the ford, and we parted with mutual
expressions of good will.  The march was through broad gravelly
valleys, among 'monstrous protuberances' of red and yellow gravel,
elevated by their height alone to the dignity of mountains.  Hail
came on, and Gyalpo showed his high breeding by facing it when the
other animals 'turned tail' and huddled together, and a storm of
heavy sleet of some hours' duration burst upon us just as we reached
the dismal camping-ground of Rukchen, guarded by mountain giants
which now and then showed glimpses of their white skirts through the
dark driving mists.  That was the only 'weather' in four months.

A large caravan from the heat and sunshine of Amritsar was there.
The goods were stacked under goat's hair shelters, the mules were
huddled together without food, and their shivering Panjabi drivers,
muffled in blankets which only left one eye exposed, were grubbing up
furze roots wherewith to make smoky fires.  My baggage, which had
arrived previously, was lying soaking in the sleet, while the
wretched servants were trying to pitch the tent in the high wind.
They had slept out in the snow the night before, and were mentally as
well as physically benumbed.  Their misery had a comic side to it,
and as the temperature made me feel specially well, I enjoyed
bestirring myself and terrified Mando, who was feebly 'fadding' with
a rag, by giving Gyalpo a vigorous rub-down with a bath-towel.
Hassan Khan, with chattering teeth and severe neuralgia, muffled in
my 'fisherman's hood' under his turban, was trying to do his work
with his unfailing pluck.  Mando was shedding futile tears over wet
furze which would not light, the small wet corrie was dotted over
with the Amritsar men sheltering under rocks and nursing hopeless
fires, and fifty mules and horses, with dejected heads and dripping
tails, and their backs to the merciless wind, were attempting to pick
some food from scanty herbage already nibbled to the root.  My tent
was a picture of grotesque discomfort.  The big stones had not been
picked out from the gravel, the bed stood in puddles, the thick horse
blanket was draining over the one chair, the servant's spare clothing
and stores were on the table, the yaks' loads of wet hay and the
soaked grain sack filled up most of the space; a wet candle sputtered
and went out, wet clothes dripped from the tent hook, and every now
and then Hassan Khan looked in with one eye, gasping out, 'Mem Sahib,
I can no light the fire!'  Perseverance succeeds eventually, and cups
of a strong stimulant made of Burroughes and Wellcome's vigorous
'valoid' tincture of ginger and hot water, revived the men all round.
Such was its good but innocent effect, that early the next morning
Hassan came into my tent with two eyes, and convulsed with laughter.
'The pony men' and Mando, he said, were crying, and the coolie from
Leh, who before the storm had wanted to go the whole way to Simla,
after refusing his supper had sobbed all night under the 'flys' of my
tent, while I was sleeping soundly.  Afterwards I harangued them, and
told them I would let them go, and help them back; I could not take
such poor-spirited miserable creatures with me, and I would keep the
Tartars who had accompanied me from Tsala.  On this they protested,
and said, with a significant gesture, I might cut their throats if
they cried any more, and begged me to try them again; and as we had
no more bad weather, there was no more trouble.

The marches which followed were along valleys, plains, and mountain-
sides of gravel, destitute of herbage, except a shrivelled artemisia,
and on one occasion the baggage animals were forty hours without
food.  Fresh water was usually very scarce, and on the Lingti plains
was only obtainable by scooping it up from the holes left by the feet
of animals.  Insect life was rare, and except grey doves, the 'dove
of the valleys,' which often flew before us for miles down the
ravines, no birds were to be seen.  On the other hand, there were
numerous herds of kyang, which in the early mornings came to drink of
the water by which the camps were pitched.  By looking through a
crevice of my tent I saw them distinctly, without alarming them.  In
one herd I counted forty.

They kept together in families, sire, dam, and foal.  The animal
certainly is under fourteen hands, and resembles a mule rather than a
horse or ass.  The noise, which I had several opportunities of
hearing, is more like a neigh than a bray, but lacks completeness.
The creature is light brown, almost fawn colour, fading into white
under his body, and he has a dark stripe on his back, but not a
cross.  His ears are long, and his tail is like that of a mule.  He
trots and gallops, and when alarmed gallops fast, but as he is not
worth hunting, he has not a great dread of humanity, and families of
kyang frequently grazed within two hundred and fifty yards of us.  He
is about as untamable as the zebra, and with his family
affectionateness leads apparently a very happy life.

