Mongolia an Asiatic country, now a part of China, situated between lat. 35° and 52° N. and long. 82° and 123° E., is bounded by the Russian government of Irkutsk in Siberia, N.E. by Mantchuria, S. by the Chinese provinces of Chili and Shan-si and the Yellow River, S.W. by Kansu, and W. by Cobdo and Ili, and has an area of 1,400,000 square miles, with a population of 2,000,000. SEE CHINA.
Geographical Features. — It is chiefly a high plain, 3000 feet above the sea, almost destitute of wood and water. In the central part is the great sandy desert of Gobi, which stretches from N.E. to S.W., with an area estimated at 600,000 square miles. The chief mountain ranges of Mongolia are the Altai and its various subordinate chains, which extend eastward, under the names of Tangnu, Khangai, and Kenteh, as far as the Amur; and the Alashan and Inshan ranges, which commence in lat. 42° N. and long. 107° E., and run N.E. and N. to the Amur, in lat. 53° N. The rivers of Mongolia are chiefly in the north. The Selenga, Orkhon, and Tula unite their streams and flow into Lake Baikal. The Kerlon and Onon rise near each other, on opposite sides of the Kenteh range, and flow in a N.E. direction to the Amur. In the south, the Siramuren and its branches unite in the Lian River. Lakes are numerous, and some of them are large. South of the desert of Gobi are the Oling and Dzaring, and the Koko-nor or Blue Sea, which, according to the Chinese accounts, is 190 miles in length and 60 in breadth. In the N.W. part of the country lakes abound, the largest of which are. the Upsa-nor, Altai-nor, Alak-nor, and the Iki-ural. Mongolia is divided into four principal regions: 1, Inner Mongolia, lying between the great wall and the desert of Gobi; 2, Outer Mongolia, between the desert and the Altai mountains, and reaching from the Inner Hingan to the Tien- shan; 3, the country about Koko-nor; 4, Uliassutai and its dependencies. Inner: Mongolia is divided into 6 corps and 24 tribes, which are again divided into 49 standards, each comprising about 2000 families and commanded by hereditary princes. The Kortchin and the Ortus are the principal tribes. Another large tribe, the Tsakhars, occupy the region immediately north of the great wall. Outer Mongolia is divided into 4 circles, each of which is governed by a khan, or prince, who claims descent from Genghis Khan. The Khalkas is the principal tribe, and their 4 khanates are divided into 86 standards, each of which is restricted to a particular territory, from which it is not allowed to wander. The country about Lake Koko-nor is occupied by Turguths, Hoshoits, Khalkas, and other tribes, arranged under 29 standards. Uliassutai is a town of 2000 houses, in the western part of Mongolia, and lies in a well-cultivated valley upon the River Iro. Its dependent territories comprise 11 tribes of Khalkas, divided into 31 standards (Amer. Cyclop.).
But little is accurately known of the natural history of Mongolia, except that its immense plains and gloomy forests are inhabited by multitudes of wild animals. The camel, double-humped or Bactrian, exists in both the wild and domesticated state. In the latter condition it is the cow and horse of that region. It gives milk excellent in quality, and from it butter and cheese are prepared, .and at the same time it is the camel which serves the Mongolian frequently as a beast of burden, etc. Very little of Mongolian soil is fit for cultivation, rain or snow rarely falling in sufficient quantities, except on the acclivities of the mountain ranges. It is noticed, however, that wherever agriculture has been attempted the climate has been more or less influenced, and changes have been wrought; as e.g. in Southern Mongolia, where the Chinese, far advanced beyond the Mongols proper in culture, introduced agriculture, with the cultivation of cereals, which formerly did not grow. As a rule, the winter lasts nine months, and is suddenly succeeded by three months of intense heat.
Inhabitants. — The natives of Mongolia are a part of the Mongolian race, a division of mankind numerous and widely spread — according to Prof. Dieterici's estimate, in 1859, counting as many as 528,000,000 souls, or about half the human race; the second in the classification of Blumenbach, and corresponding in almost every respect with the branch designated as
Turanian by more recent ethnologists. SEE ORIGIN OF MAN. Under the designation of Mongolians are included not only the Mongols proper, but the Chinese and Indo-Chinese, Thibetans, Tartars of all kinds, Burmese, Siamese, Japanese, Esquimaux, Samoieds, Finns, Lapps, Turks, and even Magyars. Collectively, they are the great nomadic ,people of the earth, as distinguished from the Aryans, Shemites, and Hamites. The physical characteristics of the Mongolians in their primitive state are thus described by Dr. Latham in his Descriptive Ethnology: "The face of the Mongolian is broad and flat. This is because the nasal bones are depressed and the cheekbones stand out laterally; they are not merely projecting, for this they might be without giving much breadth to the face, inasmuch as they might stand forward... The distance between the eyes is great, the eyes themselves being oblique, and their caruncule being concealed. The eyebrows form a low and imperfect arch, black and scanty. The iris is dark; the cornea yellow. The complexion is tawny, the stature low. The ears are large, standing out from the head; the lips thick and fleshy rather than thin, the teeth somewhat oblique in their insertion, the forehead low and flat, and the hair lank and thin." Of course, such a description as this cannot be understood as applying to the more civilized nations of Mongol origin, such as the Turks and Magyars, especially the latter, who in physical appearance differ but little, if at all, from other European nations.
