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Sources of the Amu-Daria. 265 

with the Pamir, as Humboldt supposed it to he. By only extending this 
appellation to the whole centre portion of the Bolor highland, as is done by 
Son-Yun, can the contradiction he reconciled ? The form of this high upland 
is so natural to the alpine region between Ferganah and India, that other 
valleys, even more than 15,000 feet above the level of the sea, may he found 
to exist. The following is an enumeration of five such valleys : — Mangulak, 
Pamir, the plateau between Aksu and Vokhan, the parts adjoining Sary-kul 
and the highlands near Kulsha lakes, probably near Sary-kul. 

IV. Turning northwards from the sources of the Oxus, I shall now allude 
to another problematical feature of the Bolor uplands. From the Terek-tail 
mountain-knot, where the southern chain of the Tian-shau and the eastern 
branch of the Bolor are intercepted, the maps of Klaproth and Zimmermann 
show the head of the small Asferah-chai stream as flowing westwards. Klap- 
roth extends it interrogatively to the bed of the Syr-Daria, in the direction of 
Kokan. Is this Asferah-chai identical with the Gralinglik rivulet of our tra- 
veller, or does the latter form one of the sources of the Zarafshan, which 
apparently must be prolonged eastwards from the meridian of 88°, where the 
border-line of Khanikof's map comes in ? If the Asferah-chai does really rise 
in the snows of the Terek-tail or Kasbgar-Davan, then it is a considerable 
river, with a course extending over 200 miles, and must be considered as one 
of the largest affluents of the Jaxartes on the left. 

V. The last remark I propose to make is one which affects the hydrography 
of the Oxus in an important degree. The three chief branches of this river — 
the Bolor, Duvan, and Sharud — may be recognised as uniting in one stream, 
but is the Aksu, which flows more northwards than any of the others, the real 
source of the Zarafshan, or does this river, likewise bending southwards, also 
enter the system of the Oxus, giving the latter its own name (Oxus — Aksu ?) 
which has been preserved by ancient writers? In the absence of accurata data, 
this question may, with equal probability of truth, be solved either in the way 
I have done it on the accompanying map, or by marking the course of the 
Aksu southwards from the western part of the Pamir. 

M. Veniukof. 



XX. — The Belors and their Country. By M. Veniukof. 
Translated, for the Royal Geographical Society, from the 
' Journal of the Imperial Geographical Society of St. Peters- 
burg, 1862,' by J. Michell, Esq. 

If on the map we connect Cabul, Badakhshan, Yarkend and 
Cashmere by straight lines we shall obtain a square surface, the 
physical features and peculiarities of the inhabitants of which 
constitute it in all probability the most inaccessible and obscure 
part of Asia. Burnes and all the other travellers who passed 
along the valley of the Cabul River visited the southern confines 
of this region, while those on the north were skirted by Huen- 
Tsan, Marco-Polo, Benedict Goez and Wood, and those on the 
east by Cunningham, Thomson, Strachey and the brothers 
Schlagintweit. With respect to its interior, however, no accurate 
information has been hitherto furnished, and it is only owing to 
a fortunate discovery made in the archives of the Military Topo- 



266 Veniitkof on the Belurs and their Country. 

graphical Depot at St. Petersburg that we are now able partially to 
dispel the chaos which has hitherto reigned, in our knowledge of 
the geography of this remote corner of the globe. On the best 
European maps the course of the Indus to the north-west of 
Cashmere is traced at random. The explorations of Strachey 
and Cunningham did not extend to any great distance westward of 
the great bend formed by this river at the northernmost point 
of its course. Northwards from Attock, the English surveys, as 
far as we know, have not extended beyond 68 geographical miles 
above this town. In this manner a portion of the course of this 
river, namely a distance of nearly 80 geographical miles, . remains 
completely unexplored, and at the same time all the countries to 
the north-west remain involved in geographical obscurity. 

The first accounts respecting this unknown region were derived 
from Elphinstone's description of his journey to Cabul, and the 
information there presented directed the attention of geographers 
to this interesting terra incognita. Subsequently, when Europeans 
became acquainted, through the translation of Stanislaus Julien, 
with the Chinese account of the travels of Huen-Tsan, further 
light was shed on the enigmatical " blue-eyed " race of the southern 
portion of the Bolor Mountains. The Buddhist traveller describes 
the mountaineers in very unfavourable terms, and says that these 
barbarians are strangers to hospitality and justice, that they are 
given to violence and plunder, hideous in appearance, and readily 
distinguishable from their neighbours by their green eyes. Burnes, 
when passing in 1832 through the Cabul valley, directed special 
attention to these blue-eyed barbarians, respecting whom he was 
able to collect information partly from the Afghans and partly 
from immediate personal observation. According to his account * 
the country to the south-east of Badakhshan between this place 
and Peshawer, is inhabited by the interesting Siahpush-Kaffir race, 
or black-clad infidels, as they are called by their Mahometan 
neighbours on account of their being dressed in black sheep-skins. 
These people exclusively inhabit the mountains, and are oppressed 
and attacked by all their neighbours, -who kidnap and enslave 
them at every opportunity. However, a few years prior to the visit 
of Burnes, the ruler of Kunduz had made an inroad into the 
Kaffir territory, and lost on that occasion half his troops. The 
English traveller had opportunities of speaking with men who 

* Vide Burnes' ' Travels to Bokhara,' vol. iii., part I., chap. iii. Burnes 
appends a small vocabulary of the dialect spoken at Chitral, and remarks that the 
language spoken at Gilgit is already different. The route of George Ludwig 

von lay between these places, and as it will appear, the sub-division of the 

population into several tribes, speaking distinct dialects, did not escape his obser- 
vation. It is evident that the same phenomenon is reproduced here, in the ramifi- 
cations of the Bolor and Hindu-Kush ranges, which prevails in the Caucasus, where 
the number of spoken dialects is very great. 



