The Monguls

Monguls.--Origin of the name.--A Mongul family.--Their

occupations.--Animals of the Monguls.--Their towns and villages.--Mode

of building their tents.--Bad fuel.--Comfortless homes.--Movable

houses built at last.--The painting.--Account of a large movable

house.--The traveling chests.--Necessity of such an arrangement.--Houses

in the towns.--Roads over the plains.--Tribes and families.--Influence

of diversity of pursui
s.--Tribes and clans.--Mode of making

war.--Horsemen.--The bow and arrow.--The flying horseman.--Nature

of the bow and arrow.--Superiority of fire-arms.--Sources of

information.--Gog and Magog.--Salam.--Adventures of Salam and

his party.--The wonderful mountain.--Great bolts and bars.--The

prisoners.--Travelers' tales.--Progress of intelligence.

Three thousand years is a period of time long enough to produce great

changes, and in the course of that time a great many different nations

and congeries of nations were formed in the regions of Central Asia.

The term Tartars has been employed generically to denote almost the

whole race. The Monguls are a portion of this people, who are said to

derive their name from Mongol Khan, one of their earliest and most

powerful chieftains. The descendants of this khan called themselves by

his name, just as the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob called

themselves Israelites, or children of Israel, from the name Israel,

which was one of the designations of the great patriarch from whose

twelve sons the twelve tribes of the Jews descended. The country

inhabited by the Monguls was called Mongolia.

To obtain a clear conception of a single Mongul family, you must

imagine, first, a rather small, short, thick-set man, with long black

hair, a flat face, and a dark olive complexion. His wife, if her face

were not so flat and her nose so broad, would be quite a brilliant

little beauty, her eyes are so black and sparkling. The children have

much the appearance of young Indians as they run shouting among the

cattle on the hill-sides, or, if young, playing half-naked about the

door of the hut, their long black hair streaming in the wind.

Like all the rest of the inhabitants of Central Asia, these people

depended almost entirely for their subsistence on the products of

their flocks and herds. Of course, their great occupation consisted in

watching their animals while feeding by day, and in putting them in

places of security by night, in taking care of and rearing the young,

in making butter and cheese from the milk, and clothing from the

skins, in driving the cattle to and fro in search of pasturage, and,

finally, in making war on the people of other tribes to settle

disputes arising out of conflicting claims to territory, or to

replenish their stock of sheep and oxen by seizing and driving off the

flocks of their neighbors.

The animals which the Monguls most prized were camels, oxen and cows,

sheep, goats, and horses. They were very proud of their horses, and

they rode them with great courage and spirit. They always went

mounted in going to war. Their arms were bows and arrows, pikes or

spears, and a sort of sword or sabre, which was manufactured in some

of the towns toward the west, and supplied to them in the course of

trade by great traveling caravans.

Although the mass of the people lived in the open country with their

flocks and herds, there were, notwithstanding, a great many towns and

villages, though such centres of population were much fewer and less

important among them than they are in countries the inhabitants of

which live by tilling the ground. Some of these towns were the

residences of the khans and of the heads of tribes. Others were places

of manufacture or centres of commerce, and many of them were fortified

with embankments of earth or walls of stone.

The habitations of the common people, even those built in the towns,

were rude huts made so as to be easily taken down and removed. The

tents were made by means of poles set in a circle in the ground, and

brought nearly together at the top, so as to form a frame similar to

that of an Indian wigwam. A hoop was placed near the top of these

poles, so as to preserve a round opening there for the smoke to go

out. The frame was then covered with sheets of a sort of thick gray

felt, so placed as to leave the opening within the hoop free. The

felt, too, was arranged below in such a manner that the corner of one

of the sheets could be raised and let down again to form a sort of

door. The edges of the sheets in other places were fastened together

very carefully, especially in winter, to keep out the cold air.

Within the tent, on the ground in the centre, the family built their

fire, which was made of sticks, leaves, grass, and dried droppings of

all sorts, gathered from the ground, for the country produced scarcely

any wood. Countries roamed over by herds of animals that gain their

living by pasturing on the grass and herbage are almost always

destitute of trees. Trees in such a case have no opportunity to grow.