On the Kwangchu plateau, at an elevation of 15,000 feet, I met with a
form of life which has a great interest of its own, sheep caravans,
numbering among them 7,000 sheep, each animal with its wool on, and
equipped with a neat packsaddle and two leather or hair-cloth bags,
and loaded with from twenty-five to thirty-two pounds of salt or
borax.  These, and many more which we passed, were carrying their
loads to Patseo, a mountain valley in Lahul, where they are met by
traders from Northern British India.  The sheep are shorn, and the
wool and loads are exchanged for wheat and a few other commodities,
with which they return to Tibet, the whole journey taking from nine
months to a year.  As the sheep live by grazing the scanty herbage on
the march, they never accomplish more than ten miles a day, and as
they often become footsore, halts of several days are frequently
required.  Sheep, dead or dying, with the birds of prey picking out
their eyes, were often met with.  Ordinarily these caravans are led
by a man, followed by a large goat much bedecked and wearing a large
bell.  Each driver has charge of one hundred sheep.  These men, of
small stature but very thickset, with their wide smooth faces, loose
clothing of sheepskin with the wool outside, with their long coarse
hair flying in the wind, and their uncouth shouts in a barbarous
tongue, are much like savages.  They sing wild chants as they picket
their sheep in long double lines at night, and with their savage
mastiffs sleep unsheltered under the frosty skies under the lee of
their piled-up saddlebags.  On three nights I camped beside their
caravans, and walked round their orderly lines of sheep and their
neat walls of saddlebags; and, far from showing any discourtesy or
rude curiosity, they held down their fierce dogs and exhibited their
ingenious mode of tethering their animals, and not one of the many
articles which my servants were in the habit of leaving outside the
tents was on any occasion abstracted.  The dogs, however, were less
honest than their masters, and on one night ran away with half a
sheep, and I should have fared poorly had not Mr. -- shot some grey
doves.

Marches across sandy and gravelly valleys, and along arid mountain-
sides spotted with a creeping furze and cushions of a yellow-green
moss which seems able to exist without moisture, fords of the Sumgyal
and Tserap rivers, and the crossing of the Lachalang Pass at an
altitude of 17,500 feet in severe frost, occupied several uneventful
days.  Of the three lofty passes on this route, the Toglang, which is
higher, and the Baralacha, which is lower, are featureless billows of
gravel, over which a carriage might easily be driven.  Not so is the
Lachalang, though its well-made zigzags are easy for laden animals.
The approach to it is fantastic, among precipitous mountains of red
sandstone, and red rocks weathered into pillars, men's heads, and
numerous groups of gossipy old women from thirty to fifty feet high,
in flat hats and long circular cloaks!  Entering by red gates of rock
into a region of gigantic mountains, and following up a crystal
torrent, the valley narrowing to a gorge, and the gorge to a chasm
guarded by nearly perpendicular needles of rock flaming in the
westering sun, we forded the river at the chasm's throat, and camped
on a velvety green lawn just large enough for a few tents, absolutely
walled in by abrupt mountains 18,000 and 19,000 feet in height.  Long
after the twilight settled down on us, the pinnacles above glowed in
warm sunshine, and the following morning, when it was only dawn
below, and the still river pools were frozen and the grass was white
with hoar-frost, the morning sun reddened the snow-peaks and kindled
into vermilion the red needles of Lachalang.  That camping-ground
under such conditions is the grandest and most romantic spot of the
whole journey.

Verdureless and waterless stretches, in crossing which our poor
animals were two nights without food, brought us to the glacier-blue
waters of the Serchu, tumbling along in a deep broad gash, and
farther on to a lateral torrent which is the boundary between Rupchu,
tributary to Kashmir, and Lahul or British Tibet, under the rule of
the Empress of India.  The tents were ready pitched in a grassy
hollow by the river; horses, cows, and goats were grazing near them,
and a number of men were preparing food.  A Tibetan approached me,
accompanied by a creature in a nondescript dress speaking Hindustani
volubly.  On a band across his breast were the British crown, and a
plate with the words 'Commissioner's chaprassie, Kulu district.'  I
never felt so extinguished.  Liberty seemed lost, and the romance of
the desert to have died out in one moment!  At the camping-ground I
found rows of salaaming Lahulis drawn up, and Hassan Khan in a state
which was a compound of pomposity and jubilant excitement.  The
tahsildar (really the Tibetan honorary magistrate), he said, had
received instructions from the Lieutenant-Governor of the Panjab that
I was on the way to Kylang, and was to 'want for nothing.'  So
twenty-four men, nine horses, a flock of goats, and two cows had been
waiting for me for three days in the Serchu valley.  I wrote a polite
note to the magistrate, and sent all back except the chaprassie, the
cows, and the cowherd, my servants looking much crestfallen.

