Sec. in EARLY CHINESE ACCOUNTS OF SARÎKOL 33
the distance over wholly uninhabited ground was reduced as much as possible. Now in this respect the route over the Wakhjir Pass offers an undoubted advantage. If starting from Langar, the highest point in the Ab-i-Panja Valley where village remains and traces of old cultivation have been observed 26, a journey of scarcely more than Io6 miles would suffice to bring the traveller to Dafdâr, and thus to the commencement of cultivated ground in the main Sarikol Valley. The shortest route from the same starting-point over the Little Pâmir and the Naiza-tâsh Pass to Tâsh-kurghân measures fully 120 miles, while on the road that leads from the latter place by the Great Pâmir to the central part of Wakhân, some 18o miles have to be traversed before a permanently inhabited locality (Langar-Kisht) is reached 27.
SECTION III.—HISTORICAL SITES OF SARIKOL
From this review of the Tâghdumbâsh Valley route, which was needed to complete our survey of the old lines of communication between Sarikol and Wakhân, we may turn once more to Hsüan-tsang's itinerary, and to the account it furnishes of Sarikol itself or ` the kingdom of Chieh-pan-t`o'. Before we examine the details which possess a definite antiquarian bearing, it will be well to note how closely the pilgrim's general description of the territory agrees with the natural features observed to this day.
In Chieh-p`an-t`o, to which is ascribed an approximate circuit of 2,000 li, or about twenty days' marches, ` the mountain chains run in continuous succession, the valleys and plains are very contracted. There is very little rice cultivated, but beans and corn grow in abundance. Trees grow thinly, there are only few fruits and flowers. The plateaux are soppy, the hills are waste, the towns are deserted.' 1 The account we receive of the inhabitants is in keeping with these stern surroundings. Their manners are described as without any rules of propriety', and very few of them gave themselves to study. ` They are naturally uncouth and impetuous, but yet they are bold and courageous. Their appearance is common and revolting ; their
clothes are made of woollen-stuffs.' Notwithstanding the coarseness which Hsüan-tsang's
description indicates, and which the material conditions of life among a hill community thus placed adequately account for, the people of Chieh-p`an-t`o had received their share in the benefits of Buddhist religion and culture. ` They know how to express themselves sincerely, and they greatly reverence the law of Buddha.' There were some ten convents, in which about five hundred monks studied ` the Little Vehicle according to the school of the Sarvâstivâdas' ; and in regard to the letters in use we are told that they much resembled those of the Chia-sha country or Kâshgar.
Hsüan-tsang, according to the statement of his biographer Hui-li, remained in Sarikol for about twenty days 2, and to this halt we probably owe the detailed information he gives of the traditions and legends attaching to the royal family and the capital of the country. The account recorded by him as to the origin of the former is of particular interest, for it proves the high antiquity which popular belief in Sarikol then ascribed to the race of its rulers, while we can still trace a characteristic feature of the story in a legend actually surviving at the identical locality.
26 See Gordon, Roof of the World, p. 129. It also deserves notice that firewood, another requirement of the traveller, is plentifully found up to Langar, see ibid. and Report of Pamir Boundary Commission, p. 16.
27 Compare Gordon, Roof of the World, pp. 153, 163.
1 See Si-yu-ki, transl. Beal, ii. pp. 298 sq. ; Julien, ii. p. 209. The latter version has: `Les plaines hautes et basses sont désertes, les villes et les villages sont [presque] inhabités.'
2 See Life of H. T., transl. Beal, p. zoo ; Vie de HiouenThsang, transl. Julien, p. 274.
Hsiian- tsang's description of Sarikol.
Traditions of Chiehp`an-t`o.