SERINDIA - STEIN
Volume II, Chapter XX
History and Records of Tun Huang line
In this chapter Sir Aurel summarizes
the results of his research on the ground of the Tun Huang wall during his
second expedition and adds comments and his conclusions based on reference also
to written Chinese records and translations of some of the documents he found
at locations on the wall and towers.
Section I - Extension of the Limes beyond
Stein found that Chinese records help one learn details of the
wall construction and thereby elaborate on the archeological and topographical
information he developed on the site from his survey itself. Among the
documents he found in refuse at several towers are the oldest Chinese
manuscripts known. He asked M. Chavannes, a Sinologist scholar to translate and
comment on these, which he did in his report "Documents chinois".
In 214 B. C. the Emperor, Shih Huang-tu who
founded the Ch'in Dynasty linked several of the defensive walls built by
previous ancient kingdoms. His wall from Shan-hai Kuan on the Gulf of Lio-tung
went west as far as Lin-t'ao, now in the Min prefecture in southern part of
Kan-su - 110 miles south of Lan-chou. A century later the "Great
Wall" was extended north-west as a defensive wall. The Han wall was new
not only in construction but also in purpose. It was not for strategic defense,
but it went 1000 miles further west to the edge of the Tarim basin to protect a
strategic offensive expansion into west-central Asia.
Chang- Ch'ien conducted missions 138-126 B.C.
under Emperor Wu-ti with the initial objective of securing allies among the
Yulh-chih (Indo-Scythians) against the Hsiung-nu who continually attacked
China. But the missions revealed to the Chinese the great possibilities for new
commercial relations also if the Chinese could open trade routes via the Tarim
to Farghana- Sogdiana and the Oxus region.
Chang Ch'ien's report to the emperor is in the Ch'ien Han shu. It showed
that communication west would be at the mercy of the Hsiung-nu from the north
and the Ch'iang Tibetans from the south over the first section - that is prior
to reaching the vast desert. It was at the location of Tun-huang that the
passage was narrow and the two nomadic tribal groups could meet. From there
westward the absolute desert of Lop protected caravans from attack.
Beyond the Lop desert there were two great routes across the Tarim basin. The
desert oases were unsuitable for occupation by nomads. If the Chinese could
establish control over the small local groups inhabiting these oases they could
protect convoys. The locals would welcome Chinese power to provide protection
and also greatly increase profitable trade.
So Tun-huang was the gate and base for expeditions to the West - one along the
south side of the desert along easy and safe route along the foothills of the
Nan-shan mountains which provided water. This is still a main road. Between
Lan-chou and Liang-chou at the east end of the Nan-shan there is an easy pass
into this corridor. Beyond Lang-chou there are no natural difficulties for a
road through fertile valleys with plenty of streams.
The main rivers - the Kan-chou and Su-chou become together large enough to
penetrate northward toward southern Mongolia. However, along this narrow belt
west from Liang-chou to Su-chou the only practical invasion route from the
north for large armies is along this river named the Etsin-gol. It is by this
route that Chingis Khan eventually invaded Kan-chou in
So the narrow corridor, protected on both flanks was the only route west. On
the south-west side the Richthofen Mountains, high and always snowy, was a
rampart with few alpine routes through which small Tibetan nomad groups might
raid. And these were easily defended and fortified. On the north-east flank the
Ala-shan mountains, low but barren and with extensive desert beyond were a good
Beyond Su-chou a narrow agricultural belt of oases was enough to provide food
support for caravans and defensive garrisons clear to Tun-huang.
Thus the topography shows the reason for the location of the Han wall.
In 121 B.C. general Ho-Ch'u-ping defeated the
Hsiung-nu sufficiently to establish Chinese control over Kan-chou and
Liang-chou. In 115 B.C. the Chinese created a
command center at Su-chou and began establishing military colonies along the
route west. Then another command center was established at Liang-chou. In
111 B.C. two command centers divided the region
with headquarters at Kan-chou and Tun-huang. In 119 B.
C. the Chinese passed north of the Huang-ho to set up military colonies
of 50,000 to 60,000 men. The Chinese annals describe the building of the wall
west from 121 B.C. but not the details of specific
Stein remarks that prior to 1914 he had not looked for the wall east of Mao-mei
on the middle Etsin-gol. He repeatedly compares this Han wall with Roman
frontier walls in Africa, Middle East and Europe.
