Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/313

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


The following Note, translated from the Russian, purports to be an extract from the Diary of a Chinese Exile at Urumchi. Although this place is only incidentally mentioned in the preceding narrative, I have nevertheless thought it worth while inserting, the more so, because, from a letter lately received from Colonel Prejevalsky, I learn that his next expedition, to start in March 1876, will be directed to the Eastern Thian Shan and Kuldja, whence he will try to penetrate to Lob-nor and Northern Tibet. Urumchi would, therefore, lie so near his route that doubtless it will be visited by him.

Urumchi, or Urumtsi, the Bish-balik of the Middle Ages, has played an important part in history. Its advantageous position at the northern foot of a chain of the Eastern Thian Shan, dividing Dzungaria from Eastern Turkestan, always enabled it to recover rapidly from the wars which destroyed its less fortunate neighbours. Its district is fertile and its water and pasturage abundant. The first mention of Urumchi dates from the period of the establishment of the Chinese empire in the extreme north-west during the Tang dynasty (A.D. 646). Its district, with that of the neighbouring Barkul, became dependent on the government of the province of Kan-su, from which, however, it was separated by the Great Desert of Gobi.

When the Uigurs forsook their homes on the banks of the Orkhon, the Tola, and the Selenga, they settled here; and the ruins still remaining in the vicinity of the town probably date from that period. After the Mongols were