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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

In his Sand Buried Cities of Kotan


Suffering

Moses is the prince of workers in lacquer, according to his own showing.

The nose of the boat grates up against the slimy step of the landing-place, and you plunge forthwith into Babel.

"Will you come to my shop?"

"No--you are going somewhere else."

"After?"

"Perhaps!"

"To-day, master?"

"No--no time to-day."

"To-morrow, then--I got very naice kyriasity [curiosity]--to-morrow, master--what time?"

"Oh! get out! and leave me alone."

"I send boat for you--ten o'clock to-morrow?"

"No."

"Twelve o'clock?" &c. &c.

After a short experience of Kashmiri pertinacity and business methods, you cease from politeness and curtly threaten the river.

Certainly the Kashmiri are exceedingly clever and excellent workers in many ways. Their modern embroideries (the old shawl manufacture is totally extinct) are beautiful and artistic. Their wood-carving, almost always executed in rich brown walnut, is excellent; and their _old_ papier-mache lacquer is very good. The tendency, however, is unfortunately to abandon their own

admirable designs, and assimilate or copy Western ideas as conveyed in very doubtful taste by English visitors.

The embroidery has perhaps kept its individuality the best, although the trail of the serpent as revealed in "quaint" Liberty or South Kensington designs is sometimes only too apparent. Certain plants--Lotus, Iris, Chenar leaf, and so-called Dal Lake leaves, as well as various designs taken from the old Kashmir shawls, give scope to the nimble brains and fingers of the embroiderers, who, by-the-bye, are all male.

Their colours, almost invariably obtained from native dyes, are excellent, and they rarely make a mistake in taste.

The coarser work in wool on cushions, curtains, and thick white numdahs is most effective and cheap.

Curiously enough, the best of these numdahs (which make capital rugs or bath blankets) are made in Yarkand; and Stein, in his _Sand-Buried Cities of Kotan_, found in ancient documents, of the third century or so, "the earliest mention of the felt-rugs or 'numdahs' so familiar to Anglo-Indian use, which to this day form a special product of Kotan home industry, and of which large consignments are annually exported to Ladak and Kashmir."

The manufacture of carpets is receiving attention, and Messrs. Mitchell own a large carpet factory. Designs and colours are good, but the prices are not low enough to enable them to compete with the cheap Indian makes; nor, I make bold to say, is the quality such as to justify high prices. The shop of Mohamed Jan is well worth a visit, for three good reasons--first, because his Oriental carpets from Penjdeh and Khiva are of the best; second, because his house is one of the first specimens of a high-class native dwelling existing; and third, because he never worries his customers nor touts for orders--but, then, he is a Persian, and not a Kashmiri!


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