1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kulja

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KULJA (Chinese, Ili-ho), a territory in north-west China; bounded, according to the treaty of St Petersburg of 1881, on the W. by the Semiryechensk province of Russian Turkestan, on the N. by the Boro-khoro Mountains, and on the S. by the mountains Khan-tengri, Muz-art, Terskei, Eshik-bashi and Narat. It comprises the valleys of the Tekez (middle and lower portion), Kunghez, the Ili as far as the Russian frontier and its tributary, the Kash, with the slopes of the mountains turned towards these rivers. Its area occupies about 19,000 sq. m. (Grum-Grzimailo). The valley of the Kash is about 160 m. long, and is cultivated in its lower parts, while the Boro-khoro Mountains are snow-clad in their eastern portion, and fall with very steep slopes to the valley. The Avral Mountains, which separate the Kash from the Kunghez, are lower, but rocky, naked and difficult of access. The valley of the Kunghez is about 120 m. long; the river flows first in a gorge, then amidst thickets of rushes, and very small portions of its valley are fit for cultivation. The Narat Mountains in the south are also very wild, but are covered with forests of deciduous trees (apple tree, apricot tree, birch, poplar, &c.) and pine trees. The Tekez flows in the mountains, and pierces narrow gorges. The mountains which separate it from the Kunghez are also snow-clad, while those to the south of it reach 24,000 ft. of altitude in Khan-tengri, and are covered with snow and glaciers—the only pass through them being the Muzart. Forests and alpine meadows cover their northern slopes. Agriculture was formerly developed on the Tekez, as is testified by old irrigation canals. The Ili is formed by the junction of the Kunghez with the Tekez, and for 120 m. it flows through Kulja, its valley reaching a width of 50 m. at Horgos-koljat. This valley is famed for its fertility, and is admirably irrigated by canals, part of which, however, fell into decay after 55,000 of the inhabitants migrated to Russian territory in 1881. The climate of this part of the valley is, of course, continental—frosts of −22° F. and heats of 170° F. being experienced—but snow lasts only for one and a half months, and the summer heat is tempered by the proximity of the high mountains. Apricots, peaches, pears and some vines are grown, as also some cotton-trees near the town of Kulja, where the average yearly temperature is 48°.5 F. (January 15°, July 77°). Barley is grown up to an altitude of 6500 ft.

The population may number about 125,000, of whom 75,000 are settled and about 50,000 nomads (Grum-Grzimailo). The Taranchis from East Turkestan represent about 40% of the population; about 40,000 of them left Kulja when the Russian troops evacuated the territory, and the Chinese government sent some 8000 families from different towns of Kashgaria to take their place. There are, besides, about 20,000 Sibos and Solons, 3500 Kara-kidans, a few Dungans, and more than 10,000 Chinese. The nomads are represented by about 18,000 Kalmucks, and the remainder by Kirghiz. Agriculture is insufficient to satisfy the needs of the population, and food is imported from Semiryechensk. Excellent beds of coal are found in different places, especially about Kulja, but the fairly rich copper ores and silver ores have ceased to be worked.

The chief towns are Suidun, capital of the province, and Kulja. The latter (Old Kulja) is on the Ili river. It is one of the chief cities of the region, owing to the importance of its bazaars, and is the seat of the Russian consul and a telegraph station. The walled town is nearly square, each side being about a mile in length; and the walls are not only 30 ft. high but broad enough on the top to serve as a carriage drive. Two broad streets cut the enclosed area into four nearly equal sections. Since 1870 a Russian suburb has been laid out on a wide scale. The houses of Kulja are almost all clay-built and flat-roofed, and except in the special Chinese quarter in the eastern end of the town only a few public buildings show the influence of Chinese architecture. Of these the most noteworthy are the Taranchi and Dungan mosques, both with turned-up roofs, and the latter with a pagoda-looking minaret. The population is mainly Mahommedan, and there are only two Buddhist pagodas. A small Chinese Roman Catholic church has maintained its existence through all the vicissitudes of modern times. Paper and vermicelli are manufactured with rude appliances in the town. The outskirts are richly cultivated with wheat, barley, lucerne and poppies. Schuyler estimated the population, which includes Taranchis, Dungans, Sarts, Chinese, Kalmucks and Russians, at 10,000 in 1873; it has since increased.

New Kulja, Manchu Kulja, or Ili, which lies lower down the valley on the same side of the stream, has been a pile of ruins since the terrible massacre of all its inhabitants by the insurgent Dungans in 1868. It was previously the seat of the Chinese government for the province, with a large penal establishment and strong garrison; its population was about 70,000.

History.—Two centuries B.C. the region was occupied by the fair and blue-eyed Ussuns, who were driven away in the 6th century of our era by the northern Huns. Later the Kulja territory became a dependency of Dzungaria. The Uighurs, and in the 12th century the Kara-Khitai, took possession of it in turn. Jenghiz Khan conquered Kulja in the 13th century, and the Mongol Khans resided in the valley of the Ili. It is supposed (Grum-Grzimailo) that the Oirads conquered it at the end of the 16th or the beginning of the 17th century; they kept it till 1755, when the Chinese annexed it. During the insurrection of 1864 the Dungans and the Taranchis formed here the Taranchi sultanate, and this led to the occupation of Kulja by the Russians in 1871. Ten years later the territory was restored to China.