KARA-SHAHR AND ITS RUINED SITES
SECTION I.—HISTORICAL TOPOGRAPHY OF KARA-SHAHR
ON December r I left Turfan town for Kara-shahr. I was anxious to save time for eventual excavations in that north-east corner of the Tarim Basin before setting out to the south-west across the Taklamakan, and for this reason was obliged to follow the high road. This first skirts the western portion of the Turfan basin to the oasis of Toksun (Map No. 54. c. 2), and thence ascends southward through the difficult gorge of Su-bashi to the barren hill ranges and plateaus which link the western Kuruk-tagh to the Tien-shan chain south of Urumchi. These the route crosses in a westerly direction over ground where both water and grazing are extremely scanty ; after some 140 miles from Turfan it reaches at Ushak-tal the first cultivation within the wide Kara-shahr basin. Apart from a small ruined fort known as 0i-tam in the scrubby salt-encrusted steppe north-west of Toksun (Map No. 54. c. I), which with its very massive walls of stamped clay looked to me decidedly ancient, the route offered no opportunity for archaeological observations. Yet there can be no doubt that it must have been always the main line of communication from Turfan to Kara-shahr and the northern oases of the Tarim Basin. Along its eastern portion leads also what must in historical times have always been the easiest, if not the most direct, route connecting Turfan with the Lop region.'
If there are no old remains that can now be traced above the ground along the route just described, we find at least a fairly detailed account of it in the Tang Annals.2 M. Chavannes has already rightly recognized that the notice translated by him relates to the present route line, and only minor identifications remain to be added here. Starting from Hsi-chou jj hi or Yar-khoto, the itinerary takes us south-west to the town of Tien-shan ~1, 120 li distant. In this we can safely recognize the present Toksun. ` Thence going south-west and passing through a mountainous
gorge and the stony desert of Lei-shih ', which obviously corresponds to the narrow defile
ascended above Su-bashi, ` one arrives after 220 li in the stony desert of Yin-shan Ljj, or " the
Silver Mountain ".' The modern Chinese author of the Hsi yü shui lao chi, quoted by M. Chavannes, has correctly recognized that the reference here is to the hilly desert near the present station of Kuinush, the name of which means silver in Turki.3 The distance indicated agrees well with the
' I mean the route which leaves the Turfan—Kara-shahr high road at the desolate station of Ujme-dong, Map No. 54. B. 3, and striking due south leads via Shôr-bulak and P'och'êng-tzti to the tiny oasis of Singer. From this important route junction of the western Kuruk-tagh (Map No. 55. D. 2) Lou-lan could be reached in ancient times as easily as the northernmost Lop tract is now at Tikenlik.
The route here referred to will be found duly marked in Roborovsky's Map II from Col. Kozloff's survey. With most other routes of the Western Kuruk-tagh it was surveyed
in the course of my third expedition. It was made practicable for cart traffic after the Chinese reconquest of Turkestan in 1877, and postal stations, now completely abandoned, were established along it. The more direct routes from Singer to Turfan and Lukchun are made difficult, and during the warm portion of the year practically impossible, through want of water.
Cf. Chavannes, Turcs occid., p. 6.
8 Silver has been mined in the western Kuruk-tagh also in recent times, but only in modest quantities.