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0043 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 43 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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If the territory of Shê-mi be identified with Kafiristan, we obtain a satisfactory explanation why, in the notice on Chieh (Chieh-shih), Shê-mi is mentioned as bordering the latter both on the west and the south. The Siah-pôsh or ` Kafir' tribes, which have given to Kafiristan its mediaeval and modern designation, inhabit not only the valleys due west of Chitral, but supply also the bulk of the population in the Valley of the Kûnar or Chitral river itself, along that little-known portion of its course from Kala Darôsh southwards to Asmar. These settlements, though Muhammadanized under Chitrali or Pathan rule, form a living proof of the fact that Kafiristan originally included a considerable portion of the main valley due south of Kashkar 29.

The open and fertile part of the main valley, containing the large villages which bear collectively the name of Chitral and form the political centre of the Kashkar or Chitral State, answers remarkably well to the description given in the Tang Annals of the mild climate and rich produce of Chieh (Chieh-shih). And in view of the topographical arguments already adduced for this identification, we need not hesitate to suggest also that it was the local name Kashkar, or an earlier form of it, which the Chinese endeavoured to reproduce by Chieh-shih or Chieh-shuai. The application of the term Kashkar to the territory of Chitral is well attested from Muhammadan sources, and its use is still current throughout those regions 30, Chieh-shih, as an attempt to represent Kashkar by Chinese sounds, would have a parallel in the name Chia-sha which Hsüan-tsang gives to the present city and oasis of Kashgar, in Chinese Turkestan 31.

as far as they are comprised in the limits of Kafiristan. If the great commentator nevertheless records his inability to account for Marco Polo's application of the name Pashai to the country south-east of Badakhshan ', the reason of the difficulty seems to me to lie solely in Sir Henry Yule's assumption that the route heard of by the traveller, led ' by the Dorih or the Nuksan Pass, over the watershed of Hindukush into Chitral and so to Dir'.

Though such a route via Chitral would, no doubt, have been available in Marco Polo's time as much as now, there is no indication whatever forcing us to believe that it was the one really meant by his informants. When Nigiidar ' with a great body of horsemen, cruel unscrupulous fellows' went off from Badakhshan towards Kashmir, he may very well have made his way over the Hindukush by the more direct line that passes to Dir through the eastern part of Kafiristan. In fact, the description of the Pashai people and their country, as given by Marco Polo, distinctly points to such a route ; for we have in it an unmistakable reflex of characteristic features with which the idolatrous Siah-posh Kafirs have always been credited by their Muhammadan neighbours.

It is much to be regretted that the Oriental records of the period, as far as they were accessible to Sir Henry Yule, seem to have retained only faint traces of the Mongol adventurer's remarkable inroad. From the point of view of Indian history it was, no doubt, a mere passing episode. But some details regarding it would possess special interest as illustrating an instance of successful invasion by a route that so far has not received its due share of attention.

29 Compare Biddulph, Hindoo Koosh, pp. 64 sq.

so Compare Biddulph, Hindoo Koosh, pp. 59 sqq. ; Raverty, Notes on Afghdnislan, 1888, pp. 152 sqq.

31 In regard to the above proposed identification of Chiehshih (Chieh-shuai) with Chitral, it is necessary to consider briefly some other Chinese geographical notices which have previously been assumed to refer to Chitral. Both Cunningham and V. de Saint-Martin had expressed the belief that the

mountainous territory of Shang-mi   , which Hsüan-
tsang describes as situated beyond a great range to the south of Ta-mo-hsi-t'ieh-ti or Wakhan, was identical with the Chitral Valley (see J.A.S.B., xiv. p. 433, and Saint-Martin, Mémoire analyt., p. 426). Their suggestion has received the weighty support of Sir Henry Yule, who observes that the yellow arsenic or orpiment mentioned in Hsüan-tsang's account is still a characteristic product of Chitral (J.R.A.S., N.S., vi. 1 r4). The further fact that Shang-mi, with the alternative name of Chü-wei, is mentioned in a brief notice of the Tang Annals first extracted by A. Rémusat, did not escape Sir Henry Yule's attention. But without an exact and reliable rendering of the passage, as now supplied in M. Chavannes' work (Tures occid., p. 129, note 2), it was impossible to perceive that the name had in reality a much more restricted application.

The notice of the Annals tells us : ` Chil-wei TAll. is also called Shang-mi ; its capital is in the town of A-shêyilshih-to; it is situated amidst the great snowy mountains, north of the river of P`o-Iii. This country is cold ; it produces the five cereals, wine and pomegranates. During the winter people live in caves. The inhabitants of this kingdom have always assisted the Little P'o-lü in spying out the Middle Kingdom (China)'.

The river of P'o-lü must be the Gilgit river, and a glance at the map shows that the territory meant by Chil-wei or Shang-mi corresponds exactly to the present Mastiij and the

Chieh-shih identified with Chitral.