The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey/Mongolia
By the Editor.
Before dealing with Mongolia proper, it may be well to add a few words to what has been written by Mr. George Hunter in his article on Sinkiang, concerning that general geographical relationship which exists between all the vast tract of territory which constitutes the whole northern section of the central Asiatic plateau, lying between the Kuen-luen and the Altai mountain systems. Speaking somewhat roughly, it may be said that that country which extends from Pamir on the west to Manchuria on the east, and bounded by Siberia on the north and China proper on the south, is Mongolia in its widest sense.
Between the Gobi Desert of Mongolia proper and Taklamakan of Chinese Turkestan (called by some writers "Western Gobi or even Western Mongolia) lies a broad belt of country some three hundred miles wide, which is not desert to the same extent as the two deserts mentioned above, but is fairly well watered by the streams which flow from the Nan-shan and Tien-shan, on the south and north respectively. The explanation of this is by some thought to be that the inlet of the Bay of Bengal brings that portion of Central Asia nearer to the sea than elsewhere. This belt of country which unites China proper with the Tien-shan is of great importance to China, affording as it does the lines of communication from China to Kashgaria and Zungaria.
With the Pamir and Kuen-luen mountains on the west and south, and the Tien-shau mountains on the north, Kashgaria is shut in in a kind of horseshoe of mountains, while to the north of the Tien-shan, between those mountains and the Altai, there are three depressions through the mountains on the west—which run rather east and west than north and south—which give access to Asiatic Eussia and Europe. Along these routes have been those great migrations which have taken place in past history. These routes are:—
(1) That along the Black Irtish River, between the Ektag-Altai and the Tarbagatai mountains;
(2) That which passes the town of Chuguchak, which is the most frequented; and
(3) That which follows the beds of the Lakes Ayar, Ebi, and Ala, connecting with Lake Balkash.
For long the Chinese have called the road which runs to the south of the Tien-shan into Kashgaria "The South Road," and that which runs to the north of the same range into Zungaria "The North Road."
The strategic value of that belt of country mentioned above, which connects China proper with Western Mongolia, is easily recognised and has made these routes the scenes of many bloody struggles. Hami is said to be almost unrivalled in Asia as a strategic centre, any army proceeding either east or west needing to hold this place as a base for further progress; and what Hami is to the southern route, so Barkul is to the northern route into Zungaria, these two cities being united by only one good pass through the eastern extension of the Tien-shan.
Chinese Turkestan, or the Tarim basin, may be said to have four natural divisions: the highlands; the lowlands, lying between the mountains and desert; the desert itself, which is mostly an uninhabitable waste, sloping from 4000 feet altitude on the west to 2000 feet on the east; and lastly, the swamps of the Lakes Lob and Bagrash. Along the banks of the rivers which feed the Tarim the land is fertile, and both banks of the Yarkand are fringed by a belt of well-watered and well-wooded land, varying from seventeen to twenty miles in width.
Modern research has proved that, for long, desiccation—by which term a gradual climatic change within the period of human history is meant—has been proceeding in this region. On the desiccation of Chinese Turkestan a most interesting article appeared in the Geographical Journal for October 1906, in which article Mr. Ellsworth says:
"As a whole, the withering rivers show signs of having decreased in size during the last two or three thousand years, the evidence lying partly in diminished length, as shown by dead vegetation, and partly in diminished volume and increased salinity, as shown by ruins. . . . Thirteen of the seventeen larger rivers have on their lower courses the ruins of towns dating usually from the Buddhist era, a thousand or more years ago. The older ruins are situated so far out in the desert, or upon rivers so small or so saline, that it would be impossible again to locate towns of equal size in the same places."
"The phenomena of rivers, large and small, of springs, lakes, ruins, and vegetation all seem to point to a gradual desiccation of Chinese Turkestan for nearly 1500 miles east and west, and 500 miles north and south. All the more arid part of Asia, from the Caspian Sea eastwards for more than 2500 miles, appears to have been subject to a climatic change whereby it has been growing less and less habitable for the last two or three thousand years."
In 1900-1901 Dr. M. A. Stein was engaged in exploration in Chinese Turkestan, and his researches have conclusively proved that in this region there were formerly great centres of Buddhist culture some fifteen hundred and more years ago. Many of the curios which he brought home may be seen at the British Museum, and his observations—with photographs taken on the spot—are published in a book entitled Preliminary Report of a Journey of Archæological and Topographical Exploration in Chinese Turkestan. Some of the seals on exhibition at the British Museum are of great beauty, and are said to reveal Greek influence, being probably connected with the "Græco-Buddhist" art of India.
