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[Frontispiece: A Nomad of the Mongolian Plains]
ACROSS MONGOLIAN PLAINS
A Naturalist's Account of China's "Great Northwest"
ROY CHAPMAN ANDREWS
ASSOCIATE CURATOR OF MAMMALS IN THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, AND LEADER OF THE MUSEUM'S SECOND ASIATIC EXPEDITION. AUTHOR OF "WHALE HUNTING WITH GUN AND CAMERA," "CAMPS AND TRAILS IN CHINA," ETC.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY YVETTE BORUP ANDREWS
Photographer of the Second Asiatic Expedition
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY NEW YORK: LONDON: MCMXXI
COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
THIS BOOK IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO
DR. J. A. ALLEN
WHO, THROUGH HIS PROFOUND KNOWLEDGE, UNSELFISH DEVOTION TO SCIENCE, AND NEVER-FAILING SYMPATHY WITH YOUNGER STUDENTS OF ZOOLOGY HAS BEEN AN EXAMPLE AND AN INSPIRATION DURING THE YEARS I HAVE WORKED AT HIS SIDE.
During 1916-1917 the First Asiatic Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History carried on zoological explorations along the frontiers of Tibet and Burma in the little known province of Yuen-nan, China. The narrative of that expedition has already been given to the public in the first book of this series "Camps and Trails in China." It was always the intention of the American Museum to continue the Asiatic investigations, and my presence in China on other work in 1918 gave the desired opportunity at the conclusion of the war.
Having made extensive collections along the southeastern edge of the great central Asian plateau, it was especially desirable to obtain a representation of the fauna from the northeastern part in preparation for the great expedition which, I am glad to say, is now in course of preparation, and which will conduct work in various other branches of science. Consequently, my wife and I spent one of the most delightful years of our lives in Mongolia and North China on the Second Asiatic Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History.
The present book is the narrative of our work and travels. As in "Camps and Trails" I have written it entirely from the sportsman's standpoint and have purposely avoided scientific details which would prove uninteresting or wearisome to the general public. Full reports of the expedition's results will appear in due course in the Museum's scientific publications and to them I would refer those readers who wish further details of the Mongolian fauna.
Asia is the most fascinating hunting ground in all the world, not because of the quantity of game to be found there but because of its quality, and scientific importance. Central Asia was the point of origin and distribution for many mammals which inhabit other parts of the earth to-day and the habits and relationships of some of its big game animals are almost unknown. Because of unceasing native persecution, lack of protection, the continued destruction of forests and the ever increasing facilities for transportation to the remote districts of the interior, many of China's most interesting and important forms of wild life are doomed to extermination in the very near future.
Fortunately world museums are awakening to the necessity of obtaining representative series of Asiatic mammals before it is too late, and to the broad vision of the President and Board of Trustees of the American Museum of Natural History my wife and I owe the exceptional opportunities which have been given us to carry on zoological explorations in Asia.
We are especially grateful to President Henry Fairfield Osborn, who is ready, always, to support enthusiastically any plans which tend to increase knowledge of China or to strengthen cordial relations between the United States and the Chinese Republic.
Director F. A. Lucas and Assistant Secretary George H. Sherwood have never failed in their attention to the needs of our expeditions when in the field and to them I extend our best thanks.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles L. Bernheimer, who have contributed to every expedition in which I have taken part, generously rendered financial aid for the Mongolian work.
My wife, who is ever my best assistant in the field, was responsible for all the photographic work of the expedition and I have drawn much upon her daily "Journals" in the preparation of this book.
I wish to acknowledge the kindness of the Editors of Harper's Magazine, Natural History, Asia Magazine and the Trans-Pacific Magazine in whose publications parts of this book have already appeared.
We are indebted to a host of friends who gave assistance to the expedition and to us personally in the field:
The Wai Chiao Pu (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) freely granted permits for the expedition to travel throughout China and extended other courtesies for which I wish to express appreciation on behalf of the President and Board of Trustees of the American Museum of Natural History.
In Peking, His Excellency Paul S. Reinsch, formerly American Minister to China, Dr. C. D. Tenney, Mr. Willys Peck, Mr. Ernest B. Price and other members of the Legation staff obtained import permits and attended to many details connected with the Chinese Government.
Mr. A. M. Guptil acted as our Peking representative while we were in the field and assumed much annoying detail in forwarding and receiving shipments of supplies and equipment. Other gentlemen in Peking who rendered us courtesies in various ways are Commanders I. V. Gillis and C. T. Hutchins, Dr. George D. Wilder, Dr. J. G. Anderson and Messrs. H. C. Faxon, E. G. Smith, C. R. Bennett, M. E. Weatherall and J. Kenrick.
In Kalgan, Mr. Charles L. Coltman arranged for the transportation of the expedition to Mongolia and not only gratuitously acted as our agent but was always ready to devote his own time and the use of his motor cars to further the work of the party.
In Urga, Mr. F. A. Larsen of Anderson, Meyer & Company, was of invaluable assistance in obtaining horses, carts and other equipment for the expedition as well as in giving us the benefit of his long and unique experience in Mongolia.
Mr. E. V. Olufsen of Anderson, Meyer & Company, put himself, his house, and his servants at our disposal whenever we were in Urga and aided us in innumerable ways.
Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Mamen often entertained us in their home. Mr. and Mrs. E. L. MacCallie, who accompanied us on one trip across Mongolia and later resided temporarily in Urga, brought equipment for us across Mongolia and entertained us while we were preparing to return to Peking.
Monsieur A. Orlow, Russian Diplomatic Agent in Urga, obtained permits from the Mongolian Government for our work in the Urga region and gave us much valuable advice.
In south China, Reverend H. Castle of Tunglu, and Reverend Lacy Moffet planned a delightful hunting trip for us in Che-kiang Province.
In Shanghai the Hon. E. S. Cunningham, American Consul-General, materially aided the expedition in the shipment of specimens. To Mr. G. M. Jackson, General Passenger Agent of the Canadian Pacific Ocean Services, thanks are due for arranging for rapid transportation to America of our valuable collections.
ROY CHAPMAN ANDREWS AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, NEW YORK CITY, U. S. A.
Early conquests of the Mongols—Why their power was lost—Independence of Outer Mongolia—China's opportunity to obtain her former power in Mongolia—General Hsu Shu-tseng—Memorial to President of China—Cancellation of Outer Mongolia's autonomy
ENTERING THE LAND OF MYSTERY
Arrival in Kalgan—The Hutukhtu's motor car—Start for the great plateau—Camel caravans—The pass—A motor car on the Mongolian plains—Start from Hei-ma-hou—Chinese cultivation—The Mongol not a farmer—The grass-lands of Inner Mongolia—The first Mongol village—Construction of a yurt—Bird life—The telegraph line
SPEED MARVELS OF THE GOBI DESERT
Wells in the desert—Panj-kiang—A lama monastery—A great herd of antelope—A wild chase—Long range shooting—Amazing speed—An exhibition of high-class running—Difficulties in traveling—Description of the northern Mongols—Love of sport—Ude—Bustards—Great monastery at Turin—The rolling plains of Outer Mongolia—Urga during the World War
A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS
Return trip—The "agony box"—The first accident—My Czech and Cossack passengers—The "agony box" breaks a wheel—A dry camp—More motor trouble—Meeting with Langdon Warner—Our game of hide-and-seek in the Orient—An accident near Panj-kiang—We use mutton fat for oil—Arrival at Hei-ma-hou—A wet ride to Kalgan—Trouble at the gate
NEW TRAVELS ON AN OLD TRAIL
Winter in Peking—We leave for Mongolia—Inner Mongolia in spring—Race with a camel—Geese and cranes—Gophers—An electric light in the desert—Chinese motor companies—An antelope buck—A great herd—Brilliant atmosphere of Mongolia—Notes on antelope speed
ANTELOPE MOVIE STARS
Moving pictures under difficulties—A lost opportunity—A zoological garden in the desert—Killing a wolf—Speed of a wolf—Antelope steak and parfum de chameau—A caravan—A wild wolf-hunt—Sulphuric acid—The Turin Plains
THE SACRED CITY OF THE LIVING BUDDHA
