Beasts, Men and Gods
Part 4 out of 5
middle of the pile, and binds them close over the surface of the
hay with the longest strands of grass, leaving the ends protruding
enough for him to add another foot to the height of the pile, when
he again binds the surface with more long strands--all this to keep
his winter supply of food from blowing away over the prairie. This
stock he always locates right at the door of his den to avoid long
winter hauls. The horses and camels are very fond of this small
farmer's hay, because it is always made from the most nutritious
grass. The haycocks are so strongly made that one can hardly kick
them to pieces.
Almost everywhere in Mongolia I met either single pairs or whole
flocks of the greyish-yellow prairie partridges, salga or
"partridge swallow," so called because they have long sharp tails
resembling those of swallows and because their flight also is a
close copy of that of the swallow. These birds are very tame or
fearless, allowing men to come within ten or fifteen paces of them;
but, when they do break, they go high and fly long distances
without lighting, whistling all the time quite like swallows.
Their general markings are light grey and yellow, though the males
have pretty chocolate spots on the backs and wings, while their
legs and feet are heavily feathered.
My opportunity to make these observations came from traveling
through unfrequented regions by the urga, which, however, had its
counterbalancing disadvantages. The Mongols carried me directly
and swiftly toward my destination, receiving with great
satisfaction the presents of Chinese dollars which I gave them.
But after having made about five thousand miles on my Cossack
saddle that now lay behind me on the cart all covered with dust
like common merchandise, I rebelled against being wracked and torn
by the rough riding of the cart as it was swung heedlessly over
stones, hillocks and ditches by the wild horses with their equally
wild riders, bounding and cracking and holding together only
through its tenacity of purpose in demonstrating the cosiness and
attractiveness of a good Mongol equipage! All my bones began to
ache. Finally I groaned at every lunge and at last I suffered a
very sharp attack of ischias or sciatica in my wounded leg. At
night I could neither sleep, lie down nor sit with comfort and
spent the whole night pacing up and down the plain, listening to
the loud snoring of the inhabitants of the yurta. At times I had
to fight the two huge black dogs which attacked me. The following
day I could endure the wracking only until noon and was then forced
to give up and lie down. The pain was unbearable. I could not
move my leg nor my back and finally fell into a high fever. We
were forced to stop and rest. I swallowed all my stock of aspirin
and quinine but without relief. Before me was a sleepless night
about which I could not think without weakening fear. We had
stopped in the yurta for guests by the side of a small monastery.
My Mongols invited the Lama doctor to visit me, who gave me two
very bitter powders and assured me I should be able to continue in
the morning. I soon felt a stimulated palpitation of the heart,
after which the pain became even sharper. Again I spent the night
without any sleep but when the sun arose the pain ceased instantly
and, after an hour, I ordered them to saddle me a horse, as I was
afraid to continue further in the cart.
While the Mongols were catching the horses, there came to my tent
Colonel N. N. Philipoff, who told me that he denied all the
accusations that he and his brother and Poletika were Bolsheviki
and that Bezrodnoff allowed him to go to Van Kure to meet Baron
Ungern, who was expected there. Only Philipoff did not know that
his Mongol guide was armed with a bomb and that another Mongol had
been sent on ahead with a letter to Baron Ungern. He did not know
that Poletika and his brothers were shot at the same time in Zain
Shabi. Philipoff was in a hurry and wanted to reach Van Kure that
day. I left an hour after him.
AN OLD FORTUNE TELLER
From this point we began traveling along the ourton road. In this
region the Mongols had very poor and exhausted horses, because they
were forced continuously to supply mounts to the numerous envoys of
Daichin Van and of Colonel Kazagrandi. We were compelled to spend
the night at the last ourton before Van Kure, where a stout old
Mongol and his son kept the station. After our supper he took the
shoulder-blade of the sheep, which had been carefully scraped clean
of all the flesh, and, looking at me, placed this bone in the coals
with some incantations and said:
"I want to tell your fortune. All my predictions come true."
When the bone had been blackened he drew it out, blew off the ashes
and began to scrutinize the surface very closely and to look
through it into the fire. He continued his examination for a long
time and then, with fear in his face, placed the bone back in the
"What did you see?" I asked, laughing.
"Be silent!" he whispered. "I made out horrible signs."
He again took out the bone and began examining it all over, all the
time whispering prayers and making strange movements. In a very
solemn quiet voice he began his predictions.
"Death in the form of a tall white man with red hair will stand
behind you and will watch you long and close. You will feel it and
wait but Death will withdraw. . . . Another white man will become
your friend. . . . Before the fourth day you will lose your
acquaintances. They will die by a long knife. I already see them
being eaten by the dogs. Beware of the man with a head like a
saddle. He will strive for your death."
For a long time after the fortune had been told we sat smoking and
drinking tea but still the old fellow looked at me only with fear.
Through my brain flashed the thought that thus must his companions
in prison look at one who is condemned to death.
The next morning we left the fortune teller before the sun was up,
and, when we had made about fifteen miles, hove in sight of Van
Kure. I found Colonel Kazagrandi at his headquarters. He was a
man of good family, an experienced engineer and a splendid officer,
who had distinguished himself in the war at the defence of the
island of Moon in the Baltic and afterwards in the fight with the
Bolsheviki on the Volga. Colonel Kazagrandi offered me a bath in a
real tub, which had its habitat in the house of the president of
the local Chamber of Commerce. As I was in this house, a tall
young captain entered. He had long curly red hair and an unusually
white face, though heavy and stolid, with large, steel-cold eyes
and with beautiful, tender, almost girlish lips. But in his eyes
there was such cold cruelty that it was quite unpleasant to look at
his otherwise fine face. When he left the room, our host told me
that he was Captain Veseloffsky, the adjutant of General Rezukhin,
who was fighting against the Bolsheviki in the north of Mongolia.
They had just that day arrived for a conference with Baron Ungern.
After luncheon Colonel Kazagrandi invited me to his yurta and began
discussing events in western Mongolia, where the situation had
become very tense.
"Do you know Dr. Gay?" Kazagrandi asked me. "You know he helped me
to form my detachment but Urga accuses him of being the agent of
I made all the defences I could for Gay. He had helped me and had
been exonerated by Kolchak.
"Yes, yes, and I justified Gay in such a manner," said the Colonel,
"but Rezukhin, who has just arrived today, has brought letters of
Gay's to the Bolsheviki which were seized in transit. By order of
Baron Ungern, Gay and his family have today been sent to the
headquarters of Rezukhin and I fear that they will not reach this
"Why?" I asked.
"They will be executed on the road!" answered Colonel Kazagrandi.
"What are we to do?" I responded. "Gay cannot be a Bolshevik,
"because he is too well educated and too clever for it."
"I don't know; I don't know!" murmured the Colonel with a
despondent gesture. "Try to speak with Rezukhin."
I decided to proceed at once to Rezukhin but just then Colonel
Philipoff entered and began talking about the errors being made in
the training of the soldiers. When I had donned my coat, another
man came in. He was a small sized officer with an old green
Cossack cap with a visor, a torn grey Mongol overcoat and with his
right hand in a black sling tied around his neck. It was General
Rezukhin, to whom I was at once introduced. During the
conversation the General very politely and very skilfully inquired
about the lives of Philipoff and myself during the last three
years, joking and laughing with discretion and modesty. When he
soon took his leave, I availed myself of the chance and went out
He listened very attentively and politely to me and afterwards, in
his quiet voice, said:
"Dr. Gay is the agent of the Soviets, disguised as a White in order
the better to see, hear and know everything. We are surrounded by
our enemies. The Russian people are demoralized and will undertake
any treachery for money. Such is Gay. Anyway, what is the use of
discussing him further? He and his family are no longer alive.
Today my men cut them to pieces five kilometres from here."
In consternation and fear I looked at the face of this small,
dapper man with such soft voice and courteous manners. In his eyes
I read such hate and tenacity that I understood at once the
trembling respect of all the officers whom I had seen in his
presence. Afterwards in Urga I learned more of this General
Rezukhin distinguished by his absolute bravery and boundless
cruelty. He was the watchdog of Baron Ungern, ready to throw
himself into the fire and to spring at the throat of anyone his
master might indicate.
Only four days then had elapsed before "my acquaintances" died "by
a long knife," so that one part of the prediction had been thus
fulfilled. And now I have to await Death's threat to me. The
delay was not long. Only two days later the Chief of the Asiatic
Division of Cavalry arrived--Baron Ungern von Sternberg.
"DEATH FROM THE WHITE MAN WILL STAND BEHIND YOU"
"The terrible general, the Baron," arrived quite unexpectedly,
unnoticed by the outposts of Colonel Kazagrandi. After a talk with
Kazagrandi the Baron invited Colonel N. N. Philipoff and me into
his presence. Colonel Kazagrandi brought the word to me. I wanted
to go at once but was detained about half an hour by the Colonel,
who then sped me with the words:
"Now God help you! Go!"
It was a strange parting message, not reassuring and quite
enigmatical. I took my Mauser and also hid in the cuff of my coat
my cyanide of potassium. The Baron was quartered in the yurta of
the military doctor. When I entered the court, Captain Veseloffsky
came up to me. He had a Cossack sword and a revolver without its
holster beneath his girdle. He went into the yurta to report my
"Come in," he said, as he emerged from the tent.
At the entrance my eyes were struck with the sight of a pool of
blood that had not yet had time to drain down into the ground--an
ominous greeting that seemed to carry the very voice of one just
gone before me. I knocked.
"Come in!" was the answer in a high tenor. As I passed the
threshold, a figure in a red silk Mongolian coat rushed at me with
the spring of a tiger, grabbed and shook my hand as though in
flight across my path and then fell prone on the bed at the side of
"Tell me who you are! Hereabouts are many spies and agitators," he
cried out in an hysterical voice, as he fixed his eyes upon me. In
one moment I perceived his appearance and psychology. A small head
on wide shoulders; blonde hair in disorder; a reddish bristling
moustache; a skinny, exhausted face, like those on the old
Byzantine ikons. Then everything else faded from view save a big,
protruding forehead overhanging steely sharp eyes. These eyes were
fixed upon me like those of an animal from a cave. My observations
lasted for but a flash but I understood that before me was a very
dangerous man ready for an instant spring into irrevocable action.
Though the danger was evident, I felt the deepest offence.
"Sit down," he snapped out in a hissing voice, as he pointed to a
chair and impatiently pulled at his moustache. I felt my anger
rising through my whole body and I said to him without taking the
"You have allowed yourself to offend me, Baron. My name is well
enough known so that you cannot thus indulge yourself in such
epithets. You can do with me as you wish, because force is on your
side, but you cannot compel me to speak with one who gives me
At these words of mine he swung his feet down off the bed and with
evident astonishment began to survey me, holding his breath and
pulling still at his moustache. Retaining my exterior calmness, I
began to glance indifferently around the yurta, and only then I
noticed General Rezukhin. I bowed to him and received his silent
acknowledgment. After that I swung my glance back to the Baron,
who sat with bowed head and closed eyes, from time to time rubbing
his brow and mumbling to himself.