The tents of the Monguls thus made were, of course, very comfortless

homes. They could not be kept warm, there was so much cold air coming

continually in through the crevices, notwithstanding all the people's

contrivances to make them tight. The smoke, too, did not all escape

through the hoop-hole above. Much of it remained in the tent and

mingled with the atmosphere. This evil was aggravated by the kind of

fuel which they used, which was of such a nature that it made only a

sort of smouldering fire instead of burning, like good dry wood, with

a bright and clear flame.

The discomforts of these huts and tents were increased by the custom

which prevailed among the people of allowing the animals to come into

them, especially those that were young and feeble, and to live there

with the family.

In process of time, as the people increased in riches and in

mechanical skill, some of the more wealthy chieftains began to build

houses so large and so handsome that they could not be conveniently

taken down to be removed, and then they contrived a way of mounting

them upon trucks placed at the four corners, and moving them bodily in

this way across the plains, as a table is moved across a floor upon

its castors. It was necessary, of course, that the houses should be

made very light in order to be managed in this way. They were, in

fact, still tents rather than houses, being made of the same

materials, only they were put together in a more substantial and

ornamental manner. The frame was made of very light poles, though

these poles were fitted together in permanent joinings. The covering

was, like that of the tents, made of felt, but the sheets were joined

together by close and strong seams, and the whole was coated with a

species of paint, which not only closed all the pores and interstices

and made the structure very tight, but also served to ornament it; for

they were accustomed, in painting these houses, to adorn the covering

with pictures of birds, beasts, and trees, represented in such a

manner as doubtless, in their eyes, produced a very beautiful effect.

These movable houses were sometimes very large. A certain traveler who

visited the country not far from the time of Genghis Khan says that he

saw one of these structures in motion which was thirty feet in

diameter. It was drawn by twenty-two oxen. It was so large that it

extended five feet on each side beyond the wheels. The oxen, in

drawing it, were not attached, as with us, to the centre of the

forward axle-tree, but to the ends of the axle-trees, which projected

beyond the wheels on each side. There were eleven oxen on each side

drawing upon the axle-trees. There were, of course, many drivers. The

one who was chief in command stood in the door of the tent or house

which looked forward, and there, with many loud shouts and flourishing

gesticulations, issued his orders to the oxen and to the other men.

The household goods of this traveling chieftain were packed in chests

made for the purpose, the house itself, of course, in order to be made

as light as possible, having been emptied of all its contents. These

chests were large, and were made of wicker or basket-work, covered,

like the house, with felt. The covers were made of a rounded form, so

as to throw off the rain, and the felt was painted over with a certain

composition which made it impervious to the water. These chests were

not intended to be unpacked at the end of the journey, but to remain

as they were, as permanent storehouses of utensils, clothing, and

provisions. They were placed in rows, each on its own cart, near the

tent, where they could be resorted to conveniently from time to time

by the servants and attendants, as occasion might require. The tent

placed in the centre, with these great chests on their carts near it,

formed, as it were, a house with one great room standing by itself,

and all the little rooms and closets arranged in rows by the side of


Some such arrangement as this is obviously necessary in case of a

great deal of furniture or baggage belonging to a man who lives in a

tent, and who desires to be at liberty to remove his whole

establishment from place to place at short notice; for a tent, from

the very principle of its construction, is incapable of being divided

into rooms, or of accommodating extensive stores of furniture or

goods. Of course, a special contrivance is required for the

accommodation of this species of property. This was especially the

case with the Monguls, among whom there were many rich and great men

who often accumulated a large amount of movable property. There was

one rich Mongul, it was said, who had two hundred such chest-carts,

which were arranged in two rows around and behind his tent, so that

his establishment, when he was encamped, looked like quite a little


The style of building adopted among the Monguls for tents and movable

houses seemed to set the fashion for all their houses, even for those

that were built in the towns, and were meant to stand permanently

where they were first set up. These permanent houses were little

better than tents. They consisted each of one single room without any

subdivisions whatever. They were made round, too, like the tents, only

the top, instead of running up to a point, was rounded like a dome.

There were no floors above that formed on the ground, and no windows.

