Yarkand - Encyclopedia

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YARKAND (Chinese name Soche Fu), the chief town of the principal oasis of Chinese Turkestan, on the Yarkand-Darya, in 38° 25' N., 77° 16' E., and 3900 ft. above sea-level. The settlements of the Yarkand oasis occupy the S. W. corner of E. Turkestan, and are scattered along the numerous rivers which issue from the steep slopes of the Pamir in the W., and the Karakoram and Kuen-Lun Mountains in the S. The oasis of Kashgar limits it in the N., and a tract of desert separates it from the oasis of Khotan in the S.E. The Yarkand-Darya and its numerous tributaries, which are fed by the glaciers of the mountain regions, as also many rivers which are now lost in the steppe or amidst the irrigated fields, bring abundance of water to the desert; one of them is called Zarafshan ("gold-strewing"), as much on account of the fertility it brings as of its auriferous sands. Numberless irrigation canals carry the water to the fields, which occupy a broad zone of loess skirting the base of the mountains. In the spurs of the mountains there are rich pasturages, where goats, yaks, camels, sheep and cattle are reared. The oasis of Yarkand is regarded as the richest of E. Turkestan, and its population probably numbers about 200,000 inhabitants. Wheat, barley, rice, beans and various oil-yielding plants are grown, and melons, grapes, apples and other fruits. The cotton tree and the mulberry are cultivated in the warmer parts of the oasis. Gold, lead and precious stones are found in the mountains, though only the first-named is worked. Yarkand is renowned for its leather-ware and saddlery. Carpets and silk fabrics, cotton and woollen goods are manufactured. The population consists of Persians, who now speak Turkish, and of Turkish Sarts. The town of Yarkand, which has a population of about 100,000 (5000 houses in the city, and as many in Yanghishar and the suburbs), is situated on the river of the same name, five days' journey S.E. from Kashgar. It is surrounded by a thick earthen wall, nearly 4 m. long, with towers in the Chinese style of architecture, and is well watered by canals. The square fortress of Yanghishar, which was built by the Chinese, stands within 400 yds. of the walls of the town. This is one of the three strong places in Chinese Turkestan. The ten mosques and madrasas of Yarkand, although poorer than those of Bokhara or Samarkand, enjoy wide renown in the Moslem world. There is a brisk trade, especially in horses, cotton, leather-ware and all kinds of imported manufactured goods.

Yarkand is surrounded by a number of smaller towns, the chief of which are - Yanghi-hissar, which has about 600 houses, Tashkurgan on the Pamirs, Posgam (1600 houses), Kargalyk, at the junction of the routes leading to Ladakh and Khotan (2000 houses), Sanju (2000), Tagarchi, Kartchum, Besh-taryk (1800) and Guma (3000).

Yarkand was very imperfectly known until the second half of the 19th century. Marco Polo visited it between 1271 and 1275, and Goes in 1603; but the continuous wars (see Turkestan) prevented Europeans from frequenting it, so that until 1863 the information borrowed from medieval travellers and from Chinese sources, with that supplied by the pundit Mir Isset Ullah in 1812, was all that was known about the Yarkand region. The first European who reached it in the 19th century was Adolph Schlagintweit, who passed by Yarkand in August 1857, but was killed a few days later at Kashgar. The pundit Mohammed Hamid visited it in 1863 and determined its geographical position and altitude. Later information is due to Robert Shaw and G. W. Hayward, who stayed at Yarkand in 1869, and to Sir Douglas Forsyth, who first visited it in 1870. Three years later he visited it again with an expedition which had Gordon, Bellew, Chapman, Trotter, Biddulph and Stoliczka as members, and afterwards published a detailed report upon the scientific results of the mission. In 1886, after a remarkable journey through E. Turkestan, A. D. Carey reached Yarkand and spent the winter there. It was again visited by Dr Lansdell in 1888, and by Dr Aurel Stein in 1906. The Swedish Protestant missionaries whose headquarters are at Kashgar maintain a medical mission at Yarkand.

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