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ROUTE OF NEPALESE MISSION TO PEKIN,
REMARKS ON THE WATER-SHED AND PLATEAU
The two following papers (it may be as well to state, in order to show their trustworthiness) were presented to me by the Mala Rajah of Népal in 1843, when I took my leave of him, after having resided at his Court for ten years in the capacity of British Minister. His Highness was pleased to say he desired to give me something which, not being of monied value, I should be permitted to retain, and which he knew I should set especial store by, and all the more because I was aware that the communicating of any such information to the “ Feringé” (European) was contrary to the fixed policy of his Government. And therewith His Highness gave me these two documents, as well as several others of equal interest. The papers now in question comprise official suinmaries of the routes of two of those embassies of tribute and dependence, which, since the war of 1792 with Tibet (aided by China), Népál has been bound by treaty to send to Pekin once every five years. It is customary for these embassies always to keep nearly or quite to the saine track, they being conducted through Tibet and China at the expense of the Celestial Empire and under the guidance of officers appointed by it.
The time of departure from Kathmándú is determined by the opening of the passes over the Himalaya, which takes place usually during the first half of June by the melting of the snows; and that accordingly is the regular period for the setting out of the ambassador, who usually reaches Pekin about the middle of the following January. The ambassador's suite is rigidly fixed as to number, and as to every other detail; and, well or ill, tired or not, His Excellency is obliged by his pragmatical Chinese conductor (perhaps we should add in candour, by the character also of the country to be traversed) to push on towards his destination with only one halt of about a month and a half at Lhása, where, luckily for him, there is always some necessary business to transact, the Népálese having long had commercial establishments in that city. The ambassador, who is always a man of high rank (Hindú of course) and rather advanced in life, can take his own time, and cook and eat his own food, and use his own comfortable sedan chair or more comfortable litter (dándi, hammock) as far as Tingri. But there the inexorable Chinese Mehmandar (honorary conductor) meets him with the assigned set of ponies for himself and suite, and His Excellency must now mount, and unceasingly, as inflexibly, pursue his journey through a country lamentably deficient in food, fuel, and water, by pretty long stages and without a halt save that above named, on horseback, over a very rough country, for some one thousand seven hundred miles, and then only exchange his pony for the still worse conveyance of a Chinese carriage (more properly cart), which is to convey him with like persistency sonie seven hundred miles further, fatigue and bad weather notwithstanding, and the high-caste Hindú's cuisine (horresco referens) all the while entirely in the hands of filthy Bhotias and as filthy Chinese! Of course there is a grand lustration after each embassy's return home, which usually happens about two years from the time of its departure for Pekin; and many a sad and moving story (but all reserved for friends) the several members of these embassies then have to tell of poisonous compounds of so-called tea* and rancid lard or suet given them for drink in lieu of their accustomed pure lymph or milk; of heaps of sun-dried flesh incessantly substituted for the farinaceous and vegetable food of all decent Pagans; nay, of puppies served up to them for kids, and cats
• The so-called brick ter, which is composed of the sweepings of the toa mandfacturies, cemented by somo coarse kind of gluten
for hares, by stolid beastly cooks of Bhót (Tibet), under the orders of a seemingly insouciant and really pragmatical Chinaman, who answers all objections with “ Orders of the emperor," “ Food of the country,” “ You nicer than us, forsooth," “ Fed or unfed, you start at such an hour.” It is singular to observe the Celestial Enpire treating Asiatics with like impertinence as Europeans, and it is satisfactory to think that the recent treaty of Népal with Tibet has put an end to these and other impertinences.
