FROM YÂSIN TO KÂSHGAR
SECTION I.—YASIN IN HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY
By crossing the Sheobat pass I had gained access to the mountain territories of Güpis and Yàsin, through which my route was to lead me straight north close to the watershed between Indus and Oxus. Ever since the Gilgit Agency was first established in 1877 more and more detailed information has become available about the geographical and kindred aspects of these tracts on the head-waters of the Gilgit river, and though some of the most useful books and surveys are not as yet within reach of the public, no general account of the ground over which this portion of my journey took me seems here called for. I may accordingly restrict my account to such observations as have a direct antiquarian or historical bearing, and to brief notes on the route actually followed by me and its successive stages. I may add that I propose to adhere to the same course in those further stages of my journey which took me across ground already fully surveyed or previously visited by me.
The region I traversed on my way from Tangir to the main Hindukush watershed presents a distinct historical interest, because the route which leads down from the Darkôt pass through the open and comparatively fertile valley of Yàsin must have always claimed importance as the shortest means of communication between Oxus and Indus. But the only notices shedding light on its early history are those found in Chinese records of the Tang period, and as I have already had occasion to discuss them fully in the detailed reports on my two preceding Central-Asian journeys,' a brief summary of the main results there arrived at will here suffice. From the notices concerning ` Little P`o-Iii ' ,J~ $~j ft contained in the Tang Annals, which M. Chavannes was the first to render fully accessible and to elucidate,2 it is certain that this territory must have contained Yasin and the valley of the Gilgit river also. It acquired considerable political and strategic importance for the Chinese when early in the eighth century the Tibetans operating from the direction of Great P`o-lii or Baltistân endeavoured to secure access through Little P`o-lii to the Oxus valley and thus to join hands with the Arabs, the other great opponents of Chinese supremacy in Central Asia.3 The necessity of keeping open the most direct route by which communication could be maintained from the Chinese side with Kashmir and other Indian kingdoms threatened by Arab conquest, made the protection of Little Po-lü an equally imperative measure of imperial policy.4
As early as A. D. 722 we read of Chinese troops helping its king to recover nine ` towns ' taken from him by the Tibetans. In 737 Chinese intervention from the direction of the far-off
Chinese notices of ` Little P `o-lü '.
1 See Ancient Khotan, i. pp. 6 sqq. ; Serindia, i. pp. 52 sqq.
2 Cf. Chavannes, Turcs occid., pp. 149-54. With regard to the note on p. 129, note 2, in his Errata supplémentaires (lithographed), I may point out that M. Chavannes subsequently in his Notes additionnelles sur les Tou-kiue occidentaux (T `oung-pao, 1904), p. 43, note r, fully endorsed the conclusion arrived at in Ancient Khotan, loc. cit., that Little P`o-lü comprised Yasin as well as Gilgit. For other references to the territory, preserved in the encyclopaedia Ts`ê fu yuan
kuei, cf. Chavannes, T `oung-pao, 1904, p. 105, in Index s.v. Pou-lu.
3 Some time before A.D. 722 we read of the Tibetans declaring to the king of Little P`o-lü : ` It is not your kingdom that we covet, but we wish to use your route in order to attack the Four Garrisons (i. e. the present Chinese Turkestan) ' ; cf. Chavannes, Turcs occid., p. 15o.
4 Cf. the imperial brevet of A. D. 731 bestowing the title of king on the ruler of Little Fo-lü, quoted Chavannes, Notes addit., T `oung-pao, 1904, p. 52.