Suddenly he stood up and sharply said, looking past and over me:
"Go out! There is no need of more. . . ."
I swung round and saw Captain Veseloffsky with his white, cold
face. I had not heard him enter. He did a formal "about face" and
passed out of the door.
"'Death from the white man' has stood behind me," I thought; "but
has it quite left me?"
The Baron stood thinking for some time and then began to speak in
jumbled, unfinished phrases.
"I ask your pardon. . . . You must understand there are so many
traitors! Honest men have disappeared. I cannot trust anybody.
All names are false and assumed; documents are counterfeited. Eyes
and words deceive. . . . All is demoralized, insulted by
Bolshevism. I just ordered Colonel Philipoff cut down, he who
called himself the representative of the Russian White
Organization. In the lining of his garments were found two secret
Bolshevik codes. . . . When my officer flourished his sword over
him, he exclaimed: 'Why do you kill me, Tavarische?' I cannot
trust anybody. . . ."
He was silent and I also held my peace.
"I beg your pardon!" he began anew. "I offended you; but I am not
simply a man, I am a leader of great forces and have in my head so
much care, sorrow and woe!"
In his voice I felt there was mingled despair and sincerity. He
frankly put out his hand to me. Again silence. At last I
"What do you order me to do now, for I have neither counterfeit nor
real documents? But many of your officers know me and in Urga I
can find many who will testify that I could be neither agitator
nor. . ."
"No need, no need!" interrupted the Baron. "All is clear, all is
understood! I was in your soul and I know all. It is the truth
which Hutuktu Narabanchi has written about you. What can I do for
I explained how my friend and I had escaped from Soviet Russia in
the effort to reach our native land and how a group of Polish
soldiers had joined us in the hope of getting back to Poland; and I
asked that help be given us to reach the nearest port.
"With pleasure, with pleasure. . . . I will help you all," he
answered excitedly. "I shall drive you to Urga in my motor car.
Tomorrow we shall start and there in Urga we shall talk about
Taking my leave, I went out of the yurta. On arriving at my
quarters, I found Colonel Kazagrandi in great anxiety walking up
and down my room.
"Thanks be to God!" he exclaimed and crossed himself.
His joy was very touching but at the same time I thought that the
Colonel could have taken much more active measures for the
salvation of his guest, if he had been so minded. The agitation of
this day had tired me and made me feel years older. When I looked
in the mirror I was certain there were more white hairs on my head.
At night I could not sleep for the flashing thoughts of the young,
fine face of Colonel Philipoff, the pool of blood, the cold eyes of
Captain Veseloffsky, the sound of Baron Ungern's voice with its
tones of despair and woe, until finally I sank into a heavy stupor.
I was awakened by Baron Ungern who came to ask pardon that he could
not take me in his motor car, because he was obliged to take
Daichin Van with him. But he informed me that he had left
instructions to give me his own white camel and two Cossacks as
servants. I had no time to thank him before he rushed out of my
Sleep then entirely deserted me, so I dressed and began smoking
pipe after pipe of tobacco, as I thought: "How much easier to
fight the Bolsheviki on the swamps of Seybi and to cross the snowy
peaks of Ulan Taiga, where the bad demons kill all the travelers
they can! There everything was simple and comprehensible, but here
it is all a mad nightmare, a dark and foreboding storm!" I felt
some tragedy, some horror in every movement of Baron Ungern, behind
whom paced this silent, white-faced Veseloffsky and Death.
THE HORROR OF WAR!
At dawn of the following morning they led up the splendid white
camel for me and we moved away. My company consisted of the two
Cossacks, two Mongol soldiers and one Lama with two pack camels
carrying the tent and food. I still apprehended that the Baron had
it in mind not to dispose of me before my friends there in Van Kure
but to prepare this journey for me under the guise of which it
would be so easy to do away with me by the road. A bullet in the
back and all would be finished. Consequently I was momentarily
ready to draw my revolver and defend myself. I took care all the
time to have the Cossacks either ahead of me or at the side. About
noon we heard the distant honk of a motor car and soon saw Baron
Ungern whizzing by us at full speed. With him were two adjutants
and Prince Daichin Van. The Baron greeted me very kindly and
"Shall see you again in Urga!"
"Ah!" I thought, "evidently I shall reach Urga. So I can be at
ease during my trip, and in Urga I have many friends beside the
presence there of the bold Polish soldiers whom I had worked with
in Uliassutai and who had outdistanced me in this journey."
After the meeting with the Baron my Cossacks became very attentive
to me and sought to distract me with stories. They told me about
their very severe struggles with the Bolsheviki in Transbaikalia
and Mongolia, about the battle with the Chinese near Urga, about
finding communistic passports on several Chinese soldiers from
Moscow, about the bravery of Baron Ungern and how he would sit at
the campfire smoking and drinking tea right on the battle line
without ever being touched by a bullet. At one fight seventy-four
bullets entered his overcoat, saddle and the boxes by his side and
again left him untouched. This is one of the reasons for his great
influence over the Mongols. They related how before the battle he
had made a reconnaissance in Urga with only one Cossack and on his
way back had killed a Chinese officer and two soldiers with his
bamboo stick or tashur; how he had no outfit save one change of
linen and one extra pair of boots; how he was always calm and
jovial in battle and severe and morose in the rare days of peace;
and how he was everywhere his soldiers were fighting.
I told them, in turn, of my escape from Siberia and with chatting
thus the day slipped by very quickly. Our camels trotted all the
time, so that instead of the ordinary eighteen to twenty miles per
day we made nearly fifty. My mount was the fastest of them all.
He was a huge white animal with a splendid thick mane and had been
presented to Baron Ungern by some Prince of Inner Mongolia with two
black sables tied on the bridle. He was a calm, strong, bold giant
of the desert, on whose back I felt myself as though perched on the
tower of a building. Beyond the Orkhon River we came across the
first dead body of a Chinese soldier, which lay face up and arms
outstretched right in the middle of the road. When we had crossed
the Burgut Mountains, we entered the Tola River valley, farther up
which Urga is located. The road was strewn with the overcoats,
shirts, boots, caps and kettles which the Chinese had thrown away
in their flight; and marked by many of their dead. Further on the
road crossed a morass, where on either side lay great mounds of the
dead bodies of men, horses and camels with broken carts and
military debris of every sort. Here the Tibetans of Baron Ungern
had cut up the escaping Chinese baggage transport; and it was a
strange and gloomy contrast to see the piles of dead besides the
effervescing awakening life of spring. In every pool wild ducks of
different kinds floated about; in the high grass the cranes
performed their weird dance of courtship; on the lakes great flocks
of swans and geese were swimming; through the swampy places like
spots of light moved the brilliantly colored pairs of the Mongolian
sacred bird, the turpan or "Lama goose"; on the higher dry places
flocks of wild turkey gamboled and fought as they fed; flocks of
the salga partridge whistled by; while on the mountain side not far
away the wolves lay basking and turning in the lazy warmth of the
sun, whining and occasionally barking like playful dogs.
Nature knows only life. Death is for her but an episode whose
traces she rubs out with sand and snow or ornaments with luxuriant
greenery and brightly colored bushes and flowers. What matters it
to Nature if a mother at Chefoo or on the banks of the Yangtse
offers her bowl of rice with burning incense at some shrine and
prays for the return of her son that has fallen unknown for all
time on the plains along the Tola, where his bones will dry beneath
the rays of Nature's dissipating fire and be scattered by her winds
over the sands of the prairie? It is splendid, this indifference
of Nature to death, and her greediness for life!
On the fourth day we made the shores of the Tola well after
nightfall. We could not find the regular ford and I forced my
camel to enter the stream in the attempt to make a crossing without
guidance. Very fortunately I found a shallow, though somewhat
miry, place and we got over all right. This is something to be
thankful for in fording a river with a camel; because, when your
mount finds the water too deep, coming up around his neck, he does
not strike out and swim like a horse will do but just rolls over on
his side and floats, which is vastly inconvenient for his rider.
Down by the river we pegged our tent.
Fifteen miles further on we crossed a battlefield, where the third
great battle for the independence of Mongolia had been fought.
Here the troops of Baron Ungern clashed with six thousand Chinese
moving down from Kiakhta to the aid of Urga. The Chinese were
completely defeated and four thousand prisoners taken. However,
these surrendered Chinese tried to escape during the night. Baron
Ungern sent the Transbaikal Cossacks and Tibetans in pursuit of
them and it was their work which we saw on this field of death.
There were still about fifteen hundred unburied and as many more
interred, according to the statements of our Cossacks, who had
participated in this battle. The killed showed terrible sword
wounds; everywhere equipment and other debris were scattered about.
The Mongols with their herds moved away from the neighborhood and
their place was taken by the wolves which hid behind every stone
and in every ditch as we passed. Packs of dogs that had become
wild fought with the wolves over the prey.
At last we left this place of carnage to the cursed god of war.
Soon we approached a shallow, rapid stream, where the Mongols
slipped from their camels, took off their caps and began drinking.
It was a sacred stream which passed beside the abode of the Living
Buddha. From this winding valley we suddenly turned into another
where a great mountain ridge covered with dark, dense forest loomed
up before us.
"Holy Bogdo-Ol!" exclaimed the Lama. "The abode of the Gods which
guard our Living Buddha!"
Bogdo-Ol is the huge knot which ties together here three mountain
chains: Gegyl from the southwest, Gangyn from the south, and Huntu
from the north. This mountain covered with virgin forest is the
property of the Living Buddha. The forests are full of nearly all
the varieties of animals found in Mongolia, but hunting is not
allowed. Any Mongol violating this law is condemned to death,
while foreigners are deported. Crossing the Bogdo-Ol is forbidden
under penalty of death. This command was transgressed by only one
man, Baron Ungern, who crossed the mountain with fifty Cossacks,
penetrated to the palace of the Living Buddha, where the Pontiff of
Urga was being held under arrest by the Chinese, and stole him.
IN THE CITY OF LIVING GODS, OF 30,000 BUDDHAS AND 60,000 MONKS
At last before our eyes the abode of the Living Buddha! At the
foot of Bogdo-Ol behind white walls rose a white Tibetan building
covered with greenish-blue tiles that glittered under the sunshine.
