The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

October 26, 2016

October 26, 1943

Aurel Stein (November 26. 1862 to October 26, 1943) was an explorer of central Asia.
Although born in Budapest, his loyalty were allied with Great Britain. His many books record his adventures (a partial list):

Zoroastrian Deities on Indo-Scythian Coins (1887)

Chronicle of Kings of Kashmir (3 vols) (1892)

Sand-buried ruins of Khotan: personal narrative of a journal of archaeological and geographical exploration in Chinese Turkestan

Ancient Khotan
(2 vols) (1907)

Ruins of Desert Cathay (2 vols) (1912) 

Serindia (5 vols) (1921) 

The Thousand Buddhas (1921)

Memoir on maps of Chinese Turkestan and Kansu from the surveys made during Aurel Steins's explorations 1900-1, 1906-8, 1913-15 

Innermost Asia: its geography as a factor in history (4 vols) (1925-1928) 

On Alexander’s Track to the Indus, (1929) 

A Catalogue of Paintings Recovered from Tun-Huang (1931) 

An Archæological Tour in Gedrosia, (1931) 

On Ancient Central-Asian Tracks, (1933) 

Archæological Reconnaisances in SE Iran (1937) 

On Old Routes of Western Iran (1940)

Our focus  is on Stein's Sand-buried Ruins of Khotan. Now, the people we call Uigars live in Khotan. As our excerpt opens we are at a mountain pass in the Pamir mountains. It is 1900 or 1901. Our story takes place while Stein is carrying out "archæological explorations for [the] Indian Government in Chinese Turkestan." The weather is bitterly cold.

...the rain stopped a little, and soon it was noticeable that this bleak upland was not altogether untenanted. The shrill, whistling voices of the Himalayan marmots were heard all round, and more than half-a-dozen of these brown guardians of the passes, so well known to me from beyond Kashmir, could be seen sitting, with seeming unconcern,on the little mounds over their holes.

At 11.30 a.m. I reached the pass, which seems to be only a slight depression in a broad transverse ridge connecting the Muztagh-Ata massive with the so-called Sarikoli range, the eastern brim of the Russian Pamirs. The pass, a little over 14,000 feet above the sea, is marked by a stone heap, the traditional resting-place of some saint...Heavy mist on right and left prevented a view of the higher ranges, but just in front to the North I could look down into the open, flat valley which descends to Subashi...

I ... deemed it best to push on to Subashi (“ Head of the Waters”), the Chinese post in the valley, where ...shelter and supplies could be expected. In the drizzling rain I passed some half-decayed Kirghiz graveyards and ... the remains of some older structure. At last, by 2 p.m., the Chinese post came in view, and with heartfelt gratitude I greeted its shelter. Inside a neglected stone enclosure I found, besides a number of tumbledown buildings, a row of mud-built huts, representing the quarters of the garrison. The latter soon emerged in its full strength of eight men, and their commandant, a sort of corporal, hospitably invited me to his state-room. It was, in truth, a poor enough hovel, lighted by a hole in the roof which, closed on account of the rain, admitted only a dim twilight. However, it was dry and warm and it felt cheerful amid the felts and quaint articles of equipment which covered the raised sleeping platform and the walls. A fire was lit under the hole already mentioned, but its smoke drove me into the interior apartment adjoining, long before the tea was ready ... 

Perhaps my little terrier felt happiest, who, shivering with cold and wet, could scarcely wait for the host’s good-natured invitation to bury himself in the bundle of quilts marking the bed in one corner of the platform. That he met there a little pet cat without picking a quarrel with it was the surest proof of his usual temper having softened under the influence of exposure.

Some things change and thankfully some do not. It was over a century ago that
Aurel Stein was knighted by the King of Great Britain (1912).

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