Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:31 am

CHAPTER XXIX. On the Road to Nature’s Grand Mandala.

Apart from these fancies, I really felt as if I had entered a civilised region, for beyond I espied a main building and priests’ quarters, and also what looked like a stone tower.

The whole sight was really impressive. The presence of stone buildings especially attracted my attention, for stones are very rare and costly on a Tibetan steppe.

The place was the town just mentioned, called Reta-puri (town of hungry devils), a name which Paldan Aṭīsha gave to the place when he arrived here from India on the work of evangelisation. The name is not inapplicable to the Tibetans.

The Tibetans may indeed be regarded as devils that live on dung, being the most filthy race of all the people I have ever seen or heard of.

They must have presented a similarly filthy appearance at the time of the visit of Aṭīsha, who therefore gave to the place the not inappropriate title of Preṭa-purī. The Tibetans, thanks to their ignorance of Samskṛṭ, are rather proud of the name, being under the belief that it has some holy meaning. After Aṭīsha had founded a temple, several high Lamas resided in this place, and a Lama called Gyalwa Gottsang Pa, of the Dugpa sect, founded a most imposing Lamaserai, which stands to this day.

It is, as I said, a very magnificent establishment, containing four or five priests’ residential quarters, in one of which I passed a night.

My companion took leave of me after having completed his visit to the holy places. I took a frugal lunch in my lodging and then, under the guidance of one of the priests[163] of the temple, sallied out to visit all the holy objects on the premises. The main building was of stone and measured about eight yards by ten. It was of one storey, and was in this unlike most other Tibetan Lamaserais, which are generally two or three storied. The most sacred relics in the temple were the images of Shākyamuni and Lobon Rinpoche (Padma Chungne), founder of the Old Sect of Tibet. To this Lobon are attached many strange legends and traditions, such as would startle even the most degenerate of Japanese priests; but I cannot here relate all those revolting stories. I already knew the strange history of the founder of this Tibetan sect, and so, when I noticed the two images worshipped side by side, a sensation of nausea came over me. It was really blasphemy against Buḍḍha, for Lobon was in practice a devil in the disguise of a priest, and behaved as if he had been born for the very purpose of corrupting and preventing the spread of the holy doctrines of Buḍḍha.

A curtain was hanging in front of the high altar, and one tanka, about sixpence, was the fee for the privilege of looking at the relic behind it. I paid the fee and found that the relic was nothing else than the image engraved on stone of that abominable Lobon. Tradition says that Lobon’s image was naturally inscribed on the rock when he came here and stood before it, and this fantastic story is fully believed in by the simple-minded folk of Tibet. They would not dare to look straight at the image, for fear that their eyes might become blind. I had no such superstition to deter me, and so I gazed with careful scrutiny at the engraved image, and convinced myself that some crafty priests must have drawn on a piece of rock a picture of some priest and that the picture must have been afterwards tricked out with suitable pigments. The engraving too was a clumsy piece of workmanship destitute of any merit whatever, and without even the[164] slightest technical charm, such as might persuade the credulous to regard the image as a natural impression on a rock.

I felt sorry for the sake of the Tibetan religion that such wicked impositions should be suffered to prevail, though the Tibetan priests may on their part reply that Japan is not much better in this respect than Tibet, and that such frauds are not unknown in Japan.

Of whatever impious deeds the Lamas may be guilty, the whole neighborhood was such as to inspire one with chaste thoughts and holy ideas. This seems to be widely accepted in Tibet, for the Tibetans have a saying to this effect: “Not to visit Reta-puri is not to visit the snow-capped Kang Rinpoche; not to go around Lake Kholgyal is not to perform the sacred circuit around Lake Mapham-yumtso.”

This saying means that the visit to Kang Rinpoche only completes one-half of the holy journey unless Reta-puri is visited at the same time, and that the visit to Lake Mapham-yumtso (Mānasarovara) will avail nothing unless Kholgyal is visited at the same time.

The place indeed deserves this high honor, and undoubtedly it constitutes one of nature’s best essays in landscape. Let me describe here a little of this enchanting sight. First there was the river Langchen Khanbab, flowing towards the west, with the opposite bank steep and precipitous, and with rocks piled up here and there, some yellow, some crimson, others blue, still others green, and some others purple. The chequered coloring was beautiful, and looked like a rainbow or a tinted fog, if such a thing could exist. It was a splendid sight. And the rocks were highly fantastic, for some were sharp and angular, and others protruded over the river. The nearer bank was equally abrupt and was full of queerly shaped rocks, and each of those rocks bore a name given to it by the priests of the temple. There was a rock which[165] was known by the name of the “Devil Surrender Rock;” another was called the “Twin Images of the saintly Prince and his Lady;” a third bore the name of “Tise Rock;” a fourth “Goddess of Mercy Rock;” and a fifth “Kāṣyapa Buḍḍha Tower.” All these rocks were objects of veneration to the common people.

I should have been deeply impressed by this unique grandeur of nature, had it not been that I was scandalised by the sight of the misguided veneration, if not worse, paid to the memory of Lobon Rinpoche. As it was, even the kind explanations of my cicerone jarred on my ears.

About two hundred and fifty yards down the bank, from a cavern known as the Divine Grotto, several hot springs were gushing out from between the rocks. Three of them were rather large, while the other three were smaller. The water of all the springs was warm, indeed some was so hot that I could hardly dip the tip of my finger into it. The temperature of that particular spring must have far exceeded 100° Fahrenheit. The water of the springs was quite transparent, and all about them there were many hard incrustations, some white, others red, still others green or blue. The visitors to the place are said to carry away pieces of this incrustation, which are believed to possess a high medicinal value, and so they must have, if properly used.

After having visited all the places of interest, I returned to my quarters and passed the night in meditation. The next morning I left the place, and resumed my journey toward the tent.

Somehow I lost my way in the plain, and when I had already walked five hours I had not reached the river which I ought to have reached in about three hours. I looked round and noticed to my surprise that I had been travelling towards the north, instead of towards the north-east.

Proceeding briskly onward in the right direction I at last reached a river, which I crossed. By that time the sun had begun to decline, and I had had nothing to eat all that day. I afterwards heard that the people of the tent began to be alarmed at my non-appearance, and feared that I must have been carried away by the river and drowned. When I arrived at the tent, weary with the walk and with hunger, I saw the daughter of the family coming out of the tent with some sheep. She was highly delighted to see me, and I was told that she was about to go out in search for me.

On the following day we proceeded eastward and arrived at the steppe lying to the north-east of Lake Rakgal and north-west of Lake Mānasarovara. It was a slope formed by the gradual descent of the spurs of Tise toward Mānasarovara. That night we pitched our tent on that plain, and then our journey towards the sacred mountains began.
Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:32 am

CHAPTER XXX. Wonders of Nature’s Mandala.

That evening it transpired that the pilgrims could not perform the pilgrimage in company, for every one of them declared his or her intention of performing as many circuits as possible during a stay of four or five days. Now the ordinary circuit—for there were three different routes—measures about fifty miles, which was more than I could perform in a day, even if I had wished to do as my companions had resolved, and they intended to undertake three circuits during the short stay; even the women wished to go round twice.

The pilgrims had to get up at midnight and to return to the tent at about eight in the evening, after having performed the arduous journey. I myself made rather elaborate preparations, and started on the holy journey carrying four or five days’ food on my back. The route I selected for my circuit was what was called the outermost circuit, and led me round a snowy peak resembling in shape a human image, believed here to be that of Shākyamuni, and around the lesser elevations rising about that peak. Those elevations were compared to the principal disciples of the Founder of Buḍḍhism. The route was indicated by a narrow track, but it was really a breakneck journey, for in several places the track went up to the summit of the central peak or to those of some of the elevations round it.

The middle route is more difficult of accomplishment, and the innermost route considerably more so. The last is therefore regarded as fit only for supernatural beings, and he who accomplishes twenty-one circuits round the outermost route obtains permission from the Lamas of the four[168] temples, to go round the middle route. This circuit is to a large extent indicated by a more or less beaten track, but is so steep and dangerous that ordinary persons hardly ever dare to try it. Not unfrequently pilgrims who boldly attempt this most perilous journey are killed by snow-slips, while huge boulders obstruct their passage in several places. Since therefore this route is very rarely attempted by pilgrims, quite marvellous tales are told about it.


The outermost route, round which I undertook my circuit, has at each of its four quarters a temple. These four temples are called the “Four temples of Kang Rinpoche”. I first visited Nyenbo Rizon, which is the name of the temple standing at the western corner. The temple is dedicated to the Buḍḍha Amitābha and I heard that it is a very good investment in a worldly sense, the donations from pious folk amounting to as much as ten thousand yen during the three months of the summer season. This coincidence between Japan and Tibet, concerning the receipts of temples, is exceedingly interesting, for even in Japan temples dedicated to the Buḍḍha Amitābha are the most popular and enjoy the largest share of donations. At any rate such an income must be regarded as extraordinary for a temple situated in a remote part of Tibet. The income, I was told, all goes to the Treasury of the Court of Bhūṭān, in whose jurisdiction are placed all the religious establishments at Tise. This anomaly seems to have originated from the fact that the priests of the Dugpa sect of Bhūṭān formerly reigned supreme at this seat of religion.

The image of the Buḍḍha Amitābha, as enshrined in the temple, is made of a white lustrous stone, and it struck me as a work of high technical merit for Tibet. The features are of the Tibetan type, and looked mild and affable, awaking in me pious thoughts.

In front of the image are erected two ivory tusks about five feet high and very thick, and behind them I saw[170] a hundred volumes of Tibetan Buḍḍhist works arranged on shelves. These books were not there for reading, but in order to receive as sacred objects the offering of the burning lamp.

This use of Buḍḍhist books is peculiar, though it is preferable to the outrageous treatment to which these books are sometimes subjected by impious priests, who do not scruple to tear out leaves and use them for various improper purposes.

After worship, I took from the pile a book that related to the Buḍḍha Amitābha, read it, and then left the temple. Then began my journey through Nature’s Tabernacles, the first object in which was the ‘Golden Valley’.

The adjective ‘golden’ should not be taken in a literal sense, for gold is not found near this place. Rhetorically, however, the valley deserves this distinction, the scenery all round being really magnificent. There are several fantastic rocks of great size towering far into the sky, while beyond them peeps the snow-clad summit of the peak of Tise. And from the crevices and narrow grooves between those towering rocks shoot down several cascades as much as a thousand feet in height. There are quite a number of them, but only seven are really large. Those seven waterfalls have each a distinct individuality. Some shoot down with great force and look not unlike the fabulous dragon descending the rock, while others look milder and may be compared to a white sheet suspended over the rock. I sat down in rapture at the sight, and felt as if I had been transported to some heavenly place. There are to the left several falls and also a range of snow-capped peaks, but they are not to be compared in grandeur with those on the right, at which I had been gazing with extasy. This one sight alone, I thought, well repaid the labor of the journey. I wished to embody my sentiments in a few[171] verses, but the inspiration would not come, and so I proceeded on my way, and soon emerged on the northern section of the Tise group. There I found another Lama monastery, which bore the quaint name of ‘Ri Ra Puri’ (meaning, ‘The place of the female yak’s horn’). It originated in a tradition that once, in ancient times, Gyrva Gottsang Pa, from Bhūṭān, went round this natural Maṇdala in order to find his way in the wilderness. Whilst he was going to the mountain, he found a female yak which proceeded before him and led him on an untrodden path over the snows.

After finishing his route round the Holy Place, he arrived at this spot; the female yak concealed herself in a cavern, now in the temple, and accidentally one of her horns struck against a rock. It was believed by the Lama that the female yak was a disguised form of the mother of the Buḍḍha named Vajra.

This ‘Yak’s Horn Temple’ ranks next to the first temple in respect to pecuniary income. It contains, however, a larger number of priests than the other, there being about fifteen, while the latter has only four.

