Lawrence John Lumley Dundas Zetland.

An Eastern miscellany online

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with the knowledge that to 400,000,000 people
the command is an inviolable law.

I have attempted in the course of the observa-
tions which I have ventured to address to you to
indicate the causes — or some of the causes — which
seem to me to lie at the root of what is an acknow-
ledged historic fact — i.e., the persistence with which
the peoples of the West have turned their gaze
during recent times to the lands of the East. I
would now ask, in conclusion, has not the " Call
of the East" some special significance for us as
members of the British race ? I think it has.
For us, surely, there can be no more engross-
ing chapter in history than that which unfolds be-
fore the reader the dazzling panorama of events,
by which the irresistible force of a stern and virile
character involuntarily, but inevitably, raised up
the magnificent fabric of Western sovereignty upon
the dying embers of the gorgeous empires of the
East. " The English did not calculate the con-
quest of the Indies," writes Emerson ; "it fell to
their character." No desire for conquest governed
the policy of Great Britain in her dealings with
the Eastern world ; rather were her statesmen


actuated by an extreme distaste for acquiring
further territories with their accompanying burden
of fresh ties and new responsibiUties. The interest
of England in India began in trade and ended, in
spite of herself, in empire. Never has so gorgeous
a possession been forced upon so unwilling a recip-
ient. The vast ambitions and soaring schemes
of other Powers crumbled to dust half realised
before " the prolific energy and powers of a free
and united people unscourged by invasion ; made
self-reliant and resourceful because accustomed to
think and to act for themselves." ^ For a century
Portugal held undisputed sway over the rich
commerce of the East, by right of might which
her supremacy at sea had given her. With the
wane of Portuguese and Spanish power, arose in
quick succession the twin stars of France and
Holland, and for a brief and breathless moment
the whole continent of India vibrated beneath
the touch of the dramatic figure of Dupleix. But
the sea power of each in turn was harried and
broken by the hardy mariners of England, while
in India itself, the little band of self-reliant and
determined traders held grimly and doggedly to
their own, producing the men when the moment
c*me — Clive, Hastings, Napier, — who went their
own way, and, under a storm of protest from the
Government at home, laid firm the foundations

1 Great Britain in India.


of future empire. Nothing could stay the exten-
sion of the Company's territories, and at last, when
the whirlwind of the great mutiny had swept over
India and spent itself, the magnificent conception
of Indian Empire, with its immense responsibilities
and its tremendous power for shaping the destinies
of Asia, dawned faintly on the minds of England's
statesmen, and the possessions of the " Honorable
East India Company " became thenceforward the
most splendid appanage of the Imperial Crown.
A new era had dawned ; the spirit of empire in
its purest and highest form lit the imagination
and governed the actions of the long line of Indian
Viceroys and officials, whose reward for years of
devoted service and strenuous endeavour is to be
found in the knowledge that there is graven in
living letters across the field of their labours this
pregnant sentence of Carlyle : "A Pagan Empire
of Force displaced by a nobler supremacy" — that
of justice, order, and peace.

Eor the history of India tells how kingdom
warred ceaselessly with kingdom, and how century
after century left her an easy prey to invasion and
conquest from without, because torn by dissension
within ; it tells, too, how the advent of a strong
ruling power from the West was alone able to give
her the blessings of order and peace, by governing
with a firm hand and a detached impartiality
the many races congregated upon her soil. The


strong arm of Great Britain picked up the scattered
threads of the Indian fabric, and if the fires of
war licked fiercely from time to time along the
wild and passionate Indian border -lands, peace
was maintained within. " For a longer period
than was ever known In your land before," runs
a significant sentence in the famous Proclama-
tion of King Edward, of November 2, 1908, " you
have escaped the dire calamities of war within
your borders. Internal peace has been unbroken."
Such has been the achievement of Great Britain
in her dealings with India. The student of Indian
affairs, however, will not have failed to observe
that her very success has resulted in bringing to
life new problems well calculated to tax to the
utmost during the coming years the resources of
British statesmanship. Great Britain has given to
the peoples of India peace ; peace has given leisure
for thought — not always profitable thought : more-
over, heedless of consequences, she has set herself
the task of endeavouring to clothe Eastern minds
with Western ideas. Education, it was finally
decided, was to be of an exclusively European
type, the literature of India was to give place to
the English classics. The Indian student of to-day
soaks a mind ill adapted to such treatment with
the philosophy of Herbert Spencer and the Ideals
of John Stuart Mill. Discontent with the existing
order of things has been the outstanding result.


