SECTION IV.—DESERT SITES TO THE NORTH OF JIYA
Already in August, on my first arrival in Khotan, I had taken care to send out small parties of local ` treasure-seekers ', quaint men familiar to Badruddin Khan, to search in the desert northeastwards for likely sites to explore. On my return from the mountains they duly turned up with such specimens of antiques as they had been able to pick up on the surface near structural remains of different ` Tatis ', or had secured from others who had on previous occasions tried their luck by digging. The indications I extracted from them, not without trouble, as to the exact direction, distances, etc., of the different sites thus authenticated enabled me in the light of former local experience to prepare rapidly a programme for my immediate explorations.
So after a halt of five days necessitated by manifold practical preparations I was able to set out from Khotan by September 15. My first object was to revisit the large and interesting ruin of Rawak, the scene of my last excavations in 1901, partly in order to ascertain what change had since taken place in the condition of the surrounding dunes, and partly for the sake of inspecting some remains newly reported in that neighbourhood.
After a march of about eleven miles mainly through the fertile canton of Jiya the desert was entered a little beyond the village of Suya (see map, No. 27). At the latter a large grove of Toghraks or wild poplars of considerable age clustering around a Mazâr showed that cultivation had reconquered here an area once abandoned to the desert. Then we followed a bare gravel ` Sai ', clearly marked by high dunes on either side as an ancient bed of the Yurung-kdsh and still known as Kene-daryâ, until nightfall obliged us to halt near the brackish well called Naclze-kuduk. Striking off to the north next morning and crossing for some six miles a belt of steadily rising dunes, I sighted once more the white brick pile of the ruined Stûpa of Rawak.
My excavations of April, 1901, fully described in my former Report, had brought to light a mass of interesting sculptures in the court of this imposing ruin.1 With all details of its surroundings still clearly impressed in my memory, the change which had since taken place here could not fail to strike me at the first glance. The high dunes which then covered parts of the longer, northeast and south-west, sides of the quadrangular Stûpa court,2 had moved on considerably farther south-east. The crest of the dune, over twenty feet in height, which then just rose along the northeast enclosing wall, had extended to within about thirty-seven feet of the south corner of the court. The dune overlying the south-west wall had similarly advanced and left barely ten feet of the latter still traceable above the sand. What little there emerged of the south-east face was enough to show me the destruction which had been dealt here by the hand of man since 1901. The wall, which I had found lined with a continuous row of stucco relievo figures mostly colossal, now displayed bare brickwork. A large party of Chinese jade-diggers from Kumat, near Tam-öghil, was said to have come here some time after my first visit to try their luck at seeking for ` treasure '. Attacking the then accessible part of the south-eastern enclosing wall they had completely stripped it of its friable stucco images. My care in burying these again under sand, just as I had found them, had proved in vain,