W. N Fergusson.

Adventure, sport and travel on the Tibetan steppes online

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Two Gold Streams.

Runga State and Cliosschia. Kwanyin is the largest or
longest of the two streams, the true source of the Tachin or
Tung River. Some of its tributaries rise in the Baian Tukmu
Mountain in tlie Goluk Range, which divides the waters of
the Huanghu from those of the Yangtze. It derives its name
from a large Lamasery called Kwanyin Cumba, which is built


on its banks, about three days' journey north-west of its
junction with the Kermer. One of the Kwanyin 's tributaries
rises on the northern slopes of the Dabo range, and flows
through the centre of Youkoh State. This branch we followed
for several days, and crossed it almost at its source.

We must now return to Chosschia and trace the Tachin

Sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes.

River. From the junction of the Kermer to Kwanyin Rivers
it runs through a valley which has a rich gold deposit. Great
quantities of this precious metal have been washed from the
sands along the banks of this stream, and also from deep
tunnels sunk into the bank near the river's edge, w^here de-
posits of silt have been made sufficient to turn the stream
from its former channel. This is the case also with the Siao-
chin, and from their gold deposits both of these streams
derive their names.

From Hsu Ching, a strong military outpost and the most
important town in the Tachin valley, the Chinese have taken
possession of most of the land along the river, though it has
cost them a great many lives to do it. In the time of Chen
Lung fierce battles w^ere fought in these valleys, and the
famous Tussu Solo Wang was subdued. Tw^o small States
further south — Bati and Bawang — still retain their here-
ditary Tussus, where the old cult of the Bon, a primitive
form of native worship, yet exists, and is still the State re-
ligion. Buddhism, therefore, has never been fully estab-
lished here, but it is steadily making its way.

In the Siaochin valley there is only one small native State
left — Ojen or Wokji — which is still governed by an here-
ditary Tussu. The rest of the valley is directly under the
Chinese officials stationed at Mongun. They employ native
headmen, called respectively Peifu and Chienfu, i.e., the
head of lOO families and the head of i,ooo famihes, and these
are hereditary offices, and are a remnant of the old Tussu
system. This system the Chinese are trying to adopt
throughout all this country and Tibet. Chaoerhfeng, the
present Warden of the Marches, may be able to accomplish
their pohcy, but not, I fear, without a struggle on the part
of the tribesmen.

It was in these valleys that ]\Ieares was travelling
while Brooke and myself were on the long journey de-


Two Gold Streams.

scribed in the former chapters, and here I may summarise
his wanderings, as he told us of them.

It was decided that he should go south with the coohes
and their baggage while he went toward the Tibetan frontier,
and we hoped to meet at Changku by a certain date.

He travelled down the fertile valley of the Tachin among
cornfields and beautiful scenery. The river's banks were
covered with flowers, over which fluttered gaudy butterflies.

;roup of tribesmen in the tachin valley.

while brightly-coloured parrots flashed among the trees,
which were abundant along the water's edge. It was even-
ing when he reached Hsuching, a Chinese military outpost.
The ofacial seemed pleased to see him, and invited him to

He found plenty of fruit for sale on the streets. This
district is famous for its pears, and later in the year they are
even shipped to Chentu, an eighteen to twenty days' journey.


Sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes.

Continuing down the river, at noon the next day he came
to another coracle ferry. The river was running in high
flood and it took some time to cross.

They were still fourteen miles from their destination, but
the ferryman volunteered to take Meares and his interpreter
down by river in an hour ; so they struck a bargain. They
took their seats in the bottom of the walnut shell, and were
off at the speed of an Atlantic liner. The craft bobbed up
and down, turned round and round, while the boatman, in
a half-kneeling position, endeavoured to steer the raft off
the rocks with his small paddle.

They shot a number of cataracts, and at last came to a
place where they heard a tremendous booming and roaring.
The boatman worked his boat to the shore, and landed to
have a look at the rapid.

First, he thought it was impossible to shoot this, then he
said he would try, and off they went again. When the}-
reached the big waves which surged quite ten feet high they
were hurled into the air, then twisted round and round in
the eddy, until the whole world seemed to be swinging ; next
they disappeared into a hollow and the waves broke over
each side of their tubhke craft.

