Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/315

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251
THE MONGOLIAN GRASSLAND

of silver and set with bright stones, turquoise, and coral, encircled the head, and from this hung long chains and pendants falling to the shoulders. This is the woman's dowry, with which she never parts, wearing it apparently day and night. The women themselves, in spite of the dirt, were good-looking; fine eyes, rather good though heavy features, a skin darkened by the sun and wind, gave them the look of peasants of southern Europe. In bearing they were much gayer and more unconstrained than the Chinese.

Mongolia, the land of many names, with a great past and perhaps with a future, but to-day merely a pawn in the world's game, is a great plateau rising some four thousand feet above the sea, the eastern extension of the T'ien-Shan, or "Heavenly Mountains." It stretches east and west nearly two thousand miles, but its north and south width is only about nine hundred. In the central part of the plateau is a huge depression which the Mongol calls Gobi, the "Desert," or Shamo, the "Great Sand," and the Chinese, Han-Hai, or "Rainless Sea." To the north the high land rises and breaks into the wooded hills and mountains of the Altai Range, and there are many streams, most of them finding their way sooner or later into the Amur. To the south the land rolls in great grassy waves up to the foot of the mountain barrier along the Chinese frontier, but