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0280 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 280 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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Aiding-Kul marsh.

Tradition about


Story of Aba Bakr's excavations.


of fine old trees faces the eastern entrance, and a row of booths testifies to the popularity of the fairs which take place here at the time of pilgrimages.

The 29th of November, the day of my return to Khotan, was utilized by me for a visit to localities south-east of Yôtkan, which offered special interest in connexion with the toj5ograjhia sacra of the oasis. I first followed the Yotkan Yâr down from Khalche to where it unites with the Yar of Kâshe. After crossing by a bridge the fairly deep stream thus formed, I reached on the other bank of the ravine the lands of Halal-bagh, a collection of large hamlets which I was anxious to examine more closely as a local tradition connects the site with the pre-Muhammadan rulers of the country. Close to the south of the central hamlet there stretches a marsh, known as Aiding-Kul, covering an area of about three-quarters of a square mile. It is overgrown with reeds, and traversed in parts by Iow sandy ridges ; between these appear copious springs, which form numerous channels, and subsequently collect into a little stream at the northern end, draining towards the Yurung-kash.

On my visit to Halal-bagh I enjoyed the advantage of an intelligent guide in the person of Ibrahim, a local Mullah and proprietor well known for his learning and piety. Though eighty-six years old at the time of my visit he was still quite active. Ibrahim Mullah asserted with pride that it was at Halal-bagh that there once stood the city of the ` Khalkhâl-i Chin-u-Machin', the legendary heathen ruler of Khotan, and in evidence showed me chapter and verse in the Turki Tadhkirah of the Four Imams, of which, as well as of the legendaries of other well-known Mazârs he possessed a copy 16. According to the popular tradition as embodied in this text, apparently at no very remote period, the Four Imams whose martyred bodies are supposed to rest under a famous Mazâr near Polu vanquished the obstinate opponent of Islam after a long siege, and his city became a waste. The shrine of Kum-i-Shahidân, about half a mile to the north-west of the marsh, is supposed to mark the spot where 36o faithful of the Imams found martyrdom in the final struggle.

But Ibrahim Mullah had information to offer beyond the brief and somewhat vague statement of the Tadhkirah. According to him, the site where the heathen city had stood was excavated for its hidden treasures under the orders of Aba Bakr, the ruler of Kashgar and Khotan in the early part of the sixteenth century. He brought water from the Yurung-kâsh to the place to enable his labourers to wash the soil just as is now done at Ybtkan—and in the hollow left by his diggings there formed the marsh of Halal-bagh. No old remains of any kind are now found, nor could I trace any genuine tradition about such discoveries ever having been made at Halal-bagh. On the other hand, it is a fact well attested by a detailed account in Mirza Ilaidar's Târikh-i-Rashidi that Aba Bakr, the uncle of the author, carried on treasure-seeking operations on a large scale at various old sites in his dominions 18. The methods employed must have been curiously similar to those still practised at Yatkan, except that Aba Bakr turned prisoners' labour to use on such work. We are told by the Chronicler that ` he ordered the old cities ... to be excavated by these [prisoners] and the earth dug from them to be washed. If there were anything big, they would come upon it in digging, while anything small [such as gems] they would find when they washed [the earth]. In this way innumerable treasures in precious stones, gold, and silver were discovered '. After relating a very fantastic story about a wonderful find of treasure thus made ` in the citadel of Khotan', or according to the version of the Turki translator ` in the old city of Yarkand', Mirza Haidar mentions that

several other treasures were brought to light in the old cities of Kâshgar, Yarkand, and

13 For an abstract of the Tadhkirah in which, however,   D. de Rhins, iii. pp. 38 sqq.

Ha1a1-b5gh is not specified as the site, see Grenard, Mission   1° See Tarikh-i-Rashidi, pp. 255 sqq.