Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/344

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CHAPTER XIV

URGA, THE SACRED CITY

URGA the Sacred City, the home of the Gigin, the Living God, third in the Buddhist hierarchy, is not so much one city as three, all located on a high ridge above the Tola. Each is distinct, separate, entrenched. Arriving from the south, the one you reach first is Mai-ma-chin, the Chinese trading settlement, a tangle of small houses and narrow lanes hemmed in by stockades of wooden slabs and unbarked fir trees. Here are the eight or ten thousand Chinese who control the trade of North Mongolia. Apparently they make a good living, for there is a prosperous bustle about the place, and as you pick your way over the mud and filth of the streets, through open doorways you catch glimpses of courts gay with flowers and gaudily decorated houses such as the well-to-do Chinese build. But for the most part dull blank walls shut you out—or in. The Chinese is an unwelcomed alien in Mongolia, and he knows it.

A strip of waste, treeless land, bare of everything save a group of "chortens," that look like small pagodas, and a few yurts and sheds, separates Mai-