The escort covered his face and cried bitterly, but the
boatman worked away with his paddle, and soon they were
in smooth water again, continuing their trip to the large
monastery just above Tsonghua, where they arrived in three-
quarters of an hour from their starting point.

The writer having made this same journey the year before,
can vouch for the sensational experiences of the trip.

Tsonghua is also a military outpost, but all these officials
have both civil and military power.

From Tsonghua they went over the pass to Mongun, the
largest and most important town in this section of the
country. There the Brigadier is located, and there it



Two Gold Streams.

was Meares hoped to store their extra baggage and

Soon after leaving Tsonghua they started up a steep moun-
tain and toiled on all day in pouring rain, and at 7 p.m.
reached a herdsman's hut, where they put up for the night.

Next morning it was still raining, but they set out to top
the pass, which they reached at 11 o'clock.

Though it was the middle of July the snow was still lying
deep on the top, and they all felt the effect of the altitude
a good deal. This pass is over 16,000 feet high. Most of the
coolies collapsed, and, if they had not been able to hire some
medicine diggers to carry the loads over, they would have been

On the other side of the mountain they found a large glacial
valley covered with grass and decorated with flowers.

On the upper slopes there was a deep soft carpet of edel-
weiss, adorned with a profusion of large red, yellow and blue
poppies. Lower down, the slopes were covered with cowslips
and other flowers like primroses, besides many other varieties,
the names of which were unknown.

Scattered through the valley was a number of herdsmen's
tents, and large droves of yak were grazing on the rich pas-
ture. Below this they came to timber land, which is rather
a rare thing in this part of the country, where the mountains
are for the most part destitute of trees.

They reached Mongun in a heavy rain, to find the bridge
had collapsed, leaving only one log to connect the buttments
on either shore. With much difficulty they got across and
very soon reached the street, where they found an inn and
plenty of Chinese food for sale.

After paying off all the coolies but three, and stowing the
baggage in the ofiicial's yamen, they set out for Changku,
a town three hard marches south-west, situated near the
junction of the two gold streams. The first day they had

(U243) 241 K

sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes.

no difficulty, but the river was rising fast, and, for the next
two stages, the path for much of the way was submerged by
the swirling stream. It was impossible to climb the steep
chffs that hemmed in the valley in many places, so there
was nothing for it but cautiously to wade through the sub-
merged places, a most difficult task for the coohes with their
loads. It was rather chilly work, thus wading in the ice cold
water, for the melting snow was pouring into it from the
surrounding heights. They at last reached Changku, to find
a man waiting them with a letter from Brooke, saying
that he was going with me still further west, and that we
would not be back for some weeks. So Meares filled in the
time by visiting the tribes of Bati and Bawang, who live on
the west bank of the Tachin, north of Changku.

Marching up the right bank of the river for ten miles they
came to the capital of Bawang, where there is also a large
monastery, and the residence of the Chief is near by.

They were soon invaded by a crowd of truculent, ill-favoured
looking Lamas. These they tried to entertain, but they only
grew more insolent and began throwing stones, and it was
with some difficulty they escaped without a row.

They marched on to Bati, passing the famous black temple
which is the headquarters of the Bonba cult, but were not
successful in gaining access to the temple. Mr. Edgar, so
far as I know, is the only foreigner who has ever been inside
it. The priests would not allow m.e to enter this temple
when I passed through last year. Meares reached a small
town on the right bank opposite the Tussu's residence, but
the river being in high flood it was impossible to cross. While
Bonba is the State rehgion, there is also a number of the
Red and Yellow cults about, and they have a monastery
near the Bonba temple.

The banks of the river are rich in alluvial gold, but no one
is allowed to collect it except the Lamas, and these only for


Two Gold Streams.

gilding the temple roofs. When they find a large nugget
they are supposed to put it back in the earth, that it may
increase and multiply.

