« AnteriorContinuar »
of the Irtuish, by Tobolsk, whose tent, and began devouring it immepassage is considered the symbol of diately, quite raw, with the heartiest political death to the numerous exiles appetite. The old man was satisfied who each year cross it-bestows a with sucking the brain from the head, step of rank on all public servants whilst each of our younger comrades offering themselves for duty in Sibe- gnawed away at a limb of the animal, ria Proper. The passion for rank, even to the bone. They laughed at stronger in Russia than in any other the amazement which my goodcountry, drives hosts of officers across humoured Esthonian attendant exthis important boundary; but as they pressed at their blood-stained faces; are not obliged to remain more than and when he gave them to underthree years, most of them return stand, through the interpreter, that home at the end of that time. Far they were no better than wolves, they nearer to St Petersburg than the seemed quite unprepared for such Asiatic frontier, civilisation is still at reproof; replying gravely, that they a very low ebb amongst the aborigi- were at the same time no worse nal tribes. Close to Nijni Novgorod, than the wolves, since they shared and within a very short distance of honestly with them, and left the bones Moscow, the prevailing population and some seraps of flesh merely for consists of Cheremisses and Chu- their sake." In this same tent there vashes, two tribes many of whese was a little monster of a boy named customs are nearly as barbarous as Peina, whom one reads of with a sort their names. These people are shy of shudder, and with a strong suspiand timid, very slow in acquiring cion that the creature was not canny. industrious habits, and addicted to Mr Erman himself seems to write of sundry practices stamping them as him with peculiar reserve, stating semi-savages. In some places they facts, but evidently unwilling to give cling to paganism, and offer up an opinion as to the exact nature of horned beasts, fruit, end vege- the beast. Peina, who had first-rate tables to their various deities. The masticators, got his share of the raw Chuvash ladies wear a sort of bustle meat, which did not prevent his of sheet copper, hanging from the drawing on his mother's lacteal regirdle backwards over the hips, and sources, and thumping her brutally having appended to it all manner of till she honoured the draft, or metal ornaments, making a perpetual handed him the pot-ladle, with which clatter in walking. But these tribes he supped sealding porridge to his are the pink of refinement by com- great internal contentment. The parison with those in the northern travellers: bread, although frozen portion of the Muscovite empire,-with hard and not easy eating for adult the Ostyaks, who eat out of the same jaws, disappeared by wholesale withtrough with their dogs, or with the in those of Peina. At night the Samoyedes who tear with their teeth, anomalous urchin was laid naked in and swallow with infinite relish, huge a canoe-shaped basket, and covered lumps of raw and reeking flesh. The up so thickly with furs that his cries women of the latter people wear, as their seemed to come from the depths of favourite decoration, (certainly no in- the earth. In the morning his appropriate one) a glutton's tail, mother took him from his bed and hanging down the back of their pelisse. set him up, still naked, before the fire Their hair is plaited in tails, to which to warm bimself. Sugar, when first all manner of lumber, brass and iron presented to him, he called snow, and rings, and rusty musket-locks, are threw away, but when once he had attached. Mr Erman's account of tasted the dainty, his demands for it “ Life in the Chum" (the skin tent were unceasing and peremptory. of the Samoyedes) is quaint and Taking into consideration the uncomgraphie.
fortable and uncleanly peculiarities of " The reindeer calf, which we had the Samoyedes, both young and old, got on the way, was killed and cut up we cannot feel surprised that Mr in front of the tent a few minutes Erman's interpreter conceived an inafter our arrival. The men now tense dislike to their society, and so brought the bleeding flesh into the managed matters that one morning, whilst the man of science was busy a quarter, undoubtedly the most exmeasuring a base-line to ascertain traordinary as well as the most the heights of some mountains, his speedy stage upon any routein Russia." Samoyede companions suddenly dis. Thence, onwards to the frontier line. appeared with their tent and their “ We followed the crowd that pressed reindeer, leaving him with three ill forward towards a narrow door in the equipped sledges and a few Ostyak front of a long wooden building. attendants, and with no choice but to This admitted us into the inner quadmake the best of his way back to rangle of a Russian warehouse. A corObdorsk, whence he soon afterwards responding door, at the opposite side of returned to Tobolsk. There he this court, opens just upon a wooden passed his Christmas, and then re- barricade, which constitutes the barsumed his journey; but this time in a rier of China. In this there is a southerly direction. After having wide portal, ornamented with pilpenetrated to sixty-seven degrees lars, and displaying the Russian north, the region of eternal frost, he eagle above it, along with the cipher struck southwards to the latitude of of the reigning emperor, Nicholas the Land's End, making a dip into the First, by whom it was erected." China, which furnishes some of the On passing through this gate, the best chapters in his book.