A city of contrasts—The Chinese quarter like frontier America—A hamlet of modern Russia—An indescribable mixture of Mongolia, Russia and China in West Urga—Description of a Mongol woman—Urga like a pageant on the stage of a theater—The sacred mountain—The palace of the "Living God"—Love for western inventions—A strange scene at the Hutukhtu's palace—A bed for the Living Buddha—Lamaism—The Lama City—Ceremony in the temple—Prayer wheels—Burial customs—Corpses eaten by dogs—The dogs of Mongolia—Cleanliness—Food—Morality—"H. C. L." in Urga—A horrible prison—Mr. F. A. Larsen
THE LONG TRAIL TO SAIN NOIN KHAN
Beginning work—Carts—Ponies—Our interpreter—Mongol tent—Native clothes best for work—Supplies—How to keep "fit" in the field—Accidents—Sain Noin Khan—The first day—A night in a yurt—Cranes—We trade horses—Horse stealing—No mammals—Birds—Breaking a cart horse—Mongol ponies
THE LURE OF THE PLAINS
Trapping marmots—Skins valuable as furs—Native methods of hunting—A marmot dance—Habits—The first hunting-camp—Our Mongol neighbors—After antelope on horseback—The first buck—A pole-cat—The second day's hunt—The vastness of the plains—Development of a "land sense"—Another antelope
HUNTING ON THE TURIN PLAINS
Mongol hospitality—Camping on the Turin Plains—An enormous herd of antelope—A wonderful ride—Three gazelle—A dry camp—My pony, Kublai Khan—Plains life about a well—Antelope babies—A wonderful provision of nature—Habits—Species in Mongolia—The "goitre"—Speed—Work in camp—Small mammals
AN ADVENTURE IN THE LAMA CITY
An unexpected meeting with a river—Our new camp in Urga—"God's Brother's House"—Photographing in the Lama City—A critical moment—Help from Mr. Olufsen—The motion picture camera an instrument of magic—Floods in Urga—Duke Loobtseng Yangsen—The Duchess—Vegetables in Urga
MONGOLS AT HOME
The forests of Mongolia—A bad day's work—The Terelche River—Tserin Dorchy's family—A wild-wood romance—Evening in the valley—Doctoring the natives—A clever lama—A popular magazine—Return of Tserin Dorchy—Independence—His hunt on the Sacred Mountain—Punishment—Hunting with the Mongols—Tsamba and "buttered tea"—A splendid roebuck—The fortune of a naturalist—Eating the deer's viscera—The field meet of the Terelche Valley—Horse races—Wrestling
NOMADS OF THE FOREST
An ideal camp—The first wapiti—A roebuck—Currants and berries—Catching fish—Enormous trout—A rainy day in camp—A wapiti seen from camp—Mongolian weather—Flowers—Beautiful country—A musk deer—Habits and commercial value—A wild boar—Success and failure in hunting—We kill two wapiti—Return to Urga—Mr. and Mrs. MacCallie—Packing the collections—Across the plains to Peking
THE PASSING OF MONGOLIAN MYSTERY
Importance of Far East—Desert, plain, and water in Mongolia—The Gobi Desert—Agriculture—Pastoral products—Treatment of wool and camel hair—Marmots as a valuable asset—Urga a growing fur market—Chinese merchants—Labor—Gold mines—Transportation—Motor trucks—Passenger motor service—Forests—Aeroplanes—Wireless telegraph
THE GREAT RAM OF THE SHANSI MOUNTAINS
Brigands, Chinese soldiers and "battles"—The Mongolian sheep—Harry Caldwell—Difference between North and South China—The "dust age" in China—Inns—Brigand scouts—The Tai Hai Lake—Splendid shooting—The sheep mountains—An awe-inspiring gorge—An introduction to the argali—Caldwell's big ram—A herd of sheep—My first ram—A second sheep—The end of a perfect day
A long climb—Roebuck—An unsuspecting ram—My Mongol hunter—Donkeys instead of sheep—Two fine rams—The big one lost—A lecture on hunting—A night walk in the canyon—Commander Hutchins and Major Barker—Tom and I get a ram—The end of the sheep hunt
THE HORSE-DEER OF SHANSI
Wu Tai Hai—The "American Legation"—Interior of a North Shansi house—North China villages—The people—"Horse-deer"—The names "wapiti" and "elk"—A great gorge—A rock temple—The hunting grounds furnish a surprise—A huge bull wapiti
WAPITI, ROEBUCK AND GORAL
Our camp in a new village—Game at our door—Concentration of animal life—Chinese roebuck—A splendid hunt—Goral—Difficult climbing—"Hide and seek" with a goral—The second wapiti—A happy ending to a cold day
WILD PIGS—ANIMAL AND HUMAN
Shansi Province famous for wild boar—Flesh delicious—When to hunt—Where to go—Inns and coal gas—Kao-chia-chuang—A long shot—Our camp at Tziloa—Native hunters—A young pig—A hard chase—Pheasants—Another pig—Smith runs down a big sow—Chinese steal our game—A wounded boar
THE HUNTING PARK OF THE EASTERN TOMBS
A visit to Duke Tsai Tse—A "personality"—The Tung Ling—The road to the tombs—A country inn—The front view of the Tung Ling—The tombs of the Empress Dowager and Ch'ien Lung—The "hinterland"—An area of desolation—Our camp in the forest—Reeves's pheasant—The most beautiful Chinese deer—"Blood horns" as medicine—Goral—Animals and birds of the Tung Ling—A new method of catching trout—A forest fire—Native stupidity—Wanton destruction—China's great opportunity
A Nomad of the Mongolian Plains (Frontispiece)
Roy Chapman Andrews on "Kublai Khan"
Yvette Borup Andrews, Photographer of the Expedition
At the End of the Long Trail from Outer Mongolia
Women of Southern Mongolia
The Middle Ages and the Twentieth Century
A Mongolian Antelope Killed from Our Motor Car
Watering Camels at a Well in the Gobi Desert
The Water Carrier for a Caravan
A Thirty-five Pound Bustard
Mongol Horsemen on the Streets of Urga
The Prison at Urga
A Criminal in a Coffin with Hands Manacled
The Great Temple at Urga
A Prayer Wheel and a Mongol Lama
Lamas Calling the Gods at a Temple in Urga
Mongol Praying at a Shrine in Urga
Mongol Women Beside a Yurt
The Headdress of a Mongol Married Woman
The Framework of a Yurt
Mongol Women and a Lama
The Traffic Policeman on Urga's "Broadway"
A Mongol Lama
The Grasslands of Outer Mongolia
Mongol Herdsmen Carrying Lassos
A Lone Camp on the Desert
Our Caravan Crossing the Terelche River
Our Base Camp at the Edge of the Forest
The Mongol Village of the Terelche Valley
Wrestlers at Terelche Valley Field Meet
Women Spectators at the Field Meet
Cave Dwellings in North Shansi Province
An Asiatic Wapiti
Harry R. Caldwell and a Mongolian Bighorn
Where the Bighorn Sheep Are Found
A Mongolian Roebuck
The Head of the Record Ram
Map of Mongolia and China, Showing Route of Second Asiatic Expedition in Broken Lines
The romantic story of the Mongols and their achievements has been written so completely that it is unnecessary to repeat it here even though it is as fascinating as a tale from the Arabian Nights. The present status of the country, however, is but little known to the western world. In a few words I will endeavor to sketch the recent political developments, some of which occurred while we were in Mongolia.
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the great Genghiz Khan and his illustrious successor Kublai Khan "almost in a night" erected the greatest empire the world has ever seen. Not only did they conquer all of Asia, but they advanced in Europe as far as the Dnieper leaving behind a trail of blood and slaughter.
All Europe rose against them, but what could not be accomplished by force of arms was wrought in the Mongols themselves by an excess of luxury. In their victorious advance great stores of treasure fell into their hands and they gave themselves to a life of ease and indulgence.
By nature the Mongols were hard riding, hard living warriors, accustomed to privation and fatigue. The poison of luxury ate into the very fibers of their being and gradually they lost the characteristics which had made them great. The ruin of the race was completed by the introduction of Lamaism, a religion which carries only moral destruction where it enters, and eventually the Mongols passed under the rule of the once conquered Chinese and then under the Manchus.
Until the overthrow of the Manchu regime in China in 1911, and the establishment of the present republic, there were no particularly significant events in Mongolian history. But at that time the Russians, wishing to create a buffer state between themselves and China as well as to obtain special commercial privileges in Mongolia, aided the Mongols in rebellion, furnished them with arms and ammunition and with officers to train their men.
A somewhat tentative proclamation of independence for Outer Mongolia was issued in December, 1911, by the Hutukhtu and nobles of Urga, and the Chinese were driven out of the country with little difficulty. Beset with internal troubles, the Chinese paid but scant attention to Mongolian affairs until news was received in Peking in October, 1912, that M. Korostovetz, formerly Russian Minister to China, had arrived secretly in Urga and on November 3, 1912, had recognized the independence of Outer Mongolia on behalf of his Government.
It then became incumbent upon China to take official note of the situation, especially as foreign complications could not be faced in view of her domestic embarrassments.
Consequently on November 5, 1913, there was concluded a Russo-Chinese agreement wherein Russia recognized that Outer Mongolia was under the suzerainty of China, and China, on her part, admitted the autonomy of Outer Mongolia. The essential element in the situation was the fact that Russia stood behind the Mongols with money and arms and China's hand was forced at a time when she was powerless to resist.
