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0116 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 116 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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Old capital of Wakhân.

Wu-kung's passage through Wakhân.

Marco Polo's account of



exposure to a harsh climate and the coarse dress prepared from the skins and fleece of the sheep which constitute the Wakhis' sole riches, give the inhabitants of this bleak high-lying valley a hard, quasi-savage air. There can be little doubt that the people were in Hsiian-tsang's time, as now, of that fine Galcha stock representing the Homo Alpinus type which has held the western and southern slopes of the Pamirs from very early days.20 The Wakhis I saw, like the closely allied Sarikolis, showed all the physical characteristics of the Iranian hill Tajiks in remarkable purity, an observation which the anthropometric records and photographs taken by me fully bear out.21 Fair hair and blue eyes are very common among them, and this accounts for the special reference which Hsiian-tsang makes to the latter. Coming from the side of Kabul where the racial composition of the population must then have been strongly influenced by Indian elements, and through Tokharistan, where the original Iranian stock had during successive periods undergone a considerable admixture of Turkish and other foreign blood, the change in the appearance of the people after entering Wakhan must have been doubly striking to the pilgrim.

V. de Saint-Martin first recognized the identity of Hsiian-tsang's Hun-t`o-to .   with
the present Khandût, a fairly large village some twenty miles below the confluence of the two branches of the Ab-i-Panja and still serving as the chief place for one of the four administrative divisions of Wakhan.22 The importance of the position is marked by the ruins of an ancient fort, opposite the present fort-village, which Wood mentions ; it is ascribed to pre-Muhammadan times and locally known as Zamr-i-âtish parast.23 The advantages here offered by plentiful cultivation and magnificent grazing-grounds are such that the present rulers of Wakhan are said to have contemplated at one time the removal of the seat of government from Kila Panja to Khandût. Whether the place still retains traces of the Buddhist sanctuary mentioned in Hsiian-tsang s account only local investigation could prove.

The last Chinese notice of Wakhan during T'ang times is due to Wu-k`ung who, coming from Kashgar in A. D. 751, passed through the district on his way to Chü-wei or Mastûj. Laconic, as is

his wont, the pilgrim confines himself to the mere mention of the ' kingdom of Hu-mi '   S, which
he reached after successively crossing ' the Onion Mountains ' (Ts'ung-ling), ' the passes of Yangyzi' and ' the kingdom of the five Ch'ih-ni (or Shih-ni) of the valley of Po-mi '.24 By the last named undoubtedly the Pamirs are meant, and the mention made with them of ' the kingdom of the five Ch'ih-ni (or Shih-ni)', i. e. Shighnan,25 probably merely indicates that they were then reckoned as belonging to that hill chiefship on the Oxus. The aggressive strength of the hardy mountaineers of Shighnan, which asserted itself down to modern times in frequent raids across the Pamirs, is duly noted in the Tang Annals' account of Shih-ni and in Hsiian-tsang's description of Shih-ch`i-ni.26 The reference to the Ts`ung-ling Mountains clearly shows that Wu-k`ung's route lay across Sarikol, whence he is likely to have reached Wakhan by way of the Naiza-tash Pass (Yang-yü ?) and the Great Pamir.

After Wu-k`ung's narrative of his journey the Chinese sources of information about the Pamirs and the adjoining regions run dry for nearly a thousand years. But that the routes leading across them from Wakhan retained their importance also in Muhammadan times is attested by the

20 Cf. for references to the Galchas and their cognates further east, Ancient Khotan, pp. 144 sqq.

R1 See now Mr. Joyce's Notes, &c. in J. Anthrop. Inst., xlii. p. 467.

" See Julien, Mémoires, ii. p. 425.

u Cf. Wood, Source of the Oxus,' p. 218, where the name of the village is given as Kundut.

R4 See Chavanneset Lévi, L'Ilinlraire d'Ou-k'ong, pp. 10 sq.

(J as., 1895, t. vi. pp. 346 sqq.)

45 Cf. for this certain identification Chavannes, Turcs occid., p. 162, where the full account of this territory forming the northern neighbour of Wakhân is reproduced from the T'ang Annals.

" Cf. for Hsiian-tsang's account of Shighnan and its troublesome people, Julien, Memoires, ii. pp. 205 sq.; Watters, Yuan Chwang, ii. p. 281.