Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/417

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MONGOLIA

and south, and the Tien-shau mountains on the north, Kashgaria is shut in in a kind of horseshoe of mountains, while to the north of the Tien-shan, between those mountains and the Altai, there are three depressions through the mountains on the west—which run rather east and west than north and south—which give access to Asiatic Eussia and Europe. Along these routes have been those great migrations which have taken place in past history. These routes are:—

(1) That along the Black Irtish River, between the Ektag-Altai and the Tarbagatai mountains;

(2) That which passes the town of Chuguchak, which is the most frequented; and

(3) That which follows the beds of the Lakes Ayar, Ebi, and Ala, connecting with Lake Balkash.

For long the Chinese have called the road which runs to the south of the Tien-shan into Kashgaria "The South Road," and that which runs to the north of the same range into Zungaria "The North Road."

The strategic value of that belt of country mentioned above, which connects China proper with Western Mongolia, is easily recognised and has made these routes the scenes of many bloody struggles. Hami is said to be almost unrivalled in Asia as a strategic centre, any army proceeding either east or west needing to hold this place as a base for further progress; and what Hami is to the southern route, so Barkul is to the northern route into Zungaria, these two cities being united by only one good pass through the eastern extension of the Tien-shan.

Chinese Turkestan, or the Tarim basin, may be said to have four natural divisions: the highlands; the lowlands, lying between the mountains and desert; the desert itself, which is mostly an uninhabitable waste, sloping from 4000 feet altitude on the west to 2000 feet on the east; and lastly, the swamps of the Lakes Lob and Bagrash. Along the banks of the rivers which feed the Tarim the land is fertile, and both banks of the Yarkand are fringed by a