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0188 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 188 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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have vineyards and gardens and estates. They live by commerce and manufactures, and are no soldiers 17.' Nor did the peculiar laxity of morals, which seems always to have distinguished the people of the Khotan region, escape Marco Polo's attention. For of the ` Province of Pein', which, as we shall see, represents the oases of the adjoining modern district of Keriya, he relates the custom that if the husband of any woman go away upon a journey and remain away for more than twenty days, as soon as that term is past the woman may marry another man, and the husband also may then marry whom he pleases ' 18.

No one who has visited Khotan or who is familiar with the modern accounts of the territory,

can read the early notices above extracted without being struck at once by the fidelity with

which they reflect characteristic features of the people at the present day. Nor is it necessary

to emphasize the industrial pre-eminence which Khotan still enjoys in a variety of manufactures through the technical skill and inherited training of the bulk of its population.

Devotion to religious cult is another feature which has survived with undiminished intensity, though its objects have been transformed on the surface. We know that Buddhist Khotan resisted the introduction of Islam longer than any other part of Eastern Turkestan. Yet Khotan now proudly claims the first place in this whole region as the land of ` Shahids '. The supposed resting-places of these holy martyrs, Ziarats and Mazars of all sorts, stud the oasis and its vicinity more thickly than anywhere else. Pious imagination of a remarkably luxuriant growth has transplanted into the region of Khotan the tombs of the twelve Imams of orthodox Shiite creed, together with a host of other propagators of the faith whose names are known to local legend only 19. We have already had occasion to note that many of these Ziarats mark the position of earlier Buddhist shrines, and thus afford proof of the tenacity of local worship. Among the shrines of Khotan territory there are several, like the ` Tombs of the Four Imams' (at Tört-Imam), the Ziarats of Imam-Musa-Qasim and Imam-Ja`far-Sadiq, which annually attract crowds of pilgrims from all parts of Turkestan. But I doubt whether this widespread fame of certain pilgrimage places is more than the direct result of the pious zeal with which the Khotanese themselves worship and frequent their local shrines, large and small.

The people of Khotan in this respect may truly he called a gens re.`igiosissima. But just as in Kashmir, which in matters of local worship might have served as the prototype, Islam

otherwise sits lightly on the popular mind. The lax observance of many tenets of religious law does not disturb the consciences of a population easy-going by nature and wholly absorbed in the things of this life. Since Sunnism now reigns supreme, and the peace of souls and clerical influence is undisturbed by any rival creed, religious fanaticism finds no scope and consequently is wholly dormant. In all these points I much doubt whether the Buddhism of old Khotan, rich in shrines and religious pomp, showed aspects essentially different.

Character of   A peculiar softness of temperament, good-natured ease in language and manners, and a dis-

modern   position even more pronounced than in other parts of Eastern Turkestan to make the most of


what pleasures the humblest life can offer, still distinguish the Khotanese as in the days when

Religious devotion of Khotanese.

Islam in Khotan.

17 See Yule, Marco Polo, i. p. 188. The words in brackets, undoubtedly genuine and added by the traveller himself, have been introduced from Ramusio's version.

18 Comp. ib., i. p. 191.

18 The Khotan legendaries of these Imams form the subject of a meritorious study by M. Grenard ; see Mission D. de Rhins, iii. pp. I-46. He has not failed to recognize that the worship of the Muhammadan saints had its root in an earlier cult, see ib., ii. pp. 242 sq. ; but his suggestions as

to the cult directly replaced having been a kind of ancestral worship are scarcely justified, seeing how clearly we can establish the connexion between numerous well-known Ziarats and Buddhist shrines which must have immediately preceded them in the same localities.

Mirza Haidar specially notes the numerous sacred tombs of Khotan, but expresses himself very sceptically about the traditions concerning the ' martyrs' who were supposed to be buried there ; see Târikh-i-Rashidi, p. 298.