THE MARCHES OF OLD KUA-CHOU
Ancient oasis of Kua-chou.
The Êrh-shih temple, which stood by the roadside, has long been in ruins. Stones from it have been piled up together, and to this spot travellers come with their camels and horses in order to pray for good luck. Going east, you pass into the territory of Kua-chow: 4
The indications given in this account make it, I think, quite certain that the spring meant here by the writer of the Tun-huang Mirabilia is the one still existing at Lu-ts'ao-kou. The position and distance there stated point clearly to it. Had I known it at the time, it would have been easy to look among or near the ruins of the little fort and station, deserted since the Tungan rebels wrecked them, for the remains or likely site of the ' Êrh-shih temple which stood by the roadside ', and which was already in ruins when the Tun-Iivang lu was written, probably about the ninth–tenth century, From what I have had occasion to observe before about the tenacity of local worship in this and neighbouring regions,5 I have little doubt that traces of the religious respect enjoyed by the spring and of the superstitious belief about its miraculous phenomena still linger to the present day. However this may be, I am able at least to bear personal testimony to the attraction which this spot still has ` for travellers [who] come with their camels and horses '. During both my halts at An-hsi, in June and October, it was to Lu-ts'ao-kou that under well-meaning local advice my camels and ponies were sent to enjoy a good rest and fat grazing—though I cannot be sure whether Hassan Akhûn, my faithful director of transport, took the occasion also ' in order to pray for good luck' 6
The fifteen miles' ride which brought me from Kua-chou-k'ou north-westwards to the present district headquarters of An-hsi amply sufficed to show the conditions now prevailing within the ancient oasis of Kua-chou jJ. ß.e- Its area presented itself as a wide scrub-covered plain, extending from the foot of the low outermost hill range of the Nan-shan to the banks of the Su-lo Ho. Within
Location of spring at Lu-ts'aokou.
4 As Dr. Giles in his notes points out, this miraculous story is related in essentially the same form by the fragmentary text of the Sha chou chih, also recovered from the Ch'ien-fo-tung hoard.
The local legend bears a curious resemblance to the story told at length in Kalhana's Rejataraitgini, iv. 377-306, of King Lalitaditya's expedition into the ' Sand Ocean ' and the miraculous way in which he saved his army from succumbing to thirst by striking the ground with his spear and producing a stream. Kalhana distinctly refers to this and similarly produced streams (kuntavâhini) as being still known in his own day in the ' Northern Region ' ; cf. Stein, Raja,. iv. 306.
There can be no doubt that the folklore story reproduced by Kalhana placed the miraculously produced stream vaguely in the great deserts of Central Asia, the ' Sand Ocean ' clearly reflecting hearsay knowledge of the Taklamakân and the sandy wastes adjoining it eastwards, Relations between Kashmir and the Chinese in the Tarim Basin are distinctly attested for Lalitaditya's reign, not merely by allusions in Kalhana's Chronicle, but also by definite historical records in the Tang Annals; cf. Stein, Rajal., notes on iv. 126, 311 (concerning Lalitaditya's minister Caiskuna ' the Tuhkhâra', i.e. Tokharian, whose name hides the Chinese title chiang-chiln ff.W‘ general '). For the Tang notices of Kashmir and the imperial decree of installation granted A.D. 733 to King Muto-pi, i.e. Lalitaditya-Muktâpida, see now Chavannes, Turcs occid., pp. i66 sq., 309.
It is at this period that a popular legend originally located on the great Chinese highway near Tun-huang might most readily have found its way into Kashmir folklore acioss
the Hindukush valleys then under Chinese political control. That the legend was widely known in Tang times is shown by the reference made to it by the Tang Annals in connexion with a similar incident related of a Chinese expedition in A.D. 677 ; cf. Chavannes, Turcs occid., p. 74, note 3.
S Cf. e.g. above, pp. 78, 602, 696 ; below, p. 1095.
6 What the Tun-huang lu states about the Huang-ts'ao Lake (in po of the text suggests rather a shallow marsh, according to Dr. L. Giles) into which the miraculously produced stream ' flowed away to the west for several tens of li ' is in perfect accord with our identification. By the Huang-ts'ao Lake are obviously meant the very extensive. salt marshes which, as my explorations of April, 1914, proved, fill most of the low-lying ground (left blank in Map No. 81. A—c. 3) between the old route along the foot of the hills and the belt of sand and clay desert south of the Su-lo Ho where the line of the ancient Limes runs. In spite of the early season I then found the western portion of these marshes, crossed from Ko-ta-ching station on the cart road (see Map No. 81. A. 4, where the name is misprinted as Lo-ta-ching), almost impassable even on foot ; cf. Third Journey in Central Asia, Geogr. journal, 1916, xlviii. p. 194. These marshes are mainly fed by the subsoil drainage of the Tung-pa-t`u stream, which comes to the surface at Lu-ts`ao-kou and to the north-west of it.
6a Chinese tradition seems to derive the name Kua-chou
3+1, literally meaning the ' City of melons ', from the fine melons there grown ; see Giles, J.R.A.S , 1914, p. 707. This cultivation still continues, but curiously enough is mainly carried on by Turki Muhammadan settlers.