Chinese records from 108 B.C. relate the line of
posts and forts from Chin-ch'uan or Su-chou as far as Yu-men (the Jade Gate) so
named because precious jade was imported through this gate. Jade comes from
yu=jade. Stein locates the Jade Gate at tower Txiv from 96 B.C. or somewhat earlier.
But he considers that prior to 103 B.C. the key
gate may have been located further east and he proposes two possible locations.
He did survey the wall between Su-chou and An-hsi in 1914.
One possible alternate location for the Jade Gate is near Shih-esh-tun, 15
miles north of Yu-men-hsien, where the wall now from north of Su-chou reaches
the Su-lo- Ho river west at a bend of the river. If the wall indeed had a
headquarters at that place the marsh south and along the right bank of the
Su-lo Ho river would provide good flank defensive protection. In 1914 the route
Shih-esh-tun to Su-chou north of the hills was practical.
The other possible location for the Jade Gate in 103
B.C. is the defile between Bulungir (Pu-lung-chi)_ and An-hsi where the
Su-lo Ho passes the foot of low hills at Wan-shan-tzu on the left bank and a
ridge on the right bank. This is the only defile along the Su-lo -Ho after it
leaves the mountains and it is easy to watch and defend.
In 1914 Stein traced the wall on the right bank - north side - across the
Su-lo- Ho - a decayed section - to hills that have a tower. On the steep south
side the wall must have continued, but Stein found no remains. A series of
watch towers from a later period was found on successive spurs where the high
road from Bulungir to An-hsi passes. This shows that the defile was specially
guarded even much later after the Han wall was abandoned. Twelve miles further
west of the Hsiao-wan oasis the remains of the Han wall and towers are again
found on a gravel glacis toward An-hsi.
The defile at Bulungir was suitable for a main guard station before the Han
wall was built. Twelve miles east of Wan-Shan tzu defile is a large now
abandoned circumvallation at Bulungir. During Manchu era this was a major
garrison. Below the point where the road from Bulungir ascends the Wan-shan tzu
spurs near the left bank of the river is a group of Chinese temples at
Lau-chun-miao which might indicate that this area was near a major gate.
Whereever the Jade gate was in 103 B.C. a few
years later it was moved west to tower T xiv north of Tun-huang. The Former Han
annals record the success of Lu'Kuang'li on his second expedition against the
Ta-yhuan in 102-101 B.C. and that the wall was
moved westward -forward - beyond Tun-huang at that time. The western peoples
sent delegations to the emperor then to increase diplomatic relations and
trade. To protect these caravans military posts were built from Tun-huang
westward to the Salt Marsh.
Stein points to documents he found dating from 98 B. C.
to 96 - to 94 B.C. at various towers. So the 'limes' reached Txiv the
Jade Gate by 96 B.C.
The wall was built rapidly during a few years, but Chinese military
organization was well prepared for the task. In 104 B.
C. Lu' Kuang-li took 10,000 men from China into the Lop desert route but
few returned. In 102 B.C. on his second expedition
he took from Tun-huang 60,000 men plus camp followers, 100,000 cattle, 30,000
horses and returned in 101 B. C. at the Jade gate
with only 10,000 men.
The Chinese development of their wall defense was similar to the Roman limes.
The topography shows the local reasons for site selection. Wu-ti's engineers
made the wall to Tower Tiv on the edge of the marsh filled basin of the Su-lo
Ho. This was the best place for flank protection. The wall ended where it used
the west border of the lake and marsh. Likewise the line of watch towers beyond
the end of the wall - Ti Tii - was intended to provide added security for the
exposed western end of the wall. Advanced posts made it easy to watch the main
route from the west and send a warning. The line of watch towers was similar to
the Roman line in the African desert.
(Stein discussed this in an article about Third Journey of Exploration in the
Geographical Journal number xlviii page 127). In 1914 Stein discovered
near the NW edge of the salt sea the ruins of a fortified camp at the location
of the exit of the route from the sea (Discussed in Innermost Asia). He
also found more watch towers in 1915 along the Kan che-darya toward Korla on
the road beyond Lou lan.
Section II - The Tun-huang Limes since
Stein notes that there is no direct data on Chinese records apart from general
history, but in the documents he found from 68 B.
C. to mid 1st century they show Chinese control of the Tarim Basin, then
Lou lan was reduced in 77 B. C. There was a
Chinese protectorate general in 60 A. D. But no
documents were found with dates between 39 B. C.
and 1 A. D. But during the reign of Wang
Mang A. D. 9 - 23 there was another change. The
Late Han annals dated 6 B. C. to
5 A. D. show a break up of the western regions.
There was much border defense activity during the Wang Mang reign. Wall towers
Txiv - Tiv were abandoned.