Such was the general character of the dwellings of the Monguls in the

days of Genghis Khan. They took their character evidently from the

wandering and pastoral life that the people led. One would have

thought that very excellent roads would have been necessary to have

enabled them to draw the ponderous carts containing their dwellings

and household goods. But this was less necessary than might have been

supposed on account of the nature of the country, which consisted

chiefly of immense grassy plains and smooth river valleys, over which,

in many places, wheels would travel tolerably well in any direction

without much making of roadway. Then, again, in all such countries,

the people who journey from place to place, and the herds of cattle

that move to and fro, naturally fall into the same lines of travel,

and thus, in time, wear great trails, as cows make paths in a pasture.

These, with a little artificial improvement at certain points, make

very good summer roads, and in the winter it is not necessary to use

them at all.

The Monguls, like the ancient Jews, were divided into tribes, and

these were subdivided into families; a family meaning in this

connection not one household, but a large congeries of households,

including all those that were of known relationship to each other.

These groups of relatives had each its head, and the tribe to which

they pertained had also its general head. There were, it is said,

three sets of these tribes, forming three grand divisions of the

Mongul people, each of which was ruled by its own khan; and then, to

complete the system, there was the grand khan, who ruled over all.

A constitution of society like this almost always prevails in pastoral

countries, and we shall see, on a little reflection, that it is

natural that it should do so. In a country like ours, where the

pursuits of men are so infinitely diversified, the descendants of

different families become mingled together in the most promiscuous

manner. The son of a farmer in one state goes off, as soon as he is of

age, to some other state, to find a place among merchants or

manufacturers, because he wishes to be a merchant or a manufacturer

himself, while his father supplies his place on the farm perhaps by

hiring a man who likes farming, and has come hundreds of miles in

search of work. Thus the descendants of one American grandfather and

grandmother will be found, after a lapse of a few years, scattered in

every direction all over the land, and, indeed, sometimes all over the


It is the diversity of pursuits which prevails in such a country as

ours, taken in connection with the diversity of capacity and of taste

in different individuals, that produces this dispersion.

Among a people devoted wholly to pastoral pursuits, all this is

different. The young men, as they grow up, can have generally no

inducement to leave their homes. They continue to live with their

parents and relatives, sharing the care of the flocks and herds, and

making common cause with them in every thing that is of common

interest. It is thus that those great family groups are formed which

exist in all pastoral countries under the name of tribes or clans, and

form the constituent elements of the whole social and political

organization of the people.

In case of general war, each tribe of the Monguls furnished, of

course, a certain quota of armed men, in proportion to its numbers and

strength. These men always went to war, as has already been said, on

horseback, and the spectacle which these troops presented in galloping

in squadrons over the plains was sometimes very imposing. The shock of

the onset when they charged in this way upon the enemy was tremendous.

They were armed with bows and arrows, and also with sabres. As they

approached the enemy, they discharged first a shower of arrows upon

him, while they were in the act of advancing at the top of their

speed. Then, dropping their bows by their side, they would draw their

sabres, and be ready, as soon as the horses fell upon the enemy, to

cut down all opposed to them with the most furious and deadly blows.

If they were repulsed, and compelled by a superior force to retreat,

they would gallop at full speed over the plains, turning at the same

time in their saddles, and shooting at their pursuers with their

arrows as coolly, and with as correct an aim, almost, as if they were

still. While thus retreating the trooper would guide and control his

horse by his voice, and by the pressure of his heels upon his sides,

so as to have both his arms free for fighting his pursuers.

These arrows were very formidable weapons, it is said. One of the

travelers who visited the country in those days says that they could

be shot with so much force as to pierce the body of a man entirely


It must be remembered, however, in respect to all such statements

relating to the efficiency of the bow and arrow, that the force with

which an arrow can be thrown depends not upon any independent action

of the bow, but altogether upon the strength of the man who draws it.

The bow, in straightening itself for the propulsion of the arrow,

expends only the force which the man has imparted to it by bending it;

so that the real power by which the arrow is propelled is, after all,

the muscular strength of the archer. It is true, a great deal depends

on the qualities of the bow, and also on the skill of the man in using

it, to make all this muscular strength effective. With a poor bow, or

with unskillful management, a great deal of it would be wasted. But

with the best possible bow, and with the most consummate skill of the

archer, it is the strength of the archer's arm which throws the arrow,

after all.

