Beasts, Men and Gods
Part 2 out of 5
answered, "but I am not a doctor. I am a scientist in other
But the Prince did not understand this. In his simple directness a
man who knows how to treat disease is a doctor.
"My wife has had constant trouble for two months with her eyes," he
announced. "Help her."
I asked the Princess to show me her eyes and I found the typical
conjunctivitis from the continual smoke of the yurta and the
general uncleanliness. The Tartar brought me my medicine case. I
washed her eyes with boric acid and dropped a little cocaine and a
feeble solution of sulphurate of zinc into them.
"I beg you to cure me," pleaded the Princess. "Do not go away
until you have cured me. We shall give you sheep, milk and flour
for all your company. I weep now very often because I had very
nice eyes and my husband used to tell me they shone like the stars
and now they are red. I cannot bear it, I cannot!"
She very capriciously stamped her foot and, coquettishly smiling at
"Do you want to cure me? Yes?"
The character and manners of lovely woman are the same everywhere:
on bright Broadway, along the stately Thames, on the vivacious
boulevards of gay Paris and in the silk-draped yurta of the Soyot
Princess behind the larch covered Tannu Ola.
"I shall certainly try," assuringly answered the new oculist.
We spent here ten days, surrounded by the kindness and friendship
of the whole family of the Prince. The eyes of the Princess, which
eight years ago had seduced the already old Prince Lama, were now
recovered. She was beside herself with joy and seldom left her
The Prince gave me five fairly good horses, ten sheep and a bag of
flour, which was immediately transformed into dry bread. My friend
presented him with a Romanoff five-hundred-rouble note with a
picture of Peter the Great upon it, while I gave to him a small
nugget of gold which I had picked up in the bed of a stream. The
Prince ordered one of the Soyots to guide us to the Kosogol. The
whole family of the Prince conducted us to the monastery ten
kilometres from the "capital." We did not visit the monastery but
we stopped at the "Dugun," a Chinese trading establishment. The
Chinese merchants looked at us in a very hostile manner though they
simultaneously offered us all sorts of goods, thinking especially
to catch us with their round bottles (lanhon) of maygolo or sweet
brandy made from aniseed. As we had neither lump silver nor
Chinese dollars, we could only look with longing at these
attractive bottles, till the Prince came to the rescue and ordered
the Chinese to put five of them in our saddle bags.
MYSTERIES, MIRACLES AND A NEW FIGHT
In the evening of the same day we arrived at the Sacred Lake of
Teri Noor, a sheet of water eight kilometres across, muddy and
yellow, with low unattractive shores studded with large holes. In
the middle of the lake lay what was left of a disappearing island.
On this were a few trees and some old ruins. Our guide explained
to us that two centuries ago the lake did not exist and that a very
strong Chinese fortress stood here on the plain. A Chinese chief
in command of the fortress gave offence to an old Lama who cursed
the place and prophesied that it would all be destroyed. The very
next day the water began rushing up from the ground, destroyed the
fortress and engulfed all the Chinese soldiers. Even to this day
when storms rage over the lake the waters cast up on the shores the
bones of men and horses who perished in it. This Teri Noor
increases its size every year, approaching nearer and nearer to the
mountains. Skirting the eastern shore of the lake, we began to
climb a snow-capped ridge. The road was easy at first but the
guide warned us that the most difficult bit was there ahead. We
reached this point two days later and found there a steep mountain
side thickly set with forest and covered with snow. Beyond it lay
the lines of eternal snow--ridges studded with dark rocks set in
great banks of the white mantle that gleamed bright under the clear
sunshine. These were the eastern and highest branches of the Tannu
Ola system. We spent the night beneath this wood and began the
passage of it in the morning. At noon the guide began leading us
by zigzags in and out but everywhere our trail was blocked by deep
ravines, great jams of fallen trees and walls of rock caught in
their mad tobogganings from the mountain top. We struggled for
several hours, wore out our horses and, all of a sudden, turned up
at the place where we had made our last halt. It was very evident
our Soyot had lost his way; and on his face I noticed marked fear.
"The old devils of the cursed forest will not allow us to pass," he
whispered with trembling lips. "It is a very ominous sign. We
must return to Kharga to the Noyon."
But I threatened him and he took the lead again evidently without
hope or effort to find the way. Fortunately, one of our party, an
Urianhai hunter, noticed the blazes on the trees, the signs of the
road which our guide had lost. Following these, we made our way
through the wood, came into and crossed a belt of burned larch
timber and beyond this dipped again into a small live forest
bordering the bottom of the mountains crowned with the eternal
snows. It grew dark so that we had to camp for the night. The
wind rose high and carried in its grasp a great white sheet of snow
that shut us off from the horizon on every side and buried our camp
deep in its folds. Our horses stood round like white ghosts,
refusing to eat or to leave the circle round our fire. The wind
combed their manes and tails. Through the niches in the mountains
it roared and whistled. From somewhere in the distance came the
low rumble of a pack of wolves, punctuated at intervals by the
sharp individual barking that a favorable gust of wind threw up
into high staccato.
As we lay by the fire, the Soyot came over to me and said: "Noyon,
come with me to the obo. I want to show you something."
We went there and began to ascend the mountain. At the bottom of a
very steep slope was laid up a large pile of stones and tree
trunks, making a cone of some three metres in height. These obo
are the Lamaite sacred signs set up at dangerous places, the altars
to the bad demons, rulers of these places. Passing Soyots and
Mongols pay tribute to the spirits by hanging on the branches of
the trees in the obo hatyk, long streamers of blue silk, shreds
torn from the lining of their coats or simply tufts of hair cut
from their horses' manes; or by placing on the stones lumps of meat
or cups of tea and salt.
"Look at it," said the Soyot. "The hatyks are torn off. The
demons are angry, they will not allow us to pass, Noyon. . . ."
He caught my hand and with supplicating voice whispered: "Let us
go back, Noyon; let us! The demons do not wish us to pass their
mountains. For twenty years no one has dared to pass these
mountains and all bold men who have tried have perished here. The
demons fell upon them with snowstorm and cold. Look! It is
beginning already. . . . Go back to our Noyon, wait for the warmer
days and then. . . ."
I did not listen further to the Soyot but turned back to the fire,
which I could hardly see through the blinding snow. Fearing our
guide might run away, I ordered a sentry to be stationed for the
night to watch him. Later in the night I was awakened by the
sentry, who said to me: "Maybe I am mistaken, but I think I heard
What could I say to it? Maybe some stragglers like ourselves were
giving a sign of their whereabouts to their lost companions, or
perhaps the sentry had mistaken for a rifle shot the sound of some
falling rock or frozen ice and snow. Soon I fell asleep again and
suddenly saw in a dream a very clear vision. Out on the plain,
blanketed deep with snow, was moving a line of riders. They were
our pack horses, our Kalmuck and the funny pied horse with the
Roman nose. I saw us descending from this snowy plateau into a
fold in the mountains. Here some larch trees were growing, close
to which gurgled a small, open brook. Afterwards I noticed a fire
burning among the trees and then woke up.
It grew light. I shook up the others and asked them to prepare
quickly so as not to lose time in getting under way. The storm was
raging. The snow blinded us and blotted out all traces of the
road. The cold also became more intense. At last we were in the
saddles. The Soyot went ahead trying to make out the trail. As we
worked higher the guide less seldom lost the way. Frequently we
fell into deep holes covered with snow; we scrambled up over
slippery rocks. At last the Soyot swung his horse round and,
coming up to me, announced very positively: "I do not want to die
with you and I will not go further."
My first motion was the swing of my whip back over my head. I was
so close to the "Promised Land" of Mongolia that this Soyot,
standing in the way of fulfilment of my wishes, seemed to me my
worst enemy. But I lowered my flourishing hand. Into my head
flashed a quite wild thought.
"Listen," I said. "If you move your horses, you will receive a
bullet in the back and you will perish not at the top of the
mountain but at the bottom. And now I will tell you what will
happen to us. When we shall have reached these rocks above, the
wind will have ceased and the snowstorm will have subsided. The
sun will shine as we cross the snowy plain above and afterwards we
shall descend into a small valley where there are larches growing
and a stream of open running water. There we shall light our fires
and spend the night."
The Soyot began to tremble with fright.
"Noyon has already passed these mountains of Darkhat Ola?" he asked
"No," I answered, "but last night I had a vision and I know that we
shall fortunately win over this ridge."
"I will guide you!" exclaimed the Soyot, and, whipping his horse,
led the way up the steep slope to the top of the ridge of eternal
As we were passing along the narrow edge of a precipice, the Soyot
stopped and attentively examined the trail.
"Today many shod horses have passed here!" he cried through the
roar of the storm. "Yonder on the snow the lash of a whip has been
dragged. These are not Soyots."
The solution of this enigma appeared instantly. A volley rang out.
One of my companions cried out, as he caught hold of his right
shoulder; one pack horse fell dead with a bullet behind his ear.
We quickly tumbled out of our saddles, lay down behind the rocks
and began to study the situation. We were separated from a
parallel spur of the mountain by a small valley about one thousand
paces across. There we made out about thirty riders already
dismounted and firing at us. I had never allowed any fighting to
be done until the initiative had been taken by the other side. Our
enemy fell upon us unawares and I ordered my company to answer.
"Aim at the horses!" cried Colonel Ostrovsky. Then he ordered the
Tartar and Soyot to throw our own animals. We killed six of theirs
and probably wounded others, as they got out of control. Also our
rifles took toll of any bold man who showed his head from behind
his rock. We heard the angry shouting and maledictions of Red
soldiers who shot up our position more and more animatedly.
Suddenly I saw our Soyot kick up three of the horses and spring
into the saddle of one with the others in leash behind. Behind him
sprang up the Tartar and the Kalmuck. I had already drawn my rifle
on the Soyot but, as soon as I saw the Tartar and Kalmuck on their
lovely horses behind him, I dropped my gun and knew all was well.
The Reds let off a volley at the trio but they made good their
escape behind the rocks and disappeared. The firing continued more
and more lively and I did not know what to do. From our side we
shot rarely, saving our cartridges. Watching carefully the enemy,
I noticed two black points on the snow high above the Reds. They
slowly approached our antagonists and finally were hidden from view
behind some sharp hillocks. When they emerged from these, they
were right on the edge of some overhanging rocks at the foot of
which the Reds lay concealed from us. By this time I had no doubt
that these were the heads of two men. Suddenly these men rose up
and I watched them flourish and throw something that was followed
by two deafening roars which re-echoed across the mountain valley.
Immediately a third explosion was followed by wild shouts and
disorderly firing among the Reds. Some of the horses rolled down
the slope into the snow below and the soldiers, chased by our
shots, made off as fast as they could down into the valley out of
which we had come.
Afterward the Tartar told me the Soyot had proposed to guide them
around behind the Reds to fall upon their rear with the bombs.
When I had bound up the wounded shoulder of the officer and we had
taken the pack off the killed animal, we continued our journey.
Our position was complicated. We had no doubt that the Red
detachment came up from Mongolia. Therefore, were there Red troops
in Mongolia? What was their strength? Where might we meet them?
Consequently, Mongolia was no more the Promised Land? Very sad
thoughts took possession of us.
