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0095 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 95 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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traders' station which Maës' account mentions to the east of the Stone Tower and on the road starting for Sera, I think that unchanging geographical conditions afford us some guidance. Baron Richthofen has justly pointed out that this station must be looked for close to the watershed crossed by the above route, since Ptolemy places it in the line of the Imaus, which undoubtedly corresponds to the range buttressing the Pamir region on the east, and dividing the drainage areas of the Oxus and the Tarim. He has also rightly observed that the point where the much-frequented route coming from Farghana over the Terek Dawan is joined by the route from the Wakhshab valley was the most likely position for such a station.

I am glad that my return journey from Kashgar to Farghana in June, 1901, hurried though it had to be, allowed me to acquaint myself at first hand with the topographical features of the ancient trade route leading from Kashgar to Osh. The observations then gathered entirely support the view put forth by that eminent geographer ; for we could scarcely expect any place on that route to agree better with the conditions for a traders' station, such as Ptolemy's notice implies, than Irkeshtam, now occupied as the Russian customs station and fortified frontier post on the road to Kashgar. It is situated at the point where the routes coming from Farghana and the Alai unite, and only a short distance below the Taun-murun Pass, by which the latter route crosses the watershed. Irkeshtam, which now enjoys the distinction of a small fort and a Cossack garrison, offers advantages apart from its position at the junction of two great routes. Situated at an elevation of 8,5oo (Russian) feet above the sea, it is not only a relatively sheltered place ; but, owing apparently to a more abundant supply of moisture from across the ranges to the west and north, the valleys immediately adjacent are far less deficient in grazing and fuel than the barren gorges of rock and detritus through which most of the route further down to Kashgar leads 18. The inclusion of Irkeshtam within the Russian frontier-line (which elsewhere in these parts keeps to the watershed between the Kashgar river on the one side and the Oxus and Syr Darya. on the other) has hence its adequate reason.

The route which we have just traced forms the most direct connexion between Kashgar and the ancient Baktria. And it is curious that the earliest notice we possess of Kashgar after Pan Ch`ao's victorious expedition westwards relates to its invasion from that very region. From the Annals of the Later Hans we learn that in the period 107-113 A. D. An-kuo, the ruler of Su-16, had been obliged to send his near relative, prince Ch`ên-p`an, as a hostage to the king of the Great Yiieh-chih, whose dominion at that period, as we know from other sources, comprised not only their old seats in Baktria, but also Kabul and a considerable portion of north-western India. Subsequently, after the death of An-kuo, the arms of the Yüeh-chih deposed his successor and established Ch`ên-p`an on the throne of Su-16, during the years 114-120 A. D.

p. 155, appear to be based mainly on attempts to utilize Ptolemy's artificially deduced longitudes and latitudes for the determination of ancient localities in distant parts of Asia, where, as we know, the scantiness and unreliable character of the information at his disposal excluded the possibility of even approximately correct cartographic construction. The emphatic warning uttered by Sir H. Yule (Cathay, i. p. cli) on the subject of the deceptive nature of these definitions deserves to be taken to heart by students of Ptolemy's Asiatic Geography.

'S Compare my Ruins of Khotan, p. 496. General Kuropatkin's remarks, Kashgaria, trans. Gowan, p. 32, show that Irkeshtam was, even before the Russian customs

station was established there, an important stage on the route. Those coming from the direction of Kâshgar regularly halted there, to make arrangements for the conduct of their caravans across the Terek Dawan when the snow lay deep on the latter. Excepting some Chinese military posts lower down the Kizil-su; Irkeshtam is the only permanently-inhabited locality between Gulcha and the Kashgar plain, and certainly the most considerable of the halting-places.

'9 Compare Specht, `Ëtudes sur l'Asie Centrale,' ii., in Journal asiat., 1897, p. 97 ; Marquart, Érânahr, p. 283 ; Franke, Sb.P.A.W., 1903, p. 740; for earlier references, Klaproth, Tableaux histor., p. 166 ; Ritter, Asien, v. p. 421.

Position of Irkeshtam.

Invasion of Great Yiiehchih.