More recently, during 1906, Dr. Stein has made some further discoveries, and has found some excellently preserved large rolls of a Buddhistic work in Chinese, having on the covers what evidently is its translation into the "unknown" language of old Khotan. It is hoped that this may furnish the long-desired clue for the decipherment of this "unknown" language.
Zungaria, situated to the north of the Tien-shan, receives its name from the Zungars, who were a branch of the Kalmuks or Western Mongols. This tribe, early in the eighteenth century, rose to great power, their sovereign commanding as many as a million armed warriors. After three successive attacks, his army captured and sacked Lhasa in 1717, but they were finally overthrown and annihilated by the Chinese in 1757, a million persons, men, women, and children, having been put to the sword.
As has been mentioned above, the natural lines of communication between China and Europe run through the three depressions to the west of Zungaria; and Reclus, in his Standard Geography, says: "The future continental railway from Calais to Shanghai may be said to be already traced by the hand of nature through Zungaria, Kansu, Liangchow Fu to the Hwang-ho basin. Hence the importance attached by Russia to the approaches of this route, which they secured before consenting to restore the Kuldja district occupied by them during the Dungan insurrection."
Kuldja, which is wedged into the heart of the Central Tien-shan, is regarded by many as by far the richest land in the Chinese Empire, outside the limits of China proper. This country has also suffered from wars and massacres, the records of which are almost incredible. In the great rising of the Dungans (the native Mohammedans) and the Teranchi (colonists from the Tarim basin) against their Chinese oppressors, the Chinese and Manchus were massacred wholesale in 1865. Although the arrival of the Russians, who temporarily took possession of Kuldja, put an end to the bloodshed, it was not before the 2,000,000 inhabitants of the country had been reduced to 139,000. Kuldja is nevertheless more thickly populated than Zungaria, the latter country, which has an area five times greater than Kuldja, having only about double its population.
In 1882 these western countries—Kashgaria, Zungaria, Kuldja, with part of North-Western Kansu—were formed into the new province of Sinkiang. At Urumtsi, which has been chosen as the seat of government for this new province, the Chinese are building a new city, and showing much military activity to resist any possible Russian aggression, quite unaware, however, that that site is regarded by competent observers as indefensible. For further particulars concerning Sinkiang, see the article under that name by Mr. George Hunter.
Kokonor.—Before treating of Mongolia proper, a few words should be devoted to Kokonor, a district distinct both from Tibet and Sinkiang. From Tibet it is separated by a treble mountain barrier, and from Kansu and Sinkiang by the formidable Nan-shan.
Kokonor takes its name from the lake which occupies its centre, a lake from 220 to 240 miles in circumference, with an area varying from 2000 to 2500 square miles. From the colour of its waters this district is sometimes known by the Chinese as Tsing-hai or Blue Sea. The Tsaidam river is from 250 to 300 miles in length, and was 480 yards wide at the place where it was crossed by Prejvalsky. As with the Tien-shan and Altai mountains, the Nan-shan are also well wooded on their northern slopes, but not on the south. This is accounted for by the fact that the most humid atmospheric currents which reach them come from the Polar seas.
There are also many evidences even here that this drier region was formerly better inhabited than it is now, and the lake appears to have had more water in the past than at present. The population is now estimated at about 150,000. The peoples are Mongols and Tanguts, the latter, who are of Tibetan stock, but not polyandrous, being combative and oppressing the more peaceful Mongols. Their only occupation is stock-breeding. According to Prejvalsky the province is divided into twenty-nine banners, Sining in Kansu being the residence of the Chinese officials through whom the people communicate with the Imperial Government.
At times a little missionary work has been done in this region, Mrs. Dr. Rijnhart having, when visiting that country, engaged in medical mission work.
Mongolia proper is nearly as large as China proper, and, with Zungaria, Outer Kansu, and the Tarim basin, occupies about half the Chinese Empire. In a general way it may be described "as a vast plateau, slightly hollowed in the centre and rising gradually from the south-west to the north-east." The mean elevation on the west is 2600 feet, and on the east over 4000 feet.
It is bounded on the north by the Siberian provinces of Tomsk, Yeniseisk, Irkutsk, and Transbaikalia, the Altai and Sayan mountains ; on the east by Manchuria and the Khingan mountains; on the south by China, the Great Wall dividing two regions already separated by nature; and on the west by Sinkiang, Zungaria, and the Tien-shan.
