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A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

A restless confusion of dragons from Leh


The

famous shawls which fetched such prices in England in early Victorian days are no longer valued, having suffered an eclipse similar to that undergone by the pictures of certain early Victorian Royal Academicians, and the loss of the shawl trade was a severe blow to Kashmir. With the exception of occasional specimens of these shawls, which, however, can be bought cheaper at sales in London, there are no _old_ embroideries to be got.

The wood-carving industry, too, is quite modern; but, although of great excellence and ingenuity in manipulation, it does not appeal to me, being too florid and copious in its application of design. A restless confusion of dragons from Leh, lotus from the Dal Lake, and the ever-present chenar leaf, hobnob together with British--very British--crests and monograms on the tops of tables and the seats of chairs--portions of the furniture that should be left severely plain.

British taste is usually bad, and to it, and not to Kashmiri initiative, must be ascribed the production of such exotic works as bellows embellished with chaste designs of lotus-buds, and afternoon tea-tables flaunting coats-of-arms (doubtless dating from the Conquest), beautifully carved in high relief just where the tray--the bottom of which is probably ornamented with a flowing design of raised flowers--should rest!

The lacquered papier-mache work--often extremely pretty when left

to its own proper Cabul pattern or other native design--aims too often at attracting the eye of the mighty hunter by introducing an inappropriate markhor's head. The old lacquer-work is difficult to get, and, when obtained, is high in price; but comparison between the old and the new shows the gulf that lies between the loving and skilful labour of the artist and the stupid and generally "scamped" achievement of him who merely "knocks off" candlesticks and tobacco-boxes by the score, to sell to the English visitor--papier-mache being superseded by wood, and lacquer by paint.

The workers in silver, copper, and brass are many, but their productions are usually rough and inartistic. Genuine old beaten metal-work is almost unobtainable, although occasionally desirable specimens from Leh do find their way into the Srinagar shops.

Chinese porcelain is to be got, usually in the form of small bowls; but it is not of remarkably good quality, and the prices asked for it are higher than in London.

The jewellers' work is very far behind that of India. Amethysts of pale colour and yellow topaz are cheap. Fine turquoise do not come into Kashmir, but plenty of the rough stones (as well as imitations) are to be found, which, owing to a transitory fashion, are priced far above their intrinsic value. They come from Thibet.

A great deal of a somewhat soft and ugly-coloured jade is sent from Yarkand, also agates and carnelian; beads of these are strung into rather uncouth necklets, which may be bought for half the sum first asked.


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