But Nature pleased us. The wind gradually fell. The storm ceased.
The sun more and more frequently broke through the scudding clouds.
We were traveling upon a high, snow-covered plateau, where in one
place the wind blew it clean and in another piled it high with
drifts which caught our horses and held them so that they could
hardly extricate themselves at times. We had to dismount and wade
through the white piles up to our waists and often a man or horse
was down and had to be helped to his feet. At last the descent
began and at sunset we stopped in the small larch grove, spent the
night at the fire among the trees and drank the tea boiled in the
water carried from the open mountain brook. In various places we
came across the tracks of our recent antagonists.
Everything, even Nature herself and the angry demons of Darkhat
Ola, had helped us: but we were not gay, because again before us
lay the dread uncertainty that threatened us with new and possibly
THE RIVER OF THE DEVIL
Ulan Taiga with Darkhat Ola lay behind us. We went forward very
rapidly because the Mongol plains began here, free from the
impediments of mountains. Everywhere splendid grazing lands
stretched away. In places there were groves of larch. We crossed
some very rapid streams but they were not deep and they had hard
beds. After two days of travel over the Darkhat plain we began
meeting Soyots driving their cattle rapidly toward the northwest
into Orgarkha Ola. They communicated to us very unpleasant news.
The Bolsheviki from the Irkutsk district had crossed the Mongolian
border, captured the Russian colony at Khathyl on the southern
shore of Lake Kosogol and turned, off south toward Muren Kure, a
Russian settlement beside a big Lamaite monastery sixty miles south
of Kosogol. The Mongols told us there were no Russian troops
between Khathyl and Muren Kure, so we decided to pass between these
two points to reach Van Kure farther to the east. We took leave of
our Soyot guide and, after having sent three scouts in advance,
moved forward. From the mountains around the Kosogol we admired
the splendid view of this broad Alpine lake. It was set like a
sapphire in the old gold of the surrounding hills, chased with
lovely bits of rich dark forestry. At night we approached Khathyl
with great precaution and stopped on the shore of the river that
flows from Kosogol, the Yaga or Egingol. We found a Mongol who
agreed to transport us to the other bank of the frozen stream and
to lead us by a safe road between Khathyl and Muren Kure.
Everywhere along the shore of the river were found large obo and
small shrines to the demons of the stream.
"Why are there so many obo?" we asked the Mongol.
"It is the River of the Devil, dangerous and crafty," replied the
Mongol. "Two days ago a train of carts went through the ice and
three of them with five soldiers were lost."
We started to cross. The surface of the river resembled a thick
piece of looking-glass, being clear and without snow. Our horses
walked very carefully but some fell and floundered before they
could regain their feet. We were leading them by the bridle. With
bowed heads and trembling all over they kept their frightened eyes
ever on the ice at their feet. I looked down and understood their
fear. Through the cover of one foot of transparent ice one could
clearly see the bottom of the river. Under the lighting of the
moon all the stones, the holes and even some of the grasses were
distinctly visible, even though the depth was ten metres and more.
The Yaga rushed under the ice with a furious speed, swirling and
marking its course with long bands of foam and bubbles. Suddenly I
jumped and stopped as though fastened to the spot. Along the
surface of the river ran the boom of a cannon, followed by a second
and a third.
"Quicker, quicker!" cried our Mongol, waving us forward with his
Another cannon boom and a crack ran right close to us. The horses
swung back on their haunches in protest, reared and fell, many of
them striking their heads severely on the ice. In a second it
opened up two feet wide, so that I could follow its jagged course
along the surface. Immediately up out of the opening the water
spread over the ice with a rush.
"Hurry, hurry!" shouted the guide.
With great difficulty we forced our horses to jump over this
cleavage and to continue on further. They trembled and disobeyed
and only the strong lash forced them to forget this panic of fear
and go on.
When we were safe on the farther bank and well into the woods, our
Mongol guide recounted to us how the river at times opens in this
mysterious way and leaves great areas of clear water. All the men
and animals on the river at such times must perish. The furious
current of cold water will always carry them down under the ice.
At other times a crack has been known to pass right under a horse
and, where he fell in with his front feet in the attempt to get
back to the other side, the crack has closed up and ground his legs
or feet right off.
The valley of Kosogol is the crater of an extinct volcano. Its
outlines may be followed from the high west shore of the lake.
However, the Plutonic force still acts and, asserting the glory of
the Devil, forces the Mongols to build obo and offer sacrifices at
his shrines. We spent all the night and all the next day hurrying
away eastward to avoid a meeting with the Reds and seeking good
pasturage for our horses. At about nine o'clock in the evening a
fire shone out of the distance. My friend and I made toward it
with the feeling that it was surely a Mongol yurta beside which we
could camp in safety. We traveled over a mile before making out
distinctly the lines of a group of yurtas. But nobody came out to
meet us and, what astonished us more, we were not surrounded by the
angry black Mongolian dogs with fiery eyes. Still, from the
distance we had seen the fire and so there must be someone there.
We dismounted from our horses and approached on foot. From out of
the yurta rushed two Russian soldiers, one of whom shot at me with
his pistol but missed me and wounded my horse in the back through
the saddle. I brought him to earth with my Mauser and the other
was killed by the butt end of my friend's rifle. We examined the
bodies and found in their pockets the papers of soldiers of the
Second Squadron of the Communist Interior Defence. Here we spent
the night. The owners of the yurtas had evidently run away, for
the Red soldiers had collected and packed in sacks the property of
the Mongols. Probably they were just planning to leave, as they
were fully dressed. We acquired two horses, which we found in the
bushes, two rifles and two automatic pistols with cartridges. In
the saddle bags we also found tea, tobacco, matches and cartridges--
all of these valuable supplies to help us keep further hold on our
Two days later we were approaching the shore of the River Uri when
we met two Russian riders, who were the Cossacks of a certain
Ataman Sutunin, acting against the Bolsheviki in the valley of the
River Selenga. They were riding to carry a message from Sutunin to
Kaigorodoff, chief of the Anti-Bolsheviki in the Altai region.
They informed us that along the whole Russian-Mongolian border the
Bolshevik troops were scattered; also that Communist agitators had
penetrated to Kiakhta, Ulankom and Kobdo and had persuaded the
Chinese authorities to surrender to the Soviet authorities all the
refugees from Russia. We knew that in the neighborhood of Urga and
Van Kure engagements were taking place between the Chinese troops
and the detachments of the Anti-Bolshevik Russian General Baron
Ungern Sternberg and Colonel Kazagrandi, who were fighting for the
independence of Outer Mongolia. Baron Ungern had now been twice
defeated, so that the Chinese were carrying on high-handed in Urga,
suspecting all foreigners of having relations with the Russian
We realized that the whole situation was sharply reversed. The
route to the Pacific was closed. Reflecting very carefully over
the problem, I decided that we had but one possible exit left. We
must avoid all Mongolian cities with Chinese administration, cross
Mongolia from north to south, traverse the desert in the southern
part of the Principality of Jassaktu Khan, enter the Gobi in the
western part of Inner Mongolia, strike as rapidly as possible
through sixty miles of Chinese territory in the Province of Kansu
and penetrate into Tibet. Here I hoped to search out one of the
English Consuls and with his help to reach some English port in
India. I understood thoroughly all the difficulties incident to
such an enterprise but I had no other choice. It only remained to
make this last foolish attempt or to perish without doubt at the
hands of the Boisheviki or languish in a Chinese prison. When I
announced my plan to my companions, without in any way hiding from
them all its dangers and quixotism, all of them answered very
quickly and shortly: "Lead us! We will follow."
One circumstance was distinctly in our favor. We did not fear
hunger, for we had some supplies of tea, tobacco and matches and a
surplus of horses, saddles, rifles, overcoats and boots, which were
an excellent currency for exchange. So then we began to initiate
the plan of the new expedition. We should start to the south,
leaving the town of Uliassutai on our right and taking the
direction of Zaganluk, then pass through the waste lands of the
district of Balir of Jassaktu Khan, cross the Naron Khuhu Gobi and
strike for the mountains of Boro. Here we should be able to take a
long rest to recuperate the strength of our horses and of
ourselves. The second section of our journey would be the passage
through the western part of Inner Mongolia, through the Little
Gobi, through the lands of the Torguts, over the Khara Mountains,
across Kansu, where our road must be chosen to the west of the
Chinese town of Suchow. From there we should have to enter the
Dominion of Kuku Nor and then work on southward to the head waters
of the Yangtze River. Beyond this I had but a hazy notion, which
however I was able to verify from a map of Asia in the possession
of one of the officers, to the effect that the mountain chains to
the west of the sources of the Yangtze separated that river system
from the basin of the Brahmaputra in Tibet Proper, where I expected
to be able to find English assistance.
THE MARCH OF GHOSTS
In no other way can I describe the journey from the River Ero to
the border of Tibet. About eleven hundred miles through the snowy
steppes, over mountains and across deserts we traveled in forty-
eight days. We hid from the people as we journeyed, made short
stops in the most desolate places, fed for whole weeks on nothing
but raw, frozen meat in order to avoid attracting attention by the
smoke of fires. Whenever we needed to purchase a sheep or a steer
for our supply department, we sent out only two unarmed men who
represented to the natives that they were the workmen of some
Russian colonists. We even feared to shoot, although we met a
great herd of antelopes numbering as many as five thousand head.
Behind Balir in the lands of the Lama Jassaktu Khan, who had
inherited his throne as a result of the poisoning of his brother at
Urga by order of the Living Buddha, we met wandering Russian
Tartars who had driven their herds all the way from Altai and
Abakan. They welcomed us very cordially, gave us oxen and thirty-
six bricks of tea. Also they saved us from inevitable destruction,
for they told us that at this season it was utterly impossible for
horses to make the trip across the Gobi, where there was no grass
at all. We must buy camels by exchanging for them our horses and
some other of our bartering supplies. One of the Tartars the next
day brought to their camp a rich Mongol with whom he drove the
bargain for this trade. He gave us nineteen camels and took all
our horses, one rifle, one pistol and the best Cossack saddle. He
advised us by all means to visit the sacred Monastery of
Narabanchi, the last Lamaite monastery on the road from Mongolia to
Tibet. He told us that the Holy Hutuktu, "the Incarnate Buddha,"
would be greatly offended if we did not visit the monastery and his
famous "Shrine of Blessings," where all travelers going to Tibet
always offered prayers. Our Kalmuck Lamaite supported the Mongol
in this. I decided to go there with the Kalmuck. The Tartars gave
me some big silk hatyk as presents and loaned us four splendid
horses. Although the monastery was fifty-five miles distant, by
nine o'clock in the evening I entered the yurta of this holy
He was a middle-aged, clean shaven, spare little man, laboring
under the name of Jelyb Djamsrap Hutuktu. He received us very
cordially and was greatly pleased with the presentation of the
hatyk and with my knowledge of the Mongol etiquette in which my
Tartar had been long and persistently instructing me. He listened
to me most attentively and gave valuable advice about the road,
presenting me then with a ring which has since opened for me the
doors of all Lamaite monasteries. The name of this Hutuktu is
highly esteemed not only in all Mongolia but in Tibet and in the
Lamaite world of China. We spent the night in his splendid yurta
and on the following morning visited the shrines where they were
conducting very solemn services with the music of gongs, tom-toms
and whistling. The Lamas with their deep voices were intoning the
prayers while the lesser priests answered with their antiphonies.