Veniukof on the Belors and their Country. 267 

had dealings with these people ; and, when staying at Cabul, he 
saw a Kaffir boy, about ten years old, who had been abducted 
from his country two years previously. His features, his hair, and 
the colour of his skin were not Asiatic, and his eyes were light 
blue. The boy was able to answer many questions respecting 
his country, and gave specimens of his native language, which 
resembled some of the Indian dialects. The Kaffirs, Burnes 
says, are a very barbarous people who feed on bears and monkeys, 
are armed with bows and arrows, and scalp their dead enemies in 
warfare. Their country is very mountainous, and consequently 
difficult of access. The use of strong drinks is general among 
them ; gold, too, is found in their mountains, and with it they 
make various useful and ornamental articles. The colour of the 
skin of the Kaffirs and their outward appearance generally have 
given rise to the supposition of their being descendants of the 
Greeks. This hypothesis is dwelt on by Baber and Abul-Fazal, 
who, however, have in this instance counfounded the claims of 
the rulers along the Oxus to Macedonian descent with those of the 
Kaffirs, who really possess traditions of such extraction. The 
Kaffirs are a wild race, and neither their forms of religion nor 
their customs distinguish them from other races low in the scale of 
civilisation. The Kaffir women perform all the manual labour, 
and even till the ground. Burnes was also informed that they 
were usually harnessed in the plough with the oxen. 

Somewhat different, though in many respects identical, are the 
accounts given by the Chinese geography respecting the Belors. 
According to this authority they inhabit the country to the 
westward of Yarkend. Their houses are built of clay, and they 
live together in villages; their language does not possess any 
written signs, and they do not understand Turkistani ; their dress 
resembles that of the Andidjanis. They have sunken eyes, pro- 
minent noses, and bushy beards. The females are not kept in 
seclusion ; four or five brothers possess one wife in common, and 
exercise their marital rights alternately, one hanging up his boots 
at night on the door outside in token of being in possession. 
The paternity of the children that are born is recognised in turn. 
There are no fraternal ties, and seniority in age governs the rules 
of their society. The country consists chiefly of sandy plains and 
salt deserts, and there is but little land adapted for agricultural 
purposes. The people are generally poor ; they sow wheat and 
barley, though in small quantities. They cultivate mulberry-trees, 
the berries of which they dry in the sun and store up for food. 
Goat's milk is the principal article of diet with many, and a spirit 
is made by them from fermented mare's milk, which is a favourite 
beverage. The ruler is styled " Bi," and tribute is paid him in 
human kind. Those who have five or six children deliver up three, 



268 Veniukof on the Belors and their Country. 

and so on in proportion. The children thus surrendered in tribute 
are sold to the Kaisaks, to the Andijanis, and in the various 
towns of eastern Turkistan. The prices they fetch, according to 
Chinese authority, vary from 50 to 90 lans of silver (15/. to 277.). 
The Belors are naturally a timid race, and the Buruts kidnap their 
men with impunity. 

These accounts constitute the whole of the knowledge which 
we have hitherto possessed respecting the people whom we shall 
henceforward call Belors. Their evil reputation has been spread, 
not only among their Mussulman neighbours, who entertain great 
animosity against all unbelievers in general, but among Europeans 
as well, who have been afraid of venturing among the wild robbers 
so terrible for their scalping propensities. On the east, the Chinese 
judge them more leniently, and we shall immediately see that they 
are not so wild and ferocious as they were said to be. We will 
here observe that the region which we shall proceed to consider 
forms on the east the extreme limit of the countries inhabited by 
the Aryan family, who were the introducers of civilisation into 
India ; we must also remark that in all probability the ancestors 
of the Belors were those warlike tribes against whom Alexander 
the Great* had to contend, and that their distinct peculiarity of 
type, namely their blue eyes, would, on the one hand, tend to 
encourage the supposition of their affinity to the Germano-Slavonian 
races of Europe, and on the other, to favour the hypothesis of their 
being a remnant of the Central-Asiatic Ussuns who disappear from 
Chinese history in the fourth century of our era, and who partly 
fled to the upper sources of the Amu-Daria, having also previously 
been known to have existed in the country bordering lake Issyk- 
kul and to the north of Thibet. 



* We here recall the principal features of the campaign of Alexander in 
Kaffiristan of the present day :— Crossing the Hindu-Kush by way of the Bamian 
Pass, the Macedonian conqueror marched along the left side of the Cabul River. 
Hephaestion and Perdiecas were sent in advance to the Indus for the purpose of con - 
structing a bridge, while Alexander followed in the rear subduing the adjacent 
Aspian. Therian, and Arasan tribes. These barbarians fought bravely, and skilfully 
choosing their positions, on one occasion making such a determined resistance, 
that after their surrender Alexander proposed to them that they should join the 
ranks of his army. This offer they refused, on account of their unwillingness to 
fight against their own countrymen; and the result was, that they were all put 
to the sword. In one of the battles with them, 40,000 prisoners were taken, and 
230,000 head of cattle captured, of such an excellent breed that Alexander ordered 
some of the finest cows to be despatched to Macedonia. The last great engage- 
ment that took place was on the Aornos Hill, near the Indus, and considerably 
north of Attack. Advancing then to Bezirarda, Alexander constructed vessels 
with the timber growing on the banks of the river, and descended to the point at 
which Hephaestion and Perdiecas were building a bridge. He founded the town 
of Arigei (probably on the Kameh Kiver), in the Cabul Valley, and populated it 
with his disabled and worn-out warriors. A separate satrapy was also established 
for the government of the local barbarians. Vide Arrian, Book IV., chaps, viii. 



Veniukof on the Belors and their Country. 269 

Here are the words of our traveller Georg Ludwig von 



respecting the country inhabited by this race, and regarding the 
population itself. We quote them verbatim : — 

