Sec. i] ALONG THE OUTERMOST T`IEN SHAN 67
left to follow the to-lo (` big road '), dear to Chinese in general, along with the heavy baggage.
Anyhow he was brought back safely to Kâshgar some twenty months later, managed meanwhile
to indite my Chinese epistles, and justified Chiang's belief in his probity by never playing me false
in my dealings with Chinese officials.
For this negative virtue I had special reason to feel grateful. Sir George Macartney's shrewd Disturbed
warnings had prepared me to find many aspects of Chinese officialdom greatly changed, and not conditions
for the better, as a result of the influence exerted by the revolution of 191 I even upon this distant chiang. province. The peace of the New Dominion had in 1912 been seriously disturbed by a series of assassinations of Mandarins, including the Tao-t`ais of Kâshgar and Ak-su, and by petty outbreaks among the Chinese garrisons and their attendant rabble fomented by unscrupulous office-seekers masquerading as ` revolutionaries ' and ` reformers '. Though confined entirely to the numerically weak Chinese element and viewed at first by the mass of the people, peaceful Turki Muhammadans, with their characteristic unconcern, these disturbances before long spread a feeling of insecurity throughout the province. It was largely due to the wise counsels and moderating influence of Sir George Macartney, who for many years past had enjoyed wide and richly deserved respect both among the people and the Chinese officials, their masters, that complete anarchy did not ensue.
The situation had become more settled before my return to Kâshgar under the influence of Change in
a somewhat stronger régime at head-quarters, and the local administrators were now less subject aofficials'
to the exactions of blackmailing Chinese soldiers and so-called ` revolutionaries ', in fact gamblers and adventurers.3 But it was difficult not to realize that the ` revolutionary ' movement in Hsinchiang had in various respects adversely affected the general type of officials in power. The new elements raised to office had manifestly discarded most of the good qualities of the old local Mandarin class, including regard for scholarly aims and labours ; but the beneficial effect hoped for from ` Western learning ' and pretended republican institutions was still conspicuously absent. While clinging faithfully to the old corrupt administrative system which has made Hsin-chiang a kind of Eldorado for. needy Chinese officials, these new masters, eager to display their sympathy with the ` Rights-recovery-policy ' of Young China, were not likely to ignore such chances of obstruction to Western enterprise as were offered by recent orders from Peking about surveying and archaeological operations. Altogether there was only too much justification for Sir George Macartney's warning that I could not reckon upon always finding the same favourable disposition at Chinese Ya-mêns that had greatly facilitated my explorations on previous journeys.
As soon as my preparations were completed I set out, on October 9th, from the hospitable Departure
shelter of the Consulate General for the winter's work in the desert. Its chief goal was the region from
around the ancient dried-up Lop Sea, in the extreme east of the Tarim basin ; I was separated from
it by the whole length of the Taklamakân, that great sea of drift-sand over 600 miles in length.
In order to assure adequate time for the explorations contemplated in that waterless region, it was
essential to reach them while the cold of the winter permitted of the easy transport of water in the
shape of ice. This consideration had from the first played a decisive part in my plans.
For a variety of reasons I was anxious to revisit Khotan, and once there I was bound to Planned
proceed by the only practicable route, which skirts the southern edge of the Taklamakâ.n. Most fit ôf long
of the ground to be traversed was already familiar to me from my previous expeditions, and I was Tien-shan.
therefore all the more eager to avail myself of any new route from Kâshgar to Khotan that could
be traversed within the time available. With this object in view I had decided to move first due east