I proceed now to a few remarks on the form and substance of the papers. The form is such as might be expected from men, of a nation of soldiers and statesmen, scant of words and having an eye to business in the survey of a country. Blucher regarded London merely as a huge storehouse of valuables, fit, and haply destined, to make spoil for a conquering army. And a Népálese regards Tibet and China, not from a picturesque or scientific point of view, but with reference to the obstacles their natural features oppose to a daring invader having an eye to business in Blucher's line. The chief item, therefore, of both itineraries, and the only one of the shorter, is an enumeration of the mountain ridges or ranges intersecting the way (a most valuable piece of information, as we shall soon see); and to this the longer paper adds a similar enumeration of the intervening rivers, with the means of passing them, or the ferries and bridges; the forts occurring all along the route; and, lastly, the lakes and tanks where drinking-water can be had-a commodity most scarce in those regions, where half the lakes are brackish. The several items, together with the stages and the distances (computed by marching-time as well as by reference to the Népálese kos of 24 miles each), comprise the whole information conveyed. But it will nevertheless be allowed that so authentic an enumeration of so many important particulars, relating to so vast an extent of country so little known, is of no small value; and though here packed into the smallest compass, that information might, in the hands of a skilful bookmaker, suffice to furnish forth a goodly volume. But bookmaking is in no repute with the gentry of Népál. It belongs solely to pandits, whilst on the class of official scribes is devolved the task of
recording all useful information, which they are strictly required to embody in the fewest possible words and smallest space. I will only add on this head of the form of the papers
ist. That the records of the two embassies having been made at the several times of those missions, and quite independently of each other, the statements of one may be used to correct and explain those of the other; and that, where discrepancies occur, the longer paper, which is complete in its details, is probably, on the whole, more correct than the one which is not complete in its details, though I confess a strong leaning to the Chountra statement, because of its sound discrimination of interesting facts.
2d. That the assigned distances, though not measured but computed, yet having a double basis of computation * by marching time under given assigned circumstances, and by kós according also to a given standard in use in Népál, ought, I should think, to be capable of very definite determination in competent hands.
3d. That both papers are - literal translations, and that the additional information procured by myself, and embodied for convenience in the documents, is carefully distinguished by the use of brackets; the rest of such information being thrown into foot-notes.
The Chountra's embassy, as I learnt before I left Kathmándú, set out in 1817; that of the Káji in 1822, as appears on the face of the document. Chountra and Káji are titles of ministers of state in Nepal. I proceed now to the substance of the documents; and here, in imitation of my friends, I shall be as curt as possible, and endeavour, in a few words, to bring together the most generally interesting items of information furnished by the two papers. The total distance from Kathmándú to Pekin, according to the Káji, is 1268} kós; according to the Chountra, 1250 kós; and in that space occur, according to the former authority, 106 mountain-ranges, which are crossed; according to the latter, 104. The Káji's paper gives us the further information, that 150 lakes and tanks occur in the
• I have heard that the whole road is measured and marked by the Chinese ; and if so, the Nepalese could never be much out, the only thing required of them being the conversion of Chinese li into kús.
route; 652 rivers,* crossed by 607 bridges and 23 ferries; and lastly, 100 forts.
It would be very desirable, in dividing the whole space into the political and natural limits of the several countries traversed, to make the Chountra's and Káji's papers coincide. But I have attempted this in vain, owing to the different names cited in the two papers and the different methods of citation. In regard to political limits, they concur sufficiently, but not in regard to natural limits. I therefore give the former according to both papers; the latter according to the Chountra's only, it being quite clear on that head. I annex the langurs or mountainranges to both statements.
I. From Kathmándú to Khása there is a difference of 5 kós, obviously caused by the Káji's detour vid Sankhu, instead of keeping the direct road as the Chountra did.
II. From Khása to the iron bridge of Tachindo, the difference is 135 kós. It is pretty clearly caused, partly by a small detour as before, and partly by a slightly different use of terms. In the Chountra's paper the specification in the body of the
• Say rather river and river-crossing, for the amo mountain-locked stream is here and there crossed twenty or thirty times in a very moderate distanco. When I pointed out this at Kathmandu, I got the explanation, and was referred to the crowings of the Raputi River between Hitounda and Bhimphédy on the road to Kathmand from the plains of India for a sample.