change is immediate and striking, Irkutsk, the last town of importance from Russian sobriety of aspect and north of the Chinese frontier, consists hue to the gaudy finery of China. of nineteen hundred houses, fifty being Maimachen, the name of the Chinese of brick, and the remainder of wood, town visited by Mr Erman, has a very and is probably the cheapest place in masquerading air to a European eye. the civilised world as regards articles The walls on either side of the streets of food. We say " civilised," because, do not look like house walls, the roofs although situate in a barbarous region, being flat and invisible from the street. and possessing a population of a very “Indeed, they are nearly altogether motley character, the town has much concealed by the gay-coloured paper that is European in its aspect and lanterns and flags, with inscriptions usages. It possesses an exchange, on them, hung out on both sides of government factories, where newly- the way. Cords, with similar scrolls arrived convicts are employed, a and lanterns, are likewise stretched school of medicine, a gymnasium, and from roof to roof across the street. a handsome parade-ground. In the These dazzling decorations stand out market, formed of wooden booths, the in glaring contrast with the dull yellow stores of food were enormous. Beef of the ground and walls. In the open cost about a halfpenny a pound; of crossings of the streets, wbich interflour one penny would purchase nearly sect each other at right angles, stood eight and a half pounds; partridges enormous chafing dishes of cast-iron, and heathfowl were sold at five like basins, upon a slender pedestal farthings a-piece. But we are in four feet in height. The benches by haste to get amongst the Celestials. .which they were surrounded were First comes a gallop across More occupied by tea-drinkers, who sat Baikal, a large lake just beyond smoking from the little pipes they Irkutsk, on which the Russian gov. carry at their girdles, whilst their ernment maintains an armed flotilla. kettles boiled at the common fire." This gallop is a fine bit of helter. Mr Erman had the good fortune to be skelter, over ice brilliant as glass. on the frontier at the period of the * There was no snow upon the ice, so Chinese festival of the White Moon, that its surface shone like a polished which is in fact the celebration of the mirror in the moonlight. The horses new-year, and he had the still that were put under our sledges in greater luck to be invited to share Kadilnaya had to be held on each side in it at Maimachen. He found the till the very moment of starting, when town in its gayest costume. The exthey broke at once into full gallop, penditure of flags and lanterns was wbich they kept up till we landed on prodigious. The scrolls usually conthe further shore. We completed tained the names of the families beseven German miles in two hours and fore whose houses they were hung out, coupled with words of auspicious im- other guests, preceded by the uproariport, as gladness, riches, wisdom, &c. ous orchestra, marched off to dinner There was a great firing of crackers at the house of the sarguchei or chief and rockets, partly to celebrate the officer of Maimachen. This gentleday, but chiefly in honour of the man, a tall, thin person of stern counguests. Before dinner the latter were tenance, dressed in gray velvet, had a diverted by a theatrical representa- white button on the crown of his tion. Maimachen boasts a regular black felt hat, indicating his rank, and company of actors, and upon this a chalcedony ring, an inch wide, upon great occasion they did their best. his right-hand thumb, this being a Their orchestra was of a rather violent mark of official dignity. “ His nails," description, consisting of " wooden says our traveller, " did not extend drums, shaped like casks, brass cym- above half an inch beyond the tips of bals, and plates of the same metal, his fingers, his personal vanity being or gongs, held by a string and beaten in this respect subdued, as might be with knockers, and wooden truncheons, expected in a man of sober mind and of different sizes, which they used as mature years." The man of short castanets." There were no actresses; nails and sober mind was exceeding but the deficiency was not to be de- hospitable, welcomed his guests in a tected, the younger and more delicate soft and sonorous voice, and sat down men personating women to the life by with them to dinner at tables covered the aid of wigs and long tresses of with scarlet cloth. The regale that black hair, but especially by curls followed might have caused a Europressed flat upon the forehead. Masks pean chef to pale his ineffectual fires were not used, but paint was in abun- from sheer envy. It began, oddly dance; in