Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/705

This page has been validated.

cerning which the determinations are still very inexact. Consequently, our maps of China are filled with chains of hypothetical mountains, which certain famous savants would like to impose upon us as the last word of modern science. Unfortunately for them, Nature has the bad habit of not agreeing with systems that are too learned, even when they are framed by disciples of the most eminent geographers. Anthropological interest is attached to the heterogeneous populations of the western provinces of this vast country, and we may possibly find among them the missing links of the chain that may connect the yellow race with the white race. To make such researches successful, one must of course be an accomplished scholar in Oriental linguistics and philosophy, but the possible results of such investigations are so attractive that I am disposed to believe in their near realization. Similar anthropological and linguistic researches may be undertaken in the southwestern provinces of China, which are filled with aborigines not of Chinese origin; and hence we may go to Indo-China, the richest part of Asia, of which only the French and the English colonies, the coast regions, and the largest valleys are known, and where the origin of immense rivers is still to be traced.

Japan and the archipelagoes of the Pacific are others among the richest countries, and have attracted much attention from travelers; but what has been learned about them should only sharpen the desire to learn the more which is still unknown; and these islands, with their varied populations, afford most profitable studies in language and anthropology.

British India is the best explored part of Asia, and is even better known than some parts of Europe. It does not come within our category; but the adjoining countries of Afghanistan and Beloochistan still await a scientific exploration of their most important parts. Our geographical knowledge of the Southern parts of Turkistan is also wanting in many points concerning which it would be desirable to know more. The Oasis of Merv, which is so often mentioned in the journals, has never been visited by a scientific traveler. The fundamental question of Turkoman geography is identified with the discovery of the ancient beds of the Oxus and its affluents. Many important advances have been already made in this direction, but much of the desert stretching between the present Amoo-Darya and the mountains of Khorassan still remains to be explored; and on its competent exploration depends much that is important to the improvement of the country.

Great progress has been made in the last twenty-five years in the exploration of Khorassan, and Stebnitzky's late map of Persia is quite full in relation to that province. Western Persia has been nearly as well mapped, but much is yet to be done concerning the southern part and the interior of the country. The greater part of the interior, however, has been known, from the most remote antiquity, to be a desert,