" When we approached the Sind (from Sirinagur to the south-east)' we 
saw rising in front of us five high snowy mountain summits, these were 
Saltchar, Olatam, Imbra-Embra (the Seat of God), Ardud, and Damarit ; all 
these were tinged with purple by the rays of the sun. To the left of them, 
and high above the whole country, rose the Bastam-Bolo Mountain, whose 
summit to the middle of the snow-line was encircled in white clouds, all the 
other peaks standing out visibly in all their splendour. Before us extended 
the broad valleys of the Sind and Luimuka, whose meadows spread away like 
bright green carpets. On the high and sloping southern bank of the Sind River 
could be descried the villages of Parabira, Sarlumba, Tarilumba, and "Bari- 
lumba. The lower hills being clad with silver-firs, cedars, and other fine trees, 
gave the valleys a charming and picturesque appearance. The blue stream 
of the Sind, which is here 75 fathoms broad, flows on from east to west 
interrupted occasionally in its course by rocks. The ferry-boats by which the 
river is crossed are two fathoms in length and of equal breadth ; three or four 
inflated goats'-skins are fixed on each side, and a large branch of a tree answers 
the purpose of a rudder. We crossed the river diagonally, at an angle of 
only 40° with the bend of the river ; a few parsangs higher up the rapidity of 
the stream is considerably greater. When the river is swollen, which is fre- 
quently the case, the ferry-boats reach the opposite bank at a considerable 
distance below the mouth of the Luimuka.* I did not succeed in finding the 
bottom in the centre of the river with a line 18 fathoms long, and even 
within a few fathoms of the bank the depth exceeded seven fathoms. After 
crossing the Sind we were finally clear of Cashmere, Afghan jurisdiction, 
and all Mahometans. It was near an old tower on the right bank of the 
river that we first touched the soil of the Chashgur-Gobi, a free and pagan race, 
remarkable for their hospitality, and who are continually harassed by their 
Mahometan neighbours. 

" Some of the older inhabitants of Gurbar village, situated close to Olatam 
Mountain, keep guard at the above-named tower from sunset to sunrise, after 
which they return to the village, all further vigilance being unnecessary, as no 
person would venture to cross the river during the night. One of the Indians 
I had brought with me from Cashmere understood the Bill language, which 
is spoken here, and with his assistance I was able to converse with the three 
Gurbar guards at the tower. Their dress consisted of black goats'-skins, 
beneath which they wore a short shirt and wide and long drawers of chequered 
woollen stuff and drawn close round the ankles. Their weapons were spears 
and large bows and arrows. Suspended on their right side was a long and 
broad sword, and a dagger stuck on the other side completed their equipment. 
Their head-dress consisted of a felt hat of irregular shape, narrow-brimmed, 
and turned up at the sides. A strong smell of leather, moreover, pervaded 
their presence. The first question they asked us was whether we were 
Mahometans, which, to their great delight, we answered negatively. After 
many mutual inquiries we wished to continue our journey along the banks of 
the Luimuka, but they strove to detain us, urging us to remain a little time 
with them, and during this parley one of them proceeded to Gurbar to summon 
the chief of the village. We were in the mean time invited by the two 

* The great rapidity of the Indus is easily understood when we bear in mind 
that at this point it is narrowed to 460 fathoms, and flows over a great incline. 
From Iskardo to Attock the distance is hardly 240 geographical miles, while tut; 
fall is 6050 feet, or more than 25 feet per mile. 



270 Veniukof on the Belors and their Country. 

remaining villagers to enter the town, the accommodation inside of which 
consisted of a single room with benches round the walls. Here they offered 
us some dark-coloured wine, which they drew with a silver cup out of large 
jars, and which we found to be very good. In a short time the messengers 
returned with two elders of the village, one of whom was distinguished by 
his superior costume and wore his sword on a silver chain. This personage 
repeated the inquiry as to whether we were Mussulmen, and assured us that 
we should be allowed to proceed on our journey on affording them evident 
proofs of our not belonging to Islam. After persistently refusing to satisfy their 
demands for a long time, we were at last obliged to yield compliance. The 
head man carefully inspected the whole of our party with the air of a con- 
noisseur, and I may say was more critical than delicate in his scrutiny. 
Becoming at last convinced of the proof of our statement, he expressed the 
liveliest pleasure, and at a given signal all the five pagans began jumping 
about in a strange fashion, and exclaiming ' Imbra-Bolli, Gish-Bolli.' They 
continued this exercise for a quarter of an hour, filling their silver cups at the 
same time with wine, drinking it, and making us share their libations. In 
order to get rid of them and to be able to continue our journey along the 
Luimuka Valley, I gave them two yards of red cloth and five rupees, in return 
for which one of them, volunteered to guide us to Mestopan — a village situated 
at the head of the valley. Having lost much time in our negotiations, we 
were at last obliged to remain at the old tower for the night. On the follow- 
ing morning, the 13th of May, we resumed our journey, and after proceeding 
a few parsangs we passed some ruins which lay on both sides of the road. 
Advancing higher up the Luimuka we perceived a stone pillar with an inscrip- 
tion, the characters of which were much defaced, and had nothing in common 
with Indian letters; this pillar occurred half-way up the valley, on the 
right side of the road ; the rows of characters on it ran from top to bottom, 
arid I concluded that they were Chinese, but as I have no particular know- 
ledge of this language I may have been mistaken. After proceeding three 
parsangs beyond the pillar we reached the village of Mestopan, where the 
elders also came out to meet us. When our guide assured them that we had 
already undergone examination and proved ourselves not to be Mussulmen they 
appeared pacified, and received us very hospitably in their village. This is 
the last village of the Chashgur-Gobi, and clustering close to the side of the 
mountain resembles a swallow's nest. The fiat stone roof of one habitation 
forms the court- yard of another above, in which manner all the villages of 
the Gobi tribe are built. The climate in the lower part of the valley was 
mild and pleasant, but above I found it inclement and cold, owing to the 
proximity of lofty snow-capped mountains. The pastures, however, were very 
rich, and large flocks of sheep and goats were to be seen grazing on them. 
The natives here weave a narrow dark-brown cloth, called ' daneh,' out of fine 
goat's wool ; they also dress and prepare sheep and goats' skins very skilfully, 
something in the manner of morocco leather. The smell of their leather is 
stronger than the Bussian 'yufta,' hence all the natives who employ it in 
their dress have a strong leathery smell about them, which may be pleasant 
to those who are fond of it, but to me it was very disagreeable. 

" Several pillars with large human faces cut on them, representing the 
features of the dead, stand on a small knoll beyond the village ; these figures * 
are covered with tatters of cloth, and offerings of provisions are placed round 
them. This holy place is called Iminer-Umma. Our arrival at the village 



* The stone figures at Mestopan remind one of the celebrated idols of Bamian 
the erection of which is attributed to the Kaffirs, in all probability an indigenous 
tribe of the Indian Caucasus. The Bamian figures are known at Mahabarat.— 

Note of Veniukof. 



