"Those are the obo, the sacred signs and altars for the bad demons watching this pass," explained the guide. "This pass is called Jagisstai. Many very old tales about it have been kept alive, ancient as these mountains themselves."
We encouraged him to tell us some of them.
The Mongol, rocking on his camel and looking carefully all around him, began his tale.
"It was long ago, very long ago. . . . The grandson of the great Jenghiz Khan sat on the throne of China and ruled all Asia. The Chinese killed their Khan and wanted to exterminate all his family but a holy old Lama slipped the wife and little son out of the palace and carried them off on swift camels beyond the Great Wall, where they sank into our native plains. The Chinese made a long search for the trails of our refugees and at last found where they had gone. They despatched a strong detachment on fleet horses to capture them. Sometimes the Chinese nearly came up with the fleeing heir of our Khan but the Lama called down from Heaven a deep snow, through which the camels could pass while the horses were inextricably held. This Lama was from a distant monastery. We shall pass this hospice of Jahantsi Kure. In order to reach it one must cross over the Jagisstai. And it was just here the old Lama suddenly became ill, rocked in his saddle and fell dead. Ta Sin Lo, the widow of the Great Khan, burst into tears; but, seeing the Chinese riders galloping there below across the valley, pressed on toward the pass. The camels were tired, stopping every moment, nor did the woman know how to stimulate and drive them on. The Chinese riders came nearer and nearer. Already she heard their shouts of joy, as they felt within their grasp the prize of the mandarins for the murder of the heir of the Great Khan. The heads of the mother and the son would be brought to Peking and exposed on the Ch'ien Men for the mockery and insults of the people. The frightened mother lifted her little son toward heaven and exclaimed:
"'Earth and Gods of Mongolia, behold the offspring of the man who has glorified the name of the Mongols from one end of the world to the other! Allow not this very flesh of Jenghiz Khan to perish!'
"At this moment she noticed a white mouse sitting on a rock nearby. It jumped to her knees and said:
"'I am sent to help you. Go on calmly and do not fear. The pursuers of you and your son, to whom is destined a life of glory, have come to the last bourne of their lives.'
"Ta Sin Lo did not see how one small mouse could hold in check three hundred men. The mouse jumped back to the ground and again spoke: