THE plan of the explorations recorded in these volumes was based upon the experiences and results of my travels during the years 1906-8. In the course of these I had explored ancient remains
and carried out surveys through the whole length of Eastern Turkestan to the westernmost marches
of China and Tibet. The fascination of archaeological problems and the geographical interest of vast areas which, in spite of their present barrenness, have a historical past, combined to draw me
back to that great region of innermost Asia. Ruined sites long ago abandoned to the desert have
there preserved for us relics of an ancient civilization that grew up and flourished for a thousand years under the joint influences of Buddhist India, China, and the Hellenized Near East. As
my thoughts recurred, while I worked on the results of my second Central-Asian journey, to the openings for fruitful exploration which, from lack of time, I had hitherto been obliged to neglect, the call of those vast deserts was imperative.
The labour entailed by the arrangement and study of the large collection of antiques which I had brought back from those travels to the British Museum kept me busy in England until the end of 191 I. The record of the results, as embodied in the volumes of Serindia, claimed most of my time even after I had returned to India and was engaged on archaeological work on the familiar ground of the North-West Frontier and Kashmir. That heavy task was still very far from completion when in the autumn of 1912 a variety of considerations induced me to submit to the Government of India my proposal for a long-planned third expedition in Central Asia. Among these the favourable political conditions then prevailing in the regions to be visited within the limits of China and Russian Turkestan were not the least important. In view of the changes that we have since witnessed, I have special reason to feel grateful for the shrewd advice of two kind friends, Sir HENRY MCMAHON, then Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, and Sir GEORGE MACARTNEY, H.B.M.'s Consul-General at Kashgar, which helped me to decide on an early start.
Lord HARDINGE, the then newly arrived Viceroy of India, had from the first shown a kind interest in my past labours, and I remember with sincere gratitude the very encouraging auspices under which I thus embarked on my new plans. For the generous support which the Government of India accorded to my proposals I was largely indebted to two kind friends, Sir HARCOURT BUTLER, who as Member of the Governor-General's Council was then the enlightened head of the Education Department and has since been in succession Governor of the United Provinces and Governor of Burma, and Sir .JOHN MARSHALL, Director-General of Archaeology in India. The latter, as the Government's chief adviser in archaeological matters, has never failed to lend me his most cordial and effective aid in all the efforts entailed by the preparation of my successive Central-Asian expeditions and the working out of their results. The proposals as finally sanctioned in April, 1913, by H.M.'s Secretary of State for India, included provision for the payment in three successive years of a total grant of £3,000 to cover the estimated cost of the intended explorations,' the Indian Government reserving to themselves in return an exclusive claim to whatever archaeological proceeds ' in the shape of antiques, &c., my expedition might yield. It was understood that