Veniukof on the Bdors and their Country. 271 

was celebrated by fresh votive offerings to the idols of death, and consisted of 
a black rabbit and a large snipe. At the conclusion of the ceremony the 
skin of the rabbit was divided into as many parts as there were followers 
in my suite, each receiving a piece as a souvenir and as a proof of their 
hospitality. 

" At Mestopan I was obliged to remain three days, as during the night that 
followed our arrival there was such a heavy fall of snow that the road in the 
Dimirit and Ardud mountains was completely closed. The men whom I sent 
to examine the route returned with the intelligence that we could advance. 
Starting, however, on the 17th May, we were only able to reach Ardud — a 
distance of only 6 parsangs — after a fatiguing march from six in the morning 
to eight in the evening. This delay was chiefly caused by our Hindu guide, 
Chandromali, who, owing to the severe treatment he had received at the hands 
of the Afghans, was rendered quite helpless, and was obliged to be carried along 
in a sheet. 

" Ardud is the first village of the Serdi-Gobis, who occupy the valley of the 
Tomitandura rivulet, in common with the nomad Tsittir-Gobis, who live in 
felt tents. The Tomitandura rivulet, whose course we followed, soon flowed 
off to the south west, but the valley continuing to open out to the north-west, 
we proceeded along it as far as Marilpan Kiver, i. e. the Golden. This name 
excited my curiosity, and I ascertained from the inhabitants of Sosna village, 
which stands close by, that grains of the precious metal, sometimes of the size 
of a pea, though generally smaller, are found in abundance in the bed of the 
river, under the gravel and alluvial deposit., These particles of gold are usually 
obtained in the summer and early in the autumn, when the water in the river 
is at a low level. The inhabitants are almost entirely ignorant of the art of 
manufacturing gold, and all the rings and earrings that I saw were very 
clumsily made. They generally barter their gold for goods, such as silk and 
woollen stuffs and various small articles which are brought from Kashgar and 
Yarkend. I obtained several ounces of gold in exchange for cloth and opium, 
of which latter article they are very fond. A druse [?] was found in a cavern 
near the bank of the Marilpan, by one of my Hindoos, when he was out 
shooting ; the crystals were very clear, but so soft that I supposed them at 
first to be calcareous spar, many samples of which I had opportunities of seeing 
in the Hartz mines. This region appeared on the whole to be very rich in 
minerals. One of the Sosna villagers showed me some hard transparent stones, 
which he called 'Gashi,' and which are found among the pebbles of the river. 
These stones are much prized by the Yarkend merchants ; and they appeared 
to me to be similar to those known at Badakhshan and Samarkand by the name 
of ' Yash ' [jasper], in which a considerable traffic is carried on at those places. 
They are either of a milky or violet colour, and the stones of the first being 
much valued, are sold at four and five times the price of those of the latter. 

" To the north of Marilpan rises the snow-clad and conical-shaped mountain 
of Pugeli, the summit of which terminates in four rugged peaks. This moun- 
tain, as well as those surrounding it, are bounded by the rapid Kirzeleh torrent 
which flows into the Marilpan. We proceeded along the rising valley of this 
stream, which terminates at the Polsha Hill, on the summit of which stands 
the last village of the Serdi-Gobi tribe. Leaving the Kirzeleh at the bottom 
of Polsha Hill, we beheld stretched before us the extensive snow-field called 
Pambut.* It is nearly 5 parsangs (17 miles) in breadth, but I cannot deter- 

* Pambut. This is another of those interesting uplands which are so numerous 
in the Bolor and Himalaya mountains. When we carefully consider the state- 
ments of the brothers Sehlagintweit, of Thompson and Strachey, we cannot but 
conclude that the height of the Pambut plateau is not less than 16,000 feet above 
the level of the sea. — Note of Veniukof. 



272 Veniukof on the Belors and their Country. 

mine its length, as it extends even beyond Milinate, a high and icy mountain. 
On the north this plain is bordered by the rugged Lopsha Mountain, and in 
the centre of it there are several frozen lakes, whose surface is as smooth as 
polished glass. The snows on this plain are perennial, never disappearing in 
the hottest summer, and were so friable when we crossed over that we were 
11 consecutive hours getting through them. My Hindoos were greatly sur- 
prised at this phenomenon, which was entirely a novel one to them ; and it 
was no easy matter for me to persuade them to continue the journey, because 
they were under the apprehension that the whole country northwards wore 
the same aspect. Towards nightfall we reached the base of Lopsha Mountain, 
and after a good night's rest, and a refreshing repast of tea and rice, we re- 
covered from the fatigue of this stage. On the following day our passage over 
the Lopsha ridge, which is about 2 parsangs in breadth, was attended with 
great difficulty and toil. The schist mountains were very rugged and barren 
to the very summit of Lopsha ; on descending the northern declivity, however, 
the surface becomes covered with wood, which grows gradually denser lower 
down. The trees on the heights consist of conifera?, and on the lowlands of 
Chinars, broad-leaved oaks and a peculiar species of birch, the bark of which 
is of an orange colour. When we emerged out of the wood, a magnificent plain 
spread out before us, on which three large lakes were visible ; near these lakes 
stand the settlements of the Kambali tribe. 

" Beyond doubt this tribe belongs to the Gobi race ; their language, how- 
ever, varies so considerably from the radical Bili tongue that my worthy 
Gadama (the Hindoo interpreter) found great difficulty in understanding it. We 
were received here with the same hospitality as among the Gobi, and the young 
girls of Lombi village were so amiable as to evince a desire to enter into inti- 
mate relations with us, which I have reason to suppose was not distasteful to 
many of my companions. I also was obliged to conform to the usages of the 
country, and abandoned myself, on the banks of Tumbel Lake, to the mysteries 
of love with a beauty, who, notwithstanding her inexperience, was the daughter 
of the chief of the village. It is very remarkable that passages of gallantry 
between the unmarried of both sexes are held in great esteem among this 
people, and are even boasted of after marriage. This does not, however, in the 
least affect the mutual fidelity of a married couple. 