From here Meares returned to Mongun by the route
just travelled, where he arrived without further adventure,
except that on one occasion a huge stone, which got loose

from the mountains, came tearing down into the valley and
crossed the road just in front of them, leaving a line of sparks
behind as it bumped on the rocks.

From Mongun he next set out for Hannin, where he hoped

to meet us on our way back. Hannin is a pretty little place,

nestling in the mountains at a height of 10,000 feet. A

Chenfu or centurion is responsible for the good conduct of

(1 1243) 243 '^ -

Sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes.

the people there. After waiting some days and hearing no
word of us he returned to Mongun, where a runner from
Mr. Brooke overtook him, saying that he had arrived at Liang-
hokou, a place three days south of Mongun. Meares sent
back word that he would wait at Mongun, and there Brooke
joined him.

After a few days' rest they continued northward toward
Tsakalao ; the weather was very hot, and all the maize fields
were burned up for want of rain.

Everywhere the people were beating drums and cymbals
and burning incense, imploring the gods to send rain. If
they had only settled down to a few hours' hard work many
of the fields could have been irrigated from the streams which
flow everywhere down the mountain side.

All along the river's bank were to be seen the remains of
gold diggings which had long since been abandoned. As far as
Lianghokou there was a good deal of cultivation. A number
of Chinese have emigrated into this valley and have taken native
wives. One Chinaman had rented a mill for three shillings
a year and married a native wife ; her he sent to the moun-
tains to dig medicine, while he ground the corn. They followed
the right-hand stream which rises in the Hongchiao Pass,
and after camping for a night in a deserted herdsman's hut,
they crossed the pass, and lodged in the medicine digger's hut
on the eastern slope of the mountain. The day they crossed
the pass it was raining, so the view they had hoped for was

One more day brought them to the road over which we had
passed on our way up two months previously. Two more
uneventful marches brought them to Tsakalao. As they
intended to rest for a few days they pitched their tents on
the river's bank some distance from the town.

Some large walnut trees afforded splendid shade from
the hot sun. Here they held a spring cleaning. First, they


Two Gold Streams.

washed themselves, then all their clothes, and then made
the coolies do likewise. This was not an easy matter, for
although it was hot in the sun the water was very cold. But
one man undertook the task, and the rest all followed like a
flock of sheep.

They went over the pass by which Mearcs had come in
when returning from his takin hunt in May, and camped
near the salt-licks, hoping they might again meet with a
takin, for Meares was anxious to photograph a live one.
Brooke spent two days and nights waiting for one of these
strange creatures to appear, but vainly ; there were plenty
of tracks about, but the creatures that made them were no-
where to be found. They changed places and Brooke went
on the hunt, while Meares took his bed to the salt-lick and
waited to get a photograph. For three days he waited without
result. The fourth day the rain fell heavily, and during the
night a stream came down under the rock where he was-
camped. The rocks were loosened by the heavy rain, and
began rolling down the steep hillside. When daylight broke
he picked up his wet bed and cleared out, but on reaching the
main stream he found that the log which spanned it had been
washed away.

After wading down the side of the torrent for some dis-
tance he met Brooke, who had come out to find him, and
they were able to fell a tree across the torrent, and thus
bridge it. The weather continued wet, so sending one of
the hunters back to Tsakalao for mail, they awaited his return.
Two days later he arrived with a big bundle on his back,
and they rushed at him and seized it, hoping to find the long-
expected letters and papers. On tearing open the parcel
they found nothing but bacon. This mail had been sent to
Colonel Kao for them, but he had had to leave home, and
being desirous to keep their letters in safety, had locked them
in a box. So after the hunter had partaken of a meal he


Sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes.

went back again for the letters, and two days later returned
with such a bundle of mail that it took some time to
read it.

After spending several more days in a fruitless hunt after
the takin they came on to Chentu, and made preparations
for their journey southward through China and India, where
they hoped on their way to pass through the Rema and Lisu



Mantze Religion and Customs.

My readers may ask, Who are these Mantze and in what
way are they different from the rest of the people of West
China ? I must admit that this is a fair question, and so far
I have only been telling you about the experiences of in-
dividuals who have travelled through their country.

