Major Davies, who saw much of the Yuen-nan Tibetans, has remarked that it is curious how little impression the civilization and customs of the Chinese have produced on the Tibetans. Elsewhere, one of the principal characteristics of Chinese expansion is its power of absorbing other races, but with the Tibetans exactly the reverse takes place. The Chinese become Tibetanized and the children of a Chinaman married to a Tibetan woman are usually brought up in the Tibetan customs.
Probably the great cause which keeps the Tibetan from being absorbed is the cold, inhospitable nature of his country. There is little to tempt the Chinese to emigrate into Tibet and consequently they never are there in sufficient numbers to influence the Tibetans around them. A similar cause has preserved some of the low-lying Shan states from absorption, the heat in this case being the reason that the Chinese do not settle there.
WESTWARD TO THE MEKONG RIVER
During the night of December 4, there was a heavy fall of snow and in the morning we awoke to find ourselves in fairyland. We were living in a great white palace, with ceiling and walls of filmy glittering webs. The long, delicate strands of gray moss which draped themselves from tree to tree and branch to branch were each one converted into threads of crystal, forming a filigree lacework, infinitely beautiful.
It was hard to break camp and leave that silver palace, for every vista through the forest seemed more lovely than the one before, but we knew that another fall of snow would block the passes and shut us out from the Mekong valley. The mafus even refused to try the direct route across the mountains to Wei-hsi and insisted on going southward to the Shih-ku ferry and up the Yangtze River on the main caravan route.
It was a long trip and we looked forward with no pleasure to eight days of hard riding. The difficulty in obtaining hunters since leaving the Snow Mountain had made our big game collecting negligible although we had traveled through some excellent country. The Mekong valley might not be better but it was an unknown quantity and, whether or not it yielded specimens, the results from a survey of the mammal distribution would be none the less important, and we felt that it must be done; otherwise we should have turned our backs on the north and returned to Ta-li Fu.
As we rode down the mountain trail we passed caravan after caravan of Tibetans with heavily loaded horses, all bound for that land of mystery beyond the snow-capped barriers. Often we tried to stop some of the red-skinned natives and persuade them to pose for a color photograph, but usually they only shook their heads stubbornly and hurried past with averted faces. We finally waylaid a Chinese and a Tibetan who were walking together. The Chinaman was an amiable fellow and by giving each of them a glass jam tumbler they halted a moment. As soon as the photograph had been taken the Chinese indicated that he expected us to produce one and was thoroughly disgusted when we showed him that it was impossible.