It was towards dusk that I reached this temple, and I was allowed to lodge there for the night. The priest who appeared to be the senior man in the place was very kind to me and offered his own chamber for my use. It faced towards Mount Kailāsa. My host told me that the view of the moon from this chamber was quite enchanting. He brought me a cup of tea with plenty of butter in it, for I had told him that I made it a rule to dispense with the evening meal. I spent a few pleasant hours with my host, who pointed out to me, on the south from the temple, the high majestic snow-covered peak of Mount Tise, representing the Buḍḍha Shākyamuni; the three small snowy peaks before the mountain, he said, were the Boḍhisaṭṭvas Manjushrī, Avalokiṭeshvara and Vajrapāṇi; he[172] then gave me a description in detail of other peaks, but I need not narrate here what he explained to me, for the account of the range is given in most works treating of Tibet and its geography.

That night I had one of the pleasantest experiences I remember during my expedition to Tibet: it was a pleasure of an elevating kind. My mind was subdued and captivated as I looked, in that still night and in that remote and far-off place, at the soft rays of the moon reflected on the crystal-like current that was flowing with a pleasant murmur. Just as, in the holy Texts, the soft breeze stirring the branches of trees in paradise is said to produce a pleasant note, that sounds to the ears of the happy denizens of that blissful abode like the voice of some one reading the Scriptures, so that sweet murmur of the moon-reflecting stream deluded my enchanted ears into believing that they were listening to the divine music of Buḍḍhism. Staying in that sacred place, and surrounded by such soul-subduing phenomena, my mind soared higher and higher, till it flew up to the eternal region beyond this world of woe and care. The holy Founder tells us that the most sacred region lies in one’s own pure mind, but I, sinful mortal as I was, felt elevated and chastened when I found myself in such an environment.

The next day I stayed at the temple and spent the time with great enjoyment. The following day I left the hospitable monastery and resumed my journey, which included the surmounting of a steep hill, known under the name of the ‘Hill of Salvation’. My host seemed to have had some spiritual affinity with me in a past life, so considerate was he in his behavior to me. For instance, he lent me a yak to carry me over the hill, and moreover gave me some articles of food and various delicacies. I took friendly leave of him, and then started on my journey on the back of the yak, which was led by a guide.

On the hill I came across many Tibetan pilgrims intent on displaying their religious zeal and piety, and their behavior more than ever convinced me that a strong fanaticism characterises the people of that land. Climbing alone was no easy task, and was one that strained even the sturdiest of legs, and yet I noticed several young pilgrims of both sexes performing the journey according to the ‘one-step-one-bow’ method, commonly adopted as a penance. As for me I felt greatly fatigued, though I was riding on the yak, for the atmosphere in that elevated region is very rare and was highly trying to my lungs. When I had ascended the hill for about five miles my respiration became very rapid and I was much exhausted. I therefore rested for awhile, and refreshed myself by taking some medicine. It was while I was taking rest that I noticed a burly fellow frantically confessing to and worshipping the snowy Tise.

My guide informed me that that man was a native of Kham, a place notorious as being a haunt of brigands and highwaymen. He really looked like a typical highwayman, with ferocious features and fierce eyes, and was performing his penance in a loud voice. He must have been a notorious figure even in that land of universal crime.

I was highly amused to find that this fellow was doing penance not for his past offences alone, but also to obtain immunity for any crimes he might commit in future. His extraordinary confession was something in this way: “O Saint Kang Rinpoche! O great Shākyamuni! O all Buḍḍhas and Boḍhisaṭṭvas in the ten quarters of the world and in the time past, present and future! I have been wicked in the past. I have murdered a number of men. I have taken a great deal that did not belong to me. I have robbed husbands of their wives. I have quarrelled ever so many times, and I have also thrashed people. Of all those great sins I repent, and so I solemnly perform my[174] penance here on this hill for them. I believe that by this act of confession and repentance, I have been absolved from those sins. I also perform here penance for my prospective sins, for I may in future repeat them, may rob people of their goods and wives, or thrash and beat them.”

This fellow, I thought, was decidedly original in his conception of penance, and surpassed other sinners by performing a prospective repentance instead of, as in the ordinary method, confining himself to penitence for his past sins. Yet I was told that this convenient mode of repentance was universal in the robber district of Kham.

Our path next lay over a hill known as the hill of the Dolma-la, meaning the Pass of the Mother of the Savior. On ascending the hill one sees to the right a snowy range of the northern parts of Mount Kailāsa, named in Tibetan Gyalpo Norjingi Phoprang, which means the “residence of King Kuvera”, the God of Wealth. The spot is very famous to Indians also; even in early times in India the great poet Kāliḍāsa described this magnificent mansion with its immense views in his masterpiece of the Meghaḍūṭa—The cloud-messenger. Seeing it, I said in my fancy: “Is it not really the mansion of the God of Wealth—that crystal abode shining in the emerald sky?” I mused furthermore that a mammon-worshipper will certainly one day explore that shining region, expecting to find a diamond mine. On the crest of Dolma-la stands a natural stone image of the Mother of the Savior. On the north-east of it a number of queer-shaped rocks and fantastic stones are to be seen, their points all looking like images. These were explained by my guide as twenty-one images of the Mother of the Savior. This crest of the hill is very high, and indeed does not appear lower in height than the top of Tise itself, the height of which is about 22,300 feet above sea-level. The air is therefore very rarefied and the[175] temperature very low. Even when I remained quiet I felt the effect of the high altitude, for my heart beat rapidly and I suffered much pain. I thought that I should hardly have been able to perform the journey on foot, and that therefore I was deeply indebted to my host for lending me a yak to carry me over the series of hills. The Tibetan pilgrims did not seem to suffer to any particular extent from the effects of the rarefied atmosphere. They possess capacious lungs and can therefore climb any elevated hill without fatigue. Of course ordinary people, who do not possess lungs half as large as those of the Tibetans, can hardly expect to undertake this journey with so much ease. As it was, I felt very much exhausted, even though I did not walk on foot but rode on the yak. Near the foot of the hill I found a large pond which was entirely frozen over—a pond associated with an interesting legend. In ancient times, says that legend, the God of Wealth and his family used the water of this pond to wash their hands, for in those days it was not frozen in summer. Afterwards a woman pilgrim carrying a baby on her back came to the pond. As she bent over to wash her hands, the baby slipped off her back into the water and was drowned. The guardian deities of the place then consulted how to provide against such accidents, and they decided that the pond should be frozen over all the year around.

The descent is rather sharp, and it was uncomfortable sitting on the yak’s back, so I dismounted and trotted down after the animal.

At last we reached the eastern part of Tise and arrived at the Zun-tul phuk, which means the cave of miracles, founded by the hermit Jetsun Milaraspa, one of the most venerated saints in the Tibetan hagiology. Various interesting traditions are told about this saint, but these I need not give here, as they are too technical. I may say, however, that Milaraspa is said to have led a[176] highly austere life, and that he did much to diffuse the true tenets of Buḍḍhism. He was also a great poet, the only poet who figures in the long history of Tibet. His biography therefore reads like a romance or a great epic, full of sublime conceptions. Milaraspa being such a unique personality in the history of Tibet, his name has attracted the attention of western explorers, and extracts from his poems have been translated. After returning to Darjeeling I explained his poems to a certain Russian traveller and writer, who translated them into his national tongue. He was much delighted with the information which I gave him, and told me that my translation enabled him to interpret something of the spirit of the great Tibetan epic.

We stayed one night at that temple, and on the following day proceeded along the banks of the river Ham-hung-gi-chu (shoe-dropping river) and reached a place which contained a temple called Gyang-tak-gonpa. This temple is dedicated to Dorje Karmo, the Goddess named White Vajra. The place is situated about one mile off the road and near by is a postal station named Darchen Tazam. This station contains about thirty houses built of stone, besides about a dozen tents pitched here and there. It is a business as well as a revenue centre for the whole district. I lodged at one of the houses, and here the guide took leave of me. That night I performed my usual religious meditation, and on the morning of the following day my pilgrim companions rejoined me.

The station lies on a steppe between the north-western corner of Lake Mānasarovara and the north-eastern corner of Lake Lakgal. On the following day our party left the station, and proceeded in a south-easterly direction, to the west of Mānasarovara. We advanced in the same direction the next day, till we reached the foot of a snowy peak named Bon-Ri. This is, as I have mentioned before, a place sacred to the Bon, or ancient religion of[177] Tibet. I saw a big temple in the place, which I found to be not a temple belonging to that old religion, as I had expected, but one belonging to the New Sect. It looked a magnificent establishment as seen from a distance, but we did not go near it. This neighborhood produced various kinds of mushrooms, and some which were growing in damp places were gathered by the women of the party. They collected large quantities of the fungus, which was fried with butter and eaten with salt. I tasted it and found it delicious. By that time we had left the limits of the sacred region, and my male companions no longer considered themselves as pilgrims, but as men who had to face the stern realities of the material world. They declared that they must resume their worldly business, and proposed to start by shooting deer. It seemed to me that their shooting not infrequently included extraordinary kinds of game, and I suspected, on good grounds, that the three brothers had now and then turned highwaymen and either robbed or murdered travellers. I therefore began to be afraid of them, and thought that I had better separate myself from them on some plausible pretext, and without awakening their suspicion.

On the following day we reached the brow of a hill, and there one of the brothers in my presence shot an animal called in Tibet changku. The shooting was done merely for pleasure and not with the object of eating its flesh or using its skin. The changku, or wolf, resembles a large species of dog with rather thin fur, which in summer turns a fine brownish color. In winter the color is said to be a whitish grey. The ears are erect and the face appears ferocious. It is said that this wild animal will attack solitary travellers and even kill them. When the brothers brought down the animal their eyes gleamed with delight, and I secretly thought that their eyes would show that same cruel gleam when they murdered a wealthy traveller.
Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:33 am

CHAPTER XXXI. An Ominous Outlook.

The next day, September 14th, snow again fell, and so we had to stay in the same place. The hunting-dogs went out of their own accord on a rabbit-hunting expedition, and came back with their mouths stained with blood. They must have hunted down some rabbits and made a meal of them. The snow ceased, and we left the place on the following day. Proceeding eastwards, we now came to a long undulating hill, and soon reached its summit. Here the head of the family said that our pilgrimage must end at this spot, and when asked why at this particular place, he pointed to Lake Mānasarovara, situated to the west, and also to the snow-capped peak of Manri that stood due south from the middle of the Lake, and told me that we should here bid farewell and express our good wishes to the sacred region, for this was the last point where we could have a full view of the Holy Place, and that we should express in our prayers an earnest desire to visit this sacred region again in the future. Saying this, he bowed down and I and all the rest followed his example.

When I thought that I (the first Japanese who had ever come to visit this district from a remote country thousands of miles away) was now about to take leave of Lake Mānasarovara after having been in its neighborhood for several days, a peculiar sensation came over me, and I stood gazing at the lake for some time. As we were going down the hill, my host told me that as they had already departed from the Holy Place they should now earnestly engage themselves in their worldly pursuits; therefore they thought it time[179] that I should leave them. We soon reached a little encampment of some twelve or thirteen tents, and thither I wended my way to observe the condition of the small community.

Mendicancy was well suited for satisfying my curiosity, and as a mendicant I entered the encampment. My companions remained in the same place that day and the next, the brothers occupied in shooting. On the latter day I was reading a Chinese Buḍḍhist Text, and the two women were outside engaged in some earnest talk. At first I did not pay any attention to what they were saying, but when my ears caught the word ‘Lama’ pronounced several times my curiosity was awakened. Dawa was saying that she had heard the Lama, that is myself, say that her mother was probably dead. She wished, she continued, to ascertain this of the Lama, and so she had been pressing him for some definite information. Her aunt received this remark with a laugh. He must have seen, she said, that Dawa was in love with him, and had therefore told her this fib in joke. She must not mind what the Lama told her. However, the aunt continued, her husband had been telling her that he must make the Lama marry Dawa, and that should he refuse, her husband would kill him. It was evident that this last portion of the conversation was intended for my ears, for the aunt spoke in a loud voice.