The sacred phrase: "Om! Mani padme Hung!" was endlessly repeated.
The Hutuktu wished us success, presented us with a large yellow
hatyk and accompanied us to the monastery gate. When we were in
our saddles he said:
"Remember that you are always welcome guests here. Life is very
complicated and anything may happen. Perhaps you will be forced in
future to re-visit distant Mongolia and then do not miss Narabanchi
That night we returned to the Tartars and the next day continued
our journey. As I was very tired, the slow, easy motion of the
camel was welcome and restful to me. All the day I dozed off at
intervals to sleep. It turned out to be very disastrous for me;
for, when my camel was going up the steep bank of a river, in one
of my naps I fell off and hit my head on a stone, lost
consciousness and woke up to find my overcoat covered with blood.
My friends surrounded me with their frightened faces. They
bandaged my head and we started off again. I only learned long
afterwards from a doctor who examined me that I had cracked my
skull as the price of my siesta.
We crossed the eastern ranges of the Altai and the Karlik Tag,
which are the most oriental sentinels the great Tian Shan system
throws out into the regions of the Gobi; and then traversed from
the north to the south the entire width of the Khuhu Gobi. Intense
cold ruled all this time and fortunately the frozen sands gave us
better speed. Before passing the Khara range, we exchanged our
rocking-chair steeds for horses, a deal in which the Torguts
skinned us badly like the true "old clothes men" they are.
Skirting around these mountains we entered Kansu. It was a
dangerous move, for the Chinese were arresting all refugees and I
feared for my Russian fellow-travelers. During the days we hid in
the ravines, the forests and bushes, making forced marches at
night. Four days we thus used in this passage of Kansu. The few
Chinese peasants we did encounter were peaceful appearing and most
hospitable. A marked sympathetic interest surrounded the Kalmuck,
who could speak a bit of Chinese, and my box of medicines.
Everywhere we found many ill people, chiefly afflicted with eye
troubles, rheumatism and skin diseases.
As we were approaching Nan Shan, the northeast branch of the Altyn
Tag (which is in turn the east branch of the Pamir and Karakhorum
system), we overhauled a large caravan of Chinese merchants going
to Tibet and joined them. For three days we were winding through
the endless ravine-like valleys of these mountains and ascending
the high passes. But we noticed that the Chinese knew how to pick
the easiest routes for caravans over all these difficult places.
In a state of semi-consciousness I made this whole journey toward
the large group of swampy lakes, feeding the Koko Nor and a whole
network of large rivers. From fatigue and constant nervous strain,
probably helped by the blow on my head, I began suffering from
sharp attacks of chills and fever, burning up at times and then
chattering so with my teeth that I frightened my horse who several
times threw me from the saddle. I raved, cried out at times and
even wept. I called my family and instructed them how they must
come to me. I remember as though through a dream how I was taken
from the horse by my companions, laid on the ground, supplied with
Chinese brandy and, when I recovered a little, how they said to me:
"The Chinese merchants are heading for the west and we must travel
"No! To the north," I replied very sharply.
"But no, to the south," my companions assured me.
"God and the Devil!" I angrily ejaculated, "we have just swum the
Little Yenisei and Algyak is to the north!"
"We are in Tibet," remonstrated my companions. "We must reach the
Brahmaputra. . . . Brahmaputra. . . . This word revolved in my
fiery brain, made a terrible noise and commotion. Suddenly I
remembered everything and opened my eyes. I hardly moved my lips
and soon I again lost consciousness. My companions brought me to
the monastery of Sharkhe, where the Lama doctor quickly brought me
round with a solution of fatil or Chinese ginseng. In discussing
our plans he expressed grave doubt as to whether we would get
through Tibet but he did not wish to explain to me the reason for
IN MYSTERIOUS TIBET
A fairly broad road led out from Sharkhe through the mountains and
on the fifth day of our two weeks' march to the south from the
monastery we emerged into the great bowl of the mountains in whose
center lay the large lake of Koko Nor. If Finland deserves the
ordinary title of the "Land of Ten Thousand Lakes," the dominion of
Koko Nor may certainly with justice be called the "Country of a
Million Lakes." We skirted this lake on the west between it and
Doulan Kitt, zigzagging between the numerous swamps, lakes and
small rivers, deep and miry. The water was not here covered with
ice and only on the tops of the mountains did we feel the cold
winds sharply. We rarely met the natives of the country and only
with greatest difficulty did our Kalmuck learn the course of the
road from the occasional shepherds we passed. From the eastern
shore of the Lake of Tassoun we worked round to a monastery on the
further side, where we stopped for a short rest. Besides ourselves
there was also another group of guests in the holy place. These
were Tibetans. Their behavior was very impertinent and they
refused to speak with us. They were all armed, chiefly with the
Russian military rifles and were draped with crossed bandoliers of
cartridges with two or three pistols stowed beneath belts with more
cartridges sticking out. They examined us very sharply and we
readily realized that they were estimating our martial strength.
After they had left on that same day I ordered our Kalmuck to
inquire from the High Priest of the temple exactly who they were.
For a long time the monk gave evasive answers but when I showed him
the ring of Hutuktu Narabanchi and presented him with a large
yellow hatyk, he became more communicative.
"Those are bad people," he explained. "Have a care of them."
However, he was not willing to give their names, explaining his
refusal by citing the Law of Buddhist lands against pronouncing the
name of one's father, teacher or chief. Afterwards I found out
that in North Tibet there exists the same custom as in North China.
Here and there bands of hunghutze wander about. They appear at the
headquarters of the leading trading firms and at the monasteries,
claim tribute and after their collections become the protectors of
the district. Probably this Tibetan monastery had in this band
just such protectors.
When we continued our trip, we frequently noticed single horsemen
far away or on the horizon, apparently studying our movements with
care. All our attempts to approach them and enter into
conversation with them were entirely unsuccessful. On their speedy
little horses they disappeared like shadows. As we reached the
steep and difficult Pass on the Hamshan and were preparing to spend
the night there, suddenly far up on a ridge above us appeared about
forty horsemen with entirely white mounts and without formal
introduction or warning spattered us with a hail of bullets. Two
of our officers fell with a cry. One had been instantly killed
while the other lived some few minutes. I did not allow my men to
shoot but instead I raised a white flag and started forward with
the Kalmuck for a parley. At first they fired two shots at us but
then ceased firing and sent down a group of riders from the ridge
toward us. We began the parley. The Tibetans explained that
Hamshan is a holy mountain and that here one must not spend the
night, advising us to proceed farther where we could consider
ourselves in safety. They inquired from us whence we came and
whither we were going, stated in answer to our information about
the purpose of our journey that they knew the Bolsheviki and
considered them the liberators of the people of Asia from the yoke
of the white race. I certainly did not want to begin a political
quarrel with them and so turned back to our companions. Riding
down the slope toward our camp, I waited momentarily for a shot in
the back but the Tibetan hunghutze did not shoot.
We moved forward, leaving among the stones the bodies of two of our
companions as sad tribute to the difficulties and dangers of our
journey. We rode all night, with our exhausted horses constantly
stopping and some lying down under us, but we forced them ever
onward. At last, when the sun was at its zenith, we finally
halted. Without unsaddling our horses, we gave them an opportunity
to lie down for a little rest. Before us lay a broad, swampy
plain, where was evidently the sources of the river Ma-chu. Not
far beyond lay the Lake of Aroung Nor. We made our fire of cattle
dung and began boiling water for our tea. Again without any
warning the bullets came raining in from all sides. Immediately we
took cover behind convenient rocks and waited developments. The
firing became faster and closer, the raiders appeared on the whole
circle round us and the bullets came ever in increasing numbers.
We had fallen into a trap and had no hope but to perish. We
realized this clearly. I tried anew to begin the parley; but when
I stood up with my white flag, the answer was only a thicker rain
of bullets and unfortunately one of these, ricocheting off a rock,
struck me in the left leg and lodged there. At the same moment
another one of our company was killed. We had no other choice and
were forced to begin fighting. The struggle continued for about
two hours. Besides myself three others received slight wounds. We
resisted as long as we could. The hunghutze approached and our
situation became desperate.
"There's no choice," said one of my associates, a very expert
Colonel. "We must mount and ride for it . . . anywhere."
"Anywhere. . . ." It was a terrible word! We consulted for but an
instant. It was apparent that with this band of cut-throats behind
us the farther we went into Tibet, the less chance we had of saving
We decided to return to Mongolia. But how? That we did not know.
And thus we began our retreat. Firing all the time, we trotted our
horses as fast as we could toward the north. One after another
three of my companions fell. There lay my Tartar with a bullet
through his neck. After him two young and fine stalwart officers
were carried from their saddles with cries of death, while their
scared horses broke out across the plain in wild fear, perfect
pictures of our distraught selves. This emboldened the Tibetans,
who became more and more audacious. A bullet struck the buckle on
the ankle strap of my right foot and carried it, with a piece of
leather and cloth, into my leg just above the ankle. My old and
much tried friend, the agronome, cried out as he grasped his
shoulder and then I saw him wiping and bandaging as best as he
could his bleeding forehead. A second afterward our Kalmuck was
hit twice right through the palm of the same hand, so that it was
entirely shattered. Just at this moment fifteen of the hunghutze
rushed against us in a charge.
"Shoot at them with volley fire!" commanded our Colonel.
Six robber bodies lay on the turf, while two others of the gang
were unhorsed and ran scampering as fast as they could after their
retreating fellows. Several minutes later the fire of our
antagonists ceased and they raised a white flag. Two riders came
forward toward us. In the parley it developed that their chief had
been wounded through the chest and they came to ask us to "render
first aid." At once I saw a ray of hope. I took my box of
medicines and my groaning, cursing, wounded Kalmuck to interpret
"Give that devil some cyanide of potassium," urged my companions.
But I devised another scheme.
We were led to the wounded chief. There he lay on the saddle
cloths among the rocks, represented to us to be a Tibetan but I at
once recognized him from his cast of countenance to be a Sart or
Turcoman, probably from the southern part of Turkestan. He looked
at me with a begging and frightened gaze. Examining him, I found
the bullet had passed through his chest from left to right, that he
had lost much blood and was very weak. Conscientiously I did all
that I could for him. In the first place I tried on my own tongue
all the medicines to be used on him, even the iodoform, in order to
demonstrate that there was no poison among them. I cauterized the
wound with iodine, sprinkled it with iodoform and applied the
bandages. I ordered that the wounded man be not touched nor moved
and that he be left right where he lay. Then I taught a Tibetan
how the dressing must be changed and left with him medicated
cotton, bandages and a little iodoform. To the patient, in whom
the fever was already developing, I gave a big dose of aspirin and
left several tablets of quinine with them. Afterwards, addressing
myself to the bystanders through my Kalmuck, I said very solemnly:
"The wound is very dangerous but I gave to your Chief very strong
medicine and hope that he will recover. One condition, however, is
necessary: the bad demons which have rushed to his side for his
unwarranted attack upon us innocent travelers will instantly kill
him, if another shot is let off against us. You must not even keep
a single cartridge in your rifles."