We crossed the Baralacha Pass in wind and snow showers into a climate
in which moisture began to be obvious.  At short distances along the
pass, which extends for many miles, there are rude semicircular
walls, three feet high, all turned in one direction, in the shelter
of which travellers crouch to escape from the strong cutting wind.
My men suffered far more than on the two higher passes, and it was
difficult to dislodge them from these shelters, where they lay
groaning, gasping, and suffering from vertigo and nose-bleeding.  The
cold was so severe that I walked over the loftiest part of the pass,
and for the first time felt slight effects of the ladug.  At a height
of 15,000 feet, in the midst of general desolation, grew, in the
shelter of rocks, poppies (Mecanopsis aculeata), blue as the Tibetan
skies, their centres filled with a cluster of golden-yellow stamens,-
-a most charming sight.  Ten or twelve of these exquisite blossoms
grow on one stalk, and stalk, leaf, and seed-vessels are guarded by
very stiff thorns.  Lower down flowers abounded, and at the camping-
ground of Patseo (12,000 feet), where the Tibetan sheep caravans
exchange their wool, salt, and borax for grain, the ground was
covered with soft greensward, and real rain fell.  Seen from the
Baralacha Pass are vast snowfields, glaciers, and avalanche slopes.
This barrier, and the Rotang, farther south, close this trade route
practically for seven months of the year, for they catch the monsoon
rains, which at that altitude are snows from fifteen to thirty feet
deep; while on the other side of the Baralacha and throughout Rupchu
and Ladak the snowfall is insignificant.  So late as August, when I
crossed, there were four perfect snow bridges over the Bhaga, and
snowfields thirty-six feet deep along its margin.  At Patseo the
tahsildar, with a retinue and animals laden with fodder, came to pay
his respects to me, and invited me to his house, three days' journey.
These were the first human beings we had seen for three days.

A few miles south of the Baralacha Pass some birch trees appeared on
a slope, the first natural growth of timber that I had seen since
crossing the Zoji La.  Lower down there were a few more, then stunted
specimens of the pencil cedar, and the mountains began to show a
shade of green on their lower slopes.  Butterflies appeared also, and
a vulture, a grand bird on the wing, hovered ominously over us for
some miles, and was succeeded by an equally ominous raven.  On the
excellent bridle-track cut on the face of the precipices which
overhang the Bhaga, there is in nine miles only one spot in which it
is possible to pitch a five-foot tent, and at Darcha, the first
hamlet in Lahul, the only camping-ground is on the house roofs.
There the Chang-pas and their yaks and horses who had served me
pleasantly and faithfully from Tsala left me, and returned to the
freedom of their desert life.  At Kolang, the next hamlet, where the
thunder of the Bhaga was almost intolerable, Hara Chang, the
magistrate, one of the thakurs or feudal proprietors of Lahul, with
his son and nephew and a large retinue, called on me; and the next
morning Mr. -- and I went by invitation to visit him in his castle, a
magnificently situated building on a rocky spur 1,000 feet above the
camping-ground, attained by a difficult climb, and nearly on a level
with the glittering glaciers and ice-falls on the other side of the
Bhaga.  It only differs from Leh and Stok castles in having blue
glass in some of the smaller windows.  In the family temple, in
addition to the usual life-size images of Buddha and the Triad, there
was a female divinity, carved at Jallandhur in India, copied from a
statue representing Queen Victoria in her younger days--a very
fitting possession for the highest government official in Lahul.  The
thakur, Hara Chang, is wealthy and a rigid Buddhist, and uses his
very considerable influence against the work of the Moravian
missionaries in the valley.  The rude path down to the bridle-road,
through fields of barley and buckwheat, is bordered by roses,
gooseberries, and masses of wild flowers.

The later marches after reaching Darcha are grand beyond all
description.  The track, scaffolded or blasted out of the rock at a
height of from 1,000 to 3,000 feet above the thundering Bhaga, is
scarcely a rifle-shot from the mountain mass dividing it from the
Chandra, a mass covered with nearly unbroken ice and snowfields, out
of which rise pinnacles of naked rock 21,000 and 22,000 feet in
altitude.  The region is the 'abode of snow,' and glaciers of great
size fill up every depression.  Humidity, vegetation, and beauty
reappear together, wild flowers and ferns abound, and pencil cedars
in clumps rise above the artificial plantations of the valley.  Wheat
ripens at an altitude of 12,000 feet.  Picturesque villages,
surrounded by orchards, adorn the mountain spurs; chod-tens and
gonpos, with white walls and fluttering flags, brighten the scene;
feudal castles crown the heights, and where the mountains are
loftiest, the snowfields and glaciers most imposing, and the greenery
densest, the village of Kylang, the most important in Lahul as the
centre of trade, government, and Christian missions, hangs on ledges
of the mountain-side 1,000 feet above Bhaga, whose furious course can
be traced far down the valley by flashes of sunlit foam.