When I heard that intimidatory warning I at first felt alarmed, but the next moment I recovered my tranquillity. I thought that if I should suffer death for having resisted a temptation, my death would be highly approved by the holy Founder. He would be displeased if I should disobey my conscience for the mere fear of death. Internally praying for strength of mind to resist the temptation, even at the risk of my life, I resumed my reading. However nothing occurred to me that day, nor the next,[180] when we struck our tent and proceeded for about five miles close to the brow of a hill, from which I saw at a short distance what appeared to be houses, and I was told that this was another postal station called Tokchen Tazam. Again I visited the place in the disguise of a mendicant priest. I soon returned and found Dawa alone in the tent; the rest were all gone out hunting, so she told me. I at once saw that the conspiracy was developing, and that matters were growing quite critical.

I concluded that I must do my best to dissuade the girl from pursuing the object of her misplaced affection. Some spiritual affinity must have brought me into the company of this girl, so it seemed to me that I was bound to administer an earnest expostulation, so that she might recover from her erring fancy. So thinking, I took my seat in the tent. As soon as I did so, she brought me some mushrooms she had collected for me in the morning, for she said: “You seemed to be very fond of them.” I thanked her for her kindness, took all the mushrooms and a cup of baked flour, and then set myself to read my books. The girl stopped me, saying that she had something which she must tell me, for she had heard something which filled her with fear. Then she narrated what one of her uncles, that is one of my male companions, had said about his intention to force me to marry his niece. When she had concluded her story, I told her with the greatest composure that I should be rather glad than afraid to be killed by the brothers of her father. I had finished my pilgrimage, I added; I had nothing to desire in this world, and I was not in the least afraid to die. Moreover, I continued, I would not harbor any ill-will, even if I should be killed now by her father and uncles. I should rather thank them for hastening my departure to the plane of Boḍhisaṭṭvas; so I would pray for them when I was enabled to reach that Happy Abode. I would therefore ask to be[181] killed that very evening. The girl seemed surprised to find her revelation producing an effect quite the reverse of what she had expected. She tried to remonstrate with me on what she considered a foolish resolution, and spoke some commonplaces about death and the pleasures of life. Of course I easily refuted them, and at last she gave up the evidently useless task of persuading me.


About four o’clock that afternoon the four returned. They must have listened for some time to the conversation between Dawa and myself, for as soon as they entered the tent, the most wicked of the three brothers severely scolded Dawa for flirting with a man. Upon this, the girl’s father at once took her side, and snappishly told his brother that his Dawa had a father to protect her, and therefore wanted nobody to meddle with her, much less an uncle who had never given her even so much as one bowl of flour since she was born.

The quarrel waxed hotter and fiercer, and the brothers began to abuse each other and to divulge each other’s crimes. One accused the other of being a robber, and of having murdered men at such and such places, and was met with the recriminating accusation of having attempted to rob the Government and of having fled for fear of arrest. The wordy warfare at last developed into actual blows, and the brothers exchanged fisticuffs, and even began to hurl stones at each other. I thought I must interfere, and so I jumped up and attempted to hold back the youngest brother as he was about to spring at Dawa’s father. The fellow struck my cheek with his bony knuckles with such force that I fell, and my whole frame shook with pain. The confusion in the tent had reached its climax, and Dawa was beginning to cry and so was also her aunt. I remained a passive spectator of the rest of this terrible scene, for I had to lie prostrate from the pain. Presently the sun set and the quarrel too spent itself and the night passed without any further outbreak.

The next morning the party broke up, for each brother wanted to go his way, the eldest with his wife, the second with his daughter, and the third alone, as was also the case with me; so we had to disperse, each for his own destination. One thing that troubled me was the lack of sheep to carry my effects. At last I purchased two at six tanka each, and separating myself from the rest proceeded in the south-easterly direction. One of the brothers started for the north, while I could see the others were retracing the road we had come along.

I had heard before that I must push on rapidly, but I purposely took the south-easterly direction, in order to throw off the scent any of the brothers who might come after me to rob me, or even worse. And so I proceeded in this direction, and by about sunset I reached the brow of a hill, where I was obliged to bivouac in the open, and on[183] a snow-covered plain. The change was too sudden after having lived for so long in the tent, and I could not snatch even one wink of sleep during the night. On the following day, still continuing in the same direction, I reached a small monastery of the name of Sha Chen Khangba, where I remained that day and the next. For the first time since I parted with the brothers and the troublesome women, I felt safe, for I concluded that I was no longer in danger of being pursued by one of the murderous gang. I saw only two priests in the temple, and I spent most of my time in stitching my worn-out boots and clothes.

While I was staying in the monastery one of my sheep suddenly fell ill and died. I felt sorely grieved at his death, and read a suitable service for him. The other sheep I had to sell, at half the price I had paid for him, to one of four traders who arrived at the monastery soon after I had reached it, for I could hardly manage him now, as he was so peevish and disconsolate at the loss of his partner. To the four men I also gave the flesh of the dead sheep, and they accepted it with thanks. It happened that the party was travelling in the same direction as myself, and they proposed that I should go with them. This was quite a welcome suggestion, especially as the men were kind enough to offer their services to carry my effects, for they had with them a number of yaks.

So once more I had travelling companions, and I left the monastery with a far more cheerful heart than I had when I reached it. We proceeded in a south-easterly direction, and soon came to a small round pond, a little over half a mile in circumference. Proceeding along the right side of the pond, we next came to a lake which is very long from north-west to south-east, but very narrow. The whole circumference is said to be about forty miles. This lake is bounded by rocky hills on all sides, and the blackish rocks scattered here and there[184] were partially covered, especially in the crevices and sheltered spots between the adjoining rocks, with a thin layer of snow, so that they presented quite a pretty sight. I ascended a small elevation close by the lake, and looked down on it and also on the small pond. From that height the serpentine lake looked just like the fabulous dragon in the act of clutching a round gem, the pond corresponding to the gem. The snow-streaked rocks were not unlike a white fleece of cloud. This lake is known by the name of Kong-gyu-i Tso, as I heard from my fellow travellers. After proceeding about seventeen miles south-eastwards, with the lake on our left, we reached its extremity. Here we were to bivouac, as we had no tent, but I could not sleep on the snow-covered plain. I therefore passed the night in my usual style, that is to say, in religious meditation, the best expedient for a sleepless night.

Our road lay next day over a steep hill, and it was indeed such a break-back ascent that it seemed to be trying even to the sturdy legs and lungs of my Tibetan companions. As for myself, I was lucky enough to get permission to ride on a yak’s back, and so I could negotiate the ascent with no great difficulty. Descending the opposite slope of the hill we soon reached a plain which, together with all the adjoining country, was situated in the Kong-gyu district. On this plain I noticed a white spot, not unlike a lake at a distance. My companions informed me that the white thing was puto, and that the white spot indicated the site of a lake which produced natural soda.

When we reached the lake my companions eagerly collected the deposit, put it in skin-bags and fastened it to the back of the yaks. They told me that the soda was to be mixed with tea.

We then went on over several low undulating hills, and finally reached the lower course of the river Chema Yungdung, where I had narrowly escaped drowning a short time[185] before. As the season was now well advanced, the river was much shallower and we were able to cross it with comparative ease. I indeed could do so with perfect security, for I was carried on a yak’s back.

We were travelling all these days at the rate of about twenty-five miles a day, and I should hardly have been able to make such good progress had it not been for the fact that I could ride every now and then on a yak. What distressed me most was bivouacking in the open, where sleep was out of the question in the cold autumn nights and on ground covered with snow. After proceeding some twenty-five miles to the south-east, on the following day we reached the Brahmapuṭra, known in this region as Martsan-gi-chu or Kobei-chu, according to the districts which it traversed. The lordly river was quite shallow and could be crossed without trouble, and I did so as before on the yak’s back. We found some tents by the bank of the river where we were allowed to pass a night—quite a cheering change after so many nights of bivouacking.

It was a moonless night, but the sky was full of stars, which threw their twinkling rays on the water of the river. The vast range of the Himālayas was clearly silhouetted, so as to make its sharp outline perceptible. The majestic scene inspired me with poetic fervor:

Like to the Milky Way in Heaven at night,
With stars begemmed in countless numbers decked,
The Brahmaputra flashes on the sight,
His banks, fit haunt for Gods, appear
In gorgeous splendors from the snowy height.

The following day I had to part from my companions, who were going to a destination different from mine, and so I was again thrown on my own wits and my own legs for continuing my journey. After having travelled for so many days with the help of other people, I now had to travel[186] alone with nothing but my back on which to carry my effects, and my journey on the following day was a cheerless and fatiguing one. The load weighed heavily on my back, and the time I occupied in taking rest was perhaps longer than that spent in actual progress. At last I was so much exhausted that I could hardly move my limbs.
Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:33 am

CHAPTER XXXII. A Cheerless Prospect.

While I was taking rest in that helpless condition, I was fortunate enough to see a Tibetan coming along my way leading a yak. When he came to where I was sitting I greeted him, and asked him to carry my luggage as far as he could without compromising his own convenience, and promised him suitable pay for his trouble. He willingly consented, and relieved my aching back of its load.

After travelling about three miles, I observed three men coming towards us on horseback. They were fully armed, each with a gun, a lance and a sword, and as they approached they looked like burly men, wearing Tibetan hunting caps. I at once concluded that they must be highwaymen, for evidently they were not pilgrims, the latter generally travelling with a pack-horse or a yak to carry their necessaries; nor could they be merchants, for they would travel in a caravan, according to the fashion of the country. My companion came to the same conclusion and began to show signs of fear. To encounter highwaymen is not quite agreeable under any circumstances, so I was not cheered at the thought of meeting those three fellows, but I was not at all afraid, for I made up my mind to surrender whatever things they wished to have out of my effects. I simply wished to keep my life, and for this the highwaymen could have no use. With that idea I boldly advanced and soon came face to face with the three cavaliers. They asked me whence I came, and when I replied that I was returning from a visit to Mount Kailāsa they further asked me if I had not seen some traders on my way. The traders were their friends, they continued, and they were searching for them.

When I replied that I had not met with any such persons, the men then said that I must be a Lama-priest, and as such they wished me to perform some divination for them, to find out the whereabouts of their friends. Now the meaning of their request was quite clear, they wished to find the traders in order to assault and despoil them. For my own part I was rather relieved when the three fellows disclosed their intention, for I knew that highwaymen who were after traders with rich goods would scorn the idea of robbing a poor Lama-priest such as they took me to be. On the contrary they might offer some donation to such a priest, if they asked him to undertake divination for their sake. Highwaymen who do business on a large scale often prove a source of substantial profit to Lama-priests, if a donation coming from such quarters can be regarded as a legitimate profit.

Well, placed under such peculiar circumstances, I was obliged to give them a ‘direction,’ and of course the direction I gave them was the one which I judged least likely to be frequented by traders. The highwaymen were highly pleased at my divination, thanked me, and then galloped off in the direction I indicated. They did not offer me any donation, however, for they said they had nothing to present to me now.

My companion had remained at a distance all the while as a terrified spectator of this strange transaction between the highwaymen and myself. When they had galloped away he emerged from his hiding-place, and asked me what I was talking about with those dreadful men. I told him in detail what had passed between the highwaymen and myself, and relieved his anxiety by assuring him that my divination was a mere sham, and was really intended to mislead them instead of giving them any probable direction.