With these words I ordered the Kalmuck to empty his rifle and I, at
the same time, took all the cartridges out of my Mauser. The
Tibetans instantly and very servilely followed my example.
"Remember that I told you: 'Eleven days and eleven nights do not
move from this place and do not charge your rifles.' Otherwise the
demon of death will snatch off your Chief and will pursue you!"--
and with these words I solemnly drew forth and raised above their
heads the ring of Hutuktu Narabanchi.
I returned to my companions and calmed them. I told them we were
safe against further attack from the robbers and that we must only
guess the way to reach Mongolia. Our horses were so exhausted and
thin that on their bones we could have hung our overcoats. We
spent two days here, during which time I frequently visited my
patient. It also gave us opportunity to bandage our own
fortunately light wounds and to secure a little rest; though
unfortunately I had nothing but a jackknife with which to dig the
bullet out of my left calf and the shoemaker's accessories from my
right ankle. Inquiring from the brigands about the caravan roads,
we soon made our way out to one of the main routes and had the good
fortune to meet there the caravan of the young Mongol Prince
Pounzig, who was on a holy mission carrying a message from the
Living Buddha in Urga to the Dalai Lama in Lhasa. He helped us to
purchase horses, camels and food.
With all our arms and supplies spent in barter during the journey
for the purchase of transport and food, we returned stripped and
broken to the Narabanchi Monastery, where we were welcomed by the
"I knew you would come back," said he. "The divinations revealed
it all to me."
With six of our little band left behind us in Tibet to pay the
eternal toll of our dash for the south we returned but twelve to
the Monastery and waited there two weeks to re-adjust ourselves and
learn how events would again set us afloat on this turbulent sea to
steer for any port that Destiny might indicate. The officers
enlisted in the detachment which was then being formed in Mongolia
to fight against the destroyers of their native land, the
Bolsheviki. My original companion and I prepared to continue our
journey over Mongolian plains with whatever further adventures and
dangers might come in the struggle to escape to a place of safety.
And now, with the scenes of that trying march so vividly recalled,
I would dedicate these chapters to my gigantic, old and ruggedly
tried friend, the agronome, to my Russian fellow-travelers, and
especially, to the sacred memory of those of our companions whose
bodies lie cradled in the sleep among the mountains of Tibet--
Colonel Ostrovsky, Captains Zuboff and Turoff, Lieutenant
Pisarjevsky, Cossack Vernigora and Tartar Mahomed Spirin. Also
here I express my deep thanks for help and friendship to the Prince
of Soldjak, Hereditary Noyon Ta Lama and to the Kampo Gelong of
Narabanchi Monastery, the honorable Jelyb Djamsrap Hutuktu.
THE LAND OF DEMONS
In the heart of Asia lies the enormous, mysterious and rich country
of Mongolia. From somewhere on the snowy slopes of the Tian Shan
and from the hot sands of Western Zungaria to the timbered ridges
of the Sayan and to the Great Wall of China it stretches over a
huge portion of Central Asia. The cradle of peoples, histories and
legends; the native land of bloody conquerors, who have left here
their capitals covered by the sand of the Gobi, their mysterious
rings and their ancient nomad laws; the states of monks and evil
devils, the country of wandering tribes administered by the
descendants of Jenghiz Khan and Kublai Khan--Khans and Princes of
the Junior lines: that is Mongolia.
Mysterious country of the cults of Rama, Sakkia-Mouni, Djonkapa and
Paspa, cults guarded by the very person of the living Buddha--
Buddha incarnated in the third dignitary of the Lamaite religion--
Bogdo Gheghen in Ta Kure or Urga; the land of mysterious doctors,
prophets, sorcerers, fortune-tellers and witches; the land of the
sign of the swastika; the land which has not forgotten the thoughts
of the long deceased great potentates of Asia and of half of
Europe: that is Mongolia.
The land of nude mountains, of plains burned by the sun and killed
by the cold, of ill cattle and ill people; the nest of pests,
anthrax and smallpox; the land of boiling hot springs and of
mountain passes inhabited by demons; of sacred lakes swarming with
fish; of wolves, rare species of deer and mountain goats, marmots
in millions, wild horses, wild donkeys and wild camels that have
never known the bridle, ferocious dogs and rapacious birds of prey
which devour the dead bodies cast out on the plains by the people:
that is Mongolia.
The land whose disappearing primitive people gaze upon the bones of
their forefathers whitening in the sands and dust of their plains;
where are dying out the people who formerly conquered China, Siam,
Northern India and Russia and broke their chests against the iron
lances of the Polish knights, defending then all the Christian
world against the invasion of wild and wandering Asia: that is
The land swelling with natural riches, producing nothing, in need
of everything, destitute and suffering from the world's cataclysm:
that is Mongolia.
In this land, by order of Fate, after my unsuccessful attempt to
reach the Indian Ocean through Tibet, I spent half a year in the
struggle to live and to escape. My old and faithful friend and I
were compelled, willy-nilly, to participate in the exceedingly
important and dangerous events transpiring in Mongolia in the year
of grace 1921. Thanks to this, I came to know the calm, good and
honest Mongolian people; I read their souls, saw their sufferings
and hopes; I witnessed the whole horror of their oppression and
fear before the face of Mystery, there where Mystery pervades all
life. I watched the rivers during the severe cold break with a
rumbling roar their chains of ice; saw lakes cast up on their
shores the bones of human beings; heard unknown wild voices in the
mountain ravines; made out the fires over miry swamps of the will-
o'-the-wisps; witnessed burning lakes; gazed upward to mountains
whose peaks could not be scaled; came across great balls of
writhing snakes in the ditches in winter; met with streams which
are eternally frozen, rocks like petrified caravans of camels,
horsemen and carts; and over all saw the barren mountains whose
folds looked like the mantle of Satan, which the glow of the
evening sun drenched with blood.
"Look up there!" cried an old shepherd, pointing to the slope of
the cursed Zagastai. "That is no mountain. It is HE who lies in
his red mantle and awaits the day when he will rise again to begin
the fight with the good spirits."
And as he spoke I recalled the mystic picture of the noted painter
Vroubel. The same nude mountains with the violet and purple robes
of Satan, whose face is half covered by an approaching grey cloud.
Mongolia is a terrible land of mystery and demons. Therefore it is
no wonder that here every violation of the ancient order of life of
the wandering nomad tribes is transformed into streams of red blood
and horror, ministering to the demonic pleasure of Satan couched on
the bare mountains and robed in the grey cloak of dejection and
sadness, or in the purple mantle of war and vengeance.
After returning from the district of Koko Nor to Mongolia and
resting a few days at the Narabanchi Monastery, we went to live in
Uliassutai, the capital of Western Outer Mongolia. It is the last
purely Mongolian town to the west. In Mongolia there are but three
purely Mongolian towns, Urga, Uliassutai and Ulankom. The fourth
town, Kobdo, has an essentially Chinese character, being the center
of Chinese administration in this district inhabited by the
wandering tribes only nominally recognizing the influence of either
Peking or Urga. In Uliassutai and Ulankom, besides the unlawful
Chinese commissioners and troops, there were stationed Mongolian
governors or "Saits," appointed by the decree of the Living Buddha.
When we arrived in that town, we were at once in the sea of
political passions. The Mongols were protesting in great agitation
against the Chinese policy in their country; the Chinese raged and
demanded from the Mongolians the payment of taxes for the full
period since the autonomy of Mongolia had been forcibly extracted
from Peking; Russian colonists who had years before settled near
the town and in the vicinity of the great monasteries or among the
wandering tribes had separated into factions and were fighting
against one another; from Urga came the news of the struggle for
the maintenance of the independence of Outer Mongolia, led by the
Russian General, Baron Ungern von Sternberg; Russian officers and
refugees congregated in detachments, against which the Chinese
authorities protested but which the Mongols welcomed; the
Bolsheviki, worried by the formation of White detachments in
Mongolia, sent their troops to the borders of Mongolia; from
Irkutsk and Chita to Uliassutai and Urga envoys were running from
the Bolsheviki to the Chinese commissioners with various proposals
of all kinds; the Chinese authorities in Mongolia were gradually
entering into secret relations with the Bolsheviki and in Kiakhta
and Ulankom delivered to them the Russian refugees, thus violating
recognized international law; in Urga the Bolsheviki set up a
Russian communistic municipality; Russian Consuls were inactive;
Red troops in the region of Kosogol and the valley of the Selenga
had encounters with Anti-Bolshevik officers; the Chinese
authorities established garrisons in the Mongolian towns and sent
punitive expeditions into the country; and, to complete the
confusion, the Chinese troops carried out house-to-house searches,
during which they plundered and stole.
Into what an atmosphere we had fallen after our hard and dangerous
trip along the Yenisei, through Urianhai, Mongolia, the lands of
the Turguts, Kansu and Koko Nor!
"Do you know," said my old friend to me, "I prefer strangling
Partisans and fighting with the hunghutze to listening to news and
more anxious news!"
He was right; for the worst of it was that in this bustle and whirl
of facts, rumours and gossip the Reds could approach troubled
Uliassutai and take everyone with their bare hands. We should very
willingly have left this town of uncertainties but we had no place
to go. In the north were the hostile Partisans and Red troops; to
the south we had already lost our companions and not a little of
our own blood; to the west raged the Chinese administrators and
detachments; and to the east a war had broken out, the news of
which, in spite of the attempts of the Chinese authorities at
secrecy, had filtered through and had testified to the seriousness
of the situation in this part of Outer Mongolia. Consequently we
had no choice but to remain in Uliassutai. Here also were living
several Polish soldiers who had escaped from the prison camps in
Russia, two Polish families and two American firms, all in the same
plight as ourselves. We joined together and made our own
intelligence department, very carefully watching the evolution of
events. We succeeded in forming good connections with the Chinese
commissioner and with the Mongolian Sait, which greatly helped us
in our orientation.
What was behind all these events in Mongolia? The very clever
Mongol Sait of Uliassutai gave me the following explanation.
"According to the agreements between Mongolia, China and Russia of
October 21, 1912, of October 23, 1913, and of June 7, 1915, Outer
Mongolia was accorded independence and the Moral Head of our
'Yellow Faith,' His Holiness the Living Buddha, became the Suzerain
of the Mongolian people of Khalkha or Outer Mongolia with the title
of 'Bogdo Djebtsung Damba Hutuktu Khan.' While Russia was still
strong and carefully watched her policy in Asia, the Government of
Peking kept the treaty; but, when, at the beginning of the war with
Germany, Russia was compelled to withdraw her troops from Siberia,
Peking began to claim the return of its lost rights in Mongolia.
