On the roof of the
temple are dragons with heads looking down and a collection of bells with
beautiful sounds hang down. The
carvings of dragons are in gold and green. An old man sits at the door of the temple, mutters into his hand and the
boys reply. They are dressed in purple
and some in dirty yellow cloaks and have hats like Roman soldiers with a yellow
mane. The chief priest is very fat,
laughing and chuckling all the time, holds a coloured joss stick. The lama priest and children think it is a
great joke. The boys look at each
arrival and the priests come to see my hairy legs, look in wonder and
point. It is 5.30 in the afternoon and
the service begins. The festival is in
honour of the spirits of the mountain. There are larks in the sky and the swallows swoop about and
chirrup. The priests sit
cross-legged. The chief on the floor
makes a noise, loud like rub-a-dub-dub and seems to wink at us. A big gong bursts into a crescendo of
noise. There is more laughter and then
a roar from the man on the floor with a big moustache about five inches long.
“It is the most extraordinary divine service I have ever attended”. Then the fat chief suddenly draws a heavy
stick and right in the middle of the service strikes a boy on the back and on
the head in punishment. “What’s that
for?” asks Plessen thinking it was part of the ceremony.
had 50 guests. There were Chinese
officials, the British Military Attaché, Sir Charles Bell, the High
Commissioner for Tibet and daughter, an American artist, some people from
Peking Embassies, but mostly Mongol princes and lamas. Sunday was to be the greatest feast of the
year, but there was not a single lavatory in the whole palace! Not even for the Prince.
That night there was a great feast at the
Palace. There were Chinese dishes:
lotus seeds, seaweed, shark’s fin, date and 20 kinds of soup including mutton
soup. Fermented mare’s milk, which is
horrible, is the number one drink, the champagne of Mongolia.