Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/357

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285
URGA, THE SACRED CITY

foreign people the Mongol knows are the Russians, and as a rule he seems to get on with them rather well, although a Russian official told me he doubted if there was much to choose between the Chinese and the Russian traders; both fleeced the poor nomad. However, European onlookers, who know Mongolia well, declare that if it came to war between China and Russia, the Mongols would take sides, — and with the Russians.

When I was in Urga there was much talk among the Chinese about the railway that was surely coming, and the Kalgan officials said the same thing. One only wonders that it was not done half a dozen years ago; there are no serious difficulties. Once outside the Great Wall, the rails could be laid down on the top of the ground almost as fast as a man could walk. Only as you approach Urga, north of the desert, would there be much in the way of bridging and embanking. And it would soon pay for itself, for the millions of taels' worth of trade done between North Mongolia and China would easily be doubled if once freed from the handicap of the costly and uncertain journey of to-day. But more important than all else is the political side of the question. The Chinese Government must have known for years that its hold on North Mongolia was insecure; it has pushed forward colonization by the Chinese with much more than its usual vigour, and, given time, that would