After having walked along a river bank for about eight miles we came to a tent which belonged to my companion,[189] and there were two or three others besides. That night I slept in the tent of my guide, and I also stayed there during the following day in order to give rest to my fatigued limbs. On the following morning (that is on September 26th) I purchased a goat according to the advice of my host, and packing my effects on the animal’s back I left the place.

I was soon after overtaken by a fearful snowstorm, which obstructed my sight and blocked my progress. My Tibetan garment was completely drenched, and I was wet to the skin. I could not determine in which direction I should proceed, for the storm blinded my eyes and I had lost my compass; but though I could not be certain of the right direction I had to move on as best I could, for to stand still was out of the question. My situation was growing more and more desperate, and I was at my wit’s end, not knowing what to do. As luck would have it, just at that moment I met with a horseman. He at once noticed the plight I was in and kindly offered me the hospitality of his tent. It was a little détour, he said, for one going to Lhasa to go with him to his tent, but it would be dangerous (though not probably fatal, as the season was not yet far advanced) to pass that snowy night in the open; the cold was too severe to expose oneself to it with safety at night. I gratefully accepted the hospitable offer, transferred, as he bade me, a part of my goat’s load on to the back of his horse, and then, leading the goat, followed the horseman and soon reached his tent.

The following morning my host left quite early, and the people of the tent, and of four or five others, broke up their camp and moved on in the direction in which I also was to proceed for my journey towards Lhasa. So I followed them, and trudged along the snow-covered ground in a south-easterly direction for about fifteen miles. I had not yet had occasion to talk with any of them, but I felt sure[190] that they would again extend to me their hospitality, and at least allow me to share their tent at night, for they must see, I thought, that it was impossible for me to sleep outside among the snow-covered hills. In time the party made a halt, selected a suitable site for pitching their camp, scraped off the snow, and set up their tents. All that while I was watching the people at work, or gazing at the surrounding scenery. When the tent-pitching was finished, I asked the people of the tent in which I had slept the preceding night for permission to enjoy a similar favor again. I was astonished to receive from them a blunt refusal. Then I tried another tent, but with no better success, and my earnest requests at the five or six other tents were all in vain. I at last came to the only remaining tent, and I thought that as this was my last chance I must somehow or other persuade the inmates to admit me, whether they were willing to receive me or not; so I begged them—they were an old dame and her daughter—for permission to sleep in their tent, on the ground that I should probably be frozen to death if I were to stay outside in the snow on that cold night, and urged that they should take compassion on me. I added that I might repay their kindness with a suitable present of money. The old woman was not softened at all by my appeal. On the contrary she was angry with me, saying that I was insulting her by trying to force hospitality from her. Why had I not tried other tents inhabited by men, and why should I be so importunate with her alone? I was insulting her because she was a woman, she added, and she insisted on my leaving her tent. When I tried to protest against this merciless treatment she stood up in an awful passion, and raising aloft the Tibetan tongs, with which she was scraping together the kindled yak’s dung, she made as though she would strike me.
Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:36 am

CHAPTER XXXIII. At Death’s Door.

No one would take me into his tent, and I was thus quite at my wit’s end. I retired to a distance of some dozen yards and, looking at the four or five tents which appeared to be warm and cozy, remembered Buḍḍha’s words: “For him who has no relationship to me, it is very difficult to receive salvation from me.” These people were perfect strangers to me, and therefore slept comfortably in their tents, while I had to lie down on the cold ground, exposed to the severe winds. But, I thought, the fact that I had asked them for a lodging might have created a certain relationship, by means of which they might yet be saved, and that it would not be quite in vain if I read the Holy Texts for their salvation. Of course this was merely my duty as a follower of Buḍḍha, whose love is universal. So I sat down on the ground and recited the Buḍḍhist Text, with the kindest intentions. After a while the girl whom I had lately asked for a lodging peeped from her tent and stared at me, then hastily withdrew. Presently she appeared a second time and, approaching me, said that she supposed I was conjuring evil spirits to punish her and her mother for their refusal to lodge me. This must not be done, said she. She and her mother had now agreed that they should entertain me in their tent, and she had been sent for me. There was something comical in the fact that my kind intentions should be taken for revengeful motives, and that those motives should be rewarded with kindness. But I attributed all to the benevolence of Buḍḍha, and thankfully accepted the girl’s invitation. A Buḍḍhist service was held that evening.

The following morning I left the tent very early, and walked south-east for two miles and a half in a hilly district. Quite unexpectedly, two men rushed out from behind a rock and stopped me. As they did not seem like robbers, though they were armed, I was simple enough to think that they were natives of the place making a trip. They approached close to me and asked me what I had. I replied, “I had Buḍḍhism”. They did not understand what I said and exclaimed:

“What is that you have on your back?”

“That is my food.”

“What is that sticking out on your breast?”

“That is my silver.”

No sooner had the last answer been given, than the men seized my sticks, and I understood at once that they were robbers. Promptly making up my mind what to do, I said:

“You want something of me?”

“Of course!” one of them said, showing his teeth.

“Well, then, there is no use in hurrying. I will give you all you want. Be calm, and say what you want.”

“Produce your silver first.”

I gave them my purse.

“You seem to have some valuables on your back. Let us see.”

I obeyed. They also demanded to see my bag, which was being carried on the goat, and, after ransacking it, returned me the Scriptures, the bed-clothes that were heavy, and a few other things that were useless to them. They took, however, all my food, saying that they needed it, although neither could I do without food.


It is a rule among the robbers of Tibet that, having taken all they want, they should give their victim enough food for some three days, provided that the latter read the Texts and ask for food. I thought I would[194] follow this custom, and I said that I possessed in my breast-cloth a silver pagoda, containing relics of Buḍḍha, which Mr. Ḍhammapāla of India had asked me to present to the Dalai Lama, and which I did not wish to lose. The highwaymen at once wanted to know if I could not give it to them, and I replied that if they wanted it I would give it, but that as a layman could not keep it properly, they must expect some misfortune as a punishment for their sacrilege.

So saying, I produced the pagoda and invited them to open it. This was probably more than they expected. They would not even touch it, but asked me to place it upon their heads with my benediction. I held the pagoda over their heads and, reciting the three Refuges and Five Commandments of Buḍḍha, prayed that their sins might be extinguished by the merit of Ḍharma.

Then I stood up, and was going to ask of them a few days’ rations, when two men on horseback put in an appearance far ahead, and before I could look round, the robbers had gathered together all that they had seized, and made off in the opposite direction. They ran over the mountains like hares, and it was quite out of the question for me to give them chase. I thought, therefore, to ask the horsemen for provisions. But for some reason or other they climbed a mountain ahead of me, and did not come as far as where I was. I called out to them and made signs by turning my right hand inwards, according to the Tibetan custom. Perhaps my voice did not reach them, or they had some business demanding urgent attendance, for they paid no attention to me. Still I had left eight Indian gold coins which I had kept close to my skin. My baggage having been greatly diminished, I placed it all on my goat, and went on with my journey. It was a steep mountain pass, and before I had travelled eight miles it became dark. The night was spent as usual in bivouacking in a crevice between the rocks.

The following morning I wished to take a north-easterly direction, so as to reach a certain post-town; but having no compass, I could not ascertain my bearings, and seem to have strayed off to the south-east and eventually due south, instead of north-east, as I should have done. The snow began to fall at three o’clock in the afternoon, and I walked and walked until the evening, but met not a single human being. I was exceedingly hungry, and so thirsty that I ate the snow. One meal a day would have been sufficient for me, but the absolute fasting gave me no small pain.

Darkness and hunger compelled me to stop, and I selected a hollow in the ground as my bed, clearing it of snow. As there is always a danger of being frozen dead when one is beset by a snow-storm in a vast plain, I took the precaution to hold my breath, so as to minimise the communication with the outside air, according to the methods learned during my Buḍḍhist training. This, I think, is the best method for bivouacking in the snow, and I soon fell asleep in the hollow.

On waking early next morning I saw the snow had fallen to a great depth, but the weather was fine; and when I looked around, I thought the mountains ahead resembled the hilly district called Nahru-ye, where I had once been in the company of some herdsmen. Proceeding further, I found the familiar Kyang-chu river, which I was delighted to see. Sustained by the hope of finding some old acquaintances at Nahru-ye, I walked some five miles in that direction. But nowhere was there any human being to be seen; there was nothing but the snow. I was almost despairing, owing to my extreme hunger and thirst, for I was entirely exhausted, though I had no heavy baggage to carry. But I had to walk on and on, eating a little snow from time to time to allay my hunger.

I thought that by travelling farther across the Kyang-chu river, I should reach the place where Alchu Lama lived. He never wandered far away from that place, and I might find him there; so I decided upon travelling in that direction. I crossed the river about nine miles above the place where I had crossed it on the previous occasion. The water had decreased to about one-fifth of its usual amount, and it was just freezing. I broke the ice with my sticks and crossed the river. If the ice had been thick, the crossing of the river would have been a very easy task, but the thin ice entailed the danger to the traveller of being thrown into the deep current, and injured by the ice-blocks. After many difficulties I reached the opposite bank, and walked due south.

Then the baggage which was being carried by the goat got lost. It contained what the robbers had left—a carpet made of sheep-skin, shoes, drugs, and such things. I searched everywhere, but in vain. I had to give up my search and proceed further, for I wished to reach a tent before night, as sleeping amid the snow on the open field for several nights consecutively would mean the end of my life; so I pushed on until eight o’clock and had covered twenty miles, when another trouble cropped up in the shape of terrible pain in the eyes, the result of the strong glare of the sun on the snow. My eyes felt as if they would burst, and I could not remain quiet. Moreover the snow recommenced falling in the evening, and the cold was extreme, and when I lay down I felt the biting coldness of the snow on my head. I pressed the snow on my eyes, but it did not lessen the pain in the least. A cold sweat broke out all over me from the pain and cold, and, in trying to calm myself, I found that my body was becoming benumbed by the frost. I tried keeping my eyes shut, and anointed them abundantly with the oil of cloves. But slumber was far from me. I rivetted my thoughts on Buḍḍhism, and was[197] doing my best to keep down the pain, when, quite unexpectedly, I was inspired with an uta, which runs:

Upon these plains of snow, my bed is snow,
My pillow, snow; my food also the same;
And this my snowy journey, full of pain.

The effusion soothed my heart, and I felt more than ever thankful for the beauty of the Japanese language.

The next day, October 1, 1900, at about six in the morning I decided to proceed on my journey. The snow had ceased, and the sun was shining brightly, to the increased pain of my eyes. I could not walk with my eyes shut; and yet the pain of keeping them open, however slightly, was more than I could bear. I was so overcome by it that I would from time to time fall down, wherever I might be. I had had no food for nearly four days, and was so weak that the smallest stone lying in the snow would bring me down. Fortunately I sustained no injury, owing to the softness of the snow and the lightness of my body. There was a time, however, when I got quite exasperated by hunger, the pain in my eyes, and the weakness of my legs, and sat down in the snow, feeling that I was fated to die. Intellectually, however, death was far from my thoughts. Were there only some means of getting rid of my bodily pains, I thought I could walk on and on, and at last reach safety.

At this juncture a horseman put in an appearance far ahead. I strained my eyes, though with terrible pain, and thus made out that it was a horseman. I stood up at once and signalled him to approach. I wished to shout but could not; the effort seemed to choke me, and it was only after enormous exertion that I squeezed out two feeble shouts and wildly gesticulated. The horseman, having apparently observed me, galloped towards me, to my great joy. Soon he was beside me, asking me what I was doing in such a desert of snow, and I told him with uncommon difficulty that I had been robbed[198] of most of my baggage, had lost what remained to me en route, and had had nothing to eat for over three or four days. He was a young man, full of sympathy. Though he was provided with extra provisions, he said, he would give me only some sweetmeats, made of cream and brown sugar, a food which is esteemed as a rare delicacy in the northern steppes of Tibet. I swallowed down the food which he gave me so hurriedly that I did not even taste it.

