46o THE ETSIN-GOL DELTA AND THE RUINS OF KHARA-KHOTO [Chap. XIII
Want of Below that oasis we had found in May the bed of the Etsin-gol quite dry, and this condition
water in was said to be quite normal for the season. Farther down, the eastern main branch of the delta, the
spring. j khe-gol, had, as already stated above, received no water for three years past even during the
summer floods. On our return journey up this river branch, it was not until June i2th that we came upon the first flow of water in it at Bahân-durwuljin (Map No. 45. B. 2), filling scarcely one-fifteenth of the width of the bed with a volume of less than 200 cubic feet per second. Yet even this first harbinger of the summer flood was hailed by the Mongols with delight as having come about a month sooner than it had for years past in any of the branches of the delta. At Khara-khoto, as everywhere else in this region where cultivation depends on irrigation, an adequate supply of canal-water during the spring must have been absolutely essential for all crops. No such supply could be secured nowadays anywhere in the Etsin-gol delta. Nor is it possible to assume that this need of moisture during spring could have been supplied in earlier times by local precipitation ; for in that case the ruins of Khara-khoto and their antiques would certainly not have come down to us in such excellent preservation.
Volume of Thus the conclusion appears justified that the volume of water reaching the Etsin-gol delta
Etsin-gol during spring has undergone considerable diminution since late mediaeval times. What the cause
reduced may be is a question Middle of this diminution ma b i uestion that need not be considered here.13o So much, however, should
Ages. be noted, that it cannot be attributed to an increased demand for irrigation water in the oases
higher up the river ; for we know that cultivation in these oases is still far from having recovered all the ground it had lost through the protracted devastations of the Tungan rebellion and the consequent depopulation. Nor is it possible to suppose that, at the period when Khara-khoto was inhabited and agriculture carried on in its vicinity, the amount of water lost to the rivers of Kan-chou and Su-chou through irrigation was less than it is in our times ; for Marco Polo speaks of Campichu, i.e. Kan-chou, as a ` very great and noble ' city, ` the capital and place of government of the whole province of Tangut ', and mentions ` numerous towns and villages ', also in the province of Sukchur (Su-chou).14
Return to The rapidly increasing heat had made work at Khara-khoto very trying both for the men
Îkhe gol. and for the camels, upon which we depended for the transport of water. So I was glad when, our work at the site being completed and Lai Singh having returned from his survey towards the terminal lake basin, I was able on June 5th to move my camp back to Tsondul on the Ikhe-gol and there to arrange for our journey south to the foot of the Nan-shan. It was high time to let our hard-worked camels depart for their much-needed summer holiday, and fortunately it was possible to send them for this purpose to a cooler place, the Kungurche hills, to the east of the terminal basin of the Etsin-gol. I had previously heard of these hills at Mao-mei, as the summer grazing ground to which the large herds of camels owned there are regularly sent. As the locality was described as lying on the very border of independent Mongol territory, I decided to send Surveyor Muhammad Yàqûb with the camels, partly for the sake of additional safety and partly in the hope of his eventually being able to extend survey work over practically unexplored ground to the north-east.
Surveyor This hope remained unfulfilled ; for when the broad valley of Kungurche (Map No. 47.
sent tothe A, B. 2) was reached after five marches from the Torgut chief's standing camp, the hills overlooking
hills. it from the north and east were found to be closely guarded by Mongol pickets, who would not
permit the Surveyor to advance into independent Mongolian territory. Plucky enough in person, but lacking my old surveying companion Lâl Singh's indefatigable energy and resourcefulness,
134 [For observations on this question, see now my paper 14 Cf. Yule, Marco Polo, i. pp. 217, 219.
in Geogr. J., lxv (1925). pp. 489 sq.]