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3. General Description of the Geographical Conditions

The part of Asia in which I have secured my anthropological series lies approximately between 35° and 55° of North Latittude and extends from Lake Baikal to the Pacific. It represents four different sets of geographical conditions, which I need to describe first as briefy as possible.

In this part of Asia we must distinguish the Northern region, which includes the part of Transbaikalia north of the Siberian Railroad Line, the northern part of Hulun-Buir (Mongolia) and of the Tsitsihar district (Hei-lung-kiang), the land lying on the north and east of the Amur River, i.e., the Amur and partly Maritime Governments of Siberia, and northern districts of the Hei-lun-kiang and Kirin Provinces.

This spacious region is watered by the Amur River and some tributaries of the Lena River and is crossed by four systems of mountain chains running in a general direction from SW to NE.

The part lying within the limits of Hulun-Buir and North-Western Manchuria is a plateau, which I shall call the Manchurian Plateau. It is over 2500 feet above sea level and from it radiate in all directions the mountain chains, — Great and Little Khingan, Ilhuri-Alin, Albazin and Panga Mountains and so on.

Across the eastern part of this Plateau passes the Nonni River and the Sungari River forms the eastern limit of this highland. The northern part of this Plateau is crossed by the Amur River, which breaks through the mountain chains and forms a fertile valley 300-800 feet above sea level. This valley was densely populated during the stone Age.

The part of this region lying in the Transbaikal Government also forms a high plateau — the Plateau of the Vitim River (an affluent of the Lena River) — over 3000 feet above sea level, is subdivided by three water systems, — the Yenesi River basin, the Lena River basin and the Amur River basin, — and is bounded on the west by Lake Baikal and on the east by the valley of the Shilka River [9].

The part of this region that lies within the limits of the Amur Government is traversed by the ranges of Yablonov Mountains and is crossed by affluents of the Amur River.

In all above mentioned subdivisions of this region except the valley of the Amur River the conditions of the meteorology, zoology and phytology are about the same. The summer is very short and cold, — the period of vegetation is from about June 1 to August 1; the winter is excessively cold and long. Therefore the ground during whole year is frozen and does not thaw even in the summer time. According to the geologists this region is now under conditions characteristic of a «dry glacial period.» The mountains are covered with excellent forests of green trees and lichens, the best food for the domesticated reindeer. The narrow valleys are so marshy, that some places in this region in summer time are absolutely inaccessible to investigators. The conditions are very favourable for wild animals; the region abounds in sable, squirrels, lynx, bears (three species), deer, wild goats, elks, reindeer and many other animals useful for the local hunting tribes. In Manchuria, especially east of the Nonni River, are some tigers and leopards [10].

The region is populated by Tungus tribes speaking five different dialects and known under the names of Tungus, Orochons, Maneghirs, Birars and so on [12].

The population in the forests can be estimated at 4000 to 5000 souls only. The common occupation of the Tungus is bunting and partly fishing. Reindeer are used as means of transportation and as a food reserve in time of famine. The Tungus of the Amur River banks, Manchuria and Mongolia have lost the reindeer and are now using horses. They are all organized in paterline clans, have no houses nor permanent residences and are a wandering people.

In this region the Russians, Chinese, Mongols and Manchus have spread along the big river valleys and present all possible types of economic and cultural life. Goldmining, hunting, more seldom agriculture and breeding of domestic animals are the pursuits of the new population of this region. The people in comparison with the population of other regions are very poor and do not number more than some hundreds of thousands.

The Mongols were the first to come into this region some hundreds years ago. After them, in XVII century, came the Russians and Manchus. The Chinese were the latest immigrants, coming in the second half of the last century.

The second region of this part of Asia lies south of the region already described and includes the eastern end of the great steppes of Central Asia. It forms an angle, the top of which is near the confluence of the Nonni and Sungari Rivers in Manchuria. It is crossed by the branches of the Manchurian and Vitim Plateaus and is watered by the systems of the Yenisei and Amur Rivers. The western part of this region lies on the Mongolian Plateau, — over 2300 feet above sea level. It can be characterized as cold, very dry and almost treeless country. It is very rich in pasturage for cattle, horses and camels.

The population of this part consists of Mongols in the south and some Mongolized Tungus in the north, — the Tungus of Urulga, of the Aksha district (in Transbaikalia) and the Tungus on the frontier of Mongolia and Siberia in general. Near Manchuria the Dahurs and Solons (a Tungus group) occupy the eastern borders of this Plateau. The Russians took the best places for agriculture, but do not despise other trades, — hunting, breeding of cattle and so on. The Chinese colonization is just in its beginning so they are not yet numerous in this section. Their principal occupations are commerce, hunting and some agriculture.