Quite naturally, Mongolia's political status has been a sore point with China and it is hardly surprising that she should have awaited an opportunity to reclaim what she considered to be her own.
This opportunity arrived with the collapse of Russia and the spread of Bolshevism, for the Mongols were dependent upon Russia for material assistance in anything resembling military operations, although, as early as 1914, they had begun to realize that they were cultivating a dangerous friend. The Mongolian army, at the most, numbered only two or three thousand poorly equipped and undisciplined troops who would require money and organization before they could become an effective fighting force.
The Chinese were not slow to appreciate these conditions and General Hsu Shu-tseng, popularly known as "Little Hsu," by a clever bit of Oriental intrigue sent four thousand soldiers to Urga with the excuse of protecting the Mongols from a so-called threatened invasion of Buriats and brigands. A little later he himself arrived in a motor car and, when the stage was set, brought such pressure to bear upon the Hutukhtu and his Cabinet that they had no recourse except to cancel Mongolia's autonomy and ask to return to their former place under Chinese rule.
This they did on November 17, 1919, in a formal Memorial addressed to the President of the Chinese Republic, which is quoted below as it appeared in the Peking press, under date of November 24, 1919:
"We, the Ministers and Vice-Ministers [here follow their names and ranks] of all the departments of the autonomous Government of Outer Mongolia, and all the princes, dukes, hutukhtus and lamas and others resident at Urga, hereby jointly and severally submit the following petition for the esteemed perusal of His Excellency the President of the Republic of China:—
"Outer Mongolia has been a dependency of China since the reign of the Emperor Kang Hsi, remaining loyal for over two hundred years, the entire population, from princes and dukes down to the common people having enjoyed the blessings of peace. During the reign of the Emperor Tao Kwang changes in the established institutions, which were opposed to Mongolian sentiment, caused dissatisfaction which was aggravated by the corruption of the administration during the last days of the Manchu Dynasty. Taking advantage of this Mongolian dissatisfaction, foreigners instigated and assisted the independence movement. Upon the Kiakhta Convention, being signed the autonomy of Outer Mongolia was held a fait accompli, China retaining an empty suzerainty while the officials and people of Outer Mongolia lost many of their old rights and privileges. Since the establishment of this autonomous government no progress whatsoever has been chronicled, the affairs of government being indeed plunged in a state of chaos, causing deep pessimism.
"Lately, chaotic conditions have also reigned supreme in Russia, reports of revolutionary elements threatening our frontiers having been frequently received. Moreover, since the Russians have no united government it is only natural that they are powerless to carry out the provisions of the treaties, and now that they have no control over their subjects the Buriat tribes have constantly conspired and cooperated with bandits, and repeatedly sent delegates to Urga urging our Government to join with them and form a Pan-Mongolian nation. That this propaganda work, so varied and so persistent, which aims at usurping Chinese suzerainty and undermining the autonomy of Outer Mongolia, does more harm than good to Outer Mongolia, our Government is well aware. The Buriats, with their bandit Allies, now considering us unwilling to espouse their cause, contemplate dispatching troops to violate our frontiers and to compel our submission. Furthermore, forces from the so-called White Army have forcibly occupied Tanu Ulianghai, an old possession of Outer Mongolia, and attacked both Chinese and Mongolian troops, this being followed by the entry of the Red Army, thus making the situation impossible.
"Now that both our internal and external affairs have reached such a climax, we, the members of the Government, in view of the present situation, have assembled all the princes, dukes, lamas and others and have held frequent meetings to discuss the question of our future welfare. Those present have been unanimously of the opinion that the old bonds of friendship having been restored our autonomy should be canceled, since Chinese and Mongolians are filled with a common purpose and ideal.
"The result of our decision has been duly reported to His Holiness the Bogdo Jetsun Dampa Hutukhtu Khan and has received his approval and support. Such being the position we now unanimously petition His Excellency the President that the old order of affairs be restored."
"Premier and Acting Minister of the Interior, Prince Lama Batma Torgoo.
"Vice-Minister, Prince of Tarkhan Puntzuk Cheilin.
"Vice-Minister, Great Lama of Beliktu, Prince Puntzuk Torgoo.
"Minister of Foreign Affairs, Duke Cheilin Torgoo.
"Vice-Minister, Dalai Prince Cheitantnun Lomour.
"Vice-Minister, Prince of Ochi, Kaotzuktanba.
"Minister of War, Prince of Eltoni Jamuyen Torgoo.
"Vice-Minister, Prince of Eltoni Selunto Chihloh.
"Vice-Minister, Prince of Elteni Punktzu Laptan.
"Vice-Minister, Prince of Itkemur Chitu Wachir.
"Minister of Finance, Prince Lama Loobitsan Paletan.
"Vice-Minister, Prince Torgee Cheilin.
"Vice-Minister, Prince of Suchuketu Tehmutgu Kejwan.
"Minister of Justice, Dalai of Chiechenkhan Wananin.
"Vice-Minister, Prince of Daichinchihlun Chackehbatehorhu.
"Vice-Minister, Prince of Cholikota Lama Dashtunyupu."
Naturally, the President of China graciously consented to allow the prodigal to return and "killed the fatted calf" by conferring high honors and titles upon the Hutukhtu. Moreover, he appointed the Living Buddha's good friend (?) "Little Hsu" to convey them to him.
Thus, Mongolia again has become a part of China. Who knows what the future has in store for her? But events are moving rapidly and by the time this book is published the curtain may have risen upon a new act of Mongolia's tragedy.
ENTERING THE LAND OF MYSTERY
Careering madly in a motor car behind a herd of antelope fleeing like wind-blown ribbons across a desert which isn't a desert, past caravans of camels led by picturesque Mongol horsemen, the Twentieth Century suddenly and violently interjected into the Middle Ages, should be contrast and paradox enough for even the most blase sportsman. I am a naturalist who has wandered into many of the far corners of the earth. I have seen strange men and things, but what I saw on the great Mongolian plateau fairly took my breath away and left me dazed, utterly unable to adjust my mental perspective.
When leaving Peking in late August, 1918, to cross the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, I knew that I was to go by motor car. But somehow the very names "Mongolia" and "Gobi Desert" brought such a vivid picture of the days of Kublai Khan and ancient Cathay that my clouded mind refused to admit the thought of automobiles. It was enough that I was going to the land of which I had so often dreamed.
Not even in the railway, when I was being borne toward Kalgan and saw lines of laden camels plodding silently along the paved road beside the train, or when we puffed slowly through the famous Nankou Pass and I saw that wonder of the world, the Great Wall, winding like a gray serpent over ridge after ridge of the mountains, was my dream-picture of mysterious Mongolia dispelled. I had seen all this before, and had accepted it as one accepts the motor cars beside the splendid walls of old Peking. It was too near, and the railroad had made it commonplace.
But Mongolia! That was different. One could not go there in a roaring train. I had beside me the same old rifle and sleeping bag that had been carried across the mountains of far Yuen-nan, along the Tibetan frontier, and through the fever-stricken jungles of Burma. Somehow, these companions of forest and mountain trails, and my reception at Kalgan by two khaki-clad young men, each with a belt of cartridges and a six-shooter strapped about his waist, did much to keep me in a blissful state of unpreparedness for the destruction of my dream-castles.
That night as we sat in Mr. Charles Coltman's home, with his charming wife, a real woman of the great outdoors, presiding at the dinner table, the talk was all of shooting, horses, and the vast, lone spaces of the Gobi Desert—but not much of motor cars. Perhaps they vaguely realized that I was still asleep in an unreal world and knew that the awakening would come all too soon.
Yet I was dining that night with one of the men who had destroyed the mystery of Mongolia. In 1916, Coltman and his former partner, Oscar Mamen, had driven across the plains to Urga, the historic capital of Mongolia. But most unromantic and incongruous, most disheartening to a dreamer of Oriental dreams, was what I learned a few days later when the awakening had really come—that among the first cars ever to cross the desert was one purchased by the Hutukhtu, the Living Buddha, the God of all the Mongols.
When the Hutukhtu learned of the first motor car in Mongolia he forthwith demanded one for himself. So his automobile was brought safely through the rocky pass at Kalgan and across the seven hundred miles of plain to Urga by way of the same old caravan trail over which, centuries ago, Genghis Khan had sent his wild Mongol raiders to conquer China.
We arose long before daylight on the morning of August 29. In the courtyard lanterns flashed and disappeared like giant fireflies as the mafus (muleteers) packed the baggage and saddled the ponies. The cars had been left on the plateau at a mission station called Hei-ma-hou to avoid the rough going in the pass, and we were to ride there on horseback while the food and bed-rolls went by cart. There were five of us in the party—Mr. and Mrs. Coltman, Mr. and Mrs. Lucander, and myself. I was on a reconnoissance and Mr. Coltman's object was to visit his trading station in Urga, where the Lucanders were to remain for the winter.
