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- Among the Tibetans - 13/13 -


Pass, the valley rarely has any communication with the outer world.

At the foot of the village of Kylang, which is built in tier above tier of houses up the steep side of a mountain with a height of 21,000 feet, are the Moravian mission buildings, long, low, whitewashed erections, of the simplest possible construction, the design and much of the actual erection being the work of these capable Germans. The large building, which has a deep verandah, the only place in which exercise can be taken in the winter, contains the native church, three rooms for each missionary, and two guest-rooms. Round the garden are the printing rooms, the medicine and store room (stores arriving once in two years), and another guest-room. Round an adjacent enclosure are the houses occupied in winter by the Christians when they come down with their sheep and cattle from the hill farms. All is absolutely plain, and as absolutely clean and trim. The guest-rooms and one or two of the Tibetan rooms are papered with engravings from the Illustrated London News, but the rooms of the missionaries are only whitewashed, and by their extreme bareness reminded me of those of very poor pastors in the Fatherland. A garden, brilliant with zinnias, dianthus, and petunias, all of immense size, and planted with European trees, is an oasis, and in it I camped for some weeks under a willow tree, covered, as many are, with a sweet secretion so abundant as to drop on the roof of the tent, and which the people collect and use as honey.

The mission party consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Shreve, lately arrived, and now in a distant exile at Poo, and Mr. and Mrs. Heyde, who had been in Tibet for nearly forty years, chiefly spent at Kylang, without going home. 'Plain living and high thinking' were the rule. Books and periodicals were numerous, and were read and assimilated. The culture was simply wonderful, and the acquaintance with the latest ideas in theology and natural science, the latest political and social developments, and the latest conceptions in European art, would have led me to suppose that these admirable people had only just left Europe. Mrs. Heyde had no servant, and in the long winters, when household and mission work are over for the day, and there are no mails to write for, she pursues her tailoring and other needlework, while her husband reads aloud till midnight. At the time of my visit (September) busy preparations for the winter were being made. Every day the wood piles grew. Hay, cut with sickles on the steep hillsides, was carried on human backs into the farmyard, apples were cored and dried in the sun, cucumbers were pickled, vinegar was made, potatoes were stored, and meat was killed and salted.

It is in winter, when the Christians have come down from the mountain, that most of the mission work is done. Mrs. Heyde has a school of forty girls, mostly Buddhists. The teaching is simple and practical, and includes the knitting of socks, of which from four to five hundred pairs are turned out each winter, and find a ready sale. The converts meet for instruction and discussion twice daily, and there is daily worship. The mission press is kept actively employed in printing the parts of the Bible which have been translated during the summer, as well as simple tracts written or translated by Mr. Heyde. No converts are better instructed, and like those of Leh they seem of good quality, and are industrious and self-supporting. Winter work is severe, as ponies, cattle, and sheep must always be hand-fed, and often hand-watered. Mr. Heyde has great repute as a doctor, and in summer people travel long distances for his advice and medicine. He is universally respected, and his judgment in worldly affairs is highly thought of; but if one were to judge merely by apparent results, the devoted labour of nearly forty years and complete self-sacrifice for the good of Kylang must be pronounced unsuccessful. Christianity has been most strongly opposed by men of influence, and converts have been exposed to persecution and loss. The abbot of the Kylang monastery lately said to Mr. Heyde, 'Your Christian teaching has given Buddhism a resurrection.' The actual words used were, 'When you came here people were quite indifferent about their religion, but since it has been attacked they have become zealous, and now they KNOW.' It is only by sharing their circumstances of isolation, and by getting glimpses of their everyday-life and work, that one can realise at all what the heroic perseverance and self-sacrificing toil of these forty years have been, and what is the weighty influence on the people and on the standard of morals, even though the number of converts is so small. All honour to these noble German missionaries, learned, genial, cultured, radiant, who, whether teaching, preaching, farming, gardening, printing, or doctoring, are always and everywhere 'living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men!' Close by the mission house, in a green spot under shady trees, is God's Acre, where many children of the mission families sleep, and a few adults.