I then enquired of him if I could not find a lodging hereabouts. His reply was that he was a pilgrim, and that his parents and others were staying beside the mountain ahead of us, and that I should be able to obtain some accommodation there. He therefore advised me to come to his tent, and, saying that he was in hurry, galloped away in that direction.

The distance was only a little above two miles, but I do not remember how often I stumbled and fell down, and rested, and ate snow, before I reached the tent. More than three hours were occupied on the journey, and I did not reach the tent till past eleven o’clock, when the young man came out to welcome me. His parents congratulated me on my narrow escape from death, and entertained me with the best sort of Tibetan food, which consisted of boiled rice covered with butter, and accompanied by sugar and raisins. I did not take much of the food, for fear that the sudden repletion might injure me, but I took a little milk after a very modest repast. The pain in my eyes was no better. There was no medicine, and the best I could do was to cool them with snow. In spite of the fine bed with which I was accommodated I could not sleep that night, owing to the pain I felt in my eyes.

These people, being pilgrims, were intending to move on day by day. The next morning, therefore, I also had to proceed on my journey. But it was some time before they could start, for they had to pull down the tents and pack[199] them on the yaks. I finished my tea therefore, and went out of doors, while they were busily engaged in packing their effects. I had walked to the further end of a row of four or five tents, when seven or eight ferocious Tibetan dogs attacked me, barking loudly. Handicapped as I was with the pain in my eyes, I could not deal with these dogs so deftly as at other times. At first, I kept my eyes open and brandished my two sticks, driving back the animals, which attacked me from all sides. But once I was obliged to close my eyes, and immediately a dog behind me seized one of my sticks. The next moment another dog fastened his teeth on my right leg, and threw me down.

I uttered a feeble cry for help, which brought several men on the scene, and they drove away the dogs with stones. But the blood flowed out abundantly from the wound, which I held fast with my hands, and I lay motionless until an aged dame brought me some medicine, which she said was a marvellous cure for such wounds. I dressed the wound with the medicine and bandaged it, and attempted to rise, but in vain. It was impossible for me to stand up.

But as it was equally impossible that I should lie down there for ever, I asked the people what they would advise me to do, and if they did not know the whereabouts of Alchu Lama, whom I thought to be in that vicinity. They asked me if I was acquainted with Alchu Lama, and, on being answered in the affirmative, one of them volunteered to carry me on his horse to the tent of Alchu Lama, who he said, being a physician, would be able to cure me alike of the wound and of the eye-disease. I rose with the support of the sticks, one of which broke under me and had to be thrown away, and mounted on the horse.

Arriving at a place where there stood two tents, I perceived that these tents were smaller than those of Alchu Lama. Though wondering at heart, I alighted from the horse, and enquired at one of the tents for[200] the Lama, and I was informed that this was not the Lama’s tent, but that of his wife’s father. I wanted to reach the Lama’s tents somehow, and was speaking to that effect, when the wife, hearing my voice, said that I was the revered Lama who had made a pilgrimage to the snowy peak of Tise, and came out to see me.

“Where is your Lama?” I asked.

“He lives about two miles east of this place.”

“I wish to find him. Have you no one to take me to him?”

“I have nothing to do with the Lama any more, nor can I take you. But if you want to go there, I will direct the man who has brought you here to accompany you.”

“But why do you not yourself return to your own home?”

“Oh, there is no man so wicked as he; I intend to leave him.”

“That is not good,” said I.

Then we had a long talk, and after I had been given a repast, I rode to the Lama’s tent.

The Lama being out, I was received by his domestics. When he returned home in the evening, I related my adventures to him and asked him for some medicine. He kindly dressed my wound with excellent drugs, and gave me purgatives, saying that it was necessary for me to purge my body in order to prevent the diffusion throughout my system of poison which some of the dogs injected by their bites. He also said that I should stay with him for at least a week, in order to recuperate. Thanks to his directions, which I obeyed, I was in a few days greatly relieved of the suffering both in my leg and eyes.

I had experienced enough of hardship, and had very poor prospects of an easy life in the future. But still there was a genuine pleasure in pushing on through hardships. About that time I composed a poem:

All bitter hardships in this world of woe,
Have I thus tasted now during this life;
None will be left for me to suffer more.

One day I asked the Lama why he had sent his wife to her parents, whereupon he explained the shortcomings of his wife. Both had their reasons, and I could not say which was wrong. But, I said, the man ought to have magnanimity and to console his wife, so that it was advisable for the Lama to send for his wife to come back. I supported my advice by the doctrines of Buḍḍhism, and made him yield to my proposal. He sent two of his men for his wife, who, after making some fuss, returned to his tent the same evening.

The following day, when I referred to the Discourse on the Five Vices, which is included in the Gospel of the Buḍḍha Life Eternal (one of the three books of the Jōdō Sect, but not found in the Tibetan Canon) the Lama expressed his desire to hear a lecture on it. I consented to the request and expounded the discourse on the days following. The sermon in question treats of all imaginable vices and sins devised by mankind, arranging them into five classes and explaining them in the most appropriate manner. During my lecture on this discourse the couple were so deeply moved to repentance for their sins that they wept and at times asked me to suspend the lecture. As their repentance was sincere, I congratulated them on their progress in virtue. I stayed with them for some ten days, and my bodily troubles were so much relieved that I was able to regale my eyes with the magnificent view of the snow and ice, lit up by the serene moon-light. This lovely scenery of nature caused me to think of my country, and I had occasion to compose many utas, two of which were as follows:

The spotless sky is bathed in light serene
By that cold moon with her all-tranquil ray;
This pleasant scene fires me with memories sweet
Of that dear mother-land now far away.

Here on these lonely steppes the grass is dry,
No reeds, no autumn flowers show their smiles;
On high the moon shines on these wilds alone,
Enhancing thus the loneliness profound.

Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:36 am

CHAPTER XXXIV. The Saint of the White Cave revisited.

I spent some pleasant days here and was perfectly cured of my illness. At the instance of Alchu Lama I decided to pay another visit to Gelong Rinpoche. Our party, including the Lama, his wife, myself and three domestics, all on horseback, and a horse which carried my baggage and our presents to the holy man of the White Cave, rode south at full speed, covering a distance of thirteen miles in a short time. It was before eleven when we reached the cave, and we were ordered to wait for a time before we could see the priest. At eleven those who had assembled at the cave, about thirty in all, held a service, the illustrious priest officiating, answering questions, and receiving offerings. When all were about to withdraw, the Lama detained me, saying he had something to talk to me about. Alchu Lama and his wife thereupon bade me farewell, saying that I should take the road to Lhasa, and we parted, I thanking them for their kindness.

I sat in front of the Lama, who was engaged in deep meditation, the subject of which was not difficult to guess, for when I was at the tent of Alchu Lama I had heard it stated that rumors were persistently disseminated to the effect that the Lama who had made a pilgrimage to the snowy peak of Tise (this referred to me) was not a Chinaman, though he pretended to be one, but an Englishman, who was investigating the situation of affairs in Tibet. Alchu Lama added that the ignorance of the masses, who would take such a true lover of Buḍḍhism as myself for a spy, was incorrigible. Such being the situation, I thought the rumor must have reached the[205] ears of the good man, who was in consequence going to tell me something in reference to it. Presently the priest asked me a most matter-of-fact question: what was my object in proceeding to Lhasa, in spite of the overwhelming hardships which beset me? I answered that I had no other object than to save all beings by prosecuting my studies in Buḍḍhism. Thus I tried to parry his matter-of-fact question with a metaphysical answer. The Lama at once said:

“Why do you want to save all beings?”

“Only because they are suffering from all sorts of pains.”

“Then you have all beings in view?”

I retorted with an equally idealistic answer: “Having no Ego, how can I have all beings in view?”

The priest smiled, and, changing the subject of the conversation, asked me if I had ever been troubled with love affairs. In reply I said that though I had once greatly suffered in that connexion, I was at present free from that torture, and hoped to remain so. Then he at once turned to my adventure with the robbers, asking me whether I had hated those robbers during the time I was with them, and whether I had not cursed them after our parting, for the purpose of revenging myself on them. I replied that there was no use in hating them, as they had robbed me because I deserved to be robbed. I myself rather was hateful, who had committed the sins which made me deserve the misfortune, and I was glad that I could pay my debts. Such being my thoughts, there was no use in invoking evil on their heads. On the contrary, I had prayed that on account of their having come across me, they might become true men, or saints, in the next life if not in this. The Lama then said:

“All your words are rightly said. But you will probably meet with many such robbers on your way to Lhasa. They may even kill you. Then you will not be able to[206] accomplish your object of saving all beings. You had better give up your intention of proceeding to Lhasa, and betake yourself back to Nepāl. There is a good road from Lo to Nepāl. You must go at once to Lo. If, on the contrary, you go to Lhasa, I believe you will certainly be killed on the way.”

This he said suggestively, and continued in a solemn tone: “In order to attain your object, you may take any means. Your journey to Lhasa is not your only object. If you are sincere in saying that you want to save all beings, you must leave for Nepāl!”

I replied: “I cannot commit myself to such an equivocal argument, and I fail to concur in your opinion that any means is justifiable by its end. The Gospel of the Buḍḍha, Mighty Sun, has it that the means is the object, meaning that the practice of honest means is identical with the attainment of an object. The fact that I enter Paradise is no more the attainment of the object of my life, than is my arrival at Lhasa. The practice of honest means being the object itself, I believe that at the moment when I adopt honest means, I have attained my object.”

“Then what route will you take in your journey and whither will you go?”

“As a matter of fact, I shall take the mountain pass, and steer my way to the capital of Tibet.”

“That is curious, that you should take the road exposed to fatal risks. Better return to Nepāl. You say rash things. I know your future fate, and know that if you go on your way, you will die!”

His words were intimidating, but I replied: “Really? But I do not know my death, much less my birth. What I know is only to do what is honest.”

The Lama meditated for a while in deep silence, and then suddenly changed the conversation, referring to the Maṇi, or the sealed book of Tibet. I omit here[207] our dialogue on this subject, as it is too technical for general readers. We were so taken up with our religious talk that we were unconscious of the approach of the evening.

The Lama’s suspicions were largely allayed, and he said that he wondered how the people of the neighborhood were able to invent such rumors, and that I was a true seeker after Buḍḍhism. He was sincerely delighted with me and, saying that money and provisions were my first necessaries, gave me twenty tankas of Tibetan silver, a lump of tea, a big bag of baked flour, a copper pan, and other articles required by travellers. The whole of the presents were valued at perhaps sixty tankas, or fifteen yen in Japanese currency. I asked him to reduce the amount of the presents, for I could not easily carry so much. He said there was no need for my being troubled about that; for all along my way farther on I should everywhere find his disciples, who when they saw the travelling bag, would remember their master and carry the baggage for me. So I accepted the presents and retired, but not before he had promised to invest me the next morning with the mysterious power of the Maṇi, for which I thanked him sincerely.

During that night, I decided to take the highway to Lhasa, for, I thought the mountain pass was full of the Lama’s disciples, who, in spite of their master, would cast suspicious eyes on me, and I concluded, that if the highway was a little longer than the bye-way, it was much safer.