The sun was an hour high when we clattered over the slippery paving stones to the north gate of the city. Kalgan is built hard against the Great Wall of China—the first line of defense, the outermost rampart in the colossal structure which for so many centuries protected China from Tartar invasion. Beyond it there was nothing between us and the great plateau.
After our passports had been examined we rode through the gloomy chasm-like gate, turned sharply to the left, and found ourselves standing on the edge of a half-dry river bed. Below us stretched line after line of double-humped camels, some crowded in yellow-brown masses which seemed all heads and curving necks, and some kneeling quietly on the sand. From around a shoulder of rock came other camels, hundreds of them, treading slowly and sedately, nose to tail, toward the gate in the Great Wall. They had come from the far country whither we were bound. To me there is something fascinating about a camel. Perhaps it is because he seems to typify the great waste spaces which I love, that I never tire of watching him swing silently, and seemingly with resistless power, across the desert.
Our way to Hei-ma-hou led up the dry river bed, with the Great Wall on the left stretching its serpentine length across the hills, and on the right picturesque cliffs two hundred feet in height. At their bases nestle mud-roofed cottages and Chinese inns, but farther up the river the low hills are all of loess—brown, wind-blown dust, packed hard, which can be cut like cheese. Deserted though they seem from a distance, they really teem with human life. Whole villages are half dug, half built, into the hillsides, but are well-nigh invisible, for every wall and roof is of the same brown earth.
Ten miles or so from Kalgan we began on foot the long climb up the pass which gives entrance to the great plateau. I kept my eyes steadily on the pony's heels until we reached a broad, flat terrace halfway up the pass. Then I swung about that I might have, all at once, the view which lay below us. It justified my greatest hopes, for miles and miles of rolling hills stretched away to where the far horizon met the Shansi Mountains.
It was a desolate country which I saw, for every wave in this vast land-sea was cut and slashed by the knives of wind and frost and rain, and lay in a chaotic mass of gaping wounds—canyons, ravines, and gullies, painted in rainbow colors, crossing and cutting one another at fantastic angles as far as the eye could see.
When, a few moments later, we reached the very summit of the pass, I felt that no spot I had ever visited satisfied my preconceived conceptions quite so thoroughly. Behind and below us lay that stupendous relief map of ravines and gorges; in front was a limitless stretch of undulating plain. I knew then that I really stood upon the edge of the greatest plateau in all the world and that it could be only Mongolia.
We had tiffin at a tiny Chinese inn beside the road, and trotted on toward Hei-ma-hou between waving fields of wheat, buckwheat, millet, and oats—oats as thick and "meaty" as any horse could wish to eat.
After tiffin Coltman and Lucander rode rapidly ahead while I trotted my pony along more slowly in the rear. It was nearly seven o'clock, and the trees about the mission station had been visible for half an hour. I was enjoying a gorgeous sunset which splashed the western sky with gold and red, and lazily watching the black silhouettes of a camel caravan swinging along the summit of a ridge a mile away. On the road beside me a train of laden mules and bullock-carts rested for a moment—the drivers half asleep. Over all the plain there lay the peace of a perfect autumn evening.
Suddenly, from behind a little rise, I heard the whir of a motor engine and the raucous voice of a Klaxon horn. Before I realized what it meant, I was in the midst of a mass of plunging, snorting animals, shouting carters, and kicking mules. In a moment the caravan scattered wildly across the plain and the road was clear save for the author of the turmoil—a black automobile.
I wish I could make those who spend their lives within a city know how strange and out of place that motor seemed, alone there upon the open plain on the borders of Mongolia. Imagine a camel or an elephant with all its Oriental trappings suddenly appearing on Fifth Avenue! You would think at once that it had escaped from a circus or a zoo and would be mainly curious as to what the traffic policeman would do when it did not obey his signals.
But all the incongruity and the fact that the automobile was a glaring anachronism did not prevent my abandoning my horse to the mafu and stretching out comfortably on the cushions of the rear seat. There I had nothing to do but collect the remains of my shattered dream-castles as we bounced over the ruts and stones. It was a rude awakening, and I felt half ashamed to admit to myself as the miles sped by that the springy seat was more comfortable than the saddle on my Mongol pony.
But that night when I strolled about the mission courtyard, under the spell of the starry, desert sky, I drifted back again in thought to the glorious days of Kublai Khan. My heart was hot with resentment that this thing had come. I realized then that, for better or for worse, the sanctity of the desert was gone forever. Camels will still plod their silent way across the age-old plains, but the mystery is lost. The secrets which were yielded up to but a chosen few are open now to all, and the world and his wife will speed their noisy course across the miles of rolling prairie, hearing nothing, feeling nothing, knowing nothing of that resistless desert charm which led men out into the Great Unknown.
At daylight we packed the cars. Bed-rolls and cans of gasoline were tied on the running boards and every corner was filled with food. Our rifles were ready for use, however, for Coltman had promised a kind of shooting such as I had never seen before. The stories he told of wild rides in the car after strings of antelope which traveled at fifty or sixty miles an hour had left me mildly skeptical. But then, you know, I had never seen a Mongolian antelope run.
For twenty or thirty miles after leaving Hei-ma-hou we bounced along over a road which would have been splendid except for the deep ruts cut by mule- and oxcarts. These carts are the despair of any one who hopes some time to see good roads in China. The spike-studded wheels cut into the hardest ground and leave a chaos of ridges and chasms which grows worse with every year.
We were seldom out of sight of mud-walled huts or tiny Chinese villages, and Chinese peddlers passed our cars, carrying baskets of fruit or trinkets for the women. Chinese farmers stopped to gaze at us as we bounded over the ruts—in fact it was all Chinese, although we were really in Mongolia. I was very eager to see Mongols, to register first impressions of a people of whom I had dreamed so much; but the blue-clad Chinaman was ubiquitous.
For seventy miles from Kalgan it was all the same—Chinese everywhere. The Great Wall was built to keep the Mongols out, and by the same token it should have kept the Chinese in. But the rolling, grassy sea of the vast plateau was too strong a temptation for the Chinese farmer. Encouraged by his own government, which knows the value of just such peaceful penetration, he pushes forward the line of cultivation a dozen miles or so every year. As a result the grassy hills have given place to fields of wheat, oats, millet, buckwheat, and potatoes.
The Mongol, above all things, is not a farmer; possibly because, many years ago, the Manchus forbade him to till the soil. Moreover, on the ground he is as awkward as a duck out of water and he is never comfortable. The back of a pony is his real home, and he will do wonderfully well any work which keeps him in the saddle. As Mr. F. A. Larsen in Urga once said, "A Mongol would make a splendid cook if you could give him a horse to ride about on in the kitchen." So he leaves to the plodding Chinaman the cultivation of his boundless plains, while he herds his fat-tailed sheep and goats and cattle.
About two hours after leaving the mission station we passed the limit of cultivation and were riding toward the Tabool hills. There Mr. Larsen, the best known foreigner in all Mongolia, has a home, and as we swung past the trail which leads to his house we saw one of his great herds of horses grazing in the distance.
All the land in this region has long, rich grass in summer, and water is by no means scarce. There are frequent wells and streams along the road, and in the distance we often caught a glint of silver from the surface of a pond or lake. Flocks of goats and fat-tailed sheep drifted up the valley, and now and then a herd of cattle massed themselves in moving patches on the hillsides. But they are only a fraction of the numbers which this land could easily support.
Not far from Tabool is a Mongol village. I jumped out of the car to take a photograph but scrambled in again almost as quickly, for as soon as the motor had stopped a dozen dogs dashed from the houses snarling and barking like a pack of wolves. They are huge brutes, these Mongol dogs, and as fierce as they are big. Every family and every caravan owns one or more, and we learned very soon never to approach a native encampment on foot.
The village was as unlike a Chinese settlement as it well could be, for instead of closely packed mud houses there were circular, latticed frameworks covered with felt and cone-shaped in the upper half. The yurt, as it is called, is perfectly adapted to the Mongols and their life. In the winter a stove is placed in the center, and the house is dry and warm. In the summer the felt covering is sometimes replaced by canvas which can be lifted on any side to allow free passage of air. When it is time for the semiannual migration to new grazing grounds the yurt can be quickly dismantled, the framework collapsed, and the house packed on camels or carts.
The Mongols of the village were rather disappointing, for many of them show a strong element of Chinese blood. This seems to have developed an unfortunate combination of the worst characteristics of both races. Even where there is no real mixture, their contact with the Chinese has been demoralizing, and they will rob and steal at every opportunity. The headdresses of the southern women are by no means as elaborate as those in the north.
When the hills of Tabool had begun to sink on the horizon behind us, we entered upon a vast rolling plain, where there was but little water and not a sign of human life. It resembled nothing so much as the prairies of Nebraska or Dakota, and amid the short grass larkspur and purple thistles glowed in the sunlight like tongues of flame.
