The Second Long Journey

Mongolia to East Turkistan (2017- 1866 B.C)

According to many Karen history books, the Karens lived for 180 years in Mongolia and left the land in 2017 B.C. When the Karens arrived in Mongolia in the years 2197 B.C, Mongolia was still a land unknown to the world. There was no clear record of any renown empires established at that time. A large number of ethnicities have inhabited Mongolia since prehistoric times. Most of them were nomads who from time to time, formed great confederation that rose to prominence. The Karens found that the land was good for pasture as well as cultivation. They chose the place called Augro Altaic or Ural Altaic in the northwest of Mongolia. The Karens didn’t show any interest to form alliance with them and set up city states. The peaceful nature of the Karen people made them to avoid building city states and fighting each other. At that time there were less population and large land, so the Karens found no trouble in finding a safe corner for themselves. The region the Karens decided to settle down were mostly high peaks and mountains with no easy path to reach out. The Karens had already acquired the skill to apply the difficulty of the terrain as their natural defense. In their first long journey there was no indication that they had trouble with the local population. Probably their leaders decided to chose a path which led then to cross risky deep forests and dangerous high mountains. Here, in Mongolia, the scenario changed. According to saw Aung Hla’s “The Karen History”, the Karens encountered with one local group who had a king as their leader. The local people demanded the Karen to pay homage to their king and were taxed 10 percent of their income annually. The Karen population grew bigger and expanded even to different parts of the region. Their wealth also increased and their life style developed.

As the years passed, the kings of the local tribes became worried by the growing number of Karen population in the region. They intended to make the Karen people weak and insecure by scattering many of them and enslaving the others. When the Karen people could not bear this kind of persecution any longer they decided to leave the land. They did not want to do battle with the local population. Therefore, in 2017 B.C, the mass exodus of the Karen people resumed. Probably, not all the Karen communities agreed to involve in this migration. A few communities who could manage themselves better and were assured of their safety remained. They were weary and tired of the previous risky journey and preferred to settle down. Perhaps, some of them mixed with other groups to become new races and some of them were totally absorbed. Keeping the Karen identity intact rested entirely on the fate of the emigrants. Looking east, the land was disputed among various belligerent ethnic groups. Looking north, there were quite a lot of low fertile land and green with pasture. Looking south, there was vast yellow desert called Gobi and beyond that white peaks of 5000 meters high mountain ranges. Going back the way they had crossed, the west, was impossible. The spirit of adventure and the heart to learn new things made the Karen people chose the most difficult path, the south west direction to find a safer and more secured place. The second long journey lasted four years and covered a total land distance of more than one thousand kilometers.

Gobi Desert (A land of fantasy)

The first lag of this second journey of the Karen people was to cross the vast desert. The Gobi measures over 1500 kilometers from southwest to northwest and 800 kilometers from south to north. The desert is widest in the west along the line joining the Baghrash Kol and the Lop Nor. It is the largest desert in the world as well as Asia’s largest. Much of the Gobi is not sandy but is covered with bare rock. The southwest direction from Mongolia led the Karen to cross Taklamakan (now known as Tarim), a desert of the central Asia in the Xingjian Uyzhur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. It is known as the longest sand-only desert in the world. Some references fancifully state that Taklamakan means “If you go in, you won’t come out”, others state that it means “Desert of Death” or “Place of no Return”.

For the Karens, the journey through this desert was like entering a land of fantasy. The Karen ancestors who survived this journey told their posterity that fairies as well as devils abode this land. The Karen word for Gobi is Kaw Bi (hidden country) which means that the land was inhabited and even though the presence of the inhabitants were apparent and could be sensed by any means they were invisible. Along the journey they heard strange noises calling their names, sounds of music and melodies, sound of animals and humans passing by. Some voices were familiar and the travelers thought that their friends were showing them the way. It was not easy for the leaders to keep close order for large number of population crossing the vast hostile desert. Those who were lured to follow sweet voices and strange apparitions lost in the desert and no one knew what happened to them. The desert began claiming her tolls every day and every night. As time went by, the leaders noticed that their numbers decreased in an alarming rate and saw the need to devise strategy so that the whole race might be saved. Improvised warning instruments were put on every livestock so that it could not be easily trekked if they were strayed. Unique marks were invented from every possible resource, and they were to be borne on every individual to keep their identity and ward of any strangers. Perhaps tying the wrist with white thread was one. The leaders also had to find quick ways to come out alive from this queer land. It was a matter of national survival and the whole population was totally united in this grim battle. The Karens changed the direction and moved eastward. They had to come out of this desert as quickly as possible. The wilder the desert, the fiercer the battle and the more casualties they had suffered. After four years of wondering, the Karens finally arrived at a place called Lop Nor which was at that time a very good site for settlement. Devastated but not discouraged, haunted but not hopeless, the Karens resolved to start a new life again. There was no record of how many lost their lives and how many survived. The fact still remained that they emerged from the desert as a nation. In this campaign one unique attribute emanated to be reckoned. The Karens were not rebellious and rowdy people. They were obedient and organized in their characters and ready to be led by any effective leaders. What style of leadership they practiced at that time? By noticing their way of life and the faith in the Supreme Deity, the Karens were led by the patriarchs of respective families. Without leaders it was impossible for a nation to survive the risks and dangers of nature in the first journey as well as the on-slaught of nature’s super beings in the second journey.

Lob Nor

When the Karen emerged successfully from the Gobi desert they arrived at a place called Lop Nor. In the past Lop Nor was a land green with pasture and rich soil. The big lake supplied water needed by a large population and their livestock.

When the Karen lived in Lop Nor around (2013-1866 BC), civilization in China had already been witnessed Dynasties were established by lords and kings of the region. Most of the contending states centered around the yellow sea, so the Karens had liberty to stay away from warring states and lived peacefully. The slash and burn cultivation required large area of forest. As the population increased, the Karens sensed that Lop Nor was not a good permanent place for large population. There was not enough land for every family to make a living. A few ventured south, seeking rich soil and fresh water to sustain their families. The climatic changes could alter the physical feature of the land any time. Forewarned of worse environment and less harvest yield and to avoid coming disasters, the bulk of Karen people moved again in 1866 BC, leaving some remnants. They chose the southward direction, climbed the world’s highest mountains and finally entered a land called Tibet (now Xizang Zizhiou) in 1864 BC.

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