Moreover, external influences have been at work
which have added fuel to an already glowing fire.
The dawn of the twentieth century witnessed the
rapid growth of new forces throughout the East —
forces generated by the clash of the cold, logical,
calculating brain of the West with the introspec-
tive and contemplative mind of the East. The ris-
ing storm broke over the plains of Manchuria, and
with the triumph of the Eastern Power the whole
Continent of Asia writhed under the supremacy
of Europe. It was not to be expected that India
would escape the quickening of the pulse which
set in throuofhout the Continent ; nor were ex-
pectations disappointed. As is invariably the case
under such circumstances, growing ambition and
quickening aspiration bred violence. The Indian
National Congress became permeated with ex-
tremists, while sedition was widely preached by
the native press, and anarchy broke out like a
poisonous fester in many parts of the country.
We find ourselves, then, at the beginning of a
new chapter in the history of Great Britain in
India, and what the end of that chapter may be
no man can foretell. This only is certain, that
the problem with which great Britain is now
confronted — the problem, that is to say, of the
future relations between the rulers and the ruled
— is one which must call for the exercise of all
those attributes of British character which have


made our country great, and one, moreover, which,
raising as it does in its widest appHcation the
whole question of the future relations between
East and West, must in its solution profoundly
aifect the course of history during the century
that lies before us.




Many years ago, before the stage-coach had given
place to the steam-engine, or the post-chaise to
the motor-car, the adventurous spirits of Europe,
who were enticed from their ease by alluring tales
of the kingdoms and the marvels of the East,
were struck by the contrast between the modes
of travel which they found themselves obliged to
adopt and those to which they were accustomed
in their own country. " A man cannot travel
in Asia as they do in Europe," wrote Tavernier,
a notable traveller of the seventeenth century ;
" nor at the same hours, nor with the same ease.
The best inns," he went on to say, "are the
tents which you carry along with you, and your
hosts are your servants which get ready those
victuals which you have bought in good towns."

It is true that great changes have taken place
since Tavernier gave to the world a record of
his wanderings. Asia, as well as Europe, has


benefited by the inventions of Stephenson and
Watt. In many parts of Asia the railway is
to-day as familiar an object in the landscape as
it is in Europe. India, thanks to the enter-
prise of her English rulers, has over thirty
thousand miles of iron way ; Japan can boast
of a total of more than five thousand miles, and
China of two thousand miles — a figure which is
being rapidly increased ; while from the eastern
flank of Europe two great iron arms have been
thrust out into the vast rolling expanses of
Northern and Central Asia : the one, the great
Siberian Railway, a long narrow ribbon of steel
trailing across six thousand miles of Asiatic soil ;
the other, the Trans-Caspian line, a rod of iron
forging its way up to the very gates of Bokhara
and Samarkand, to lose itself finally in the un-
measured wastes of Turkestan.

Yet the chief charm of Eastern travel lies not
in its immense railways, touched with romance
though some of these may be, but in the very
contrast which it still provides, for those who
seek it, to the rigid uniformity and mechanical
precision of life and locomotion at home. "A
country that possesses no railway is," as Lord
Curzon has remarked, " «j3so facto, the possessor
of a great charm," and there are in Asia immense
tracts whose pristine quietude is still unbroken
by the raucous screech of the railway engine.


It is with these regions that I am now con-
cerned — Mesopotamia and Chaldea, Persia and
Baluchistan, the huge block of the Himalayas
which lies between Chilas and Tibet, Turkestan
and Southern Siberia, and the lovely highlands
of South-west China — of all of which I can speak
with that appreciation which personal experience
alone can give. And it is as a traveller in the
narrowest sense of the word, who is prepared
to take as his text and to amplify the sage
dictum of Ta vernier, "A man cannot travel in
Asia as they do in Europe," that I now propose
to write.