There was no lack of birds. In the ponds which we passed earlier in the day we saw hundreds of mallard ducks and teal. The car often frightened golden plover from their dust baths in the road, and crested lapwings flashed across the prairie like sudden storms of autumn leaves. Huge, golden eagles and enormous ravens made tempting targets on the telegraph poles, and in the morning before we left the cultivated area we saw demoiselle cranes in thousands.
In this land where wood is absent and everything that will make a fire is of value, I wondered how it happened that the telegraph poles remained untouched, for every one was smooth and round without a splinter gone. The method of protection is simple and entirely Oriental. When the line was first erected, the Mongolian government stated in an edict that any man who touched a pole with knife or ax would lose his head. Even on the plains the enforcement of such a law is not so difficult as it might seem, and after a few heads had been taken by way of example the safety of the line was assured.
Our camp the first night was on a hill slope about one hundred miles from Hei-ma-hou. As soon as the cars had stopped, one man was left to untie the sleeping bags while the rest of us scattered over the plain to hunt material for a fire. Argul (dried dung) forms the only desert fuel and, although it does not blaze like wood, it will "boil a pot" almost as quickly as charcoal. I was elected to be the cook—a position with distinct advantages, for in the freezing cold of early morning I could linger about the fire with a good excuse.
It was a perfect autumn night. Every star in the world of space seemed to have been crowded into our own particular expanse of sky, and each one glowed like a tiny lantern. When I had found a patch of sand and had dug a trench for my hip and shoulder, I crawled into the sleeping bag and lay for half an hour looking up at the bespangled canopy above my head. Again the magic of the desert night was in my blood, and I blessed the fate which had carried me away from the roar and rush of New York with its hurrying crowds. But I felt a pang of envy when, far away in the distance, there came the mellow notes of a camel-bell. Dong, dong, dong it sounded, clear and sweet as cathedral chimes. With surging blood I listened until I caught the measured tread of padded feet, and saw the black silhouettes of rounded bodies and curving necks. Oh, to be with them, to travel as Marco Polo traveled, and to learn to know the heart of the desert in the long night marches! Before I closed my eyes that night I vowed that when the war was done and I was free to travel where I willed, I would come again to the desert as the great Venetian came.
SPEED MARVELS OF THE GOBI DESERT
The next morning, ten miles from camp, we passed a party of Russians en route to Kalgan. They were sitting disconsolately beside two huge cars, patching tires and tightening bolts. Their way had been marked by a succession of motor troubles and they were almost discouraged. Woe to the men who venture into the desert with an untried car and without a skilled mechanic! There are no garages just around the corner—and there are no corners. Lucander's Chinese boy expressed it with laconic completeness when some one asked him how he liked the country.
"Well," said he, "there's plenty of room here."
A short distance farther on we found the caravan which had passed us early in the night. They were camped beside a well and the thirsty camels were gorging themselves with water. Except for these wells, the march across the desert would be impossible. They are four or five feet wide, walled with timbers, and partly roofed. In some the water is rather brackish but always cool, for it is seldom less than ten feet below the surface. It is useless to speculate as to who dug the wells or when, for this trail has been used for centuries. In some regions they are fifty or even sixty miles apart, but usually less than that.
The camel caravans travel mostly at night. For all his size and apparent strength, a camel is a delicate animal and needs careful handling. He cannot stand the heat of the midday sun and he will not graze at night. So the Gobi caravans start about three or four o'clock in the afternoon and march until one or two the next morning. Then the men pitch a light tent and the camels sleep or wander over the plain.
At noon on the second day we reached Panj-kiang, the first telegraph station on the line. Its single mud house was visible miles away and we were glad to see it, for our gasoline was getting low. Coltman had sent a plentiful supply by caravan to await us here, and every available inch of space was filled with cans, for we were only one-quarter of the way to Urga.
Not far beyond Panj-kiang, a lama monastery has been built beside the road. Its white-walled temple bordered with red and the compound enclosing the living quarters of the lamas show with startling distinctness on the open plain. We stopped for water at a well a few hundred yards away, and in five minutes the cars were surrounded by a picturesque group of lamas who streamed across the plain on foot and on horseback, their yellow and red robes flaming in the sun. They were amiable enough—in fact, too friendly—and their curiosity was hardly welcome, for we found one of them testing his knife on the tires and another about to punch a hole in one of the gasoline cans; he hoped it held something to drink that was better than water.
Thus far the trail had not been bad, as roads go in the Gobi, but I was assured that the next hundred miles would be a different story, for we were about to enter the most arid part of the desert between Kalgan and Urga. We were prepared for the only real work of the trip, however, by a taste of the exciting shooting which Coltman had promised me.
I had been told that we should see antelope in thousands, but all day I had vainly searched the plains for a sign of game. Ten miles from Panj-kiang we were rolling comfortably along on a stretch of good road when Mrs. Coltman, whose eyes are as keen as those of a hawk, excitedly pointed to a knoll on the right, not a hundred yards from the trail. At first I saw nothing but yellow grass; then the whole hillside seemed to be in motion. A moment later I began to distinguish heads and legs and realized that I was looking at an enormous herd of antelope, closely packed together, restlessly watching us.
Our rifles were out in an instant and Coltman opened the throttle. The antelope were five or six hundred yards away, and as the car leaped forward they ranged themselves in single file and strung out across the plain. We left the road at once and headed diagonally toward them. For some strange reason, when a horse or car runs parallel with a herd of antelope, the animals will swing in a complete semicircle and cross in front of the pursuer. This is also true of some African species, whether they think they are being cut off from some more desirable means of escape I cannot say, but the fact remains that with the open plain on every side they always try to "cross your bows."
I shall never forget the sight of those magnificent animals streaming across the desert! There were at least a thousand of them, and their yellow bodies seemed fairly to skim the earth. I was shouting in excitement, but Coltman said:
"They're not running yet. Wait till we begin to shoot."
I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the speedometer trembling at thirty-five miles, for we were making a poor showing with the antelope. But then the fatal attraction began to assert itself and the long column bent gradually in our direction. Coltman widened the arc of the circle and held the throttle up as far as it would go. Our speed increased to forty miles and the car began to gain because the antelope were running almost across our course.
They were about two hundred yards away when Coltman shut off the gas and jammed both brakes, but before the car had stopped they had gained another hundred. I leaped over a pile of bedding and came into action with the .250 Savage high-power as soon as my feet were on the ground. Coltman's .30 Mauser was already spitting fire from the front seat across the windshield, and at his second shot an antelope dropped like lead. My first two bullets struck the dirt far behind the rearmost animal, but the third caught a full-grown female in the side and she plunged forward into the grass.
I realized then what Coltman meant when he said that the antelope had not begun to run. At the first shot every animal in the herd seemed to flatten itself and settle to its work. They did not run—they simply flew across the ground, their legs showing only as a blur. The one I killed was four hundred yards away, and I held four feet ahead when I pulled the trigger. They could not have been traveling less than fifty-five or sixty miles an hour, for they were running in a semicircle about the car while we were moving at forty miles in a straight line.
Those are the facts in the case. I can see my readers raise their brows incredulously, for that is exactly what I would have done before this demonstration. Well, there is one way to prove it and that is to come and try it for yourselves. Moreover, I can see some sportsmen smile for another reason. I mentioned that the antelope I killed was four hundred yards away. I know how far it was, for I paced it off. I may say, in passing, that I had never before killed a running animal at that range. Ninety per cent of my shooting had been well within one hundred and fifty yards, but in Mongolia conditions are most extraordinary.
In the brilliant atmosphere an antelope at four hundred yards appears as large as it would at one hundred in most other parts of the world; and on the flat plains, where there is not a bush or a shrub to obscure the view, a tiny stone stands out like a golf ball on the putting green. Because of these conditions there is strong temptation to shoot at impossible ranges and to keep on shooting when the game is beyond anything except a lucky chance. Therefore, if any of you go to Mongolia to hunt antelope take plenty of ammunition, and when you return you will never tell how many cartridges you used. Our antelope were tied on the running board of the car and we went back to the road where Lucander was waiting. Half the herd had crossed in front of him, but he had failed to bring down an animal.
When the excitement was over I began to understand the significance of what we had seen. It was slowly borne in upon me that our car had been going, by the speedometer, at forty miles an hour and that the antelope were actually beating us. It was an amazing discovery, for I had never dreamed that any living animal could run so fast. It was a discovery, too, which would have important results, for Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn, president of the American Museum of Natural History, even then was carrying on investigations as to the relation of speed to limb structure in various groups of animals. I determined, with Mr. Coltman's help, to get some real facts in the case—data upon which we could rely.
