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0530 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 530 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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opening up a route to the Tarim along the Keriya river 11. Dr. Hedin's journey in 1896 has since proved that the Amban's belief in the possibility of traversing the sands between the present end of the river course and Tarim without serious difficulty was well founded. On the line followed by the Swedish explorer, which must correspond approximately to the old extension of the river-bed, patches of vegetation and relatively near subsoil water are to be found constantly down to the southernmost branch of the Tarim 12. There is good reason to believe that the opening of this route, by the digging of wells and the establishment of small posts, would prove no very formidable task even for the present administration.

A glance at the map shows that the route along the extant course of the Keriya river and its old extension towards the Tarim forms the most direct line of communication between the whole Khotan region and the ancient territory of Kucha, and the other oases further to the north-east 13. That close relations existed politically between Kucha and the Khotan kingdom, its immediate neighbour to the south, is attested by the fact that the submission of Khotan to Chinese supremacy in 648 A. D. is described in the Tang Annals as the direct result of the conquest of Kucha 14. It is equally certain that the cultural affinities between the two states, the frontiers of which adjoined in the desert, must have been great 15. The importance of using the nearest route for communication must have been felt more than ever after the administrative head quarters of the Protectorate of An-hsi, controlling ` the Four Garrisons ', and thus also Khotan, had first been established at Kucha in 648 or 649 A. D. 16 .

On the grounds here indicated I think we can safely assume that there lay in early times along the banks of the Keriya Darya a route regularly followed by traffic, just as that along the Khotan Darya is at present. Kara-dong lies about halfway between the Tarim and the main oasis of Khotan, and a small station established here would have conveniently served the double object of affording a safe resting-place to caravans, and of watching the route for customs or police purposes. A small settlement, with a Bazar, &c., might well have existed by the side of such a post, just as found by the side of many- a ` Langar ' on modern caravan routes of Eastern Turkestan, and this is all that the traceable remains indicate. The natives may, indeed, call the remains a kône-shahr, using the term which is applied throughout the country to old remains of any kind, even the smallest. But to talk of an ` ancient city ' here would imply more imagination than a critical student need care to take credit for.

There is no direct evidence to indicate the exact age of the ruined quadrangle or the date when it was abandoned. But from the fact that among the coins picked up there were no Tang pieces, it appears probable that the site was deserted earlier than, e.g., Dandan-Uiliq, where coins of the K`ai-yüan period (713-741 A. D.) and of later Tang issues were common. On the other hand, the pieces, without legend or bearing the characters wu-chu, which Kara-dong yielded all show marks of long circulation, like those found at Endere. The finding of

" See Mission D. de Rhins, i. p. 172.

" See Hedin, Reisen in Z.-A., pp. 64 sqq.

18 The saving in distance, as against the modern route

down the Khotan Darya. and thence via Ak-su, becomes still more evident when we remember that the settlements about

Dandan-Uiliq allowed travellers to move straight from the

Keriya river to the Khotan capital without touching the present oasis of Keriya.

'a See Chavannes, Turcs occid., p. r 26 ; also above,

P. 175.

'S Comp. Hsüan-tsang's description of Kuchâ and its

people (Mémoires, i. pp. 3 sqq. ; \\Tatters, Yuan Chwang's Travels, i. p. 59) with that given of Khotan; also the Tang Annals' accounts of both territories, Turcs occid., pp. 124 sq., 125 sq. For a curious point of contact specially noted by the Chinese annalists, see ibid., p. r 15 ; above, p. 139.

See also the story told by Hsüan-tsang of the Khotan minister at Kuchd and the subsequent miraculous transfer of a Buddha statue from Kuchâ; Mémoires, ii. p. 23o; above, p. 225.

16 See above, p. 6o.

route by Keriya river.

Importance of route to Kuchâ.

Kara-dong, a station on Keriya

river route.

Period of abandonment.