Read CHAPTER IX of Travels in Tartary‚ Thibet‚ and China During the years 1844-5-6‚ Volume 2, free online book, by Evariste Regis Huc, on

The Chinese government has established at Tsiamdo a magazine of provisions, the management of which is confided to a Liang-Tai. The garrison is composed of about 300 soldiers and four officers, a Yeou-Ki, a Tsien-Tsoung, and two Pa-Tsoung. The maintenance of this military station, and of the garrisons dependent upon it, amounts annually to the sum of 10,000 ounces of silver.

Tsiamdo, the capital of the province of Kham, is built in a valley surrounded by high mountains. Formerly it was enclosed by a rampart of earth, now broken down every where, and the remnants of which are taken away every day to repair the floors of the houses. Tsiamdo, indeed, has little need of fortifications; it is sufficiently defended by two rivers, the Dza-Tchou and the Om-Tchou, which, after flowing, the one to the east, the other to the west of the town, unite on the south, and form the Ya-Long-Kiang, which crosses, from north to south, the province of Yun-Nan and Cochin-China, and falls at length into the sea of China. Two large wooden bridges, one over the Dza-Tchou, the other over the Om-Tchou, to the right and left of the town, lead to two parallel roads, the first called the Sse-Tchouen road, the other the Yun-Nan road. The couriers who convey the mails from Peking to Lha-Ssa, and all the civil and military servants of the Chinese government, are obliged to use the Sse-Tchouen road; that of Yun-Nan is almost deserted. You only see there, from time to time, a few Chinese merchants, who purchase, from the Mandarins of their provinces, the privilege of going to Thibet to sell their merchandise.

The military stations which the court of Peking has established in the states of the Tale-Lama were at one time maintained and managed by the joint authorities of Sse-Tchouen and Yun-Nan. This combination having been, for a long time, the source of dissensions and quarrels between the Mandarins of the two provinces, it was determined that the viceroy of Sse-Tchouen should be sole director of the Chinese resident in Thibet.

Tsiamdo presents the appearance of an ancient town in decay; its large houses, constructed with frightful irregularity, are scattered confusedly over a large tract, leaving on all sides unoccupied ground or heaps of rubbish. Except a few buildings of later date, all the rest bear the stamp of great antiquity. The numerous population you see in the different quarters of the town are dirty, uncombed, and wallow in profound idleness.

We could not divine what were the means of existence of the inhabitants of Tsiamdo; they are without arts, industry, and, we may add, almost without agriculture. The environs of the town present, generally speaking, nothing but sands, unfavourable to the cultivation of corn. They grow, however, some poor crops of barley, but these are, doubtless, insufficient for the supply of the country. Possibly musk, skins of wild beasts, rhubarb, turquoises, and gold-dust, provide the population with the means of a petty commerce, and thus with the necessaries of life.

Although Tsiamdo is not a place remarkable for its luxury or elegance, you admire there a large and magnificent Lamasery standing towards the west, on an elevated platform which commands the rest of the town. It is inhabited by about 2,000 Lamas, who, instead of each having his small house, as in the other Buddhic monasteries, live all together in the large buildings, with which the principal temple is surrounded. The sumptuous decorations that ornament this temple make it regarded as one of the finest and most wealthy in Thibet. The Lamasery of Tsiamdo has for its ecclesiastical superior a Houtouktou Lama, who is at the same time temporal sovereign of the whole province of Kham.

Five lis from Tsiamdo, towards the frontiers of China, there is a town called Djaya, which, with the countries dependent on it, is subject to a Grand Lama, bearing the title of Tchaktchouba. This Lamanesque dignity is somewhat inferior to that of Houtouktou. At the time we were in Thibet, there arose a great contest between the Houtouktou of Tsiamdo and the Tchaktchouba of Djaya. The latter, a young, bold, and enterprising Lama, had declared himself Houtouktou, in virtue of an old diploma, which he affirmed had been granted to him, in one of his former lives, by the Tale-Lama. He asserted, accordingly, his rights to supremacy, and claimed the see of Tsiamdo and the government of the province of Kham. The Houtouktou of Tsiamdo, a Lama advanced in years, did not choose to resign his authority, and, on his side, alleged authentic titles, sent by the court of Peking, and confirmed by the Grand Lama of Lha-Ssa. All the tribes, and all the Lamaseries of the province, entered into this quarrel, and took part, some with the young Lama, some with the old. After long and futile discussions, written and verbal, they resorted to arms, and for a full year these wild and fanatic tribes were engaged in bloody conflicts. Whole villages were destroyed, and their inhabitants cut in pieces. In their terrible fury, these ferocious combatants devastated everything; they pursued into the desert, with arrows and fusils, the herds of goats and long-haired oxen, and in their destructive course, set fire to the forests they found on their way.

When we arrived at Tsiamdo, the war had ceased some days, and all parties had consented to a truce, in hopes of effecting a reconciliation. Thibetian and Chinese negotiators had been sent by the Tale-Lama and the ambassador Ki-Chan conjointly. The youthful Houtouktou of Djaya had been summoned to this congress, and fearful of treachery, he had come with a formidable escort of his bravest partisans. Several conferences had been held without producing any satisfactory result. Neither the one nor the other of the two pretenders would withdraw his claims; the parties were irreconcilable, and everything presaged that the war would be soon resumed with fresh fury. It appeared to us that the party of the young Houtouktou had every chance of success, because it was the most national, and consequently the most popular and strongest. Not that his title was really better founded or more valid than that of his competitor, but it was easy to see that the old Houtouktou of Tsiamdo had hurt the pride of his tribes by invoking the arbitration of the Chinese, and relying upon the aid of the government of Peking. All foreign intervention is odious and detestable. This is truth, alike in Europe and in the mountains of Thibet, wherever people care for their independence and their dignity.

Our residence at Tsiamdo was quite exempt from the irritation and rage that reigned about us. We were treated with all those marks of attention and kindness which we had experienced on all our journey since our departure from Lha-Ssa. Both the young and the old Houtouktou sent us a scarf of blessing, with a good provision of butter and quarters of mutton.

We stayed at Tsiamdo three days; for our guide, the Pacificator of Kingdoms, had great need of rest. The fatigues of this arduous route had sensibly affected his health. His legs were so swollen that he could not mount or dismount from his horse without the assistance of several persons. The physicians and sorcerers of Tsiamdo, whom he consulted, gave answers, the clearest meaning of which was, that if the malady diminished, it would be no great matter; but that if it should grow worse, it might become a serious affair. The most reasonable counsellors advised Ly-Kouo-Ngan to continue his journey in a palanquin. A Chinese Mandarin of the place offered to sell him his own, and to engage carriers. This advice was perfectly prudent; but avarice interposed, and the sick man protested that he should be more fatigued in a palanquin than on horseback.

To the illness of Ly-Kouo-Ngan was added another source of delay. A Chinese caravan which had left Lha-Ssa a few days after us, had arrived at Tsiamdo on the same evening with ourselves. This caravan consisted of a Liang-Tai, or commissary, of his son, a young man of eighteen, and of a numerous suite of soldiers and servants. We wanted to let these pass on before, for, if we travelled in company, it was to be feared that we should not find lodgings and oulah sufficient for so great a number. The Liang-Tai and his son travelled in palanquins; but, notwithstanding the conveniences of this mode of conveyance, the two illustrious travellers were so extenuated with fatigue, and so languid, that it was the general impression their strength would not suffice to carry them into China. The literary Mandarins being used to an easy life, are little adapted for supporting the innumerable miseries of the journey into Thibet. Among those who are sent to fulfil the duties of commissary, few are fortunate enough to return to their country.

The day of our departure, the old Houtouktou of Tsiamdo sent us an escort of four Thibetian horsemen, to guard us until we reached the territory of the Tchaktchouba of Djaya. On quitting the town, we passed over a magnificent bridge entirely built of large trunks of fir, and we then found ourselves on the Sse-Tchouen road, which meanders along the sides of a high mountain, at the base of which runs the rapid river Dza-Tchou. After proceeding twenty lis, we met, at a turn of the mountain, in a deep and retired gorge, a little party of travellers, who presented a picture full of poetry: The procession was opened by a Thibetian woman astride a fine donkey, and carrying an infant, solidly fastened to her shoulders by large leathern straps. She led after her, by a long cord, a pack-horse, laden with two panniers, which hung symmetrically on its sides. These two panniers served as lodgings for two children, whose laughing joyous faces we saw peeping out from little windows in their respective baskets. The difference in the age of these children seemed slight; but they could not be of the same weight, for to keep the equilibrium between them, a large stone was tied to the side of one of the panniers. Behind the horse laden with these child-boxes followed a horseman, whom one easily recognised, by his costume, as a retired Chinese soldier. He had behind him, on the crupper, a boy of twelve years old. Last of all, an enormous red-haired dog, with squinting eyes, and an expression altogether of decided bad temper, completed this singular caravan, which joined us, and took advantage of our company as far as the province of Sse-Tchouen.

The Chinese was an ex-soldier of the garrison of Tsiamdo. Having performed the three years’ service required by law, he had obtained leave to remain in Thibet, and to engage in commerce. He had married, and after having amassed a little fortune, he was returning to his country with all his family.