The wall at right angles from the Jade Gate to Yang barrier was for active
defense. The Chinese needed to reduce the extent of the wall defenses being
occupied in order to concentrate their forces. Chinese power was less after
25 A. D. They lost control of the Tarim Basin and
held only the wall east of the Jade gate. During A. D.
58-75 the Hsung-nu twice attacked Tun-huang and the area clear east to
Su-chou and Kan-chou. In A. D. 73 Chinese policy
of offensive was renewed under General Pan Ch'ao. In A.
D. 73-102 the Chinese had victories and reigned control of the Tarim
basin. This reduced the requirement for large garrison wall defense. This
advance was based on the northern route to Hami established in 73 AD. The line An-hsi - Hami since then has been the
chief route west.
After 102 A. D. the Chinese control was again
lost. 153 A. D. is the last date in the Han annals
for Chinese operations west. In AD 153 also was the last dated for a document
that Stein found. So the wall was abandoned but not the caravan route via
Lou-lan. At Lou-lan he found documents from A. D. 263 -
330. Then the monk, Hsuan-tsang, made his pilgrimage to India passing
through in 630 A.D. Then the Jade gate was near
An-hsi. In the T'ang era the Jade gate likely was at Txiv again as it is
mentioned in some T'ang memoirs.
Section III - Main Features of the
Remains of the Limes
The wall was kept close to the route of Su-lo Ho river to its end in the
extensive marsh. The river was used as a natural defense north of the wall. The
wall was uniform in design and construction methods. The gap in the wall where
the river and marsh made attack impossible shows the defense was adequate and
parallels Roman wall design. Construction methods made use of natural
resources. The use of fascines placed cross wise in regular layers alternating
with stamped clay and gravel helped protect the wall from wind erosion. The
fascines of reeds or tamarisk branches (wild poplars) which were nearby were
easy to obtain. They were the same thickness as the wall - 7.5 to 8 feet. Water
was used to reduce the stamped clay to cement, but it came from a distance.
Behind the wall but close to it was the chain of watch towers for guard and to
The towers were NOT designed for strengthening the defensive capacity of the
wall. Most towers had quarters for small detachments of watchmen and patrols.
The distances between towers varied greatly according to the characteristics of
the terrain - extent of view and vulnerable terrain. The section NE of
Tun-huang - towers Txxxi - Txxxv - were at 3/4 mile intervals between each
other. The distances between towers to the west were usually greater - in once
case 4.5 miles, but on the opposite shore of Lake Khara Nor.
In the SW flank which was well protected by natural defenses - marsh - there
was no wall line, but only watch towers 5 miles apart on high ground. Along the
wall line towers were on high ground, clay ridges or mesas. But towers Txviia -
Txix - Txxi were only guard stations on veery high ground. The watch towers
were all solid (no interiors) and square. They tended to narrow toward the top
and vary in size and height and material. The tower bases were from 16 to 24
feet square. Decay prevented absolute measurement of many heights. Some were 30
feet - such as Tvvid - others had floors of a guard room at 8-13 feet height,
related to the height of the ground base; the elevation of the base and range
of vision.. Material depended on local conditions. Bricks - sun dried - were
used when water was not available. Some used clods of salt impregnated clay -
tower Tx fig 174, for example. Soil for this clay contains brackish,
The wall was always strengthened by insertion of layers of reeds, usually after
3 courses of bricks, or stamped clay or clods. The masonry was reinforced by
insertion of solid Toghrak timbers. The excellent construction resulted in less
erosion from the terrible wind-driven sand over 2000 years. There were small
guard rooms on top of some towers - such as Tvic - Tvi - Txxx - Txxi - Txxiiia
- All towers must have had shelter and a parapet and at least access to the top
of course. The remains of stairs at some towers were visible. At others there
were foot holes - the men used ropes to climb up. In the room on top of some
towers defensive large stones were found.
Defensive methods were the same along the wall and in fortified villages and
farms near Tun-huang - Su-chou and Kan-su. Even the walls of Ch'sen- huang
-gate castle at Chia- yu kuan had stores of stones for missiles. (see Desert
Cathay). But the watch towers were not strong defenses - just for small
garrisons. Some towers were close to the wall at 19 feet but some as much as 24
yards from it. They were not for defense of the wall. Towers were plastered and
painted white wash which is visible now were the wall was protected by adjacent
quarters. Towers were made more visible at a distance this way. The quarters
were very small. An example is Tower Tvib. They could accommodate less than a
dozen men. Quarters had only one small entrance. The walls were of brick, same
as the tower.
