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Macabre Trivia

Macabre Trivia

Caravan routes all over the high country are marked by the abandoned carcasses of fallen animals, sometimes dozens of them. Ravens haunt the roads, feeding on the dead beasts; when a dying animal is left behind by its drivers, the ravens hover round it, pluck out its eyes and begin to feast on its entrails before it is even dead. Piles of merchandise are left carefully marked with the names of the owners, to be picked up on the way back; the mark of a caravan whose animals have mostly perished; no one will disturb these goods, the owner will collect them later. Later in the lowlands, they found the caravan routes blocked horribly by the huge carcasses of camels with swollen, bloated bellies; the Turkestani drivers customarily slit the throats of dying animals, putting them out of their misery.

"The carcasses of animals became more and more numerous. Some of them had probably died in terrible agony. The dry atmosphere had mummified them in strange attitudes, as though galloping, their heads thrown backward. Probably some caravaneers had set up the dead animals in standing posture and there was something strangely uncanny in these galloping, dead horses."

A shrine in the desert houses sacred doves; travelers buy grain to feed them. A king of Khotan built a temple dedicated to sacred rats, celebrating a victory over the Hiung-nu (?) when the enemy's ammunition was miraculously destroyed overnight by gnawing rats.

City of Urga (from Mongol orgo, ie princely camp, palace) - capital of Mongolia. Urga is the European name prior to 1924, when the Ikhe-Khuruldan or Great National Assembly of Mongolia changed the city's name to Ulan Bator Khoto, City of the Red Warrior. Native Mongols however always call it Ikhe-kuren or Ikhe-kura, the Great Monastery; in everyday language, they say Kuren, or perhaps the Sino-Mongolian name Da-kura (Ta-kura, Chinese transcription Ta k'u-lun). Many temples with glittering roofs. Miserable hovels also. Urga houses are surrounded by grey, weathered, high, wooden palisades with red-painted gates, with small wooden plates on which the house numbers are written. Inside each palisade is a large courtyard with a small one-storied house; a Mongol family uses their house only during the summer, and pitches their felt tent or tents in the courtyard. They prefer to live in the warm felt tent during the wintertime.

Huge packs of dogs infest Urga, sometimes attacking people. Dead bodies, animals and garbage are left out for the dogs to devour. Bodies are dumped in a valley north of the city, and the scavenging dogs sometimes drag back human skulls, bones with hair attached, etc, and leave them lying around. There is a cemetery where poor Chinese leave the dead in huge wooden coffins which rest on the ground, and as the dogs cannot break into these coffins the stench of the area is indescribable . . . Sometimes the coffins rot and the dogs scrape their way in and mutilate the hands and heads of the dead. Wealthy Chinese always send their dead home to China, and it is a commonplace thing along the trade routes to encounter a camel carrying one of these huge wooden coffins on its back.

Nomad Mongols throw the corpses of their children onto the trade routes, so that travelers may pray for their souls as they pass.

Kalacakra doctrine of knowledge. The mandala is its holy sphere of influence. It is a mystic sect or discipline derived from Mongolian astrology, prevalent in Mongolia; its center is the Tashilhumpo Monastery (ie the Tashi Lama's temple). In the future, the Tashi Lama will be reborn as Rigden Jye-po, the future ruler of Shambhala, whose destiny it is to conquer the followers of evil and rule the world in the name of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. This doctrine of Shambhala is the hidden faith of Tibet and Mongolia, and His Holiness the Tashi Lama is its chief expounder. Shambhala (a mountain range in NE Tibet) is considered to be the abode of hidden Buddhist learning, the secret heart of the coming kalpa or cosmic age, and it is from Shambhala that the final Holy War will sweep to win the world for Buddhism . . .

Black Hat dance performed during New Year ceremonies. Lamas perform it at the monasteries, dressed in black coats with green embroidered silk sleeves, over which are worn ru-rgyan or bone ornaments - and peculiar black hats, which give the dance their name. The tale goes that in the ninth century AD the king of Tibet, Lang-darma was a faithful follower of the Bon faith and suppressed Buddhism every way he could, closing lamaseries and massacring monks. A famous Buddhist ascetic called Pal-dorje decided to assassinate him. Accordingly, he rode into Lhasa mounted on a shaggy black pony (it was actually pure white, but he had painted it from nose to tail) and garbed in the manner of a Bon magician, with a bow and arrow concealed in his long sleeves. So attired, he was admitted into the presence of the king, where he began to dance a strange dance. Mesmerized, the wicked king drew near, staring at the dancing magician; whereupon Pal-dorje shot him with a poison arrow. The lama left his dying victim, fled toward his horse and vanished from the city - crossing a river upon his way, so that the coal with which his pony was painted washed away. Thus the warriors of the city, rushing out in pursuit of a Bon magician on a black horse, found only a poor Buddhist lama riding upon a white pony. So was Buddhism avenged, and so it is danced every New Year throughout Mongolia and Tibet.

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