There was an opportunity only to begin the study on the first trip, but we carried it further the following year. Time after time, as we tore madly after antelope, singly or in herds, I kept my eyes upon the speedometer, and I feel confident that our observations can be relied upon. We demonstrated beyond a doubt that the Mongolian antelope can reach a speed of from fifty-five to sixty miles an hour. This is probably the maximum which is attained only in the initial sprint and after a very short distance the animals must slow down to about forty miles; a short distance more and they drop to twenty-five or thirty miles, and at this pace they seem able to continue almost indefinitely. They never ran faster than was necessary to keep well away from us. As we opened the throttle of the car they, too, increased their speed. It was only when we began to shoot and they became thoroughly frightened that they showed what they could do.
I remember especially one fine buck which gave us an exhibition of really high-class running. He started almost opposite to us when we were on a stretch of splendid road and jogged comfortably along at thirty-five miles an hour. Our car was running at the same speed, but he decided to cross in front and pressed his accelerator a little. Coltman also touched ours, and the motor jumped to forty miles. The antelope seemed very much surprised and gave his accelerator another push. Coltman did likewise, and the speedometer registered forty-five miles. That was about enough for us, and we held our speed. The animal drew ahead on a long curve swinging across in front of the car. He had beaten us by a hundred yards!
But we had a surprise in store for him, for Coltman suddenly shut off the gas and threw on both brakes. Before the motor had fully stopped we opened fire. The first two bullets struck just behind the antelope and a third kicked the dust between his legs. The shock turned him half over, but he righted himself and ran to his very limit. The bullets spattering all about kept him at it for six hundred yards. He put up a desert hare on the way, but that hare didn't have a chance with the antelope. It reminded me of the story of the negro who had seen a ghost. He ran until he dropped beside the road, but the ghost was right beside him. "Well," said the ghost, "that was some race we had." "Yes," answered the negro, "but it ain't nothin' to what we're goin' to have soon's ever I git my breath. And then," said the negro, "we ran agin. And I come to a rabbit leggin' it up the road, and I said, 'Git out of the way, rabbit, and let some one run what can run!'" The last we saw of the antelope was a cloud of yellow dust disappearing over a low rise.
The excitement of the chase had been an excellent preparation for the hard work which awaited us not far ahead. The going had been getting heavier with every mile, and at last we reached a long stretch of sandy road which the motors could not pull through. With every one except the driver out of the car, and the engine racing, we pushed and lifted, gaining a few feet each time, until the shifting sand was passed. It meant two hours of violent strain, and we were well-nigh exhausted; a few miles farther, however, it had all to be done again. Where the ground was hard, there was such a chaos of ruts and holes that our arms were almost wrenched from their sockets by the twisting wheels.
This area more nearly approaches a desert than any other part of the road to Urga. The soil is mainly sandy, but the Gobi sagebrush and short bunch grass, although sparse and dry, still give a covering of vegetation, so that in the distance the plain appears like a rolling meadowland.
When we saw our first northern Mongol I was delighted. Every one is a study for an artist. He dresses in a long, loose robe of plum color, one corner of which is usually tucked into a gorgeous sash. On his head is perched an extraordinary hat which looks like a saucer, with upturned edges of black velvet and a narrow cone-shaped crown of brilliant yellow. Two streamers of red ribbon are usually fastened to the rim at the back, or a plume of peacock feathers if he be of higher rank.
On his feet he wears a pair of enormous leather boots with pointed toes. These are always many sizes too large, for as the weather grows colder he pads them out with heavy socks of wool or fur. It is nearly impossible for him to walk in this ungainly footgear, and he waddles along exactly like a duck. He is manifestly uncomfortable and ill at ease, but put him on a horse and you have a different picture. The high-peaked saddle and the horse itself become a part of his anatomy and he will stay there happily fifteen hours of the day.
The Mongols ride with short stirrups and, standing nearly upright, lean far over the horse's neck like our western cowboys. As they tear along at full gallop in their brilliant robes they seem to embody the very spirit of the plains. They are such genial, accommodating fellows, always ready with a pleasant smile, and willing to take a sporting chance on anything under the sun, that they won my heart at once.
Above all things they love a race, and often one of them would range up beside the car and, with a radiant smile, make signs that he wished to test our speed. Then off he would go like mad, flogging his horse and yelling with delight. We would let him gain at first, and the expression of joy and triumph on his face was worth going far to see. Sometimes, if the road was heavy, it would need every ounce of gas the car could take to forge ahead, for the ponies are splendid animals. The Mongols ride only the best and ride them hard, since horses are cheap in Mongolia, and when one is a little worn another is always ready.
Not only does the Mongol inspire you with admiration for his full-blooded, virile manhood, but also you like him because he likes you. He doesn't try to disguise the fact. There is a frank openness about his attitude which is wonderfully appealing, and I believe that the average white man can get on terms of easy familiarity, and even intimacy, with Mongols more rapidly than with any other Orientals.
Ude is the second telegraph station on the road to Urga. It has the honor of appearing on most maps of Mongolia and yet it is even less impressive than Panj-kiang. There are only two mud houses and half a dozen yurts which seem to have been dropped carelessly behind a ragged hill.
After leaving Ude, we slipped rapidly up and down a succession of low hills and entered upon a plain so vast and flat that we appeared to be looking across an ocean. Not the smallest hill or rise of ground broke the line where earth and sky met in a faint blue haze. Our cars seemed like tiny boats in a limitless, grassy sea. It was sixty miles across, and for three hours the steady hum of the motor hardly ceased, for the road was smooth and hard. Halfway over we saw another great herd of antelope and several groups of ten or twelve. These were a different species from those we had killed, and I got a fine young buck. Twice wolves trotted across the plain, and at one, which was very inquisitive, I did some shooting which I vainly try to forget.
But most interesting to me among the wild life along our way was the bustard. It is a huge bird, weighing from fifteen to forty pounds, with flesh of such delicate flavor that it rivals our best turkey. I had always wanted to kill a bustard and my first one was neatly eviscerated at two hundred yards by a Savage bullet. I was more pleased than if I had shot an antelope, perhaps because it did much to revive my spirits after the episode of the wolf.
Sand grouse, beautiful little gray birds, with wings like pigeons and remarkable, padded feet, whistled over us as we rolled along the road, and my heart was sick with the thought of the excellent shooting we were missing. But there was no time to stop, except for such game as actually crossed our path, else we should never have arrived at Urga, the City of the Living God.
Speaking of gods, I must not forget to mention the great lamasery at Turin, about one hundred and seventy miles from Urga. For hours before we reached it we saw the ragged hills standing sharp and clear against the sky line. The peaks themselves are not more than two hundred feet in height, but they rise from a rocky plateau some distance above the level of the plain. It is a wild spot where some mighty internal force has burst the surface of the earth and pushed up a ragged core of rocks which have been carved by the knives of weather into weird, fantastic shapes. This elemental battle ground is a fit setting for the most remarkable group of human habitations that I have ever seen.
Three temples lie in a bowl-shaped hollow, surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of tiny pill-box dwellings painted red and white. There must be a thousand of them and probably twice as many lamas. On the outskirts of the "city" to the south enormous piles of argul have been collected by the priests and bestowed as votive offerings by devout travelers. Vast as the supply seemed, it would take all this, and more, to warm the houses of the lamas during the bitter winter months when the ground is covered with snow. On the north the hills throw protecting arms about the homes of these half-wild men, who have chosen to spend their lives in this lonely desert stronghold. The houses are built of sawn boards, the first indication we had seen that we were nearing a forest country.
The remaining one hundred and seventy miles to Urga are a delight, even to the motorist who loves the paved roads of cities. They are like a boulevard amid glorious, rolling hills luxuriant with long, sweet grass. In the distance herds of horses and cattle grouped themselves into moving patches, and fat-tailed sheep dotted the plain like drifts of snow. I have seldom seen a better grazing country. It needed but little imagination to picture what it will be a few years hence when the inevitable railroad claims the desert as its own, for this rich land cannot long remain untenanted. It was here that we saw the first marmots, an unfailing indication that we were in a northern country.
The thick blackness of a rainy night had enveloped us long before we swung into the Urga Valley and groped our way along the Tola River bank toward the glimmering lights of the sacred city. It seemed that we would never reach them, for twice we took the wrong turn and found ourselves in a maze of sandy bottoms and half-grown trees. But at ten o'clock we plowed through the mud of a narrow street and into the courtyard of the Mongolian Trading Company's home.
Oscar Mamen, Coltman's former partner, and Mrs. Mamen had spent several years there, and for six weeks they had had as guests Messrs. A. M. Guptil and E. B. Price, of Peking. Mr. Guptil was representing the American Military Attache, and Mr. Price, Assistant Chinese Secretary of the American Legation, had come to Urga to establish communication with our consul at Irkutsk who had not been heard from for more than a month.
Urga recently had been pregnant with war possibilities. In the Lake Baikal region of Siberia there were several thousand Magyars and many Bolsheviki. It was known that Czechs expected to attack them, and that they would certainly be driven across the borders into Mongolia if defeated. In that event what would be the attitude of the Mongolian government? Would it intern the belligerents, or allow them to use the Urga district as a base of operations?
