468 KARA-DONG AND THE SEARCH FOR HSÜAN-TSANG'S P`I-MO [Chap. XIII
necessary administrative pressure a good deal of new land could be brought under cultivation besides the small oases of Laisu and Achma recently formed some miles north of the road.
At Kara-kir Langar a new but wholly deserted roadside Bazar forcibly drew my attention to a curious illustration of the changes affecting cultivation in this tract. About ten years previously, I was told, abundant springs had unexpectedly appeared in the sandy jungle some miles to the south, fed, no doubt, by the Nara and other hill streams which higher up disappear for the greatest part of the year in the pebble Sai. Before there had been at the spot only a small trickling spring. The water supplied by the new springs was so ample that land sufficient for 700 to 800 households has since been brought under cultivation in what was formerly desert ground two to three miles north of Kara-kir Langar. The settlement which has sprung up there, and which for the first five years paid no revenue, had now sufficiently developed to have a Bag of its own, while the wayfarers' custom has been completely transferred to the new main village of Achma. Though the time of ak-su, or flood-water, was still distant, the Kara-kir Darya. was now a lively stream about i 5 yards broad, with a depth of about 2 ft.
My second day's ride brought me over already familiar ground to Chira, a large and flourishing oasis counting about 3,500 households. The fact that the oases of Gulakhma and Domoko, counting about 2,000 homesteads between them, have now separate Bags, whereas before the Muhammadan rising they are known to have been under the Bag of Chira, was mentioned to me as an indication of their growth since the material prosperity of the country had been raised by improved administration. In the oasis of Chira, otherwise wholly dependent on the water brought down by the glacier-fed river which comes from Hasha, much new land was said to have been taken up northward since the recent supply of spring water. This had been secured by the construction, some fifteen years before my visit, of the canal crossed on the road from Gulakhma, and shown on the map b. The dreary desert plain of sand and pebbles over which the march of April 5 lay was a striking contrast to the well-cultivated fields and the blossoming orchards of Chira. The great depth of the wells dug at the desolate little rest-houses by the route showed that the greatest portion of the ground crossed could never have seen cultivation. All day a strong dust storm was blowing from the west, and the thick haze enveloping us made me thankful for the guidance afforded by the rows of poles marking the road. After thus covering forty odd miles I was glad when, by nightfall, I had regained once more the edge of the Khotan oasis at the large village of Lop.
T. D. I. Cotton cloth, harsh, in colour like mummy cloth; plain. 9" x 6". See PL LXXVI.
s It is somewhere to the north or north-west of Chira that we should have to look for the ` desert marsh ' where Hsiian-tsang, before arriving at 131-mo, had been shown a large stretch of red-coloured soil, in which the legend reproduced above recognized an ancient battle-field. I had no time to search for it in the direction indicated, and it is, of course, not along the present Khotan road but through the sandy jungle 12 to 16 miles north of it that the old route
T. D. 2. Cotton cloth, woven in small diaper pattern. One edge oversewn. Dirty-buff colour. z 8" x 6". See Pl. LXXVI.
must be supposed to have led. It is curious that on my return journey from Khotan I noticed a large patch of red clayey soil, corresponding exactly to Hsiian-tsang's description just referred to, a quarter of a mile to the west of Kum-rabat-Padshahim, where the legend heard by the pilgrim, and surviving to the present day, also located a battle-field. There, however, this feature of the ground is not recorded by the pious traveller.