Sec. v] WORK AT THE SITES OF MURTUK 635
cheêng from the south-east ; for there can be no doubt that the violent gales from the north-east
for which this plateau is notorious, and one of which obliged us to make a day's halt there under
rather trying conditions, are directly due to the ` aspiration ' which draws the cold air of Dzungaria
through this great gap of the Tien-shan down into the deep depression of Turfan, where the
atmosphere is warmed, even during the short winter, by far more abundant sunshine.
A busy Christmas week at Urumchi was made pleasant by the kind hospitality enjoyed Stay at
under the roof of the Rev. G. W. Hunter, of the China Inland Mission, and by many acts of friendly Urumchi.
attention on the part of Mr. G. Tudhope, of the Chinese Postal Service, the Rev. Father Hoogers,
of the Belgian Mission, and the officers of the Russian Consulate. It enabled me to enjoy almost
daily meetings with my old Mandarin friend Fan Ta-jên (Fig. 298), whose keen interest in my
scientific aims and labours remained unaffected either by increased official cares or by advancing
years and the changed intellectual outlook consequent on the Chinese revolution. It was, no
doubt, largely due to his friendly influence that I met with a very courteous reception from Mr. Yang
Tsêng-hsin, the Tu-trou or Governor-General of the Province, and Mr. Chang Shao-po, his adviser
for Foreign Affairs, though their complete silence with regard to the obstruction attempted in
the previous year was not calculated to inspire me with too much confidence as to their future inten-
tions. Fortunately I was able to derive more comfort from the statement of the Russian surgeon
that the torn muscles of my leg would recover without leaving any lameness behind ; for it removed
my anxiety lest physical incapacity should interfere with the work that I was planning to carry
out on desert ground to the south and in the Pamir region westwards.
On December 3oth I started back from Urumchi with the parting good wishes of my kind
hosts and after a touching farewell from Pan Ta-jên. Though my old Chinese scholar friend
expressed confidence in yet a fourth meeting being granted to us, I felt the parting greatly ; for
I knew that the time could not be far distant when he would retire to his home in distant Hu-nan,
while, as for me, a return to Hsin-chiang must necessarily remain one among the many uncertainties
of the future. On January 8th I regained our camp at Murtuk after having made arrangements
well ahead at Turfan for the transport of the expected heavy convoy of antiques to Kuchâ. and
thence onwards to Kashgar. It was a great satisfaction to find, on rejoining my assistants, that
they had been able to push on their work unhampered and without intermission, that fifty big
cases of frescoes were ready for transport to our Kara-khôja depot, and that many more of selected
panels were awaiting final packing.
My renewed stay at Murtuk extended to January 17th and was devoted mainly to the closer Survey of
examination of the Bezeklik shrines and the selection of additional frescoes for removal. During ûudd>iistt
these days I was also able to make a survey of the several small groups of ruined Buddhist shrines Murtuk.
situated at the mouths of the little valleys that descend towards the deep-cut e Yar' of Murtuk from
the bare hills to the south-west and south of the village (see site plan, Pl. 29). The more important
of these ruins had already been explored and fully described by Professor Grünwedel.5 But as
certain observations concerning their position are of interest both from a geographical point of
view and as illustrations of the continuity of local worship, a brief account of them, together with
a record of the finds made in ruins not previously explored, may not be out of place. If we start
from the hamlet of Akhûn-mahalla near the sciuthern extremity of the scattered fields of Murtuk
and cross the spring-fed stream which flows at the bottom of a deep-cut ` Yar ' from two to three
hundred yards wide, we reach a bare gravel-covered plateau rising with steep cliffs of clay to a
height of about a hundred feet above the right bank of the stream. This plateau, skirting the foot
of the rugged and utterly barren hill range, is less than a quarter of a mile wide at this point, but
5 See Grünwedel, Kultstätten, pp. 301-13 ; also brief notes in d'Oldenburg, Russian Turkestan Expedition, pp. 48 sq.