Ruins separate from the wall have been discussed already. From the east there
was the ancient magazine at Txviii at a special location on the route to Lop. A
document shows the date to the 1st century B. C.
It was built at the same time as the wall. The traffic there went to Lou-lan.
Next is the Yu-men - Jade gate - a small but massive fort, Txiv, on the route
to Lou-lan. It was chosen to meet the need for a headquarters station. The
extent of the refuse heap there shows extensive use of this site. Txva, north
of Txiv, also had extensive use to control the passage through the wall. The
next tower, Txii, was located where ground made it easy to have a police
traffic control post on the Lou-lan route. Tower Tixa was well beyond (north of
) the wall for control of foreign ground and protected by the marsh and
terminal tower Tiv. Probably there was an entrenched camp on the caravan
halting place. The line of the watch towers on the SW flank and separate from
the wall included Tvib, a small station as a section headquarters for the flank
There probably never existed on our globe a system as systematically organized
and guarded on a border line stretching over desert ground which was as barren
and forbidding as that traversed by the Great wall beyond Tun-huang must have
been all through historical times. Two conclusions are clear. First, we must
realize that on such ground the constant maintenance of considerable
detachments or bodies of troops along a line which for great stretches was
devoid even of water, would have presented most serious difficulties about
supplies and transport. This makes it obvious that regular pickets along the
wall were small. for maintenance of signal and patrol service and protection
from few raiders. Large forces were stationed only at the Tun-huang and Nan-hu
oasis. Second, it is improbable that on such ground other structured remains
not seen by Stein and team were likely as they crossed and recrossed the area
Section IV - Military agricultural
This section is Stein's analysis and commentary based on documents recovered at
the various wall towers, especially document 60 found at Tvib. This is a
specific 'imperial order given to the governor of the command, Chiu-ch'uan', to
establish a military agricultural colony. The document prescribes that 2000
soldiers from the garrison command of Tun-huang should be established in a
colony that will provide agricultural products to feed the troops assigned to
the frontier posts. But the location for this agricultural enterprise is not
specified. Stein considered the possibilities based on the terrain, water
supply, and distances to the wall. Since it would be impossible to grow
anything in the terrain adjacent to the wall itself, he considers that the only
possibilities would be the oasis at Tun-huang or at Nan-hu. The latter being
closer to the wall, he opts for that location. Considering that the document
was found at tower Tvib he believes it relates to the the extension of the wall
built west of Tun-huang. He notes that his examination of the actual wall shows
how closely it conforms to the specifications in the Imperial edict. He dates
this edict to later than 111 B. C. It refers to
the mentioned command at Chiu-ch'uan which is Su-chou which was at that time
the location of the main advanced base.
Other documents at T vib date as far back as 68 B. C.
so at least this edict is dated after 102-101 B.
C. which is the time the wall was extended westward as planned to reach
the natural line of defense to the south-west where T vib was located. Since
Tvib was the location of a very large refuse dump of documents, Stein believes
it was also an office.
Stein then is mostly concerned with the location of the agricultural colony
prescribed in the edict. He notes that such colonies were an essential part of
Emperor Wu-ti's program and necessary for logistical support of the wall
garrisons. They were also necessary for support of the caravans and expeditions
traveling further west, beyond the wall. The original small inhabited places
conquered from the Hsiung-nu and Yueh-chih could not support such extensive
requirements for food and fodder. But such agricultural communities could not
be established right near the wall, either, because it was located in totally
Stein here refers to the vivid descriptions of the towers and their locations
already given in prior chapters. He comments, "Cultivation was never
possible within historical times either in the marshy depressions which skirt
the terminal course of the Su-lo Ho or on the gravel plateaus which over look
and divide them". and "Nor could there have been, during historical
times, a sufficient permanent supply of water at the foot of the hills west of
Nan-hu to cross the huge gravel glacis, partly covered with high dunes, and
assure irrigation south or south-west of the Limes."
He notes that the existence of wooden documents in excellent condition after
2000 years shows how dry the area has always been. Nor could he discover any
traces in the ground of agricultural occupation. Thus he concludes, as
described above, that the only possibilities were the two oases, Tun-huang and
Nan-hu, both quite a bit south of the wall. He notes further that his
conclusion indicates that the defense of the wall was entrusted to colonies of
soldiers who acted also a cultivators, and were settled some distance from the
wall. This conforms to the clear evidence that the wall and towers were
occupied only by very small detachments (since the accommodations there were
very small). Thus the permanent organization, which lasted for over two
centuries, was well organized in every respect in conformity with the realities
of the topography and climate.
