I cannot tell you much about Thibet; and the reason is, that so few travellers have been there. And why have so few been there? Is it because the mountains are so steep and high, the paths so narrow and dangerous? All this is true; but it is not mountains that keep travellers out of Thibet; it is the Chinese government; for Thibet belongs to China, and you know how carefully the emperor of China keeps strangers out of his empire.
How did the Chinese get possession of Thibet? A long while ago, a Hindoo army invaded the land, and the people in their fright sent to China for help. The Chinese came, drove away the Hindoos, and stayed themselves. They are not hard masters, they govern very mildly; only they require a sum of money to be sent every year to Pekin, as tribute.
But though Thibet belongs to China, the Chinese language is not spoken there.
The people are like the Tartars in appearance; they have the same bony face, sharp black eye, and straight black hair; but a much fresher complexion, owing to the fresh mountain air they breathe.
The Himalaya mountains, the highest in Asia, lie between Thibet and Hindostan. Their peaks are always covered with snow, and rapid streams pour down the rugged sides. The snow on the mountain-tops makes Thibet very cold; but there are warm valleys where grapes, and even rice flourish.
The people build their houses in the warmest spots they can find; they try to find a place sheltered from the north wind, by a high rock, and lying open to the south sun. Their dwellings are only made of stones, heaped together, and the roofs are flat. Their riches consist in flocks of sheep and goats. They have, another animal, which is not known in England, and yet a very useful creature, because, like a cow, it yields rich milk, and like a horse, it carries burdens. This animal is called the Yak, and resembles both a horse and a cow. Its chief beauty is its tail, which is much finer than a horse’s tail, and is black, and glossy, soft and flowing. Many of these tails are sent to India, where they are used as fly-flappers.
The sheep and goats of Thibet are more useful than ours; for they are taught to carry burdens over the mountains. They may be seen following each other in long trains, with large packs fastened on their little backs, and climbing up very narrow and steep paths.
And what is in these packs? Wool: not sheep’s wool, but goat’s wool: for the goats of Thibet have very fine wool under their hair. No such wool is found on any other goats. But though the people of Thibet can weave common cloth, they cannot weave this beautiful wool, as it deserves to be woven. Therefore they send it to a country the other side of the Himalaya mountains, called Cashmere; and there it is woven into the most beautiful shawls in all the world.
But wool is not the only riches of Thibet. There is gold to be found there; some in large pieces, and some in small dust. There are also large mines of copper. And what use is made of these riches? The worst in the world. With the gold and copper many IDOLS are made; for Thibet is a land of idols. The religion is the same there as in China,—the Buddhist;—and that is a religion of idols.