Among the peoples in whose philosophy the
railway engineer is still a thing undreamed of,
one's mode of travel is mainly determined by
the physical character of the country. The vast
level lands of Asia, which alternately awe and
fascinate the traveller by reason of the very
immensity of their space, lend themselves to a
variety of transport. The pack - pony, mule,
donkey, and camel are all familiar figures in my
memory of many months of daily marching, — the
latter on the shimmering plains of Baluchistan
and the sun-scorched plateau of Eastern Persia,
the former in Mesopotamia, Western Persia, and
many mountainous lands as well. In yet other
lowlands the science of travel has reached a
further stage of evolution — namely, the wheeled



stage. Wheeled transport is represented by the
"araba" of Turkey, the " tarantass " of Russia,
the " tonga " of Northern India, and the cart
and wheel-barrow of China.

In really mountainous regions, human transport
is the almost universal agency of progress. Where
ice and snow, or mountain peak and precipice,
defy the lower animals, man himself steps in.
In certain mountainous regions, it is true, animals
are met with which compete successfully with
man, such as the domesticated yak of Tibet,
which flourishes at giddy altitudes and travels
safely over the rugged and inhospitable highlands
of that strange and dreary country ; and I have
occasionally come across a sturdy breed of sheep
employed by nomad folk to carry their bags of
grain. These, however, provide the exceptions
to the rule, and in such regions human transport
may be said to be the basis of man's mobility.
There remains one other kind of country to be
mentioned — namely, that which is freely and
conveniently intersected by lakes and rivers.
Some parts of India come under this category,
such as Lower Bengal, where a well-to-do man
will often be found keeping his boat as elsewhere
he would keep his cart ; but China is the land,
pai' excellence, of water transport, its immense
rivers providing live arteries of communication
between its innermost provinces and the sea.


Let me deal with these manifold means of
locomotion in turn, prefacing my remarks with
a necessary caution as to the meaning of the
word road as used throughout this chapter.
The reader must divest his mind of all precon-
ceived ideas as to the meaning of the word.
Perhaps the nearest approach to a general defini-
tion of an Asiatic road will be found in a modi-
fication of Euclid's definition of a straight line —
" That which lies ttwevenly between its extreme
points." For want of any other term one is un-
fortunately compelled to apply the word to any
line of country over which one travels in passing
from one point to another. Under these circum-
stances, the road may or may not be distinguish-
able from the surrounding country, and all that
can be postulated for it with any certainty is that
it will not have a macadamised surface. When
the road is distinguishable from the surrounding
country, it has usually become so by reason of its
being, by tradition, the shortest distance between
two particular points — between two villages, for
instance. These remarks do not, of course, apply
to foreign-made roads such as the post-roads of
Northern India, but only to the indigenous article.

First, then, a few words on the subject of
wheeled transport. The araba, already mentioned,
is a more or less ordinary cart with hooped cover-
ing, resembling a light covered dray, and calls for


no particular description. It provides a useful,
if somewhat tedious, means of locomotion in Asia
Minor. The tonga, a low, springless, two-wheeled
cart, of Indian design, has been adapted to
modern requirements in Northern India. It is
in use on the post-roads, and conveys mails and
passengers — to take a single example of its
usefulness — from India to Kashmir. Relays of
ponies are found at intervals of four or five
miles, and so effectively does this system work
that one experiences no difficulty in covering as
much as a hundred miles between dawn and