The following morning I was initiated in the mysteries of Maṇi, and about noon the following day I left the Lama Gelong’s cave. For about five miles I descended the hill, carrying my baggage on my back, and it was pretty heavy. Then I proceeded north, with the object of reaching the highway and not as directed by the Lama, and when I had walked another five miles, I saw two tents and a man,[208] apparently a wealthy grazier, coming out from one of them and cordially greeting me. I was rather surprised, for I knew I had no acquaintances in that neighborhood and I did not know his face. I felt a little embarrassed, but I followed him into his tent, where I was met by Alchu Lama. He had stayed the previous evening at the tent, and had told the man of our blessed religious talk of the other night. The man, in consequence, had wished to receive my benediction. Being informed of these facts, I did as he wished. Soon after I left the place, accompanied by a man and two horses carrying my things. I travelled eight miles east along the bank of the Ngar Tsang-gi-chu, which I had crossed once on my way from the cave of the White Cliff to the snowy peak of Tise. The same evening I arrived in a place on the riverside, where the man who had accompanied me put down my baggage and took his leave. During the evening, I enquired about the best way to reach the high-road, and was informed that I had to cross the Brahmapuṭra for a second time, and that I needed a guide and a carrier in order to cross it. So I engaged the men required.

The next morning I walked eastwards ten miles through a swampy plain, and over a hilly pass which was five miles long, and then crossed the Brahmapuṭra. On the farther bank of the river I found a tent of miserable appearance, kept by an old woman and her daughter, whose business it was to watch yaks straying about. I spent the following day in patching up my shirts.

On October 16, I again walked over the swampy plain in an easterly direction. The swampy plain in Tibet is dotted about with pools of various depths in which grass is growing. Walking through the damp place for about ten miles, I reached the Na-u Tsangbo, a large river flowing from the northern steppes of Tibet and into the Brahmapuṭra. I had previously been informed of the place where I could cross the river, but the water reached[209] my breast, and the current was rapid, so that, as I was carrying the heavy baggage on my back, there were times when I thought I should be swept away by the river. Moreover the sandy mud which formed the river-bed sucked my feet deep down, and made walking very difficult. Happily, however, I reached the opposite bank in safety. Proceeding a little farther, I found a big tent, where I was lodged that night. My invariable question was about the way to the high-road. The people there informed me that ten or twelve miles further to the north-east there was a post-town called Toksum Tazam, which stood on the high-road. The Tibetan high-road over the steppes has post-towns at intervals of four or five days’ journey from each other. On this side of Toksum Tazam, on the side nearer to the snowy peak of Tise, there is a post-town called Satsan Tazam. From this place I was to travel along the highway, and I should be able to locate my whereabouts exactly.

The following day I steered my way due east, and not in the north-easterly direction, which would have led me to Toksum Tazam, for this route was, I thought, rather a round-about way to reach the high-road. The next day, the 19th October, 1900, I again proceeded due east; but I met with a serious accident, which I must now describe.
Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:37 am

CHAPTER XXXV. Some easier days.

The plain was nothing but a swamp, and I was obliged to wade across shallow streams alternating with mud flats. At one place I came to a bog which, when I tried it with my stick, appeared to be very deep, so that my only course was to select what seemed to be the narrowest part, and to cross it as best I could. The bog at this place was not more than four yards in width, and did not look as if it could be deep, as it was covered with fine sand at the bottom of some shallow water, so I began at once to cross it by making a bold plunge.

But alas! before I had gone two steps I had sunk deep into it, and, though I tried to save myself by means of my sticks, I found myself momentarily sinking further and further into the mire. I then took the bundles I was carrying one by one off my shoulders, and threw them on to the other side; then I stripped off my clothes and threw them likewise, leaving myself exposed to the icy wind. Then I commenced with the aid of my sticks to balance myself across the bog with as much care and as gingerly as though I had been balancing myself on a tight rope in my younger days. As soon as I got my body back into a vertical position (for I had fallen almost flat upon my face), I laid the shorter of my sticks horizontally across the mud so as to give a resting place for my feet, and then with the aid of the longer stick raised myself slowly until I got both my feet upon it. Then I slowly moved my feet along the top of the horizontal stick, and thus, thanks to the lightness of my body, which had been freed from all encumbrances, I managed in a few minutes to reach terra firma.


I was shivering with cold when I got there, but I was exceedingly proud of my acrobatic feat, and, wringing out my wet clothes as best I could, put them on again and made my way to a tent which I saw near the high-road, where I fortunately found some pilgrims who gave me hospitality for the night.

The word “high-road” suggests to the mind the idea of a macadamised thoroughfare, but that is not what the traveller finds in Tibet. The high-road was nothing more than a beaten track, along which men and beasts trod their way as best they could. In fact anything is called a high-way in Tibet, if it is frequented by travellers, free from grass, and not too stony. In desert places, where there is no grass to be worn off, there are no high-roads, except in the immediate environs of Lhasa. It would be a mistake to suppose that carriages could be used on the high-road; there is no road in Tibet capable of being used by either carriage or jinriksha. When some years ago the Rājā of Nepāl presented the Dalai Lama with a carriage of European make, to be drawn by four horses, many of the Dalai Lama’s advisers recommended him to return the gift, as one which could not possibly be used in Tibet. Another opinion, however, prevailed: it was urged that the carriage had been brought from a great distance and could not well be returned without impoliteness, and it was therefore placed as a curiosity in the Palace at Lhasa, where it can be seen to this day. This was about four years ago.

Bad roads are universal in Tibet, except around Lhasa and Shigatze, the most advanced cities in the country. Still, bad as it was, I was glad to be once more on the high-road, where there were no fortresses for the molestation of travellers, and by which I might reasonably hope to reach Lhasa in due time. One day, after a long stretch of desert travelling, I reached a tent which was also a grog-shop—a[213] somewhat strange oasis in the midst of a desert. But it became intelligible when I found that a large fair of salt, wool, and cattle had recently been held in this locality and that the grog-shop had been opened in connexion with the fair by a man from Mondan in the province of Lo. The liquor sold was a kind of beer made from barley, and the grog-shop was to remain here for about another month.

I reached the tent about dusk, and was delighted to find myself amongst friends, for I had made the acquaintance of the landlady sometime before at Tsarang. The old dame was delighted to see me. She had been wondering what had become of me and was very glad that fortune had guided my steps to her tent. She was anxious to know if I were going to return to Tsarang, to which I gave an evasive answer, and she gave me such a kind reception that I should have hesitated to accept it from any but herself.

The next day I travelled over twelve miles to the south-east, with one of the old lady’s servants to guide me and a yak to carry my luggage. At the end of the journey we reached the house of a man named Gyal Bum, to whom the dame introduced me as a venerable Lama, desirous of hospitality. Gyal Bum is the second man in the province of Bomba, and possesses two thousand yaks, five thousand sheep, and an enormous amount of wealth. One of his tents was ninety yards square and had a stone chapel annexed. There were two other tents, one of ordinary size, the other very small and fitted up like a tea-house. The bottom edge of the canvas of the large tent was turned inwards, and on it were placed large quantities of goods, which served as weights to secure the tent. The goods were all concealed under Tibetan blankets, and were mostly butter, barley, wheat, wool, and the like. It was in this tent that I stayed.

Gyal Bum was about seventy-five years old, and his wife over eighty and blind. They had no children, and the[214] Tibetan law does not permit the adoption of a child from another family. Should a man die without children, his nearest relative, as a general but not universal rule, becomes his heir. The old couple asked me many questions about Buḍḍhism, which I answered as kindly as I could. They thought the teaching was excellent, and as they had now no hopes except in a future life, they asked me to conduct a benedictory service for them during their life-time—a request to which I gave consent the more readily, because I was much fatigued and wished to recuperate. The old gentleman pressed me, indeed, to make a long stay of a year or more with him, but this I declined, as I feared running any risks in view of the many wild rumors about me that were being circulated throughout the Lo province. Furthermore I was afraid that, however warmly I might be clad, I should be unable to endure the severe rigors of a winter in those regions, for I had already been obliged to borrow two fur coats from my host, and still felt so cold that I was sure I could not winter in the tent. I was obliged therefore to resist his importunities.

One incident will show that my anxieties about my health were not groundless. One day while walking I felt a lump in my throat, which I brought up and found to be a clot of blood, and the bleeding, having once begun, went on with such persistence that I began to fear consumption. I was much alarmed, as may be imagined, but the excellent precepts of my religion enabled me to keep calm, and the more keenly I felt the pain of the bleeding, the more I kept myself under control. I sat down on the grass and stopped my respiration, as though for a meditation, and was glad to find that the bleeding soon ceased, though not before I had brought up quite a pool of blood. When I got home, my pale face quite alarmed my host, and when I told him what had happened, he said that the rarity of the atmosphere (he did not call it[215] ‘rarity,’ for of that he knew nothing) often had a similar effect upon Chinese visitors. He fortunately knew of a very good remedy, which he applied with great success, and thus relieved me of my fears of a supposed consumption. Three days later I again brought up blood, though in a decreased quantity, and the old gentleman told me that after two such vomitings I should never be similarly troubled again. He was quite right; henceforth I was free from these attacks, even at Lhasa. The place Bomba is 15,000 feet above the sea-level; Lhasa is only 12,000, and no one spits blood on account of the rarity of the atmosphere at this latter place. My host kindly fed me up with milk and other nourishing food, and when, a week later, I took my departure, he presented me with the fur of an animal called yi, which he said was the only thing that would do me any good. The yi is a sort of cat that lives in the snow. It is somewhat larger than an ordinary cat, and its fur is much valued in Tibet. My host’s present was a tippet of yi fur, covering the shoulders, and I learned afterwards that such a tippet would cost twenty-five yen when new, and ten yen for an old one. He also gave me a quantity of butter and ten tankas of coin, and sent his servant with a horse to put me well on my journey. Thus I travelled some ten Japanese miles and reached the house of one Ajo-pu, a village headman, where I lodged. I was very thankful that I had stayed with Gyal Bum, for had I spat blood on the journey I should have died.

I left Ajo-pu’s house on the 29th October, 1900, and after going ten ri to the south-east, down a descent, reached the banks of the Brahmapuṭra, which was already covered with ice and glittering in the dazzling sun. I had not originally intended to go by this way, but by the high-road, which would have taken me more to the east but Ajo-pu had told me that at this season I should find no[216] herdsmen along the high-road until I reached Tadun-Tazam, while by the other road I should come across them frequently. Sure enough, I found a tent on the banks of the Brahmapuṭra, and was hospitably received by its kind owner, a man of the name of Gyal-po. He told me that he was starting the next day along the same route that I was taking, and offered to take my baggage on one of his yaks. I was glad to be thus relieved of my burden, and the next morning we all set off towards the south-east along the river.

It was a sandy swampy country, and after some four ri (ten miles) we came to a plain of soft white sand which was very tiring to the feet, so that I thankfully accepted Gyal-po’s offer of a bare-backed horse. I am not a good horseman, but I trotted on bravely for a while, till the pain in my hip-bone became unbearable. Then I changed my position and rode sideways, like a lady, but then my legs began to hurt me, so I jumped off at last and resumed my journey on foot. It was very hard walking, but I consoled myself with thinking that, at any rate, I had no luggage to carry, and so after a weary walk of five miles I came to a narrow cañon through which the river flowed.

Through this defile we went, threading our way among the numerous rocks, until at last we came to a place where three great rocks, in shape like a man’s clenched fist, blocked the valley. Here the river made a sharp turn to the south, while our road lay through a valley to the south-east; so we bid adieu to the Brahmapuṭra. Presently we crossed a big mountain and came out on an extensive plain. We had travelled nearly twenty miles that day, and near the close of it I separated from Gyal-po’s party. I was told that evening that there was another river for me to cross before I got to Tadun-Tazam, and that as it was full of perils I must hire a guide. This I did, and the next day, after walking for fifteen miles towards the south-east,[217] arrived about ten o’clock at a river a hundred and twenty yards wide, which was still covered with ice. The guide was afraid that the ice, which was not thick enough to bear us, would cut our legs if we attempted to wade through it, and on his advice we waited for the sun to melt it a little. We therefore took our lunch, and at last about noon broke the ice and began to wade across. The ice cut our legs in several places, and our feet were quite benumbed with cold by the time we had got across; but we walked on for another eighteen miles, and then stopped for the night in a little tent.

