Слике страница
PDF
ePub

tion which we have principally derived from the most interesting part of Mr. Timkowski's work,—the conclusion of his Historical Essay.

Mongolia is a high valley, enclosed between the Altai mountains and those of Tibet. The name of steppe being generally applied to a vast, barren, and deserted plain, it must be observed, in regard to those of which nearly all Mongolia consists, that they are intersected by chains of lofty mountains of granite, the summits of which are, in many parts, clothed with a variety of trees, such as pines, firs, birches, ashes, elms, and white poplars; that numerous rivers, abounding in fish, flow at the foot of these ridges, and that pasturages and cultivated fields interrupt, at intervals more or less great, the monotony of a sandy and stony soil. The banks of the Boro, the Shara, and the Iro, begin to bear traces of this progress of civilization; and the northern part of the country of Kalkas needs but a nation more inclined to agri. culture than the Mongols are at present, to become fertile.

The southern portion of the Altai mountains, and the chain of Khingan, which stretches between Mongolia and Dourma, contain gold and silver mines, that have not as yet been worked.

The steppe of Gobi is intersected from east to west, by mountains less elevated than those to the north. Notwithstanding its scarcity of water and pasturage, it is almost every where covered with flocks of sheep and goats, and herds of large camels, vigorous though small horses, and oxen. Neither insects, nor serpents and frogs, disturb these animals; and this circumstance compensates probably for the scarcity of water. These steppes differ besides from the African deserts, in the advantage, that the yellow sand which forms the surface of the soil, is not moveable. Wells from seven to ten feet in depth, supply in the plain, the water indispensable for the camels and the cattle.

The arid soil ends at the southern limit of Gobi. The country of the Tsakhars, of the tribe of Ordos, and of several Mongol hordes, who live beyond the steppe, is fit for tillage, and sufficiently well watered. Nearer to the great wall of China, are the fertile districts of the Eastern Mongols.

The climate is very different from that of the countries of Europe, situate under the same latitude. The great elevation of the whole country, and an abundance of sulphate of natron, mixed with natron, are probably the most active causes of the greater cold which is experienced in Mongolia. In October and November, 1820, the thermometer varied between 10° and 18° (Reaumur) below zero.

We have already mentioned the trees that are found in the northern part of Mongolia; and we may add, that red cur

rants, wild peaches, and various shrubs, are not uncommon in the same country.

The fish which are found in the Selenga, the Orkhon, the Iro, and the Khara, are sturgeon, white salmon, trout, pike, perch, and a variety of smaller fish.

Besides domestic animals, there is, in Mongolia, an abundance of wild horses, boars, goats of various kinds, (principally the angalis,) bears, wolves, hares, foxes, sables, and squirrels. The birds are cranes, wild geese, ducks, moor-fowls, quails, and swans; the latter belong more particularly to the territory of the Tsakhars.

The Mongols are obliged, by their pastoral pursuits, to change often their habitations; and are therefore reduced to content themselves with the little wheat, millet, and barley, which they sow here and there, and to depend for the greater part of their maintenance, upon the cattle they kill, and the grain they receive from China, in exchange for sheep and other animals with which they are abundantly provided. Their carelessness in regard to bread stuff, exposes them to absolute want, sometimes, in the winter, when their flocks suffer from the extreme cold, or a mortality reigns among their cattle.

They are naturally warlike, and have not lost the remembrance of the victories their ancestors gained in the fourteenth century, over the Chinese. But the long peace they have enjoyed, since the end of the seventeenth century, after the struggle between the Soungarians and their new masters, has left them more strongly remarkable for their primitive simplicity of character, frankness, kindness, and hospitality, than for traits of a martial spirit. Yet they still like horse-racing, wrestling, and archery. The Lamaic religion contributes to soften their manners. Crimes are seldom committed among them, and are always severely punished. Though they have, (except some goldsmiths,) neither artists, nor manufacturers, and depend in these respects, upon the exchanges with China, they dress themselves carefully and expensively; and their tents contain, independently of their idols and altars, a variety of furniture and conveniences, incompatible almost with a nomad's life. The tents are divided into several compartments for the two sexes: they are covered with felts, and sand is strewed all around them. Those belonging to wealthy individuals, are besides provided with Persian, or Turkish carpets. A kettle is always on the fire, full of brick tea, which is mixed with milk, butter, and salt; and every body who has his wooden cup, is welcome to it, be it Mongol or foreigner. They eat little meat, and live principally upon milk, butter, and cheese. Only in case of great necessity, they eat camel and horse flesh. It would seem, from Mr. Timkowski's account, that they drink a fermented liquor, and especially one extracted from milk, in summer only. They beguile their idle hours with songs, very flattering to their ancestors, and which betray a secret discontent with their Mantchoo rulers.