The vehicle, however, with which I personally
am best acquainted is the Russian tarantass. It,
too, is without springs — that, indeed, appears
to be an unfailing characteristic of every form
of Eastern carriage — and it has the additional
peculiarity of having no seats. On one occasion
I drove two thousand hundred miles in a
tarantass across the limitless wastes of Central
Siberia and Turkestan. The Russian has laid
himself out to absorb these countries, and has
dotted lines of solitary little post - houses across
them at intervals of ten to twenty miles, to mark
the lines of his advance. At each of these one
pays the post - master for grease for the axles
of one's wheels, which otherwise catch fire, and
one also pays him for a relay of ponies and a


driver to take one the next stage. Often there
are no ponies to be had, and then ensues a weary
wait until transport can be obtained once more.
So much time did I find wasted waiting at these
dreary post - huts that I soon took to making
my tarantass my home, driving day and night
as long as horses were available ; but even so —
driving day and night — it took me on one occasion
a full thirteen days to cover a distance of little
more than eight hundred miles. The horses are
harnessed three abreast in the fashion known
as the " troika," and the charge varies from
a halfpenny to a penny per horse per mile.
The country traversed is for the most part flat
and wholly unlovely, and is known as steppe,
and the sole physical obstacle to monotonous
and uninterrupted progress is to be found in
the occasional presence of a river. These are
crossed by means of ferries or bridges. Being
in Asia, both methods are apt to prove prolific
of trouble and delay. I was once kept for a
whole day on the bank of a river because the
ferry would not work, and on another occasion
had to assist in rebuilding a bridge, which had
been partially washed away, before it was possible
to proceed. My two tarantass had cost me ten
pounds to purchase at the beginning of my
journey, and I sold them for the price of a
night's lodging at a primitive hotel at the end,


a mutually satisfactory transaction by which I
was relieved of an incubus and the innkeeper
provided with a lavish supply of scrap-iron and

Two other forms of wheeled conveyance only
shall receive mention — namely, the cart and
wheel-barrow of China. Each in its way is, I
imagine, the apotheosis of discomfort, though, as
I have not made personal trial of the latter, I can
only predicate this of the former. In shape the
body of the Peking cart resembles a lady's travel-
ling trunk with one end knocked out of it. This
is hung between two massive iron-studded wheels
of wood, which the traveller soon suspects would
fail to satisfy Euclid's definition of a circle. A
mule is harnessed between the shafts, and when
one has crawled into the box through the aperture,
the driver places himself upon the only sitting
room still available — namely, the near end of the
shafts, thereby substituting his own broad back
for the missing end of the trunk. Hot, cramped,
and in semi-darkness, the view blocked out by
the faded blue of the cotton-clad bodv of the


driver, one is now in the most perfect surround-
ings for appreciating the engineering skill which
has been expended upon the average Chinese

In those parts of China to which the Peking
cart has not yet penetrated, the wheel-barrow


affords an agreeable substitute. In the province
of Ssu-ch'uan, I perceived the leisured classes
who do not aspire to the dignity of a chair (to
be mentioned hereafter) being trundled along in
these vehicles, the rate of hire being two cash
per li, roughly two-thirds of a farthing per mile.
Even in the coast towns, where many forms of
conveyance are available, the wheel-barrow finds
favour among the lower classes ; and in Shanghai
I found factory hands wheeled daily to the scene
of their labours on barrows of exaggerated size,
six men to a barrow, at a contract price of sixty
cents (say Is. 2 id.) per man per month. This,
however, is a form of transport to which the
traveller from Europe will seldom, if ever, resort,
and I must return to a consideration of the
various forms of animal transport which he will
ordinarily employ.

The pack -pony or mule is undoubtedly the
animal most widely used by the traveller in
Asia. In Persia there is a system of post-riding
in vogue, relays of riding horses being found at
the post-houses in place of the harness horses of
the post - roads of other lands. This system is
known as " chapar," and great distances can be
covered by the hardy traveller, who may continue
riding as long as he can induce his aching limbs
to cling to the saddle. A single horse is supplied


for his baggage, which has consequently to be cut
down to a minimum, and in Persia, as in other
countries, the traveller who has leisure will pro-
bably buy or hire his own string of pack-ponies
and travel at caravan pace.