We could not but admire the fortitude, the energy, and the devotion of this brave Chinese, so different from his selfish countrymen, who never scruple to leave their wives and children in foreign lands. He had to bear up, not only against the dangers and fatigues of a long journey, but also against the raillery of those who themselves had not the heart to follow his good example. The soldiers of our escort soon began to turn him into ridicule. “This man,” said they, “is evidently insane; to bring from foreign countries money and merchandise, that is reasonable; but to bring into the central nation, a large-footed woman and all these little barbarians, why, it is contrary to all established usages. Has the fellow an idea of making money by exhibiting these animals of Thibet?”

More than once observations of this kind excited our indignation. We always made a point of defending this worthy father, of commending his honourable conduct, and of reproving loudly the barbarity and immorality of the Chinese customs.

Shortly after we had admitted into our caravan the interesting little party from Tsiamdo, we left the river Dza-Tchou to our right, and ascended a high mountain covered with large trees and enormous rocks, themselves covered with thick coats of lichen. We afterwards again came upon the river, and proceeded along its banks, by a rugged path, for a few lis, till we arrived at Meng-Phou. We had travelled scarcely eight leagues, but we were overcome with fatigue. The three days rest we had taken at Tsiamdo had modified our equestrian powers, so that we had some difficulty in getting our legs into riding order again. Meng-Phou consists of seven or eight huts, built of rough stone, in a large and deep ravine.

Next day we travelled along the crest of a lofty mountain, having continually to mount and dismount, in order to get from one eminence to another. On this route we had frequently to cross precipices on wooden bridges, which, to use the expression of the Chinese Itinerary, are “suspended in the region of the clouds.” After a march of 60 lis we reached Pao-Tun, where we changed the oulah, and where we began to find the Thibetians less complaisant and docile than on the other side of Tsiamdo. Their mien was haughtier and their manner more abrupt. On the other hand, the Chinese of the caravan became more humble, less exacting, and prudently abstained from speaking in a domineering fashion. All the way from Pao-Tun to Bagoung, you see nothing for ten leagues but calcareous mountains, entirely bare and rough. No trees are to be seen, nor grass, nor even moss. Below you only remark, in the fissures of the rocks, a little verdant stone-crop, which seems to protest against the desolate sterility around. One of these mountains, which the Chinese call Khou-Loung-Chan, which means the perforated mountain, presents a very singular appearance. You see here a great number of holes and hollows, in infinite variety of form and size. Some of these apertures resemble huge doorways. The smaller look like bells, some like round and oval sky lights.

The mountain being in the peak form, we were not able to go and visit these caverns. However, we approached sufficiently near to them to be able to judge that they are all of a considerable depth. These numerous cavities resulting, probably, from old volcanic eruptions, are attributed by the Chinese to the Kouei or evil genii. The Thibetians, on the contrary, affirm that they were dug by the tutelary deities of the country; that, in ancient times, some Lamas of great sanctity made them their retreat, and that therein they were transformed into Buddha; and that at certain periods of the year you still hear within the mountain the murmur of Lama prayers.

In Thibet, we had never observed on our route other mountains than those of a granitic nature, always remarkable for masses of enormous stones, heaped upon one another, generally assuming a form originally quadrangular, but rounded at the angles by the incessant action of the wind and rain. These enormous calcareous masses, which we observed on our way to Bagoung, could not fail to fix our attention. In fact, the country began entirely to change its aspect. For more than a fortnight we saw nothing but calcareous mountains, producing a marble as white as snow, of a fine and very close grain. The shepherds of these regions are in the habit of cutting from them large slabs, on which they carve the image of Buddha, or the formula “Om mani padme houm,” and which they afterwards place on the roadside. These carvings remain for many years, without being in the least defaced, for this marble having a great quantity of silex closely intermixed with carbonate of chalk, is extremely hard. Before our arrival at Bagoung, we journeyed for four or five lis, along a road bordered on both sides, by two unbroken lines of these Buddhic inscriptions. We saw some Lamas engraving the mani on marble slabs.

We reached the little village of Bagoung a little before nightfall, and proceeded to dismount at a Chinese barracks, composed of a few huts built of magnificent fragments of white marble, cemented with mud and dung. As soon as we arrived, they announced to us the death of the Liang-Tai, named Pei, who had overtaken us at Tsiamdo. It was two days before, that his caravan had passed through Bagoung. Having reached the barracks, the bearers of the Mandarin, after setting down the palanquin, had opened the curtains, as usual, to invite his excellency to enter the apartment that had been prepared for him. But, in the palanquin, they only found a corpse. In accordance with the Chinese usages, the son of the departed could not leave the body of his father in a foreign land, but must take it to his family, in order to deposit it in the sepulchre of his ancestors. Now, we were still in the heart of Thibet, and the family of the Mandarin Pei was in the province of Tche-Kiang, altogether at the extremity of China. The route, as has been seen, was difficult and long; but hesitation in the matter was out of the question: filial piety had to surmount all obstacles. A coffin, ready made, was, by chance, in the guardhouse. The son of the Mandarin bought it at a high price from the soldiers; he deposited therein the remains of his father. They adapted the shafts of the palanquin to the coffin, and the carriers, in consideration of increased pay, agreed to carry to the frontiers of China, a dead instead of a living man. The caravan had quitted Bagoung the evening preceding our arrival.

The announcement of this death astonished and affected all of us.

Ly-Kouo-Ngan particularly, who was in no satisfactory state of mind, was thunderstruck. The fear he felt prevented him from taking any supper; but, in the evening, another matter occurred to divert his attention from these sad thoughts of death. The chief of the Thibetian village came to the guard-house, to announce to the travellers, that it had been resolved in that country, that thereafter they would not supply the oulah gratuitously; that for a horse, people must pay one ounce of silver, and for a yak half an ounce. “The caravan which passed yesterday,” added he, “was obliged to agree to this.” . . . To make it manifest that this regulation would not admit of any discussion, he abruptly put his tongue in his cheek at us, and withdrew.

A manifesto so plain and definite was a complete thunderbolt to the Pacificator of Kingdoms. He entirely forgot the melancholy death of the poor Liang-Tai, in the thought of this frightful catastrophe which threatened his purse. We charitably participated in his affliction, and tried, as well as we could, to conform our words to his sombre thoughts. But, in reality, it was a matter of utter indifference to us. If they refused to supply us with the means of continuing our journey, we should merely have to stay in Thibet, which, after all, was a result to which we should without difficulty become reconciled. Meantime, we went to bed, and left the people of the escort to discuss politics and social economy.

The next day, when we rose, we found neither oxen nor horses in the court of the barracks. Ly-Kouo-Ngan was in utter despair. “Shall we have the oulah?” inquired we; “shall we depart to-day?” “These barbarians,” answered he, “do not comprehend the merit of obedience. I have resolved to address myself to Proul-Tamba; I have sent a deputation to him; I have known him a long time, and I hope he will procure the oulah for us.” This Proul-Tamba was a person of whom we had already heard a great deal. He was at the head of the party of the young Tchaktchouba of Djaya, and consequently the avowed enemy of Chinese influence. He was, we were informed, learned as the most learned Lamas of Lha-Ssa. No one came up to him in valour; never in battle had he experienced defeat. Accordingly, among all the tribes of the province of Kham, his name alone had potency, and acted like a talisman on the minds of the multitude. Proul-Tamba was, in some measure, the Abd-el-Kader of these wild mountaineers.

The dwelling of Proul-Tamba was distant from Bagoung not more than five or six lis. The deputation that had been sent to him, soon returned, and announced that the great chief himself was coming. This unexpected news put in commotion the whole Thibetian village, and the soldiers. Every one said to every one, excitedly, “The great chief is coming, we are going to see the great chief!” Ly-Kouo-Ngan hastened to attire himself in his best clothes, his silk boots, and his hat of ceremony. The Chinese soldiers also improved, as well as they could, their toilet. Whilst the Thibetians ran to meet their chief, Ly-Kouo-Ngan selected from his baggage a magnificent khata, or scarf of blessing, and then posted himself on the threshold of the door, to receive the illustrious Proul-Tamba. As for us, the department we selected was to study the physiognomies of the different parties. The most interesting was, doubtless, that of the Pacificator of Kingdoms. It was curious to see this Chinese Mandarin, generally so haughtily insolent in the presence of Thibetians, become all at once humble and modest, and awaiting, tremblingly, the arrival of a man whom he deemed strong and potent.

At last the great chief appeared; he was on horseback, escorted by a guard of honour, consisting of four horsemen. As soon as all had dismounted, the Pacificator of Kingdoms approached Proul-Tamba, made him a low bow, and offered him the scarf of blessing. Proul-Tamba motioned to one of his attendants to receive the present, and without saying a word, quickly crossed the court, and went straight to the room prepared for his reception, and where we awaited him with the Lama Dchiamdchang. Proul-Tamba made us a slight bow, and sat down without ceremony, in the place of honour, on a carpet of grey felt. Ly-Kouo-Ngan placed himself on his left, the Lama Dchiamdchang on his right, and we in front of him. Between us five there was such a respectful distance, that we formed a sort of large circle. Some Chinese soldiers and a crowd of Thibetians stood behind us.

