SECTION III.—THE RUINS OF ARA-TAM AND LAPCHUK
As late as Marco Polo's time the population of Hami appears to have been still wholly Buddhist. Even more than a century later Shah Rukh's embassy found there ' a magnificent mosque and convent of Derwishes in juxtaposition with a fine Buddhist temple'.' No remains of pre-Muhammadan origin are now traceable within the main oasis of Hami. Outside Hâmi proper, however, Buddhist structures of a relatively late period are still standing, and, scanty as the available time was, I managed to make a rapid survey of them in two localities. An excursion commenced on October 24 was directed to the north-east, and helped also to facilitate topographical work which was carried out by R. B. Lal Singh across the southern spurs and valleys of the Karlik-tagh.
The first march took us north across the great fan of piedmont gravel to the little village of Töruk at the foot of the mountains. It gave me an opportunity of examining en roule the massive watch-tower known as Akchik-karaul (Map No. 73, c. I), to which great antiquity is ascribed by the people of Hami. It proved to be a solid mass of masonry in sun-dried bricks, about 4o feet square at the base and rising with sloping faces to approximately the same height. The rapid examination I was able to make on the approach of nightfall disclosed no definite clue to the age of the tower, but left no doubt that it was considerably older than the rubble-built wall, also in ruins, about 90 feet square which surrounds it. The tower had obviously been intended ,to serve as a signal-station and place of refuge in case of sudden attacks from across the mountains. Its position was specially well chosen for this purpose, as it commands a view of the routes which lead down from the passes towards Bar-kul and Tör-kul (Map No. 72. c. 3, D. 4).
From Töruk I made my way along the barren foot of the mountains south-westwards to Ara-tam, at the debouchure of the Bardash stream (Map No. 73. D. 1), where remains of ruined temples were reported. They proved to be situated quite close to a picturesque country seat of the ' Wang ', or chief, of Hami and surrounded by extensive orchards, which form part of the domain and'are far-famed for their produce. In my Personal Narrative 2 I have fully described the delightful setting provided for the ruins by this mass of luxuriant vegetation. Steep and absolutely bare ridges of reddish sandstone form the background through which the snow-fed stream of Bardash breaks in a tortuous, impassable gorge. The panoramic view in Fig. 192 will help to illustrate it. The scenery was the most pleasant in which it has ever fallen to my lot to do archaeological work in Central Asia, and remembering the very different ground on which my labours before, mainly in the desert, had lain, I could not help regretting that there was not work enough at this site to detain me for more than a couple of days.
The position of the ruins, as seen in the plan, Plate 48, and their character left no doubt that this was an agglomeration of Buddhist shrines erected at a site which was held sacred as marking the debouchure of a stream precious to the agricultural population. Already in the case of Mount Gogrliga, the present Kohmari of Khotan, I have had occasion to explain how ancient and how tenacious local worship is at such sites where cultivators, during all periods down to the present day, have been accustomed to pray for that main condition of their prosperity, a plentiful volume of water to assure irrigation.3 Since then I have had abundant occasion on my visits of 1907-8 and
' Cf. Yule-Cordier, Cathay, i. p. 273. On the other hand, Mahornedan city met with in travelling from China'.
as pointed out by Yule, Marco Polo, i. p. 211, note r, kläji 2 See Desert Cathay, ii. pp. 347 sqq.
Muhammad (circa 1550) 'speaks of Kamul as the first 3 Cf. Ancient Khotan, i. pp. 189 sq.