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0380 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 380 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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[Chap. VIII


would be useless to conjecture the exact purpose. It may, however, be noted that the structure

occupied the south-west edge of what looked like a completely decayed circumvallation in clay, measuring about t 8o yards in circumference.

Ruins in .   A short distance to the south of the caravan track, and close to where the walls of a rectangular

southern   structure about thirteen feet long emerged from the side of a tamarisk-cone, I found a double row


of site.   of dead Tereks marking an ancient orchard (Fig. 85). About a mile to the south-south-west I was

shown the comparatively well-preserved remains of a small dwelling, eighteen by twelve feet, with walls two feet thick, by the side of a tamarisk-cone. The top of the latter rose twelve feet above the floor, while the ground on the unprotected side of the structure had been lowered by wind-erosion to a depth of six feet below the original level. An approximately similar extent of erosion

   on the one hand and of growth of tamarisk-cones on the other was observed elsewhere near these   i,
ruins. Gauged by the standard of measurements at other sites of which the date is fixed, it serves to prove that the abandonment of the Vâsh-shahri Site must go back to a mediaeval period not very far removed from the twelfth century, to which the above-mentioned chronological evidence takes us.

Marks of   Here I may note that the general impression left by my examination of the site and its relics


influence.   was that of Chinese influence more direct than that observable in the ruins of the Khotan region.

This has since received support from the fact that, as already stated, Mr. R. L. Hobson has recognized, among the pottery and stoneware fragments picked up at Vâsh-shahri, pieces of bowls which must have been originated at the Chün-chou factories of Ho-nan during Sung times. But it is impossible to say whether this increased Chinese influence was due to the presence at this point of a small Chinese colony, or resulted merely from a position so much further east on a once much-

frequented trade route from China. That.this route continued to be regularly used during Mongol

domination in the second half of the thirteenth century, we know through Marco Polo. His

narrative, in fact, seems to contain an allusion to Vâsh-shahri, though he does not name it distinctly as s an inhabited place.

Marco   ` Quitting Charchan,' so Marco tells us, ` you ride some five days through the sands, finding

   Polo's route none but bad and bitter water, and then you come to a place where the water is sweet. And now   a


   Charchan. I will tell you of a province called Lop, in which there is a city, also called Lop, which you come to   i

at the end of those five days. It is at the entrance of the great Desert, and it is here that travellers repose before entering on the Desert.' 7n With regard to this itinerary east of Charchan two points

   must be clearly recognized. One is that the five days' ride through the sands, with none but   1
brackish water, cannot refer to the usual route along the Charchan River, where good water is easily obtainable, but seems to point to a more direct track crossing the desert belt of sand and gravel which extends between the Charchan River and the route skirting the foot of the mountains from

Charchan to Vâsh-shahri. A reference to the map shows that such an intermediate track would be

considerably shorter than either of the two routes which we actually surveyed. That the ground

offers no very serious obstacles to a march along such a line during the winter was clear from the

information given by Ismail, who had often crossed this desert on his hunting expeditions after wild

camels, &c.

Marco   The other point is that a traveller following this line would reach Vâsh-shahri in five ordinary

Polo's road marches, and this would be for him the first place where the water is sweet '. Vâsh-shahri must

reckoning   p

to Lop.   have formed then as now the western limit of the ` province of Lop ', represented by the present

Charkhlik district, and it is quite in keeping with Marco Polo's usual reckoning that his five marches should be counted to the nearest place of ` the province ', instead of to its chief place, the ` city ' of Lop. That the latter must be located at the present oasis of Charkhlik is made certain by a number of

73 See Yule, Marco Polo, i. p. 194.