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0320 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 320 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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Start from Kuchâ.

Road to Kizil R.

Visit to

` Ming-oi' of Kizil.

Site of





ON May 6th I set out from Kucha westwards in order to regain Kashgar. Colonel (now Brigadier-General Sir Percy) Sykes had taken over officiating charge of the Consulate General since early April, while Sir George Macartney was on leave in England ; and I knew that he intended to start on tour from Kashgar by the first week in June. It was essential that I should reach Kashgar before his departure, in order to secure his help in the preparations for my intended journey across the Russian Pamirs and along the uppermost Oxus. The distance still separating me from Kashgar—nearly 500 miles—would require at least three weeks' continuous travel ; and this, together with a few necessary brief halts en route at the several district head-quarters, left but little time to spare on the journey. I had to be content with such opportunities as it afforded for a general survey of those portions of the ancient ` northern route ' of the Chinese which I had not seen before. The short time that might remain available for antiquarian work I proposed to use at two minor sites in the district of Bai, which my informants at Kuchâ told me had never been visited by European archaeologists.

For the first two marches from Kuchâ town to the Kizil river we followed the high road. This ascends the barren hill chain trending towards the Muz-art-darya by a winding gorge which opens at a distance of about ten miles from Kuchâ, town. The high ruined tower and small cave-shrines of Kizil-kaghe (Map No. 17. A. I) which we passed about half-way to this gorge attest the antiquity of the line followed by this portion of the road. At the most easily defended point of the defile, known as Karaul, I noticed the foundations of four towers, perched on bold cliffs and evidently marking an old chiusa.

The village of Kizil-örtang was reached on the second march after we had crossed a bare and much-broken plateau at a height of about 5,60o feet. Thence on May 8th I paid a rapid but instructive visit to the great agglomeration of Buddhist cave-shrines situated in ravines above the left bank of the Muz-art river (Fig. 343). This very important site, known as Kizil Ming-oi, has been repeatedly examined and explored by various Russian, German, and French archaeological expeditions. Full descriptions of the many interesting wall-paintings which decorated its cave-temples have been furnished by Professor A. Grünwedel in two successive works ; while a large number of those removed to Berlin will be found faithfully reproduced in Professor von Lecoq's publications.' No detailed reference to the position and character of these shrines is therefore necessary. The site as a whole recalled, more than any other in Chinese Turkestan, the impressions left on me by the Thousand Buddhas of Tun-huang.

On May 9th I left the line of the high road leading to Bai for a more northerly route. It took me through the flourishing village tract of Lapar and thence along the bed of the river which irrigates it, as well as that of Sairam, to the ruined site known as the Tezak-kdghe Ming-oi (Map No. 17. n. 1). This place takes its name from the cultivated tract immediately below the point

1 See Grünwedel, Altbuddh. Kultstätten, pp. 37-181, and Alt-Kutscha, ii. pp. 57 sqq. ; von Lecoq, Buddh. Spätantike, passim.