There was a minute of profound silence. The great chief Proul-Tamba was at most forty years of age; he was of middle height, and his sole attire was a large robe of green silk, bordered with beautiful wolf-fur, and fastened at the waist by a red girdle. Large purple leather boots, an alarming fox-skin cap, and a broad, long sabre, passed through the girdle horizontally, completed his costume. Long hair, black as ebony, which hung down over his shoulders, gave to his pale, thin face, a marked expression of energy. The eyes were, however, the most remarkable features in the physiognomy of this man; they were large, glittering, and seemed to breathe indomitable courage and pride. The whole appearance and bearing of Proul-Tamba denoted a man of real superiority, born to command his fellows. After having attentively looked at us, one after the other, his hands resting one on each end of his sabre, he drew from his bosom a packet of little khatas, and had them distributed amongst us by one of his men. Then turning to Ly-Kouo-Ngan: “Ah, thou art back again,” said he, with a voice that resounded like a bell; “if they had not told me this morning it was thee, I should not have recognised thee. How thou hast aged since thy last visit to Bagoung.” “Yes, thou art right,” answered the Pacificator of Kingdoms, in soft and insinuating tones, drawing himself along the felt carpet nearer to his interlocutor; “yes, I am very feeble; but thou art more vigorous than ever.” “We live in circumstances under which it is necessary to be vigorous; there is no longer peace in our mountains.” “True, I heard yonder that you have had here amongst you a little dispute.” “For more than a year past, the tribes of Kham have been waging a bloody war, and thou callest that a little dispute. Thou hast only to open thy eyes, on thy way, and thou wilt behold, on every side, villages in ruins, and forests burnt down. In a few days, we shall be obliged to resume our work, for no one will hear the words of peace. The war, indeed, might have been brought to a conclusion after a few skirmishes; but, since you Chinese have chosen to meddle in our affairs, the parties have become irreconcilable. You Chinese Mandarins are good for nothing but to bring disorder and confusion into these countries. It cannot go on in this way. We have let you alone for some time, and now your audacity knows no bounds. I cannot, without shuddering all over, think of that affair of the Nomekhan of Lha-Ssa. They pretend that the Nomekhan committed great crimes. It is false: these great crimes, it is you that invented them. The Nomekhan is a saint, a Living Buddha. Who ever heard that a Living Buddha could be tried and exiled by Ki-Chan, a Chinese, a layman?” “The order came from the Grand Emperor,” answered Ly-Kouo-Ngan, in a low and tremulous voice. “The Grand Emperor!” cried Proul-Tamba, turning with an angry air to his interrupter, “thy Grand Emperor is only a layman. What is thy Grand Emperor compared with a Grand Lama, a Living Buddha?” The great chief of the province of Kham inveighed for a length of time against the domination of the Chinese in Thibet. He assailed in turns the Emperor, the viceroy of Sse-Tchouen, and the ambassador of Lha-Ssa.

Throughout these energetic philippics, he frequently reverted to the affair of the Nomekhan. One could see that he felt a deep interest in the fate of the Grand Lama, whom he regarded as a victim of the court of Peking. The Pacificator of Kingdoms took care not to contradict him; he affected to concur in the sentiments of Proul-Tamba, and received each proposition with an inclination of the head. At length he hazarded a word as to departure and the oulah.

“The oulah,” replied Proul-Tamba; “henceforth, there will be none for the Chinese, unless they pay the price for them. It is enough that we allow the Chinese to penetrate into our country, without adding the folly of furnishing them with the oulah gratuitously. However, as thou art an old acquaintance, we will make an exception in favour of thy caravan. Besides, thou art conducting two Lamas of the Western Heaven, who have been recommended to me by the chief Kalon of Lha-Ssa, and who are entitled to my services. Where is the Dheba of Bagoung? Let him advance.”

The individual who, the evening before, had come to tell us, “no more money, no more oulah,” presented himself. He bent his knee before the great chief, and respectfully put his tongue in his cheek at him. “Let them get ready the oulah immediately,” cried Proul-Tamba, “and let every one do his duty.” The Thibetians, who were in the courtyard, sent forth a simultaneous shout of submission, and ran off to the adjacent village.

Proul-Tamba rose, and after having invited us to take tea in his house, which stood on our road, sprang on his horse, and returned home at full gallop. The oulah soon appeared, and the caravan found itself organised, as it were, by magic. After half an hour’s march, we reached the residence of the great chief. It was a lofty, large structure, not unlike a stronghold of the feudal times. A broad canal, bordered with large trees, encircled it. A drawbridge descended for us. We dismounted to cross it, and entered, through an immense gateway, a square court, where my lord Proul-Tamba awaited us. They tied the horses to posts planted in the middle of the court, and we were introduced into a vast saloon, which seemed to serve as the domestic temple, or castle chapel. The enormous beams which supported the roof were entirely gilt. The walls were hung with flags of all colours, covered with Thibetian inscriptions. At the end of the saloon were three colossal statues of Buddha, before which were placed large butter lamps and censers. In a corner of the temple, they had prepared a low table, with four thick cushions, covered with red stuff. Proul-Tamba graciously invited us to take our places, and as soon as we were seated, the chatelaine made her appearance in state costume, that is to say, with her face frightfully daubed over with black, her copious tresses adorned with spangles, red coral beads, and small mother-of pearl buttons.

In her right hand she carried a majestic tea-pot, the vast circumference of which rested on her left arm. Each of us presented his cup, which was filled with a bumper of tea, on the surface of which floated a thick coat of butter: the tea was of the best quality. While we were sipping the hot fluid, our hostess reappeared, bearing two dishes of gilt wood, the one full of raisins, the other of nuts. “These are fruits of our country,” said Proul-Tamba to us; “they grow in a fine valley not far distant. In the Western Heaven, have you fruits of this kind?” “Oh, yes, plentifully; and you cannot conceive how much pleasure you give us in presenting to us these fruits, for they recall to us our country,” and, as we spoke, we took a handful of raisins from the gilt plate. Unfortunately, they were only remarkable for a tough and sour skin, and for a number of pips, which cracked under our teeth like gravel. We turned to the nuts, which were of a magnificent size, but were again deceived; the kernel was so solidly fixed in its hard shell, that it was as much as we could do to extract a few morsels with the tips of our nails. We returned to the raisins, then again to the nuts, travelling from one plate to the other in search, but vainly, of something wherewith to quiet the gnawings of our stomach. We were growing convinced that Mrs. Proul-Tamba had resolved to play us a trick, when we saw two vigorous Thibetians approach, carrying another table, on which was a whole kid, and a superb haunch of venison. This unexpected apparition gladdened our hearts, and an involuntary smile must have announced to our Amphitryon how favourably his second service was received. They removed the skins of raisins and the nut shells; Thibetian beer took the place of the buttered tea, and we set to work with incomparable energy. When we had triumphantly achieved this Homeric repast, we offered to the grand chief a scarf of blessing, and remounted our horses. Not far from the feudal castle of the illustrious Proul-Tamba, we came to a calcareous hill, with great apertures on its summit, and on its rugged sides numerous Buddhic sentences cut in gigantic characters. All the Thibetians stopped, and prostrated themselves thrice to the ground. This mountain was the retreat of a hermit Lama, for whom all the tribes of the province of Kham entertained profound veneration. According to the statement of the natives, this holy Lama had withdrawn, twenty-two years before, to one of the caverns of the mountain; since that time, he had remained in it, without quitting it once, passing day and night in prayer, and in the contemplation of the ten thousand virtues of Buddha. He allowed no one to visit him. Every three years, however, he gave a grand audience of eight days, and, during that period, the devout might present themselves freely at his cell, and consult him about things past, present, and to come. At this time, large offerings failed not to pour in from every quarter: the sainted Lama kept none for himself, but distributed them among the poor of the district. What did he want with riches and the good things of this world? His cell, dug out of the living rock, never required the least repair; his yellow robe, lined with sheepskin, served him alike in all seasons of the year. On every sixth day only did he take a repast, consisting of a little tea and barley-meal, which charitable persons in the vicinity passed to him by means of a long cord, which descended from the top of the grotto to the foot of the mountain. Several Lamas had placed themselves under the direction of this hermit, and had resolved to adopt his manner of life. They dwelt in cells, dug near that of their master. The most celebrated of his disciples was the father of the great Proul-Tamba. He, also, had been a famous warrior, and ever at the head of the people of this country. Having reached an advanced age, and seeing his son capable of being his successor, he had conferred on him the title of Grand Chief. Then shaving his head, and assuming the sacred habit of the Lamas, he had retired into solitude, leaving to younger and more vigorous hands the charge of terminating the contest which had commenced between the two Houtouktous of the province of Kham.