It was richly set among groves of trees dotted here and there with
the fantastic roofs of shrines and small palaces, while further
from the mountain it was connected by a long wooden bridge across
the Tola with the city of monks, sacred and revered throughout all
the East as Ta Kure or Urga. Here besides the Living Buddha live
whole throngs of secondary miracle workers, prophets, sorcerers and
wonderful doctors. All these people have divine origin and are
honored as living gods. At the left on the high plateau stands an
old monastery with a huge, dark red tower, which is known as the
"Temple Lamas City," containing a gigantic bronze gilded statue of
Buddha sitting on the golden flower of the lotus; tens of smaller
temples, shrines, obo, open altars, towers for astrology and the
grey city of the Lamas consisting of single-storied houses and
yurtas, where about 60,000 monks of all ages and ranks dwell;
schools, sacred archives and libraries, the houses of Bandi and the
inns for the honored guests from China, Tibet, and the lands of the
Buriat and Kalmuck.
Down below the monastery is the foreign settlement where the
Russian, foreign and richest Chinese merchants live and where the
multi-colored and crowded oriental bazaar carries forward its
bustling life. A kilometre away the greyish enclosure of Maimachen
surrounds the remaining Chinese trading establishments, while
farther on one sees a long row of Russian private houses, a
hospital, church, prison and, last of all, the awkward four-storied
red brick building that was formerly the Russian Consulate.
We were already within a short distance of the monastery, when I
noticed several Mongol soldiers in the mouth of a ravine nearby,
dragging back and concealing in the ravine three dead bodies.
"What are they doing?" I asked.
The Cossacks only smiled without answering. Suddenly they
straightened up with a sharp salute. Out of the ravine came a
small, stocky Mongolian pony with a short man in the saddle. As he
passed us, I noticed the epaulets of a colonel and the green cap
with a visor. He examined me with cold, colorless eyes from under
dense brows. As he went on ahead, he took off his cap and wiped
the perspiration from his bald head. My eyes were struck by the
strange undulating line of his skull. It was the man "with the
head like a saddle," against whom I had been warned by the old
fortune teller at the last ourton outside Van Kure!
"Who is this officer?" I inquired.
Although he was already quite a distance in front of us, the
Cossacks whispered: "Colonel Sepailoff, Commandant of Urga City."
Colonel Sepailoff, the darkest person on the canvas of Mongolian
events! Formerly a mechanician, afterwards a gendarme, he had
gained quick promotion under the Czar's regime. He was always
nervously jerking and wriggling his body and talking ceaselessly,
making most unattractive sounds in his throat and sputtering with
saliva all over his lips, his whole face often contracted with
spasms. He was mad and Baron Ungern twice appointed a commission
of surgeons to examine him and ordered him to rest in the hope he
could rid the man of his evil genius. Undoubtedly Sepailoff was a
sadist. I heard afterwards that he himself executed the condemned
people, joking and singing as he did his work. Dark, terrifying
tales were current about him in Urga. He was a bloodhound,
fastening his victims with the jaws of death. All the glory of the
cruelty of Baron Ungern belonged to Sepailoff. Afterwards Baron
Ungern once told me in Urga that this Sepailoff annoyed him and
that Sepailoff could kill him just as well as others. Baron Ungern
feared Sepailoff, not as a man, but dominated by his own
superstition, because Sepailoff had found in Transbaikalia a witch
doctor who predicted the death of the Baron if he dismissed
Sepailoff. Sepailoff knew no pardon for Bolshevik nor for any one
connected with the Bolsheviki in any way. The reason for his
vengeful spirit was that the Bolsheviki had tortured him in prison
and, after his escape, had killed all his family. He was now
taking his revenge.
I put up with a Russian firm and was at once visited by my
associates from Uliassutai, who greeted me with great joy because
they had been much exercised about the events in Van Kure and Zain
Shabi. When I had bathed and spruced up, I went out with them on
the street. We entered the bazaar. The whole market was crowded.
To the lively colored groups of men buying, selling and shouting
their wares, the bright streamers of Chinese cloth, the strings of
pearls, the earrings and bracelets gave an air of endless
festivity; while on another side buyers were feeling of live sheep
to see whether they were fat or not, the butcher was cutting great
pieces of mutton from the hanging carcasses and everywhere these
sons of the plain were joking and jesting. The Mongolian women in
their huge coiffures and heavy silver caps like saucers on their
heads were admiring the variegated silk ribbons and long chains of
coral beads; an imposing big Mongol attentively examined a small
herd of splendid horses and bargained with the Mongol zahachine or
owner of the horses; a skinny, quick, black Tibetan, who had come
to Urga to pray to the Living Buddha or, maybe, with a secret
message from the other "God" in Lhasa, squatted and bargained for
an image of the Lotus Buddha carved in agate; in another corner a
big crowd of Mongols and Buriats had collected and surrounded a
Chinese merchant selling finely painted snuff-bottles of glass,
crystal, porcelain, amethyst, jade, agate and nephrite, for one of
which made of a greenish milky nephrite with regular brown veins
running through it and carved with a dragon winding itself around a
bevy of young damsels the merchant was demanding of his Mongol
inquirers ten young oxen; and everywhere Buriats in their long red
coats and small red caps embroidered with gold helped the Tartars
in black overcoats and black velvet caps on the back of their heads
to weave the pattern of this Oriental human tapestry. Lamas formed
the common background for it all, as they wandered about in their
yellow and red robes, with capes picturesquely thrown over their
shoulders and caps of many forms, some like yellow mushrooms,
others like the red Phrygian bonnets or old Greek helmets in red.
They mingled with the crowd, chatting serenely and counting their
rosaries, telling fortunes for those who would hear but chiefly
searching out the rich Mongols whom they could cure or exploit by
fortune telling, predictions or other mysteries of a city of 60,000
Lamas. Simultaneously religious and political espionage was being
carried out. Just at this time many Mongols were arriving from
Inner Mongolia and they were continuously surrounded by an
invisible but numerous network of watching Lamas. Over the
buildings around floated the Russian, Chinese and Mongolian
national flags with a single one of the Stars and Stripes above a
small shop in the market; while over the nearby tents and yurtas
streamed the ribbons, the squares, the circles and triangles of the
princes and private persons afflicted or dying from smallpox and
leprosy. All were mingled and mixed in one bright mass strongly
lighted by the sun. Occasionally one saw the soldiers of Baron
Ungern rushing about in long blue coats; Mongols and Tibetans in
red coats with yellow epaulets bearing the swastika of Jenghiz Khan
and the initials of the Living Buddha; and Chinese soldiers from
their detachment in the Mongolian army. After the defeat of the
Chinese army two thousand of these braves petitioned the Living
Buddha to enlist them in his legions, swearing fealty and faith to
him. They were accepted and formed into two regiments bearing the
old Chinese silver dragons on their caps and shoulders.
As we crossed this market, from around a corner came a big motor
car with the roar of a siren. There was Baron Ungern in the yellow
silk Mongolian coat with a blue girdle. He was going very fast but
recognized me at once, stopping and getting out to invite me to go
with him to his yurta. The Baron lived in a small, simply arranged
yurta, set up in the courtyard of a Chinese hong. He had his
headquarters in two other yurtas nearby, while his servants
occupied one of the Chinese fang-tzu. When I reminded him of his
promise to help me to reach the open ports, the General looked at
me with his bright eyes and spoke in French:
"My work here is coming to an end. In nine days I shall begin the
war with the Bolsheviki and shall go into the Transbaikal. I beg
that you will spend this time here. For many years I have lived
without civilized society. I am alone with my thoughts and I would
like to have you know them, speaking with me not as the 'bloody mad
Baron,' as my enemies call me, nor as the 'severe grandfather,'
which my officers and soldiers call me, but as an ordinary man who
has sought much and has suffered even more."
The Baron reflected for some minutes and then continued:
"I have thought about the further trip of your group and I shall
arrange everything for you, but I ask you to remain here these nine
What was I to do? I agreed. The Baron shook my hand warmly and
A SON OF CRUSADERS AND PRIVATEERS
"Tell me about yourself and your trip," he urged. In response I
related all that I thought would interest him and he appeared quite
excited over my tale.
"Now I shall tell you about myself, who and what I am! My name is
surrounded with such hate and fear that no one can judge what is
the truth and what is false, what is history and what myth. Some
time you will write about it, remembering your trip through
Mongolia and your sojourn at the yurta of the 'bloody General.'"
He shut his eyes, smoking as he spoke, and tumbling out his
sentences without finishing them as though some one would prevent
him from phrasing them.
"The family of Ungern von Sternberg is an old family, a mixture of
Germans with Hungarians--Huns from the time of Attila. My warlike
ancestors took part in all the European struggles. They
participated in the Crusades and one Ungern was killed under the
walls of Jerusalem, fighting under Richard Coeur de Lion. Even the
tragic Crusade of the Children was marked by the death of Ralph
Ungern, eleven years old. When the boldest warriors of the country
were despatched to the eastern border of the German Empire against
the Slavs in the twelfth century, my ancestor Arthur was among
them, Baron Halsa Ungern Sternberg. Here these border knights
formed the order of Monk Knights or Teutons, which with fire and
sword spread Christianity among the pagan Lithuanians, Esthonians,
Latvians and Slavs. Since then the Teuton Order of Knights has
always had among its members representatives of our family. When
the Teuton Order perished in the Grunwald under the swords of the
Polish and Lithuanian troops, two Barons Ungern von Sternberg were
killed there. Our family was warlike and given to mysticism and
"During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries several Barons von
Ungern had their castles in the lands of Latvia and Esthonia. Many
legends and tales lived after them. Heinrich Ungern von Sternberg,
called 'Ax,' was a wandering knight. The tournaments of France,
England, Spain and Italy knew his name and lance, which filled the
hearts of his opponents with fear. He fell at Cadiz 'neath the
sword of a knight who cleft both his helmet and his skull. Baron
Ralph Ungern was a brigand knight between Riga and Reval. Baron
Peter Ungern had his castle on the island of Dago in the Baltic
Sea, where as a privateer he ruled the merchantmen of his day.
"In the beginning of the eighteenth century there was also a well-
known Baron Wilhelm Ungern, who was referred to as the 'brother of
Satan' because he was an alchemist. My grandfather was a privateer
in the Indian Ocean, taking his tribute from the English traders
whose warships could not catch him for several years. At last he
was captured and handed to the Russian Consul, who transported him
to Russia where he was sentenced to deportation to the Transbaikal.
I am also a naval officer but the Russo-Japanese War forced me to
leave my regular profession to join and fight with the Zabaikal
Cossacks. I have spent all my life in war or in the study and
learning of Buddhism. My grandfather brought Buddhism to us from
India and my father and I accepted and professed it. In
Transbaikalia I tried to form the order of Military Buddhists for
an uncompromising fight against the depravity of revolution."
