Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/418

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belt of well-watered and well-wooded land, varying from seventeen to twenty miles in width.

Modern research has proved that, for long, desiccation—by which term a gradual climatic change within the period of human history is meant—has been proceeding in this region. On the desiccation of Chinese Turkestan a most interesting article appeared in the Geographical Journal for October 1906, in which article Mr. Ellsworth Huntingdon says:

"As a whole, the withering rivers show signs of having decreased in size during the last two or three thousand years, the evidence lying partly in diminished length, as shown by dead vegetation, and partly in diminished volume and increased salinity, as shown by ruins. . . . Thirteen of the seventeen larger rivers have on their lower courses the ruins of towns dating usually from the Buddhist era, a thousand or more years ago. The older ruins are situated so far out in the desert, or upon rivers so small or so saline, that it would be impossible again to locate towns of equal size in the same places."

"The phenomena of rivers, large and small, of springs, lakes, ruins, and vegetation all seem to point to a gradual desiccation of Chinese Turkestan for nearly 1500 miles east and west, and 500 miles north and south. All the more arid part of Asia, from the Caspian Sea eastwards for more than 2500 miles, appears to have been subject to a climatic change whereby it has been growing less and less habitable for the last two or three thousand years."

In 1900-1901 Dr. M. A. Stein was engaged in exploration in Chinese Turkestan, and his researches have conclusively proved that in this region there were formerly great centres of Buddhist culture some fifteen hundred and more years ago. Many of the curios which he brought home may be seen at the British Museum, and his observations—with photographs taken on the spot—are published in a book entitled Preliminary Report of a Journey of Archæological and Topographical Exploration in Chinese Turkestan. Some of the seals on exhibition