Broadly speaking, Mongolia divides itself into three parts, though some, as Wells Williams, divide it into four: 1. North-Western Mongolia; 2, The Gobi; and 3. South-Eastern Mongolia.
North-Western Mongolia covers an area of nearly 370,000 square miles. According to Prince Kropotkin's article in the Encyclopædia Britannica, the altitude of this region nowhere falls below 2370 feet, the lowest area being around Ubsanor. Dr. A. H. Keane in his work on Asia gives the mean elevation as "probably not more than 2000 feet," to the western portion. Apart from some 7000 square miles around Ubsanor, the Encyclopædia Britannica states that the altitude of North-Western Mongolia ranges from 3000 to 4500 feet even in the river valleys and lower plains.
The chief mountains of this portion of Mongolia are, on the north-west the Eussian Altai; on the north-east the Western Sayans; on the south-west the Ektag- Altai, which form a true border range facing the Zungarian depression; and the Kentai on the south-east, which separate the higher terraces of North-Western Mongolia from the Lower Gobi. North-Western Mongolia is described as "a massive swelling of the earth's crust, representing the northern counterpart of the plateau of Tibet." It is well watered, and has a good many lakes, "the desiccating remains of much larger basins."
Its chief rivers are the Jabkan, the Yenisei, and the Selenga, the Orkhon, and the Tola, on which Urga stands. Its chief lakes are the Ubsa, one of the largest in the Empire, being 1200 square miles in extent, the Kobdo and Kara-ussa lakes. Owing to its high altitude North-Western Mongolia is very cold in winter. The yearly rainfall in Urga is only 9½ inches. The temperature varies from —18° Fahr. in January to 64° in July. The chief towns are Urga, Uliassutai, and Kobdo. The chief occupation is cattle-breeding, with the export of furs and the transport of goods.
The Gobi.—The Mongolian word "Gobi" and the Chinese "Shamo" mean "sandy desert." Its characteristic is an open, flat and undulating plain "covered with a hard coating of gravel from which the wind has swept the lighter particles of mud or sand." Richthofen accepts the Chinese term of Han-hai or Dry-sea, supposing this region to be the bed of a former Central-Asia Mediterranean, but two professional geologists, Bogdanovitch and Obrucheff, after traversing some 20,000 miles of the plain, have discovered only one fossil, and that points to a fresh-water origin rather than a sea.
In area the Gobi Desert is about 480,000 square miles, extending about 1000 miles from east to west, varying from 450 to 600 miles from north to south. It has no permanent streams, the north-west winds of winter having discharged their moisture on the Sayan slopes, and the south-east winds of summer having exhausted their humidity on the Khingan and In-shan heights. The temperature varies from the cold of Siberia to the heat of India, changes of temperature being exceedingly sudden, one traveller recording 68° Fahr. in the shade in the day and —18° Fahr. the same night.
On the east of the Gobi the Khingan mountains with their parallel ridges constitute a zone of nearly 100 miles wide, by which the Mongolian plateau drops south-east towards the lower plains of Manchuria. To the north-west of this zone there is another band of undulating tableland about 100 miles wide, well watered and well wooded.
In consequence of the altitude of the east of Mongolia, the Khingan mountains appear only about 1500 feet high on their western side, but much higher from the Manchurian aspect. The In-shan, in consequence of the plentiful supply of rain brought from the Gulf of Pechihli, are well wooded, though the Chinese are denuding these forests rapidly.
The Ordos, while physically and ethnically belonging to Mongolia, is separated from that country by the great sweep of the Yellow River. It is about 40,000 square miles in area, and has a mean elevation of 3500 feet, and is more arid than Mongolia. Jenghis Khan and some members of his family are reported to have been buried here. Although now one of the most inhospitable regions of the Gobi, there are evidences of buried cities and an earlier prosperity.
The Great Wall, which forms the southern boundary of Mongolia, has a total length of about 2000 miles, and is said to have a cubic capacity of four thousand millions of cubic feet of masonry. The eastern section from the Ordos to the Yellow Sea was rebuilt in the fifth century, and the portion north of Peking has been restored twice during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although useless now, it has doubtless served its purpose in the earlier ages of protecting the Chinese from Mongolian invasions. The present decadence of the warlike Mongols of mediæval history is astonishing.