The eastern part of this region lies east of the Great Khingan Mountains. It is lower and better for agriculture than the western section. It is populated by Manchus and later Chinese, who little by little squeeze out the original Manchu population. The Chinese colonization based on the occupation of the land for agriculture is very successful. The Russians colonies are only along the railway and have no permanent roots in this country.

The third region is formed of the Manchurian Provinces of Shengking (Mukden) and partly Kirin, also the provinces of Chihli and Shantung in China Proper. In this region I shall distinguish three principal subdivisions, viz., northern part, Chihli and Shantung.

The first subdivision is connected with the first region, the southern limit of which can be fixed not far from the Chinese Eastern Railway line. The southern limit of this subdivision is the coast of Gulf of Pechihli, the eastern limit — the Yalu River, or more exactly the forest region of the Kirin Province, and the western limit — the eastern limit of the Mongolian Plateau. This part of the region is noted for its very fertile soil; it has been populated since ancient times by agriculturists. The moderately developed forests, the system of big rivers, like the Sungari River, Nonni River and Yalu River, and the relatively mild climate form quite favourable conditions for cultural development.

The second subdivision of this region, the Province of Chihli, though very near to the cold Mongolian Plateau, presents the best conditions for agriculture in this third region, in some ways even better than Southern Manchuria.

The third subdivision of this region, the Province of Shantung, a mountainous peninsula with a salubrious, climate, quite fertile soil and rich in mineral sources, presents the best imaginable state for the development of all kinds of economic and cultural activities. Its position near the sea facilitates social contacts and results in a population unusually active.

The population of this region is now almost exclusively Chinese. The northern part of it some centuries ago was occupied by Manchus, but the aggressive northward movement of Chinese created the mixed population of Manchus and Chinese. The provinces of Shantung and Chihli are real Chinese territory, but there are, as everywhere in China, Manchu colonies.

The fourth region of diis part of Asia is the Korean Peninsula, isolated, mountainous and in some places good for agriculture and mining. Its moderate climate and long sea coast facilitate the development of its population. The climate and topography are always good for plantations of rice, the principal cereal of the Koreans. The isolated position of Korea presents some advantage to her population, who have occupied the country almost exclusively during the last two thousand years. The population of this region consists up to the present time mainly of Koreans. The Japanese colonization is very incomplete.

9. The Shilka River is the same river as the Amur River. The variations of the names are due to local tribal differences in geographical names. For example, the source of the Amur River within the. limits of the Mongolian (Buriat) language is known as the Ingoda River, but within the limits of the Tungus tribes it is called the Shilka River or properly Shilkir. The name Amur arises from «Kara Mur» (the Black River) of the Dahurs who live on the middle course of this river. When the Russians came from Yakutsk (XVII century) into this part of the Amur River valley, they called it by a mutilated name, which was adapted to their own language from the Dahurian. The Manchu name — Sahalan Ula — and the Chinese name — Hei-lung-kiang — are translations of the Dahurian name — the Black River. The lower course of the Amur River among the Manchus is known as Sungari Ula, because they were living on the banks of the Sungari River before they came to know the middle and upper courses of the Amur River.

10. Some years ago in Transbaikalia, near Lake Baunt, the Tungus killed a tiger.

11. (This footnote misses a reference in the original text) I omit the Russians, more or less numerous in the valleys of the Ingoda Revcr, Shilka River, Amur River, Zeya River and so on, also the peculiar mixed Russian and Chinese population of the gold mines.

12. All these groups recognize their relationship and call themselves «evenki.» The above mentioned names were uncritically adopted by writers in their ethnographical and geographical descriptions of this region. The name Tungus is a Yakut name for these ethnical groups; the name Orochon — from Manchu name oroncun, which means: «using the reindeer — » was probably adapted by the Evenki themselves; Maneghir is the name of an Evenki clan — managir; birar can be translated from the Evenki «living on the banks of the river» (the Amur River) and is borrowed probably from the Manchu officials. It is of the same origin as lamut, — «living on the coast of the sea.» The mutilated names: kilin, chilin, kile, byraly, orochi, oroki have arisen from the linguistic mistakes of the Russsian, Manchus, Chinese, and other neighbouring peoples.

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