Page images

poople more depraved under this rule than under the stricter system enforced by the Athalik Gbazi?” “Yes, perhaps so," was the reply. “There were many rogues, and gamblers too, and people did get drunk and have their pockets picked ; but so they do now, though not 50 publicly, because we are under Islam, and the shariàt is strictly enforced.” Still, there is another side to the question ; for though the Chinese rule is tolerant to a fault, it is lax, and the exactions, or “squeezes,” of the tax-gatherer know, in this out-of-the-way part of the empire, no bounds. Under Yakoob the villagers would soundly thrash a roguish official, and he did not dare to complain, because had he, the Ameer would in all likelihood have executed him for his fraud. Under the Chinese the same collector may take as much as he pleases, so long as he brings to the imperial treasury the emperor's dues. Yet even in Turkestan they hold up their hands when they hear of Kashmir, in which the taxes are farmed out, and where, between one official and another, from two-thirds to three-fourths of the produce of the peasant's land are filched from him.

About Yarkand are many vineyards. The vines are trained on trellis-work, alongside of which is a trench. During the dry summer this trench serves to bring water to their roots; and during the winter, to protect them from the cold, they are detached from the woodwork and twisted down into the trench, where they lie, well banked over with earth, until the spring comes. In the Kuen Lun Mountains are the fine quarries of jade, a mineral which forms an important article of trade in Eastern Turkestan, and is carved by the natives into many pretty ornaments. It is mined by a trench, being excavated on the top of a rock, and a fire lighted in it. When the heat is believed to have penetrated deep enough, a quantity of cold water is suddenly thrown into the trench, the result of which, of course, is the splitting off of considerable fragments; but the best pieces, and thosc freest from flaws, are picked up in the beds of streams, when the long tossing about they have been subjected to has the effect of speedily discovering any cracks which exist in the mass, and which, if not detected soon enough, may render the carver's toil of weeks so much labour thrown away.

The town of Khotan, or Houtan, as the Chinese call it, or Ilchi, as it is locally known, is the entrepôt for all the trade of Tibet, and is therefore a bustling place. Here arrive wool and gold from Tibet, as well as the latter metal from mines in the neighbouring Kuen Lun, and musk, silk, and jade from other parts of the country.

When Mr. Johnson, in 1865, made a flying visit to Ilchi, he found silks, felts, carpets of silk and wool mixed, coarse woollen cloths, and paper made from mulberry-fibre the principal manufactures. The town was surrounded by a wall twenty-four feet high and twenty feet broad. Watchmen patrolled the streets at night; but as they all notified their presence by striking a stick against a hollow piece of wood, which gave forth a shrill, unmusical sound, as a terror to evil-doers they were of limited influence. The Chinese instruments of torture were still in use, and hanging and blowing away from guns were the ordinary modes of inflicting capital punishment. Gallows were crected in the city in various places, so as to be handy in case of accident, and men and women were daily flogged with a leathern thong. *

Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. XXXVII. (1867), p. 14. Hutton : “Central Asia" (1875),

P. 370.

Ush Turfan and Aksu are the names of two other cities. In the neighbourhood of the latter town are rich mines of lead, copper, and sulphur. Coal is the ordinary fuel among the inhabitants; and here the road to Kuldja terminates, so that in times more prosperous than the present a considerable trade was carried on across the Thianshan to the valley of the Ili. These six cities are the only places of importance in the country; hence, indeed, in old times Eastern Turkestan was called Alty Shar, or the Six Cities. But in addition there may be mentioned, as a point of some strategic importance, the post of Serikul, or Tashkurgan, important in this respect, that between it and Afghanistan there intervenes only the Pamir Steppe. Now as Yakool) Beg, had not his career been cut short, was evidently pushing on to the Steppe with a view to seizing Wakhan and Badakshan, he would eventually have embroiled himself with Shere Ali. But China is not an aggressive-only an intensely conservative-nation; and Afghanistan is not likely for long to come to be in a position to trouble any man outside its borders. Maralbashi, at the junction of the Kashgar and Yarkand roads, is another important post, and interesting as the chief stronghold of the Dolans, a tribe living in wretched subterranean dwellings, and of habits and intelligence more degraded than any other race in this region, the Bhots of Tibet, with whom they have been compared, not excluded.*