South-Eastern Mongolia, or Inner Mongolia, is that part of Mongolia which lies on the eastern slopes of the Khingan mountains. Its characteristics are much the same as those of Mongolia elsewhere, only it is better watered and cultivated and of lower elevation. Its chief rivers are the tributaries of the Sungari on the north, and the Siramuren and Liao rivers on the south. The inhabitants of Inner Mongolia are divided into forty-nine families or clans called "Banners," as each clan has its own flag. Each Banner has its own chief, who is a descendant of Jenghis Khan and has hereditary dignity.
The Mongols of Inner Mongolia may be formed into two classes, the nomadic and the agricultural, the former being to the west and north, and the latter to the east and south. In addition to these, the Chinese from Shansi, Chihli, and Shantung have for long been emigrating into Mongolia, and pushing back the Mongols by their more vigorous policy. Although the Great Wall is the natural division of the two countries, the Chinese have burst through that division, and the whole region known to the Chinese by the name of Kow-wai or "Beyond the Gate" has been incorporated into the two provinces of Chihli and Shansi.
Sir F. Younghusband, in his book Through the Heart of a Continent, says: "I was astonished to see that, although we were now in Mongolia, the largest and best flocks were tended by and belonged to Chinese, who have completely ousted the Mongols in the very thing which above all others ought to be their speciality." The Rev. Alexander Williamson, in his book on Journeys in North China, Manchuria, and Eastern Mongolia, says: "In Mongolia cultivation makes a perceptible difference in a few years' time. Boreas yields to Ceres; for it has been observed that the warmth increases and the seasons lengthen as cultivation advances. It has been found by the Chinese, who have entered Mongolia as agriculturists, that crops which at first did not thrive, owing to the cold, after a few years yielded an excellent return." It would be an interesting study to investigate how far the desiccation of Chinese Turkestan, etc., has been caused by the devastating wars and rebellions which have made cultivation impossible.
Concerning the emigration of the Chinese to Inner Mongolia, Mr. C. W. Campbell, in a paper before the Royal Geographical Society in 1903, said: "Swarms of Chinese spread beyond the Great Wall, ousting the Mongols. In 1899 the Chinese settlers had reached a mile or so beyond Chagan-balgas; in 1903 I found them ploughing the virgin soil near Dbasum-nor, a pool which is ten miles farther north." The settlers who have been pouring in since the late war between Russia and Japan have been so many that the British and Foreign Bible Society has just appointed a foreign colporteur to work among them.
Concerning the population of Mongolia, it is extremely difficult to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. It is stated by some authorities to be only two and a half millions, by others as five millions (see Prince Kropotkin), and by others as much higher. Thus Dr. Williamson quotes Dr. Edkin as assigning the population of Inner Mongolia alone as ten millions, and he adds, "I should say that this is not far from the truth." Among such wide variations it is difficult to determine what to accept.
The limits of this article will not allow much to be said about the important but complicated story of the past history of the Mongols and other races who have inhabited Mongolia. Suffice it to say that the discovery of Turkish-Chinese bilingual slabs has proved that the Hiung-nu, whom the Great Wall was built to resist, were of the same race as the Turks of A.D. 500, and that during the migrations an alphabet of Syriac origin was introduced into Mongolia which is the basis of the present Mongolian writing. For the story of the rise of Jenghis Khan and his devastations in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and for the wars and raids of the terrible Timur (Tamerlane), the reader must be referred elsewhere.
The main outlines of Mongolian history will be found admirably summarised in a small book entitled History of the Mongols, by Mr. Stanley Lane-Poole, of which, however, only 25 copies were printed, and these by special permission of the British Museum. The following facts are taken from this work:—
"The history of the Mongols practically begins with the great conqueror Jenghis Khan. His father, who probably first asserted his independence from Chinese rule, was at that time only holding sway over some 40,000 tents, yet within twenty years Jenghis Khan had built the widest empire the world has ever known. The territory he and his sons conquered stretched from the Yellow Sea to the Crimea, and included lands or tribes wrung from the rule of Chinese Tanguts, Afghans, Persians, and Turks.
"Upon the death of Jenghis Khan in a.d. 1227, at the age of sixty-four, his empire was divided among his five sons as follows:—
"(1) The line of Ogotai, ruling the tribes of Zungaria. It was he who invaded Europe.
"(2) The line of Tulai, which ruled over the clans of Mongolia. His son was Kublai Khan, who conquered China and founded the Yüan dynasty.
"(3) The line of Tulai and Persian branch; the Ilkhans of Persia.
