THE great alpine valley of the Taghdumbash Pamir, to which I crossed on the 29th of June, 19oo, over the Kilik Pass (15,80o feet above the sea, Fig. 8), was certain to prove interesting ground from more than one point of view. At its head I was close to the point where the drainage areas of the three great river systems of the Indus, the Oxus, and the Tarim meet, the representatives as it were of the still greater ethnic areas of India, Iran, and Turkestan. That the view from the height of the Khushbal Peak, my first survey station, simultaneously comprised the confines of British India, Afghanistan, Russia, and China, was the best illustration of the abiding influence which geographical facts must exercise over political developments even in this desolate region. The wide expanse of level or easily undulating grazing land which the same view disclosed at the bottom of the Taghdumbash Valley, formed a striking contrast to the rocky and almost impassable gorges of Hunza, and could not fail to impress me at the outset with the advantages for communication which the Pamirs offer, notwithstanding their elevation and severe climate. But it was only in the light of subsequent observations, gathered on my marches along the whole length of the Taghdumbash Pamir from the Wakhjir Pass and the Oxus source down to Tash-kurghan, that I fully realized the historical interest of the route which leads through this valley.
In order to explain the importance which may be claimed for the Taghdumbash Pamir as an early line of communication between Chinese Turkestan and the Oxus Valley, it is not necessary to consider the historical topography of the whole Pamir region. Lord Curzon, in his justly famous memoir on ` The Pamirs and the source of the Oxus ', has furnished a lucid and critical summary of that much-discussed subject, and to it the reader may be referred with confidence for information on all general questions 1. An important geographical fact, aptly recognized in Lord Curzon's analysis 2, helps to limit the scope of our inquiry. The Taghdumbash Pamir, though it shares the designation and also, in its upper portion, the main physical characteristics of the other Pamirs, lies in a different watershed from the rest, and is thus plainly marked as part of a different system. We find this physical division emphasized at the present day by the political boundaries, which leave the Taghdumbash the only Pamir under Chinese jurisdiction, and we may safely attribute to it a determining influence upon the earlier historical conditions of this mountain tract.
While all the other Pamirs are situated within the drainage area of the Oxus, the waters of the Taghdumbash Pamir discharge themselves eastwards into the great Turkestan Basin.
1 Reprinted from the Geographical Journal, 1896 ; for 2 See The Pamirs, p. r 9.
an analysis of early travellers' routes see in particular pp.63 sqq.