Many curious details are contained in Mr. Timkowski's second volume of Travels, about the ceremonies of betrothing and the weddings. Superstition regulates the first steps; two persons born in the months called the Mouse and the Horse, in the Mongol calendar, according to the signs affixed to the twelve months of the year, cannot be married : then comes the courtship, which is prolix and full of ceremonies, and must be accompanied with presents; and there is much bargaining about the quantity of cattle which the bride must receive from her parents. After these preliminaries, her father must provide her with a new tent, with the requisite furniture, and a saddled horse, on which she is to ride to the tent of her future companion. Then follow convivial parties given by the relatives on both sides. The bridegroom, accompanied sometimes by a hundred individuals from among his relatives, goes to his bride's father with several dishes of boiled mutton. As yet he has not seen, however, his beloved, from the day that they were betrothed; for all intercourse is forbidden to her till the wedding. The Lamas appear next upon the scene, to weary still longer her patience ; and frequently she cannot be carried away by her husband, till after a serious combat with the young friends who watch her till the last moment. New ceremonies await her upon arriving in her new habitation. The many tresses that ornament her virgin head, are reduced to two: a new dress, peculiar to married women, is put upon her; new religious ceremonies follow; and often even these do not yet terminate the affair, and sometimes a week passes away before all is concluded.

Nobody would suppose that polygamy can exist, among a people so ceremonious in the preliminaries of marriage; but it does prevail; and another thing, not less contradictory, happens frequently among them-we mean divorce, though it is accompanied with many conditions, which must operate as a check against caprice and fickleness.

Their trade with China, consists in an exchange of cattle and silver bars, for manufactured articles. From Russia, they could conveniently draw linen, corn, tobacco, and hardware; but they could give in return cattle only, of which there is an abundance in Siberia. The population of Mongolia is estimated by Mr. Timkowski at two millions. The country is divided into several principalities, all which recognise the supremacy of the Emperor of China, and are independent of each other. Chinese politicians trust to this division of power, for the undisturbed maintenance of their authority, among a people accustomed to hate the Chinese. For greater security, Mongolia is under a military rule. All the hordes are divided into bands, regiments, and squadrons. The officers are invested both with the civil and military administration. Over them all, preside inspectors, appointed by the Emperor. The chiefs of the principalities hold a general diet once every three years. The supreme administration is, however, in still higher hands: in those of the members of a Mongol tribunal, sitting at Peking, and which bears also the name of Tribunal of Foreign Affairs.

The dignity of prince is hereditary in the eldest son alone : the younger brothers are but in the throng of the poor nobility. Each prince pays to the Emperor a tribute consisting of cattle; but this is merely as an acknowledgment of his supremacy; for he returns ten times the value of this feudal service, and honours them frequently with presents of silver, silks, rich dresses, caps adorned with peacocks' feathers, &c. If there is a show of regard in these tokens of benevolence, there is probably in reality a still greater degree of fear and suspicion concealed under it. It is the same with the alliances of princesses of the imperial dynasty, with some of the chiefs of Mongolia-a system which was adopted by Alexius Comnenus, and formed the basis of the sundry degrees of parentage in the family of the Byzantine Emperor. This policy is so successful, that Mr. Timkowski is inclined to believe that the authority of the Emperor is secured by it, as the chiefs, on their side, are perfectly secure of the fidelity of the population intrusted to their administration. Great advantages must be offered to them, he adds, to dispose them to exchange the blessings of peace, for the chances of a revolt.

AMERICAN QUARTERLY REVIEW.

No. VI.

JUNE, 1828.

ART. I. -Histoire de l'Astronomie au Dix-huitième Siecle, par

M. DELAMBRE. 4to. pp. 796. Publié par M. Mathieu. Paris : 1827. The History of Astronomy in the Eighteenth Century. By M, DELAMBRE. Paris : 1827.

The opening of the eighteenth century, is a memorable era in the History of Astronomy. Its whole duration was illustrated by important discoveries. At its commencement, the Philosophers of Europe found themselves in possession of superior instruments to all before known ; of improved methods of observation and of calculation : then also was given to the world, the first elements of that caleulus, by which alone, the more recondite actions of bodies upon

each other can be detected. These new instruments of discovery, were throughout the whole course of this century, applied to the utmost advantage, by skilful observers, accurate calculators, and profound analysts. The examination of the steps, by which the present high state of astronomical knowledge has been reached, is one of the utmost interest ; we have in consequence been led to expect this posthumous work of Delambre with much anxiety. In perusing it, our anticipations have been fully realized ; it is, in truth, one of the most valuable contribu. tions to the history of science with which we are acquainted, and well supports the reputation acquired by the author in his former works.

We shall endeavour to present to our readers, in as concise a form as possible, the more important facts detailed in the work before us. In order, however, to render our abridgment more intelVOL. III.NO. 6,

37

« ПретходнаНастави »