"(4) The line of Jugi, ruling the Turkish tribes.
"(5) The line Jagatai, ruling Trans-Oxiana.
"After the death of Osfotai, whose death resulted in the Tartars retiring from Europe, a general struggle ensued, and Kublai Khan maintained his supremacy. His capital was removed from Karakorum to Peking.
"The second period of Mongol history is from the fall of the Yüan dynasty in A.D. 1370 to its temporary revival under Dayan Khan in 1543. This is known as the time of the 'diminished Empire,' when the Mongols were limited to Mongolia, and were gradually brought under subjection by the Mings. There was, however, a temporary reunion under Dayan Khan, who died in A.D. 1543.
"The third period of Mongol history is known as that of the 'Divided tribes.' After the death of Dayan Khan the rule was divided among his sons, but civil war followed, and the Mongols became a distintegrated body of units, and were gradually subdued by the rising of the Manchu dynasty."
It is hardly possible to recognise the timid Mongols of the present day as the descendants in any way of these warlike people. The Chinese policy of encouraging tribal divisions, and allowing marriage between the tribal chiefs with the Chinese Imperial Family, in part explains China's ability to keep them in subjection to-day; and doubtless the strong religious instinct of the people, whereby five-eighths of the male population become lamas and consequently never marry, has done not a little to limit the population and sap the virility of the race. The proportion of this priestly class to the population is greater than in any other country, Tibet not excepted.
The only real division of the Mongols is that of the "Banners," but the main classifications are:
1. The Khalkhas, who are the descendants of Jenghis Khan and occupy the north-east. Jenghis Khan called the men of his tribe Kukai Mongols or "Celestial people," and designated the other tributary tribes Tatars or the modern Tartars, a name which has become associated with the whole Mongol race.
2. The Kalmucks, who are subdivided into the Buriats or Siberian Mongolians; the Eliuts, who are more or less mixed with the Turki element, and are to be found in the west; and the Torgouts. Reclus gives in all 172 "banners." Of these, 86 are Khalkhas, 51 belong to East Mongolia, 8 to the Tsakhar domain, 3 to Ala-shan, 48 to Uliasutai (31 of these are to Kobdo), and 7 to the Ordos territory. In an illuminating chapter in More about the Mongols, Gilmour, the great Mongolian missionary, corrects what he calls common delusions about Mongolia. He says that the Mongols are " frequently spoken of as ' wandering tribes.' Now the truth is that any one who is conversant with Mongolia can go straight to the tent of almost any man he wishes to find, and that there is no more difficulty in seeking out a man's place of abode in Mongolia than in the case of a man in England." " Tribes and men have their fixed localities almost as distinct and definite as in China, England, or any settled country." He also corrects the general impression that Mongolia is a trackless region. He says : " On the contrary, there are great broad roads running through it in many directions ; roads not made by the hand of man, but it may be by camels' feet, yet, however made, as well marked and a good deal broader often than the king's highway in England. These roads are so well marked that on one occasion a foreigner and a native, neither of whom had ever travelled that way before, followed one of them for nearly two weeks, and never lost it, even in the night time." " Roads abound in Mongolia."
Further, " In Gobi the grass is mostly sparse, but there are regions where the grass grows as deep and thick almost as in an English hay-field, having in addition a profusion of flowers." The Mongolian Language. — Probably the best essay on this subject in the English language is to be found in the appendix of the life of James Gilmour of Mongolia. Mon- golian is not a monosyllabic language like Chinese, but has words of many syllables and has an alphabet. Moreover, the language differs so little in its dialects that all over Mongolia men meeting one another can communicate with each other with less difficulty than a Scotsman with an Englishman. It is really much easier of acquisition than Chinese, but the facilities for study are very poor and increase the difficulty.
The written language, having an alphabet, is naturally more easily learnt than the written Chinese. One of the predominant features is the disproportionately large part occupied by the verb, which by a slight change in its terminal has a variety of significations. The importance of honorific terms is one of the greatest difficulties. There are also so many gutturals and aspirates that the general effect is that of gasping and sputtering.
The Mongolian alphabet was derived from the Syriac through the Uigurian forms, the Nestorian missionaries having brought the Syriac to the Uigurs, a Turkish people dwelling in Central Asia. It is written perpendicularly in lines from left to right. The Manchus after the rise of that dynasty borrowed their alphabet and slightly modified it for their own use, the change being so slight that with very little modification Manchu type can be used for Mongolian. There are three styles of the written language — that of the sacred books, that of Government documents, and that for general correspondence. Outside of the sacred books and liturgies there is very little literature, religion having taken so strong a hold on the Mongolian mind.