" The plain around the lake is very fertile, well cultivated, and affords ex- 
cellent pasture to good horses of indigenous breed ; these in point of beauty 
and powers of endurance do not only rival the Persian horses, but even excel 
them in the latter quality. The horses at Gembeh and Nembekh in particular 
are very tine : they are sold at high prices at Cabul and Candahar, and sent in 
large numbers to the markets of Yarkend and Kashgar, where they are known 
under the name of ' Namganat,' and from whence they even reach Pekin. It 
is noteworthy that the Kambali tribe ..do not know how to ride, so that the 
purchaser of a horse is obliged to break it in himself. This is attributable to a 
stupid superstition which is prevalent against the use of metal bits, in conse- 
quence of which halters are alone used. The horses, nevertheless, are so docile 
that they obey the whistle, clapping of the hands, and other signals of their 
masters. 

" On the 21st May we crossed the Tambir River, which is formed by the 
confluence of three rivulets, the Gembeh, Ron, and Nambeh, and flows to the 
south-west. Below the village of Peresima the Tambir receives, on its right, 
the Sursa rivulet, flowing from the north, and which we proceeded to ascend. 
The valley of this river is formed by the Zelturbak Mountains, and it is one 
of the most delightful and fertile throughout the region, producing in particular 
much barley and very line oats. The lower hills are covered with vines, 
which supply the inhabitants, who are here still of the Kambali tribe, with a 
very good white wine resembling the French St. Peray. 



VeniukOP on the Belors and their Country. 273 

"It was the first time after leaving India that I found truffles on my 
journey ; they were obtained in the Sursa Valley, where they are dug up by 
small black pigs. The natives do not eat the truffles, from an idea that they 
are produced by thunder striking the earth, hence their native name of 
thunder -nuts. This, however, did not prevent me from enjoying a young fowl 
with truffles for my dinner. The aspect of the Zelturbak Mountains is very 
striking : sinking gradually towards the south-east, they at last merge into a 
plain limited by rugged and precipitous sides, and covered with fine turf and 
excellent grasses ; this level expanse is more than 2 parsangs in breadth, and 
stretches northwards as far as the Snowy Mountains, of which the dominating 
points are Chatkamiri, Lo, Ertimbu, and Dzazir. 

" We had just left the village of Akhtulimbu when the whole country 
became enveloped in a grey mist which nearly stifled us. As it was im- 
possible to advance we halted, after having traversed less than a parsang. The 
vapour was so dense that we could not see a yard before us. This fog is of 
frequent occurrence during the spring, and is called the ornimir. The in- 
habitants consider it very unhealthy, and do not leave their houses while 
it lasts ; but when forced to go out, the gall-nut, growing here in abundance, 
is used by them as an antidote against the injurious effects of this vapour. 
One of these nuts is placed with a little salt on the point of a knife and washed 
down with wine. We also found this an excellent remedy, although it made 
us feel a little sick at first. The mist lasted until 2 o'clock in the afternoon, 
when it suddenly disappeared. The grass and ground was covered with a 
malodorous dew and a white frost, which made the air very sharp. A violent 
wind blew from the snow-covered mountains extending on the right of the 
valley. Both men and beasts were so fatigued with the short stage performed 
this day that we were obliged to make an early halt for the night on the borders 
of a mineral spring. During the night three of our camels and a horse died. 
The mist produced an unfavourable impression on the Hindoos, who again 
began to grumble ; my position, therefore, resembled somewhat that of Moses 
in the Wilderness. To humour my followers, 1 gave directions that a whole 
skin of arrak should be served out to them. I observed many tortoises in 
these parts, whose shells were very handsome, and whose flesh afforded me an 
excellent repast. We saw many large birds here, some of which resembled 
the bustard ; the native name for them is Busibo, and they are remarkable for 
their majestic strut and formidable and curling spurs. Their flesh is very 
tough, but their liver is tender and tasty. Their smaller feathers would 
make excellent beds, if the natives only knew the use of such domestic 
luxuries. 

"On the following day we proceeded along a hilly and harassing road 
which skirted the Robiri Mountain; we were only able to reach Ulshuma 
village, at the source of Lubi rivulet, by mid-day. This was the first settlement 
of the Belor-Ombo people, who inhabit the valley of the rapid Ardinig torrent 
and its affluents. Their language and customs differ but little from those of 
the Gobis and Kambalis ; their dress, however, is peculiar to them : instead 
of the woollen underclothing of the other tribes, the Belor-Ombos, both men 
and women, wear long trowsers and shoes of wild goat's skin, which they 
prepare very skilfully and dye red and yellow. Their shoes are soled with 
thick bear's hide, and fastened to the feet with straps and strips of birch-bark. 
When hunting in the mountains they wear gaiters, or overalls, of black goat's 
hair. 

" Leaving Lubi Valley we turned northwards and commenced ascending 
along tiie course of the Ardinig torrent,* which rushes down the wooded 



* We have assumed the Ardinig to be the upper source of the Kameh River, on 
■which Chitral is situated, and which discharges itself into the Cabul below Jei- 
VOL. XXXVI. T 



274 Veniukof on the Belors and their Country. 

Wumbi Mountain in an uninterrupted cascade for a distance of several parsangs. 
In this valley there are the two lakes Logti and Vurkunsk, floating on the 
surface of which we observed a considerable quantity of asphalt. We met with 
great difficulties at Balgi village, the elders of which demanded considerable 
presents in cloth and other articles for allowing us to proceed, and for guiding 
us up the valley of the Ardinig as far as its source. The negotiations extended 
over several days, so that we were only able to resume our journey on the 28th 
of May. The road along the left bank of the torrent, as far as Tserberi village, 
was the worst that I had as yet traversed in all my travels. The banks of the 
rapid Ardinig torrent were so encumbered with rocks and roots of trees that 
we were obliged to ascend along its bed. The men managed to get along, 
though with great difficulty, by pimping from rock to rock ; but the horses and 
camels struggled painfully along, stumbling at every step. I here lost my 
best mule, which broke its front legs, in consequence of which I was obliged 
to order it to be killed. Beyond Akhtiling village we at last emerged out of 
the wood and entered on a very fine grassy plain. Here we passed the night, 
and reached on the following day the village of Verivist, situated near 
Mulgon rivulet, which flows from the north-east, and after a junction with the 
Efirik, which runs from the north, forms the Ardinig. Both rivulets take 
their rise in a high snow-clad mountain, the several crests of which bear 
separate names, while the whole mountain possesses no distinguishing appel- 
lation. 

