142 THE KHOTAN OASIS : ITS GEOGRAPHY AND PEOPLE [Chap. VI
But it is, perhaps, equally due to the conspicuous want of physical courage which characterizes the modern Khotanese, almost as much as the Kashmiri whom he resembles in other features of character. Marco Polo's blunt statement that the people of Khotan were no soldiers probably held good also in earlier periods, though no direct evidence has come down to us. In any case, it is certain that since the Muhammadan conquest the people of Khotan never took a share in deciding their own political fate. Thus, to quote a modern instance, the successful rebellion of 1863 against Chinese rule was almost solely the work of turbulent Andijanis and other foreigners. Yaqûb Beg subsequently gathered its fruit without Khotan even attempting to defend its own nominal ruler Habibullah. And when Yaqûb Beg's dominion finally collapsed, the return of the infidel Chinese was probably welcomed nowhere with more relief than among the faithful of Khotan, who still remember with dismay the attempts to exact military service from them for the benefit of Muslim independence.
Position of In no respect is the tenacious survival of the social characteristics of old Khotan more
women. striking than as regards the position of women. The relative independence and freedom from
seclusion which women enjoy throughout Eastern Turkestan have been often pointed out, and attract at once the attention of visitors accustomed to the conditions of other Oriental countries, especially where Muhammadan customs prevail 23. Throughout Eastern Turkestan women are free to accompany their husbands or near male relatives on almost all occasions when the latter leave their homes, whether for business or pleasure ; everywhere they freely partake in the reception of visitors, in all transactions of business, and in festive gatherings, whether public or private. But nowhere are the restrictions which are supposed to accompany these privileges, such as the use of the veil in public and the company of husbands or male relatives, so constantly ignored as in Khotan. Most of the buying and selling on market days is done by women, who at all times crowd the Bazars far in excess of men, and ordinarily dispense with any male assistance. Veils are rarely seen even among the women of the well-to-do middle class, and when worn usually serve the purpose of ornament rather than to screen the face.
Easy morals The extraordinary facilities of divorce prevailing in all parts of Eastern Turkestan and
of Khotan. the consequent laxity of the marriage tie assure to women a remarkable degree of legal and
social independence. That this independence is abused in Khotan more than anywhere else may be concluded from the proverbial reputation for immorality which its women enjoy through all neighbouring regions 24. As none of the latter pride themselves upon any high standard of morals this reputation acquires special significance. That licentiousness of every sort has thriven in Khotan from early times is proved not only by the Wei Annals above quoted, but also by the large proportion of obscene representations among the terra-cotta figurines found at Yôtkan.
Among all the qualities and accomplishments which Hsüan-tsang attributes to the Khotanese
of his days there is one only for which a modern visitor to Khotan would look in vain—a liking for literary studies. The cultivation of literature, whether theological or profane, has apparently been at a low ebb in Eastern Turkestan throughout the Muhammadan period, and has remained so to the present day. Khotan in this respect makes no exception. An analysis of the political and cultural conditions prevailing in the whole country would easily account for this neglect of literary interests ; but with this we are scarcely concerned here. Nevertheless,
23 Regarding the legal and social position of women, comp. M. Grenard's detailed description, Mission D. de Rhins, ii. pp. 112-127.
24 Comp. e.g. Yarkand Mission Report, P. 447 ; Grenard, Mission D. de Rhins, ii. p. 122.