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TAM AGHIL ( or a walled enclosure for cattle'); half-march north-east of Khotan; inhabited; gold ornaments and seals are said to have been found in this village. A human skull, with a layer of gold and with a ring attached to the nose, appears to have been picked up here. For convenient reference the following Table gives a summary of all the antiquities, the localities and times. Summary. when they were found or received, and the persons who found them or through whom they were received. By "MSS." are understood manuscript or xylograph books, or pothi bound in the Indian fashion; also detached leaves or sheets. By "books " are meant volumes, either manuscript or xylograph, which are bound in the European fashion, Dates, placed within brackets, are those of the receipt of the antiquities, their dates of discovery being unknown.
Islam Akhun, treasure
seeker of Khotan.
The Takla Makan Description of the Takla Makan Tract. 15
desert appears to have received its name from the large quantities of broken pottery, which are found strewn about in many places,16 and which show that, in ancient times, parts of
15 Compare the account of this Tract in the Report of a Mission to Yarkand in 1873, pp. 25 ff.
16 Mr. Bäcklund informs me that "Takla Makan is a peculiar word which the natives apply to places covered with pottery. Such places are very numerous. Also many skeletons can be found in those places." Mr. Macartney also writes to me that "the fragments of ancient pottery, images, etc., are not always found imbedded as at Borazan. They are often seen lying on the surface of the ground. I was much struck, along the road between Guma and Jhanguia, with the frequent appearance of pieces of broken earthen-ware vases (of no artistic value) covering large areas of ground, such areas being themselves situated in the midst of a sanddesert, and often 5 or 6 miles from habitation." The word 'Takla Makan' is not as Dr. Sven Hedin appears to state (pp. 450, 457, 785, 801 in his most interesting book Through Asia) the proper name of any one particular place.
it must have been the seat of an advanced civilization. Among the peculiar features of the tract of country which comprises that desert and the adjoiuing belt of cultivation are the numerous rivers which come from the valleys of the Karakorum and Kuenluen Ranges, and traverse its surface to their final junction with the Tarim river. In the present day it is only the two largest of these rivers, the Yurung Qash on which Khotan lies, and the Qara Qash on which the homonymous town lies, which, uniting north of Khotan, reach that termination. The smaller rivers, some of which may have been tributaries of the two large ones, after emerging from the valleys, now soon lose themselves in the sandy desert. "These rivers large and small, are the seats of the fixed population and the entire productive industry of the country." "Numerous canals are drawn off from them to the lands on each side, and thus convert considerable tracts of what would be otherwise desert-waste into fertile and populous settlements." At present the extent of these settlements is very limited, but formerly-many centuries ago-they extended much further into the interior, probably some 30 to 50 miles beyond the present borders of the sandy desert. The climate of the country is notable for “the extreme dryness of its atmosphere at all times and the trifling amount of its rainfall." As a consequence "the soil everywhere is characterised by its aridity and barrenness, and is more or less highly charged with salines, which retain sufficient moisture to form, in the desert, mud bogs and marshes on which grow coarse reeds and dwarf tamarisks." In these circumstances it is only by careful irrigation that the area of cultivation can be preserved and the encroachments of the moving sands of the desert prevented. The appearance and action of these moving sands has thus been described by Dr. Bellew: "During the spring and summer months a north or northwest wind prevails, blowing with considerable force and persistence for many days consecutively. As it sweeps over the plain, it raises the impalpable dust on its surface, and obscures the air by a dense haze resembling in darkness a November fog in London; but it drives the heavier particles of sand before it, and on the subsidence of the wind, they are left on the plain in the form of ripples, like those on the sandy beach washed by an ebbing current." In course of time, there is formed "a perfect sea of loose sand, advancing in regular wave lines from north-west to south-east. The sand dunes are mostly from ten to twenty feet high, but some are seen like little hills, fully a hundred feet high, and in some spots higher. They cover the plain, of which the hard clay is seen between their rows, with numberless chains of two or three or more together in a line, and follow in successive rows, J. 1. 4
one behind the other." When, during the earlier centuries of the Christian era, in consequence of the troubles attending the tribal migrations and the Muhammadan conquests, the population became reduced and irrigation fell into neglect, the advancing sands gradually overwhelmed one outlying settlement after the other, and narrowed the belt of settlement and cultivation to its present limits. Many traces of these ancient settlements and the water-courses on which they lay are still met with in the desert; and some of them have been named and described above (pp. xii ff.) 17 The recollection of the desert having been once a fertile and populous country still survives in that region. Mr. Macartney, in his demi-official letter, No. 121, dated the 21st July, 1897, reports that "it is believed by the natives of Kashgharia that the Takla Makan desert was once a fertile and cultivated country. There is a tradition that before the introduction of Muhammadanism [in the 10th and 11th centuries A. D.], forty-one cities 18 flourished in that region under the rule of a certain Zewar Shah, king of Katak, and that by reason of the disbelief of the inhabitants in the religion of the Prophet, which three Imams from Bukhāra had come to preach, their country was suddenly and miraculously destroyed by a sandstorm. This story is told at considerable length in the Taskirah of Kamaluddin, Zahiruddin and Khwaja Arush.19 The natives believe that the antiques which are constantly found in the Takla Makan desert belonged to the cities which once formed part of the kingdom of Zewar Shah." The exact site of the city of Katak, here mentioned, is not known, but it probably lay about three marches or 40 miles south-west of Lop Nor, on the great trade-route from China to Khotan, which ran by way of Charchan.20 Its destruction by the sands occurred about 1330 A.D., and it is prob
17 A most interesting account of some others which Dr. Sven Hedin discovered during his travels in the Takla Makan is given in his book Through Asia.