" From Verivist we continued our journey through Manglambi village, and 
crossing the River Mulgon, ascended up to its source, from whence, proceeding 
through a rocky cleft, we reached the summit of the rugged declivity of the 
ridge of mountains between Kumbut and Vahtimal glaciers. A violent storm 
arose at five o'clock in the afternoon, accompanied with a fall of fine snow, 
which compelled us to seek shelter under a ledge of rock, and to pass the 
night there. In spite of the violence of the storm, I could not help reciting 
several passages aloud from our great poet Klopstock. My Hindoos imagined 
that I was praying, and, following my supposed pious example, made loud 
supplications to their Deity, Gori-Easha, who I imagine must have been a 
great warrior. 

" The bad weather subsided on the following day, and, traversing another 
league, an extensive valley broke upon our view. This was a very grateful 
sight, and I sincerely praised God for it, as there is nothing so tedious as travel- 
ling through mountains where one is exposed to perpetual danger in clambering 
over rocks. A plain extends from Kimbira rivulet, which, though broken and 
rugged, is in some parts covered with grass, yielding abundant pasture for 
cattle. There are several small lakes here containing plenty of fish of flat 
shape ; t\\&y are very rich, but rather bitter to the taste, and some of my men 
were very sick after eating them. The climate here is very rigorous, and the 
depredatory Kalushes migrate at the end of the summer with their steeds 
from one part to the other, while in spring and early summer they frequent 
the country to the eastward of the Ergibash ridge of low hills. When we 
passed here the Kalush tribe was on amicable terms with the Belor-Ombos. 
These tribes differ from each other in language and type. The Kalushes have 

lalabad, just as the Marilpan appears to us to be the commencement of the 
Panujkira, which discharges itself below Peshawer. These two rivers are most 
probably identical with those named Solet and Gurei by the historians of 
Alexander. Separated from the Ardinig by a single mountain range, we 
have taken the Badakhshan branch of the Oxus from Klaproth's itinerary (trans- 
lated from the Chinese, 1821) which appears, however, to have been previously 
known in Europe, as it is marked on Weilandt's map of Iran, published in 1857. 
— Note of Veniukof, 



Veniukof on the Belors and tlieir Country. 21 o 

Kalmuyk faces, and are distinguished by their fiat noses, and eyes set very far 
apart. They have no villages, but live in felt tents.* On the 31st of May 
the head of this tribe paid me a visit, and I concluded a satisfactory bargain 
with him for horses. The horses hero were not only as good as those of Gem- 
beh and Nembeb, but likewise cheaper and more docile. On the 4th of June 
we remained encamped at Kulsha f lakes, where 132 excellent horses were 
delivered to me ; and these on the following day I sent off to Bengal in charge 
of Lieutenant Harvey, together with my sick interpreter and eight sepoys. All 
these horses were unfortunately seized by the Mahrattas, causing me subse- 
quently much unpleasantness, from which, however, I freed myself, thank 
God, with honour. 

" Our enjoyment of the plain was not of long duration, as it terminated 
at Talikbar spring, where the mountains commenced again. We found it 
necessary to relieve our jaded camels here of a portion of their packs, which we 
transferred to the mules. The road led us up to Kishtur Mountain, and from 
its summit we descended into a valley teeming with gadlies, which irritated 
and annoyed our cattle exceedingly. These insects accompanied us as far as 
Vaghin Mountain, which stands alone in the fertile Garil Valley. A few par- 
eangs northwards, between two small salt lakes, is Fulma, the first village of 
the Belor-Gabsus, who closely resemble the Belor-Ombos, excepting that the 
villages of the former are surrounded by courts and gardens. At the foot of 
Kor Mountain, within a short distance of the above village, there are some 
mines of native copper and malachite, out of which the natives extract the ore 
in very solid and ingeniously constructed smelting-ovens. They are principally 
engaged in manufacturing kettles, which are highly prized throughout this 
region. Formerly very rich workings existed at Kvelbi Mountain, occurring 
on the north-west, where there was also a village; this mine having become 
exhausted is now abandoned. 

" At Tahtomar, near Tahtor rivulet, a quarrel arose between my people and 
the natives, which might have ended very seriously, as one of my men had 
already been wounded in the head by a stone hurled from a sling, in.the use 
of which the natives are very dexterous. It cost me considerable trouble to 
restore peace, and this I was able to do only owing to the good nature of the 
natives ; my people being entirely to blame in the matter. 

" In a broad and very deep defile, surrounded by very high escarpments, 
and between Valbuni and Parilunar mountains, the traveller arrives at Lake 
Valbuni, the water of which is bright green and apparently unfathomable. 
Several streams feed this lake, which contains an abundance of trout ; these 
were often seen pursued by large pike, locally called bulub. There is also a very 
rich copper-mine in the vicinity of Adair and Lupsi [Lopsha ?] mountains worked 
by the inhabitants of Kareng village. It is from this abundance of copper 

* These were in all probability Buruts, who also nomadise on the western side 
of the Bolor range, along the upper sources of the Oxus, and amidst the settle- 
ments of the Belors, as is to be seen from Wood's account. — Note of Veniukof. 

t In working in the itinerary of our traveller on the map, Lake Kulsha and 
the surrouding high plateau occurred exactly at that spot which on other maps is 
represented as the intervening part between Sary-kul, the source of the Oxus, 
and Kara-kul, out of which issues one of the affluents of the Yarkend-Daria. 
According to Wood's observations, the western extremity of Sary-kul lies under 
Iat. 37° 27', and long. 91° 20' of Ferro. Our traveller gives 30° for the latitude 
of Kulsha lakes : but it must be observed that all his latitudes are excessive. If 
we suppose that in calculating his observations he made a mistake with regard 
to the sun's edge, and make an allowance of 32' for the apparent diameter of the 
sun, we shall arrive at 37° 27', as given by Wood. Further, our author places 
Cashmere at 34° 27', whereas it is situated in 34° 4' 6", the difference of 32' 4", 
being the same as that in the case of Sary-kul and Kulsha.— Ibid. 