From scraps of history which I have been able to gather
and translate, as well as from reports given by the people
themselves, I have come to the conclusion that the people
known as the Mantze are emigrants from Gari, a place just
north of Siklim, near Camba Dsung. Over 800 years ago
they were invited by the Chinese to come over and help them
subdue the fierce warlike tribes of the Upper Min or Fu River,
who were constantly raiding the Chinese along the plain,
and, when pursued, retreated into the mountains out of reach.

Three thousand of the Gari mountaineers, many of them
with their families, came over to help and subdue the raiders ;
and were given the promise of free homesteads on the land
previously inhabited by the people called Changmin, who
were the original inhabitants. Fierce battles were fought,
the Gari emigrants attacking from the rear, while the Chinese
troops came in from the plain.

The Changmin were driven back, and the land they occupied
was ceded to the strangers who had recently arrived from the
head waters of the Brahmaputra, on condition of their being
loyal to the Chinese Government.

Hereditary titles were given them and they were left in

Sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes.

control of these mountainous regions, if only they would check
the raids of the aborigines, and render tribute to the Chinese
Government as acknowledgment of China's sovereign right
over the country.

For many years there was a fierce struggle carried on between
the Changmin and their new enemies, the Mantze orGarionian,
who had crowded them back and taken possession of their

To enable these invaders to withstand the fierce attack
of the Changmin, strong stone stockades were built on the
spurs of the mountains, where the natural surroundings
afforded the greatest amount of protection. We find many
of their chaitze or forts built in such positions that very few
men would be needed to defend a whole fort. This also
accounts for the great towers, like factory chimneys, which
we find everywhere, and which were used for two purposes ;
firstly as beacons, in case of a sudden raid, when a fire was
kindled on the top of these great towers, and friendly villagers
would come rushing to their aid ; secondly, for storing their
valuables and grain. The cattle were driven into the lower
storey and were shut in by great heavy doors. In case of
being hard pressed, the inhabitants took their final stand
around this tower; and when compelled to take shelter,
retreated up a ladder or temporary scaffold that led to the
second storey of the tower, and defended that through the
turret holes, and by casting stones from the top on their

It was this most uncertain and strenuous life that made
these people such famous warriors, and accounts for the
name given them by the Chinese, " Manpuko," meaning
"Cannot be overcome"; Mantze means "One who cannot
be overcome," and originally they were thus looked upon by
the Chinese. Later the character applied to an unruly tribe,
which means " barbarous — unruly," was used in writing of


Mantze Religion and Customs.

them, and is now used by the Chinese in contempt, and is
much resented by the tribesman. But there is no other
Chinese term to distinguish them from the Sifan, employed
in reference to the ordinary Tibetan of Central and Northern

These people came from the upper slopes of the Brahma-
putra, where that form of nature worship known as the Bon
or Bonba, also as the Black Cap cult, existed. They were
slow to surrender their sceptre to the aggressive Red and
Yellow sects of Buddhism.

To-day, in addition to the large Buddhist monasteries
found established in this country, many of which have made
a compromise with the Bonba and retain many of their
hideous idols in the temples, we find the orthodox Bonba in
Bati and Bawang, and also along the Tung River, between
Wassukou and Romi Changku. The priests are distinguished
by their dress, as shown in the photograph. They turn their
prayer wheels the opposite way to the Yellow and Red sects,
and their teaching is looked on as not only heterodox, but
most wicked ; yet much of it is accepted by the people and
winked at by the Lamas.

The Bonba is a pre-Buddhist, indigenous Pantheon, and
the idols of the cult are the most obscene and vulgar con-
ceptions of an earthly and foul mind. Yet the people worship
before these obscene and even fiendish models, offering them
blood and spirits, as well as all the cereals produced on the
land ; herbs, tobacco and poisons are especially offered.
They insist on the maidens wearing nothing more than a string
round their waist, into which is tucked a small lamb skin
or tassel made of yarn, which hangs to the knee.

After their first child is born they may wear skirts, as the
gods have purified them.