18 On p. 496 of Dr. Sven Hedin's book Through Asia, another tradition concerning the former existence of forty towns" is mentioned.
19 This Taskirah had been transmitted to me in the box which contained the consignment M. 3. It has been returned to Mr. Macartney for the purpose of translation and eventual publication.
20 This is the view advocated by the late N. Elias in his Translation of the Tarikh-i-Rashidi, pp. 11, 12, footnote. Dr. Sven Hedin discovered a place, called Katak, on the banks of the Khotan river (see p. 819 of his book Through Asia); but he also met with the name further east, near the Yarkand river (see ibidem, p. 473), and also further west, a long way "south of the Achik (or old Tarim) river (see ibid., p. 850). It would seem probable that katak should really be köttek or 'dead forest' (see ibid., p. 811, 850), and that the name is shahr-i-köttek or 'town in the dead forest.' Like Takla Makan it is not the proper name of a particular place, but a general name common to a number of old sites.
ably on account of this comparatively modern date that we possess a detailed account of the catastrophe. It may be seen in Mirza Muḥammad Haidar's Tarikh-i-Rashidi (English Translation by N. Elias, p. 10 ff.,) written between 1541 and 1546 A.D. That writer thus describes the condition of the desert in his time (ibidem, p. 295): "To the east and south of Kashghar and Khotan are deserts which consist of nothing but heaps of shifting sands, impenetrable jungles, waste lands and salt-deserts. In ancient times there were large towns in these wastes, and the names of two of them have been preserved, namely Lob and Katak; but of the rest no name or trace remains all are buried under the sand. Hunters who go there after wild animals, relate that sometimes the foundations of cities are visible, and that they have recognized noble buildings, such as castles, minarets, mosques and colleges, but that when they returned a short time afterwards, no trace of these was to be found; for the sand had again overwhelmed them." This fact of the recurrent disappearance and reappearance of sand-buried sites and ruins naturally follows from the action, above described, of the winds on the sands, and has also been noticed by modern travellers. It also forms a welcome occasion for the visits of treasure-seekers, especially in Khotan, where, as Mr. Macartney informs us, they make a regular livelihood of that occupation, being in the habit of visiting, after a sandstorm or a flood, such localities as seem most promising, in the hope of picking up some objects in gold or silver which have been laid bare by the wind or water. As an example of such a visit the itinerary of Islām Khan has been given above.
As already stated the process of submergence of the ancient civilization of Eastern Turkestan under the advancing sands of the desert had already commenced long before the Muhammadan period. It was already in full operation at the time of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Hiuen Tsiang, in the seventh century A.D., when Buddhism was still the prevailing religion and culture of Khotan and the rest of Eastern Turkestan. On his return from India to China, in the year 644 A.D., he took the southern route passing through Khotan and Pima to Charchan: the northern route, by which he had travelled from China to India, passed through Kuchar and Kashghar. In those days Pima was a comparatively new settlement, lying on the outskirts of the Takla Makan desert, and it still existed for many centuries afterwards, for in 1274 A.D. Marco Polo saw it on his way to China. At the present day it has disappeared in the sands, and its exact site is not known. According to the data furnished by Hiuen Tsiang's itinerary, it must have
21 See, e.g., Dr. Bellew's observations on the subject in the Report of a Mission to Yarkand in 1873, pp. 28, 29, 37, 38.