He fell into silence and began drinking cup after cup of tea as
strong and black as coffee.
"Depravity of revolution! . . . Has anyone ever thought of it
besides the French philosopher, Bergson, and the most learned Tashi
Lama in Tibet?"
The grandson of the privateer, quoting scientific theories, works,
the names of scientists and writers, the Holy Bible and Buddhist
books, mixing together French, German, Russian and English,
"In the Buddhistic and ancient Christian books we read stern
predictions about the time when the war between the good and evil
spirits must begin. Then there must come the unknown 'Curse' which
will conquer the world, blot out culture, kill morality and destroy
all the people. Its weapon is revolution. During every revolution
the previously experienced intellect-creator will be replaced by
the new rough force of the destroyer. He will place and hold in
the first rank the lower instincts and desires. Man will be
farther removed from the divine and the spiritual. The Great War
proved that humanity must progress upward toward higher ideals; but
then appeared that Curse which was seen and felt by Christ, the
Apostle John, Buddha, the first Christian martyrs, Dante, Leonardo
da Vinci, Goethe and Dostoyevsky. It appeared, turned back the
wheel of progress and blocked our road to the Divinity. Revolution
is an infectious disease and Europe making the treaty with Moscow
deceived itself and the other parts of the world. The Great Spirit
put at the threshold of our lives Karma, who knows neither anger
nor pardon. He will reckon the account, whose total will be
famine, destruction, the death of culture, of glory, of honor and
of spirit, the death of states and the death of peoples. I see
already this horror, this dark, mad destruction of humanity."
The door of the yurta suddenly swung open and an adjutant snapped
into a position of attention and salute.
"Why do you enter a room by force?" the General exclaimed in anger.
"Your Excellency, our outpost on the border has caught a Bolshevik
reconnaissance party and brought them here."
The Baron arose. His eyes sparkled and his face contracted with
"Bring them in front of my yurta!" he ordered.
All was forgotten--the inspired speech, the penetrating voice--all
were sunk in the austere order of the severe commander. The Baron
put on his cap, caught up the bamboo tashur which he always carried
with him and rushed from the yurta. I followed him out. There in
front of the yurta stood six Red soldiers surrounded by the
The Baron stopped and glared sharply at them for several minutes.
In his face one could see the strong play of his thoughts.
Afterwards he turned away from them, sat down on the doorstep of
the Chinese house and for a long time was buried in thought. Then
he rose, walked over to them and, with an evident show of
decisiveness in his movements, touched all the prisoners on the
shoulder with his tashur and said: "You to the left and you to the
right!" as he divided the squad into two sections, four on the
right and two on the left.
"Search those two! They must be commissars!" commanded the Baron
and, turning to the other four, asked: "Are you peasants mobilized
by the Bolsheviki?"
"Just so, Your Excellency!" cried the frightened soldiers.
"Go to the Commandant and tell him that I have ordered you to be
enlisted in my troops!"
On the two to the left they found passports of Commissars of the
Communist Political Department. The General knitted his brows and
slowly pronounced the following:
"Beat them to death with sticks!"
He turned and entered the yurta. After this our conversation did
not flow readily and so I left the Baron to himself.
After dinner in the Russian firm where I was staying some of
Ungern's officers came in. We were chatting animatedly when
suddenly we heard the horn of an automobile, which instantly threw
the officers into silence.
"The General is passing somewhere near," one of them remarked in a
strangely altered voice.
Our interrupted conversation was soon resumed but not for long.
The clerk of the firm came running into the room and exclaimed:
He entered the door but stopped on the threshold. The lamps had
not yet been lighted and it was getting dark inside, but the Baron
instantly recognized us all, approached and kissed the hand of the
hostess, greeted everyone very cordially and, accepting the cup of
tea offered him, drew up to the table to drink. Soon he spoke:
"I want to steal your guest," he said to the hostess and then,
turning to me, asked: "Do you want to go for a motor ride? I
shall show you the city and the environs."
Donning my coat, I followed my established custom and slipped my
revolver into it, at which the Baron laughed.
"Leave that trash behind! Here you are in safety. Besides you
must remember the prediction of Narabanchi Hutuktu that Fortune
will ever be with you."
"All right," I answered, also with a laugh. "I remember very well
this prediction. Only I do not know what the Hutuktu thinks
'Fortune' means for me. Maybe it is death like the rest after my
hard, long trip, and I must confess that I prefer to travel farther
and am not ready to die."
We went out to the gate where the big Fiat stood with its intruding
great lights. The chauffeur officer sat at the wheel like a statue
and remained at salute all the time we were entering and seating
"To the wireless station!" commanded the Baron.
We veritably leapt forward. The city swarmed, as earlier, with the
Oriental throng, but its appearance now was even more strange and
miraculous. In among the noisy crowd Mongol, Buriat and Tibetan
riders threaded swiftly; caravans of camels solemnly raised their
heads as we passed; the wooden wheels of the Mongol carts screamed
in pain; and all was illumined by splendid great arc lights from
the electric station which Baron Ungern had ordered erected
immediately after the capture of Urga, together with a telephone
system and wireless station. He also ordered his men to clean and
disinfect the city which had probably not felt the broom since the
days of Jenghiz Khan. He arranged an auto-bus traffic between
different parts of the city; built bridges over the Tola and
Orkhon; published a newspaper; arranged a veterinary laboratory and
hospitals; re-opened the schools; protected commerce, mercilessly
hanging Russian and Mongolian soldiers for pillaging Chinese firms.
In one of these cases his Commandant arrested two Cossacks and a
Mongol soldier who had stolen brandy from one of the Chinese shops
and brought them before him. He immediately bundled them all into
his car, drove off to the shop, delivered the brandy back to the
proprietor and as promptly ordered the Mongol to hang one of the
Russians to the big gate of the compound. With this one swung he
commanded: "Now hang the other!" and this had only just been
accomplished when he turned to the Commandant and ordered him to
hang the Mongol beside the other two. That seemed expeditious and
just enough until the Chinese proprietor came in dire distress to
the Baron and plead with him:
"General Baron! General Baron! Please take those men down from my
gateway, for no one will enter my shop!"
After the commercial quarter was flashed past our eyes, we entered
the Russian settlement across a small river. Several Russian
soldiers and four very spruce-looking Mongolian women stood on the
bridge as we passed. The soldiers snapped to salute like immobile
statues and fixed their eyes on the severe face of their Commander.
The women first began to run and shift about and then, infected by
the discipline and order of events, swung their hands up to salute
and stood as immobile as their northern swains. The Baron looked
at me and laughed:
"You see the discipline! Even the Mongolian women salute me."
Soon we were out on the plain with the car going like an arrow,
with the wind whistling and tossing the folds of our coats and
caps. But Baron Ungern, sitting with closed eyes, repeated:
"Faster! Faster!" For a long time we were both silent.
"And yesterday I beat my adjutant for rushing into my yurta and
interrupting my story," he said.
"You can finish it now," I answered.
"And are you not bored by it? Well, there isn't much left and this
happens to be the most interesting. I was telling you that I
wanted to found an order of military Buddhists in Russia. For
what? For the protection of the processes of evolution of humanity
and for the struggle against revolution, because I am certain that
evolution leads to the Divinity and revolution to bestiality. But
I worked in Russia! In Russia, where the peasants are rough,
untutored, wild and constantly angry, hating everybody and
everything without understanding why. They are suspicious and
materialistic, having no sacred ideals. Russian intelligents live
among imaginary ideals without realities. They have a strong
capacity for criticising everything but they lack creative power.
Also they have no will power, only the capacity for talking and
talking. With the peasants, they cannot like anything or anybody.
Their love and feelings are imaginary. Their thoughts and
sentiments pass without trace like futile words. My companions,
therefore, soon began to violate the regulations of the Order.
Then I introduced the condition of celibacy, the entire negation of
woman, of the comforts of life, of superfluities, according to the
teachings of the Yellow Faith; and, in order that the Russian might
be able to live down his physical nature, I introduced the
limitless use of alcohol, hasheesh and opium. Now for alcohol I
hang my officers and soldiers; then we drank to the 'white fever,'
delirium tremens. I could not organize the Order but I gathered
round me and developed three hundred men wholly bold and entirely
ferocious. Afterward they were heroes in the war with Germany and
later in the fight against the Bolsheviki, but now only a few
"The wireless, Excellency!" reported the chauffeur.
"Turn in there!" ordered the General.
On the top of a flat hill stood the big, powerful radio station
which had been partially destroyed by the retreating Chinese but
reconstructed by the engineers of Baron Ungern. The General
perused the telegrams and handed them to me. They were from
Moscow, Chita, Vladivostok and Peking. On a separate yellow sheet
were the code messages, which the Baron slipped into his pocket as
he said to me:
"They are from my agents, who are stationed in Chita, Irkutsk,
Harbin and Vladivostok. They are all Jews, very skilled and very
bold men, friends of mine all. I have also one Jewish officer,
Vulfovitch, who commands my right flank. He is as ferocious as
Satan but clever and brave. . . . Now we shall fly into space."
Once more we rushed away, sinking into the darkness of night. It
was a wild ride. The car bounded over small stones and ditches,
even taking narrow streamlets, as the skilled chauffeur only seemed
to guide it round the larger rocks. On the plain, as we sped by, I
noticed several times small bright flashes of fire which lasted but
for a second and then were extinguished.
"The eyes of wolves," smiled my companion. "We have fed them to
satiety from the flesh of ourselves and our enemies!" he quietly
interpolated, as he turned to continue his confession of faith.
"During the War we saw the gradual corruption of the Russian army
and foresaw the treachery of Russia to the Allies as well as the
approaching danger of revolution. To counteract this latter a plan
was formed to join together all the Mongolian peoples which had not
forgotten their ancient faiths and customs into one Asiatic State,
consisting of autonomous tribal units, under the moral and
legislative leadership of China, the country of loftiest and most
ancient culture. Into this State must come the Chinese, Mongols,
Tibetans, Afghans, the Mongol tribes of Turkestan, Tartars,
Buriats, Kirghiz and Kalmucks. This State must be strong,
physically and morally, and must erect a barrier against revolution
and carefully preserve its own spirit, philosophy and individual
policy. If humanity, mad and corrupted, continues to threaten the
Divine Spirit in mankind, to spread blood and to obstruct moral
development, the Asiatic State must terminate this movement
decisively and establish a permanent, firm peace. This propaganda
even during the War made splendid progress among the Turkomans,
Kirghiz, Buriats and Mongols. . . . "Stop!" suddenly shouted the
The car pulled up with a jerk. The General jumped out and called
me to follow. We started walking over the prairie and the Baron
kept bending down all the time as though he were looking for
something on the ground.