The Mongols are, with a few exceptions, nomadic in their mode of life, living in tents and subsisting on animal food, the product of their flocks and herds. The Mongol tent, for about three feet from the ground, is cylindrical in form ; it then becomes conical, like a pointed hat. Its wood-work is composed below of a trellis-work of crossed bars, which fold up and expand at pleasure. Above these a circle of poles, fixed in the trellis-work, meets at the top, like the sticks of an umbrelia. Over the wood-work is stretched a thick covering of coarse felt. The door is low and narrow, and is crossed at the bottom by a beam which serves as a threshold. At the top of the tent is an opening to let out the smoke, which can at any time be closed by a piece of felt hanging above it, to which is attached a long string for the purpose. The interior is divided into two compartments — that on the left being for the men, while that on the right is occupied by the women, and is also used as a kitchen, the utensils of which consist chiefly of large earthen vessels for holding water, wooden pails for milk, and a large bell-shaped iron kettle. A small sofa or couch, a small square press or chest of drawers (the top of which serves as all altar for an idol), and a number of goats' horns fixed in the woodwork of the tent, on which hang various utensils, arms, and other articles, complete the furniture of this primitive habitation. The odor pervading the interior of the Mongol tent is, to those not accustomed to it, disgusting and almost insupportable. "This smell," says M. Huc, "so potent sometimes that it seems to make one's heart rise to one's throat, is occasioned by the mutton-grease and butter with which everything on and about a Tartar is impregnated. It is on account of this habitual filth that they are called Tsao-Ta-Dze ('stinking Tartars') by the Chinese, themselves not altogether inodorous, or by any means particular about cleanliness." Household and family cares among the Mongols are assigned entirely to the women, who milk the cows, make the butter and cheese, draw water, gather fuel, tan skins, and make cloth and clothes. The occupation of the men consists chiefly in conducting the flocks and herds to pasture, which, as they are accustomed from infancy to horseback, is an amusement rather than a labor. They sometimes hunt wild animals for food or for their skins, but never for pleasure. When not on horseback, the men pass their time in absolute idleness, sleeping all night and squatting all day in their tents, drinking tea or smoking. Their education is very limited. The only persons who learn to read are the lamas or priests, who are also. the painters, sculptors, architects, and physicians of the nation. The training of the men who are not intended for priests is confined to the use of the bow and the matchlock, and a thorough mastery of horsemanship. M. Huc says: "When a mere infant, the Mongol is weaned, and as soon as he is strong enough he is stuck upon a horse's back behind a man, the animal is put to a gallop, and the juvenile rider, in order not to fall off, has to cling with both hands to his teacher's jacket. The Tartars thus become accustomed from a very early age to the movement of the horse, and by degrees and the force of habit they identify themselves, as it were, with the animal. There is perhaps no spectacle more exciting than that of Mongol riders in chase of a wild horse. They are armed with a long, heavy pole, at the end of which is a running-knot. They gallop — they fly after the horse they are pursuing, down rugged ravines and up precipitous hills, in and out, twisting and turning in their rapid course, until they come up with their game. They then take the bridle of their own horse in their teeth, seize with both hands their heavy pole, and, bending forward, throw by a powerful effort the running-knot around the wild horse's neck. In this exercise the greatest vigor must be combined with the greatest dexterity, in order to enable them to stop short the powerful untamed animals with which they have to deal. It sometimes happens that the cord and pole are broken; but as to a horseman being thrown, it is an occurrence we never saw or heard of. The Mongol is so accustomed to ride on horseback that he is like a fish out of water when he sets foot on the ground. His step is heavy and awkward; and his bowed legs, his chest bent forward, and his constant looking about him, all indicate a person who spends the greater portion of his time on the back of a horse or a camel. The Mongols marry very young, and their marriages are regulated entirely by their parents, who make the contract without consulting the young people at all. No dowry is given with the bride, but, on the contrary, the bridegroom's family pay a considerable price for the maiden. A plurality of wives is permitted, but the first wife is always the mistress of the household. Divorce is very frequent, and is effected without the intervention of either the civil or the ecclesiastical authorities. The husband who wishes to repudiate his wife sends her back to her parents without any formality, except a message that he does not require her any longer. This proceeding does not give offence, as the family of the lady retain the cattle, horses, and other property given to them at the time of the marriage, and have an opportunity of selling her over again to a fresh purchaser. The women, however, are not oppressed, and are not kept in seclusion; they come and go at pleasure, ride on horseback, and visit from tent to tent. In their manners and appearance they are like the men — haughty, independent, and vigorous. The chiefs of the Mongol tribes and all their blood-relations form an aristocracy, who hold the common people in a mild species of patriarchal servitude. There is no distinction of manners nor of mode of living between these classes; and though the common people are not allowed to own lands, they frequently accumulate considerable property in herds and flocks. Those who become lamas are entirely free."