It was because of this that the first two treaties of 1912 and 1913
were supplemented by the convention of 1915. However, in 1916,
when all the forces of Russia were pre-occupied in the unsuccessful
war and afterwards when the first Russian revolution broke out in
February, 1917, overthrowing the Romanoff Dynasty, the Chinese
Government openly retook Mongolia. They changed all the Mongolian
ministers and Saits, replacing them with individuals friendly to
China; arrested many Mongolian autonomists and sent them to prison
in Peking; set up their administration in Urga and other Mongol
towns; actually removed His Holiness Bogdo Khan from the affairs of
administration; made him only a machine for signing Chinese
decrees; and at last introduced into Mongolia their troops. From
that moment there developed an energetic flow of Chinese merchants
and coolies into Mongolia. The Chinese began to demand the payment
of taxes and dues from 1912. The Mongolian population were rapidly
stripped of their wealth and now in the vicinities of our towns and
monasteries you can see whole settlements of beggar Mongols living
in dugouts. All our Mongol arsenals and treasuries were
requisitioned. All monasteries were forced to pay taxes; all
Mongols working for the liberty of their country were persecuted;
through bribery with Chinese silver, orders and titles the Chinese
secured a following among the poorer Mongol Princes. It is easy to
understand how the governing class, His Holiness, Khans, Princes,
and high Lamas, as well as the ruined and oppressed people,
remembering that the Mongol rulers had once held Peking and China
in their hands and under their reign had given her the first place
in Asia, were definitely hostile to the Chinese administrators
acting thus. Insurrection was, however, impossible. We had no
arms. All our leaders were under surveillance and every movement
by them toward an armed resistance would have ended in the same
prison at Peking where eighty of our Nobles, Princes and Lamas died
from hunger and torture after a previous struggle for the liberty
of Mongolia. Some abnormally strong shock was necessary to drive
the people into action. This was given by the Chinese
administrators, General Cheng Yi and General Chu Chi-hsiang. They
announced that His Holiness Bogdo Khan was under arrest in his own
palace, and they recalled to his attention the former decree of the
Peking Government--held by the Mongols to be unwarranted and
illegal--that His Holiness was the last Living Buddha. This was
enough. Immediately secret relations were made between the people
and their Living God, and plans were at once elaborated for the
liberation of His Holiness and for the struggle for liberty and
freedom of our people. We were helped by the great Prince of the
Buriats, Djam Bolon, who began parleys with General Ungern, then
engaged in fighting the Bolsheviki in Transbaikalia, and invited
him to enter Mongolia and help in the war against the Chinese.
Then our struggle for liberty began."
Thus the Sait of Uliassutai explained the situation to me.
Afterwards I heard that Baron Ungern, who had agreed to fight for
the liberty of Mongolia, directed that the mobilization of the
Mongolians in the northern districts be forwarded at once and
promised to enter Mongolia with his own small detachment, moving
along the River Kerulen. Afterwards he took up relations with the
other Russian detachment of Colonel Kazagrandi and, together with
the mobilized Mongolian riders, began the attack on Urga. Twice he
was defeated but on the third of February, 1921, he succeeded in
capturing the town and replaced the Living Buddha on the throne of
At the end of March, however, these events were still unknown in
Uliassutai. We knew neither of the fall of Urga nor of the
destruction of the Chinese army of nearly 15,000 in the battles of
Maimachen on the shore of the Tola and on the roads between Urga
and Ude. The Chinese carefully concealed the truth by preventing
anybody from passing westward from Urga. However, rumours existed
and troubled all. The atmosphere became more and more tense, while
the relations between the Chinese on the one side and the
Mongolians and Russians on the other became more and more strained.
At this time the Chinese Commissioner in Uliassutai was Wang Tsao-
tsun and his advisor, Fu Hsiang, both very young and inexperienced
men. The Chinese authorities had dismissed the Uliassutai Sait,
the prominent Mongolian patriot, Prince Chultun Beyle, and had
appointed a Lama Prince friendly to China, the former Vice-Minister
of War in Urga. Oppression increased. The searching of Russian
officers' and colonists' houses and quarters commenced, open
relations with the Bolsheviki followed and arrest and beatings
became common. The Russian officers formed a secret detachment of
sixty men so that they could defend themselves. However, in this
detachment disagreements soon sprang up between Lieutenant-Colonel
M. M. Michailoff and some of his officers. It was evident that in
the decisive moment the detachment must separate into factions.
We foreigners in council decided to make a thorough reconnaissance
in order to know whether there was danger of Red troops arriving.
My old companion and I agreed to do this scouting. Prince Chultun
Beyle gave us a very good guide--an old Mongol named Tzeren, who
spoke and read Russian perfectly. He was a very interesting
personage, holding the position of interpreter with the Mongolian
authorities and sometimes with the Chinese Commissioner. Shortly
before he had been sent as a special envoy to Peking with very
important despatches and this incomparable horseman had made the
journey between Uliassutai and Peking, that is 1,800 miles, in nine
days, incredible as it may seem. He prepared himself for the
journey by binding all his abdomen and chest, legs, arms and neck
with strong cotton bandages to protect himself from the wracks and
strains of such a period in the saddle. In his cap he bore three
eagle feathers as a token that he had received orders to fly like a
bird. Armed with a special document called a tzara, which gave him
the right to receive at all post stations the best horses, one to
ride and one fully saddled to lead as a change, together with two
oulatchen or guards to accompany him and bring back the horses from
the next station or ourton, he made the distance of from fifteen to
thirty miles between stations at full gallop, stopping only long
enough to have the horses and guards changed before he was off
again. Ahead of him rode one oulatchen with the best horses to
enable him to announce and prepare in advance the complement of
steeds at the next station. Each oulatchen had three horses in
all, so that he could swing from one that had given out and release
him to graze until his return to pick him up and lead or ride him
back home. At every third ourton, without leaving his saddle, he
received a cup of hot green tea with salt and continued his race
southward. After seventeen or eighteen hours of such riding he
stopped at the ourton for the night or what was left of it,
devoured a leg of boiled mutton and slept. Thus he ate once a day
and five times a day had tea; and so he traveled for nine days!
With this servant we moved out one cold winter morning in the
direction of Kobdo, just over three hundred miles, because from
there we had received the disquieting rumours that the Red troops
had entered Ulankom and that the Chinese authorities had handed
over to them all the Europeans in the town. We crossed the River
Dzaphin on the ice. It is a terrible stream. Its bed is full of
quicksands, which in summer suck in numbers of camels, horses and
men. We entered a long, winding valley among the mountains covered
with deep snow and here and there with groves of the black wood of
the larch. About halfway to Kobdo we came across the yurta of a
shepherd on the shore of the small Lake of Baga Nor, where evening
and a strong wind whirling gusts of snow in our faces easily
persuaded us to stop. By the yurta stood a splendid bay horse with
a saddle richly ornamerited with silver and coral. As we turned in
from the road, two Mongols left the yurta very hastily; one of them
jumped into the saddle and quickly disappeared in the plain behind
the snowy hillocks. We clearly made out the flashing folds of his
yellow robe under the great outer coat and saw his large knife
sheathed in a green leather scabbard and handled with horn and
ivory. The other man was the host of the yurta, the shepherd of a
local prince, Novontziran. He gave signs of great pleasure at
seeing us and receiving us in his yurta.
"Who was the rider on the bay horse?" we asked.
He dropped his eyes and was silent.
"Tell us," we insisted. "If you do not wish to speak his name, it
means that you are dealing with a bad character."
"No! No!" he remonstrated, flourishing his hands. "He is a good,
great man; but the law does not permit me to speak his name."
We at once understood that the man was either the chief of the
shepherd or some high Lama. Consequently we did not further insist
and began making our sleeping arrangements. Our host set three
legs of mutton to boil for us, skillfully cutting out the bones
with his heavy knife. We chatted and learned that no one had seen
Red troops around this region but in Kobdo and in Ulankom the
Chinese soldiers were oppressing the population, and were beating
to death with the bamboo Mongol men who were defending their women
against the ravages of these Chinese troops. Some of the Mongols
had retreated to the mountains to join detachments under the
command of Kaigordoff, an Altai Tartar officer who was supplying
them with weapons.
THE MYSTERIOUS LAMA AVENGER
We rested soundly in the yurta after the two days of travel which
had brought us one hundred seventy miles through the snow and sharp
cold. Round the evening meal of juicy mutton we were talking
freely and carelessly when suddenly we heard a low, hoarse voice:
We turned around from the brazier to the door and saw a medium
height, very heavy set Mongol in deerskin overcoat and cap with
side flaps and the long, wide tying strings of the same material.
Under his girdle lay the same large knife in the green sheath which
we had seen on the departing horseman.
"Amoursayn," we answered.
He quickly untied his girdle and laid aside his overcoat. He stood
before us in a wonderful gown of silk, yellow as beaten gold and
girt with a brilliant blue sash. His cleanly shaven face, short
hair, red coral rosary on the left hand and his yellow garment
proved clearly that before us stood some high Lama Priest,--with a
big Colt under his blue sash!
I turned to my host and Tzeren and read in their faces fear and
veneration. The stranger came over to the brazier and sat down.
"Let's speak Russian," he said and took a bit of meat.
The conversation began. The stranger began to find fault with the
Government of the Living Buddha in Urga.
"There they liberate Mongolia, capture Urga, defeat the Chinese
army and here in the west they give us no news of it. We are
without action here while the Chinese kill our people and steal
from them. I think that Bogdo Khan might send us envoys. How is
it the Chinese can send their envoys from Urga and Kiakhta to
Kobdo, asking for assistance, and the Mongol Government cannot do
"Will the Chinese send help to Urga?" I asked.
Our guest laughed hoarsely and said: "I caught all the envoys,
took away their letters and then sent them back . . . into the
He laughed again and glanced around peculiarly with his blazing
eyes. Only then did I notice that his cheekbones and eyes had
lines strange to the Mongols of Central Asia. He looked more like
a Tartar or a Kirghiz. We were silent and smoked our pipes.
"How soon will the detachment of Chahars leave Uliassutai?" he
We answered that we had not heard about them. Our guest explained
that from Inner Mongolia the Chinese authorities had sent out a
strong detachment, mobilized from among the most warlike tribe of
Chahars, which wander about the region just outside the Great Wall.
Its chief was a notorious hunghutze leader promoted by the Chinese
Government to the rank of captain on promising that he would bring
under subjugation to the Chinese authorities all the tribes of the
districts of Kobdo and Urianhai. When he learned whither we were
going and for what purpose, he said he could give us the most
accurate news and relieve us from the necessity of going farther.
"Besides that, it is very dangerous," he said, "because Kobdo will
be massacred and burned. I know this positively."
When he heard of our unsuccessful attempt to pass through Tibet, he
became attentive and very sympathetic in his bearing toward us and,
with evident feeling of regret, expressed himself strongly:
"Only I could have helped you in this enterprise, but not the
Narabanchi Hutuktu. With my laissez-passer you could have gone
anywhere in Tibet. I am Tushegoun Lama."
Tushegoun Lama! How many extraordinary tales I had heard about
him. He is a Russian Kalmuck, who because of his propaganda work
for the independence of the Kalmuck people made the acquaintance of
many Russian prisons under the Czar and, for the same cause, added
to his list under the Bolsheviki. He escaped to Mongolia and at
once attained to great influence among the Mongols. It was no
wonder, for he was a close friend and pupil of the Dalai Lama in
Potala (Lhasa), was the most learned among the Lamites, a famous
thaumaturgist and doctor. He occupied an almost independent
position in his relationship with the Living Buddha and achieved to
the leadership of all the old wandering tribes of Western Mongolia
and Zungaria, even extending his political domination over the
Mongolian tribes of Turkestan. His influence was irresistible,
based as it was on his great control of mysterious science, as he
expressed it; but I was also told that it has its foundation
largely in the panicky fear which he could produce in the Mongols.