"Ah!" he murmured at last, "He has gone away. . . ."
I looked at him in amazement.
"A rich Mongol formerly had his yurta here. He was the outfitter
for the Russian merchant, Noskoff. Noskoff was a ferocious man as
shown by the name the Mongols gave him--'Satan.' He used to have
his Mongol debtors beaten or imprisoned through the instrumentality
of the Chinese authorities. He ruined this Mongol, who lost
everything and escaped to a place thirty miles away; but Noskoff
found him there, took all that he had left of cattle and horses and
left the Mongol and his family to die of hunger. When I captured
Urga, this Mongol appeared and brought with him thirty other Mongol
families similarly ruined by Noskoff. They demanded his death. . . .
So I hung 'Satan' . . ."
Anew the motor car was rushing along, sweeping a great circle on
the prairie, and anew Baron Ungern with his sharp, nervous voice
carried his thoughts round the whole circumference of Asian life.
"Russia turned traitor to France, England and America, signed the
Brest-Litovsk Treaty and ushered in a reign of chaos. We then
decided to mobilize Asia against Germany. Our envoys penetrated
Mongolia, Tibet, Turkestan and China. At this time the Bolsheviki
began to kill all the Russian officers and we were forced to open
civil war against them, giving up our Pan-Asiatic plans; but we
hope later to awake all Asia and with their help to bring peace and
God back to earth. I want to feel that I have helped this idea by
the liberation of Mongolia."
He became silent and thought for a moment.
"But some of my associates in the movement do not like me because
of my atrocities and severity," he remarked in a sad voice. "They
cannot understand as yet that we are not fighting a political party
but a sect of murderers of all contemporary spiritual culture. Why
do the Italians execute the 'Black Hand' gang? Why are the
Americans electrocuting anarchistic bomb throwers? and I am not
allowed to rid the world of those who would kill the soul of the
people? I, a Teuton, descendant of crusaders and privateers, I
recognize only death for murderers! . . . Return!" he commanded
An hour and a half later we saw the electric lights of Urga.
THE CAMP OF MARTYRS
Near the entrance to the town, a motor car stood before a small
"What does that mean?" exclaimed the Baron. "Go over there!"
Our car drew up beside the other. The house door opened sharply,
several officers rushed out and tried to hide.
"Stand!" commanded the General. "Go back inside." They obeyed and
he entered after them, leaning on his tashur. As the door remained
open, I could see and hear everything.
"Woe to them!" whispered the chauffeur. "Our officers knew that
the Baron had gone out of the town with me, which means always a
long journey, and must have decided to have a good time. He will
order them beaten to death with sticks."
I could see the end of the table covered with bottles and tinned
things. At the side two young women were seated, who sprang up at
the appearance of the General. I could hear the hoarse voice of
Baron Ungern pronouncing sharp, short, stern phrases.
"Your native land is perishing. . . . The shame of it is upon all
you Russians . . . and you cannot understand it . . . nor feel
it. . . . You need wine and women. . . . Scoundrels! Brutes! . . .
One hundred fifty tashur for every man of you."
The voice fell to a whisper.
"And you, Mesdames, do you not realize the ruin of your people?
No? For you it is of no moment. And have you no feeling for your
husbands at the front who may even now be killed? You are not
women. . . . I honor woman, who feels more deeply and strongly
than man; but you are not women! . . . Listen to me, Mesdames.
Once more and I will hang you. . . ."
He came back to the car and himself sounded the horn several times.
Immediately Mongol horsemen galloped up.
"Take these men to the Commandant. I will send my orders later."
On the way to the Baron's yurta we were silent. He was excited and
breathed heavily, lighting cigarette after cigarette and throwing
them aside after but a single puff or two.
"Take supper with me," he proposed.
He also invited his Chief of Staff, a very retiring, oppressed but
splendidly educated man. The servants spread a Chinese hot course
for us followed by cold meat and fruit compote from California with
the inevitable tea. We ate with chopsticks. The Baron was greatly
Very cautiously I began speaking of the offending officers and
tried to justify their actions by the extremely trying
circumstances under which they were living.
"They are rotten through and through, demoralized, sunk into the
depths," murmured the General.
The Chief of Staff helped me out and at last the Baron directed him
to telephone the Commandant to release these gentlemen.
The following day I spent with my friends, walking a great deal
about the streets and watching their busy life. The great energy
of the Baron demanded constant nervous activity from himself and
every one round him. He was everywhere, seeing everything but
never, interfering with the work of his subordinate administrators.
Every one was at work.
In the evening I was invited by the Chief of Staff to his quarters,
where I met many intelligent officers. I related again the story
of my trip and we were all chatting along animatedly when suddenly
Colonel Sepailoff entered, singing to himself. All the others at
once became silent and one by one under various pretexts they
slipped out. He handed our host some papers and, turning to us,
"I shall send you for supper a splendid fish pie and some hot
As he left, my host clasped his head in desperation and said:
"With such scum of the earth are we now forced after this
revolution to work!"
A few minutes later a soldier from Sepailoff brought us a tureen
full of soup and the fish pie. As the soldier bent over the table
to set the dishes down, the Chief motioned me with his eyes and
slipped to me the words: "Notice his face."
When the man went out, my host sat attentively listening until the
sounds of the man's steps ceased.
"He is Sepailoff's executioner who hangs and strangles the
unfortunate condemned ones."
Then, to my amazement, he began to pour out the soup on the ground
beside the brazier and, going out of the yurta, threw the pie over
"It is Sepailoff's feast and, though it may be very tasty, it may
also be poison. In Sepailoff's house it is dangerous to eat or
Distinctly oppressed by these doings, I returned to my house. My
host was not yet asleep and met me with a frightened look. My
friends were also there.
"God be thanked!" they all exclaimed. "Has nothing happened to
"What is the matter?" I asked.
"You see," began the host, "after your departure a soldier came
from Sepailoff and took your luggage, saying that you had sent him
for it; but we knew what it meant--that they would first search it
and afterwards. . . ."
I at once understood the danger. Sepailoff could place anything he
wanted in my luggage and afterwards accuse me. My old friend, the
agronome, and I started at once for Sepailoff's, where I left him
at the door while I went in and was met by the same soldier who had
brought the supper to us. Sepailoff received me immediately. In
answer to my protest he said that it was a mistake and, asking me
to wait for a moment, went out. I waited five, ten, fifteen
minutes but nobody came. I knocked on the door but no one answered
me. Then I decided to go to Baron Ungern and started for the exit.
The door was locked. Then I tried the other door and found that
also locked. I had been trapped! I wanted at once to whistle to
my friend but just then noticed a telephone on the wall and called
up Baron Ungern. In a few minutes he appeared together with
"What is this?" he asked Sepailoff in a severe, threatening voice;
and, without waiting for an answer, struck him a blow with his
tashur that sent him to the floor.
We went out and the General ordered my luggage produced. Then he
brought me to his own yurta.
"Live here, now," he said. "I am very glad of this accident," he
remarked with a smile, "for now I can say all that I want to."
This drew from me the question:
"May I describe all that I have heard and seen here?"
He thought a moment before replying: "Give me your notebook."
I handed him the album with my sketches of the trip and he wrote
therein: "After my death, Baron Ungern."
"But I am older than you and I shall die before you," I remarked.
He shut his eyes, bowed his head and whispered:
"Oh, no! One hundred thirty days yet and it is finished; then . . .
Nirvana! How wearied I am with sorrow, woe and hate!"
We were silent for a long time. I felt that I had now a mortal
enemy in Colonel Sepailoff and that I should get out of Urga at the
earliest possible moment. It was two o'clock at night. Suddenly
Baron Ungern stood up.
"Let us go to the great, good Buddha," he said with a countenance
held in deep thought and with eyes aflame, his whole face
contracted by a mournful, bitter smile. He ordered the car
Thus lived this camp of martyrs, refugees pursued by events to
their tryst with Death, driven on by the hate and contempt of this
offspring of Teutons and privateers! And he, martyring them, knew
neither day nor night of peace. Fired by impelling, poisonous
thoughts, he tormented himself with the pains of a Titan, knowing
that every day in this shortening chain of one hundred thirty links
brought him nearer to the precipice called "Death."
BEFORE THE FACE OF BUDDHA
As we came to the monastery we left the automobile and dipped into
the labyrinth of narrow alleyways until at last we were before the
greatest temple of Urga with the Tibetan walls and windows and its
pretentious Chinese roof. A single lantern burned at the entrance.
The heavy gate with the bronze and iron trimmings was shut. When
the General struck the big brass gong hanging by the gate,
frightened monks began running up from all directions and, seeing
the "General Baron," fell to the earth in fear of raising their
"Get up," said the Baron, "and let us into the Temple!"
The inside was like that of all Lama temples, the same multi-
colored flags with the prayers, symbolic signs and the images of
holy saints; the big bands of silk cloth hanging from the ceiling;
the images of the gods and goddesses. On both sides of the
approach to the altar were the low red benches for the Lamas and
choir. On the altar small lamps threw their rays on the gold and
silver vessels and candlesticks. Behind it hung a heavy yellow
silk curtain with Tibetan inscriptions. The Lamas drew the curtain
aside. Out of the dim light from the flickering lamps gradually
appeared the great gilded statue of Buddha seated in the Golden
Lotus. The face of the god was indifferent and calm with only a
soft gleam of light animating it. On either side he was guarded by
many thousands of lesser Buddhas brought by the faithful as
offerings in prayer. The Baron struck the gong to attract Great
Buddha's attention to his prayer and threw a handful of coins into
the large bronze bowl. And then this scion of crusaders who had
read all the philosophers of the West, closed his eyes, placed his
hands together before his face and prayed. I noticed a black
rosary on his left wrist. He prayed about ten minutes. Afterwards
he led me to the other end of the monastery and, during our
passage, said to me:
"I do not like this temple. It is new, erected by the Lamas when
the Living Buddha became blind. I do not find on the face of the
golden Buddha either tears, hopes, distress or thanks of the
people. They have not yet had time to leave these traces on the
face of the god. We shall go now to the old Shrine of Prophecies."
This was a small building, blackened with age and resembling a
tower with a plain round roof. The doors stood open. At both
sides of the door were prayer wheels ready to be spun; over it a
slab of copper with the signs of the zodiac. Inside two monks, who
were intoning the sacred sutras, did not lift their eyes as we
entered. The General approached them and said:
"Cast the dice for the number of my days!"
The priests brought two bowls with many dice therein and rolled
them out on their low table. The Baron looked and reckoned with
them the sum before he spoke:
"One hundred thirty! Again one hundred thirty!"