The priests of Bati and Bawang States, where the old Bon
cult is still the State religion, teach the people that, if they


sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes.

divert from this ancient custom, the gods will grow angry
with them, and they will all die off. In winter time they wear
a coat woven from yam made of yak hair, which keeps them
pretty warm. In the summer months the valley in which
they live, in fact the whole valley of the Tachin, is very hot.

The neighbouring tribes have long since discarded this
custom and all the females wear plaited skirts.

The black priests wear a conical black hat, similar to that
of Mother Hubbard, and very similar to the dunce cap the
Chinese crier wears when he runs in front of an official chair.
There are not a few Bon symbols found in Chinese architecture ;
for example, the two poles, with a box, much the shape of a
grain measure, affixed about two-thirds up each pole, found
in front of every yamen and temple, is a relic of nature worship
which is not unknown to the Bonba.

Buddhism has made many concessions to the Bon, and
where it reahy has established itself in the Mantze States,
it has done so by yielding substantially to the wishes of the
people, and allo\ving them to retain much of their old belief
and customs ; though in many of the States Buddhism has
really succeeded Bonism, yet it is a Buddhism different from
that of most parts of Tibet. Colonel Waddell states in his
invaluable book, " Lhasa and its Mysteries " (page 381),
that the Black Cap is not unknown, even at Lhasa. He
writes : " They have no literature, and utter their sayings
orally. The leading oracles in Lhasa are the Nachung and
the Karmashar.

" The chief oracle is attached to the principal State
monastery, Dapung. For, notwithstanding its un-Buddhist
character, this gross form of heathen sorcery was so deeply
rooted in the minds of the people that that crafty ruler, the
first Dalai Lama, brought it into the order of the Lamas. In
doing this he was doubtless actuated, as were the Roman
governors, by the obvious political advantages of having so


Mantze Religion and Customs.

powerful an instrument for the Government service entirely
under the control of the priests.

" Those who are masters in this art bear the title of ' Chief
of the Wizards,' and not only do they perform at stated
festive ceremonies, when they dance frantically to quick
music in the midst of clouds of incense, burning from large
swinging censers, but they also take it upon themselves to
frighten the people into paying sums of money to the temples,
and the up-keep of the Lamas, who live on the fat of the land,
and make the people beheve that they are the only medium
through which the gods can be approached."

Demon possession also forms part of the programme. On one
occasion I witnessed a most impressive ceremony while I was
waiting for dinner in a village, and everything was perfectly quiet.
Suddenly we saw a demon- possessed priest dressed in scarlet
robes with a black, conical-shaped hat on his head, and in his
hand a sword dyed red in blood. He seemed to throw himself
down the hill from the temple, then leap in the air brandishing
his sword in a most fantastic manner ; then he seemed to
roll down the hill, head over heels, and land on his feet,
striking with his sword first in one direction then in another.
At last he reached the street and drew near us in a most aimless
way. His face was painted red, and he certainly looked
hideous enough to have come from the lower regions. He
rushed up to the street and stood opposite me for a minute,
not more than five paces away ; my men all screamed and
some got under the tables, others ran for their lives. The
whole street was in an uproar. I made sure he was a Boxer
and drew my revolver. When the old lady in whose house
I was dining saw it, she threw her arms around me and cried,
" Don't shoot, he is my son. The man across the way has
borrowed money from the temple some years ago and will
not pay it back, and the idol has borrowed my son's body
to come down and chastise him ; he will not hurt you " I


Sport and Travel on the Tibetan Steppes.

assured the old lady that she need not fear for me, that so
long as he kept his sword at arm's length away he was quite
safe, but he had better not come too close.

After a few leaps in the air he went to the house opposite,
where the man who owed the money lived. The poor wretch
was so frightened that he lay prostrate on the floor. The
would-be demon marched up to him, threatening to smite
him with the sword, waving it wildly in the air, while the
prostrate man on the floor pleaded for mercy, saying he would
surely return the money. The demoniac never spoke through-
out the whole performance, and with wild leaps, came out of
the house, staggered up the street and then ran up the hill
to the temple like a madman. In all my wanderings on the
Tibetan border I had never seen anything like it before, my

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