It cannot be said that the lot of the average
pack-pony is a happy one. He is, as a rule, an
overworked, under -fed, long-suffering beast, who
looks out on the world with a stolid fatalism
that is characteristic of most things Eastern.
The methods of loading him vary in accordance
with immemorial custom. Here is an example,
as I daily witnessed the operation performed on
the western confines of Mongolia. One man
holds the pony's head, others place the baggage
in position on either side, two others again throw
a rope all round the pony and baggage, place one
foot each delicately against the pony's flank, and
then heave until they consider the baggage
secure, or until the pony strikes. When this
happens, as it not infrequently does, you look
placidly on while your most precious belongings
are scattered to the four winds of heaven, and
a perspiring crowd of men hurl themselves on
to the unfortunate animal. In addition to its
load, the pony usually finds itself burdened dur-
ing some part at least of the day's march with
the person of its driver. Pack-ponies usually.


though not always, walk m single file, the
leading animal, selected for its strength and
sagacity, having frequently a bell hung round
its neck.

Rivers have, of course, to be negotiated with
pack -ponies just as they have with wheeled
conveyances. On recognised caravan roads one
may find a ferry or bridge, but where one is not
travelling by any particular road, one does the
best he can, which not infrequently means swim-
ming. I remember crossing a river in Chinese
Turkestan in company with some Kirgiz herds-
men. They were unfortunate enough to lose one
of their ponies in the current, the animal being
swept under and drowned. The misfortune, it
seemed, sat lightly upon them. The body was
fished ashore, a fire was lighted, and within a
very short time they were making a hearty meal
off the sodden carcase. The Kirgiz, it may be
added, raise large herds of horses, regard horse-
flesh as the most savoury of meats, and drink
largely of mare's milk.

After the pony the camel. He exists in two
varieties — the riding - camel and the baggage-
camel. Neither of them, so far as my own
experience goes, is calculated to excite either
one's enthusiasm or one's admiration. The rid-
ing - camel of Baluchistan is a delicate animal


requiring careful treatment, and the baggage-
camel is possessed of a sort of supercilious dignity
which seems to declare that he is fully conscious
of the honour he is doing you by carrying your
goods along at the rate of a mile and a half an
hour. " His intelligence," as a well-known Indian
writer has remarked, " is not of a high order, and
if left to himself it is marvellous if he does not do
the wrong thing."

I have travelled with camels the whole length
of Baluchistan, where the sun sinks daily behind
an expanse as flat and as featureless as that of
the ocean, and have found them tolerably satis-
factory. Not so when I have employed them
in crossing the rugged ranges of mountains which
run in great parallel ridges from east to west
across Eastern Persia. Here I found the camel
chiefly a cause to blaspheme, and I have pon-
dered thoughtfully upon the world of wisdom
contained in a short account of him by Sir
Francis Galton in a little volume entitled ' The
Art of Travel' "Camels are only fit for a few
countries and require practised attendants ; thorns
and rocks lame them, hills sadly impede them,
and a wet slippery soil entirely stops them." It
was not until I had spent the best part of a
winter in travelling twelve hundred miles in
daily companionship with camels that I learnt


to appraise at their true value certain lines of
Rudyard Kipling : —

"What makes the soldiers 'eart to penk, what makes 'im to perspire ?
It isn't standing up to charge, nor lyin' down to fire.
But it's everlastin' waitin' on an everlastin' road
For the commissariat camel an' 'is commissariat load.
The 'orse 'e knows above a bit, the bullock's not a fool,
The elephant's a gentleman, the battery mule's a mule.
But the commissariat cam-u-el, when all is said an' done,
'E's a devil an' a ostridge an' a orphan-child in one."

The Tibetan yak, of which I have spoken, is
a shaggy animal known to zoologists under the
title of Bos Grunniens, and vies with the camel
in the leisureliness of its movements. Its chief
recommendation is to be found in the fact that
it is quite at home at great altitudes, and travels
safely over ground which would prove too diffi-
cult for horses or mules. I employed the yak
at one time for a period of three months, during
which I was never at a less altitude than twelve
thousand feet, usually at a height exceeding four-
teen thousand feet, and not infrequently at alti-
tudes varying from sixteen thousand to nineteen
thousand feet — some two thousand or three
thousand feet, that is to say, above the summit
of Mont Blanc.

The value of human transport varies in differ-
ent countries. In those parts of the Himalayas

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