The Lahul valley, which is a part of British Tibet, has an altitude
of 10,000 feet.  It prospers under British rule, its population has
increased, Hindu merchants have settled in Kylang, the route through
Lahul to Central Asia is finding increasing favour with the Panjabi
traders, and the Moravian missionaries, by a bolder system of
irrigation and the provision of storage for water, have largely
increased the quantity of arable land.  The Lahulis are chiefly
Tibetans, but Hinduism is largely mixed up with Buddhism in the lower
villages.  All the gonpos, however, have been restored and enlarged
during the last twenty years.  In winter the snow lies fifteen feet
deep, and for four or five months, owing to the perils of the Rotang
Pass, the valley rarely has any communication with the outer world.

At the foot of the village of Kylang, which is built in tier above
tier of houses up the steep side of a mountain with a height of
21,000 feet, are the Moravian mission buildings, long, low,
whitewashed erections, of the simplest possible construction, the
design and much of the actual erection being the work of these
capable Germans.  The large building, which has a deep verandah, the
only place in which exercise can be taken in the winter, contains the
native church, three rooms for each missionary, and two guest-rooms.
Round the garden are the printing rooms, the medicine and store room
(stores arriving once in two years), and another guest-room.  Round
an adjacent enclosure are the houses occupied in winter by the
Christians when they come down with their sheep and cattle from the
hill farms.  All is absolutely plain, and as absolutely clean and
trim.  The guest-rooms and one or two of the Tibetan rooms are
papered with engravings from the Illustrated London News, but the
rooms of the missionaries are only whitewashed, and by their extreme
bareness reminded me of those of very poor pastors in the Fatherland.
A garden, brilliant with zinnias, dianthus, and petunias, all of
immense size, and planted with European trees, is an oasis, and in it
I camped for some weeks under a willow tree, covered, as many are,
with a sweet secretion so abundant as to drop on the roof of the
tent, and which the people collect and use as honey.

The mission party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Shreve, lately arrived,
and now in a distant exile at Poo, and Mr. and Mrs. Heyde, who had
been in Tibet for nearly forty years, chiefly spent at Kylang,
without going home.  'Plain living and high thinking' were the rule.
Books and periodicals were numerous, and were read and assimilated.
The culture was simply wonderful, and the acquaintance with the
latest ideas in theology and natural science, the latest political
and social developments, and the latest conceptions in European art,
would have led me to suppose that these admirable people had only
just left Europe.  Mrs. Heyde had no servant, and in the long
winters, when household and mission work are over for the day, and
there are no mails to write for, she pursues her tailoring and other
needlework, while her husband reads aloud till midnight.  At the time
of my visit (September) busy preparations for the winter were being
made.  Every day the wood piles grew.  Hay, cut with sickles on the
steep hillsides, was carried on human backs into the farmyard, apples
were cored and dried in the sun, cucumbers were pickled, vinegar was
made, potatoes were stored, and meat was killed and salted.

It is in winter, when the Christians have come down from the
mountain, that most of the mission work is done.  Mrs. Heyde has a
school of forty girls, mostly Buddhists.  The teaching is simple and
practical, and includes the knitting of socks, of which from four to
five hundred pairs are turned out each winter, and find a ready sale.
The converts meet for instruction and discussion twice daily, and
there is daily worship.  The mission press is kept actively employed
in printing the parts of the Bible which have been translated during
the summer, as well as simple tracts written or translated by Mr.
Heyde.  No converts are better instructed, and like those of Leh they
seem of good quality, and are industrious and self-supporting.
Winter work is severe, as ponies, cattle, and sheep must always be
hand-fed, and often hand-watered.  Mr. Heyde has great repute as a
doctor, and in summer people travel long distances for his advice and
medicine.  He is universally respected, and his judgment in worldly
affairs is highly thought of; but if one were to judge merely by
apparent results, the devoted labour of nearly forty years and
complete self-sacrifice for the good of Kylang must be pronounced
unsuccessful.  Christianity has been most strongly opposed by men of
influence, and converts have been exposed to persecution and loss.
The abbot of the Kylang monastery lately said to Mr. Heyde, 'Your
Christian teaching has given Buddhism a resurrection.'  The actual
words used were, 'When you came here people were quite indifferent
about their religion, but since it has been attacked they have become
zealous, and now they KNOW.'  It is only by sharing their
circumstances of isolation, and by getting glimpses of their
everyday-life and work, that one can realise at all what the heroic
perseverance and self-sacrificing toil of these forty years have
been, and what is the weighty influence on the people and on the
standard of morals, even though the number of converts is so small.
All honour to these noble German missionaries, learned, genial,
cultured, radiant, who, whether teaching, preaching, farming,
gardening, printing, or doctoring, are always and everywhere 'living
epistles of Christ, known and read of all men!'  Close by the mission
house, in a green spot under shady trees, is God's Acre, where many
children of the mission families sleep, and a few adults.

