.Sec. i) FROM AN-HSI TO HÂMI ; HSÜAN-TSANG'S ' DESERT CROSSING "47
asserts itself to the very end ; for the two more days which it makes Hstian-tsang spend en route before reaching Hami correspond exactly to the two marches now needed to arrive from Changliu-shui at Hami town, a distance of about 35 miles. Thus we can close the story as preserved in the Life with the gratifying assurance that even this chapter of the pilgrim's travels, which by its adventurous character might most readily have lent itself to exaggeration and fiction, has retained in Hui-li's biography the form in which it may well have been told by the lips of the Master of the Law himself.
SECTION II.—THE HISTORICAL RÔLE OF HAMI
Hami has played so important a part in the story of China's relations with Central Asia that I felt particularly glad for the chance which the northern route chosen for my return to the Tarim Basin offered to visit this ground. But my stay at the main oasis of Hami, or Kumul, as it is known to Turki Muhammadans, and my visits to a few of its outlying villages were far too short to justify any attempt here to review the present conditions of the territory or its past as a whole. Referring for the rapid impressions that I could gather of it and its people to my Personal Narrative,' I shall content myself with briefly calling attention to those essential geographical facts which account for that historical rôle of Hami and explain the importance of the territory notwithstanding the limited nature of its local resources.
Our records clearly show that Hami, or Kumul—to give its name as best known now to Turki Muhammadans 2—ever since Later Han time has, in respect of all Chinese enterprise directed towards Central Asia, occupied exactly the same position bn the northern route as Lou-lan did on the southern from the beginning of Chinese expansion westwards and throughout the Former Han period. An examination of the map suffices to account for this striking analogy. Just as without Lou-lan as a bridge-head and base on the western side of the Lop desert the use of the most direct line of access to the Tarim Basin would have been physically impossible for the Chinese, thus, too, it would have been most difficult for them to open up and secure the direct route leading to the territories on both sides of the eastern Tien-shah had not nature offered them, in the cultivable tract of Hami, a foothold to the north-west of the Pei-shan desert. Limited as the extent of arable land, or rather of irrigation, available must always have been during historical times, the agricultural resources of Hami developed with the help of Chinese military colonists have proved again and again of the utmost importance for the Empire's Central-Asian policy. Whenever since A.D. 73 China found strength to reassert its claim to Central-Asian dominion, it was Hami which served as the gathering-place and supply base for the Chinese forces sent to overcome hostile nomadic powers in the north, Huns, Turks, Dzungars, or to suppress rebellion, as last in 1876-7. In the same way trade and traffic of every sort would always, down to our own times, have found the Pei-shan desert a far more formidable obstacle had not Hami offered itself as a place where caravans could revictual and allow their animals a good rest.3
Hami's importance for China.
Analogy between Hami and Lou-lan.
Hâmi indispensable as supply base.
might well have held out for some days longer. It must be noted also that the going on the uniform gravel slopes and plateaus of the Pei-shan is far less tiring to horses, and to men, too, than the crossing of dune-covered areas in the Taklamakân.
' See Desert Cathay, ii. pp. 342 sqq.
' For the origin of the name Bàmi used by the Chinese since the Mongol dynasty and probably derived from the Khamil of the Mongols, cf. Yule, Marco Polo, i. p. 2 5 5, note; Bretschneider, Medieval Researches, ii. p. 20 ; Imbault-Huart,
Le pays dc 'Mami ou Khamil, Paris, 5892, pp. to sq.
Kamul seems to be the form in which the Turkish name of the territory is generally reproduced by early Western travellers; cf. Yule, Marco Polo, i. p. zo9 ; Marignolli in Yule-Cordier, Cathay, iii. p. 265; 'ba i. p. 273, iv. p. 239, for the accounts of Shah Rukh's embassy and Benedict Goes. The name as heard by me locally sounded Kumul.
The value of Hami in this respect is well brought out by the description which Marco Polo gives, though he does not appear to have been there in person. ' Carlini is a province