Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/177

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TACHIENLU

dogged by a throng of men and boys. Chinese soldiers were much in evidence, for this is naturally an important military post as well as the forwarding depot for the troops stationed along the great western trade route to Batang and Lhasa. The Chinese population under their protection, numbering some four hundred families, mostly traders, looked sleek and prosperous. Evidently they made a good living off the country, unlike the Tibetans who were generally dirty and ragged and poor in appearance. I must confess that I was disappointed at the latter. In spite of their hardy, muscular aspect and bold bearing, I did not find them attractive as do most travellers. They lacked the grotesque jollity of the Ladakhis of Western Tibet, their cousins in creed and race, and I met nothing of the manly friendliness which marked the people of Mongolia whom I had to do with later. Never have I seen men of more vicious expression than some I met in my strolls about Tachienlu, and I could well believe the stories told of the ferocity shown by the lamas along the frontier. Very likely the people are better than their priests, but if so, their looks belie them. There is rarely a man — or a people — so low as to lack a defender, and it is a pleasing side to the white man's rule in the East, that if he be half a man he is likely to stand up for the weak folk he governs. It may be due to pride of ownership, or it may be the result of a knowledge born of intimate