Greatest among modern Asiatic explorers (if we except Prjevalsky) is the brave Swede, Professor Sven Hedin, whose travels through the deserts of Takla Makan and Tibet, and whose investigations in the glacial regions of the Sarikol mountains, occupied him from 1894 to 1896.
In the restoration of the outlines of ancient and medieval geography in Asia Sven Hedin's discoveries of the actual remains of cities which have long been buried under the advancing waves of sand in the Takla Makan desert, cities which flourished in the comparatively recent period of Buddhist ascendancy in High Asia, is of the very highest interest, filling up a blank in the identification of sites mentioned by early geographers and illustrating more fully the course of old pilgrim routes.
In the narrower acceptation it applies only to those ranges which part the desert of Takla-makan on the N.
It appears to be a rule that the rivers which eventually terminate in the deserts of Gobi and Takla-makan grow increasingly larger in magnitude from east to west.
The succession of ranges which follow one another from the deserts of Takla-makan and Gobi up to the plateau proper of Tibet rise in steps or terraces, each range being higher than the range to the north of it and lower than the range to the south of it.
Thus we have in the northern hemisphere the Sahara desert, the deserts of Arabia, Iran, Turan, Takla Makan and Gobi, and the desert regions of the Great Basin in North America; and in the southern hemisphere the Kalahari desert in Africa, the desert of Australia, and the desert of Atacama in South America.
The district of Chitral is called Kashgar (or Kashkar) by the people of the country; and as it was under Chinese domination in the middle of the 18th century, and was regarded as a Buddhist centre of some importance by the Chinese pilgrims in the early centuries of our era, it is possible that it then existed as an outlying district of the Kashgar province of Chinese Turkestan, where Buddhism once flourished in cities that have been long since buried beneath the sand-waves of the Takla Makan.
The great pilgrim route of Buddhist days was that which connects the ancient Buddhist cities of the Takla Makan in Chinese Turkestan with Chitral (Kashkar), by the Baroghil Pass across the Hindu Kush.