Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/317

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253
THE MONGOLIAN GRASSLAND

but a scanty population of less than three millions. On the northern and southern borders a few among the people have adopted the settled ways of the Chinese; but elsewhere they live as their fathers lived before them, their fields the land where the flocks are grazing, their home the spot where the yurts are temporarily set up. Nomads they are, but within definite limits, moving no long distance nor very often. Over them rule their native princes or khans, subject, up to last year, nominally to China; but Chinese interference has mostly been confined to the exaction of a tribute—and a good part of that stuck to the fingers of the princes through whose hands it passed—and to occasional demand for police or military service. The head of the Chinese administration is or was the Amban at Urga, and his duties seemed to consist in looking after the Chinese traders there and keeping a watchful eye on the Living Buddha, the spiritual and maybe now the political head of Mongolia. But in spite of his many rulers, or perhaps because of them, the Mongol seems to know little of the evils or benefits of government. It is far away, it does little for him, but in turn its demands are small.

The Mongol's wealth consists in his herds; horses, cattle, sheep, camels. In our sense he owns no land, but if he digs a well, which, I believe, he rarely does, he has certain rights over it, and his claims to the water and grass near his yurt should be respected.