The form of Buddhism present in Mongolia is Lamaism, Tibet being their Holy-land. In addition to their two Grand Lamas or Living Buddhas of Tibet, they have their own Living Buddha who resides at Urga. He formerly resided at Kweihwating, but having been assassinated because of a dispute as to his pre-eminence over the Emperor Kang-hsi, he was commanded by imperial decree to be born again at Urga ! Wu-t'ai-shan in Shansi is a most sacred mountain to the Mongols, and is constantly visited by crowds of pilgrims. Of this place Mr. Gilmour says : " As Jerusalem to the Jews, as Mecca to the Mohammedans, so is Wu-t'ai-shan to the Mongols." It would be difficult to put it more strongly.
Before passing on to the study of Missions in this country, it should be mentioned that the Russian Government, by treaties with China in 1859-60, arranged that they should have the right of maintaining at their own expense a postal service between Kiakhta and Tientsin vid Urga. This is the route along which a railway is now being built, the line from Peking to Kalgan being opened on September 30, 1906. This railway when completed will bring Peking within twelve days of London.
The principal occupation of the Mongols is that of cattle- breeding and the transport of goods. It is estimated that each Mongol family has about 50 sheep, 25 horses, 15 horned cattle, and 10 camels. In the transport of goods probably some 100,000 are employed for the export of tea alone from Kalgan to Siberia, and 1,200,000 camels and 300,000 ox-carts for the interior caravan trade.
The trade between China and Mongolia is estimated at £900,000 for Urga alone, while 25,000 horses, 10,000 horned cattle, 250,000 sheep, as well as a quantity of hides, are annually exported from East Mongolia. From West Mongolia the export is about 70,000 horses, 30,000 horned cattle, and from one and a half to two million sheep.
Roman Catholic Missions. — Nothing definite concerning China is known before the Nestorian missionaries entered that country as early as A.D. 505. From the spread of Christianity in China proper it is quite possible that some knowledge of the Truth reached Mongolia, and may be at the bottom of the traditions about Prester John.
In 1291 John de Monte Corvino was sent by Pope Nicholas IV. to the Court of Kubla Khan, the Mongol founder of the Yüan dynasty in China, under whom also Marco Polo held office. The labours also of Nicholas and his twenty-four Franciscan assistants were wholly for the Mongols. John de Monte Corvino actually translated the Scriptures into Mongol, concerning which more will be found elsewhere. Little is known of succeeding Romish Missions in Mongolia, but the interesting journeys of Abbe Hue were undertaken at the orders of the Apostolic Vicariat of Mongolia, who had been appointed by the Pope in 1844. This Vicariat appears to have been appointed to care for the Christians who had been driven into Mongolia from Peking by the persecutions of the Emperor Kia-king.
At the present time the Roman Catholic Church has a chain of stations along the border line extending from Manchuria to Tibet, but not any on the plains. According to Dr. Williamson, the Greek Church also has established Missions in several important localities.
The history of Protestant Missions in Mongolia is one of great interest, but, unfortunately, so meagre that it is told without much difficulty.
The first effort was made by the London Missionary Society. In 1817 two learned Buriats reached St. Petersburg to assist in the translation of parts of the New Testament into their own language. Through representations from the Russian Bible Society, probably inspired by the remarkable request of the Buriat tribe, the London Missionary Society appointed Mr. Edward Stallybrass, in 1817, and Mr. Cornelius Rahmn, who joined him at St. Petersburg somewhat later, to proceed to Irkutsk, which place they reached on March 26, 1818. They at once proceeded with the study of the Mongolian language, while Mr. Schmidt, with the help of the two Buriats, was at St. Petersburg translating the Gospels of Matthew and John into Buriat Mongolian. Mr. Rahmn shortly retired through the failure of his wife's health, and Mr. Swan, with Mr. Robert Yuile, joined Mr. and Mrs. Stallybrass at Selenginsk—whither they had moved—on February 17, 1820. Through much trial and difficulty the work was carried forward, the first Mrs. Stallybrass dying in 1833 and the second in 1839; Mrs. Yuile dying in 1827, and Mr. Yuile retiring in 1838. After having translated and published the Old Testament, and having made considerable progress with the New Testament, which they subsequently finished in England, the Mission was closed by the Russian Government in 1841, much to the grief of the workers. One of the good results of their effort, however, was the starting of missions among them by the Greek Church. Mr. Swan died in Edinburgh in 1866, and Mrs. Swan in 1890. Mr. Stallybrass lived to the age of ninety-one, and died at Shooter's Hill, Kent, in 1884. Thus closed the first Protestant effort for Mongolia, but not before the Bible had been given to the Mongol in that translation which is still in circulation.
