Sec. iii] ACROSS THE MOUNTAINS TO TURFAN 563
dropped down into a hollow containing the charming little oasis of Shaftulluk, which stands at an elevation of close on 3,000 feet. Its luxuriant orchards and arbours are watered by a lively spring rising about 200 yards higher up. The still green foliage of the fruit trees was delightful to behold after the barren scenery through which we had passed since we crossed the range. No wonder that a Ziârat and mosque rose close to the life-giving spring, evidently to mark local worship of ancient date.
Next day an easy march of nineteen miles across a steadily descending Sai, first of stone and then of gravel, brought us down to the northern edge of the main Turfân oasis. The monotony was relieved only where the route skirted a portion of the shallow Wadi where the water of Shaftulluk, after flowing for about three miles below the surface, breaks out again in a little brook and irrigates in succession three tiny patches of cultivation known as Kichik. After a march of about nine miles, we crossed a wide dry flood-bed coming from the outer hills. It is joined by several smaller Wadis farther on and carries occasional drainage towards the deep-cut ` Yâr' bed which passes to the east of the ruined site of Yâr-khoto.
The view obtained on our descent of this big gravel glacis was exceptionally wide and clear. It extended from the snowy peaks of the watershed range right across the dark stretches of Turfân cultivation to the long white belt of salt-encrusted ground marking the lowest part of the Turfân depression. In the far distance, the desert hills of the Chöl-tagh, forming the southern rim of the basin, came into view in dim outlines. • As the ground sloped so uniformly, it was difficult to realize that the lowest portion of this vast vista lay close on four-thousand feet below the point of departure of our march from Shaftulluk. The first strings of Kâréz wells, those characteristic features of Turfân cultivation, were passed on the bare gravel Sai two miles before we reached the edge of the cultivated area, as sharply marked off here as elsewhere around Turfân. A couple of miles more, past open canals and fields that appeared to have been recently brought under cultivation, brought us to the village tract of Yâr-mahalla, where we were hospitably received in the comfortable home of Ihrâr Khan, the Nagai owner of a cotton press and late Russian Ak-sakâl.
It only remains for us now to compare the results of our actual survey of the route we have followed from the ancient site north of Jimasa to Turfân, with what the previously mentioned itinerary of the Tang Annals tells us of the journey from Chiao-ho or Yâr-khoto to Pei-t`ing. The passage in Chapter XL of the Tang shu, according to M. Chavannes' rendering, runs as follows : la ` Starting from the sub-prefecture [of Chiao-ho x l], if one moves northward for 8o li,
one arrives at the hostelry of Lung-ch`iian ~, " the Dragon Spring ". Farther to the north,
one enters a mountain gorge and passing through Liu-ku /4., " the Valley of the Willows ",
crosses the [mountain called] Chin-sha ling 4.W fi, "the Mountain of the Golden Sand ", at the
end of 13o li. Passing through the Chinese frontier post of Shih-hui 7- one arrives at the town
of the Protectorate of Pei-t`ing 4E , at the end of i6o li.'
That Chiao-ho, the ancient capital of Turfân, literally ` [the town] between the [two] rivers', is identical with the ruined site of Yâr-khoto, ` the town between the Yârs ', is subject to no doubt. Leading thence to the north-north-west the present route towards Jimasa and Guchen brings us Shaftulluk after a march of approximately i8 miles. This ` Langar ' with its fine spring is undoubtedly the best halting-place for the traveller who crosses the barren glacis of the mountains towards the valley that gives the most direct access to the watershed northward. Accordingly we may quite safely place there the ` hostelry of Lung-ch`iian', ` the Dragon Spring ', and recognize in its name an appropriate Chinese designation for the life-giving fountain in the midst of a stony wilderness. Chinese fancy has always been as prone to associate striking natural features with the celestial monsters as Indian imagination is to recognize works of Siva, &c., in Svayarimbhû
la See Turcs occid., p. II.
March to edge of Turfân cultivation.
View across Turfân basin.
Itinerary from Y.rkhoto to Pei-t`ing.
Hostelry of ` Dragon Spring ' located.