1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hami

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HAMI, a town in Chinese Turkestan, otherwise called Kamil, Komul or Kamul, situated on the southern slopes of the Tian-Shan mountains, and on the northern verge of the Great Gobi desert, in 42° 48′ N., 93° 28′ E., at a height above sea-level of 3150 ft. The town is first mentioned in Chinese history in the 1st century, under the name I-wu-lu, and said to be situated 1000 lis north of the fortress Yü-men-kuan, and to be the key to the western countries. This evidently referred to its advantageous position, lying as it did in a fertile tract, at the point of convergence of two main routes running north and south of the Tian-Shan and connecting China with the west. It was taken by the Chinese in A.D. 73 from the Hiungnu (the ancient inhabitants of Mongolia), and made a military station. It next fell into the hands of the Uighurs or Eastern Turks, who made it one of their chief towns and held it for several centuries, and whose descendants are said to live there now. From the 7th to the 11th century I-wu-lu is said to have borne the name of Igu or I-chu, under the former of which names it is spoken of by the Chinese pilgrim, Hsüan tsang, who passed through it in the 7th century. The name Hami is first met in the Chinese Yüan-shi or “History of the Mongol Dynasty,” but the name more generally used there is Homi-li or Komi-li. Marco Polo, describing it apparently from hearsay, calls it Camul, and speaks of it as a fruitful place inhabited by a Buddhist people of idolatrous and wanton habits. It was visited in 1341 by Giovanni de Marignolli, who baptized a number of both sexes there, and by the envoys of Shah Rukh (1420), who found a magnificent mosque and a convent of dervishes, in juxtaposition with a fine Buddhist temple. Hadji Mahommed (Ramusio’s friend) speaks of Kamul as being in his time (c. 1550) the first Mahommedan city met with in travelling from China. When Benedict Goes travelled through the country at the beginning of the 17th century, the power of the king Mahommed Khan of Kashgar extended over nearly the whole country at the base of the Tian-Shan to the Chinese frontier, including Kamil. It fell under the sway of the Chinese in 1720, was lost to them in 1865 during the great Mahommedan rebellion, and the trade route through it was consequently closed, but was regained in 1873. Owing to its commanding position on the principal route to the west, and its exceptional fertility, it has very frequently changed hands in the wars between China and her western neighbours. Hami is now a small town of about 6000 inhabitants, and is a busy trading centre. The Mahommedan population consists of immigrants from Kashgaria, Bokhara and Samarkand, and of descendants of the Uighurs.