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0356 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 356 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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Chinese inscription at Slime-lash.

Historical interest of Great Pamir.


On a cliff known as Süme-tash (Fig. 385), which overlooks the small delta formed by the stream of the Alichur Pamir where it enters the eastern extremity of the lake, rises a small ruined shrine. It formerly sheltered the stélé commemorating the victory here gained in 1759 by the Chinese commander over the Khôjas of Kashgar who were fleeing with their followers across the Pamirs towards Badakhshan.9 The inscription had been removed to the Tashkend Museum, probably after Colonel Yonoff's Cossacks on June 22, 1892, had wiped out the small Afghan detachment holding a post not far off. But the massive granite base of the stélé was still in situ, probably the most enduring historical relic on the Pamirs and a fit emblem of that Chinese power which during the last two thousand years had again and again made itself felt on the far-off ` Roof of the World '. After leaving our Süme-tash camp on the morning of August 22nd, we passed, half a mile away to the south of the river, a curious triangular enclosure made of boulders and known as ` Khitaikurghan '. Its longest side measured 25 yards. There was nothing by which to determine its origin.

Two marches up the Alichur Pamir, first in the marshy riverine trough, then over a wide grass-covered steppe, brought us to B ash-gumbaz-aghzi, the chief summer camp of the Kirghiz grazing on this Pamir and at that time occupied by more than two dozen ` Ak-ois '. A day's halt there offered an opportunity for useful anthropometrical work on their dwellers (Fig. 439) and for securing supplies, most of which are brought to this place from the side of Shughnan. Thence I turned south to cross the ` Pamir chain ' dividing the Alichur and Great Pamirs by the pass of Bash-gumbaz. The ascent to it through the valley of the same name (Fig. 379) was of interest in that it clearly showed the series of terminal moraines successively left behind by the large glacier which had once filled it. The pass, crossed on August 26th at an elevation of about 16,30o feet, was the highest encountered on our route, but was found clear of snow throughout and less difficult than previous accounts had suggested. The valley below it opened upon a wide peneplain overlooking the western extremity of Lake Victoria or Zôr-köl and the outlet from it of the Great Pamir branch of the Oxus. Here a grand panoramic view met the eye (Fig. 360), extending over the imposingly wide valley to the glacier-crowned range which divides it from uppermost Wakhan. For about six miles we skirted the foot of the range where it descends from the north to the Russian shore of the lake, and then near a large bay pitched camp for a day's halt.

This central portion of the Great Pamir, where the borders of Russia and Afghanistan meet on the glittering expanse of Lake Victoria, is probably the best known ground of the whole Pamir region. Nevertheless it was a great satisfaction for me to have reached it. Ever since my youth I had longed to see this, the truly ` Great ' Pamir, of which Captain Wood, the discoverer of its lake (February 19, 1838), had given so graphic a description. This desire had necessarily increased since the closer knowledge gained of the topography of the whole of the Pamirs and of the territories adjoining them east and west had confirmed the belief that the memories of those great travellers, Hsüan-tsang and Marco Polo, were associated with the Great Pamir, the routes of both from Wakhan having led past it. I have previously had occasion to indicate the reasons that induce me to share that belief ;10 I need not, therefore, set them forth here in detail. But since Fate has allowed me to peruse, on the spot, the statements of the greatest of Chinese pilgrims and medieval travellers, I may be allowed to quote these and add some brief observations regarding them.

` On the north-east of the frontier of Shang-mi a h, skirting the mountains and crossing the valleys, advancing along a dangerous and precipitous road, after going 700 li or so, we come to the valley of Po-mi-lo ans. It stretches 1,000 li or so east and west, and loo li or so from

9 See Curzon, Pamirs, p. 45, quoting the interesting letter   and published in Lettres Édifiantes, xxxi. p. 248.

from two Jesuit priests at Kashgar dated November 26,1759,   10 See Ancient Khotan, i. pp. 3o sqq. ; Serindia, i. p. 65.

Across Bashgumbaz pass to Lake Victoria.

Hsüantsang's account of Pamir.