Approaching the altar carrying an ancient stone statue of Buddha
brought all the way from India, he again prayed. As day dawned, we
wandered out through the monastery, visited all the temples and
shrines, the museum of the medical school, the astrological tower
and then the court where the Bandi and young Lamas have their daily
morning wrestling exercises. In other places the Lamas were
practising with the bow and arrow. Some of the higher Lamas
feasted us with hot mutton, tea and wild onions. After we returned
to the yurta I tried to sleep but in vain. Too many different
questions were troubling me. "Where am I? In what epoch am I
living?" I knew not but I dimly felt the unseen touch of some
great idea, some enormous plan, some indescribable human woe.
After our noon meal the General said he wanted to introduce me to
the Living Buddha. It is so difficult to secure audience with the
Living Buddha that I was very glad to have this opportunity offered
me. Our auto soon drew up at the gate of the red and white striped
wall surrounding the palace of the god. Two hundred Lamas in
yellow and red robes rushed to greet the arriving "Chiang Chun,"
General, with the low-toned, respectful whisper "Khan! God of
War!" As a regiment of formal ushers they led us to a spacious
great hall softened by its semi-darkness. Heavy carved doors
opened to the interior parts of the palace. In the depths of the
hall stood a dais with the throne covered with yellow silk
cushions. The back of the throne was red inside a gold framing; at
either side stood yellow silk screens set in highly ornamented
frames of black Chinese wood; while against the walls at either
side of the throne stood glass cases filled with varied objects
from China, Japan, India and Russia. I noticed also among them a
pair of exquisite Marquis and Marquises in the fine porcelain of
Sevres. Before the throne stood a long, low table at which eight
noble Mongols were seated, their chairman, a highly esteemed old
man with a clever, energetic face and with large penetrating eyes.
His appearance reminded me of the authentic wooden images of the
Buddhist holymen with eyes of precious stones which I saw at the
Tokyo Imperial Museum in the department devoted to Buddhism, where
the Japanese show the ancient statues of Amida, Daunichi-Buddha,
the Goddess Kwannon and the jolly old Hotei.
This man was the Hutuktu Jahantsi, Chairman of the Mongolian
Council of Ministers, and honored and revered far beyond the
bournes of Mongolia. The others were the Ministers--Khans and the
Highest Princes of Khalkha. Jahantsi Hutuktu invited Baron Ungern
to the place at his side, while they brought in a European chair
for me. Baron Ungern announced to the Council of Ministers through
an interpreter that he would leave Mongolia in a few days and urged
them to protect the freedom won for the lands inhabited by the
successors of Jenghiz Khan, whose soul still lives and calls upon
the Mongols to become anew a powerful people and reunite again into
one great Mid-Asiatic State all the Asian kingdoms he had ruled.
The General rose and all the others followed him. He took leave of
each one separately and sternly. Only before Jahantsi Lama he bent
low while the Hutuktu placed his hands on the Baron's head and
blessed him. From the Council Chamber we passed at once to the
Russian style house which is the personal dwelling of the Living
Buddha. The house was wholly surrounded by a crowd of red and
yellow Lamas; servants, councilors of Bogdo, officials, fortune
tellers, doctors and favorites. From the front entrance stretched
a long red rope whose outer end was thrown over the wall beside the
gate. Crowds of pilgrims crawling up on their knees touch this end
of the rope outside the gate and hand the monk a silken hatyk or a
bit of silver. This touching of the rope whose inner end is in the
hand of the Bogdo establishes direct communication with the holy,
incarnated Living God. A current of blessing is supposed to flow
through this cable of camel's wool and horse hair. Any Mongol who
has touched the mystic rope receives and wears about his neck a red
band as the sign of his accomplished pilgrimage.
I had heard very much about the Bogdo Khan before this opportunity
to see him. I had heard of his love of alcohol, which had brought
on blindness, about his leaning toward exterior western culture and
about his wife drinking deep with him and receiving in his name
numerous delegations and envoys.
In the room which the Bogdo used as his private study, where two
Lama secretaries watched day and night over the chest that
contained his great seals, there was the severest simplicity. On a
low, plain, Chinese lacquered table lay his writing implements, a
case of seals given by the Chinese Government and by the Dalai Lama
and wrapped in a cloth of yellow silk. Nearby was a low easy
chair, a bronze brazier with an iron stovepipe leading up from it;
on the walls were the signs of the swastika, Tibetan and Mongolian
inscriptions; behind the easy chair a small altar with a golden
statue of Buddha before which two tallow lamps were burning; the
floor was covered with a thick yellow carpet.
When we entered, only the two Lama secretaries were there, for the
Living Buddha was in the small private shrine in an adjoining
chamber, where no one is allowed to enter save the Bogdo Khan
himself and one Lama, Kanpo-Gelong, who cares for the temple
arrangements and assists the Living Buddha during his prayers of
solitude. The secretary told us that the Bogdo had been greatly
excited this morning. At noon he had entered his shrine. For a
long time the voice of the head of the Yellow Faith was heard in
earnest prayer and after his another unknown voice came clearly
forth. In the shrine had taken place a conversation between the
Buddha on earth and the Buddha of heaven--thus the Lamas phrased it
"Let us wait a little," the Baron proposed. "Perhaps he will soon
As we waited the General began telling me about Jahantsi Lama,
saying that, when Jahantsi is calm, he is an ordinary man but, when
he is disturbed and thinks very deeply, a nimbus appears about his
After half an hour the Lama secretaries suddenly showed signs of
deep fear and began listening closely by the entrance to the
shrine. Shortly they fell on their faces on the ground. The door
slowly opened and there entered the Emperor of Mongolia, the Living
Buddha, His Holiness Bogdo Djebtsung Damba Hutuktu, Khan of Outer
Mongolia. He was a stout old man with a heavy shaven face
resembling those of the Cardinals of Rome. He was dressed in the
yellow silken Mongolian coat with a black binding. The eyes of the
blind man stood widely open. Fear and amazement were pictured in
them. He lowered himself heavily into the easy chair and
A secretary immediately took paper and a Chinese pen as the Bogdo
began to dictate his vision, very complicated and far from clear.
He finished with the following words:
"This I, Bogdo Hutuktu Khan, saw, speaking with the great wise
Buddha, surrounded by the good and evil spirits. Wise Lamas,
Hutuktus, Kanpos, Marambas and Holy Gheghens, give the answer to my
As he finished, he wiped the perspiration from his head and asked
who were present.
"Khan Chiang Chin Baron Ungern and a stranger," one of the
secretaries answered on his knees.
The General presented me to the Bogdo, who bowed his head as a sign
of greeting. They began speaking together in low tones. Through
the open door I saw a part of the shrine. I made out a big table
with a heap of books on it, some open and others lying on the floor
below; a brazier with the red charcoal in it; a basket containing
the shoulder blades and entrails of sheep for telling fortunes.
Soon the Baron rose and bowed before the Bogdo. The Tibetan placed
his hands on the Baron's head and whispered a prayer. Then he took
from his own neck a heavy ikon and hung it around that of the
"You will not die but you will be incarnated in the highest form of
being. Remember that, Incarnated God of War, Khan of grateful
Mongolia!" I understood that the Living Buddha blessed the "Bloody
General" before death.
During the next two days I had the opportunity to visit the Living
Buddha three times together with a friend of the Bogdo, the Buriat
Prince Djam Bolon. I shall describe these visits in Part IV.
Baron Ungern organized the trip for me and my party to the shore of
the Pacific. We were to go on camels to northern Manchuria,
because there it was easy to avoid cavilling with the Chinese
authorities so badly oriented in the international relationship
with Poland. Having sent a letter from Uliassutai to the French
Legation at Peking and bearing with me a letter from the Chinese
Chamber of Commerce, expressing thanks for the saving of Uliassutai
from a pogrom, I intended to make for the nearest station on the
Chinese Eastern Railway and from there proceed to Peking. The
Danish merchant E. V. Olufsen was to have traveled out with me and
also a learned Lama Turgut, who was headed for China.
Never shall I forget the night of May 19th to 20th of 1921! After
dinner Baron Ungern proposed that we go to the yurta of Djam Bolon,
whose acquaintance I had made on the first day after my arrival in
Urga. His yurta was placed on a raised wooden platform in a
compound located behind the Russian settlement. Two Buriat
officers met us and took us in. Djam Bolon was a man of middle
age, tall and thin with an unusually long face. Before the Great
War he had been a simple shepherd but had fought together with
Baron Ungern on the German front and afterwards against the
Bolsheviki. He was a Grand Duke of the Buriats, the successor of
former Buriat kings who had been dethroned by the Russian
Government after their attempt to establish the Independence of the
Buriat people. The servants brought us dishes with nuts, raisins,
dates and cheese and served us tea.
"This is the last night, Djam Bolon!" said Baron Ungern. "You
promised me . . ."
"I remember," answered the Buriat, "all is ready."
For a long time I listened to their reminiscences about former
battles and friends who had been lost. The clock pointed to
midnight when Djam Bolon got up and went out of the yurta.
"I want to have my fortune told once more," said Baron Ungern, as
though he were justifying himself. "For the good of our cause it
is too early for me to die. . . ."
Djam Bolon came back with a little woman of middle years, who
squatted down eastern style before the brazier, bowed low and began
to stare at Baron Ungern. Her face was whiter, narrower and
thinner than that of a Mongol woman. Her eyes were black and
sharp. Her dress resembled that of a gypsy woman. Afterwards I
learned that she was a famous fortune teller and prophet among the
Buriats, the daughter of a gypsy woman and a Buriat. She drew a
small bag very slowly from her girdle, took from it some small bird
bones and a handful of dry grass. She began whispering at
intervals unintelligible words, as she threw occasional handfuls of
the grass into the fire, which gradually filled the tent with a
soft fragrance. I felt a distinct palpitation of my heart and a
swimming in my head. After the fortune teller had burned all her
grass, she placed the bird bones on the charcoal and turned them
over again and again with a small pair of bronze pincers. As the
bones blackened, she began to examine them and then suddenly her
face took on an expression of fear and pain. She nervously tore
off the kerchief which bound her head and, contracted with
convulsions, began snapping out short, sharp phrases.
"I see . . . I see the God of War. . . . His life runs out . . .
horribly. . . . After it a shadow . . . black like the night. . . .
Shadow. . . . One hundred thirty steps remain. . . . Beyond
darkness. . . . Nothing . . . I see nothing. . . . The God of War
has disappeared. . . ."
Baron Ungern dropped his head. The woman fell over on her back
with her arms stretched out. She had fainted, but it seemed to me
that I noticed once a bright pupil of one of her eyes showing from
under the closed lashes. Two Buriats carried out the lifeless
form, after which a long silence reigned in the yurta of the Buriat
Prince. Baron Ungern finally got up and began to walk around the
brazier, whispering to himself. Afterwards he stopped and began
"I shall die! I shall die! . . . but no matter, no matter. . . .