As a matter of fact, the question had been settled just before my arrival. The Czechs had made the expected attack with about five hundred men; all the Magyars, to the number of several thousand, had surrendered, and the Bolsheviki had disappeared like mists before the sun. The front of operations had moved in a single night almost two thousand miles away to the Omsk district, and it was certain that Mongolia would be left in peace. Mr. Price's work also was done, for the telegraph from Urga to Irkutsk was again in operation and thus communication was established with Peking.
The morning after my arrival Mr. Guptil and I rode out to see the town. Never have I visited such a city of contrasts, or one to which I was so eager to return. As we did come back, I shall tell, in a future chapter, of what we found there.
A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS
This is a "hard luck" chapter. Stories of ill-fortune are not always interesting, but I am writing this one to show what can happen to an automobile in the Gobi. We had gone to Urga without even a puncture and I began to feel that motoring in Mongolia was as simple as riding on Fifth Avenue—more so, in fact, for we did not have to watch traffic policemen or worry about "right of way." There is no crowding on the Gobi Desert. When we passed a camel caravan or a train of oxcarts we were sure to have plenty of room, for the landscape was usually spotted in every direction with fleeing animals.
Our motors had "purred" so steadily that accidents and repair shops seemed very far away and not of much importance. On the return trip, however, the reverse of the picture was presented and I learned that to be alone in the desert when something is wrong with the digestion of your automobile can have its serious aspects. Unless you are an expert mechanic and have an assortment of "spare parts," you may have to walk thirty or forty miles to the nearest water and spend many days of waiting until help arrives.
Fortunately for us, there are few things which either Coltman or Guptil do not know about the "insides" of a motor and, moreover, after a diagnosis, they both have the ingenuity to remedy almost any trouble with a hammer and a screw driver.
Four days after our arrival in Urga we left on the return trip. As occupants of his car Charles Coltman had Mr. Price, Mrs. Coltman, and Mrs. Mamen. With the spiritual and physical assistance of Mr. Guptil I drove the second automobile, carrying in the rear seat a wounded Russian Cossack and a French-Czech, both couriers. The third car was a Ford chassis to which a wooden body had been affixed. It was designed to give increased carrying space, but it looked like a half-grown hayrack and was appropriately called the "agony box." This was driven by a chauffeur named Wang and carried Mamen's Chinese house boy and an amah besides a miscellaneous assortment of baggage.
It was a cold, gray morning when we started, with a cutting wind sweeping down from the north, giving a hint of the bitter winter which in another month would hold all Mongolia in an icy grasp. We made our way eastward up the valley to the Russian bridge across the Tola River and pointed the cars southward on the caravan trail to Kalgan.
Just as we reached the summit of the second long hill, across which the wind was sweeping in a glacial blast, there came a rasping crash somewhere in the motor of my car, followed by a steady knock, knock, knock. "That's a connecting rod as sure as fate," said "Gup." "We'll have to stop." When he had crawled under the car and found that his diagnosis was correct, he said a few other things which ought to have relieved his mind considerably.
There was nothing to be done except to replace the broken part with a spare rod. For three freezing hours Gup and Coltman lay upon their backs under the car, while the rest of us gave what help we could. To add to the difficulties a shower of hail swept down upon us with all the fury of a Mongolian storm. It was three o'clock in the afternoon before we were ready to go on, and our camp that night was only sixty miles from Urga.
The next day as we passed Turin the Czech pointed out the spot where he had lain for three days and nights with a broken collar bone and a dislocated shoulder. He had come from Irkutsk carrying important dispatches and had taken passage in an automobile belonging to a Chinese company which with difficulty was maintaining a passenger service between Urga and Kalgan. As usual, the native chauffeur was dashing along at thirty-five miles an hour when he should not have driven faster than twenty at the most. One of the front wheels slid into a deep rut, the car turned completely over and the resulting casualties numbered one man dead and our Czech seriously injured. It was three days before another car carried him back to Urga, where the broken bones were badly set by a drunken Russian doctor. The Cossack, too, had been shot twice in the heavy fighting on the Russian front, and, although his wounds were barely healed, he had just ridden three hundred miles on horseback with dispatches for Peking.
Both my passengers were delighted to have escaped the Chinese motors, for in them accidents had been the rule rather than the exception. During one year nineteen cars had been smashed and lay in masses of twisted metal beside the road. The difficulty had been largely due to the native chauffeurs. Although these men can drive a car, they have no mechanical training and danger signals from the motor are entirely disregarded. Moreover, all Chinese dearly love "show" and the chauffeurs delight in driving at tremendous speed over roads where they should exercise the greatest care. The deep cart ruts are a continual menace, for between them the road is often smooth and fine. But a stone or a tuft of grass may send one of the front wheels into a rut and capsize the car. Even with the greatest care accidents will happen, and motoring in Mongolia is by no means devoid of danger and excitement.
About three o'clock in the afternoon of the second day we saw frantic signals from the agony box which had been lumbering along behind us. It appeared that the right rear wheel was broken and the car could go no farther. There was nothing for it but to camp right where we were while Charles repaired the wheel. Gup and I ran twenty miles down the road to look for a well, but without success. The remaining water was divided equally among us but next morning we discovered that the Chinese had secreted two extra bottles for themselves, while we had been saving ours to the last drop. It taught me a lesson by which I profited the following summer.
On the third day the agony box limped along until noon, but when we reached a well in the midst of the great plain south of Turin it had to be abandoned, while we went on to Ude, the telegraph station in the middle of the desert, and wired Mamen to bring a spare wheel from Urga.
The fourth day there was more trouble with the connecting rod on my car and we sat for two hours at a well while the motor was eviscerated and reassembled. It had ceased to be a joke, especially to Coltman and Guptil, for all the work fell upon them. By this time they were almost unrecognizable because of dirt and grease and their hands were cut and blistered. But they stood it manfully, and at each new accident Gup rose to greater and greater heights of oratory.
We were halfway between Ude and Panj-kiang when we saw two automobiles approaching from the south. Their occupants were foreigners we were sure, and as they stopped beside us a tall young man came up to my car. "I am Langdon Warner," he said. We shook hands and looked at each other curiously. Warner is an archaeologist and Director of the Pennsylvania Museum. For ten years we had played a game of hide and seek through half the countries of the Orient and it seemed that we were destined never to meet each other. In 1910 I drifted into the quaint little town of Naha in the Loo-Choo Islands, that forgotten kingdom of the East. At that time it was far off the beaten track and very few foreigners had sought it out since 1854, when Commodore Perry negotiated a treaty with its king in the picturesque old Shuri Palace. Only a few months before I arrived, Langdon Warner had visited it on a collecting trip and the natives had not yet ceased to talk about the strange foreigner who gave them new baskets for old ones.
A little later Warner preceded me to Japan, and in 1912 I followed him to Korea. Our paths diverged when I went to Alaska in 1918, but I crossed his trail again in China, and in 1916, just before my wife and I left for Yuen-nan, I missed him in Boston where I had gone to lecture at Harvard University. It was strange that after ten years we should meet for the first time in the middle of the Gobi Desert!
Warner was proceeding to Urga with two Czech officers who were on their way to Irkutsk. We gave them the latest news of the war situation and much to their disgust they realized that had they waited only two weeks longer they could have gone by train, for the attack by the Czechs on the Magyars and the Bolsheviki, in the trans-Baikal region, had cleared the Siberian railway westward as far as Omsk. After half an hour's talk we drove off in opposite directions. Warner eventually reached Irkutsk, but not without some interesting experiences with Bolsheviki along the way, and I did not see him again until last March (1920), when he came to my office in the American Museum just after we had returned to New York.
When we reached Panj-kiang we felt that our motor troubles were at an end, but ten miles beyond the station my car refused to pull through a sand pit and we found that there was trouble with the differential. It was necessary to dismantle the rear end of the car, and Coltman and Gup were well-nigh discouraged. The delay was a serious matter for I had urgent business in Japan, and it was imperative that I reach Peking as soon as possible. Charles finally decided to send me, together with Price, the Czech, and the Cossack, in his car, while he and Gup remained with the two ladies to repair mine.
Price and I drove back to Panj-kiang to obtain extra food and water for the working party and to telegraph Kalgan for assistance. We took only a little tea, macaroni, and two tins of sausage, for we expected to reach the mission station at Hei-ma-hou early the next morning.
We were hardly five miles from the broken car when we discovered that there was no more oil for our motor. It was impossible to go much farther and we decided that the only alternative was to wait until the relief party, for which we had wired, arrived from Kalgan. Just then the car swung over the summit of a rise, and we saw the white tent and grazing camels of an enormous caravan. Of course, Mongols would have mutton fat and why not use that for oil! The caravan leader assured us that he had fat in plenty and in ten minutes a great pot of it was warming over the fire.