T 2 



276 Veniukof on the Belors and their Country. 

that the Belor-Gahsus derive their name, Gabsu being the native name for 
copper. The inhabitants of this part of the country carry on a considerable 
trade in this metal with Yarkend and Kashgar, selling it to the Chinese, who 
use it in coining copper pieces of money, called chokhs, out of it. The Belor- 
Gobsu are only indirectly subject to the Chinese. The valley to the south of 
the high Solgir and Klishan mountains occupied by this tribe does not belong 
to the Chinese. 

" On the 9th of June we descended from a high mountain-ridge into a 
valley in which the Birtengur River * flows from west to east, forming the 
boundary between the Chinese military district of Yarkend and the Belor 
territory. 

" On some wooded heights to the left we observed the two Chinese forts of 
Kalga and Zartig, from which pickets were stationed along the bank of the 
river. When travelling through the Belor country, I assumed, by way of 
precaution, the character of an Armenian merchant bound to Kashgar 
with a small caravan. In this character the custom-house officers allowed 
me to pass without any difficulty, after levying only 9 per cent, on my 
goods and accepting some presents with which I was obliged to satisfy 
their cupidity. From the river I was conducted to Zartig and brought 
before the Chinese commandant, who enjoys the title of uliarity (uheridy). 
I was supplied by him with a passport, to which was fixed a large seal 
called the tamya, and on receipt of this document I was able to continue 
my journey with my companions to Kashgar. In return for this passport 
I had to make the commandant a present of three ounces of silver. The 
pass proved of great service when we came to the ' ulusses ' of the Chumhars 
(Djnngars), a Kalmyk race who wander here as guardians of the frontier ; 
all these Chumhars were mounted on excellent horses. They live in felt 
tents and nomadize on the neighbouring plains. The first ' vlus ' we came to 
while still in the wooded country was situated near two ruined towers called 
Zaisan-gur. Here we passed the night. On the following day we journeyed 
across a fine and very fertile plain as far as Boriltuf Biver, on the right 
bank of which we found Zaisang-Lobo encamped with his ' idusses,' while on 
the left, stood the camp of Zaisang-Korcha. On the latter bank is situated 
Bolorbom village, the houses of which are built of wood. The village is 
inhabited by 80 Belor families, who are completely under Chinese subjection, 
and earn their livelihood by carrying on a trade with the neighbouring tribes 
and the Tartar traders of Kashgar." 

After remaining at Kashgar our traveller proceeded westwards 
along the river Yapuar, and subsequently again entered the 
country of the Belors, near Kara-kul Lake. 

" About ten years ago," he states, " a battle was fought between the 
Chinese and Belors, terminating in the subjection of the latter ; this engage- 
ment took place between Alalyk and Ulgatch mountains, south-west of Kara- 
kul. The Belors held the Kerlat Pass in the Teguzlyk Valley, while the 
Chinese were posted on the shores of Kara-kul Lake. The Chinese General 
Kulingtu had about 5000 horsemen with about an equal body of infantry, a 

* Klaproth on his map calls this river the Chagan-Usu, or Aksu. — Note of 
Venhikof. 

t In the Chinese itinerary translated by Klaproth in 1821, the Eiver Boroldai 
is given as one of the eastern affluents of the Bolor. Most probably it has a 
common source with the Boriltu (the Manehu-Chinese mode of pronouncing 
Boroldai), as according to Asiatic custom two rivers issuing from the same 
mountain, though in different directions, are called by the same name. — Ibid. 



Veniukop on the Belors and their Country. 217 

small portion of which was armed with matchlocks. He was also reinforced 
by several thousand Buruts, and disposed of 22 dzemburiks or guns. The 
Belors numbered 15,000 men, and might without difficulty have held the 
pass with a twentieth of their force ; they, however, had the rashness to come 
out with their whole strength into the rocky valley leading from Ulgatch 
Mountain to the source of the Kir-Agatch River, with a view of attacking the 
Chinese in the rear. But the Chinese general, learning their plan from two 
fugitives, sent messengers to the Kalmyks and Buruts stationed in reserve in 
the Yapuar Valley, and there, bringing up their guns, fell on the Belors at 
Kir-Agatch, surrounded them, cut the greater part of them to pieces, and 
entered Ulgutch Valley on the heels of the fugitives, appearing in this manner 
in the rear of the Belors. The Chinese General, on hearing the cannonade, 
attacked the enemy in front, and the unfortunate Belors finding themselves 
between two fires were forced to capitulate. The reigning Belor family fell 
into the hands of the victors, and were despatched to Pekin, where they were 
executed. The same Chinese general who subjugated the region governs it at 
the present moment. 

" On the 26th of June we halted at this pass, which really is the key to 
all the countries lying to the eastward, as all the roads leading from the west- 
ward converge within a short distance of it. It is surprising that the inhabit- 
ants of this region, although they built the fortifications, of which the ruins 
are still visible to the south of the defile, did not also fortify the Pass itself, 
which could be done with very little trouble. The excellent single-arched 
stone bridge built by them over the Aksu is still in existence. We passed the 
night on a considerable eminence rising at a distance of half an ayatch to the 
south of the bridge. The rapid Pana rivulet, which rushes through a narrow 
and rocky ravine in the direction of the Bolor Biver, takes its rise at this 
point. We passed an encampment of some of the nomadising Chingir-Gerbas 
at the mouth of the latter river,* and we afterwards found their tents scat- 
tered along the whole course of the river as far as the town of Bolor. There 
are many ruins scattered throughout this deep and awfully gloomy valley, 
which would lead to the supposition that it was at one time inhabited by a 
settled race.f It is said that the capital of this people stood near Kaolit 
Mountain, and spread along both banks of the Mingis rivulet, where many 
ruins are still to be seen. I was fortunate enough to obtain two silver coins, 
found on this spot ; on the obverse side of one of these was a human face 
surrounded by rays of light, and the reverse side bore an inscription in charac- 
ters quite unintelligible, though resembling somewhat the Syriac writing I 
afterwards saw in Mahometan books at Samarcand. But these also the 
mullahs were not able to decypher. 

