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Title: Among the Tibetans
Author: Bird, Isabella L. (Isabella Lucy), 1831-1904
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Among the Tibetans" ***

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[Illustration: USMAN SHAH]


  AMONG THE TIBETANS

  Isabella L. Bird

  Illustrated by
  Edward Whymper


  DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.
  Mineola, New York



CONTENTS


                                         PAGE
                    CHAPTER I

  THE START                                 7

                    CHAPTER II

  SHERGOL AND LEH                          40

                    CHAPTER III

  NUBRA                                    72

                    CHAPTER IV

  MANNERS AND CUSTOMS                     101

                    CHAPTER V

  CLIMATE AND NATURAL FEATURES            130



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                         PAGE
  Usman Shah                   _Frontispiece_

  The Start from Srinagar                  13

  Camp at Gagangair                        18

  Sonamarg                                 21

  A hand Prayer-Cylinder                   42

  Tibetan Girl                             45

  Gonpo of Spitak                          51

  Leh                                      57

  A Chod-Ten                               66

  A Lama                                   74

  Three Gopas                              77

  Some Instruments of Buddhist Worship     86

  Monastic Buildings at Basgu              93

  The Yak (_Bos grunniens_)               100

  A Chang-pa Woman                        102

  Chang-pa Chief                          110

  The Castle of Stok                      117

  First Village in Kulu                   125

  A Tibetan Farm-house                    133

  Lahul Valley                            141

  Gonpo at Kylang                         149



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 Panjāb 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 Panjābi; 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 _khītmatgar_.

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.

[Illustration: THE START FROM SRINAGAR]

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, _viâ_ 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 façade 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° 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.

[Illustration: CAMP AT GAGANGAIR]

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 severities of the journey to Lesser Tibet.

[Illustration: SONAMARG]

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 Panjāb 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 Panjāb 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 slope 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 2_s._ 3_d._,
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.

[Illustration: A HAND PRAYER-CYLINDER]

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.

[Illustration: TIBETAN GIRL]

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 1_d._ to 1_s._ 4_d._, 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° to 130°, 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.

[Illustration: GONPO OF SPITAK]

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.

[Illustration: LEH]

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 Panjāb, 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 swashbuckler, 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°!

[Illustration: A CHOD-TEN]

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
_hippophaë_ 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 _Hippophaë 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
pigtails streaming from their heads, and their uncouth yells and wild
gesticulations, they looked true river-demons.

[Illustration: A LAMA]

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!

[Illustration: THREE GOPAS]

The Lower Nubra valley is wilder and narrower than the Upper, its
apricot orchards more luxuriant, its wolf-haunted _hippophaë_ 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'être_ 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 excreta
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 first fruits 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 chum
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° 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.

[Illustration: SOME INSTRUMENTS OF BUDDHIST WORSHIP]

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!

[Illustration: MONASTIC BUILDINGS AT BASGU]

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].

[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.

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° 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 carcases 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.

[Illustration: THE YAK (_Bos grunniens_)]



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.

[Illustration: A CHANG-PA WOMAN]

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[1].

[1] 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.

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 many of the plants of the country, quantities of which they
mix up together while reciting magical formulas.

[Illustration: CHANG-PA CHIEF]

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 _détour_. 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 _manis_ 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.

[Illustration: THE CASTLE OF STOK]

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 overpowering. 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°, only 35° below the boiling point of water in
the same region, which is about 187°. 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°! 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!

[Illustration: FIRST VILLAGE IN KULU]

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.

[Illustration: A TIBETAN FARM-HOUSE]

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° 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 Panjābi 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.

[Illustration: LAHUL VALLEY]

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 Panjāb 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.

[Illustration: GONPO AT KYLANG]

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 Panjābi
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
Panjāb, 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.

THE END.





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