As he comments, "No system could have been better adapted to overcome them
than one combining the provision of a permanent local force for the Limes with
the production of the food supplies which it needed. It is obvious that such a
system was workable only on the basis which would allow the bulk of the soldier
colonists to remain near their lands except in times of emergency while the
actual guard and signal service along the desert Limes were carried on by small
detachments in turn."
Stein then provides lengthy examples of similar methods used by the
Romans along their Limes (which Stein consciously copies in his terminology) -
and by the Austrians along their "Militar-Grenze" in the Balkans. But
the small number of documents prevents detailed study of the actual Chinese
organization and allows for only 'general observations'. But document number 60
is not the only one that provides some valuable information. Document number
63, found at the same tower, is another imperial edict concerning three
companies that garrisoned watch-posts on the extreme south-west end of the
Section V - Officers and soldiers of the
In this section Stein continues with more detailed study. We can only touch on
some of this here. He has examined and analyzed the large pile of documents
retrieved from all the towers as a body and formed his conclusions based on
this unified study. Plus, he repeatedly refers to the studies of noted French
Sinologist, M. Chavannes, who was able to evaluate this collection with
reference to his extensive study of Han Dynasty archives. (Stein throughout his
books always gives extensive credit to the many specialists with whom he
collaborates). In this section Stein begins at the top, so to speak, - with
what can be known of the high command along the wall.
At the time of Emperor Wang Mang apparently there was a high commander who in
turn controlled four commands between Tun-huang and Liang-chou. Another
document refers to an administrator in Chiu-ch'uan (Su-chou). The local command
was entrusted to an officer based in Tun-huang itself. In turn, this commander
(governor) controlled several different sections of the Limes. One of these was
the Yu-men barrier.
There were also local commanders at Tun-huang and Yi-ho. Stein describes quite
a few details of the command structure, including the Chinese titles for
various ranks or offices) gleaned from the documents.
He notes,. "The fact that the great mass of our Limes documents has been
recovered at small watch-posts explains why references to officers subordinate
to the 'tu-wei' (military commandant) are far more numerous." The
company commanders were called tui-chang. Documents describing many of
their routine actions, such as receipts for food supply, are numerous. Each
company had its distinctive name and each held a specific portion of the Limes
walls and towers. From the documents Stein presumes that each 'company' may
have been associated with a specific 'station' but that these 'stations' could
not have been along the wall itself.
The t'ing was an administrative subdivision comprising 10 li each
of 25 families. The t'ing was a small area within the oasis the
population of which was expected to provide a company tui for guards on
the Limes. The t'ing provided not only food but also troops. "Thus
the t'ing was both a permanent recruiting area as well as the supply
base in ordinary times for the company contingent which it furnished."
Thus there were two officials - one the t'ing-chan was commandant of the
area -and the other, the tui-chang, was commander of the troop unit that
it supplied. This t'ing would have about 250 families and raise a body
of men for a full company. One specific document (number 198 from the same
tower) describes the a as having at least 145 men (likely a full strength unit
then would be 150 men).
Stein continues with discussion of ch'eng - walled towns - garrisons. He
notes that the remains of these are still seen through out the Kan-su marches
housing villages or serving as refuges.
He discusses the duties of the tui. The daily duty was to provide
detachments in rotation to occupy specific towers and provide patrols along the
wall. This service is mentioned frequently in the documents. The commandant of
a watch tower was designated a hou-chang. He was responsible for all
activities at the tower and of the team there. The main duty of the men at a
watch-tower was observation and then signaling of the approach of unauthorized
or enemy forces.
The wall and towers were not designed for defense against a large enemy
invasion, which in general could not be mounted across the Su-lo Ho anyway. But
rather it was to interdict raiding parties. In addition to unit commanders
apparently there were officers (wei) who were charged with control of
100 li and they had subordinates who inspected various lengths of the
frontier. So the units had external inspectors. The overall impression one has
from reading Stein's analysis is that the Chinese bureaucracy related to the
Han wall was very elaborate.
Stein then analyzes the documents relating to rank and file troops. Many
documents found in the individual towers related to low level personnel issues.
