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0229 Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1
Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1 / Page 229 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000042
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separate the Upper Talas from the Chu ; the Chu is the river crossed in a boat. Beyond this is the valley with the remains of old intrenchments. These are noticed also by the Diarist of Hulagu's march. Four days Before reaching Talas, this writer says, " they passed between the two mountains Itu (qu. the two parallel ranges called Ala-tagh ?). The country is flat, well peopled and well watered ; and there are many old ramparts and military structures, for it was formerly occupied by the Shitan" (the Caracatai of Rubruquis, see infra, p. 176). " Near this is a river called Yi-yun, very rapid, flowing from the east ; the people of the country call it the Yellow river" (as to the muddy colour and great rapidity of the Chu, see Russians in Central Asia, p. 262).

Rubruquis then reaches Equius, or as I have supposed the Asparah of the Mahomedan writers, and we must therefore locate this north of the Chu, somewhere opposite the modern Russian posts of Pishpek or Tokmak.

They then cross the " Alps" again ; this time the branch of the Ala-Tau between Pishpek and Almaty, and emerge on the great plain stretching to the Balkash. It is true that towards the lake this is a barren steppe, but the tract along the spurs of the Northern Ala-Tau, which bounded the plain to the right of the traveller as he describes, is rich arable land, amply irrigated (see Semenov in Petermann's Mittheilungen for 1858, p. 352-3).

Somewhere at the foot of those hills was CAILAC, doubtless the KAYALIK of the historians of the Mongols. It must have been some distance north of the Ili, for the traveller reaches the Alakul from Cailac in four days. It may be placed near the modern Russian station of Kopal.

That it was not on the Ili, but some distance beyond it, is in some degree confirmed by the circumstance, that though a place of importance, it is not mentioned in the route either of Hulagu or of King Hethum, both of whom seem to have come down the Ili valley from ALMALIK (near modern Kulja) and then passed to Talas by the route which Rubruquis had come.

At p. 576 infra are quoted some passages relating, or supposed to relate, to Kayalik or Cailac. Another may be cited as slightly favourable to the site indicated. We are told that Batu was on his way from his domain on the Wolga to Karakorum, when at the mountain Aladagh, seven days march from Kayalik, he heard of the death of the Kaan" (Suyuk), and turned back. Supposing this to be the Alatagh pass between the Chu and the Ili the distance would be appropriate to our position (see D'Ohsson, ii, 246).

The name Orgonum, which Rubruquis heard applied td the country, I have elsewhere endeavoured to elucidate (infra, p. 522).

It will be observed that Rubruquis, coming upon the Alakul, regarded it as the continuation and termination of the great lake which had occupied the distant horizon on his left for a good many days, an error which the map alone renders very conceivable to us, and which may then have had still more excuse, as all those lakes appear to be contracting. Indeed there seems to be no doubt that the Balkash and Alakul were formerly actually one, though they may not have been so in the days of Rubruquis (see Semenov as above, p. 351; and in J. R. G. S., xxxv, p. 213 ; also Petermann for 1863, p. 392).

From the Alakul the mountains crossed to the north were apparently those above Tarbogatai. From this the route probably lay along the Upper Irtish and then along the Jabkan river.

On the return journey in summer Rubruquis passed to the north of the Balkash. The only part common to the two journeys was, he says, a fifteen days' ride along a river among mountains, where there was no grass except on the banks. This would seem to have been the Jabkan.

I discern no real difficulty in the foregoing interpretation of the traveller except one, viz., the scanty time allowed between Kenchak in the Talas valley and the head of the Alakul. This distance is about five hundred