Wants To Be Undisturbed

Princess Nirigdma with hunting eagle.

Princess Nirigdma with hunting eagle. Taken by Maynard Owen Williams, published 1932.

Excerpts from a conversation between Princess Nirgidma of the Torghut Mongols and two members of Sven Hedin’s Sino-Swedish “Scientific Expedition to the Northwestern Province of China” of the late 1920s and early 1930s, historian Georges Le Fèvre and National Geographic photographer/editor Maynard Owen Williams, as reported by the latter in a 1932 article:

“Why do occidentals and orientals dislike one another?” we asked, our actual relationship belying our thesis. […]

“Why call conservatism dislike?” she replied. “Do you always welcome strangers to your clubs and homes? The oriental has his psychological Great Wall, whose protection is beginning to seem less sure. The man behind it doesn’t want to be loved or even appreciated. He wants to be undisturbed.”

“People seek to protect not only property, but modes of life. Perhaps your way of life is right for you, but it threatens ours.”

“You are in a hurry and hence barbaric. You are entranced by mechanical toys, which you haven’t mastered. You like frankness; but, until real understanding exists, even formal politeness helps. You dominate world ideals, which differ from ours.”

“You are men of auto, railway, radio. You find this a backward land, without roads, speed, a free press, a balanced budget, sanitation, or familiar forms of justice. Hence you pity the Chinese. But they live in the Celestial Kingdom, the center of all the world that counts. Your progress is chaotic, at least in its impact on orientals, because its spiritual values are not realized. We Mongols are emancipated. ‘A good horse and a wide plain under God’s heaven’, that’s our desire. And we realize it.”

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