Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/168

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124
A WAYFARER IN CHINA

that peered out from the shops were unmistakably of the Middle Kingdom. Groups of fierce-looking fellows, clad in skins and felt, strode boldly along, their dark faces bearing indelible marks of the hard, wild life of the Great Plateau. Many of them carried weapons of some sort, for the Chinese have scorned to disarm them. Among them walked impassively the blue-gowned men of the ruling race, fairer, smaller, feebler, and yet undoubtedly master. It was the triumph of the organizing mind over the brute force of the lower animal. Almost one man in five was a red-robed lama, no cleaner in dress nor more intelligent in face than the rest, and above the din of the crowd and the rush of the river rose incessantly weird chanting and the long-drawn wail of horns from the temples scattered about the town. Lamaism has Tachienlu in its grip, and I could have fancied myself back in Himis lamassery, thousands of miles away on the western frontier of Tibet. It was an extraordinarily picturesque scene, full of life and sound and colour.

Marco Polo described the territory lying west of Ya-chou as "Thibeth," and a century ago the Chinese frontier stopped at Tachienlu, but to-day Batang, a hundred and twenty-five miles to the west as the crow flies, is the western limit of Szechuan. In actual fact, however, direct administration by the Chinese stops at the Ta Tu, on the right bank of the river the people being governed by their tribal chiefs. Ta-