The next day, November 1, I started at nine o’clock and walked till a little past noon, when we crossed another icy rivulet. Twelve miles more brought us to Tadun, the most famous temple in northern Tibet. Tadun means the ‘seven hairs,’ and the tradition is that the hair of seven Buḍḍhas are interred here. The temple stands on the summit of a hill, and in its enclosure is a revenue office. It is in fact not a temple but a town (Tazam), one of the most populous and wealthy in northern Tibet.
Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:38 am

CHAPTER XXXVI. War Against Suspicion.

I spent the whole of November 2nd, 1900, at the temple seeing its treasures and images. The place was just sixty miles north of Tsarang in the province of Lo in the Himālayas, and was frequented by merchants from the latter. I did not know this fact, and after I had seen the treasures I was walking round the temple, when to my astonishment I was accosted by an old acquaintance. He was a notorious drunkard and gambler, feared even by the natives of the Himālayas. While I was in Lo he used to accuse me of being a British spy. When, however, a member of his family became sick I gave him medicines, and this act of kindness of mine softened down his bitterness against me, though it was evident that he intended to take the first opportunity to quarrel with me. On the present occasion it was clear that should I take no notice of him. He would denounce me to the Tibetan Government and obstruct the execution of my object; so I decided upon a plan of campaign. Approaching him with a smile, I said I was delighted to see an old acquaintance. I was myself a teetotaller, I added, but I had heard it stated that the place had very good liquor. I would treat him to the best to be obtained in the place if he did not object to coming to my room. He accepted my invitation at once.

Ordering my landlord to bring a large quantity of the best liquor I plied him with drink until four in the morning. I did not take anything myself, but made believe to be drunk. After many glasses I got him dead drunk, and he fell asleep. I also pretended to sleep. But as soon as the landlord awoke at about half past five, I also rose and told him that the man lying there was a dear friend of mine, and that[219] I would have him treated with the best liquor whenever he awoke, and that he was never to let him go out of the house. If he should ask for my whereabouts, he was to be told that I had gone towards Tsarang. With these orders I paid my bills, tipped the landlord liberally, and set out on my journey at six o’clock.

I did not of course go towards Tsarang, but took the highway running to Lhasa. Yet my fears were not quite pacified, for the man I had to deal with was noted for his shrewdness even among the Himālayans. He would not only doubt the words of the landlord, but would suspect my reasons for plying him with liquor, and would inform the Tibetan revenue officials of my escape towards Lhasa. In the event of the mounted officials giving chase to me, it would be all in vain for me to walk as I was doing. What I wished with all my heart, even at the cost of all my money, was to get a horse or to hire a man to carry my luggage. But the plain being absolutely deserted, my desire was in vain. I was hastening along the highway to the south-east, when a large body of horsemen came galloping up from behind.

It was a caravan of eighty or ninety horses and sixteen men. I stopped one of them, and asked him to tie my luggage on to one of the horses, for which trouble I would pay, and to allow me to run behind them. The man was a servant, and could not give me any definite answer. I approached another man, who seemed to be the master and brought up the rear, with a similar petition. He said that he was not able to comply with my request for the present. But as the party was stopping that night in a valley between the two hills which were visible ahead, he advised me to push on, hard though the work might be, and wait there till some arrangements could be made. I took his advice and summoned up all my courage to reach those hills. At eight o’clock I reached the mountain slope an[220]d found two big white tents. The chief and second chief of the caravan seemed to be Lamas, the caravan itself having a religious appearance. They offered me tea and meat, but I said I did not eat any meat and gave my reasons for not doing so. The Lama was apparently interested by my explanation, and asked me where I had come from. I said I was a Chinese priest. The Lama thereupon spoke to me in Chinese, which he seemed to understand a little. I told him that his Chinese was the Pekin dialect, which I could not understand, and so our conversation was held in Tibetan. He then produced some Chinese characters and made me read and explain them, and until I had satisfied him in this connexion he did not believe in my being a Chinaman.

I learned then that he was the Lama of a temple called Lhuntubu-chœ-ten in the province of Luto on the north-western frontier of Tibet, near to Ladak on the eastern border of Kashmīr. The first Lama was named Lobsang Gendun, and the second Lobsang Yanbel. The man who advised me to go there was the Tsongbon, or chief of the caravan, and acted as the business manager for these Lamas. The rest of the party were either monks or servants. They carried dried pears, raisins, silk, woollen goods and other products of Kashmīr to Lhasa, whence they brought home tea, Buḍḍhist pictures and images. They were a very good company, and a very convenient one for me, if I could get them to carry my luggage through this vast pastoral plain of Jangthang; but I did not wish them to accompany me as far as Lhasa.

The Lama interrogated me as to the kind of Buḍḍhism I had learned and the things I knew, and put before me many questions about Tibetan Buḍḍhism. Happily, as I have already stated, I had been fully instructed in Tibetan Buḍḍhism while at Tsarang by Dr. Gyaltsan, and had studied the grammar with special care; so that not only was I[221] able to answer the questions quite easily, but I could explain many things on the subject that these Lamas did not know. He was greatly surprised, and asked me hundreds of questions in grammar, which he seemed to have been studying, though without any insight. Without the help of scientific analysis, which seems impossible for persons in these countries, one cannot fully understand the grammar. As I proceeded with the explanation of the subject, he proposed that I should accompany the party, and said that they rode until two o’clock in the afternoon every day, but that after that hour they always had plenty of leisure, during which he wished to learn grammar. Moreover, he offered to pay me suitable fees and give me food during the journey, if I would consent to his request. This was just what I was longing for; even if he paid me no fee, I should have been glad to comply with his wish.

When I awoke at four the next morning the party were making tea on a fire of dry yak dung. Presently everybody was up, and seven or eight men went out to collect the mules and horses, which had been left during the night to find pasture for themselves. These animals often wander over the mountains, and it will take at least one hour to bring them back, and at times three hours. But these horses did not try to get away from the men who went to fetch them, for they knew that they would be well fed with beans as soon as they reached the tents and before being loaded. The meal served to the caravan consisted chiefly of the flesh of sheep, yaks and goats, and occasionally pork. The grooms had thus to catch and feed the horses, strike the tents, load them on the horses, harness the horses for their own use, and drive up their own especial charges. My companions were sixteen in number, fifteen of whom rode, and one walked. The latter was going to Lhasa for the purpose of prosecuting his studies, and was in[222] company with the caravan simply for the reason that they came from the same province. He and I, being pedestrians, took tea before the caravan packed its effects, and left the place in a south-easterly direction.

My walking companion was a pedantic scholar. He had a very high opinion of himself, but he knew nothing of the essential principles of Buḍḍhism, nor did he recognise the existence of any sectional differences. It seemed as if he had only a vague notion of the doctrines. I was glad to have his company, such as it was, but he vexed me greatly by his evident animosity towards me, which unfortunately grew more violent as time progressed. The cause of this animosity was, as I learned afterwards, the fact that I had explained on a previous evening the Tibetan grammar, which, scholar though he was, was all untrodden ground to him. He was of opinion that the knowledge of grammar, unaccompanied by that of true Buḍḍhism, was a worthless acquisition, which only fools would take the trouble to make. As his manner disclosed his jealousy, I treated him with circumspection.

On that day we passed over a large hill and spent the night at a swampy place, after having walked nearly twenty miles in all. A lecture on grammar was again given, by request. On the 5th, I again walked in company with the pedantic monk. After we had arrived at Lhasa he fell into a destitute condition, and I, being then in happier circumstances, did all I could to help him. But this occurred long afterwards. During the journey, after some interesting conversation was held in connexion with religious questions, the monk applied himself to the work of systematically investigating my personality. Apparently he suspected that I was an Englishman, or at least a European, on account of my complexion, and his suspicion speedily grew into conviction. But as his questions did[223] not soar above what I had expected, I was able to reply in a manner which dissipated his doubts. After we had traversed the desert for five miles, we again reached the Brahmapuṭra, and a thaw having set in at that time, we found the water was flowing on smoothly. The clashing sound of the blocks of ice was inspiriting, and the sun was beautifully reflected on the surface of the river. We walked eastward along the bank for about seven miles, and then, leaving the river, walked in a north-easterly direction by an up-hill road along the Brahmapuṭra for another seven miles. Then we crossed the river on horseback. A post-town called Niuk-Tazam stood a little to the north on the river bank, but we did not visit it. We travelled two miles and a half in an easterly direction and encamped on the slope of a hill. That day I walked about twenty three miles. Until we had come to the neighborhood of a town called Lharche the caravan which I accompanied avoided stopping in towns, for the grass on which their horses fed was not to be found abundantly in such places.

That night I felt for the first time safe from the man whom I had left behind at Tadun, which was now sixty-five miles off. I felt that it had been most fortunate that he had not awaked from his drunken sleep until it was too late for him to inform the authorities of my presence, for if he had had the least suspicion of my escape, he would not have missed the opportunity for making money, enough to enable him to indulge himself in a good bout of drinking.

The usual lessons in the Tibetan grammar and Buḍḍhism over, the suspicious monk, who posed for a learned scholar, suddenly addressed me, saying that having been in India, I must have seen Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, who explored Tibet. I replied that I did not know him, even by name. There were three hundred millions of people in India, and however famous a man might be, he must always be unknown to some. There was a great difference between India and[224] Tibet, and I asked to hear something about the man the monk referred to. The monk then narrated how Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, twenty-three years ago, had cheated the Tibetan authorities with a passport; how he had robbed Tibet of her Buḍḍhism, with which he had returned to India; how on the discovery of the affair, the greatest scholar and sage in Tibet, Sengchen Dorjechan, had been executed, not to mention many other priests and laymen who were put to death and many others whose property was confiscated.

After this the monk added that as Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās was a renowned personage in India, it was impossible for me not to be acquainted with him. Probably I pretended not to know him. These words were spoken in a most unpleasant manner, but I put him off with a smile, saying that I had never seen the face of the Queen of England, who was so renowned, and that such a big country as India made such investigations hopeless. The stories about Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās are quite well known in Tibet, even children being familiar with them; but there are few who know him by his real name, for he goes by the appellation of the ‘school bābū’ (school-master). The story of the Tibetans who smuggled a foreigner into Tibet and were killed, and of those who concealed the fact from the Government and forfeited their property, are tales that Tibetan parents everywhere tell to their children.

Owing to the discovery of the adventures of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās, all the Tibetans have become as suspicious as detectives, and exercise the greatest vigilance towards foreigners. I was fully acquainted with these facts, so that I too exercised great caution even in dropping a single word, however innocent and empty that word might be. But the Tibetans were very cunning questioners; and the monk was one of the most cunning. When I tried to laugh away his questions, he put other queries on every imaginable point. Other Tibetans who were[225] equally suspicious joined him in harassing me. I felt for the moment just as though I were besieged by an overwhelming force of the enemy. I thought myself in danger, and with the view of changing the subject of the conversation I turned the tables on them by asking them which they revered more, the Buḍḍha or Lobon Rinpoche, the founder of the old religion of Tibet. There is a saying in Tibet: “Padma Chungne is superior to Buḍḍha,” Padma Chungne meaning “born from the Lotus,” the founder of Lamaism. This question is an old one, and one about which Tibetans are never tired of disputing, so when this subject was introduced a most violent debate was started, and no one questioned me any more about my personality.