The sun had not set when we reached the station of Wang-Tsa, fifty lis from Bagoung. Wang-Tsa is a small village built at the foot of a hill of black loam, covered with thickets of holly and cypress. The houses, built of the black soil, communicate to the village an extremely sombre and funereal aspect. At Wang-Tsa, we began to observe traces of the civil war, which was laying waste these countries. The Chinese barracks, built of large fir planks, had been entirely burnt; its remains, half charred, which lay about, served throughout the evening to keep up a magnificent fire. Upon setting out next morning, we observed a singular alteration in the caravan. The horses and oxen were the same that we had taken from Bagoung, but all the Thibetian guides had vanished; not one of them remained: women of Wang-Tsa had taken their place. Upon inquiring the meaning of this new and surprising arrangement: “To-day,” answered the Lama Dchiamdchang, “we shall reach Gaya, which is a hostile village. If the Bagoung men went there, there would inevitably be a fight, and the inhabitants of Gaya would seize the animals of the caravan. The oulah being conducted by women, we have nothing to fear. Men, who would have the cowardice to fight with women, and take the animals confided to their care, would be despised by the whole world. Such is the usage of these countries.” We were not a little surprised to find, among the wild mountains of Thibet, sentiments so like those of our own country. This was pure French chivalry. We were eager to see in what courteous and gallant fashion the ladies of Wang-Tsa would be received by the gentlemen of Gaya.

After passing a lofty mountain, covered with large masses of rock, partly buried in old layers of snow, we entered a valley thoroughly cultivated, and of a mild temperature. We perceived in the distance, in a hollow, the houses of Gaya. They were high, flanked with watch-towers, and not unlike castles. When we were some hundred paces from this large village, there issued from it all at once a formidable squadron of cavalry, who dashed forward to meet the caravan. The horsemen, armed with fusils and long lances, seemed quite disposed for a skirmish. Their martial humour, however, vanished, when they perceived that the caravan was conducted by women; and they contented themselves with hearty shouts of laughter, and with expressions of contempt at the cowardice of their foes. As we entered Gaya, men, women, and children, were all in motion, and sending forth cries, that seemed to us anything but amicable. No mischance, however, occurred. We dismounted in the court of a large three-storied house, and as soon as they had unsaddled the horses, and unyoked the long-haired oxen, the ladies of Wang-Tsa drank hastily a cup of buttered tea, which was courteously handed round to each, and immediately returned with their oulah.

We found at Gaya a tolerably comfortable lodging, but we did not know on what conditions we should proceed. The important question of the oulah occupied every one’s mind, yet no one ventured to put the question openly, and we went to bed, leaving the consideration of serious matters to the morrow.

It was scarce day when the court of the house where we lodged was filled with a crowd of Thibetians, who had come to deliberate on the degree in which they should tax our caravan. From a second-floor balcony, we could enjoy at our leisure the singular spectacle which this council presented. Of the immense multitude, there was not an individual who was not an orator; everybody spoke at once; and, judging from the sounding altitude of the voices, and the impetuous animation of the gestures, there must certainly have been some very fine speeches there. Some orators mounted upon the luggage that was piled in the court, and made of it a pulpit, whence they overlooked the multitude. Sometimes it seemed that the eloquence of words was insufficient to convey conviction to the minds of the audience, for the disputants would fight and pull each other’s hair, and beat each other without mercy, until an orator of superior influence came and called the honourable members to order. This calm, however, would not be of long duration; the tumult and disorder would soon recommence with increased vigour. The thing became so serious, that we were convinced these people would end with drawing their sabres, and massacring each other. We were mistaken. After the assembly had vociferated, gesticulated, and manipulated for more than an hour, there was a great shout of laughter; the council rose, and everybody withdrew perfectly calm. Two deputies then ascended to the second-floor, where the staff of the caravan lodged; and informed Ly-Kouo-Ngan, that the chiefs of the family of Gaya, after deliberating on the organisation of the oulah, had decided that they would furnish gratuitously animals for the two Lamas of the Western Heaven, and for the Thibetians of Lha-Ssa; but that the Chinese must pay half-an-ounce of silver for a horse, and a quarter for a long-haired ox. At this intimation, Ly-Kouo-Ngan collected his strength, and inveighed with energy against what he called a tyranny, an injustice. The Chinese soldiers of the caravan, who were present, co-operated with loud cries and menaces, for the purpose of intimidating the delegates of the national assembly of Gaya; but the latter preserved an attitude deliciously haughty and contemptuous. One of them advanced a step, placed, with a sort of wild dignity, his right hand on the shoulder of Ly-Kouo-Ngan, and after piercing him with his great black eyes, shaded with thick eyebrows, “Man of China,” said he, “listen to me; dost thou think that with an inhabitant of the valley of Gaya, there is much difference between cutting off the head of a Chinese and that of a goat? Tell thy soldiers, then, not to be too fierce, and not to talk big words. Who ever saw the fox that could terrify the terrible yak of the mountains? The oulah will be ready presently; if you do not take it, and go to-day, to-morrow the price will be doubled.” The Chinese perceiving that violence would only involve disagreeable results, had recourse to cajolery, but to no purpose. Ly-Kouo-Ngan found no resource except that of opening his strong-box, and weighing out the required sum. The oulah soon arrived, and we occupied ourselves busily with the organisation of the caravan, in order to leave as soon as possible this village of Gaya, which the Chinese deemed barbarous and inhabitable, but which seemed to us extremely picturesque.

From Gaya to Angti, where we were to change the oulah, was only a short stage of thirty lis. The Chinese were in despair at having been obliged to spend so much money to effect so short a distance; but they had only come to the commencement of their miseries; for we were destined to meet with Thibetian tribes, still less tractable than those of Gaya.

The snow, which had given us a few days’ respite since our departure from Tsiamdo, again assailed us on the very evening of our arrival at Angti. During the night, and the following day, it fell in such abundance that we were unable to go out without having it up to our knees. As a climax of misfortune, we had, on leaving Angti, to ascend one of the rugged and most dangerous mountains on this route. The Chinese Itinerary thus describes it: “At Angti, you cross a great snow-clad mountain; the road is very steep; the accumulated snows resemble a silvery vapour. The fog which the mountain exhales penetrates the body, and makes the Chinese ill.”

According to a popular tradition of the country, in the olden time, a chief of the tribe of Angti, a famous warrior, held in awe by all his neighbours, was buried under an avalanche one day when he was crossing the mountain. All the efforts to recover his body were fruitless. A holy Lama of the period, having declared that the chief had become the genius of the mountain, they raised a temple to him, which still exists, and where travellers never fail to burn a few incense sticks, before proceeding on their way. In tempests, when the wind blows with violence, the genius of Mount Angti never fails to appear; there is no one about who has not seen him several times. He is always seen mounted upon a red horse, clothed in large white robes, and quietly sauntering upon the crest of the mountain. If he meets any traveller, he takes him on his crupper, and vanishes forthwith at full gallop. The red horse being so light that he leaves no trace, even on the snow, no one, to this day, has been able to discover the retreat of the White Knight, for so they call him in the country.

As to us, we were not much concerned about the red horse and the white knight. What we feared, was the mountain itself. We could not help shuddering at the sight of the frightful quantity of snow which had fallen, and which would render the road extremely dangerous. We were obliged to await the return of fine weather, and then to send, as we had before done under similar circumstances, a herd of long-haired oxen to trample down the snow, and trace out a path over the mountain.

We stayed five days at Angti. Ly-Kouo-Ngan took advantage of this long halt to doctor his legs, the malady in which assumed every day a more alarming character. The question of the oulah, long discussed in several assemblies, was resolved, at last, in the same way as at Gaya; a result which did not fail greatly to annoy the Chinese, and to elicit from them infinite clamour.

What we found most remarkable at Angti was, certainly, the Dheba, or chief of the tribe. This individual, named Bomba, was at most three feet high; the sabre which he carried in his girdle was, at least, twice his own length; notwithstanding this, the man had a magnificent chest, and a face, broad, energetic in its expression, and beautifully regular in its features. The exiguity of his stature arose from an entire abortion of the legs, which, however, did not in the least affect his feet; nor did the almost total absence of legs prevent the chief of the tribe of Angti from being surprisingly active. He was always running about with as much agility as the longest legged of his people; he could not, indeed, make very extended strides, but he compensated for this by the rapidity of his movements. By dint of working about right and left, skipping and jumping, he always arrived as soon as any one else; he was, they said, the most expert horseman, and the most intrepid warrior of the tribe. When they had once hoisted him on his horse, where he held on, at once standing and seated, he was invincible. In the popular assemblies, which the mountaineers of these regions are in the habit of holding very frequently, and always in the open air, to discuss all questions of public and private interest, the chief Bomba always made himself remarkable by the ascendancy of his eloquence and his resolute character. When they were discussing at Angti the tax on the oulah, no one was seen, no one heard, but the astonishing Bomba. Perched on the shoulders of a big, tall Thibetian, he pervaded, like a giant, the tumultuous assembly, and dominated it, by word and gesture, still more than by his factitious stature.