We poured it into the motor and proceeded merrily on our way. But there was one serious obstacle to our enjoyment of that ride. Events had been moving so rapidly that we had eaten nothing since breakfast, and when a delicious odor of roast lamb began to arise from the motor, we realized that we were all very hungry. Dry macaroni would hardly do and the sausage must be saved for dinner. All the afternoon that tantalizing odor hovered in the air and I began to imagine that I could even smell mint sauce.
At six o'clock we saw the first yurt and purchased a supply of argul so that we could save time in making camp. The lamps of the car were hors de combat and a watery moon did not give us sufficient light by which to drive in safety, so we stopped on a hilltop shortly after dark. In the morning when the motor was cold we could save time and strength in cranking by pushing it down the slope.
Much to our disgust we found that the argul we had purchased from the Mongol was so mixed with dirt that it would not burn. After half an hour of fruitless work I gave up, and we divided the tin of cold sausage. It was a pretty meager dinner for four hungry men and I retired into my sleeping bag to dream of roast lamb and mint sauce. When the Cossack officer found that he was not to have his tea he was like a child with a stick of candy just out of reach. He tried to sleep but it was no use, and in half an hour I opened my eyes to see him flat on his face blowing lustily at a piece of argul which he had persuaded to emit a faint glow. For two mortal hours the Russian nursed that fire until his pot of water reached the boiling point. Then he insisted that we all wake up to share his triumph.
We reached the mission station at noon next day, and Father Weinz, the Belgian priest in charge, gave us the first meal we had had in thirty-six hours. The Czech courier decided to remain at Hei-ma-hou and go in next day by cart, but we started immediately on the forty-mile horseback ride to Kalgan. A steady rain began about two o'clock in the afternoon, and in half an hour we were soaked to the skin; then the ugly, little gray stallion upon which I had been mounted planted both hind feet squarely on my left leg as we toiled up a long hill-trail to the pass, and I thought that my walking days had ended for all time. At the foot of the pass we halted at a dirty inn where they told us it would be useless to go on to Kalgan, for the gates of the city would certainly be closed and it would be impossible to enter until morning. There was no alternative except to spend the night at the inn, but as they had only a grass fire which burned out as soon as the cooking was finished, and as all our clothes were soaked, we spent sleepless hours shivering with cold.
The Cossack spoke only Mongol and Russian, and, as neither of us knew a single word of either language, it was difficult to communicate our plans to him. Finally, we found a Chinaman who spoke Mongol and who consented to act as interpreter. The natives at the inn could not understand why we were not able to talk to the Cossack. Didn't all white men speak the same language? Mr. Price endeavored to explain that Russian and English differ as much as do Chinese and Mongol, but they only smiled and shook their heads.
In the morning I was so stiff from the kick which the gray stallion had given me that I could get to his back only with the greatest difficulty, but we reached Kalgan at eight o'clock. Unfortunately, the Cossack had left his passport in the cart which was to follow with his baggage, and the police at the gate would not let us pass. Mr. Price was well known to them and offered to assume responsibility for the Cossack in the name of the American Legation, but the policemen, who were much disgruntled at being roused so early in the morning, refused to let us enter.
Their attitude was so obviously absurd that we agreed to take matters into our own hands. We strolled outside the house and suddenly jumped on our horses. The sentries made a vain attempt to catch our bridle reins and we rode down the street at a sharp, trot. There was another police station in the center of the city which it was impossible to avoid and as we approached it we saw a line of soldiers drawn up across the road. Our friends at the gate had telephoned ahead to have us stopped. Without hesitating we kept on, riding straight at the gray-clad policemen. With wildly waving arms they shouted at us to halt, but we paid not the slightest attention, and they had to jump aside to avoid being run down. The spectacle which these Chinese soldiers presented, as they tried to arrest us, was so ridiculous that we roared with laughter. Imagine what would happen on Fifth Avenue if you disregarded a traffic policeman's signal to stop!
Although the officials knew that we could be found at Mr. Coltman's house, we heard nothing further from the incident. It was so obviously a matter of personal ill nature on the part of the captain in charge of the gate police that they realized it was not a subject for further discussion.
After the luxury of a bath and shave we proceeded to Peking. Charles and Gup had rather a beastly time getting in. The car could not be repaired sufficiently to carry on under its own power, and, through a misunderstanding, the relief party only went as far as the pass and waited there for their arrival. They eventually found it necessary to hire three horses to tow them to the mission station where the "hard luck" story ended.
NEW TRAVELS ON AN OLD TRAIL
The winter of 1918-19 we spent in and out of one of the most interesting cities in the world. Peking, with its background of history made vividly real by its splendid walls, its age-old temples and its mysterious Forbidden City, has a personality of its own.
When we had been away for a month or two there was always a delightful feeling of anticipation in returning to the city itself and to our friends in its cosmopolitan community.
Moreover, at our house in Wu Liang Tajen Hutung, a baby boy and his devoted nurse were waiting to receive us. Even at two years the extraordinary facility with which he discovered frogs and bugs, which, quite unknown to us, dwelt in the flower-filled courtyard, showed the hereditary instincts of a born explorer.
That winter gave us an opportunity to see much of ancient China, for we visited Shantung, traveled straight across the Provinces of Honan and Hupeh, and wandered about the mountains of Che-kiang on a serow hunt.
In February the equipment for our summer's work in Mongolia was on its way across the desert by caravan. We had sent flour, bacon, coffee, tea, sugar, butter and dried fruit, for these could be purchased in Urga only at prohibitive prices. Even then, with camel charges at fourteen cents a cattie (1 1/3 lbs.), a fifty-pound sack of flour cost us more than six dollars by the time it reached Urga.
Charles Coltman at Kalgan very kindly relieved me of all the transportation details. We had seen him several times in Peking during the winter, and had planned the trip across the plains to Urga as une belle excursion.
Mrs. Coltman was going, of course, as were Mr. and Mrs. "Ted" MacCallie of Tientsin. "Mac" was a famous Cornell football star whom I knew by reputation in my own college days. He was to take a complete Delco electric lighting plant to Urga, with the hope of installing it in the palace of the "Living God."
A soldier named Owen from the Legation guard in Peking was to drive the Delco car, and I had two Chinese taxidermists, Chen and Kang, besides Lu, our cook and camp boy.
Chen had been loaned to me by Dr. J. G. Andersson, Mining Adviser to the Chinese Republic, and proved to be one of the best native collectors whom I have ever employed. The Coltmans and MacCallies were to stay only a few days in Urga, but they helped to make the trip across Mongolia one of the most delightful parts of our glorious summer.
We left Kalgan on May 17. Mac, Owen, and I rode the forty miles to Hei-ma-hou on horseback while Charles drove a motor occupied by the three women.
There is a circuitous route by which cars can cross the pass under their own power, but Coltman preferred the direct road and sent four mules to tow the automobile up the mountains to the edge of the plateau.
It was the same trail I had followed the previous September. Then, as I stood on the summit of the pass gazing back across the far, dim hills, my heart was sad for I was about to enter a new land alone. My "best assistant" was on the ocean coming as fast as steam could carry her to join me in Peking. I wondered if Fate's decree would bring us here together that we might both have, as a precious heritage for future years, the memories of this strange land of romance and of mystery. Now the dream had been fulfilled and never have I entered a new country with greater hopes of what it would bring to me. Never, too, have such hopes been more gloriously realized.
We packed the cars that night and at half past five the next morning were on the road. The sky was gray and cloud-hung, but by ten o'clock the sun burned out and we gradually emerged from the fur robes in which we had been buried.
Instead of the fields of ripening grain which in the previous autumn had spread the hills with a flowing golden carpet, we saw blue-clad Chinese farmers turning long brown furrows with homemade plows. The trees about the mission station had just begun to show a tinge of green—the first sign of awakening at the touch of spring from the long winter sleep. Already caravans were astir, and we passed lines of laden camels now almost at the end of the long journey from Outer Mongolia, whither we were bound. But, instead of splendid beasts with upstanding humps and full neck beards, the camels now were pathetic mountains of almost naked skin on which the winter hair hung in ragged patches. The humps were loose and flat and flapped disconsolately as the great bodies lurched along the trail.
When we passed one caravan a debonnaire old Mongol wearing a derby hat swung out of line and signaled us to stop. After an appraising glance at the car he smiled broadly and indicated that he would like to race. In a moment he was off yelling at the top of his lungs and belaboring the bony sides of his camel with feet and hands. The animal's ungainly legs swung like a windmill in every direction it seemed, except forward, and yet the Mongol managed to keep his rolling old "ship of the desert" abreast of us for several minutes. Finally we let him win the race, and his look of delight was worth going far to see as he waved us good-by and with a hearty "sai-bei-nah" loped slowly back to the caravan.