On the 28th of the fourth month (May 28) there was a great snowfall, and the next day all the mountains around were white. We then went in a north-eastern direction along mountains, and in three days reached the front-side of the A-bu-han mountain. The disciples (left by Ch'ang ch'un here in a new-built monastery) and the others came a long distance to meet the master, and directed him to the monastery Si hia kuan. Just as the master got out of his cart it began to rain, when all were very glad and congratulated each other, saying: " In this country it very seldom rains in summer; rain and thunder rarely happen except in the mountains to the south and to the north; but this summer rain is abundant. For the present fall we are indebted to the sanctity of the master."
The people of this country in ordinary years irrigate their fields and gardens by means of aqueducts. In the eighth month (September) wheat ripens, and there is then no rain. At the time the corn ripens it is damaged by mice (or rats); these mice are all white. In this country cold predominates, and the fruits ripen late in the year. In the fifth month (June) we found on the borders of the river, at a depth of about one foot, ice in the ground about a foot thick; and the master sent his servants every day after dinner to bring some. To the south a high mountain range is to be seen, covered with masses of snow, which never melts even in the hottest season of the year.
There are many remarkable things in this country. A little to the west of this place, on the border of a lake, there is a "wind-hill," the top of which consists of white clay cracked in many places. In the second and third months (March, April) the wind rises here and howls in the rocks and cavities of the southern mountains. This is only the beginning; when the wind first comes out from the wind-hill, numerous whirls are seen like ram's horns; but after some time these whirls unite to form a hurricane, which raises sand, throws stones, lifts off roofs, and uproots trees. In the river to the south-east there are three or four watermills; but when the water reaches the plain, it becomes scanty, and finally disappears. In the mountains are coals. To the east there are two springs, which in winter-time increase like rivers or lakes ; the water then is absorbed by the ground, but suddenly it appears again, carrying fish and shrimps along with it. Often the water overflows the houses, but in spring it gradually disappears?
To the north-west of this country, at a distance of about a thousand li and more, there is a country called Kien-Kien-chow, where good iron is found, and where squirrels abound and wheat is cultivated. A great number of Chinese live there, and carry on the business of manufacturing different kinds of silk and other stuffs.
From the monastery (of Si hia kuan) the Kin shan (Altai) is visible, where much hail falls (see note 130). In the fifth and sixth months there is more than ten feet of snow. On the northern slopes of the Kin shan there are pines about a hundred feet high.
The land is interspersed with deserts. In this country the jou ts'ung jung grows. The natives (Mongols) call this plant so-yen. In their language water is called wu-su, and grass ai-bu-su.
The assembled people said to the master: "This country here is in a state of deep barbarism. From the most remote time the people have never heard of the true doctrine. We had only to do with the charms of mountain goblins and other bad spirits; but ever since the master founded a monastery here, there has been a service established. On the first and the fifteenth of every month the people have assembled and have taken a vow not to kill living creatures. Certainly that was an effect of the true doctrine (Tao); what else could have produced this change? At first the Taoists here had much to complain of the malice of bad men, and were not left quiet. There was the physician Lo sheng, who always tried to annoy the Taoists and to injure them. But once passing by the Taoist temple, he was thrown from his horse and broke his leg. Then he was moved to repentance, owned that he was punished for his sins, and begged pardon."
pp. 99-103, E. Bretschneider's Mediæval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources. (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1888).