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0387 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 387 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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in the second half of the eighteenth century Chinese political power made itself felt in Shughnan, just as it did beyond the Oxus valley, too, in Badakhshan and Chitral 12 A local tradition of Chinese control still survives and, as communicated to me by Tûran Beg of Shakh-dara, seems to connect it with the Chinese advance across the Pamirs which took place in 1759 after the occupation of K ashgar 13

This extension of Chinese political influence to Shughnan and even beyond it may confidently be recognized as a result of the comparative facilities of access that the valleys of Shughnan afford, both from the side of the Pamirs and from the open plateaus of Badakhshan. The same geographical factor, together with the Shughni people's proneness to supplement the scanty resources of their own country by seeking profit outside it, may probably help to explain the admixture of foreign racial elements with the original Homo Alpinus type of the population (Fig. 442) which is clearly indicated by Mr. Joyce's analysis of the anthropotnetrical materials secured on my passage through Shughnan.l4

In this connexion I may note that tradition puts the former population of the whole of Shughnan at the high figure of 7,000 households. There can be little doubt that this estimate is greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless I found clear evidence that a great deal of arable land, particularly in the upper portion of the Shakh-dara valley, had gone out of cultivation since an earlier period. Whether this was due to the effects of prolonged maladministration under local Afghan and Bokharan rule, to the slave-trading practices of the last local Mirs, or possibly to the recently increased facilities for emigration I was not able to ascertain. According to the information uniformly supplied to me, the three tracts of Shakh-dara, Ghund, and Kharuk, visited by me on the Russian side of Shughnan, were reckoned to contain 210, 220, and 6o households, respectively. To this figure a considerable addition would, no doubt, have to be made for the tracts stretching along both banks of the Oxus from below the Ghund debouchure to above Kala-i-Wamar.

On September 15th I left Kharuk in order to ascend the valley of Shakh-dara to its head.15 The march of that day led along a bridle-path following the right bank of the stream and passing a number of picturesque hamlets separated by stretches of grazing grounds. The valley bottom allowed of easy progress throughout and widened to fully half a mile at the village fort of Rachkala (about 8,400 feet), once the seat of the Mirs of Shakh-dara,18 where we halted. The second march brought us, after we had proceeded about 8 miles, to the point above the hamlet of Bezets where the bottom of the valley turned into a belt of luxuriant riverine tree growth. From the debouchure of the large glacier stream of Bazun-dara, which we next passed, a difficult route, often used in the old raiding times, leads to Shitkarw in Wakhan. Beyond that we reached a point near the mouth of the Zanôch-dara where the river is hemmed in between wall-like cliffs, and the passage through the defile obstructed by huge masses of fallen rock. The ` Darband ' thus formed was defended by two towers.

About two miles farther this defile widens into a basin broken by small rocky ridges. Here at the grazing ground of Bidech, a terrace rising about 8o feet above the riverine jungle is covered over an area of about 150 yards by 120 with massive walls of ruined dwellings (Fig. 417), to which tradition ascribes ` Kafir' origin. The masonry of flat unhewn stones set in mud plaster shows considerable solidity and is certainly superior to any seen by me in Shughni buildings. The walls,

Racial type of people.

Estimates of population.

Journey up Shakh-dara.

Ruins at Bidéch.

12 See Serindia, i. p. 33.

13 Cf. above, ii. pp. 857 sq. ; also below, p. 883.

14 See Mr. Joyce's Appendix C.

15 For a detailed description of Shàkh-dara, see Schultz, Forschungen in: Pamir, pp. 129 sqq.

16 Of the family of these Mirs of Shakh-dara Tûrân Beg

remembered six generations : Daulat Beg, Hassan Beg, Atam Beg, Nadir Shah, Obaidullah Khan, Aziz Khan (the Ming-bashi of the valley at the time). Atam Beg, the last independent Mir, was surprised at Rach-kala by Mir Abdurrahim, and with his six brothers killed by being thrown over the precipice below the fort.