It is very different in this respect with a bullet thrown by the force

of gunpowder from the barrel of a gun. The force in this case is the

explosive force of the powder, and the bullet is thrown to the same

distance whether it is a very weak man or a very strong man that pulls

the trigger.

But to return to the Monguls. All the information which we can obtain

in respect to the condition of the people before the time of Genghis

Khan comes to us from the reports of travelers who, either as

merchants, or as embassadors from caliphs or kings, made long journeys

into these distant regions, and have left records, more or less

complete, of their adventures, and accounts of what they saw, in

writings which have been preserved by the learned men of the East. It

is very doubtful how far these accounts are to be believed. One of

these travelers, a learned man named Salam, who made a journey far

into the interior of Asia by order of the Calif Mohammed Amin

Billah, some time before the reign of Genghis Khan, says that, among

other objects of research and investigation which occupied his mind,

he was directed to ascertain the truth in respect to the two famous

nations Gog and Magog, or, as they are designated in his account,

Yagog and Magog. The story that had been told of these two nations by

the Arabian writers, and which was extensively believed, was, that the

people of Yagog were of the ordinary size of men, but those of Magog

were only about two feet high. These people had made war upon the

neighboring nations, and had destroyed many cities and towns, but had

at last been overpowered and shut up in prison.

Salam, the traveler whom the calif sent to ascertain whether their

accounts were true, traveled at the head of a caravan containing fifty

men, and with camels bearing stores and provisions for a year. He was

gone a long time. When he came back he gave an account of his travels;

and in respect to Gog and Magog, he said that he had found that the

accounts which had been heard respecting them were true. He traveled

on, he said, from the country of one chieftain to another till he

reached the Caspian Sea, and then went on beyond that sea for thirty

or forty days more. In one place the party came to a tract of low

black land, which exhaled an odor so offensive that they were obliged

to use perfumes all the way to overpower the noxious smells. They were

ten days in crossing this fetid territory. After this they went on a

month longer through a desert country, and at length came to a fertile

land which was covered with the ruins of cities that the people of Gog

and Magog had destroyed.

In six days more they reached the country of the nation by which the

people of Gog and Magog had been conquered and shut up in prison. Here

they found a great many strong castles. There was a large city here

too, containing temples and academies of learning, and also the

residence of the king.

The travelers took up their abode in this city for a time, and while

they were there they made an excursion of two days' journey into the

country to see the place where the people of Gog and Magog were

confined. When they arrived at the place they found a lofty mountain.

There was a great opening made in the face of this mountain two or

three hundred feet wide. The opening was protected on each side by

enormous buttresses, between which was placed an immense double gate,

the buttresses and the gate being all of iron. The buttresses were

surmounted with an iron bulwark, and with lofty towers also of iron,

which were carried up as high as to the top of the mountain itself.

The gates were of the width of the opening cut in the mountain, and

were seventy-five feet high; and the valves, lintels, and threshold,

and also the bolts, the lock, and the key, were all of proportional


Salam, on arriving at the place, saw all these wonderful structures

with his own eyes, and he was told by the people there that it was the

custom of the governor of the castles already mentioned to take horse

every Friday with ten others, and, coming to the gate, to strike the

great bolt three times with a ponderous hammer weighing five pounds,

when there would be heard a murmuring noise within, which were the

groans of the Yagog and Magog people confined in the mountain. Indeed,

Salam was told that the poor captives often appeared on the

battlements above. Thus the real existence of this people was, in his

opinion, fully proved; and even the story in respect to the diminutive

size of the Magogs was substantiated, for Salam was told that once, in

a high wind, three of them were blown off from the battlements to the

ground, and that, on being measured, they were found but three spans


This is a specimen of the tales brought home from remote countries by

the most learned and accomplished travelers of those times. In

comparing these absurd and ridiculous tales with the reports which are

brought back from distant regions in our days by such travelers as

Humboldt, Livingstone, and Kane, we shall perceive what an immense

progress in intelligence and information the human mind has made since

those days.