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0261 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 261 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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a mile, the badly decayed and almost imperceptible remains of some dwellings by the side of a deep-cut channel, known as Chigillik yâr. The latter evidently represents another bed of the Domoko stream, and still receives water during the winter when there is no irrigation demand to absorb it. It was manifestly a continuation of this old bed which I had traced near Darabzan-dong, and which probably had once carried water to Khâdalik also.

From this dreary waste of scrub-covered sand-hills the change to the oasis was striking. The ground passed through for the next few miles on our way south was all yangi-kent or new land', having been brought under cultivation only about twenty-five years before. Many old sand-cones, once, no doubt, covered with tamarisks but now completely bared for fuel, still rose above the levelled fields, attesting recent reclamation. They had here often been used as building-ground for the scattered homesteads. On the other hand, in the older part of the oasis, whence the transferences had taken place about the forties of the last century, and which we skirted by the Shâkul Canal on our way to the high road, I failed entirely to see them. All the cultivated ground south of the road was declared to be ' new land', gradually added to the oasis during the last thirty years.4 I saw clear signs of this extension still proceeding as I rode along the head portion of the canal southwards to the great tug-h or dyke by which the waters of the Domoko stream are safeguarded for the main oasis (see Map No. 32).

When we reached this, about two miles from the Khotan-Keriya road, I saw before me quite an imposing piece of engineering, as things go in the Târim Basin. A dam nearly 200 yards long and of very solid construction closed the head of the Domoko-yâr, rising more than thirty feet above its marshy bottom. The whole dyke consisted of stamped earth with thick layers of brushwood at short intervals. Its top was broad enough for a wide road to pass. Thick rows of willow-trees strengthened its south side towards a large sheet of water, formed by the Domoko stream close to the point where the canals of the oasis absorb its water. The depression holding the stream here looked broad and shallow. Quite different was the appearance of the Domoko-yâr which formed the natural continuation of this stream-bed northward. Here it presented itself as a well-marked winding ravine, deeply cut into the loess soil between steep banks sixty to eighty feet in height. In the basin forming its head the presence of ample springs was marked by thick growths of reeds and coarse grass, though no course of flowing water was visible from above.

I had heard of this dam while at Khâdalik ; but only on the spot could I realize its significance for the history of the oasis past and present. According to my local informants an exceptionally big summer flood had come down seventeen years before my visit in the bed of the Domoko stream, and had converted a shallow channel generally dry into the broad and deep-cut ravine now extending towards Malak-alagan. A serious risk thus arose of the whole water-supply of Domoko being drawn off into the newly formed deep ` Yar ' where the difference of level would have rendered it useless for the irrigation of the extant oasis. For a year the service of the canals watering the fields of Domoko suffered seriously from the tendency of the stream to be absorbed in the new bed, and the alarmed villagers were preparing to move elsewhere. Then under the orders of the Keriya Amban, whom the prospective abandonment of the oasis threatened with loss of revenue, the local Begs set about by a joint effort to erect the extant dam. About fifteen hundred labourers, drawn from all the neighbouring oases, from Chira to Keriya, were said to have been kept at work on it for about two months. Considering how widely scattered and scanty was the population, and how divergent the interests of the several oases, as far as irrigation is concerned, the collection and simultaneous employment of so much labour, all corvée, of course, must have been a serious under-

Observations at Domoko Oasis.

Dam across Domoko-

' In Map No. 31 the cultivation of Domoko is by an error of reproduction made to appear as stopping short

of the southern edge of the sheet. In reality it continues a little to south of 36° 59', as seen in Map No. 32.


Reason of constructing Domoko dam.