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China: A Collection...: Report on a Journey in Mongolia
    1902, C. W. Campbell, British Foreign Office, p.26-30:


The Khala [Khalkha] Khanates.

    On the 29th August we broke camp from the Tsetsen Khan's head-quarters, left the Kerulon [Kherlen Gol, Kerülen River]—which continues south-westward for another [?]00 miles before turning sharply to the north—and steered a direct course for Urga. The Taragilch Gol, the first perennial affluent of the Kerulon met with, was passed between two notable hills called "The Lord" and "The Lady" (Noyon Ul and Khaton Ul); and thenceforward, with a few short intervals of plain, we were constantly making fairly sharp ascents or descents, until the Kerulon valley was struck again.
    The higher hills were granite, and thev appeared to burst through strata of shale and slate; the castings from the many marmot burrows were invariably a sharp gravel of shale or slate. The noteworthy cols were the Hannûngin Daban (3,700 feet) and the Joldûngin Daban (4,000 feet), both of which taxed the temper and strength of the cart-camel. From the Joldûngin Daban we descended into the narrow valley of the Chinkir Gol, another affluent of the Kerulon, and west of it, on Sibir Ul, we saw for the tirst time in these parts a slender fringe of pine forest.

    At the Tsetstn Khan's seat the Kerulon was over 100 yards wide, but fordable everywhere; the bed was sand and gravel, and the water still clouded with sediment. When we passed it on the 2nd September it was split into two swift, clear streams, a mile apart, both oí which were formidable obstacles to carts. On the 4th September we crossed the water-parting into the valley of the Tola [Tuul Gol, Tuul River], and next day reached Urga and the bounteous hospitality of my friend, M. von Grot, and other members of the Russian colony.

    The first observation of the traveller who approaches from the south is that Urga enjoys a surprising supply of perennial water. The valley runs east and west, and from the north-east hills the Tola issues, pellucid and pure, splits its channel here and there, bends down towards the Bogdo Ul [Bogd Khan Uul], waters the whole 20 miles of the valley's length, and curves out of sight in the south-west, near the willows of Sangin.
    East of Mai-mai-chên (Chinese Urga) one crosses four separate water-courses within hailing distance of each other—the two largest by substantial wooden bridges constructed at the cost of the Russian Consulate-General; and between Mai-mai-chen and Gandan, the west end of Mongol Urga, there are a few brooks trickling into the Tola, which in summer are useful and convenient auxiliaries.
    A mile or so South of the Tola the long, low mass of the Bogdo Ul closes the view completely. Northward from it, to the Tola and beyond, there is an irregular space of fairly level but stony ground, which is 6 or 7 miles broad at its widest; along the north fringe of this, and on the terraces and spurs footing the inconsiderable hills which hem the valley on the north, are scattered the curious collection of settlements and temples comprehended in the name Urga.

    Urga, the Russian pronunciation of the Mongol word örgo (residence), is scarcely known to Mongols. The full native name is Bogdo Lamain Khure (The God-lama's Encampment); shorter names are Da Khure or Ikhe Khure (Great Encampment), Bogdo Khure, or simply Khure. The Chinese call the place K'u-lun or K'u-lien, or Ta (Great) K'u lien, K'u-lun or K'u-lien being an attempt to pronounce the Mongol word Khure.

    Urga is the administrative centre of the East Khalha Khanates, and the Rome of all Mongols. Its history appears to begin in the middle of the seventeenth century with the institution of the "Bogdo" as the Pontiff of the Lamaistic Church in North Mongolia.

    This Mongol Pope seems to rank as the third in importance of the great avatars, or "living gods," of Lamaism, coming after the Dalai Lama of Lhassa [Lhasa] and the Pantshen Lama [Panchen Lama] of Tashilunpo [Tashilhunpo_Monastery], and occupies a political position in the Mongol world analogous to that of the Popes of mediæval Christendom. The ecclesiastical title is Cheplsun Damba Khutukhtu [Jebtsundamba Khutuktu], which was originally conferred by the Dalai Lama of Thibet in A.D. 1650 or 1651 on a son of the Tushetu Khan.
    This Prince was the St. Paul of Mongol Lamaism, and is known in Mongol history as Undur Gegen [Öndör Gegeen Zanabazar]. Under his advice the Khalha tribes gravitated to China, rather than to Russia, in 1688, when the attacks of the Kalmucks under Galdan threatened their existence. He is the "Grand Lama Houtouktou" who figures so largely in [Jean-François] Gerbillon's description of the assembly of the Khalha Princes held by Kanghsi [the Kangxi Emperor] at Dolon-nor [Dolon Nor, Inner Mongolia] in 1691. Although the first "incarnation" living in Mongolia, and really the first Bogdo, he is ecclesiastically considered to have had fifteen predecessors, who lived in India and Thibet, from the time of Sakyamuni [Gautama Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama], and the present Bogdo [Bogd Khan, 1869-1924] is the eighth in succession from him. His Pontificate lasted for seventy years, and placed the influence of the Lamaistic Papacy completely above that of any territorial Prince.