Kucha during the Chinese occupation was a place of consequence, and ran competition in wealth with Aksu, but by the latest accounts it has now sunk into insignificance, and is, indeed, little better than a mass of half-deserted ruins. The same may be said of Korla, Kouralia, or Kouroungli, and Karashar, two towns lying to the east of it; while Turfan, through which, in old times, all the caravans proceeding east or west passed, is now desolate, and the country round it a desert. Under Yakoob's rule the country between Yarkand and Kashgar was a belt of prosperous farms not small in extent, though rather isolated from each other, and surrounded by orchards of plums, apples, and other fruit trees. A Kashgarian village is, indeed, a collection of farm homesteads, "presenting to the eye of a stranger rather a thinly-peopled district than a community of villagers." The system of agriculture is, however, bad. The soil is soon exhausted, and hence, even the limited amount of soil in any region is neither so fruitful nor so generally capable of bearing crops as it ought to be. Hence, each proprietor seems to have more land than he requires. But outside of these oases the country is barren and bleak in the extreme. “The scanty-marked bridle-track that supplies the place of a highway in every direction, except where the Chinese have left permanent tokens of their presence, affords but little inducement to travellers to come thither: nor must these expect anything but the most imperfect modes of communication and of supply that a backward Asiatic district can furnish. If we wish to imagine the scene along the road from Sanju to Yarkand, we have only to visit some of the wilder Sussex Wealds to have it before us in miniature. The spare dried-up herbage may be still more spare, and the limestone may be more protruding on the Central Asian plain, and the wind will certainly remind you that it comes either from the desert or from the mountain regions ; but you have the same undulating, dreary expanse that you have above Crowborough. The miserable sheep, watched by some

• sketch of the principal races of Central Asia is given in “ Races of Mankind,” Vol. III., pp. 221–287, and Vol. IV., pp. 223 – 234, etc.


nomad Kirghiz, will alone forcibly remind you that you are far away from the heights of the South Downs. In the far distance you will see the cloud-crested pinnacles of the Sanju Devan or of the Guoharbrum, and then the traveller cannot but remember that he is in one of the most inaccessible regions in the world." * Yet the high-road from Kashgar to Aksu, Kucha, Korla, Karashar, and Turfan, along which all the traffic that passes or passed from China to Dzungaria, Kashgar, Kokand, and Bokhara, Mr. Boulger justly characterises as a masterpiece of engineering skill, considering the character of the road itself and the circumstances under which it was constructed. The heterogeneous races who have at different times scught a home, a refuge, or wealth in Kashgar are,

a rule, frugal and tolerably honest; but the country suffers from the want of cheap and easy communications between the different parts of it, and between it and other countries - above all, India. The rivers in the country are scanty, but still they contain, especially during the spring time, when the snows are melting, water enough for all purposes of irrigation, though they can never be utilised as highways, nor even made to do so in an indirect manner luy filling canals. The climate is, if not pleasant, healthy enough. The people suffer from no prevalent disease, except goitre, which is common in Yarkand and the more mountainous parts. Altogether the character of the country is such that, without necessarily entertaining the over sanguine views that were in the early days of Yakoob Beg's reign held regarding its future, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion than that, considering its natural resources and position, it ought, under a settled government, to advance greatly beyond any point it has attained since the day when Alexis won the heart of Lalla Rookh.