The chief of Angti omitted no opportunity of giving us special proofs of kindness and sympathy. One day, he invited us to dine with him. This invitation served the double end of exercising towards us the duty of hospitality, and, in the next place, of piquing the jealousy of the Chinese, whom he hated and despised with all his soul. After dinner, which offered nothing remarkable but a profusion of uncooked and boiled meat, and tea richly saturated with butter, he asked us to go and see a saloon full of pictures and armour of every description. The pictures which lined the walls consisted of portraits, rudely coloured, representing the most illustrious ancestors of the family of Bomba. We observed there, a numerous collection of Lamas of every age and dignity, and some warriors in war costume. The arms were numerous, and in great variety. There were lances, arrows, two-edged sabres, spiral and scythe-shaped; tridents; long sticks with large iron rings, and matchlocks, the stocks of which were of most singular shapes. The defensive arms were round bucklers of the hide of the wild yak, ornamented with red copper nails; armlets and greaves of copper, and coats of mail of iron wire, of a thick and close web, but, notwithstanding, very elastic. The chief Bomba told us that these coats of mail were the armour of very ancient times, which had been put aside since the use of the gun had become general in their country. The Thibetians, as we have said, are too indifferent in matters of chronology, to be able to assign the time when they began to make use of fire-arms. It may be presumed, however, that they were not acquainted with gunpowder until towards the thirteenth century, in the time of the wars of Tchingghiskhan, who had, as we know, artillery in his army. A rather remarkable circumstance is, that in the mountains of Thibet, as well as in the Chinese empire and the plains of Tartary, there is no one but knows how to make powder. Every family makes it for its own use. In passing through the province of Kham, we often remarked women and children busily employed in pounding coal, sulphur, and saltpetre. The powder thus made is certainly not so good as that of Europe, yet, when it is put in a fusil, with a ball upon it, it is sufficiently potent to project the ball, and make it kill stags in hunting, and men in battle.

After five days’ repose, we resumed our route. Immediately at the outset, the caravan began to ascend the lofty mountain of Angti. We met neither red horse nor white knight, and no genius took us on his crupper, to bear us away to his solitary abode. On every side, we saw only snow, but that snow was so abundant that even on the most noted mountains, we had never found so frightful a quantity. Frequently the guides, mounted upon long-haired oxen, entirely disappeared in gulfs, from which they could only disengage themselves with great difficulty. More than once we were on the point of retracing our steps, and giving up all hopes of reaching the summit.

The small Sínico-Thibetian caravan that had joined us at Tsiamdo, and that had never left us since, presented a spectacle worthy of the utmost compassion. We forgot, in some degree, our own sufferings, when we saw these poor little creatures almost at every step buried in the snow, and with hardly strength enough to cry. We admired the intrepid energy of the Thibetian mother, who, so to speak, multiplied herself, in order to rush to the assistance of her numerous offspring, and who derived, from maternal tenderness, superhuman strength.

The mountain of Angti is so lofty and steep, that it took us the whole day to ascend and descend it. The sun had already set when we managed to roll to the bottom. We halted a few minutes, under some black tents inhabited by nomad shepherds, swallowed a few handsful of tsamba, diluted with brackish tea, and then resumed our route along a rocky valley where the snow was all melted. We followed for two hours, in utter darkness, the steep banks of a river, of which we heard the waters without seeing them. Every instant we trembled lest we should be precipitated into it; but the animals, which knew the road, and which we left to their instinct, conducted us safely to Djaya.

Our arrival in the middle of the night put all the town in commotion. The dogs, by their fierce barking, gave the alarm. Soon after, the doors of the houses were opened, and the inhabitants of the town rushed out in a crowd into the streets, with horn lanterns, torches, and weapons of every description, the general impression being that there was an invasion of the enemy. However, when they observed the peaceful and even timid bearing of the caravan, their apprehensions were quieted, and each person returned home. It was past midnight before we were able to get to sleep, having previously resolved to stay a day at Djaya, with a view to take a few hours’ rest after crossing the famous mountain of Angti, not more than was necessary.

Djaya is, as we have stated already, the residence of the young Lama Houtouktou, who at the time was warring with the Houtouktou of Tsiamdo. The town, situated in a beautiful valley, is tolerably large; but, at the time we passed through it, it was half in ruins; scarce twenty days had elapsed since it had been attacked by the partisans of the Grand Houtouktou. The two parties, we were informed, had had terrific combats, wherein on both sides the victims had been numerous. In passing through the town, we found whole quarters laid waste by fire; nothing remained but enormous heaps of calcined stones, and woodwork reduced to ashes. All the trees of the valley had been cut down, and the trampling of horses had utterly laid waste the cultivated fields. The celebrated Lamasery of Djaya was deserted, the cells of the Lamas and the wall, for more than 400 yards in circuit, which surrounded them, had been demolished, and presented nothing but a terrible mass of ruins. The assailants had only respected the principal temples of Buddha.

The Chinese government keeps at Djaya a small garrison, composed of twenty soldiers, commanded by a Tsien-Tsoung and a Pa-Tsoung. These military gentlemen wore anything but a satisfied aspect. They seemed to be very indifferently pleased in this country, a prey to all the horrors of civil war. The warlike attitude of the mountaineers left them no rest, day or night. It was in vain they tried to preserve neutrality, or rather to have the appearance of belonging to both parties; they none the less found themselves constantly between two fires. It would appear, indeed, that Djaya has never furnished to the Chinese an easy and agreeable residence. At all times, Chinese domination has met with invincible resistance from the fierce tribes around it. The Chinese Itinerary, which was written in the reign of the Emperor Kien-Long, expresses itself thus concerning these countries: “The Thibetians, who inhabit the district of Djaya, are of a haughty and fierce character; all attempts to subdue them have been fruitless, they are considered very ferocious; it is their natural character.” What the Chinese writer calls “fierce character,” is nothing more in reality than ardent patriotism, and a very just hatred of a foreign yoke.

A day’s rest having sufficiently repaired our strength, we quitted Djaya. It is unnecessary to add that the Chinese were obliged to pay, and in ready money, for the hire of the oulah. The Thibetians of the country were too ferocious to furnish us gratuitously with oxen and horses. We travelled for two days, through a country extremely low, where we frequently found small villages and black tents grouped in the valleys. We were often obliged to traverse wooden bridges, in order to cross sometimes calm and quiet streams, and at other times torrents, the impetuous waters of which rolled on with a terrible noise. Shortly before our arrival at the station of Adzou-Thang, we overtook the party which was accompanying the coffin of the deceased Liang-Tai to Bagoung. The son also had just died in a black tent, after a few hours’ frightful agony. The caravan, having no chief, was in a complete state of disorganisation; most of the soldiers of the escort had dispersed, after pillaging the baggage of their Mandarin; three only had remained, who were devising the best means of effecting the conveying of the two bodies to China. They despaired of being able to continue their journey in so small a number; so that the arrival of our caravan extricated them from a great difficulty. The conveyance of the father’s body had been arranged at Bagoung; that of the son remained unsettled. The carriers of his palanquin had refused to undertake the carriage, for they foresaw that there would not be money enough to pay them for their trouble. To place the coffin on an ox was impracticable; there was no inducing a Thibetian guide to allow one of their animals to carry a corpse, much less the corpse of a Chinese. We were obliged to have recourse to stratagem. The body of the last deceased Mandarin was secretly cut into four pieces, and then packed in a box, which we put among the general luggage, making the Thibetians believe that in honour of filial piety, the body of the son had been laid beside that of his father, in the same coffin.

The two corpses, that had become our fellow-travellers, communicated to the caravan a mournful aspect, which had great influence upon the Chinese imagination. Ly, the pacificator of kingdoms, whose strength decreased daily, was particularly alarmed by the circumstance; he would fain have removed the sad spectacle, but this he could not effect without exposing himself to the terrible accusation of having impeded the sepulture of two Mandarins, who had died in a foreign country.

From Adzou-Thang, we went on to sleep and change oulah in a small village of the valley of Che-Pan-Keou (Valley of Slates). According to the testimony of the Chinese Itinerary, the inhabitants of this valley are a rude, wicked, and obstinate people; that is to say, in other words, they do not fear the Chinese, and are in the habit of making them pay a good price for the yaks and horses with which they furnish them.

The valley of Che-Pan-Keou, as its name indicates, abounds in quarries of argillaceous schist. The Thibetians of these countries raise from them beautiful slate, which they use in tiling their houses; they also raise very thick pieces, upon which they engrave images of Buddha with the form, “Om mane padme houm.” This slate is of very fine texture. The small portions of mica or talc which they contain, give them a brilliant and silky lustre.

The stream which flows through the centre of the valley, contains a large quantity of gold dust, which the natives do not neglect to collect and refine. As we walked along the stream, we found fragments of crucibles, to which were still attached a few particles of gold; we showed them to the Pacificator of Kingdoms, and this sight seemed to reanimate his strength, and to renew the bonds which attached him to life. The blood suddenly rushed into his face, his eyes, which had been almost extinct, shone with an unwonted fire. One would have said that the sight of a few grains of gold had made him completely forget both his malady and the two corpses which accompanied him.

Musk deer abound in this schistous valley. Although that animal, addicted to cold climates, is met with on almost all the mountains of Thibet, nowhere, perhaps, is it seen in such large numbers as in the neighbourhood of Che-Pan-Keou. The pines, cedars, hollies, and cypresses, which cover this country, contribute, no doubt, a good deal to attract these animals thither, peculiarly fond, as they are, of the roots of these trees, which have a strong aromatic perfume.