Everyone who disobeyed his orders perished. Such an one never knew
the day or the hour when, in his yurta or beside his galloping
horse on the plains, the strange and powerful friend of the Dalai
Lama would appear. The stroke of a knife, a bullet or strong
fingers strangling the neck like a vise accomplished the justice of
the plans of this miracle worker.
Without the walls of the yurta the wind whistled and roared and
drove the frozen snow sharply against the stretched felt. Through
the roar of the wind came the sound of many voices in mingled
shouting, wailing and laughter. I felt that in such surroundings
it were not difficult to dumbfound a wandering nomad with miracles,
because Nature herself had prepared the setting for it. This
thought had scarcely time to flash through my mind before Tushegoun
Lama suddenly raised his head, looked sharply at me and said:
"There is very much unknown in Nature and the skill of using the
unknown produces the miracle; but the power is given to few. I
want to prove it to you and you may tell me afterwards whether you
have seen it before or not."
He stood up, pushed back the sleeves of his yellow garment, seized
his knife and strode across to the shepherd.
"Michik, stand up!" he ordered.
When the shepherd had risen, the Lama quickly unbuttoned his coat
and bared the man's chest. I could not yet understand what was his
intention, when suddenly the Tushegoun with all his force struck
his knife into the chest of the shepherd. The Mongol fell all
covered with blood, a splash of which I noticed on the yellow silk
of the Lama's coat.
"What have you done?" I exclaimed.
"Sh! Be still," he whispered turning to me his now quite blanched
With a few strokes of the knife he opened the chest of the Mongol
and I saw the man's lungs softly breathing and the distinct
palpitations of the heart. The Lama touched these organs with his
fingers but no more blood appeared to flow and the face of the
shepherd was quite calm. He was lying with his eyes closed and
appeared to be in deep and quiet sleep. As the Lama began to open
his abdomen, I shut my eyes in fear and horror; and, when I opened
them a little while later, I was still more dumbfounded at seeing
the shepherd with his coat still open and his breast normal,
quietly sleeping on his side and Tushegoun Lama sitting peacefully
by the brazier, smoking his pipe and looking into the fire in deep
"It is wonderful!" I confessed. "I have never seen anything like
"About what are you speaking?" asked the Kalmuck.
"About your demonstration or 'miracle,' as you call it," I
"I never said anything like that," refuted the Kalmuck, with
coldness in his voice.
"Did you see it?" I asked of my companion.
"What?" he queried in a dozing voice.
I realized that I had become the victim of the hypnotic power of
Tushegoun Lama; but I preferred this to seeing an innocent
Mongolian die, for I had not believed that Tushegoun Lama, after
slashing open the bodies of his victims, could repair them again so
The following day we took leave of our hosts. We decided to
return, inasmuch as our mission was accomplished; and Tushegoun
Lama explained to us that he would "move through space." He
wandered over all Mongolia, lived both in the single, simple yurta
of the shepherd and hunter and in the splendid tents of the princes
and tribal chiefs, surrounded by deep veneration and panic-fear,
enticing and cementing to him rich and poor alike with his miracles
and prophecies. When bidding us adieu, the Kalmuck sorcerer slyly
smiled and said:
"Do not give any information about me to the Chinese authorities."
Afterwards he added: "What happened to you yesterday evening was a
futile demonstration. You Europeans will not recognize that we
dark-minded nomads possess the powers of mysterious science. If
you could only see the miracles and power of the Most Holy Tashi
Lama, when at his command the lamps and candles before the ancient
statue of Buddha light themselves and when the ikons of the gods
begin to speak and prophesy! But there exists a more powerful and
more holy man. . ."
"Is it the King of the World in Agharti?" I interrupted.
He stared and glanced at me in amazement.
"Have you heard about him?" he asked, as his brows knit in thought.
After a few seconds he raised his narrow eyes and said: "Only one
man knows his holy name; only one man now living was ever in
Agharti. That is I. This is the reason why the Most Holy Dalai
Lama has honored me and why the Living Buddha in Urga fears me.
But in vain, for I shall never sit on the Holy Throne of the
highest priest in Lhasa nor reach that which has come down from
Jenghiz Khan to the Head of our yellow Faith. I am no monk. I am
a warrior and avenger."
He jumped smartly into the saddle, whipped his horse and whirled
away, flinging out as he left the common Mongolian phrase of adieu:
On the way back Tzeren related to us the hundreds of legends
surrounding Tushegoun Lama. One tale especially remained in my
mind. It was in 1911 or 1912 when the Mongols by armed force tried
to attain their liberty in a struggle with the Chinese. The
general Chinese headquarters in Western Mongolia was Kobdo, where
they had about ten thousand soldiers under the command of their
best officers. The command to capture Kobdo was sent to Hun
Baldon, a simple shepherd who had distinguished himself in fights
with the Chinese and received from the Living Buddha the title of
Prince of Hun. Ferocious, absolutely without fear and possessing
gigantic strength, Baldon had several times led to the attack his
poorly armed Mongols but each time had been forced to retreat after
losing many of his men under the machine-gun fire. Unexpectedly
Tushegoun Lama arrived. He collected all the soldiers and then
said to them:
"You must not fear death and must not retreat. You are fighting
and dying for Mongolia, for which the gods have appointed a great
destiny. See what the fate of Mongolia will be!"
He made a great sweeping gesture with his hand and all the soldiers
saw the country round about set with rich yurtas and pastures
covered with great herds of horses and cattle. On the plains
appeared numerous horsemen on richly saddled steeds. The women
were gowned in the finest of silk with massive silver rings in
their ears and precious ornaments in their elaborate head dresses.
Chinese merchants led an endless caravan of merchandise up to
distinguished looking Mongol Saits, surrounded by the gaily dressed
tzirik or soldiers and proudly negotiating with the merchants for
Shortly the vision disappeared and Tushegoun began to speak.
"Do not fear death! It is a release from our labor on earth and
the path to the state of constant blessings. Look to the East! Do
you see your brothers and friends who have fallen in battle?"
"We see, we see!" the Mongol warriors exclaimed in astonishment, as
they all looked upon a great group of dwellings which might have
been yurtas or the arches of temples flushed with a warm and kindly
light. Red and yellow silk were interwoven in bright bands that
covered the walls and floor, everywhere the gilding on pillars and
walls gleamed brightly; on the great red altar burned the thin
sacrificial candles in gold candelabra, beside the massive silver
vessels filled with milk and nuts; on soft pillows about the floor
sat the Mongols who had fallen in the previous attack on Kobdo.
Before them stood low, lacquered tables laden with many dishes of
steaming, succulent flesh of the lamb and the kid, with high jugs
of wine and tea, with plates of borsuk, a kind of sweet, rich
cakes, with aromatic zatouran covered with sheep's fat, with bricks
of dried cheese, with dates, raisins and nuts. These fallen
soldiers smoked golden pipes and chatted gaily.
This vision in turn also disappeared and before the gazing Mongols
stood only the mysterious Kalmuck with his hand upraised.
"To battle and return not without victory! I am with you in the
The attack began. The Mongols fought furiously, perished by the
hundreds but not before they had rushed into the heart of Kobdo.
Then was re-enacted the long forgotten picture of Tartar hordes
destroying European towns. Hun Baldon ordered carried over him a
triangle of lances with brilliant red streamers, a sign that he
gave up the town to the soldiers for three days. Murder and
pillage began. All the Chinese met their death there. The town
was burned and the walls of the fortress destroyed. Afterwards Hun
Baldon came to Uliassutai and also destroyed the Chinese fortress
there. The ruins of it still stand with the broken embattlements
and towers, the useless gates and the remnants of the burned
official quarters and soldiers' barracks.
After our return to Uliassutai we heard that disquieting news had
been received by the Mongol Sait from Muren Kure. The letter
stated that Red Troops were pressing Colonel Kazagrandi very hard
in the region of Lake Kosogol. The Sait feared the advance of the
Red troops southward to Uliassutai. Both the American firms
liquidated their affairs and all our friends were prepared for a
quick exit, though they hesitated at the thought of leaving the
town, as they were afraid of meeting the detachment of Chahars sent
from the east. We decided to await the arrival of this detachment,
as their coming could change the whole course of events. In a few
days they came, two hundred warlike Chahar brigands under the
command of a former Chinese hunghutze. He was a tall, skinny man
with hands that reached almost to his knees, a face blackened by
wind and sun and mutilated with two long scars down over his
forehead and cheek, the making of one of which had also closed one
of his hawklike eyes, topped off with a shaggy coonskin cap--such
was the commander of the detachment of Chahars. A personage very
dark and stern, with whom a night meeting on a lonely street could
not be considered a pleasure by any bent of the imagination.
The detachment made camp within the destroyed fortress, near to the
single Chinese building that had not been razed and which was now
serving as headquarters for the Chinese Commissioner. On the very
day of their arrival the Chahars pillaged a Chinese dugun or
trading house not half a mile from the fortress and also offended
the wife of the Chinese Commissioner by calling her a "traitor."
The Chahars, like the Mongols, were quite right in their stand,
because the Chinese Commissioner Wang Tsao-tsun had on his arrival
in Uliassutai followed the Chinese custom of demanding a Mongolian
wife. The servile new Sait had given orders that a beautiful and
suitable Mongolian girl be found for him. One was so run down and
placed in his yamen, together with her big wrestling Mongol brother
who was to be a guard for the Commissioner but who developed into
the nurse for the little white Pekingese pug which the official
presented to his new wife.
Burglaries, squabbles and drunken orgies of the Chahars followed,
so that Wang Tsoa-tsun exerted all his efforts to hurry the
detachment westward to Kobdo and farther into Urianhai.
One cold morning the inhabitants of Uliassutai rose to witness a
very stern picture. Along the main street of the town the
detachment was passing. They were riding on small, shaggy ponies,
three abreast; were dressed in warm blue coats with sheepskin
overcoats outside and crowned with the regulation coonskin caps;
armed from head to foot. They rode with wild shouts and cheers,
very greedily eyeing the Chinese shops and the houses of the
Russian colonists. At their head rode the one-eyed hunghutze chief
with three horsemen behind him in white overcoats, who carried
waving banners and blew what may have been meant for music through
great conch shells. One of the Chahars could not resist and so
jumped out of his saddle and made for a Chinese shop along the
street. Immediately the anxious cries of the Chinese merchants
came from the shop. The hunghutze swung round, noticed the horse
at the door of the shop and realized what was happening.
Immediately he reined his horse and made for the spot. With his
raucous voice he called the Chahar out. As he came, he struck him
full in the face with his whip and with all his strength. Blood
flowed from the slashed cheek. But the Chahar was in the saddle in
a second without a murmur and galloped to his place in the file.