One interesting item is that the documents frequently mention the exact canton
from which the individual came and many of these are far from the frontier
while others came right from Tun-huang. Moreover the men from far distances
were concentrated in some towers while locals were in others. And it appeared
to Stein that soldiers stationed in the early era of wall construction came
from a distance while those whose service indicated later times came from the
locality. Plus, the men from a distance were mainly convicts conscripted for
this difficult service in the far western desert.
Some of the tower guards were mounted. The records also include units passing
through on their way westward who were issued food supplies from the local
stocks. The records also indicate that non-Chinese individuals were involved.
Stein notes that the extensive international trade brought many foreigners to
Section VI - Service Conditions of Life
on the Limes
In this section Stein describes duties and supplies. He notes that a main duty
of a tower detachment was to send signals by smoke during daylight or fire at
night. He already noted the piles of fascines carefully laid out in readiness
near some of the towers. He also noted that on the top of some towers there was
evidence of burning. And the documents (such as number 552 and 84 - 87) discuss
this as well. This method pre-dated Han era.
Several documents are detailed records of the time and date such a signal was
received and the name of the man who received it. There were signal towers not
on the wall itself, prepared to forward such signals. One document lists some
42,330 bundles of fascines ready for use.
The daily duties of individual soldiers are spelled out in some documents - for
instance, one would be on lookout, two busy collecting more wood or clearing
away brush outside the wall and one acting as cook. Careful records were kept
of all such duties. Another duty was making bricks (with number of men so
employed and number of bricks created). Plastering work recorded the exact
areas accomplished. Records of parties sent to collect wood or hemp or anything
included exact times and distances involved. There were records of the exact
number of days an individual served.
But Stein did not find sufficient records to determine if the low ranking
troops were also paid in cash, but officers were paid in coin in addition to
receiving rations. Other records relate to postal service and include dates for
sending and receiving of mail, including addresses. Records also relate to
notice about individuals or animals passing through the wall going in or out.
Such records were found most frequently at those stations next to official
customs border posts, such as Txva and Txi that were on the caravan route.
Other records refer to supply; food, and arms and armor, and clothing. Food
included wheat, millet and rice and some records detail receipt of specific
food by specific individual soldiers and from whom it came. The central
magazine at Txviii was a granary and Stein found records there for whole cart
loads of food. This supply depot also issued the large quantities of food
required for caravans heading west.
There were copious records of the arms and equipment on hand and turned in for
repair. Stein notes, "Lists, orders, labels and other documents relating
to the arms kept at various watch-posts are abundant. The principal armament of
the Limes guards consisted of cross-bows; they are frequently mentioned and in
several varieties." They were categorized according to the force needed
for stretching the string by weight - 3, 4, 5 and 6 shih a shih
being equivalent to 120 Chinese pounds. Cross bow strings (silk or hemp) were
listed separately. Arrows, too, were inventoried in two types of bronze heads.
Stein found many of these in various types and sizes. Arrows were stored in
bags or boxes containing 100. But the typical issue to a soldier was 150
arrows. Interestingly bows (not cross bows) were mentioned only as arms of
Swords were mentioned only twice in the documents Stein recovered. Shields and
other pieces of leather armor or leather scale armor are listed. Stein found
some pieces of actual scale armor at Niya and lacquered scales at Miran fort.
Chinese records included inspection reports, lists of damaged weapons, which
were routinely turned in to depots for repair.
The soldiers were provided also with clothing, such as tunics and vests. Most
were of linen. Stein also found scraps of silk and leather or hemp shoes. Other
items included hammers for driving tent pegs and much medical supply including
a medicine case. The documents, too describe great attention to medical -
health issues. Medical reports include prescriptions for individual cases and
general recipes for disease. Some, Stein notes, may have been from a note-book
of a local doctor.
Other documents refer to discipline issues including punishments.
Stein remarks on the extensive nature of Chinese bureaucratic record keeping.
The clerks were quite busy. Documents reveal standard bureaucratic phrases and
nomenclature. Orders included requirements that a order be posted in a
prominent place for all to read. There were orders against graft or ignoring
instructions. Some official communications include individual
self-denunciations for shortcomings. There were reports of unauthorized
absences. There were portions of calendars used for keeping accounts.
In addition to official documents, Stein found many private letters and poems
and parts of well known books. Some letters describe the author's hardship from
duty in the remote desert. Many documents are written on silk or wood -
predating the invention of paper. Among the books was the famous Chinese text
Chi'chiu chang, a lexicographical text composed in 48-33
B. C. and used for education in writing Chinese script.