The musk deer is of the height of a goat; it has a small head; its nose is pointed, and ornamented with long white mustachios; its legs are small, its haunches large and thick; two long crooked teeth, which grow out of the upper jaw, enable it to tear up from the ground the odoriferous roots, upon which it subsists; its hair is generally from two to three inches long, and is hollow, like that of almost all the animals which live north of the Himalaya mountains; extremely rough, and always bristling; its colour is black below, white in the middle, and inclining to grey above. A bladder, suspended from the belly, near the navel, contains the precious substance, the musk.

The inhabitants of the schistous valley capture in the chase such a number of these musk deer, that you see nothing in their houses but the skins of these animals, hung on the walls by pegs. They use the hair to stuff the thick cushions, on which they sit during the day, and the sort of mattress which serves them for a bed; they have in the musk the source of a very lucrative trade with the Chinese.

The day after our arrival at Che-Pan-Keou, we bade farewell to the inhabitants of the valley, and proceeded on our way. At the three next stations, they were quite inexorable on the question of the oulah. The Chinese were disgusted at the behaviour of these rude mountaineers, who, as they said, did not comprehend hospitality, and had no notion of what was right and what was wrong. As to us, on the contrary, we sympathized with these men and their rude, spirited temperament; their manners, it is true, were not refined, but their natural disposition was generosity and frankness itself, and in our eyes matter was of more moment than manner. At length we reached Kiang-Tsa, and the Chinese now began to breathe more freely, for we were entering upon a less hostile district. Kiang-Tsa is a very fertile valley, the inhabitants of which seem to live in plenty. We remarked among them, besides the soldiers of the garrison, a great number of Chinese from the provinces of Sse-Tchouen and Yun-Nan, who keep a few shops and exercise the primary arts and trades. A few years, they say, enable them, in this country, to amass a tolerably large fortune. The two military Mandarins of Kiang-Tsa, who had been companions in arms of Ly-Kouo-Ngan, were alarmed at the deplorable state in which they found him, and advised him strongly to continue his journey in a palanquin. We joined our entreaties to theirs, and we were fortunate enough to triumph over the avarice of the Pacificator of Kingdoms. He appeared at last to comprehend that a dead man had no need of money, and that first of all he should see to the saving of his life. The son of the Mandarin Pei seemed to have died just in the nick of time for placing at Ly-Kouo-Ngan’s disposal, his palanquin and his eight Chinese bearers, all of whom were at Kiang-Tsa. We halted for one day to repair the palanquin and to give the bearers time to prepare their travelling sandals.

The countries which we passed to the south of Kiang-Tsa, seemed to us less cold and less barren than those we had journeyed through previously. The ground perceptibly declined; we were still, indeed, completely surrounded by mountains, but they gradually lost their savage and mournful aspect. We no longer saw those threatening forms, those gigantic masses of granite with sharp and perpendicular declivities. High grass and forests showed themselves on every side, cattle became more numerous, and everything announced that we were rapidly advancing towards more temperate climes; only the tops of the mountains still preserved their crowns of snow and ice.

Four days after our departure from Kiang-Tsa, we reached the banks of the Kin-Cha-Kiang (River of Gold-dust), which we had already crossed on the ice with the Thibetian ambassador, two months before our arrival at Lha-Ssa. Amid the beautiful plains of China, this magnificent river rolls on its blue waves with an imposing majesty; but among the mountains of Thibet, it is ever bounding about, throwing the great mass of its waters to the bottom of gorges and valleys, with terrible impetuosity and noise. At the spot where we came to the river, it was enclosed between two mountains, the sharp flanks of which, rising perpendicularly on its banks, made for it a narrow but extremely deep bed; the waters ran rapidly, sending forth a low and lugubrious sound. From time to time, we saw huge masses of ice approach, which, after having whirled round in a thousand eddies, at last were dashed to pieces against the sharp projections of the mountain.

We followed the right bank of the Kin-Cha-Kiang for half a day. Towards noon, we reached a small village, where we found everything prepared beforehand for crossing the river. The caravan divided itself among four flat boats, and, in a little while, we were on the opposite bank. Near it, at the entrance to a narrow valley, was the station of Tchon-Pa-Loung. The Dheba of the place furnished us, by way of supper, with some excellent fresh fish; and, for sleeping, with a very snug wind-tight chamber, and thick mattresses stuffed with the hair of the musk deer.

Next day we travelled along a small river, which subsequently joins the River of Gold-dust. Our hearts were lighter than usual, for we had been told that we should arrive the same day in a charming country. As we went along, we accordingly looked first on one side and then on the other, with an uneasy curiosity; from time to time we rose on our stirrups in order to see further; but the landscape was a long time before it became poetical. On our left we had still the aforesaid river, prosaically running over great stones, and on our right a large red mountain, dismal, bare, and cut up in all directions by deep ravines; masses of white clouds, driven onward by a cutting wind, flitted over the sides of the mountain, and formed, ahead of us, a sombre horizon of mist.

Towards midday, the caravan halted at some ruins, to drink a cup of tea and eat a handful of tsamba; we then clambered to the top of the red mountain, and from the height of this great observatory, admired on our right the magnificent, the enchanting plain of Bathang. We found ourselves, all at once transported, as it were by magic, into the presence of a country which offered to our view all the wonders of the richest and most varied vegetation. The contrast, above all, was striking. On one side, a sombre, barren, mountainous region, almost throughout a desert; on the other, on the contrary, a joyous plain, where numerous inhabitants occupied themselves in fertile fields, in the labours of agriculture. The Chinese Itinerary says, “The canton of Bathang is a beautiful plain, a thousand lis in length, well watered by streams and springs; the sky there is clear, the climate pleasant, and everything gladdens the heart and the eyes of man.” We quickly descended the mountain, and continued our journey in a real garden, amid flowering trees and verdant rice fields. A delicious warmth gradually penetrated our limbs, and we soon felt our furred dresses oppressive; it was nearly two years since we had perspired, and it seemed very odd to be warm without being before a good fire.

Near the town of Bathang, the soldiers of the garrison were drawn up in line, to do military honours to the Pacificator of Kingdoms, who, perched up, at the bottom of his palanquin, went through the ranks in a very unwarlike manner. The Thibetian population, who were all on foot, accompanied the caravan to a beautiful Chinese pagoda which was to serve for our lodging. The same evening, the Mandarins of the Chinese garrison and the Grand Lamas of the town, came to pay us a visit, and to offer us some beef and mutton, butter, corn, candles, bacon, rice, nuts, raisins, apricots, and other products of the country.

At Bathang, there is a magazine of provisions, the fourth from Lha-Ssa; it is, like all the others, managed by a literary Mandarin, bearing the title of Liang-Tai. The Chinese garrison, consisting of three hundred soldiers, is commanded by a Cheou-Pei, two Tsien-Tsoung, and a Pa-Tsoung. The annual maintenance of the Chinese troops, who belong to this post, amounts to nine thousand ounces of silver, without reckoning the rations of rice and tsamba. We observed, among the population of Bathang, a very great number of Chinese; they are engaged in various arts and trades; several of them, indeed, occupy themselves with agriculture, and make the most of the Thibetian farms. This plain, which you find, as by enchantment, amid the mountains of Thibet, is wonderfully fertile: it produces two harvests each year. Its principal products are, rice, maize, barley, wheat, peas, cabbages, turnips, onions, and several other varieties of vegetable. Of fruits, you find grapes, pomegranates, peaches, apricots, and water melons. Honey is also very abundant there. Lastly, you find there mines of cinnabar (sulphur of mercury), from which they extract a large quantity of mercury. The Thibetians get the mercury in all its purity, by disengaging the sulphur by combustion, or by combining it with slack-lime.

The town of Bathang is large and very populous, and its inhabitants seem to be well off. The Lamas there are very numerous, as they are in all the Thibetian towns. The principal Lamasery, which they call the Grand Monastery of Ba, has for its superior a Khampo, who holds his spiritual authority from the Tale-Lama of Lha-Ssa.

The temporal power of the Tale-Lama ends at Bathang. The frontiers of Thibet, properly so called, were fixed in 1726, on the termination of a great war between the Thibetians and the Chinese. Two days before you arrive at Bathang, you pass, on the top of the Mang-Ling mountain, a stone monument, showing what was arranged at that time between the government of Lha-Ssa and that of Peking, on the subject of boundaries. At present, the countries situate east of Bathang are independent of Lha-Ssa in temporal matters. They are governed by the Tou-Sse, a sort of feudal princes, originally appointed by the Chinese Emperor, and still acknowledging his paramount authority.

These petty sovereigns are bound to go every third year to Peking, to offer their tribute to the Emperor.

