Going up, towards Dzoun

Ella and Peter joined the relatively small caravan of the Prince of Dzoun, who was a young man going back home, from Tangar to … well, not to Dzungharia, because this region lies to the North of the Tarim mountains, (above Urumqi) but to Dzoun, apparently a place in the middle of nowhere. The caravan was formed by 250 camels and 40 horses.

I am still looking for Dzoun (Ella) or Dzunchia (Peter). The Caravan took 16 days to reach it. Some authors identify it with Gormud, but Gormud is the Gorumu of Peter, and it is 150 km (5 days) too far. Based on the information that a loaded bactrian camel walks at 3 to 4 kilometers per hour, that the stage is usually 8 hours, and confirmed by Ella who says that 30 km is the daily fare of a caravan, in the following post(s) we will place the stages, at least from Tangar to Dzunchia.

They left Tangar with a helper, Li, four rented camels, two horses. Of course, Ella needed to bring her portable gramophone with three records :), and Peter two rifles, two pounds of marmalade, four boxes of cacao, six bottles of cognac, plus a bottle of Worcester Sauce). Two days later, they meet the 250 camels of the Prince of Dzoun and they started the Caravan life.
Awake at 4 am, two hours to load the camels (each one of their four camels was in a different lien, so, their are not loaded at the same time), departure at six, eight hours walk, unloading camels and horses, meal preparation, eating, and then staying into the tent. During the march, or eventually in the afternoon, Peter went to hunt geese, or hare, or antelope. Geese were sacred for Mongols, Peter’s killings were not butchered following the rituals for muslim, the fact that these acts may seem offensive were not really a problem for them, except for the first goose, that they almost gave to the Prince.

Lattimer caravan organization does not agree with Ella (Peter almost does not speak about it, he is more interested in hunting every animal that moves). The Prince’s caravan had people riding camels, although the were going “up”, and each lien was approximatively of 10 camels, instead of 18, but we recognize in her description the “camel pullers”, the Master Cook, in this case a woman, and, of course, the Caravan Master, in this case the Prince.

So they walked, they hunted (Peter), they cooked (Ella), and, apparently, they had a lot of fun. Arriving to Dzunchia Peter says something, curious to say the least:

The place (Dzunchia) has nothing impressive. It is impossible, even in the most romantic mood, to find anything enticing in it

“Even in the most romantic mood”? well, this says everything, don’t you think so?

And to end this chapter, another quote, this time from Ella Maillart:

It is said that Mongols do not wash because they are afraid to become fishes after their death. Moreover, water from wells seems full of spells; coming from inside the Earth, were are the female spirits, it will only become healthy when exposed to the Air and the Sun, who belong to the male world of superior regions. But this unheard-of dirtiness is not annoying in winter, when cold weakens the smell of rancid butter their fur is imbibed

2006-12-12 at 23-27-06

Photos, but for the map, are from the Author

2 Responses to Going up, towards Dzoun

  1. Excellent dig! I happen to be writing a Chinese review on Major Fleming’s book, it also took me two days to wonder where exactly is this place Dzun on his map and who was the Prince Dzun. At first I thought it might be the town of Dulan, which presumably later occurs to be about the lamaseries mentioned at the beginning of the Prince of Dzun chapter. It was only upon inquiry to some Mongolian friends that I learnt the fact that Dzun, or Dzoun, means left in Mongolian whereas the latinised ‘chia’ is the Manchurian term for a semi-military prefecture in normadic regions. The ‘Left Chi’ hence appears to be a very common form for place names in Mongol and Manchu habitats, indicative of perhaps an administrative piece of rangeland instead of any resident town or fort. Not too supprised after all that the travallers weren’t quite impressed by the Prince’s castle!


    • Thanks, William. It is always gratifying when someone makes comments. While I read, two or three years ago, the books of Ella and Peter I retraced their route in Google Earth. I learnt a lot about Uyghur/Mongol/Chinese names, that often had only phonetic similarities with names used by Ella. She wrote local names with French phonetics (for instance, the “u” in Manchu is written Manchou, because in French, the letter U alone is pronounced as the German Ü.), so I had a lot of fun trying to locate them in the map.

      I was unable to find Dzoun, but I located the stages of the caravan with some precision because from starting points well defined, and knowing the distance a caravan walks, it is relatively straightforward, with Google Earth, to find water points just at the right distance, given or taken a few kilometers. In my opinion Dzun lays, more or less, 40 Km West of Dulan. I just tried to remember, so, the position may be wrong.

      Probably the journey with the Prince is the one that has the less references . I was rather proud of my itinerary with the position of the camps, but all disappeared in a computer crash 🙁 . Anyhow, after having travelled last spring from Kashgar to Xining, I am sure that I may redo it in a few days work. Probably I will do it someday..