During this exit of the Chahars all the people were hidden in their
houses, anxiously peeping through cracks and corners of the
windows. But the Chahars passed peacefully out and only when they
met a caravan carrying Chinese wine about six miles from town did
their native tendency display itself again in pillaging and
emptying several containers. Somewhere in the vicinity of Hargana
they were ambushed by Tushegoun Lama and so treated that never
again will the plains of Chahar welcome the return of these warrior
sons who were sent out to conquer the Soyot descendants of the
The day the column left Uliassutai a heavy snow fell, so that the
road became impassable. The horses first were up to their knees,
tired out and stopped. Some Mongol horsemen reached Uliassutai the
following day after great hardship and exertion, having made only
twenty-five miles in forty-eight hours. Caravans were compelled to
stop along the routes. The Mongols would not consent even to
attempt journeys with oxen and yaks which made but ten or twelve
miles a day. Only camels could be used but there were too few and
their drivers did not feel that they could make the first railway
station of Kuku-Hoto, which was about fourteen hundred miles away.
We were forced again to wait: for which? Death or salvation? Only
our own energy and force could save us. Consequently my friend and
I started out, supplied with a tent, stove and food, for a new
reconnaissance along the shore of Lake Kosogol, whence the Mongol
Sait expected the new invasion of Red troops.
THE DEMON OF JAGISSTAI
Our small group consisting of four mounted and one pack camel moved
northward along the valley of the River Boyagol in the direction of
the Tarbagatai Mountains. The road was rocky and covered deep with
snow. Our camels walked very carefully, sniffing out the way as
our guide shouted the "Ok! Ok!" of the camel drivers to urge them
on. We left behind us the fortress and Chinese dugun, swung round
the shoulder of a ridge and, after fording several times an open
stream, began the ascent of the mountain. The scramble was hard
and dangerous. Our camels picked their way most cautiously, moving
their ears constantly, as is their habit in such stress. The trail
zigzagged into mountain ravines, passed over the tops of ridges,
slipped back down again into shallower valleys but ever made higher
and higher altitudes. At one place under the grey clouds that
tipped the ridges we saw away up on the wide expanse of snow some
"Those are the obo, the sacred signs and altars for the bad demons
watching this pass," explained the guide. "This pass is called
Jagisstai. Many very old tales about it have been kept alive,
ancient as these mountains themselves."
We encouraged him to tell us some of them.
The Mongol, rocking on his camel and looking carefully all around
him, began his tale.
"It was long ago, very long ago. . . . The grandson of the great
Jenghiz Khan sat on the throne of China and ruled all Asia. The
Chinese killed their Khan and wanted to exterminate all his family
but a holy old Lama slipped the wife and little son out of the
palace and carried them off on swift camels beyond the Great Wall,
where they sank into our native plains. The Chinese made a long
search for the trails of our refugees and at last found where they
had gone. They despatched a strong detachment on fleet horses to
capture them. Sometimes the Chinese nearly came up with the
fleeing heir of our Khan but the Lama called down from Heaven a
deep snow, through which the camels could pass while the horses
were inextricably held. This Lama was from a distant monastery.
We shall pass this hospice of Jahantsi Kure. In order to reach it
one must cross over the Jagisstai. And it was just here the old
Lama suddenly became ill, rocked in his saddle and fell dead. Ta
Sin Lo, the widow of the Great Khan, burst into tears; but, seeing
the Chinese riders galloping there below across the valley, pressed
on toward the pass. The camels were tired, stopping every moment,
nor did the woman know how to stimulate and drive them on. The
Chinese riders came nearer and nearer. Already she heard their
shouts of joy, as they felt within their grasp the prize of the
mandarins for the murder of the heir of the Great Khan. The heads
of the mother and the son would be brought to Peking and exposed on
the Ch'ien Men for the mockery and insults of the people. The
frightened mother lifted her little son toward heaven and
"'Earth and Gods of Mongolia, behold the offspring of the man who
has glorified the name of the Mongols from one end of the world to
the other! Allow not this very flesh of Jenghiz Khan to perish!'
"At this moment she noticed a white mouse sitting on a rock nearby.
It jumped to her knees and said:
"'I am sent to help you. Go on calmly and do not fear. The
pursuers of you and your son, to whom is destined a life of glory,
have come to the last bourne of their lives.'
"Ta Sin Lo did not see how one small mouse could hold in check
three hundred men. The mouse jumped back to the ground and again
"'I am the demon of Tarbagatai, Jagasstai. I am mighty and beloved
of the Gods but, because you doubted the powers of the miracle-
speaking mouse, from this day the Jagasstai will be dangerous for
the good and bad alike.'
"The Khan's widow and son were saved but Jagasstai has ever
remained merciless. During the journey over this pass one must
always be on one's guard. The demon of the mountain is ever ready
to lead the traveler to destruction."
All the tops of the ridges of the Tarbagatai are thickly dotted
with the obo of rocks and branches. In one place there was even
erected a tower of stones as an altar to propitiate the Gods for
the doubts of Ta Sin Lo. Evidently the demon expected us. When we
began our ascent of the main ridge, he blew into our faces with a
sharp, cold wind, whistled and roared and afterwards began casting
over us whole blocks of snow torn off the drifts above. We could
not distinguish anything around us, scarcely seeing the camel
immediately in front. Suddenly I felt a shock and looked about me.
Nothing unusual was visible. I was seated comfortably between two
leather saddle bags filled with meat and bread but . . . I could
not see the head of my camel. He had disappeared. It seemed that
he had slipped and fallen to the bottom of a shallow ravine, while
the bags which were slung across his back without straps had caught
on a rock and stopped with myself there in the snow. This time the
demon of Jagasstai only played a joke but one that did not satisfy
him. He began to show more and more anger. With furious gusts of
wind he almost dragged us and our bags from the camels and nearly
knocked over our humped steeds, blinded us with frozen snow and
prevented us from breathing. Through long hours we dragged slowly
on in the deep snow, often falling over the edge of the rocks. At
last we entered a small valley where the wind whistled and roared
with a thousand voices. It had grown dark. The Mongol wandered
around searching for the trail and finally came back to us,
flourishing his arms and saying:
"We have lost the road. We must spend the night here. It is very
bad because we shall have no wood for our stove and the cold will
With great difficulties and with frozen hands we managed to set up
our tent in the wind, placing in it the now useless stove. We
covered the tent with snow, dug deep, long ditches in the drifts
and forced our camels to lie down in them by shouting the "Dzuk!
Dzuk!" command to kneel. Then we brought our packs into the tent.
My companion rebelled against the thought of spending a cold night
with a stove hard by.
"I am going out to look for firewood," said he very decisively; and
at that took up the ax and started. He returned after an hour with
a big section of a telegraph pole.
"You, Jenghiz Khans," said he, rubbing his frozen hands, "take your
axes and go up there to the left on the mountain and you will find
the telegraph poles that have been cut down. I made acquaintance
with the old Jagasstai and he showed me the poles."
Just a little way from us the line of the Russian telegraphs
passed, that which had connected Irkutsk with Uliassutai before the
days of the Bolsheviki and which the Chinese had commanded the
Mongols to cut down and take the wire. These poles are now the
salvation of travelers crossing the pass. Thus we spent the night
in a warm tent, supped well from hot meat soup with vermicelli, all
in the very center of the dominion of the angered Jagasstai. Early
the next morning we found the road not more than two or three
hundred paces from our tent and continued our hard trip over the
ridge of Tarbagatai. At the head of the Adair River valley we
noticed a flock of the Mongolian crows with carmine beaks circling
among the rocks. We approached the place and discovered the
recently fallen bodies of a horse and rider. What had happened to
them was difficult to guess. They lay close together; the bridle
was wound around the right wrist of the man; no trace of knife or
bullet was found. It was impossible to make out the features of
the man. His overcoat was Mongolian but his trousers and under
jacket were not of the Mongolian pattern. We asked ourselves what
had happened to him.
Our Mongol bowed his head in anxiety and said in hushed but assured
tones: "It is the vengeance of Jagasstai. The rider did not make
sacrifice at the southern obo and the demon has strangled him and
At last Tarbagatai was behind us. Before us lay the valley of the
Adair. It was a narrow zigzagging plain following along the river
bed between close mountain ranges and covered with a rich grass.
It was cut into two parts by the road along which the prostrate
telegraph poles now lay, as the stumps of varying heights and long
stretches of wire completed the debris. This destruction of the
telegraph line between Irkutsk and Uliassutai was necessary and
incident to the aggressive Chinese policy in Mongolia.
Soon we began to meet large herds of sheep, which were digging
through the snow to the dry but very nutritious grass. In some
places yaks and oxen were seen on the high slopes of the mountains.
Only once, however, did we see a shepherd, for all of them, spying
us first, had made off to the mountains or hidden in the ravines.
We did not even discover any yurtas along the way. The Mongols had
also concealed all their movable homes in the folds of the
mountains out of sight and away from the reach of the strong winds.
Nomads are very skilful in choosing the places for their winter
dwellings. I had often in winter visited the Mongolian yurtas set
in such sheltered places that, as I came off the windy plains, I
felt as though I were in a conservatory. Once we came up to a big
herd of sheep. But as we approached most of the herd gradually
withdrew, leaving one part that remained unmoved as the other
worked off across the plains. From this section soon about thirty
of forty head emerged and went scrambling and leaping right up the
mountain side. I took up my glasses and began to observe them.
The part of the herd that remained behind were common sheep; the
large section that had drawn off over the plain were Mongolian
antelopes (gazella gutturosa); while the few that had taken to the
mountain were the big horned sheep (ovis argali). All this company
had been grazing together with the domestic sheep on the plains of
the Adair, which attracted them with its good grass and clear
water. In many places the river was not frozen and in some places
I saw great clouds of steam over the surface of the open water. In
the meantime some of the antelopes and the mountain sheep began
looking at us.
"Now they will soon begin to cross our trail," laughed the Mongol;
"very funny beasts. Sometimes the antelopes course for miles in
their endeavor to outrun and cross in front of our horses and then,
when they have done so, go loping quietly off."
I had already seen this strategy of the antelopes and I decided to
make use of it for the purpose of the hunt. We organized our chase
in the following manner. We let one Mongol with the pack camel
proceed as we had been traveling and the other three of us spread
out like a fan headed toward the herd on the right of our true
course. The herd stopped and looked about puzzled, for their
etiquette required that they should cross the path of all four of
these riders at once. Confusion began. They counted about three
thousand heads. All this army began to run from one side to
another but without forming any distinct groups. Whole squadrons
of them ran before us and then, noticing another rider, came
coursing back and made anew the same manoeuvre. One group of about
fifty head rushed in two rows toward my point. When they were
about a hundred and fifty paces away I shouted and fired. They
stopped at once and began to whirl round in one spot, running into
one another and even jumping over one another. Their panic cost
them dear, for I had time to shoot four times to bring down two
beautiful heads. My friend was even more fortunate than I, for he
shot only once into the herd as it rushed past him in parallel
lines and dropped two with the same bullet.
Meanwhile the argali had gone farther up the mountainside and taken
stand there in a row like so many soldiers, turning to gaze at us.
