Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the Aralo-Caspian depression, and the still more distant and better-favoured regions of the West. Here, and on the fertile and smiling banks of the Ili and Irtish, the migrating hordes lingered for a time, loth, as it were, to venture out into the unknown plain before them, stretching far away into sandy deserts that separate Europe from Asia, until a new tide of popular migration forced them at last to strike their tents, and depart westward from their mountainous halting-grounds.*

There were two towns of the name of Kuldja, about twenty-five miles apart. Old or Tartar Kuldja, which has for nine years been the head-quarters of the Russian administration of the province of Ili, is, however, the only one now in existence, for the other, Hoi-yuan-tchen, New or Mantchu Kuldja, which was a flourishing city of about 75,000 inhabitants until the date of the Mohammedan rising in 1858, was, as noticed, taken by the “rebels,” the whole population put to the sword, and the city reduced to ashes.t The place has not been rebuilt, and presents an appearance dismal in the extreme. Many buildings, especially the official residences, have been utterly razed to the ground, and in places the earth is white with fragments of human bones; while, at the date of Dr. Schuyler's visit, skulls, and even whole skeletons, could be seen in every direction. Only a few Tungan families lived among the ruins of Buddhist temples with their broken idols ; and the palace of the governor, with the limiting wall, beyond which no man was allowed to pass under pain of death, still stood, as if in mockery of the fate that befell it. Past all flows the Ili, as of old; but instead of being covered with boats, as in the palmy days of Kuldja, it is now silent and lifeless. “ The ground is accursed," remarked one of the rebel leaders ; “no one will live here again.” For two years the Tungan and Tarantchi army sat before the town. At last it was taken. In the morning there were 75,000 people within its walls : by night not a soul was left alive. Many were butchered at once ; some killed their families and then themselves; and many ran to the steppes, only to be cut down there or to die in a few days from starvation. Everything in the city worth plundering and portable has been carried away ; even the beams of the houses have been torn out to serve either as firewood or as material for new constructions. But it is believed that there is still buried among the ruins much treasure, a belief justified by the fact that in the governor's palace eighty thousand ounces of silver were found.

Then, after slaughtering the inhabitants of other towns in the valley, or subjecting them to heavy ransom, the Tungans and Tarantchis, as might have been expected, set to quarrelling among themselves, and fought several battles, until the Russians interfered and settled matters by becoming masters. Everywhere through the valley are still traces of the ravages of these fiendish hordes, who ought much sooner to have been crushed by the nearest civilised power : dried-up canals, abandoned fields, withered forests, and “every few miles dismantled and ruined cities, which but ten years before had sheltered a civilised and hard-working population. The industry and taste of the Chinese were, inter alia, displayed in the planting and maintenance by constant irrigation of artificial forests ; but after the Huns of Central Asia were allowed to displace civilisation by savagery these

Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Vol. XXXI. (1861), and Vol. XXXIX. (1869), in addition to the works of Osten-Sacked, Regel, Ujfalvy, and other scientific explorers of the last few years.

+ Schuyler : “Turkestan," Vol. II. (1876), pp. 162 et seq.

trees perished from drought. Alimtu, Bayandai, Tchimpantzi, &c., are all ruined places, the surrounding fields deserted and choked with weeds; but Tchin-tcha-ho-dzi was left unharmed, being chiefly inhabited by Mohammedans; it has the unmistakable " pungent odour which hangs about boxes and parcels brought unopened from China and Japan.” Suidun is another Chinese-Russian town, over his visit to which Dr. Schuyler grows almost enthusiastic. Instead of the narrow, crooked streets of Tashkend, in five days he had arrived at a town with

[graphic][merged small]

broad, straight avenues shaded with trees, and bordered with buildings of brick, beautifully carved and moulded, roofed with tiles, and with latticed windows and porticoes. Instead of dowdy-figured women swathed in long, shapeless dressing-gowns, and faces hidden by black horsehair veils, “there were stout, healthy, and smiling women chatting over

their marketing, the bright, orange-coloured marigolds in their wonderful coiffures, or their coquettish little caps, contrasting well with the indigo blue of their gowns. Instead of Sarts and Uzbeks in gowns and turbans, there were Chinese and Tungans in wadded petticoats, short jackets, long moustaches, and pigtails.” The town itself is square in outline, and strongly protected by a wall and battlements, and is capable of standing a

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

determined siege. The present town of Kuldja is very much like Suidun, but it is built on a larger and grander scale; and at a glance one sees that the place is a Tartar town, with the Chinese polish and civilisation very thinly laid on. All the houses are built of clay, with flat roofs, like the buildings in the Uzbek countries of Central Asia. The bazaars are not of great interest, and the visitor who expects to pick up anything precious in the way of porcelain and "curios” will be disappointed, for everything of value has long ago been bought by the Russians, so that a fresh arrival has to resort to the Aksakal, or Governor, in order to find out what private individuals have still anything to sell; or, in

[graphic][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

other words, bas to resort to something very like force. In the town itself, or its suburbs, the Russians have established paper, vermicelli, and other manufactories ; but the principal buildings are the mosques (p. 100) and a Buddhist temple.

and a Buddhist temple. Altogether, at the date of Dr. Schuyler's visit in 1873, the population of the city was about 10,000, of whom fully one-half were Tarantchis.*

The Ili, or Eelee—a name which is also sometimes given to Kuldja, the chief town on its right bank—is a large river which, after flowing 300 miles through the Kuld ja country from the

of the Thian-shan, falls into Lake Balkash. The vale

Snows

* In addition to the admirable work of Dr. Schuyler, and the various Russian treatises on the province, descriptions of the races will be found in a paper by Dr. Radloff in Petermann's Gcographische Mittheilungen, 1866, pp. 88, 250.

« PreviousContinue »