Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/545

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531
THE TOPMOST COUNTRY OF THE EARTH.

the better class the only means provided for the family to reach the upper stories are split trunks of trees, with notches for steps cut in the round side. The rooms are dark and gloomy, well ventilated through the half-stopped chinks in the walls, with a fire in the middle of the floor, and light bunks or the floor itself for beds, but innocent of any other furniture except a low table and two or three skin mats; chairs and benches are known only by hearsay. The only roof is a flat platform over the rooms, on which the crops are spread in dry weather and the inhabitants sun themselves in the winter, and where a shrine of Buddha is often erected. The nomadic, cattle-raising Thibetans live in tents, which they weave from the hair of their domestic animals.

The Thibetans are pleasantly disposed, and intercourse with them would be cordial and agreeable were not the free development of their natural traits restricted by the pressure of their religion. Frank and hearty in word and deed and in everything that is not connected with religion, generous in intercourse and in trade with the crafty Chinese, they always come out second best when they have dealings with them. They are brave soldiers and feared as such, but are never cruel. The men are fond of gymnastic exercises, and try their strength together at every opportunity. They are excellent pedestrians and horsemen, and are extravagantly proud if they can boast of having the best horse in the place. As porters they have wonderful powers of endurance. While we Europeans, suffering in the thin air of an elevation of seventeen thousand feet, had to stop often to recover our breaths, I could not but envy our Thibetan bearers, who kept on up the heights with their heavy loads, as often as not singing. Their social intercourse is marked by sharp, sprightly wit and humor; but some of the upper classes ape the artificial courtly manners of the Chinese.

The principal food of the country is called jamba. To make it a quantity of powdered tea is cooked for several hours, after which it is poured into a churn, when salt and butter are added, and the whole is stirred till a complete mixture is effected. The broth is then divided among the hungry ones, each of whom gets his share in a wooden bowl, after which a sack of roasted barley-meal is brought out. Every one takes a handful of meal from the sack, puts it into the tea and mixes the mass into a shapely lump, and swallows his dough with a keen appetite. I have seen a Thibetan devour thirty-two of these lumps in an hour. The preparation of this meal makes it possible for each Thibetan to have his hands washed twice a day. After the meal is over, the wooden bowls are licked clean with the tongue, and worn on the breast next to the skin as something precious.

Polyandry is practiced, not on account of any lack of women, for there is no such lack, but as a measure of economy. When the eldest son marries, his wife becomes also the wife of all his brothers. The