As the winter is the busiest season in mission work, so it is the great time in which the lamas make house-to-house peregrinations and attend at festivals. Then also there is much spinning and weaving by both sexes, and tobogganing and other games, and much drinking of chang by priests and people. The cattle remain out till nearly Christmas, and are then taken into the houses. At the time of the variable new year, the lamas and nuns retire to the monasteries, and dulness reigns in the valleys. At the end of a month they emerge, life and noise begin, and all men to whom sons have been born during the previous year give chang freely. During the festival which follows, all these jubilant fathers go out of the village as a gaudily dressed procession, and form a circle round a picture of a yak, painted by the lamas, which is used as a target to be shot at with bows and arrows, and it is believed that the man who hits it in the centre will be blessed with a son in the coming year. After this, all the Kylang men and women collect in one house by annual rotation, and sing and drink immense quantities of chang till 10 p.m.

The religious festivals begin soon after. One, the worshipping of the lamas by the laity, occurs in every village, and lasts from two to three days. It consists chiefly of music and dancing, while the lamas sit in rows, swilling chang and arrack. At another, which is celebrated annually in every house, the lamas assemble, and in front of certain gods prepare a number of mystical figures made of dough, which are hung up and are worshipped by the family. Afterwards the lamas make little balls which are worshipped, and one of the family mounts the roof and invites the neighbours, who receive the balls from the lamas' hands and drink moderately of chang. Next, the figures are thrown to the demons as a propitiatory offering, amidst 'hellish whistlings' and the firing of guns. These ceremonies are called ise drup (a full life), and it is believed that if they were neglected life would be cut short.

One of the most important of the winter religious duties of the lamas is the reading of the sacred classics under the roof of each householder. By this means the family accumulate merit, and the longer the reading is protracted the greater is the accumulation. A twelve-volume book is taken in the houses of the richer householders, each one of the twelve or fifteen lamas taking a page, all reading at an immense pace in a loud chant at the same time. The reading of these volumes, which consist of Buddhist metaphysics and philosophy, takes five days, and while reading each lama has his chang cup constantly replenished. In the poorer households a classic of but one volume is taken, to lessen the expense of feeding the lamas. Festivals and ceremonies follow each other closely until March, when archery practice begins, and in April and May the people prepare for the operations of husbandry.

The weather in Kylang breaks in the middle of September, but so fascinating were the beauties and sublimity of Nature, and the virtues and culture of my Moravian friends, that, shutting my eyes to the possible perils of the Rotang, I remained until the harvest was brought home with joy and revelry, and the flush of autumn faded, and the first snows of winter gave an added majesty to the glorious valley. Then, reluctantly folding my tent, and taking the same faithful fellows who brought my baggage from Leh, I spent five weeks on the descent to the Panjab, journeying through the paradise of Upper Kulu and the interesting native states of Mandi, Sukket, Bilaspur, and Bhaghat, and early in November reached the amenities and restraints of the civilisation of Simla.

Footnotes:

{1} Mr. Redslob said that when on different occasions he was smitten by heavy sorrows, he felt no difference between the Tibetan feeling and expression of sympathy and that of Europeans. A stronger testimony to the effect produced by his twenty-five years of loving service could scarcely be given than our welcome in Nubra. During the dangerous illness which followed, anxious faces thronged his humble doorway as early as break of day, and the stream of friendly inquiries never ceased till sunset, and when he died the people of Ladak and Nubra wept and 'made a great mourning for him,' as for their truest friend.

{2} For these and other curious details concerning Tibetan customs I am indebted to the kindness and careful investigations of the late Rev. W. Redslob, of Leh, and the Rev. A. Heyde, of Kylang.


Among the Tibetans - 13/13

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