The second effort of the London Missionary Society was made when James Gilmour entered upon his heroic work. James Gilmour reached Peking in May 1870, and immediately set himself to the study of Chinese and Mongolian. The terrible massacre at Tientsin which followed so soon upon his entry into work hastened his departure for Mongolia, and in this the fearlessness of the man was seen. The dangers which would have appeared as a sufficient reason to many a man to delay only nerved him to go forward before the door was closed. He left Peking on August 5, and travelled right across Mongolia, reaching Kiachta in September. For the first fifteen years he devoted himself to the nomadic Mongols, feeling that the agricultural Mongols of South-East Mongolia should be reached by Chinese missionaries.
In 1886, however, hoping that the American Board, which had carried on work at Kalgan since 1865, might be able, from that great centre of Mongolian trade, to influence the nomads, he settled in Eastern Mongolia, establishing three centres at Tachengtse, Tasikow, and Chaoyang Hsien. Here he laboured till his death in 1891, his wife having died in 1885. Toward the end of his time several men were appointed as colleagues; Dr. Roberts in 1888, but he had to leave within a month owing to the death of Dr. Mackenzie. Dr. Smith followed nearly a year later, and subsequently Mr. Parker, Dr. Cochrane, and Mr. Liddell took up work at Chaoyang. This work was carried on until 1901, when the work was handed over to the Irish Presbyterian Mission, one of whose stations had been the basis of supply. The steady inflow of Chinese immigrants had more and more been making this place a centre for Chinese work and not for the Mongols.
Concerning the devoted labours of Gilmour one of his fellow-labourers wrote: "I doubt if even St. Paul endured more for Christ than did James Gilmour. I doubt, too, if Christ ever received from human hands or human heart more loving, more devoted service." Although the wisdom of his methods and of his work were freely criticised, and although he died without seeing the fruits of his toils, there is no question that his zeal and example have served to stimulate many a life in Christian service in a way that very few have done.
It has already been mentioned that the American Board commenced work at Kalgan in 1865. It may also be mentioned that in 1853 two Moravian missionaries had assayed to enter Mongolia by way of India, but were prevented, and settling at Kyelang, they commenced the Moravian Tibetan Mission.
In addition to the work mentioned above, the only other workers have been Swedish. The first Swedes to enter Mongolia were connected with the Scandinavian Alliance Mission of North America, which has its headquarters at Chicago, and is supported by the Scandinavians of America. In 1895 Mr. David W. Stenberg first settled at Kalgan, and then entered Mongolia, buying a piece of land among the Ordos tribe, that he might found a colony for missionary work. Of this worker Mr. Mott has said, "I have met a hero." In 1896 he was joined by Mr. Carl J. Suber. In 1897 three lady workers, the Misses Hannah Lund, Hilda Anderson, and Clara Anderson, went out with Mr. N. J. Friedstrom. All these workers, with the exception of Mr. Friedstrom and Mr. Larson, who escaped through Siberia and Russia, were killed in the Boxer outbreak of 1900.
Mr. Larson subsequently joined the British and Foreign Bible Society, as will be mentioned later.
In 1902 Mr. and Mrs. Friedstrom returned to Mongolia, and are now stationed at the Scandinavian Alliance Colony at Patsibolong, not far from Kweihwating. In 1904 Mr, and Mrs. A. B. Magnuson joined those workers, who are now at Wangefu, south-west of Patsibolong. In 1905 Mr. and Mrs. A. T. Almbrad went out to join the workers at Patsibolong.
At the colony at this last-mentioned place the Mongolians are farming the land which is irrigated. At the same time they are brought under Christian influence.
Before referring to Mr. Larson's connection with the Bible Society, chronology necessitates that the work of the Swedish Mongolian Mission should be spoken of. Concerning this work Prince Bernadotte, the Chairman of that Mission, has kindly written in answer to inquiries: —
"The first missionaries of the Swedish Mongolian Mission who were sent out were Mr. and Mrs. Eneroth, who left for Chuguchak in North-West Mongolia in 1898. After a short stay they were obliged to return in consequence of the illness of Mrs. Eneroth. The Mission then thought it to be God's will that the work should be located in the north-west of Mongolia, as that region could be easily reached by the Siberian railway.
