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THE ABODE OF SNOW
OBSERVATIONS ON A JOURNEY
FROM CHINESE TIBET TO THE INDIAN CAUCASUS,
OF THE HIMALAYA
In the twenty-ninth chapter of this work, I have fully explained how the phrase " Abode of Snow" is a literal translation of the Sanscrit compound "Himálaya," and therefore forms an appropriate title for a work treating of those giant mountains. The Abode of Snow par excellence is not in the Himalaya, or even in the Arctic region, but (setting Saturn aside) in the Antarctic region. Owing to the greater preponderance of ocean in the southern hemisphere, the greatest accumulation of ice is round the South Pole; and hence the not improbable theory that, when the accumulation has reached a certain point, the balance of the earth must be suddenly destroyed, and this orb shall almost instantaneously turn transversely to its axis, moving the great oceans, and so producing one of those cyclical catastrophes which, there is some reason to believe, have before now interfered with the development and the civilisation of the human race.
How near such a catastrophe may be, and whether,
when it occurs, a few just men (and, it is to be hoped, women also) will certainly be left in the upper valleys of the Himalaya, I am unable to say; but it is well to know that there is an elevated and habitable region of the earth which is likely to be left undepopulated even by such an event as that just alluded to. Whether humanity will lose or gain by having to begin again from the simple starting-point of "Om mani padme haun" (vide Chapter XXXV.) is also a subject on which I feel a little uncertain; but we may at least hope that the jewel in the lotus will not be lost; that what has accrued to it from the efforts and the agony of so many thousand years, of so many hundreds of human generations, may pass over to the inhabitants of a newly-formed earth. And when we come to consider what the grand valuable results of this our awful striving, our dread history, have been, most of what we are given to boast of will have to be relinquished as worthless, and we may, even as Christians, be glad to take refuge in the comprehensive Lama prayer, "O God, consider the jewel in the lotus. Thy will be done." For, however appalling may have been the amount of human crime and woe, however pitiable our mistakes and ineffectual our struggles, there has ever been a jewel in the rank lotus of human life-something beautiful in it which is not of it, yet is mysteriously connected with, and hidden within, it. Viewed in this light the Lama prayer has a touching significance, and is not without a great lesson for us all.
But the Himalaya may have many visitors before that other Abode of Snow turns things topsy-turvy, if it ever do so; and these, I hope, may find my book of some service. It was not for them, however, that this volume was written, but for those who have never seen and may never see the Himalaya. I have sought, in however imperfect a manner, to enable such readers in some degree to realise what these great mountains are,—what scenes of beauty and grandeur they present -what is the character of the simple people who dwell among them-and what are the incidents the traveller meets with, his means of conveyance, and his mode of life. In attempting this I have had to struggle with what a kindly critic has called "the utterly unknown," and have been compelled, as a necessary part of the enterprise, to make my pages bristle with names and other words which are quite unfamiliar, and indeed for the most part entirely new, to the ordinary English reader-the very individual whose interest I want to engage. It has also been necessary to introduce some details of physical science, ethnology, archæology, and history; but these have been subordinated to the general aim of producing an intelligible idea of the region. described. Perhaps I may be excused for suggesting that some little effort on the reader's part is also called for, if indeed my labours are of any value,-which I am by no means sure of.
If there were any merit at all in my journey it lay only in the condition of body in which I commenced