some cases with a view to enough, with fruits, sweetmeats, and represent spectacles, mustachios, &c.; tea. These discussed, a piece of fine in others to conceal the human features, paper, for a napkin, and a pair of or give them a monstrous aspect. “One ivory chopsticks, were laid before each face was covered with coloured rays, guest, and the tables, which were six issuing from the mouth. The same feet wide, were covered over thickly actor had also a feather on his head, with small porcelain plates full of all in Chinese comedy the conventional manner of complicated edibles. Fat mark of a ghost or apparition. An- abounded in the dressing, to neutralise other wore a golden helmet, which which weak vinegar was used. The constituted him a warrior. Several first series of saucers duly honoured, kept beating themselves incessantly a second was brought in and put on on the bip with a cane, and by so the top of its predecessor. Others doing intimated that they were on followed, and as the previous stratum horseback," The play itself was more was never removed, there soon arose like a game of romps than any regular upon the table a lofty pile of gastrodramatic representation. Little was nomical curiosities. Pipes and chowsen, said ; but, on the other hand, there was a Chinese spirit distilled from rice, a deal of dancing, drumming, and concluded the feast, as the strangers running about. Mr Erman could make thought;- but they were vastly misneither head nor tail of the proceed taken. The soup course had still to ings. By way of experiment, how come, and that was followed by an ever, he made some tender gestures infusion of cabbage-leaves, drawn out to one of the pseudo-ladies, who ac- of an urn by a cock, and drunk steamknowledged them in the most amiable ing hot. How a dinner commencing manner, and after that the horsemen with preserved apricots, and concludwithout horses paid bim much atten- ing with cabbage water, agreed with tion, pointing with their sticks to his German stomachs, Mr Erman does spectacles, and trying to touch them not inform us. After managing to as they passed. All this greatly di- taste upwards of a hundred dishes, he verted the Mongol audience, evidently went to visit the temple of Fo, whose delighted to see a real counterpart to court was guarded by two clay lions the painted spectacles of some of the painted green, whilst at his shrine actors.
were deposited, on account of the The play over, Mr Erman and the festive season, a prodigious heap of delicacies. Whole sheep without the is something agreeable also in the skin, plucked chickens, pheasants, and feel of them. Here, in Maimachen, I guinea-fowls, in their natural posi- saw some of these balls made of glass, tions, and glistening with fat, lay in striped green and white, and hollow, hillocks at the feet of half-a-dozen containing within them a little lump grotesque and indeeent idols. On a of clay, which rattled with every long table a wall of offerings was motion.” The musk and perfumes, built up, consisting of dressed meat however abundantly used, are all and cakes of every kind, the whole insufficient to counteract a very pecusurrounded with an elaborate lattice- liar and unpleasant smell attributed work of white dough, five or six feet by Mr Erman to the Chinese. He high, the openings of which were first perceived it at the theatre, and filled with dried fruits and confec- took it to arise from an inordinate tionary of the finest kind. Perfumed addiction to leeks on the part of candles burned before the disgusting actors and audience, whose breath idols, and brass discs hung from the and clothes were infected with the ceiling, and were struck with clappers disagreeable odour of that bulb. But when any bearing offerings approached. he was subsequently induced to regard
The contents of the shops at Maima it as a national taint, a Chinese exhachen gave Mr Erman a very high lation, not to be overcome by any opinion of Chinese skill and ingenuity. amount of artificial perfume, and He saw scientific instruments of great whose cause is matter of inquiry for merit, very clever clockwork, paint- the chemist. Doubtless the Chinese ings drawn and finished with the would get rid of it, were it possible so greatest care, (although highly objec- to do, for the care they bestow on tionable by the indelicacy of their personal beauty and elegance is very subjects,) porcelain, sculpture, bowls, great. Another striking defect in the yases, and figures of various kinds of inhabitants of Maimachen is to be stone. "There were large spherical found in their black and decayed bowls, and oyal vases, of chalcedony teeth. The cause of this Mr Erman and agate, and reliefs cut in corne- suspects to be the solution of copper, lians, nephrit, and other coloured