We halted at Bathang three days, the illness of our guide Ly-Kouo-Ngan, being the cause of this delay. The daily fatigues of this long journey had so overpowered the poor Mandarin, that he was in an almost hopeless state. His best plan was to take advantage of the fine climate of Bathang, and to let the caravan proceed on its way. His friends advised him to do so, but without success. He insisted upon continuing his journey, and sought, in every way, to deceive himself as to the serious nature of his malady. As for us, we considered his case so dangerous, that we felt it our duty to profit by the repose we enjoyed at Bathang, to talk seriously to him on the subject of his soul and of eternity. Our previous conversations on the way had already sufficiently enlightened him as to the principal truths of Christianity. Nothing now remained but to make him clearly perceive his position, and to convince him of the urgency of entering frankly and fully into the path of salvation. Ly-Kouo-Ngan altogether concurred with us, admitting our observations to be replete with reason. He himself spoke with great eloquence on the frailty and brevity of human life, of worldly vanities, of the impenetrability of God’s decrees, of the importance of salvation, of the truth of the Christian religion, and of the obligation on all mankind to embrace it. He said to us, on all these subjects, some very sensible and very touching things; but when it came to the point, to the practical result, to the declaring himself Christian, there was a dead stand; he must absolutely wait till he had returned to his family, and had abdicated his mandarinate. It was in vain that we represented to him the danger he incurred by postponing this important matter; all was useless. “So long as I am a Mandarin of the Emperor,” said he, “I cannot serve the Lord of Heaven,” and he had got this absurd idea so deep in his brain, that it was impracticable to dislodge it.

On leaving the station of Bathang, we were obliged to turn for some distance, quite northwards, in order to resume an eastern direction; for since our departure from Tsiamdo, we had continually progressed towards the south during twenty consecutive days. The caravans are compelled to lengthen this route considerably, in order to reach a secure passage across the great river Kin-Cha-Kiang.

Our first day’s march from Bathang was full of charms, for we travelled, in a delightful temperature, through a country of an infinite variety of landscape. The narrow path we followed was throughout bordered with willows and apricot trees in flower. Next day, however, we again found ourselves amid all the horrors and dangers of our old route. We had to ascend a very high mountain, upon which we were mercilessly assailed by the snow and the north wind. It was a complete reaction against the Sybaritism we had enjoyed in the warm and flowery plain of Bathang. At the foot of the mountain, the snow was succeeded by torrents of cold rain, which seemed to filter through into the very marrow of our bones. As a climax of misfortune, we were obliged to pass the night in a habitation, the roof of which, cracked in several places, gave free passage to the wind and rain. We were, however, so exhausted with fatigue that this did not prevent our sleeping. The next day we awoke in the mire; we found our bedclothes entirely soaked, and our limbs stiff with cold. We were obliged to rub ourselves violently with pieces of ice, in order to restore circulation to the blood. The abominable village, which afforded us this horrible lodging, bears the name of Ta-So. On emerging from the valley of Ta-So, you ascend, by a narrow gorge, an elevated plain, which we found covered with snow. Here, we entered a magnificent forest, the finest we had seen in the mountains of Thibet. The pines, cedars, and hollies entwined their vigorous branches, and formed a dome of verdure impenetrable to the sun, and under which there is much better protection from the rain and snow than in the houses of Ta-So. The trunks and branches of these large trees are covered with thick moss, which extends in long and extremely delicate filaments. When this stringy moss is new, it is of a beautiful green hue; but when it is old, it is black, and bears an exact resemblance to long tufts of dirty and ill-combed hair. There is nothing more grotesque or fantastic than the appearance of these old pines, with this very long hair suspended from their branches. The prickly holly that grows on the mountains of Thibet, is remarkable for the extraordinary development it attains. In Europe, it never exceeds the size of a shrub, but here, it always grows to the size of a large tree. If it does not rise as high as the pine, it equals it in the size of its trunk, and it is even superior to it in the richness and abundance of its foliage.

This day’s march was long and fatiguing. The night had set in when we reached the station of Samba, where we were to change the oulah. We were just going to bed, when we missed a Thibetian, belonging to the escort, precisely the very man who had been assigned as our servant. We sought him, but without success, in every corner of the small village in which we had arrived. We concluded he had lost his way in the forest. We at first thought of sending in search of him, but in so dark a night, how could one possibly find a man in that vast and thick forest? We contented ourselves with going in a body to a neighbouring hill, where we shouted, and lit a large fire. Towards midnight, the lost man reappeared, almost dead with fatigue. He carried on his back the saddle of his horse, which, no doubt, finding the journey too long, had thought fit to lie down in the midst of the forest, and it had been impossible to get him up again. The return of this poor young man filled every one with joy, and we all then went to rest.

The next day, we rose late. Whilst the inhabitants of Samba were bringing the horses and the beasts of burden to form the caravan, we went for a little walk, and to have a view of the place, which we had reached over night. The village of Samba is a collection of thirty small houses, built of large flint stones, rudely cemented, some with argols, others with mud. The aspect of the village is mournful, but the environs are tolerably cheerful. Two streams, one coming from the west, the other from the south, join near the village, and form a river, the transparent waters of which flow over a vast prairie. A small wooden bridge, painted red, herds of goats and long-haired cattle, which sported amid the pastures, some storks and wild ducks, fishing for their breakfast on the banks of the water, a few gigantic cypresses here and there, even the smoke which rose from the Thibetian cottages, and which the wind gently wafted over the adjacent hills, all contributed to give life and charm to the landscape. The sky was clear and serene. Already the sun, having risen a little above the horizon, promised us a fine day, and a mild temperature.

We returned to our lodgings, walking slowly. The caravan was ready, and on the point of departure; the beasts were laden with their burdens; the horsemen, their robes tucked up, and whip in hand, were ready to mount. “We are behind hand,” said we, “let us make haste,” and at a run we were in our places. “Why are you in such a hurry?” said a Chinese soldier, “Ly-Kouo-Ngan is not ready; he has not yet opened the door of his room.” “To-day,” answered we, “there is no great mountain a-head; the weather is fine: there is no objection to our starting a little later; go, however, and tell the Mandarin that the caravan is ready.” The soldier pushed open the door, and entered the chamber of Ly-Kouo-Ngan; he rushed out again pale and with haggard eyes. “Ly-Kouo-Ngan is dead!” said he to us, in a low tone. We rushed into the room, and saw the unfortunate Mandarin, stretched on his bed, his mouth open, his teeth clenched, and his eyes shrunk up by death. We placed our hands on his heart, which gently moved. He had yet a spark of life in him, but hope was vain; the dying man had altogether lost the use of senses; there was another rattle or two in his throat, and he expired. The humours with which his legs were swollen, had gone up to his chest, and suffocated him.

The death of our guide had not been unexpected; there was nothing in it to surprise us, but it occurred in such a sudden, melancholy manner, that every one of us was greatly agitated. As for ourselves, in particular, we were afflicted at it beyond all expression. We bitterly regretted that it had not been our good fortune to assist at the last moments of this unfortunate man, whom we had so desired to bring from the darkness of paganism into the light of the faith. Oh, how impenetrable are the decrees of God! Some hope, however, mingled with our but too just grounds for fear. As this poor soul had been sufficiently enlightened as to the truths of religion, it is permissible to suppose that God, of his infinite mercy, perhaps accorded to him, in his last moments, the grace of the baptism of volition.

That day the caravan did not proceed on its march, the animals were unsaddled and sent out to pasture; and then the soldiers of the escort made all the necessary preparations, according to the Chinese rites, for conveying the body of their Mandarin to his family. We will not enter here into the details of what was done in this matter, for whatever concerns the manners and customs and ceremonies of the Chinese, will find a place elsewhere. We will merely say that the defunct was enveloped in a large white pall, which had been given him by the Living Buddha of Djachi-Loumbo, and which was covered with Thibetian sentences, and with images of Buddha, printed in black.

The Thibetians, and other Buddhists, have unlimited confidence in the printed winding-sheets which are distributed by the Tale-Lama and the Bandchan-Remboutchi. They are persuaded that those who are fortunate enough to be buried in them, cannot fail to have a happy transmigration.

By the demise of Ly-Kouo-Ngan, the caravan found itself without a leader and without a guide. There was, to be sure, the Lama Dsiamdchang, to whom the power should have fallen by right, and by legitimate succession; but the Chinese soldiers being very little disposed to acknowledge his authority, we passed from the monarchic state to the republican, democratical form. This state of things lasted at most half-a-day. Perceiving that the men of the caravan, both Thibetians and Chinese, were not yet prepared for so perfect a government, and considering that anarchy was developing itself in every direction, and that matters threatened to go to rack and ruin, consulting only the public interest and the safety of the caravan, we assumed the dictatorship. We immediately issued several decrees, in order that everything might be in readiness for us to proceed on the morrow at daybreak. The necessity of being governed was so completely understood, that no one made any opposition, and we were obeyed punctually.

At the appointed time, we left Samba. The caravan bore a sad and melancholy aspect. With its three corpses, it absolutely resembled a funeral procession. After three days’ march across mountains, where we generally found wind, snow, and cold, we arrived at the station of Lithang (copper plain). The Chinese government keeps here a magazine of provisions, and a garrison consisting of 100 soldiers. The Mandarins of Lithang are: a Liang-Tai, a Cheou-Pei, and two Pa-Tsoung. A few minutes after our arrival, these gentlemen came to pay us a visit. In the first place, the illness and death of our guide were discussed at full length; then we were required to state our quality, and by what authority and in what position we were in the caravan. By way of answer, we simply showed him a large scroll, fortified with the seal and signature of the ambassador Ki-Chan, and containing the instructions which had been given to Ly-Kouo-Ngan about us. “Good, good,” said these persons to us, “the death of Ly-Kouo-Ngan will make no change in your position; you shall be well treated wherever you go. Up to this time you have always lived peaceably with the men of the caravan, doubtless this good understanding will continue to the end.” We hoped so too. Yet, as considering human frailty, difficulties might possibly arise on the way, particularly among the Chinese soldiers, we wished to have with us a responsible Mandarin. We made this request, and were informed that of the four Mandarins who were at Lithang, not one could be spared to conduct us; that we could go along quietly enough as far as the frontiers, with our Thibetian and Chinese escort; and that there we should readily find a Mandarin to conduct us to the capital of Sse-Tchouen. “Very well,” said we, “as you cannot give us a Mandarin we shall travel as we think fit, and go where we please. We are not even sure that on quitting this place we shall not return to Lha-Ssa. You see that we deal freely with you; reflect upon the point.” Our four magistrates rose, saying that they would deliberate on this important matter, and that in the evening we should have an answer.