History. — The Mongolians, as a race, are supposed to be the same who, in remote antiquity, founded what is called the "Median empire" in Lower Chaldaea-an empire, according to Rawlinson, that flourished and fell between 2458 and 2234 B.C., that is, before Nineveh became known as a great city. Thus early did some of these nomadic tribes, forsaking their original pastoral habits, assume the character of a nation. Another great offshoot from this stock founded an empire in China, the earliest date of which it is impossible to trace, but which certainly had reached a state of high civilization at least 2000 years B.C. In early Greek history they figure as Scythians, and in late Roman as Huns, carrying terror and desolation over the civilized world. In the Middle Ages they appear as Mongols, Tartars, and Turks. In the beginning of the 13th century Genghis Khan, originally the chief of a small Mongol horde, conquered almost the whole of Central and Eastern Asia. His sons and grandsons were equally successful, and in 1240-41 the Mongol empire extended from the sea- board of China to the frontiers of Germany and Poland, including Russia and Hungary, and the whole of Asia, with the exception of Asia Minor, Arabia, India and the Indo-Chinese states, and Northern Siberia. This vast empire soon broke up into a number of independent kingdoms, from one of which, Turkestan, arose another tide of Mongol invasion, under the guidance of Timur or Tamerlane, who in the latter part of the 14th century reduced Turkestan, Persia, Hindustan, Asia Minor, and Georgia under his sway, and broke for a time the Turkish power. On the death of his son, shah Rokh, the Mongol empire was subdivided, and finally absorbed by the Persians and Usbeks; but an offshoot of Timur's family founded in the 16th century the great Mogul empire of Delhi. After the decline of Timlr's empire, the Turkish branch maintained the glory of the race, and spread terror to the very heart of Western Europe. In the 9th century the Magyars, a tribe of Ugrians, also of Mongol extraction, under their leader Arpad, established themselves in Hungary, where in process of time they became converted to Christianity, and founded a kingdom famous in European history. SEE GEORGIA; SEE HUNGARY; SEE TURKEY.
(a) heathenism. The primitive religion of the Mongolians was no doubt largely influenced by the inspired faith, if it did not to some extent prevail among them for some time. The earliest traces reveal them as mostly adherents to Shamanism (q.v.). There are, however, among them, according to the different countries in which they reside, and to the several names of which the reader has been referred, various other religions, as Buddhism, Confucianism, Taouism, fire-worship, paganism of different kinds, Mohammedanism, and Christianity. In Mongolia proper, that species of Buddhism known as Lamaism (q.v.) was introduced in the 13th century of the Christian era, and, like the Buddhists of Thibet, they recognise as their spiritual head the grand lama at Lassa. The people are very devout, and generous to a fault in their support of religious institutions, and hence the country abounds in well-endowed lamasaries, constructed of brick and stone with elegance and solidity, and ornamented with paintings, sculptures, and carvings. "The most famous of these monasteries is that of the great Kuren, on the banks of the river Tula, in the country of the Kalkas. Thirty thousand lamas dwell in the lamasary, and the plain adjoining it is always covered with the tents of the pilgrims who resort thither from all parts of Tartary. In these lamasaries a strict monastic discipline is maintained, but each lama is at liberty to acquire property by practicing as physician, by casting horoscopes, or by working as sculptor or painter, or in any occupation not inconsistent with his priestly character. Almost all younger sons of the free Mongols are devoted from infancy to the priesthood, and this tendency to monasticism is encouraged by the Chinese government, in order to keep down the growth of population among the Mongols. Almost every lamasary of the first class possesses a living Buddha, who, like the grand lama of Thibet, is worshipped as an incarnation of the deity. The influence of these personages is very great; and the Chinese emperors, who are constantly in dread of the Mongols, watch the living Buddhas with constant care, and spare no pains to conciliate them and win over to their interest those who manage these deities."