produced by the empyreumatic oil of stones. Of the latter kind, the most tobacco in the bronze mouth-pieces common are flowers, the several parts of their pipes. of which are formed of various and At a post-house upon his road back tastefully selected stones, and then to Irkutsk, Mr Erman and his party cemented with mastie on a foundation were met by a deputation from no of stone. For many of these articles, less a personage than the Khamba highly elaborate, and at the same Lama, the high-priest of the Buraets, time quite useless, the merchants of a Mongolian tribe closely allied in Maimachen asked four thousand tea- language and customs to the natives bricks, (a standard of currency,) or of the northern provinces of China. about two thousand five hundred The embassy consisted of four lamas Russian dollars. In this we saw a or priests attired in scarlet robes and proof of luxury and profuse expendi- bright yellow hats. They brought ture amongst the Chinese. Many an invitation to a grand festival, other branches of industry indicated which was readily accepted, -and a enervation and effeminacy of man- very remarkable business it proved to ners:" musk, for instance, and other be. The discordant theatrical music perfumes, enclosed in little bags, and at Maimachen was a mere trifle comconsidered indispensable appendages pared to the monstrous noise made to a young man's dress. A curious by the Buraet kettle-drums, so large plaything, considered equally essen- that they were dragged upon four tial, is composed of two polished balls, wheels, and by copper trumpets ten about an inch in diameter, which the feet long, borne by one man and men always carry with them. “These blown by another. " The grave preare taken in the right hand, at idle lude of the wind instruments was like times, and rolled and rubbed one over a roaring hurricane, and the chorus the other with the fingers; the noise of brass gongs, drums, &c., resembled they make amuses, and perhaps there the crash of a falling mountain." In
this place we find some curious and, and resistance of their frozen soil, the interesting details respecting the Yakuts are a prosperous people, havBuddhist religion and priesthood, ing attained a considerable degree of after which Mr Erman returns to civilisation, and amongst whom crime Irkutsk, and resumes his journey is rare, although the influence of eastward, through the valley of the Russian example and contact daily Lena, to the land of the Tunguzes renders it less so. There is much and Yakuts. The chief town of the interest in Mr Erman's account of latter people, Yakutsk, is two degrees them, and of the wandering Tunguzes, to the south of Beresov, which Mr Er- the last tribe with whom he consorted man had visited on his way to Obdorsk; before his arrival at Okhotsk. Here but, nevertheless, the cold is far more his reception was not very flattering. severe at the former place, where “We were looked at with much frozen earth is found near the surface curiosity from all the house-doors on all the year round, and the same con- the way, for the devout elders of the dition of the ground continues to the place had been filled with anxious depth of six hundred feet. "The forebodings by the accounts of the inhabitants of the Swiss Alps would arrival of a foreigner. They signed not unjustly think themselves lost if themselves with the cross whenever they were compelled to live at the he was mentioned. And I learned height of ten thousand feet, or two to-day that they had fears of war, thousand three hundred feet above conscription, and other calamities." the hospital of the great St Bernard, Nor was their alarm abated by learnand there to support and clothe them- ing that “ the heathen foreigner wore selves by keeping cattle, and with the snow-shades (spectacles) even in thick productions of the surrounding moun- weather, and that he carried a dog in tains; yet they would then, and not the sledge with him. Thus the return until they arrived at that height, be to civilised man was marked in the settled on ground having the same first instance by the encounter of temperature which I found here intolerant superstition, and it was amongst the Yakuts, who are rich necessary to forget the nobler traits in cattle. It would seem, therefore, of the wilderness before we could as if that succeeded in Siberia which become reconciled to the Russians of was impossible in Europe, if we did Okhotsk.” At which place Mr Erman's not take into account that the same narrative ceases. We await with constant temperature of the ground interest its promised continuation-an may be made up at different places of account of his adventures in Kamsvery different elements." Notwith chatka, California, and the Pacific. standing the severity of their climate