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0065 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 65 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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Pamir by going southwards, the watershed range being crossed here by a series of passes of which the Payik or Bayik Pass is the most frequented and easiest 18.

The initial portion of the route here sketched may be accomplished either by traversing the so-called Nicolas Range, which divides the Great and Little Pamirs, through the well-known depressions of the Benderski Pass (14,705 ft.) or the Urta Bel Pass (14,090 ft.) or by turning the eastern end of that range over the probably still lower Kizil-Rabat Pass 19. Whichever the passes crossed, the general direction of the second route is south-east. This exact accord with the definite statement of Hsüan-tsang may, in view of his remarkable and often proved accuracy in the matter of bearings, be considered by itself a sufficiently strong argument for the belief

that the pilgrim actually followed this route.   But there are other indications, too, to sup-
port it.

Several allusions in Hsüan-tsang's itinerary from Badakhshan to Khotan, as well as statements contained in his Life, show that he effected this portion of his return journey during the spring and summer 20. At this period of the year the Great Pamir route is much preferred to that over the Little Pamir or by the Wakhjir Pass, inasmuch as the ascent along the Pamir river, coming from Victoria Lake, offers none of the difficulties to be overcome in the Ab-iPanja Valley, when the swelling of the stream renders the tracks in the narrow gorge between Sarhad and Langar almost impracticable for laden transport 21.

Now it is noteworthy that at the same season and through the same cause, viz. the melting snows of the mountains, similar difficulties arise beyond the Naiza-tash Pass which offers the nearest approach to Tash-kurghan from the side of the Great Pamir. The descent from the pass to the open Tâsh-kurghan Valley leads, for a distance of upwards of twenty miles, through the narrow rocky defile of the Shindi stream. This carries a very considerable quantity of water even early in the season, and having to be crossed and re-crossed in numerous places, according to the testimony of a very competent observer, renders ' the road exceedingly difficult for laden horses ' 22. On the other hand, the Payik Pass, though its elevation (15,078 ft.) is slightly greater than that of the Naiza-tash (14,92o ft.), is entirely free from the risk of such

19 Compare for these passes, Lord Curzon's The Pamirs, pp. 57 sq. ; Report of Pamir Boundary Commission,

pp• 41 sqq•

10 Compare for these lines of communication, Lord Curzon's The Pamirs, pp. 55 sq. ; Report of Pamir Boundary Commission, pp. 17, 22.

20 In the Life (transi. Beal, p. 196) we are told that Hsüan-tsang and his fellow-travellers, after traversing other parts of the old Tukhara country (Tukharistan), stopped in Po-lo-chang-na or Badakhshân ' on account of the frost and snow, for a month and some days'. Only after this long halt, which no religious or other obligations called for, did they march on to the Kokcha Valley or Yamgan (Yin-po-chien) and Kuran or Zebak (Ch`ii-lang-na) en roule for Wakhan. It is thus clear that they awaited the spring in the sheltered central valley of Badakhshân (probably near the present Faizabâd, see Yule,J.R.A.S., 1872, pp. 109 sq.) before setting out for the passage of the Pamirs. Subsequently, when the pilgrim, after a twenty days' stay in Chieh-p`an-t`o or Sarikol, was crossing the mountains to the north-east, probably by the Chichiklik route, we read of an attack by robbers, in the course of which ' the elephants being driven about in

the pursuit, were engulphed in the water and perished'. This incident, related in the Life, p. zoo, clearly points to the time of the summer floods. The gorges passed by that route only then contain enough water to account for such a loss (comp. Gordon, Roof of the World, p. 108).

In Hsüan-tsang's own narrative we find various references to climatic conditions of the mountains around Sarikol which distinctly suggest personal observation during the season above indicated. Thus of the valley of Pa-mi-lo we are told that ' the snow falls both in summer and spring-time ', while again in describing the passage already referred to through

the eastern chain of the Ts`ung-ling mountains ', north-east of Sarikol, the traveller points out that ' even at the time of the great heat the wind and the snow continue ' (see Siyu-ki, transl. Beal, ii. pp. 297, 303; Julien, ii. pp. 207, 215).

21 Speaking of this gorge Col. Gordon observes (Roof of the World, p. 129) : ' In summer the swelling of the stream makes this road extremely difficult, and it is then that the Great Pamir route is followed in preference.' Compare also Yarkand Mission Report, p. 27o.

22 See Captain (now Colonel) H. Trotter's remarks in Yarkand Mission Report, p. z7o.

Season of Hsüantsang's Pamir journey.