Page images


herded together very much like flocks of animals, see in it a transition from a still more savage past. There is not much use in speculating on the origin of customs when that origin lies concealed in the mist of antiquity. Such speculation takes very much the shape of finding or inventing uses which the custom under discussion might subserve ; but that is a very unsatisfactory region of thought where there are no historical facts to afford guidance. All we can really say on this subject is, that polyandry does subserve certain useful ends. In a primitive and not very settled state of society, when the head of a family is often called away on long mercantile journeys, or to attend at court, or for purposes of war, it is a certain advantage that he should be able to leave a relative in his place whose interests are bound up with his own. Mr Talboys Wheeler has suggested that polyandry arose among a pastoral people, whose men were away from their families for months at a time, and where the duty of protecting these families would be undertaken by the brothers in turn. The system certainly answers such an end, and I never knew of a case where a polyandric wife was left without the society of one at least of her husbands. But the great, the notable end which polyandry serves, is that of checking the increase of population in regions from which emigration is difficult, and where it is also difficult to increase the means of subsistence. That the Malthusian law, or something very like it, is in operation, is now all but universally admitted by political economists. There is a tendency on the part of population to increase at a greater ratio than its power of producing food; and few more effectual means to check that tendency could well be devised than the system of Tibetan polyandry



taken in conjunction with the Lama monasteries and nunneries. Very likely it was never deliberately devised to do so, and came down from some very rude state of society ; but, at all events, it must have been found exceedingly serviceable in repressing population among what Koeppen so well calls the snow-lands of Asia. If population had increased there at the rate it has in England during this century, frightful results must have followed either to the Tibetans or to their immediate neighbours. As it is, almost every one in the Himálaya has either land and a house of his own, or land and a house in which he has a share, and which provide for his protection and subsistence. The people are hardworked in summer and autumn, and they are poor in the sense of having small possessions and few luxuries; but they are not poor in the sense of presenting a very poor class at a loss how to procure subsistence.

I was a little surprised to find that one of the Moravian missionaries defended the polyandry of the Tibetans, not as a thing to be approved of in the abstract or tolerated among Christians, but as good for the heathen of so sterile country. In taking this view, he proceeded on the argument that superabundant population, in an unfertile country, must be a great calamity, and produce “ eternal warfare or eternal want." Turner took also a similar view, and he expressly says—“The influence of this custom on the manners of the people, as far as I could trace, has not been unfavourable.

То the privileges of unbounded liberty the wife here adds the character of mistress of the family and companion of her husbands.” But, lest so pleasing a picture may delude some of the strong-minded ladies (of America) to get up an agitation for the establishment of polyan

[ocr errors]

dry in the West, I must say it struck me that the having many husbands sometimes appeared to be only having many masters and increased toil and trouble. I also am by no means sure that the Tibetans are so chivalrous as to uphold polyandry because they regard “the single possession of one woman as a blessing too great · for one individual to aspire to." Nor shall I commit myself to the ingenious opinion that“marriage amongst them seems to be considered rather as an odium-a heavy burden — the weight and obloquy of which a whole family are disposed to lessen by sharing it among them.”





From the desolate Chinese district of To-tzo I passed into the not less elevated British Himálayan province of Spiti. The path to Lari, the first village in Spiti, wủere we camped under a solitary apricot-tree, said to be the only tree of the kind in the whole province, was very fatiguing, because large portions of it could not be ridden over; and there were some ticklish faces of smooth, sloping rock to be crossed, which a yak could hardly have got over, but which were managed, when riderless, in a wonderful manner by the shoeless ghúnt, or mountain pony, which I had got at Chango. The scenery was wild and desolate rather than striking -no house, no tree, and hardly even a bush being visible. There was a great deal of limestone-rock on this journey; and at some places it was of such a character that it might be called marble. We passed several open caverns; and in one of these, about a third of the


from the To-tzo river, I stopped for breakfast. It was a magnificent open arch, about fifty feet high in front, and as many in breadth, in the face of a precipice, and afforded cool shade until after midday, when the declining sun began to beat into it. But the Karitha river, which occurs immediately after, ought to be passed in the morning, because there is only a two-poled bridge over it, on which even a ghúnt cannot cross; and the stream was so swollen at mid-day by the melting snow that my pony was nearly lost.

The next morning I was delayed at Lari by the information that messengers had arrived at the other side of the river with a letter for me and some money, but were unable to cross the river, a jhula which formerly existed there having given way. This seemed exceedingly improbable, but I went down to inquire. There was a double rope across the stream, and I told the messengers to fasten the letter to it, and so send that across, but to keep the money, and found that both were for the Gwalior captain whom I met near Nako, so I ordered the bearers to proceed to Pú in search of him. Where there is no bridge exactly, there is often a double rope of this kind across the deep-sunk rivers of the Himalaya, to enable the villagers on opposite sides of the gorge

to communicate with each other; and the rope is sometimes strong enough to allow of a man being slung to it, and so worked across. If only the rope be sound, which

, cannot always be depended on, this method of progression is preferable to the jhula ; because, though it may try the nerves, it does not at the same time call for

, painful exertion which disturbs the heart's action. I learn from Captain Burton that similar rope-bridges exist in Iceland, and that he usually found the ropes had been spliced more than once.



« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »