The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xxxv.

Of the Province of Yarcan.

Yarcan is a province five days’ journey in extent. The people follow the Law of Mahommet, but there are also Nestorian and Jacobite Christians. They are subject to the same Prince that I mentioned, the Great Kaan’s nephew. They have plenty of everything, [particularly of cotton. The inhabitants are also great craftsmen, but a large proportion of them have swoln legs, and great crops at the throat, which arises from some quality in their drinking-water.] As there is nothing else worth telling we may pass on.1

NOTE 1. — Yarkan or Yarken seems to be the general pronunciation of the name to this day, though we write YARKAND.

[A Chinese traveller, translated by M. Gueluy (Desc. de la Chine occidentales, p. 41), says that the word Yarkand is made of Iar, earth, and Kiang (Kand?), large, vast, but this derivation is doubtful. The more probable one is that Yarkand is made up of Yar, new, and Kand, Kend, or Kent, city. — H. C.]

Mir ‘Izzat Ullah in modern days speaks of the prevalence of goitre at Yarkand. And Mr. Shaw informs me that during his recent visit to Yarkand (1869) he had numerous applications for iodine as a remedy for that disease. The theory which connects it with the close atmosphere of valleys will not hold at Yarkand. (J. R. A. S. VII. 303.)

[Dr. Sven Hedin says that three-fourths of the population of Yarkand are suffering from goitre; he ascribes the prevalence of the disease to the bad quality of the water, which is kept in large basins, used indifferently for bathing, washing, or draining. Only Hindu and “Andijdanlik” merchants, who drink well water, are free from goitre.

Lieutenant Roborovsky, the companion of Pievtsov, in 1889, says: “In the streets one meets many men and women with large goitres, a malady attributed to the bad quality of the water running in the town conduits, and drunk by the inhabitants in its natural state. It appears in men at the age of puberty, and in women when they marry.” (Proc. R. G. S. 2 ser. XII. 1890, p. 36.)

Formerly the Mirza (J. R. G. S. 1871, p. 181) said: “Goitre is very common in the city [of Yarkund], and in the country round, but it is unknown in Kashgar.”

General Pievtsov gives to the small oasis of Yarkand (264 square miles) a population of 150,000, that is, 567 inhabitants per square mile. He, after Prjevalsky’s death, started, with V. L. Roborovsky (botanist) and P. K. Kozlov (zoologist), who were later joined by K. I. Bogdanovich (geologist), on his expedition to Tibet (1889–1890). He followed the route Yarkand, Khotan, Kiria, Nia, and Charchan. — H. C.]

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24