" After crossing the Kuzluk rivulet we entered a dense forest called 
Kasbatu, which stretches over an extent of 12 agatch in a south-westerly 
direction to the very borders of Badakhshan. On the right bank of the Bolor 
we encountered a large horde of nomads, amongst whom I remained for several 
days buying horses. I purchased 980 horses in all from them, and despatched 
them to Kashgar in charge of one of my men, in whose care I also forwarded 
two copies of the account of my journey, together with all the geographical 
maps that had been completed by me up to that time. I deemed it advisable 
to take this precaution so as to ensure them against accidents that might 
befall me. 

* On Klaproth's itinerary the camping-grounds of the Chingirs are also shown 
in close proximity to Dzaryk-kul — Note of Veniukof. ; 

t With respect to the Belor kingdom, we learn from Huen-Tsan and the 
Chinese geography, that, Chakhu-Hamed, the ruler of this state, became subject 
to China in 1749.— Ibid. 



278 Veniukof on the Behrs and their Country. 

" Between Absulash and Elirator mountains tliere is a large mine of native 
cinnabar, which is worked by the inhabitants of these parts, and the produce 
disposed of at Bolor and Badakhshan in its native state and in the form of 
mercury. This mine yields 40,000 ounces of silver. Among the wandering 
Belor-Omis we tasted some very strong spirit which they called telik aruki, 
and distilled from black berries resembling cherries." 

Here we shall conclude our extracts from the account of the 
' Journey through Upper Asia.' On the 3rd of July Georg 

Ludwig von reached the town of Bolor, and remained there 

several weeks, at the request of the Chinese General, proceeding 
afterwards to Bcidakhshan, with regard to which town he observes, 
consistently with the testimony from other sources, that it is 
peopled by Mahometans. At this point of his journey Georg Ludwig 

von quitted for a time the country of the Belors and entered 

that of the Tadjiks. From hence he again journeyed northwards, 
and must have once more encountered the former race, namely, 
at Vokhan. I say must have, because one passage in the Chinese 
geography adduced by Klaproth* bears incontestable evidence 
of Vokhan being peopled by an Indian race, differing entirely 
from the Mahometan Buruts, Turkistanis, and Tadjiks. I have 
already given some account of Vokhan in my article on the 
Pamir, 1 shall therefore merely observe here, that the Chinese 
geography and itinerary translated in 1821 bear uniform evidence 
that a road runs from this small town to Kashgar, past Lake 
Djarik-kul, or immediately across the axis of the Bolor Mountains, 
This doubtless is the same road along which the Chinese general 
Fu-de proceeded to Badakhshan with a large army when in pursuit 
of Boronda and Hozitchman, so celebrated in the history of 
Eastern Turkestan. It is interesting to find that the Chinese 
geography affords us an idea of the former populousness of these 
parts. According to this testimony, the small Bolor territory 
contained, towards the middle of the last century, a population 
of 30,000 families in the valley of the Bolor River ; while that of 
Badakhshan amounted to 100,000 families. From this it will be 
seen that this region is not so thinly inhabited as its mountainous 
and elevated situation would lead one to suppose. 

In order to elucidate the accompanying map, I shall now in 
conclusion recur to some of the accounts given by other European 
travellers, namely, Burnes and Wood, respecting the limits of dis- 
tribution of the Belors and other Kaffir tribes. The first of these 
travellers distinctly states that the inhabitants of Badakhshan are 

* Klaproth, ' Magasin Asiatique,' vol. i. p. 92. I am inclined to think that 
the Belors partly populate the northern portions of Badakhshan, if we may judge 
from the local names of objects in that part. In constructing my map, however, 
I did not venture to adopt this supposition, chiefly because it is scarcely possible 
that the heathen Belors could remain independent subjects of a Mussulman 
kingdom like Badakhshan. — Note of Veniukof. 



VeniuKOF on the Belors and their Country. 279 

Tadjiks, i. e. a race akin to the Iranian Persians. It is only the 
rulers of this principality who lay claim to a descent from Alexander 
the Great, that is to say, to a non-Asiatic origin. Hence it would 
appear that the Belors do not spread into the valley of the Sharud, 
and are most probably confined to the valley of the Bolor River. 
On the other hand, however, we read on the same authority that 
the Khan of Kunduz had succeeded in subjecting Chitral to his 
rule, and was in receipt of tribute from this town in slaves, whom 
he usually despatched to Bukhara for sale. This, again, evidently 
refers to unbelievers or Kaffirs, who, as Burnes states, speak a 
distinct dialect. Wood likewise, in the valley of the Amu-Daria, 
or Pandj, beyond Ish-Kashm Pass, met with a strange race of 
people who interested him no less than the Pamir Kirghizes, 
these latter having strayed beyond their usual haunts at the period 
of Wood's visit. He informs us that among the former he found 
some traces of the doctrines of Zoroaster, and also saw two ruined 
temples. All this testimony tends to define the western limits of 
prevalence of this enigmatical race; while with regard to their 
northern limits of distribution, we possess the testimony of our 

traveller Georg Ludwig von in two places of his narrative, 

and also of that of Klaproth. The southern limits of the Kaffir- 
Sahpushes have for some years past been pretty accurately defined 
on European maps, from the accounts supplied by Elphinstone, 
Burnes, and others. Their eastern limits, however, the evidence 
of Chinese geography notwithstanding, cannot yet be fixed with 
any certainty in the absence of more accurate ethnological data. 
In all probability the inhabitants of Iskardo, Gilgit, and of the 
parts adjoining Karshu are of this race. To prove this it is 
requisite to obtain correct physiological and linguistic data. Even 
a brief vocabulary of the dialect spoken there would be of the 
greatest value ; and a philological examination of the words of 
the dialect of Chitral, cited by Burnes, and of the dictionary of 
the Dardu language, compiled by Cunningham, would prove ex- 
ceedingly interesting. 



XXI. — On the Exploration of the North Polar Region. By 
Captain Sheeakd Osboen, e.n., c.b.* 

Bead, January 23, 1865. 

Arctic discovery, however imperfectly treated, must always, I 
feel sure, claim the attention of all true lovers of geography and 
physical science, especially that of a Society which, in its present 
prosperity, represents the deep interest recently exhibited by all 

* Keprinted, by order of the Council, from the ' Proceedings,' vol. ix.