The cause has been launched and will not die. . . . I know the
roads this cause will travel. The tribes of Jenghiz Khan's
successors are awakened. Nobody shall extinguish the fire in the
heart of the Mongols! In Asia there will be a great State from the
Pacific and Indian Oceans to the shore of the Volga. The wise
religion of Buddha shall run to the north and the west. It will be
the victory of the spirit. A conqueror and leader will appear
stronger and more stalwart than Jenghiz Khan and Ugadai. He will
be more clever and more merciful than Sultan Baber and he will keep
power in his hands until the happy day when, from his subterranean
capital, shall emerge the King of the World. Why, why shall I not
be in the first ranks of the warriors of Buddhism? Why has Karma
decided so? But so it must be! And Russia must first wash herself
from the insult of revolution, purifying herself with blood and
death; and all people accepting Communism must perish with their
families in order that all their offspring may be rooted out!"
The Baron raised his hand above his head and shook it, as though he
were giving his orders and bequests to some invisible person.
Day was dawning.
"My time has come!" said the General. "In a little while I shall
He quickly and firmly shook hands with us and said:
"Good-bye for all time! I shall die a horrible death but the world
has never seen such a terror and such a sea of blood as it shall
now see. . . ."
The door of the yurta slammed shut and he was gone. I never saw
"I must go also, for I am likewise leaving Urga today."
"I know it," answered the Prince, "the Baron has left you with me
for some purpose. I will give you a fourth companion, the Mongol
Minister of War. You will accompany him to your yurta. It is
necessary for you. . . ."
Djam Bolon pronounced this last with an accent on every word. I
did not question him about it, as I was accustomed to the mystery
of this country of the mysteries of good and evil spirits.
"THE MAN WITH A HEAD LIKE A SADDLE"
After drinking tea at Djam Bolon's yurta I rode back to my quarters
and packed my few belongings. The Lama Turgut was already there.
"The Minister of War will travel with us," he whispered. "It is
"All right," I answered, and rode off to Olufsen to summon him.
But Olufsen unexpectedly announced that he was forced to spend some
few days more in Urga--a fatal decision for him, for a month later
he was reported killed by Sepailoff who remained as Commandant of
the city after Baron Ungern's departure. The War Minister, a
stout, young Mongol, joined our caravan. When we had gone about
six miles from the city, we saw an automobile coming up behind us.
The Lama shrunk up inside his coat and looked at me with fear. I
felt the now familiar atmosphere of danger and so opened my holster
and threw over the safety catch of my revolver. Soon the motor
stopped alongside our caravan. In it sat Sepailoff with a smiling
face and beside him his two executioners, Chestiakoff and Jdanoff.
Sepailoff greeted us very warmly and asked:
"You are changing your horses in Khazahuduk? Does the road cross
that pass ahead? I don't know the way and must overtake an envoy
who went there."
The Minister of War answered that we would be in Khazahuduk that
evening and gave Sepailoff directions as to the road. The motor
rushed away and, when it had topped the pass, he ordered one of the
Mongols to gallop forward to see whether it had not stopped
somewhere near the other side. The Mongol whipped his steed and
sped away. We followed slowly.
"What is the matter?" I asked. "Please explain!"
The Minister told me that Djam Bolon yesterday received information
that Sepailoff planned to overtake me on the way and kill me.
Sepailoff suspected that I had stirred up the Baron against him.
Djam Bolon reported the matter to the Baron, who organized this
column for my safety. The returning Mongol reported that the motor
car had gone on out of sight.
"Now," said the Minister, "we shall take quite another route so
that the Colonel will wait in vain for us at Khazahuduk."
We turned north at Undur Dobo and at night were in the camp of a
local prince. Here we took leave of our Minister, received
splendid fresh horses and quickly continued our trip to the east,
leaving behind us "the man with the head like a saddle" against
whom I had been warned by the old fortune teller in the vicinity of
After twelve days without further adventures we reached the first
railway station on the Chinese Eastern Railway, from where I
traveled in unbelievable luxury to Peking.
* * * * * *
Surrounded by the comforts and conveniences of the splendid hotel
at Peking, while shedding all the attributes of traveler, hunter
and warrior, I could not, however, throw off the spell of those
nine days spent in Urga, where I had daily met Baron Ungern,
"Incarnated God of War." The newspapers carrying accounts of the
bloody march of the Baron through Transbaikalia brought the
pictures ever fresh to my mind. Even now, although more than seven
months have elapsed, I cannot forget those nights of madness,
inspiration and hate.
The predictions are fulfilled. Approximately one hundred thirty
days afterwards Baron Ungern was captured by the Bolsheviki through
the treachery of his officers and, it is reported, was executed at
the end of September.
Baron R. F. Ungern von Sternberg. . . . Like a bloody storm of
avenging Karma he spread over Central Asia. What did he leave
behind him? The severe order to his soldiers closing with the
words of the Revelations of St. John:
"Let no one check the revenge against the corrupter and slayer of
the soul of the Russian people. Revolution must be eradicated from
the World. Against it the Revelations of St. John have warned us
thus: 'And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked
with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a
golden cup full of abominations, even the unclean things of her
fornication, and upon her forehead a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON
THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE
EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints,
and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.'"
It is a human document, a document of Russian and, perhaps, of
But there remained another and more important trace. In the Mongol
yurtas and at the fires of Buriat, Mongol, Djungar, Kirkhiz,
Kalmuck and Tibetan shepherds still speak the legend born of this
son of crusaders and privateers:
"From the north a white warrior came and called on the Mongols to
break their chains of slavery, which fell upon our freed soil.
This white warrior was the Incarnated Jenghiz Khan and he predicted
the coming of the greatest of all Mongols who will spread the fair
faith of Buddha and the glory and power of the offspring of
Jenghiz, Ugadai and Kublai Khan. So it shall be!"
Asia is awakened and her sons utter bold words.
It were well for the peace of the world if they go forth as
disciples of the wise creators, Ugadai and Sultan Baber, rather
than under the spell of the "bad demons" of the destructive
THE LIVING BUDDHA
IN THE BLISSFUL GARDEN OF A THOUSAND JOYS
In Mongolia, the country of miracles and mysteries, lives the
custodian of all the mysterious and unknown, the Living Buddha, His
Holiness Djebtsung Damba Hutuktu Khan or Bogdo Gheghen, Pontiff of
Ta Kure. He is the incarnation of the never-dying Buddha, the
representative of the unbroken, mysteriously continued line of
spiritual emperors ruling since 1670, concealing in themselves the
ever refining spirit of Buddha Amitabha joined with Chan-ra-zi or
the "Compassionate Spirit of the Mountains." In him is everything,
even the Sun Myth and the fascination of the mysterious peaks of
the Himalayas, tales of the Indian pagoda, the stern majesty of the
Mongolian Conquerors--Emperors of All Asia--and the ancient, hazy
legends of the Chinese sages; immersion in the thoughts of the
Brahmans; the severities of life of the monks of the "Virtuous
Order"; the vengeance of the eternally wandering warriors, the
Olets, with their Khans, Batur Hun Taigi and Gushi; the proud
bequests of Jenghiz and Kublai Khan; the clerical reactionary
psychology of the Lamas; the mystery of Tibetan kings beginning
from Srong-Tsang Gampo; and the mercilessness of the Yellow Sect of
Paspa. All the hazy history of Asia, of Mongolia, Pamir,
Himalayas, Mesopotamia, Persia and China, surrounds the Living God
of Urga. It is little wonder that his name is honored along the
Volga, in Siberia, Arabia, between the Tigris and Euphrates, in
Indo-China and on the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
During my stay in Urga I visited the abode of the Living Buddha
several times, spoke with him and observed his life. His favorite
learned Marambas gave me long accounts of him. I saw him reading
horoscopes, I heard his predictions, I looked over his archives of
ancient books and the manuscripts containing the lives and
predictions of all the Bogdo Khans. The Lamas were very frank and
open with me, because the letter of the Hutuktu of Narabanchi won
for me their confidence.
The personality of the Living Buddha is double, just as everything
in Lamaism is double. Clever, penetrating, energetic, he at the
same time indulges in the drunkenness which has brought on
blindness. When he became blind, the Lamas were thrown into a
state of desperation. Some of them maintained that Bogdo Khan must
be poisoned and another Incarnate Buddha set in his place; while
the others pointed out the great merits of the Pontiff in the eyes
of Mongolians and the followers of the Yellow Faith. They finally
decided to propitiate the gods by building a great temple with a
gigantic statue of Buddha. However, this did not help the Bogdo's
sight but the whole incident gave him the opportunity of hurrying
on to their higher life those among the Lamas who had shown too
much radicalism in their proposed method of solving his problem.
He never ceases to ponder upon the cause of the church and of
Mongolia and at the same time likes to indulge himself with useless
trifles. He amuses himself with artillery. A retired Russian
officer presented him with two old guns, for which the donor
received the title of Tumbaiir Hun, that is, "Prince Dear-to-my-
Heart." On holidays these cannon were fired to the great amusement
of the blind man. Motorcars, gramophones, telephones, crystals,
porcelains, pictures, perfumes, musical instruments, rare animals
and birds; elephants, Himalayan bears, monkeys, Indian snakes and
parrots--all these were in the palace of "the god" but all were
soon cast aside and forgotten.
To Urga come pilgrims and presents from all the Lamaite and
Buddhist world. Once the treasurer of the palace, the Honorable
Balma Dorji, took me into the great hall where the presents were
kept. It was a most unique museum of precious articles. Here were
gathered together rare objects unknown to the museums of Europe.
The treasurer, as he opened a case with a silver lock, said to me:
"These are pure gold nuggets from Bei Kem; here are black sables
from Kemchick; these the miraculous deer horns; this a box sent by
the Orochons and filled with precious ginseng roots and fragrant
musk; this a bit of amber from the coast of the 'frozen sea' and it
weighs 124 lans (about ten pounds); these are precious stones from
India, fragrant zebet and carved ivory from China."
He showed the exhibits and talked of them for a long time and
evidently enjoyed the telling. And really it was wonderful!
Before my eyes lay the bundles of rare furs; white beaver, black
sables, white, blue and black fox and black panthers; small
beautifully carved tortoise shell boxes containing hatyks ten or
fifteen yards long, woven from Indian silk as fine as the webs of
the spider; small bags made of golden thread filled with pearls,
the presents of Indian Rajahs; precious rings with sapphires and
rubies from China and India; big pieces of jade, rough diamonds;
ivory tusks ornamented with gold, pearls and precious stones;
bright clothes sewn with gold and silver thread; walrus tusks
carved in bas-relief by the primitive artists on the shores of the
Behring Sea; and much more that one cannot recall or recount. In a
separate room stood the cases with the statues of Buddha, made of
gold, silver, bronze, ivory, coral, mother of pearl and from a rare
colored and fragrant species of wood.