As the winter is the busiest season in mission work, so it is the
great time in which the lamas make house-to-house peregrinations and
attend at festivals.  Then also there is much spinning and weaving by
both sexes, and tobogganing and other games, and much drinking of
chang by priests and people.  The cattle remain out till nearly
Christmas, and are then taken into the houses.  At the time of the
variable new year, the lamas and nuns retire to the monasteries, and
dulness reigns in the valleys.  At the end of a month they emerge,
life and noise begin, and all men to whom sons have been born during
the previous year give chang freely.  During the festival which
follows, all these jubilant fathers go out of the village as a
gaudily dressed procession, and form a circle round a picture of a
yak, painted by the lamas, which is used as a target to be shot at
with bows and arrows, and it is believed that the man who hits it in
the centre will be blessed with a son in the coming year.  After
this, all the Kylang men and women collect in one house by annual
rotation, and sing and drink immense quantities of chang till 10 p.m.

The religious festivals begin soon after.  One, the worshipping of
the lamas by the laity, occurs in every village, and lasts from two
to three days.  It consists chiefly of music and dancing, while the
lamas sit in rows, swilling chang and arrack.  At another, which is
celebrated annually in every house, the lamas assemble, and in front
of certain gods prepare a number of mystical figures made of dough,
which are hung up and are worshipped by the family.  Afterwards the
lamas make little balls which are worshipped, and one of the family
mounts the roof and invites the neighbours, who receive the balls
from the lamas' hands and drink moderately of chang.  Next, the
figures are thrown to the demons as a propitiatory offering, amidst
'hellish whistlings' and the firing of guns.  These ceremonies are
called ise drup (a full life), and it is believed that if they were
neglected life would be cut short.

One of the most important of the winter religious duties of the lamas
is the reading of the sacred classics under the roof of each
householder.  By this means the family accumulate merit, and the
longer the reading is protracted the greater is the accumulation.  A
twelve-volume book is taken in the houses of the richer householders,
each one of the twelve or fifteen lamas taking a page, all reading at
an immense pace in a loud chant at the same time.  The reading of
these volumes, which consist of Buddhist metaphysics and philosophy,
takes five days, and while reading each lama has his chang cup
constantly replenished.  In the poorer households a classic of but
one volume is taken, to lessen the expense of feeding the lamas.
Festivals and ceremonies follow each other closely until March, when
archery practice begins, and in April and May the people prepare for
the operations of husbandry.

The weather in Kylang breaks in the middle of September, but so
fascinating were the beauties and sublimity of Nature, and the
virtues and culture of my Moravian friends, that, shutting my eyes to
the possible perils of the Rotang, I remained until the harvest was
brought home with joy and revelry, and the flush of autumn faded, and
the first snows of winter gave an added majesty to the glorious
valley.  Then, reluctantly folding my tent, and taking the same
faithful fellows who brought my baggage from Leh, I spent five weeks
on the descent to the Panjab, journeying through the paradise of
Upper Kulu and the interesting native states of Mandi, Sukket,
Bilaspur, and Bhaghat, and early in November reached the amenities
and restraints of the civilisation of Simla.



Footnotes:

{1}  Mr. Redslob said that when on different occasions he was smitten
by heavy sorrows, he felt no difference between the Tibetan feeling
and expression of sympathy and that of Europeans.  A stronger
testimony to the effect produced by his twenty-five years of loving
service could scarcely be given than our welcome in Nubra.  During
the dangerous illness which followed, anxious faces thronged his
humble doorway as early as break of day, and the stream of friendly
inquiries never ceased till sunset, and when he died the people of
Ladak and Nubra wept and 'made a great mourning for him,' as for
their truest friend.

{2}  For these and other curious details concerning Tibetan customs I
am indebted to the kindness and careful investigations of the late
Rev. W. Redslob, of Leh, and the Rev. A. Heyde, of Kylang.




End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Among the Tibetans
by Isabella L. Bird (Mrs Bishop)


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