Even at this distance I could clearly distinguish their muscular
bodies with their majestic heads and stalwart horns. Picking up
our prey, we overtook the Mongol who had gone on ahead and
continued our way. In many places we came across the carcasses of
sheep with necks torn and the flesh of the sides eaten off.
"It is the work of wolves," said the Mongol. "They are always
hereabout in large numbers."
We came across several more herds of antelope, which ran along
quietly enough until they had made a comfortable distance ahead of
us and then with tremendous leaps and bounds crossed our bows like
the proverbial chicken on the road. Then, after a couple of
hundred paces at this speed, they stopped and began to graze quite
calmly. Once I turned my camel back and the whole herd immediately
took up the challenge again, coursed along parallel with me until
they had made sufficient distance for their ideas of safety and
then once more rushed across the road ahead of me as though it were
paved with red hot stones, only to assume their previous calmness
and graze back on the same side of the trail from which our column
had first started them. On another occasion I did this three times
with a particular herd and laughed long and heartily at their
We passed a very unpleasant night in this valley. We stopped on
the shore of the frozen stream in a spot where we found shelter
from the wind under the lee of a high shore. In our stove we did
have a fire and in our kettle boiling water. Also our tent was
warm and cozy. We were quietly resting with pleasant thoughts of
supper to soothe us, when suddenly a howling and laughter as though
from some inferno burst upon us from just outside the tent, while
from the other side of the valley came the long and doleful howls
"Wolves," calmly explained the Mongol, who took my revolver and
went out of the tent. He did not return for some time but at last
we heard a shot and shortly after he entered.
"I scared them a little," said he. "They had congregated on the
shore of the Adair around the body of a camel."
"And they have not touched our camels?" we asked.
"We shall make a bonfire behind our tent; then they will not bother
After our supper we turned in but I lay awake for a long time
listening to the crackle of the wood in the fire, the deep sighing
breaths of the camels and the distant howling of the packs of
wolves; but finally, even with all these noises, fell asleep. How
long I had been asleep I did not know when suddenly I was awakened
by a strong blow in the side. I was lying at the very edge of the
tent and someone from outside had, without the least ceremony,
pushed strongly against me. I thought it was one of the camels
chewing the felt of the tent. I took my Mauser and struck the
wall. A sharp scream was followed by the sound of quick running
over the pebbles. In the morning we discovered the tracks of
wolves approaching our tent from the side opposite to the fire and
followed them to where they had begun to dig under the tent wall;
but evidently one of the would-be robbers was forced to retreat
with a bruise on his head from the handle of the Mauser.
Wolves and eagles are the servants of Jagasstai, the Mongol very
seriously instructed us. However, this does not prevent the
Mongols from hunting them. Once in the camp of Prince Baysei I
witnessed such a hunt. The Mongol horsemen on the best of his
steeds overtook the wolves on the open plain and killed them with
heavy bamboo sticks or tashur. A Russian veterinary surgeon taught
the Mongols to poison wolves with strychnine but the Mongols soon
abandoned this method because of its danger to the dogs, the
faithful friends and allies of the nomad. They do not, however,
touch the eagles and hawks but even feed them. When the Mongols
are slaughtering animals they often cast bits of meat up into the
air for the hawks and eagles to catch in flight, just as we throw a
bit of meat to a dog. Eagles and hawks fight and drive away the
magpies and crows, which are very dangerous for cattle and horses,
because they scratch and peck at the smallest wound or abrasion on
the backs of the animals until they make them into uncurable areas
which they continue to harass.
THE NEST OF DEATH
Our camels were trudging to a slow but steady measure on toward the
north. We were making twenty-five to thirty miles a day as we
approached a small monastery that lay to the left of our route. It
was in the form of a square of large buildings surrounded by a high
fence of thick poles. Each side had an opening in the middle
leading to the four entrances of the temple in the center of the
square. The temple was built with the red lacquered columns and
the Chinese style roofs and dominated the surrounding low dwellings
of the Lamas. On the opposite side of the road lay what appeared
to be a Chinese fortress but which was in reality a trading
compound or dugun, which the Chinese always build in the form of a
fortress with double walls a few feet apart, within which they
place their houses and shops and usually have twenty or thirty
traders fully armed for any emergency. In case of need these
duguns can be used as blockhouses and are capable of withstanding
long sieges. Between the dugun and the monastery and nearer to the
road I made out the camp of some nomads. Their horses and cattle
were nowhere to be seen. Evidently the Mongols had stopped here
for some time and had left their cattle in the mountains. Over
several yurtas waved multi-colored triangular flags, a sign of the
presence of disease. Near some yurtas high poles were stuck into
the ground with Mongol caps at their tops, which indicated that the
host of the yurta had died. The packs of dogs wandering over the
plain showed that the dead bodies lay somewhere near, either in the
ravines or along the banks of the river.
As we approached the camp, we heard from a distance the frantic
beating of drums, the mournful sounds of the flute and shrill, mad
shouting. Our Mongol went forward to investigate for us and
reported that several Mongolian families had come here to the
monastery to seek aid from the Hutuktu Jahansti who was famed for
his miracles of healing. The people were stricken with leprosy and
black smallpox and had come from long distances only to find that
the Hutuktu was not at the monastery but had gone to the Living
Buddha in Urga. Consequently they had been forced to invite the
witch doctors. The people were dying one after another. Just the
day before they had cast on the plain the twenty-seventh man.
Meanwhile, as we talked, the witch doctor came out of one of the
yurtas. He was an old man with a cataract on one eye and with a
face deeply scarred by smallpox. He was dressed in tatters with
various colored bits of cloth hanging down from his waist. He
carried a drum and a flute. We could see froth on his blue lips
and madness in his eyes. Suddenly he began to whirl round and
dance with a thousand prancings of his long legs and writhings of
his arms and shoulders, still beating the drum and playing the
flute or crying and raging at intervals, ever accelerating his
movements until at last with pallid face and bloodshot eyes he fell
on the snow, where he continued to writhe and give out his
incoherent cries. In this manner the doctor treated his patients,
frightening with his madness the bad devils that carry disease.
Another witch doctor gave his patients dirty, muddy water, which I
learned was the water from the bath of the very person of the
Living Buddha who had washed in it his "divine" body born from the
sacred flower of the lotus.
"Om! Om!" both witches continuously screamed.
While the doctors fought with the devils, the ill people were left
to themselves. They lay in high fever under the heaps of
sheepskins and overcoats, were delirious, raved and threw
themselves about. By the braziers squatted adults and children who
were still well, indifferently chatting, drinking tea and smoking.
In all the yurtas I saw the diseased and the dead and such misery
and physical horrors as cannot be described.
And I thought: "Oh, Great Jenghiz Khan! Why did you with your
keen understanding of the whole situation of Asia and Europe, you
who devoted all your life to the glory of the name of the Mongols,
why did you not give to your own people, who preserve their old
morality, honesty and peaceful customs, the enlightenment that
would have saved them from such death? Your bones in the mausoleum
at Karakorum being destroyed by the centuries that pass over them
must cry out against the rapid disappearance of your formerly great
people, who were feared by half the civilized world!"
Such thoughts filled my brain when I saw this camp of the dead
tomorrow and when I heard the groans, shoutings and raving of dying
men, women and children. Somewhere in the distance the dogs were
howling mournfully, and monotonously the drum of the tired witch
"Forward!" I could not witness longer this dark horror, which I
had no means or force to eradicate. We quickly passed on from the
ominous place. Nor could we shake the thought that some horrible
invisible spirit was following us from this scene of terror. "The
devils of disease?" "The pictures of horror and misery?" "The
souls of men who have been sacrificed on the altar of darkness of
Mongolia?" An inexplicable fear penetrated into our consciousness
from whose grasp we could not release ourselves. Only when we had
turned from the road, passed over a timbered ridge into a bowl in
the mountains from which we could see neither Jahantsi Kure, the
dugun nor the squirming grave of dying Mongols could we breathe
Presently we discovered a large lake. It was Tisingol. Near the
shore stood a large Russian house, the telegraph station between
Kosogol and Uliassutai.
AMONG THE MURDERERS
As we approached the telegraph station, we were met by a blonde
young man who was in charge of the office, Kanine by name. With
some little confusion he offered us a place in his house for the
night. When we entered the room, a tall, lanky man rose from the
table and indecisively walked toward us, looking very attentively
at us the while.
"Guests . . ." explained Kanine. "They are going to Khathyl.
Private persons, strangers, foreigners . . ."
"A-h," drawled the stranger in a quiet, comprehending tone.
While we were untying our girdles and with difficulty getting out
of our great Mongolian coats, the tall man was animatedly
whispering something to our host. As we approached the table to
sit down and rest, I overheard him say: "We are forced to postpone
it," and saw Kanine simply nod in answer.
Several other people were seated at the table, among them the
assistant of Kanine, a tall blonde man with a white face, who
talked like a Gatling gun about everything imaginable. He was half
crazy and his semi-madness expressed itself when any loud talking,
shouting or sudden sharp report led him to repeat the words of the
one to whom he was talking at the time or to relate in a
mechanical, hurried manner stories of what was happening around him
just at this particular juncture. The wife of Kanine, a pale,
young, exhausted-looking woman with frightened eyes and a face
distorted by fear, was also there and near her a young girl of
fifteen with cropped hair and dressed like a man, as well as the
two small sons of Kanine. We made acquaintance with all of them.
The tall stranger called himself Gorokoff, a Russian colonist from
Samgaltai, and presented the short-haired girl as his sister.
Kanine's wife looked at us with plainly discernible fear and said
nothing, evidently displeased over our being there. However, we
had no choice and consequently began drinking tea and eating our
bread and cold meat.
Kanine told us that ever since the telegraph line had been
destroyed all his family and relatives had felt very keenly the
poverty and hardship that naturally followed. The Bolsheviki did
not send him any salary from Irkutsk, so that he was compelled to
shift for himself as best he could. They cut and cured hay for
sale to the Russian colonists, handled private messages and
merchandise from Khathyl to Uliassutai and Samgaltai, bought and
sold cattle, hunted and in this manner managed to exist. Gorokoff
announced that his commercial affairs compelled him to go to
Khathyl and that he and his sister would be glad to join our
caravan. He had a most unprepossessing, angry-looking face with
colorless eyes that always avoided those of the person with whom he
was speaking. During the conversation we asked Kanine if there
were Russian colonists near by, to which he answered with knitted
brow and a look of disgust on his face:
"There is one rich old man, Bobroff, who lives a verst away from
our station; but I would not advise you to visit him. He is a
miserly, inhospitable old fellow who does not like guests."
During these words of her husband Madame Kanine dropped her eyes
and contracted her shoulders in something resembling a shudder.
Gorokoff and his sister smoked along indifferently. I very clearly
remarked all this as well as the hostile tone of Kanine, the
confusion of his wife and the artificial indifference of Gorokoff;
and I determined to see the old colonist given such a bad name by
Kanine. In Uliassutai I knew two Bobroffs. I said to Kanine that
I had been asked to hand a letter personally to Bobroff and, after
finishing my tea, put on my overcoat and went out.
The house of Bobroff stood in a deep sink in the mountains,
surrounded by a high fence over which the low roofs of the houses
could be seen. A light shone through the window. I knocked at the
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