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Across Mongolian Plains by Roy Chapman Andrews

Circled about the seated lamas


front of the judges, who represented the most respected laity of the community, were bowls of cheese cut into tiny cubes. The spectators consisted of two groups of women, who sat some distance apart in compact masses, the "horns" of their headdresses almost interlocked. Their costumes were marvels of brilliance. They looked like a flock of gorgeous butterflies, which had alighted for a moment on the grass.

The first race consisted of about a dozen ponies, ridden by fourteen-year-old boys and girls. They swept up the valley from the starting point in full run, hair streaming, and uttering wailing yells. The winner was led by two old Mongols to the row of lamas, before whom he prostrated himself twice, and received a handful of cheese. This he scattered broadcast, as he was conducted ceremoniously to the judges, from whom he returned with palms brimming with bits of cheese.

Finally, all the contestants in the races, and half a dozen of the Mongols on horseback, lined up in front of the priests, each one singing a barbaric chant. Then they circled about the lamas, beating their horses until they were in a full run. After the race came wrestling matches. The contestants sparred for holds and when finally clinched, each with a grip on the other's waistband, endeavored to obtain a fall by suddenly heaving. When the last wrestling match was finished, a tall Mongol raised the yellow banner, and followed by every man

and boy on horseback, circled about the seated lamas. Faster and faster they rode, yelling like demons, and then strung off across the valley to the nearest _yurt_.

Although the sports in themselves were not remarkable, the scene was picturesque in the extreme. Opposite to the grassy hill the forest-clad mountains rose, tier upon tier, in dark green masses. The brilliant yellow lamas faced by the Mongols in their blazing robes and pointed yellow hats, the women, flashing with "jewels" and silver, the half-wild chant, and the rush of horses, gave a barbaric touch which thrilled and fascinated us. We could picture this same scene seven hundred years ago, for it is an ancient custom which has come down from the days of Kublai Khan. It was as though the veil of centuries had been lifted for a moment to allow us to carry away, in motion pictures, this drama of Mongolian life.



Three days after the field meet we left with Tserin Dorchy and two other Mongols for a wapiti hunt. We rode along the Terelche River for three miles, sometimes splashing through the soggy edges of a marsh, and again halfway up a hillside where the ground was firm and hard; then, turning west on a mountain slope, we came to a low plateau which rolled away in undulating sweeps of bush-land between the edges of the dark pine woods. It was a truly boreal landscape; we were on the edge of the forest, which stretches in a vast, rolling sea of green far beyond the Siberian frontier.

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