Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/75

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On the clay flats, which alternate with the bare sand, the most common plants in Southern as in Northern Ala-shan, are the budarhana and karmyk, occasionally the field mugwort, and a low stunted shrub, the Sarcosygium xanthoxylon; the zak, or saxaul, is never found here. The country is undulating, and a few small hills now and then vary the monotony, sometimes prolonged into chains. These hills, never rising more than a few hundred feet above the surrounding plain, are generally entirely devoid of vegetation; such as there is, it does not differ from that of the adjacent desert. During our march with the Tangutan caravan we saw no inhabitants. Everything was destroyed and pillaged by the Dungans, who sometimes made their appearance in bands in Southern Ala-shan in quest of more plunder. We saw by the roadside several human skeletons, two ruined temples, and whole heaps of putrefying corpses, half devoured by wolves.

After crossing the Tingeri, we directed our march along their southern border, over barren clay with only two kinds of saline plants, and soon the magnificent mountains of Kan-su rose in front of us, towering above the adjacent plains like a huge rampart; while in the far distance the snowy peaks of Kuliang and Liang-chu might be discerned. One more march, and this grand range stood before us in all the majesty of its matchless beauty. The desert as suddenly terminated. Hardly more than a mile from the sands, which extend far to the westward, cultivated fields, flowery meadows, and Chinese