On the other side of the Thian-shan, in the fertile valley of the River Ili, shut in by lofty ranges of mountains, from which descend cool streams to fertilise the whole region, was, up to the time of the revolt which drove the Chinese out of Turkestan, the prosperous province of Dzungaria, a region which comprised the valley and much of the surrounding country. The capital of the province was Kuldja, a large city, prosperous and pleasant beyond the lot of almost any town of Central Asia. But in 1871 the Chinese fortunes stood low in Turkestan. Yakoob Beg was master of almost the whole couutry, and the Tungan rebels, to whom that unscrupulous soldier had played the role of the man to the horse in the fable, had, with the Tarantchis,t captured Kuldja, and during the eleven years they had held it had all but depopulated the neighbouring country. Then in 1871 Russia stepped in, and after defeating the Tungans and Tarantchis, annexed the valley of the Ili, with the distinct promise that it would be surrendered whenever the

• Boulger: “Life of Yakoob Beg,” p. 12 ; Bellew: “ Kashmir and Kashgar” (1875); Henderson : “ Lahore to Yarkand” (1876); Gordon : “ Roof of the World” (1875); “ Report of a Mission to Yarkand and Kashgar" (1875), &c. This volume contains contributions regarding the result of Sir Douglas Forsyth's Embassy, by the officers engaged in it. Capt. Trotter, R.E., has also given an abstract of the geographical observations of the mission in the Journal of th: Royal Geographical Society, Vol. XLVIII. (1878), pp. 173-234.

† Descendants of Kashgarian labourers imported by the Chinese into Kuldja in 1762.

[graphic][merged small]

Chinese should again be able to maintain order in Turkestan. At that time this prospect seemed faint, and Russia, doubtless, considered Kuldja hers for ever. Indeed, as early as 1815, soon after the foundation by Prince Gortschakoff of the military settlement of Kopal, on a fertile plateau at the base of a snow-capped mountain of the Ala-tagh range-ostensibly to protect the Kirghiz, Cossacks of the Great Horde, who had been formally annexed to the country erected into the Semipalatinsk district-Russian factories were established in Kuldja and Tchugutchak, though both of these towns were then in disputably Chinese possessions. Still later, in 1860, when the Chinese were gasping for existence in Turkestan, she granted to Russia by treaty the whole of the great Issik-kul Lake, with the fertile country surrounding it. It was, therefore, but natural that in 1871, in order to protect her newly-acquired territory, and stop the ravages of the “rebel” hordes who bordered it, she should annex Kuldja on the conditions mentioned. It is even said that, had not events precipitated matters otherwise, Yakoob Beg might have felt the heavy hand of the Czar. But the Chinese are a long-memoried people, and, like the exemplary heir of a spendthrift estate, were rapidly redeeming the possessions which had slipped through the fingers of the incapable or unfortunate rulers of twenty years before. Finally, Kashgar fell from the opium and bang-shattered soldiers of Yakoob Beg, and the army of General Tsao Tsung Tang appeared at the base of the Thian-shan, and demanded the recession of the province which had for six years been lying in pawn on the other side of that historic range. After some threats and a good deal of diplomacy, it is understood that the province is to be re-ceded to China, on condition of her paying the cost of its occupation and certain claims of Russian merchants on the Turkestan anthorities, in addition to granting some of the territory and considerable privileges to the Russian traders specified. Altogether, the bargain, if ratified, is not a bad one for the Czar, either now or considered in its prospective advantages.

However, the country to be handed over to its old masters is one of the finest in Central Asia, a region where the richest tracts alternate in cases with frightful sandy deserts or dried-up beds of former inland Its population was at great. The town of New Kuldja was estimated to contain 75,000 permanent inhabitants, and every year thousands of nomads and merchants from all parts of Asia arrived to attend its famous markets. But since 1960 everything has been in such disorder that the census usually given in the Russian statistical tables must be received as merely approximate. Before the insurrection the population of the provinceTarantchis, Tungans, or Dungan (p. 96), Chinese, Sibos, Kalmuks (p. 96), Kirghiz and Torgots—was 350,000. In 1871 the number was estimated at 114,337, but later statistics put it at 500,000, scattered over 28,000 square miles of territory. As the population has gradually increased under Russian rule, the latter census may perhaps be tolerably correct.

Kuldja is, in reality, the centre of Asia, and with the surrounding districts of the ancient kingdom of Dzungaria, extinguished by the Chinese in the eighteenth century, is considered by M. Semenoff, an eminent Russian geographer, who directed one of these notorious “scientific expeditions” (mainly consisting of Cossack cavalry), as the point from which, from time immemorial, numerous races have migrated to the low and arid steppes


one time

« PreviousContinue »