Sec. i] ALONG THE FOOT OF THE TIEN-SHAN 787
to be well founded. My host, the ` Ta-Mullah ', to give him his current half-Chinese designation, a well-educated man who had studied in Samarkand and had also seen something of India on his ` I;Ia j ', was apparently allowed a good deal of authority in the local administration, and this seemed to promise well for the future development of an oasis singularly favoured in its unfailing watersupply.2
On April 6th we set out in three separate parties for the long journey to Kashgar. A variety of reasons, largely connected with my plans for travels during the summer in the Pamir region and for work during the winter in far-off Sistân and also with the safe packing and dispatch of my antiquities to India, made me anxious to reach it by the close of May. Lai Singh's task was to keep close to the Tien-shan and to survey as much of the main range as the early season and the available time would permit. Muhammad Yäqûb was sent south across the Konche and Inchike rivers to the Yarkand-darya with instructions to survey as much as conditions would permit of its main channel as far as the northern edge of the Yarkand district. Most of our camels were sent with him under very light loads, in order that they might benefit by the abundant grazing in the riverine jungles after all their privations and before the time came when I should have to dispose of them. I myself felt obliged, in the interests of antiquarian research, as well as in view of the great distances to be covered within the available time—my marches between Korla and Kashgar aggregated some 938 miles in 55 days—to keep in the main to the long line of oases which fringes the southern foot of the Tien-shan.
It is along this line that the chief route for trade, general traffic, and military operations in the Tarim basin has lain all through historical times, as it does now. Well known as this high road is, it would inevitably give me opportunities for observations of interest, both on the historical geography and the present physical and economic conditions of this northern fringe of oases, the ancient Pei-lu of the Chinese. But the rapidity with which, for the reasons above given, I was obliged to move, would not allow of the collection of adequate data relating to the physical aspect of the vast region traversed, beyond those which could be recorded by our surveys. On the other hand, the important ancient remains to be found within these oases or in their immediate vicinity
Travel programme to Kâshgar.
Record of observations along Pei-lu.
2 During my stay at Korla I acquired the small antiques described below from a local trader who stated that he had obtained them from a Loplik as found at the site of Merdekshahr'. Whether their alleged find-place is identical with the site marked by the ancient fort of Merdek-tim which I examined in January, 1907 (see Serindia, i. pp. 452 sq.), I was unable to ascertain.
The small objects are all of a type such as might be picked up on a ` Tati '. But vague information received by me in Charkhlik in January, 1914, pointed to the discovery by Lop hunters of a site also designated as Merdek-shahr somewhere near the lower Tarim since my first visit in 1906. The description given of objects which were said to have been brought from there and sold to Mr. Tachibana suggested the survival of structural remains. I therefore regretted that want of time before I moved into the Lop desert prevented me from making a search for the alleged site.
Mer. 01. Lapis-lazuli bead, flat rectang., faceted at corners ; good colour." x f" x ".
Mer. oz. Lignite seal ; sq. with large knob at back pierced for suspension. Device Chin. chars., much worn. x 11", h.
Mer. 03. Ornamental bronze boss ; in form of quatre
foil, convex to centre. Petals form ogee curve to pointed tips, and have raised mid-rib down middle. Hole through centre. Good condition. I" sq., h. h". Pl. LI.
Mer. 04-5. Two bronze discs ; flat, with scalloped edges and circular depression within each scallop. Hole through centre. Diam. f".
Mer. o6. Pair of bronze discs ; thin, with scalloped edges, and small repoussé boss in each scallop. Hole through centre. One broken ; other shows thin tongue of bronze projecting from one side ; possibly ear-rings. Diam. ig".
Mer. 07. Bronze stud ; short, thick, with blunt end, and flat heart-shaped head having groove down centre. Length
diam. of pin i", of head r.
Mer. o8. Pair of bronze buttons ; with round mushroom-shaped heads, and shanks forming loops. Length A", diam. of head c. f".
Mer. og. Pair of bronze buttons ; long heart-shaped heads with groove down centre as Mer. 07, and shanks forming loops as in Mer. o8. One broken. Length f", gr. m. of head 7u"
Mer. oxo. Bronze ring ; irregular rectang. in section. Diam. i".