"You know when conquerors come into a country where the gods are
honored, they break the images and throw them down. So it was more
than three hundred years ago when the Kalmucks went into Tibet and
the same was repeated in Peking when the European troops looted the
place in 1900. But do you know why this is done? Take one of the
statues and examine it."
I picked up one nearest the edge, a wooden Buddha, and began
examining it. Inside something was loose and rattled.
"Do you hear it?" the Lama asked. "These are precious stones and
bits of gold, the entrails of the god. This is the reason why the
conquerors at once break up the statues of the gods. Many famous
precious stones have appeared from the interior of the statues of
the gods in India, Babylon and China."
Some rooms were devoted to the library, where manuscripts and
volumes of different epochs in different languages and with many
diverse themes fill the shelves. Some of them are mouldering or
pulverizing away and the Lamas cover these now with a solution
which partially solidifies like a jelly to protect what remains
from the ravages of the air. There also we saw tablets of clay
with the cuneiform inscriptions, evidently from Babylonia; Chinese,
Indian and Tibetan books shelved beside those of Mongolia; tomes of
the ancient pure Buddhism; books of the "Red Caps" or corrupt
Buddhism; books of the "Yellow" or Lamaite Buddhism; books of
traditions, legends and parables. Groups of Lamas were perusing,
studying and copying these books, preserving and spreading the
ancient wisdom for their successors.
One department is devoted to the mysterious books on magic, the
historical lives and works of all the thirty-one Living Buddhas,
with the bulls of the Dalai Lama, of the Pontiff from Tashi Lumpo,
of the Hutuktu of Utai in China, of the Pandita Gheghen of Dolo Nor
in Inner Mongolia and of the Hundred Chinese Wise Men. Only the
Bogdo Hutuktu and Maramba Ta-Rimpo-Cha can enter this room of
mysterious lore. The keys to it rest with the seals of the Living
Buddha and the ruby ring of Jenghiz Khan ornamented with the sign
of the swastika in the chest in the private study of the Bogdo.
The person of His Holiness is surrounded by five thousand Lamas.
They are divided into many ranks from simple servants to the
"Councillors of God," of which latter the Government consists.
Among these Councillors are all the four Khans of Mongolia and the
five highest Princes.
Of all the Lamas there are three classes of peculiar interest,
about which the Living Buddha himself told me when I visited him
with Djam Bolon.
"The God" sorrowfully mourned over the demoralized and sumptuous
life led by the Lamas which decreased rapidly the number of fortune
tellers and clairvoyants among their ranks, saying of it:
"If the Jahantsi and Narabanchi monasteries had not preserved their
strict regime and rules, Ta Kure would have been left without
prophets and fortune tellers. Barun Abaga Nar, Dorchiul-Jurdok and
the other holy Lamas who had the power of seeing that which is
hidden from the sight of the common people have gone with the
blessing of the gods."
This class of Lamas is a very important one, because every
important personage visiting the monasteries at Urga is shown to
the Lama Tzuren or fortune teller without the knowledge of the
visitor for the study of his destiny and fate, which are then
communicated to the Bogdo Hutuktu, so that with these facts in his
possession the Bogdo knows in what way to treat his guest and what
policy to follow toward him. The Tzurens are mostly old men,
skinny, exhausted and severe ascetics. But I have met some who
were young, almost boys. They were the Hubilgan, "incarnate gods,"
the future Hutuktus and Gheghens of the various Mongolian
The second class is the doctors or "Ta Lama." They observe the
actions of plants and certain products from animals upon people,
preserve Tibetan medicines and cures, and study anatomy very
carefully but without making use of vivisection and the scalpel.
They are skilful bone setters, masseurs and great connoisseurs of
hypnotism and animal magnetism.
The third class is the highest rank of doctors, consisting chiefly
of Tibetans and Kalmucks--poisoners. They may be said to be
"doctors of political medicine." They live by themselves, apart
from any associates, and are the great silent weapon in the hands
of the Living Buddha. I was informed that a large portion of them
are dumb. I saw one such doctor,--the very person who poisoned the
Chinese physician sent by the Chinese Emperor from Peking to
"liquidate" the Living Buddha,--a small white old fellow with a
deeply wrinkled face, a curl of white hairs on his chin and with
vivacious eyes that were ever shifting inquiringly about him.
Whenever he comes to a monastery, the local "god" ceases to eat and
drink in fear of the activities of this Mongolian Locusta. But
even this cannot save the condemned, for a poisoned cap or shirt or
boots, or a rosary, a bridle, books or religious articles soaked in
a poisonous solution will surely accomplish the object of the
The deepest esteem and religious faithfulness surround the blind
Pontiff. Before him all fall on their faces. Khans and Hutuktus
approach him on their knees. Everything about him is dark, full of
Oriental antiquity. The drunken blind man, listening to the banal
arias of the gramophone or shaking his servants with an electric
current from his dynamo, the ferocious old fellow poisoning his
political enemies, the Lama keeping his people in darkness and
deceiving them with his prophecies and fortune telling,--he is,
however, not an entirely ordinary man.
One day we sat in the room of the Bogdo and Prince Djam Bolon
translated to him my story of the Great War. The old fellow was
listening very carefully but suddenly opened his eyes widely and
began to give attention to some sounds coming in from outside the
room. His face became reverent, supplicant and frightened.
"The Gods call me," he whispered and slowly moved into his private
shrine, where he prayed loudly about two hours, kneeling immobile
as a statue. His prayer consists of conversation with the
invisible gods, to whose questions he himself gave the answers. He
came out of the shrine pale and exhausted but pleased and happy.
It was his personal prayer. During the regular temple service he
did not participate in the prayers, for then he is "God." Sitting
on his throne, he is carried and placed on the altar and there
prayed to by the Lamas and the people. He only receives the
prayers, hopes, tears, woe and desperation of the people,
immobilely gazing into space with his sharp and bright but blind
eyes. At various times in the service the Lamas robe him in
different vestments, combinations of yellow and red, and change his
caps. The service always finishes at the solemn moment when the
Living Buddha with the tiara on his head pronounces the pontifical
blessing upon the congregation, turning his face to all four
cardinal points of the compass and finally stretching out his hands
toward the northwest, that is, to Europe, whither in the belief of
the Yellow Faith must travel the teachings of the wise Buddha.
After earnest prayers or long temple services the Pontiff seems
very deeply shaken and often calls his secretaries and dictates his
visions and prophecies, always very complicated and unaccompanied
by his deductions.
Sometimes with the words "Their souls are communicating," he puts
on his white robes and goes to pray in his shrine. Then all the
gates of the palace are shut and all the Lamas are sunk in solemn,
mystic fear; all are praying, telling their rosaries and whispering
the orison: "Om! Mani padme Hung!" or turning the prayer wheels
with their prayers or exorcisings; the fortune tellers read their
horoscopes; the clairvoyants write out their visions; while
Marambas search the ancient books for explanations of the words of
the Living Buddha.
THE DUST OF CENTURIES
Have you ever seen the dusty cobwebs and the mould in the cellars
of some ancient castle in Italy, France or England? This is the
dust of centuries. Perhaps it touched the faces, helmets and
swords of a Roman Augustus, St. Louis, the Inquisitor, Galileo or
King Richard. Your heart is involuntarily contracted and you feel
a respect for these witnesses of elapsed ages. This same
impression came to me in Ta Kure, perhaps more deep, more
realistic. Here life flows on almost as it flowed eight centuries
ago; here man lives only in the past; and the contemporary only
complicates and prevents the normal life.
"Today is a great day," the Living Buddha once said to me, "the day
of the victory of Buddhism over all other religions. It was a long
time ago--on this day Kublai Khan called to him the Lamas of all
religions and ordered them to state to him how and what they
believed. They praised their Gods and their Hutuktus. Discussions
and quarrels began. Only one Lama remained silent. At last he
mockingly smiled and said:
"'Great Emperor! Order each to prove the power of his Gods by the
performance of a miracle and afterwards judge and choose.'
"Kublai Khan so ordered all the Lamas to show him a miracle but all
were silent, confused and powerless before him.
"'Now,' said the Emperor, addressing the Lama who had tendered this
suggestion, 'now you must prove the power of your Gods!'
"The Lama looked long and silently at the Emperor, turned and gazed
at the whole assembly and then quietly stretched out his hand
toward them. At this instant the golden goblet of the Emperor
raised itself from the table and tipped before the lips of the Khan
without a visible hand supporting it. The Emperor felt the delight
of a fragrant wine. All were struck with astonishment and the
"'I elect to pray to your Gods and to them all people subject to me
must pray. What is your faith? Who are you and from where do you
"'My faith is the teaching of the wise Buddha. I am Pandita Lama,
Turjo Gamba, from the distant and glorious monastery of Sakkia in
Tibet, where dwells incarnate in a human body the Spirit of Buddha,
his Wisdom and his Power. Remember, Emperor, that the peoples who
hold our faith shall possess all the Western Universe and during
eight hundred and eleven years shall spread their faith throughout
the whole world.'
"Thus it happened on this same day many centuries ago! Lama Turjo
Gamba did not return to Tibet but lived here in Ta Kure, where
there was then only a small temple. From here he traveled to the
Emperor at Karakorum and afterwards with him to the capital of
China to fortify him in the Faith, to predict the fate of state
affairs and to enlighten him according to the will of God."
The Living Buddha was silent for a time, whispered a prayer and
"Urga, the ancient nest of Buddhism. . . . With Jenghiz Khan on
his European conquest went out the Olets or Kalmucks. They
remained there almost four hundred years, living on the plains of
Russia. Then they returned to Mongolia because the Yellow Lamas
called them to light against the Kings of Tibet, Lamas of the 'red
caps,' who were oppressing the people. The Kalmucks helped the
Yellow Faith but they realized that Lhasa was too distant from the
whole world and could not spread our Faith throughout the earth.
Consequently the Kalmuck Gushi Khan brought up from Tibet a holy
Lama, Undur Gheghen, who had visited the 'King of the World.' From
that day the Bogdo Gheghen has continuously lived in Urga, a
protector of the freedom of Mongolia and of the Chinese Emperors of
Mongolian origin. Undur Gheghen was the first Living Buddha in the
land of the Mongols. He left to us, his successors, the ring of
Jenghiz Khan, which was sent by Kublai Khan to Dalai Lama in return
for the miracle shown by the Lama Turjo Gamba; also the top of the
skull of a black, mysterious miracle worker from India, using which
as a bowl, Strongtsan, King of Tibet, drank during the temple
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