Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/31

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ENCOUNTERS WITH CHINESE SOLDIERS.

11

protection against Dungans. In the district between the towns of Ning-hia-fu and Bautu the number of these troops is estimated at seventy thousand, although numerous desertions are said to have dimi- nished this army to one-half of its nominal strength. The soldiers are so demoralised that they do nothing but plunder the inhabitants, who look upon them as terrible scourges. The Mongols often told us that they had more cause to dread the presence of their defenders, the Chinese soldiers, than that of the Dungans, because the latter ' robbed them once for all, and had done with it, but the soldiery kept con- tinually looting.'

Even we had some disagreeable encounters with the Chinese soldiers. Once they tried to take possession of our camels ; on another occasion two soldiers ordered us to draw water out of a well for their horses. But the rascals were punished as they deserved, and left us somewhat crestfallen.

Near the mountains we saw the old channel of the Hoang-ho (Ulan-khatun), which is 1,190 feet wide, and very distinctly discernible, although com- pletely dry and grass-grown. The Mongols told us that this desiccated river-bed separated from the present Hoang-ho at the point where the sand-drifts of Ordos crossed into Ala-shan ; the old channel passes close to the mountains for a considerable dis- tance, then taking a sharp turn it unites with the present river near the western extremity of the Munni-ula.

There are two lesser arms between the former