    He was succeeded by a newly-born Mongol Princeling in 1724, but the selection of the second Bogdo was attended by much intrigue, and gave rise to intertribal dissensions in which the Chinese Government foresaw political trouble. The Bogdo's power, too, required clipping. On the death of the second Bogdo, in 1757, it was arranged that the new "incarnation" should come from Thibet, and since then the Urga Popes have all been Thibetans of no special family influence.

    At the time of Undur Gegen, it would appear that the Bogdo had only a temporary residence at Urga, and Monguí annals tell us of many places in South-east and North Mongolia where he lived for short or long periods. In 1756 the Tsanit college for the instruction of the Lamaistic priesthood in the Buddhism of Tibet was founded in Gandan; thenceforward the residence of the Bogdo appears to have been fixed, and Urga became the religious centre of North Mongolia.
    From the very beginning the Chinese Government recognized the influence wielded by the Bogdo over the Khalhas, and so long as they were satisfied, as they were during the period of Undur Gegen, that the influence wpuld be used entirely in their favour, no attempt was made to circumscribe it; but political clouds gathered in the second Bogdo's reign, and a steady dispersal of his influence became the note of the Chinese policy. Under the pretext of the sanctity of his person, measures were taken to restrict his individual power to religious matters only, and in 1754 secular concerns were handed over to a chosen body of shabinars (papal serfs).
    After the death of the second Bogdo, a Mongol governor was appointed by Imperial Decree to superintend the work of these shabinars, and in 1761 a Manchu amban from Peking was appointed as coadjutor. In 1786 the increasing importance of Urga made it necessary to advance the status of the ambans, and the administrative control over the Tushetu and Tsetsen aimaks. which had hitherto rested with the Governor-General (Chiang-chün) of Uliasutai, was transferred to them. Urga now became the political capital of North-east Mongolia, and soon attracted a settled population.

    In 1902 Urga was in three distinct portions. By far the largest is the Mongol town; this comprises Urga proper—-Lamaseries of the Bogdo with an attendant and now miscellaneous population, and Gandan [Gandantegchinlen Monastery], where the Tsanit temples and schools are established. A mile and a-half to the east, on a low incline, stands the Russian Consulate, and near it are clustered a half-dozen Russian compounds, the nucleus of a Russian settlement. Beyond to the east, and a couple of miles further on, is the Chinese Maimai-chên (trade borough). All three portions, as I have mentioned, lie to the north of the Tola, and the total population cannot fall much short of 25,000, of whom one-half are Lamas.

    The heart of the Mongol town is the Bogdo's palace and the temples for general worship, of which the principal is the Tsokchin. There are in addition twenty-eight other temples, each the special shrine of an ecclesiastical sub-division of the Khalha peoples, but these are largely composed of felt tents, and are far inferior to the Tsokchin, Maidari and other chief places of worship. Where these are, open spaces abound, but elsewhere Mongol Urga is a collection ot blocks of palisaded inclosures containing low squalid huts, and separated by narrow streets and lanes, in which wheeled traffic is rare. Prayer wheels of large size, sheltered by wooden sheds, are numerous in all the wider spaces, and by a touch of the hand as you pass along it is possible to say more prayers in five minutes than the glibbest tongue could repeat in a month.
    Away from the temples Urga is a dull, sombre place, and people acquainted with the inner life have nothing attractive to report about it. I was chiefly interested in the market-place, where I spent a few mornings chaffering [haggling] with the bright matrons who kept most of the stalls for silver head-dresses, pipes, snufT-bottles, hats, leather boots, sashes, Buddhistic pictures, and miscellaneous curios of no great value. Near the stalls half-a-dozen camels were awaiting purchasers; flocks of sheep were tightly folded close by a bevy of eager women selling hats; a score of ponies for sale were bunched up behind a tangle of carts, on which Mongol butchers were rapidly dissecting carcases of mutton; here a Chinese itinerant blacksmith, there a carpenter or tinker; and everywhere the good-humoured motley throng of Mongols from all parts, sprinkled with Russian Buriats [Buryats] and a few Tibetans. The vicinity of the market-place is occupied by several shops of Russian traders, and a small settlement of Chinese merchants.

    There was a time when women and traders were forbidden to live in this town (in 1763 a decree of Ch'ien-lung [the Qianlong Emperor, 1711-1799] forbade the presence of women in Khure "where the Hutukhtu lives"), and all commerce was carried on in Mai-mai-chên, the Chinese town which is ten li [about 5km] to the east. This was at first a stockaded inclosure with six gates, which are still closed at sunset. It was established in the early part of the eighteenth century as a residence for the Chinese trading population. Nowadays there is a cluster of Mongol suburbs outside the palisade, and the settled community numbers 4,000 or 5,000, of whom only 1,200 or 1,500 are Chinese.

    There is no cleanliness anywhere in the steppe. Ch'ou Ta-tzŭ (foul Tartars) is a Chinese term of contempt hundreds ot years old, and the justice of the reproach in the mouth of a race whose notions of sanitation are still rudimentary, is not at first apparent. At Urga a comparison is possible, and it is in favour of the Chinese. In the Mongol town hygiene, public or private, does not exist; there are some signs of it in Mai-mai-chên. It should not surprise us that Lamaistic monachism [monasticism] is so unpleasant. The core of monachism is a sense of the virtue of abstinence from worldly pleasures, and there was a time in the early Christian Church when purity of soul was held to he incompatible with washing of the body.
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    The Mongols gained fame in the 13th century when under Chinggis KHAN [Gengis Khan] they established a huge Eurasian empire through conquest. After his death the empire was divided into several powerful Mongol states, but these broke apart in the 14th century.

    The Mongols eventually retired to their original steppe homelands and in the late 17th century came under Chinese rule.

    Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing and a Communist regime was installed in 1924. The modern country of Mongolia, however, represents only part of the Mongols' historical homeland; more Mongols live in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China than in Mongolia.

    Following a peaceful democratic revolution, the ex-Communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) won elections in 1990 and 1992, but was defeated by the Democratic Union Coalition (DUC) in the 1996 parliamentary election. The MPRP won an overwhelming majority in the 2000 parliamentary election, but the party lost seats in the 2004 election and shared power with democratic coalition parties from 2004-08. The MPRP regained a solid majority in the 2008 parliamentary elections but nevertheless formed a coalition government with the Democratic Party. The prime minister and most cabinet members are MPRP members.
    CIA World Factbook: Mongolia


Area of Mongolia: 1,564,116 sq km
slightly smaller than Alaska

Population of Mongolia: 3,041,142
July 2009 estimate

Languages of Mongolia:
Khalkha Mongol 90%, Turkic, Russian

Mongolia Capital: Ulaanbaatar
    aka Ulan Bator, formerly Urga


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    The Russian Consulate, known to Mongols as the "Green House," from the colour of the roof, dates from 1863. It occupies a commanding position midway between Mai-mai-chên and Mongol Urga, and is now supported by a large brick building, which contains the offices of the Russo-Chinese Bank and of a Russian Mining Company, and by the houses of a few Russian traders. Close by are the barracks which were improvised in haste for the 200 or 300 Cossacks sent in 1900 to protect the Russian community.
    Both Consulate and barracks were protected by a ditch filled with wire entanglements, which were intended to arrest night surprises; and though the situation was sufficiently acute in the autumn of 1900 to warrant these precautions, they were considered no longer necessary in 1902, and the bulk of the Cossack guard was under orders to withdraw to Siberia. I was given to understand that the sagacity of Mr. Shishmarev, the Russian Cónsul-General, whose forty years of pacific service at Urga has secured him an influence of exceptional weight in the councils of the Lamaistic Hierarchy and Ambans, alone prevented the spread of the Boxer madness across the Gobi [Gobi Desert] to the Chinese communities of North Mongolia.

    The Urga Valley is closed in by mountains, of which Bogdo Ul is the most remarkable. Fritsche put its absolute height at 5,412 feet—that is to say, 700 feet above Urga. It is the Han-shan (Khan-ul) of the Chinese, and is mentioned by Gaubil as the traditionary burial place of Jinghis. There is no tradition of the sort nowadays. The respect paid by Mongols to conspicuous hills is no doubt a survival of pre-ßuddhistic beliefs, but the chief cause of the reverence with which Bogdo Ul is now treated is the proximity of the Bogdo's residence. It is not permitted to any one to hunt or fell trees on any portion of it and no execution should take place in sight of it. Criminals condemned to death must be sent across the Gobi to Dolon Nor or Kalgan.

    Pozdnyéev mentions a memorial of 1778, sent by the Mongol Amban to the Emperor Ch'ien-lung, in which it was alleged that Khan-ul owed its name (Khan's Mount) to the fact that Jinghis was born close by, and though the Chinese Court were aware that this was not so, they sanctioned the institution of seasonal sacrifices, which are continued at the present day. Every year in spring and autumn scented candles and silks are offered in sacrifice near the summit of the mountain, on dates fixed by the lamas, by the Princes of the Tusbetu end Tsetsen Aimaks.
    To the traveller from China by the Kalgan route, Bogdo Ul is specially noteworthy on account of the thick covering of pine. Siberian larch, birch, mountain ash, and cedar with which it is covered, the first patch of forest to charm the eye after 600 miles of indifferent steppe vegetation.

    I had originally intended to continue on from Urga westward, through Uliasutai [Uliastai] and Kobdo [Khovd] to Semipalatinsk [Semey, Kazakhstan], visiting the Orkhon Valley and the ancient Karakorum on the way—a long journey of 50 or 60 marches, but I was told on very good authority that I could scarcely hope to cross the Altais so late in the season without some serious walking, and this an injury to a foot made impossible.

    My attention was invited to the Kentei Mountains instead, and, after arranging for the dispersal of my caravan and the return of the Indian sub-Surveyor and Chinese servants to Peking, I made a rapid journey in a tarantass [a Russian-designed horse-drawn carriage] with Mr. von Grot through Jun Khure to some gold mines on the Terelchi Gol, 150 miles north-east of Urga. The Terelchi is one of the feeders of the Terelcbi and Iro Upper Kerulon, and the gold mines here and on the Iro River (a tributary of the Selenga) are worked by a Russian Company, which holds a monopoly of mining enterprise in the Tsetsen and Tushetu Khanates. Many of the valleys radiating from the Kentei range are auriferous, and some are evidently rich enough in gold to repay the attention of capitalists. With the exception of gold-washings on the east slopes of the Southern Hingan [Khingan Mountains], I neither saw nor heard of mineral products of any commercial importance until I reached the Kerulon.

    A two days' ride irom the Terelchi gold mines along the Kerulon—now a shallow Mount Kentei. stony stream of variable width, rapid and clear—through lone valleys which are marshy in summer and frozen during the remainder of the year, brought me to the foot of the Kentei massif. This is the holiest of the many holy mountains in Mongolia. Thither every autumn the Manchu Amban comes from Urga with a retinue of magnitude, to make oblation to the great nature-spirits, and Mongols and Chinese alike make pilgrimages from great distances to enlist their favour.

    Our camping place (4,500 feet) was strewn with the debris of fires, mutton bones, skeletons of camels, felled logs, and broken carts, relics of the yearly visits of the Urga Amban. I rode up through a thick forest of pine, larch, and cedar to the dalai (ocean), the sacred lakelet on the south slope of Kentei. It is an irregular oblong, 1,000 yards Sacred lake, from east to west, by 800 to 400, and approximating 5,600 feet above sea level. Of course, the Mongol guide (a pleasant lama friend of Mr. von Grot) said that it was bottomless, but the water, though limpid, had not the dark azure of great depths. The shore is easily accessible on the east side; elsewhere the rocks rise steeply from the water's edge. Bleached drift-wood cumbered this east beach, and a large obo was formed of it, before which our lama prayed long and earnestly, and burnt a paper invocation. He also drank some of the water, which is credited with therapeutic qualities of supernatural origin. I have seldom felt the charm of a scene so much, and I noticed that both my companions—the lama and a matter-of-fact Chinese soldier—were unusually silent and contemplative.

    Next morning (21st September) we mounted to the summit of Kentei. At 7 A.M. in our camp the thermometer stood at 29 degrees, but as we emerged on the exposed ridge above a strong nor'-wester drove it down to 17 degrees, and the crests of the higher hills were veiled with snow. In half-an-hour we reached the main altar, where the Amban worships. In front of a large tree obo, festooned with prayer flags, there are rough tables of larch, with a boarding in front, on which the Amban kneels, and before this again there was a large earthenware cauldron full of airak (fermented mare's milk).
    Our lama stirred the airak with a pole, and produced from the depths remains of hatakh (scarf-offerings), walnuts, and tea-leaves. Close by the cauldron, on the top of a small stone pile, I noticed some clay masks, open-jawed, of conspicuously evil expression. The ground was covered with walnuts, cheese hatakh, and Tibetan prayers, written on calico and on paper. The lama prostrated himself thrice at full-length before the obo, and added a rag to it; the Chinese guard contented himself with one prostration and an offering of a piece of bread, which he placed at the foot of the tree.
    On my return journey I disturbed a capercailzie [capercaillie, wood grouse], who was feeding on the walnuts around this altar, and, secure in the prohibition against shooting on the sacred mountain, he perched on a branch close by and watched me take some photographs.

    The summit (6,600 feet) was reached without difficulty, except for the wind. The pilgrimages of centuries have marked recognizable paths, and Mongols ride the whole way up over tree-roots and fallen trunks. The slope was forested, but the broad uneven crest was blown bare of trees, and its surface was a mass of large loose stones of irregular shapes.
    When approaching the mountain, I observed from a distance of 6 miles a rounded boss on the summit, which had been mentioned to me by Mr. von Grot. Ï clambered over this, and found it to be an oval tumulus, 250 yards long, east and west, and 200 yards north and south, of the same loose stones which cover the mountain.
    I had no doubt that it was a human creation. There are two large stone obo on the crest of the tumulus, and on one of them there were the remains of a bronze censer. From a fragment of a Mancha inscription on this, which I copied, M. Dolbejev, of the Russian Consulate at Urga, read the date of the 12th year of Ch'ien-lung (a.d. 1748).

    This is a remarkable tumulus, probably the largest in Mongolia. I am unable to believe that it is merely a prayer cairn, and it is a conjecture of Mr. von Grot, which, 1 think, is entitled to attention, that we have here the veritable tomb of Jinghis [Genghis Khan]. Though we are informed that the body of Jinghis was borne secretly from the north of Shansi, where he died (a.d. 1227), into Mongolia, and that the guards killed every one they met "sur cette longue route," to prevent the news of his death spreading prematurely, there is no indication that the place of burial (as distinct from the actual grave) was kept a secret, and it is singular that it is not definitely known to Mongols.

    It is true that [Grigory] Potanin discovered in 1884, in the north-east corner of the Ordos country, a shrine composed of two felt tents and some wooden huts, which is said locally to mark the "remains" of Jinghis; but this appears to be a merely local belief at variance with all the earlier records. D'Ohsson, on the authority of Raschid (who wrote seventy or eighty years after the death of Jinghis), says that Jinghis was buried "sur l'une des montagnes qui forment la chaîne du Bourcan-Caldoun, d'où sortent les fleuves Onon, Kéroulan, et Toula" and he concludes that "on peut admettre comme certain d'après le témoignage de Raschid, de Marco Polo, et de Gaubil, que Tchinguiz-Khan et plusieurs Princes de sa dynastie furent enterrés près des sources fie l'Onon et du Kéroulan."

    In a note to his translation of a portion of Raschid, Quatremère says: "II me paraît donc bien démontré que la montagne de Bourkhan-Kaldoun est identique avec celle que les Manchous appellent Hanalin (la montagne de Han ou de Kan) et que le P. G ei billon désigne sous le nom de Kentcy." Ssanang Setzen names the burialplace "Yakeh Utek, between the north slope of the Altai Khan and the south slope of Kentei Khan," and, in his description of the funeral, mentions that the two-wheeled cart bearing the coffin stuck in the "blue clay soil" (this would point to the marshy valleys of the Upper Kerulon), and that a mound was raised over the grave. The official Yuan history places the interment on Mount Kinien, north of the Gobi, which was also the sepulchre of Jinghis' successors. Gaubil remarks that the position of Mount Kinien is not stated exactly in this history, but he adds "plusieurs Seigneurs Monyous de la famille de Gentchiscan ont dit ici (Peking) que Gentchiscan est enterré sur la montagne de Han—Montagne Han, lat. 47° 54'; long. 9° 3' occident."

    To me it seems that Mount Kentei is indicated. The possible alternative is the Bogdo Ul closing the Urga Valley on the south, still called Han-shan (Khan-Ul, the Han Alin of d'Anville's Map) by Chinese, on the crest of which there is also a tumulus of some dimensions.

    There is a curious analogy between the Kentei Shan and Paik-tu San [Baekdu_Mountain], the sacred mountain of North Corea. On the flanks of both three rivers take their rise—Tumen, Yalu, and Sungari on Paik-tu San; Onon, Kerulon, and Tola on Kentei—there are holy lakes near the summits of both, and both are revered officially. These official obeisances in the case of Kentei are performed on the slope of the mountain, but the Corean officials are content to worship their "ancestral mountain" from the first point of vision, which is probably 70 miles off.

    I returned rapidly to the Terelchi mines and Urga, and on the 27th September visited, in company with M. Evstiféyev, a Russian acquaintance who is well versed in Siberian archaeology, the tomb of Tonyukuk (Tonjukuk)...

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