Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/396

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By Mr. Cecil Polhill, China Inland Mission.

The land of seclusion and mystery; of vast plains at immense altitudes; the last country to open its doors to the world's commerce, or to the messenger of the Gospel, no wonder Tibet excites the world's fascination and interest. It is the marvel of the twentieth century that a country larger in area than France, 1600 miles from east to west, 700 miles (at its broadest part on the east) from north to south, should thus be able to remain fast sealed to the outer world.

One of the chief reasons for this isolation lies in the physical configuration of the country, the extraordinary height of the wild uplands of the interior, only rivalled by the still more mighty heights which form a majestic rampart surrounding the whole territory. Southward are the Indian Himalayas, westward their continuation, and then the Karakorums, etc.; northward the Kuen-luen, Akka Tag, and Altan Tag; while eastward serried masses, range upon range of mountains, separate Tibet from China.

Southern Tibet is traversed throughout for 1300 miles, almost its entire length, by the river Tsangpo, which river finally enters India, and probably loses itself in the mighty Brahmaputra. Along the valley of this river reside the larger part of the population of Tibet; the villages and small towns are numerous, and Lhasa lies only 18 miles to the north of its banks, at an altitude of over 13,000 feet. It is constantly navigated.