"In the autumn of 1899 Mr. and Mrs. Helleberg and Mr. Emil Wahlstedt were sent out, and it was decided that, in accordance with the wish of Mr. Helleberg, they should study the language on the Chinese frontier, north-west of Kalgan. During the Boxer riots of 1900 they laid down their lives for Christ's sake, but no very definite information concerning their martyrdom has been obtainable.
"In 1905 Mr. Edwin Karlen was sent out to carry on this work, and he is now engaged in the study of the language, the lady to whom he is engaged following in 1906."
In 1902 Mr. F. A. Larson, one of the two surviving missionaries of the Scandinavian Alliance Mission mentioned above, was appointed as a sub-agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society for Mongolia. Since that time he has travelled far and wide throughout Mongolia, his wife also enduring great hardship either with him or in the solitude of his absences. In 1902, with headquarters at Kalgan, he travelled 2000 miles to the east and north-east; in 1904 he took three long journeys as far as Urga and Uliassutai.
During 1905 Mr. Larson made three more long journeys and sent home some interesting information concerning the Dalai Lama's visit to Urga, in his flight from Lhasa. Although living in a temple within two miles of the residence of the Urga Grand Lama, he would have no communication with him, in fact, the feeling was one of estrangement. In addition to the few workers mentioned above, it must be remembered that through the work done at Kalgan by the American Board, and by the members or associates of the China Inland Mission located at Hsiianhwa in Chihli and in the north of Shansi, quite a little work is done for the Mongols who come in touch with those centres. Remembering that Wu-tai-shan, their sacred mountain, is in the north of Shansi, that district is visited by many thousands of Mongol pilgrims yearly.
Mr. Larson describes the Grand Lama at Urga as a drunken profligate, he having himself seen him intoxicated in the street. He states that he has no influence with the southern Mongols, who have broken away from his authority and have established a Lama of their own.
In closing this article, one can hardly do better than quote a few paragraphs from some interesting articles which have been recently appearing in the North China Herald from the pen of the Eev. John Hedley, F.E.G.S.:—
No account of Mongolia would be complete without some special reference to Lamaism, that system of the Buddhist religion which, carried here from Tibet, so completely dominates the Mongol mind and character. Never have I seen a more "religious" people than the Mongols. Their Lama temples are
But the condition of the Mongol people is a stern condemnation of Lamaism. Of the beautiful self-abnegation of the Indian Prince these people know nothing. Of the rules of the Order, or the tenets of "the Way," they are deplorably ignorant. The religion has degenerated into a set of "senseless and fatal corruptions which have overwhelmed the ancient Buddhist beliefs," and consists now merely in performance of external formalities that have no power to amend the life or cleanse the spirit. For the Lamas themselves one can have but little respect. They are the least desirable of their race. Lamaism, as practised in Mongolia, is an incubus on the land, economically, morally, and religiously.
And yet it is just this colossal system of Lamaism, bad as it is, that is the most effective obstacle to the Christian missionary, and that almost broke the heart of so brave a man as James Gilmour. The difficulties of evangelising Mongolia are not few. Let me enumerate some:—
1st. A land of immense distances, involving exposure and expense of a very serious kind.
2nd. A population so sparse and scattered that you may travel for a week and not meet a hundred people.
3rd. A people who, when you have found them, are ignorant, illiterate, and consequently superstitious, needing infinite patience and infinite tact to make any impression at all.
But beyond and above all else, you have to face the fact of Lamaism, which stands like an omnipresent spectre wherever you go in Mongolia.
At Pakou, T'atzekou, and other smaller places, Protestant Missions are at Avork, but Hata, large and busy centre as it is, yet waits its first Protestant missionary and street chapel. K'ulukou is without a Christian representative, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, but that is a defect likely to be remedied ere long by the Irish Presbyterian Mission from Hsinmin Fu. At Chaoyang and Chinchow good work is being done, and the converts are not few. But the great bulk of the districts lies untouched. And the most of the people are absolutely ignorant of the elementary principles of the Christian faith.
The Christian Church in China has no greater or more difficult problem to face than this problem of how best to accomplish the evangelisation of Mongolia, and to overthrow Lamaism and its attendant superstitions.
- See p. 410.
- For fuller details concerning this romantic story, see pp. 411, 412.
- For details of this work, see Mr. Roberts' article on p. 360.