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0134 Innermost Asia : vol.1
Innermost Asia : vol.1 / Page 134 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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frowning rock scarps and bold spurs, much-eroded side valleys stretched away on either side. The hill slopes, mainly composed of sandstone with layers streaked red and grey, showed the same excessive erosion that I had observed on my passage in 190o down the Gez-darra and across the Tokuz-dawân.12 Once again the impression made on me was as if the erosive forces that are ever at work in this arid region had laid bare the very skeleton of the outer hill ranges. As I passed the broad alluvial fan where a lively stream from the Yapchan-jilga waters the rich cultivation of Kurghân, my attention was attracted by the deep red loam of the soil, evidently the product of decomposed sandstone, and by the huge blocks of conglomerate scattered over it like erratic boulders. Then I noticed masses of the same conglomerate high up, overlying the red sandstone ridges like a mantle. This stratum, many hundreds of feet thick, was uniformly visible on both sides of the valley.

Debouchure   Sâmân with its solitary dwelling among sandy fields was the last cultivated area in the valley.

of Kara-   Former experience at the debouchures of other rivers in the Tarim basin had prepared me for

ash river. the utter desolation over which we proceeded for twenty miles on September 20th before reaching the edge of the cultivated plain. Fantastically eroded sandstone ridges, absolutely bare, continued to flank the wide barren valley for about four miles. There, at the last small defile known as Tüshküch, the river was about forty yards wide and carried a volume of water estimated by me at about 1,400 cubic feet per second. During the summer floods the water was said to be about six feet deeper, which would imply a volume at least three or four times greater. Beyond this point the hills die away in flat-topped plateaux of conglomerate. These, where their foot is washed by the river, break off in almost perpendicular cliffs. Finally, the valley assumes the character of a wide stony ` Dasht ', and across this the route took us for over six miles before the river, which winds away to the NE., came in sight again opposite the low ridge of Aimodun.

The deserted watch-station of Chong-karaul marks the point where two main canals of Yangihissâr, known as Töwis and Shah-niâz, have their heads. About two miles farther on and to the north of that ridge, the river passes close to the foot of the conglomerate plateau that skirts it on the left side all the way from Chong-tokai. On a knoll near the very end of the plateau stands the well-known shrine of Pakhlân-khöjam, a famous Muhammadan saint. His tomb is a much-frequented pilgrimage place for the people of the Yangi-hissâr district, as he is supposed specially to protect the water-supply of the Kara-tâsh river, on which the irrigation of their lands depends. His Ziârat thus plays here a part exactly corresponding to that of the Kohmâri shrine above the Kara-kâsh river, which has long since been shown to inherit the site and function of the ` Gogringa Hill ' of Buddhist Khotan 13 It was therefore no surprise to me to find that the Lawar-ustang, the largest of the canals irrigating the lands of Yangi-hissâr and that which brings water to the town itself, takes off from the Kara-tâsh river i4 just opposite Pakhlân-khöjam's tomb. The latter is marked by two ` Gumbaz ' and a large walled enclosure. Of older remains near it I could learn nothing. But there can be no doubt that the worship of the site, a true su-be shi, goes back to early times.

Fording for the last time the river, which here turns off to the north, I soon reached the first fields of Altunluk, a small flourishing village on the edge of the open plain, and felt myself once more on familiar ground. Kichik Beg, who had been sent from the Yangi-hissâr Ya-mên to receive me, was an old acquaintance from Khotan. He had much to tell me of the detrimental effect on the economic development of the district resulting from the disturbances and political

12 Cf. Ruins of Khotan, pp. 112 sqq.

13 Cf. Ancient Khotan, i. pp. 189 sq.

14 The river is better known to the people of Yangi-hissàr

under the name of Bésh-kan. I regret not to have inquired at the time into the origin or meaning of this designation.

Shrine of

Cultivation of Yangihissàr.