During our supper, a Pa-Tsoung, one of the four Mandarins, presented himself in his state robes. After the usual compliments, he told us that he had been selected to command our escort as far as the frontiers; that he had never, in his dreams of ambition, imagined he should have the honour of conducting people such as we; that he was ashamed on the first day of seeing us, to have to ask us a favour; it was, that we would rest for two days at Lithang, in order to recover our strength, which must be exhausted by so long and arduous a journey. We perceived that our friend had need of two days to arrange some affairs of his own, previous to a journey which he had not expected. “Ah,” we replied, “already how full of solicitude is your heart for us. We will rest then two days as you wish it.” Authority having been thus reorganized, our dictatorship was at an end. But we thought we perceived that this was anything but agreeable to our people, who would much rather have had to do with us than with a Mandarin.

The town of Lithang is built on the sides of a hill which rises in the middle of a plain, broad but almost sterile. Nothing grows there but a little barley, and a few poor herbs, which serve for pasturage to some miserable herds of goats and yaks. Seen from a distance, the town has some promise. Two large Lamaseries, richly painted and gilt, which are built quite on the top of the hill, especially contribute to give it an imposing aspect. But, when you pass through the interior, you find nothing but ugly, dirty, narrow streets, so steep, that your legs must be accustomed to mountain travelling, to keep their equilibrium. This side of the River of Gold-dust, you observe among the tribes a rather remarkable modification in the manners, customs, costume, and even in the language. You see that you are no longer in Thibet, properly so called. As you approach the frontiers of China, the natives have less ferocity and rudeness in their character; you find them more covetous, flattering, and cunning; their religious faith is no longer so vivid, nor so frank. As to the language, it is no longer the pure Thibetian that is spoken at Lha-Ssa, and in the province of Kham; it is a dialect closely connected with the idiom of the Si-Fan, and in which you remark various Chinese expressions. The Thibetians of Lha-Ssa who accompanied us had the greatest difficulty in the world in understanding and being understood. The costume, for the most part, only differs as to the head-dress. The men wear a hat of grey or brown felt, somewhat similar to our own felt hats when they first come from the hatter’s board and have not been rounded to the form. The women form with their hair a number of small tresses, which flow over their shoulders. They then place on their heads a large silver plate, somewhat similar to a dinner-plate. The more elegant wear two of these, one on each side, so that the two ends meet above the head. The precept of daubing the face with black, does not apply to the women of Lithang. This kind of toilet operates only in the countries temporally subject to the Tale-Lama.

The most important of the Lamaseries of Lithang possesses a great printing press for Buddhic books, and it is hither that, on holidays, the Lamas of the neighbouring countries come for their supplies. Lithang carries on also a large trade in gold dust, in chaplets of black beads, and in cups made with the roots of the vine and box-tree. As we departed from Lithang, the Chinese garrison was under arms, to render military honours to Ly-Kouo-Ngan. They acted just as if he had been alive. When the coffin passed, all the soldiers bent their knees and exclaimed: “To the Tou-Sse, Ly-Kouo-Ngan, the poor garrison of Lithang wishes health and prosperity.” The petty Mandarin, with the white button, who had become our guide, saluted the garrison in the name of the deceased. This new commander of the caravan was a Chinese of Moslem extraction; but one could find nothing about him which seemed to belong in the least to the fine type of his ancestors: his puny, stunted person, his pointed smiling face, his shrill treble voice, his trifling manners, all contributed to give him the air of a shop-boy, and not in the least that of a military Mandarin. He was a prodigious talker. The first day he rather amused us, but he soon became a bore. He thought himself bound, in his quality of Mussulman, to talk to us, on all occasions, about Arabia, and of its horses that are sold for their weight in gold; about Mahomet, and his famous sabre that cut through metals; about Mecca and its bronze ramparts.

From Lithang to Ta-Tsien-Lou, a frontier town of China, is only 600 lis, which are divided into eight stages. We found the end of that frightful route to Thibet exactly like its middle and its beginning. We in vain climbed mountains; we found still more and more before us, all of a threatening aspect, all covered with snow and rugged with precipices; nor did the temperature undergo any perceptible change. It appeared to us, that, since our departure from Lha-Ssa, we had been doing nothing but move round and round in the same circle. Yet, as we advanced, the villages became more frequent, without, however, losing their Thibetian style. The most important of these villages is Makian-Dsoung, where some Chinese merchants keep stores for supplying the caravans. One day’s journey from Makian-Dsoung, you pass in a boat the Ya-Loung-Kiang, a large and rapid river. Its source is at the foot of the Bayen-Kharat mountains, close to that of the Yellow River. It joins the Kin-Cha-Kiang, in the province of Sse-Tchouen. According to the traditions of the country, the banks of the Ya-Loung-Kiang were the first cradle of the Thibetian nation. As we were passing the Ya-Loung-Kiang in a boat, a shepherd crossed the same river on a bridge merely composed of a thick rope of yak skin tightly stretched from one bank to the other. A sort of wooden stirrup was suspended by a solid strap to a moveable pulley on the rope. The shepherd had only to place himself backwards, under this strange bridge, with his feet on the stirrup, and hold on to the rope with both his hands; he then pulled the rope gently; the mere weight of his body made the pulley move, and he reached the other side in a very short time. These bridges are very common in Thibet, and are very convenient for crossing torrents and precipices; but one must be accustomed to them. We ourselves never ventured on them. Iron chain bridges also are much in use, particularly in the provinces of Ouei and Dzang. To construct them, as many iron hooks are fixed on both sides of the river as there are to be chains, then the chains are fastened, and on the chains planks, which are sometimes covered with a coating of earth. As these bridges are extremely elastic, they are furnished with hand-rails.

We arrived at length safe and sound at the frontiers of China, where the climate of Thibet gave us a very cold farewell. In crossing the mountain which precedes the town of Ta-Tsien-Lou, we were almost buried in the snow, it fell so thick and fast; and which accompanied us into the valley where stands the Chinese town, which, in its turn, received us with a pelting rain. It was in the early part of June, 1846, and three months since we had departed from Lha-Ssa; according to the Chinese Itinerary, we had travelled 5,050 lis.

Ta-Tsien-Lou signifies the forge of arrows, and this name was given to the town, because in the year 234 of our era, General Wou-Heou, while leading his army against the southern countries, sent one of his lieutenants to establish there a forge of arrows. This district has by turns belonged to the Thibetians and to the Chinese; for the last hundred years it has been considered as an integral part of the empire.

“The walls and fortifications of Ta-Tsien-Lou,” says the Chinese Itinerary, “are of freestone. Chinese and Thibetians dwell there together. It is thence that the officers and troops, which are sent to Thibet quit China. Though it passes also a large quantity of tea coming from China, and destined to supply the provinces of Thibet, it is at Ta-Tsien-Lou that is held the principal tea fair. Although the inhabitants of this canton are very addicted to the worship of Buddha, they seek to get a little profit; yet they are sincere and just, submissive and obedient, so that nothing, even death, can change their natural good nature. As they have been long accustomed to the Chinese domination, they are the more attached to it.”

We rested three days at Ta-Tsien-Lou, and each day had several quarrels with the principal Mandarin of the place, who would not consent to our continuing our route in a palanquin. However, he had at length to give way, for we could not bear even the idea of mounting once more on horseback. Our legs had bestrid so many horses of every age, size, quality, and colour, that they refused to have anything further to do with horses at all, and were full of an irresistible resolution to stretch themselves at ease in a palanquin. This was granted them, thanks to the perseverance and energy of our remonstrances.

The Thibetian escort which had accompanied us so faithfully during the long and arduous route returned after two days’ rest. We gave the Lama Dchiamdchang a letter for the Regent, in which we thanked him for having assigned us so devoted an escort, and which had throughout kept in our memory the good treatment we had received at Lha-Ssa. On parting from these good Thibetians we could not help shedding tears, for insensibly, and as it were without our knowledge, ties had been formed between us which it was painful to sever. The Lama Dchiamdchang secretly told us that he had been charged to remind us, at the moment of separation, of the promise we had made to the Regent. He asked us if they might reckon on seeing us again at Lha-Ssa. We replied that they might, for at that time we were far from anticipating the nature of the obstacles that were to prevent our return to Thibet.

The next morning, at daybreak, we entered our palanquins, and were conveyed, at the public expense, to the capital of the province of Sse-Tchouen, where, by order of the Emperor, we were to undergo a solemn judgment before the Grand Mandarins of the Celestial Empire.