But the incident was sufficient to put me on my guard. The Mongols have a saying “Semnak Poepa,” meaning “black-hearted Tibetans.” Tibetans are extremely inquisitive, and one of their characteristics is to conceal their anger behind a smile, and to bide their time for vengeance. The word, ‘Poepa’ means Tibetans, and they call their own country ‘Poe’. They do not know that their country is called Tibet. ‘Poe’ means in Tibetan ‘to summon’. The founders of that country, according to the tradition, were a man of the name of Te-u Tonmar (red-faced monkey) and a woman named Tak Shimmo (stone she-devil). The former was the incarnate God of Mercy, and the latter the incarnate Yogini, who induced Te-u Tonmar to be her husband. To them were born six sons, whom they summoned into being, respectively, from the six quarters of the universe: namely: Hell, Hunger, Animalism, Asura (fighting demon), Humanity and Heaven. Thus the Tibetans called their country ‘the summoned’ or ‘Poe’. This tradition was perhaps fabricated by some inventive Lama, for the purpose of connecting Tibetan religion with Buḍḍhism. But it is a tradition which is believed by the natives. The[226] Hinḍūs do not call this country by the name of Tibet. They call it Boḍha, one of the meanings of which is ‘knowing’ or ‘idea’. It is not known how they came to call Tibet Boḍha, but according to their scholars Poe is a contraction of Boḍha. The Hinḍūs have another name for Tibet, namely, the country of ‘Hungry Devils’. This is clear even from the fact that Paldan Aṭīsha invented, as I have already mentioned, the name of Preṭapurī (town of hungry devils). Tibet has many other names which deserve study, but which are too peculiar to be expounded. At all events the ‘pa’ of Poepa means men, so that Poepa means the Tibetans.
Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:39 am

CHAPTER XXXVII. Across the Steppes.

On November 6th, 1900, we took our way to the south-east, and marched up and down several rolling hills, till after walking more than twenty miles we reached the foot of a great snow-covered peak and lodged there. On the 7th we again climbed up and down the spurs of the Himālayas for a distance of over five miles, and arrived at the Chaksam Tsangbo (river of the iron bridge). It was no fine suspension bridge, but an iron rope, fastened to the rocks on either side, by which travellers crossed the river hand over hand, and which gave the river its name. For I heard that there is in the vicinity of Lhasa another iron bridge, which consists of two iron chains, by means of which one can very comfortably pass over the river. The bridge over the Chaksam does not now exist; but the name of the river of the iron bridge seems to have been derived from the fact that it was crossed by one of these iron ropes, though which kind it was is more than I can say. The river had a tremendously rapid current, thickly strewn with blocks of ice; but I easily crossed it on my horse. Then we had to travel through a plain between the hills, which were generally bare and devoid of vegetation except when there was a swamp where grasses were seen growing. The scene was exceedingly dismal, and there was nothing to relieve the eye. We went on for some four miles, and came to a rivulet, and at the end of another four miles arrived at a castle called Sakka Zong. We lodged beside a swamp on the west of the castle, which stands upon the summit of a hill. The style of its architecture differs not much from that of a temple, though it presents a certain martial aspect. There were no regular[228] troops stationed there. When needed the people in that vicinity, some two hundred in number, take up arms. I was told that the year before last a tribe on the northern plain had made an attack on this locality, with the result that the latter lost twenty or thirty men and about two thousand yaks. The trouble was still pending as a subject of litigation. Thus the castle seems to be a fortification against the attacks of roaming tribes, though it also has a revenue office in it. That day we travelled some fifteen miles, and the evening was spent in my lecture on grammar, as were many succeeding evenings.

The following day, after we had travelled eight miles, we passed the southern fort, on a snow-clad mountain called Chomo-Lhari. Then we travelled five miles more in a south-easterly direction, and encamped for the night. Nothing occurred worthy of mention.

On the 9th we travelled for seventeen miles along the same lonely mountain-pass leading to the south-east, and reached a valley in which we observed an exceedingly large animal ahead of us. This strange beast resembled a yak, though there was no doubt that it was not an ordinary yak. On asking its name, I was informed that it was what the Tibetans called a dongyak (wild yak). Its size was twice or three times that of the domesticated animal, and it stood about seven feet high. It was smaller than the elephant, but its eyes looked dangerous. Its horns measured twenty-five inches in circumference and five feet in length. These measurements were taken afterwards at Lhasa, where I saw the horns of a wild yak. It is described as graminivorous; when it becomes angry it will attack men or animals with its horns, often inflicting fatal injuries. Its tongue is extremely rough and anything licked by the animal would be torn to pieces. Once I saw the dried and very large tongue of a young dongyak, which was being used as a brush for horses.


An honest fellow in the party asked me to prophesy, by my art of divination, whether that night was to be passed in safety or not. I thought he was afraid of the dongyak, but the truth was not so. He pointed to a place a little below the slope, and said that in the preceding year six merchants had been killed by robbers there. He was therefore going to keep watch that night, and wished to know whether robbers were coming. In order to pacify him, I said that nothing of the kind was going to take place that night. But the features of the place were anything but agreeable, as may be guessed from the fact that the dongyak was quite at home there. The night was, however, spent without any accident. The following day we travelled over the steppes for a distance of fifteen miles, and again lodged near a swamp; we always preferred swampy places for lodging, on account of the abundant grass.

On the 11th we travelled again for fifteen miles, and on the 12th crossed a steep pass called Kur La, seven miles in length, and walked seventeen miles eastwards, lodging again beside a swamp. It was about that time that a change for the better came over the relations between the pedantic monk and myself. Proud as he was, he seems to have thought that hostility could not be maintained without serious loss to himself, as the majority of the party had come to entertain a sincere love for and confidence in me. He approached me with a kindly face, which could not be repelled; whatever his motives may have been, it would have been very ill-advised for me to quarrel with him, so I reciprocated his kindness, with the result that our relations became perfectly smooth, and I was glad to get rid of the fear that he might inform the Tibetan authorities of his suspicions about me.

The following day, November 13th, we passed over two long slopes, and the night was spent at the foot of a steep and rugged mountain. On the morrow we proceeded about seven and a half miles in a south-easterly direction, along a river flowing between rocks. A gentle slope of about twelve miles was then accomplished, and the night was spent on the bank of the river. On the 15th we proceeded further to the south-east along the river-side route. When five miles were covered, we came out upon a plain, which we crossed in an easterly direction. A journey of about seven and a half miles over the plain brought us to a post-town called Gyato Tazam, where I found a far greater number of stone buildings than at any other post-town I had visited en route. I was informed that the inhabitants of the town numbered about four hundred, representing sixty families. The people differed much from the nomadic population found in the Jangthang which we had visited before, something of urbanity being visible in their manners. While the nomads are so rude and vulgar[231] that, whenever they speak, they speak bluntly, without any regard to the persons addressed, the inhabitants of Gyato Tazam have a more refined tone in their language, though it is of course modified by the local dialect. After making some purchases in the town, we resumed our journey. Wending our way about five miles into a mountain region, we reached the bank of a stream, where we decided to pass the night.

Being the middle of November it was pretty cold, but fortunately my companions proved themselves so obliging that, on our arrival there, they went to the trouble of gathering a great mass of yak-dung, which was burnt within the tent throughout the night. As I gave them lectures on Tibetan grammar, the head priest of the party and a junior Lama were very hospitable towards me and provided me with bedding, so that I felt no cold at all. The following day, after proceeding a little less than fifteen miles over two long steep slopes, we found ourselves on the edge of a plain. We went about four miles further, and found in the centre of the plain a temple standing upon two large pillar-like rocks, which stood together and towered high into the sky. As these rocks alone are 360 yards high, the entire height may well be imagined. The temple is called the Sesum Gompa, and belongs to one of the old schools of Lamaism. Passing under the temple, we proceeded further and reached a marsh lying to the east, where we stopped for the night.

The following day we made a journey of about twenty miles through a mountain district situated to the south-east, at the end of which journey we found ourselves at a post-town called Sang Sang Tazam. We did not take lodging in the town, but encamped upon a plain in the eastern suburb, where we made as big a fire as we could, and yet felt pretty cold, especially late at night. We awoke in the morning to find ourselves completely frost-bound;[232] indeed I wondered, at first sight, if it had not snowed during the night. Thereupon I produced a short uta, which may be rendered into English thus:

How beautiful
It is to see grass dead, but blooming yet
With frost, upon a high plateau.
Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: Three Years in Tibet, by Ekai Kawaguchi

Postby admin » Tue Dec 10, 2019 4:39 am

CHAPTER XXXVIII. Holy Texts in a Slaughter-House.

Heading in a south-easterly direction as before, we proceeded about four miles, now over hills and then across moorland, and arrived at the base of a mountain, where there stood three buildings. A strange sensation came over me when I saw dozens of sheep’s hides dangling from the eaves of these buildings. Nor was that all. They were also in the habit, so I was told, of butchering yaks on the premises. It is the custom of the Tibetans, I was told, to butcher cattle towards the latter part of autumn, and dry the meat for preservation, there being no fear of decomposition, owing to the cold climate of the country. The Tibetans esteem this dried meat as quite a luxury, and claim that it is the best food in the world. Not infrequently I heard people speak anxiously about their stocks of preserved meat in summer. I was told that autumn was the best time for killing cattle, because they yielded excellent meat after their feast upon the rich summer grass. Tibetans, however, dare not slaughter animals in their own villages, or near their tents, and the three buildings in question are used as a common slaughter-house by neighboring inhabitants. Generally the slaughter is not carried out on behalf of a single individual or family, but of the whole village. The beasts butchered on the day we visited the place included two hundred and fifty sheep and goats, and thirty-five yaks. Of the latter, fifteen were despatched after our arrival there. They told me that the cries of the yak were very strange, and invited me to witness the scene of the slaughter. What cruelty! how could I bear to see it? Desirous, however, of knowing something about the operations, I stood and[234] watched the spectacle. Sadly and slowly a yak was conducted into the yard, two men pushing the animal on from behind. As soon as the proper point was reached, the legs of the poor creature were tied, and tears were seen standing in its eyes, as if it were conscious of its impending death as soon as it found itself in the pool of blood left by its companions. The scene was indeed unbearable. I wished I had money enough to redeem their lives, but I could see no help for it. Just then a priest came in, Holy Texts in hand, and read them for the doomed animal, on whose head the book and a rosary were placed. The natives believe that this religious proceeding will enable the poor yak to enter into a new state of existence and also absolve the doer of the cruel deed from the evil consequences which might otherwise follow. I hoped so, too, but even the Holy Texts read by the priest were now too much for my endurance. A flood of tears came into my eyes, and I could no longer stand the ghastly spectacle, but ran indoors. Presently, thump! something fell outside the doors; alas! the poor creature was beheaded. The natives handle a sharp knife so dexterously, that a single blow with it is said to be sufficient to finish the deadly work.

The blood gushing forth from the body of the dead beast was received in a pail, and afterwards boiled down into a kind of food said to be very delicious. When desirous to obtain this food, the Tibetans often draw blood even from the bodies of living yaks; this is done by means of a gash made in the neck of the poor beast, wide enough to cause a flow of the blood, but not to kill it. The blood taken in this way is said to yield much less delicious food than that obtained from the slaughtered animal. I then thought that the scene was the very extreme of cruelty, but afterwards found that I had been miserably mistaken, for I observed during my subsequent[235] residence at Lhasa that more than fifty thousand sheep, goats and yaks were slaughtered there during the three months ending in December every year.

But to return to my itinerary. Leaving the scene of this tragedy, we had to proceed up a very steep slope about nine miles long, and then down another, seven and a half miles long. At the end of the latter distance we found a river, on the banks of which we passed the night. The next day, November 19th, we skirted the base of a mountain (upon which there stood a big temple of the Old School, called the Tasang Gompa) until we reached the bank of a river where we encamped for the night. On the 20th we made a journey of five miles, again in a mountain region, at the end of which we found ourselves at a village called Larung, which was situated on the western shore of a lake bearing the name of Manuyui Tso. It was about twelve miles in circumference, and appeared to be very deep. For the first time during my journey, I observed in this village patches of wheat-fields, dotted with cottages.
Site Admin
Posts: 33223
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Ancien Regime

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests