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)...