(b) Christianity. — The Nestorians (q.v.), who dwelt in large numbers among the Mongolians, seem to have exerted but little if any influence on this heathen people. What was by the early Christians regarded as an indication of their leaning towards the religion and culture of the Christian dispensation, proves to have been only a temporary accommodation. The Western or Roman Church has made repeated attempts to convert the Mongols. In the 13th century, when their invasion threatened to overthrow European society and civilization, the Western pontiff, Innocent IV (1245), sent two embassies, one to charge these sanguinary warriors to desist from their desolating inroads, the other to win them over to Christianity. The first of these, consisting of Dominicans, headed by one named Ascelin (Neander, Kirchengeschichte, 7:66), approached the commander-in-chief of the Mongol forces in Persia, but was unsuccessful. The other, consisting of Franciscans, headed by an Italian, Johannes de Plano Carpini, a disciple and devoted friend of Francis d'Assisi, pushed quite to the Tartaric court, and approached the khan in person (1246); but though they secured a hearing before the Mongolian throne, they yet failed to accomplish more than that the Mongol chief, like Vladimir of Russia, gave a patient hearing to Romanist, Nestorian, Buddhist, and Mohammedan, who each in their turn sought his conversion and influence. In 1253 Louis IX, hearing of the Mongolian's tendency towards Christianity, despatched another Franciscan, — William de *Aubruiquis (Neander, 7:69); but he reported that the Mongolian chief listened patiently to Christian emissaries, "filled with the idea that the Mongol conquests would come to an end unless the gods of foreign countries were propitiated." Only one Christian Church had been founded. Rubruiquis, however, succeeded in baptizing about sixty persons; yet, after all, Rubruiquis's success was not flattering, and he finally returned to Europe disheartened. The removal, five years later, of the capital of the Mongol empire to China (q.v.), further obstructed the progress of Christianity in Mongolia. There developed, however, among its simple pastoral tribes an article of belief which promised much for the final establishment of Christianity, viz. the belief in the existence of one almighty Being. In their heathen views, of course, they could not content themselves with acknowledging an earthly ruler unless a supernatural origin could be assigned to him, and they made the khan the son of this one almighty Power. an earthly ruler whom all men were bound to obey. While thus there was room for the most comprehensive toleration, there was room also for every kind of superstition; and the desire to bring the one Supreme, living apart in awful isolation, into nearer communion with his feeble worshipper — to bridge over the awful chasm between them — predisposed the people to a composite religion of Buddhism and Lamaism (see Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, volume 2, Append. 2; 3:89; Middle Ages, page 235). Still, "the son of Heaven" entertained a respect for all religions, and not least for Christianity. Marco Polo, who had been sent there by Gregory X in 1274, reports Kublai Khan as saying: "There are four great prophets who are reverenced by the different classes of mankind. The Christians regard Jesus Christ as their God; the Saracens, Mohammed; the Jews, Moses; the idolators, Sakyamuni Buddha, the most eminent among their idols. I honor and respect all the four" (Travels, page 167, ed. Bohn, 1854). One of the most successful of the early Christian laborers from the West was John de Monte Corvino, who went to Pekin in 1292, and for eleven years kept alive the flickering spark of Christianity in the Tartar realm. He translated the Scriptures for its people, educated their youth, and trained a native ministry. Yet even his labors bore fruit only while he was on earth; for soon after the close of his life, in 1330, "every vestige of his work was obliterated" (Gieseler, Ecclesiastes Hist. 4:259, 260; Hardwick, Ch. Hist. M.A. pages 235, 237). This was caused no doubt in a large measure by the termination of the Mongolian rule in China, and the accession of the Ming dynasty in 1370, which, fearing everything foreign, banished Christianity as dangerous to their interests. It remained for the Jesuits to plant Christianity anew. The missionary work performed in Persia, and in the border lands of the Caspian Sea and in Middle Asia, was so insignificant that it is not even Worth mentioning. See Maclean, Hist. of Christian Missions in the M. A. (Lond. 1863, 12mo), pages 370- 77; Assemani, Bibl. Orient. 3:2 sq.; Hue, Journey through the Chinese Empire; Recollections of a Journey through Tartary and Thibet; Schmidt, Forschungen im Gebiete der alteren religiisen, politischen, u. literarischen Bildungsgeschichte der Mongolen u. Tibeter (St. Petersb. 1824); Tumerelli, Kazan, the ancient Capital of the Tartar Khans (Lond. 1854, 2 volumes, 12mo); Neumann, Die Voilker des sidlichen Russlands (Leipsic, 1847); Aboul Ghaze Bhadour Khan, Histoire des Mogols et des Tartares (St. Petersb. 1874), volume 2; Daniels, Handb. d. Geogr. 1:346 sq.; Am. Cyclop. s.v. SEE TARTARY.