Journal directory listing - Volume 21-30 (1976-1985) - Volume 27 (1982)

The Last Survey and Exploration of the Northwestern Provinces of China by Dr. Sven Hedin 1933-35 Author: Yen-Huai Liu(Institute of Geography College of Liberal Arts) Abstract


After the completion of the field works of the Sino-Swedish Scientific Expedition to the North Western Provinces of China 1927-33, Dr. Sven Hedin, leader of that expedition, was requested by the Chinese government to lead an expedition with motorcars for planning and surveying two motor roads across Northwestern China: one extending from Kwei-hua on the Peiping-Paotou railway to Hami and further, via Tihwa, to Tacheng; the other from Sian, on the Lung-hai railway via Lanchow, Kiuchuan, Anhsi and Lobnor to Shufu (Kashgor).
November 10th 1933 this expedition left Kweihua with three lorries and one sedan. The staff of the expedition consisted of Dr. Sven Hedin, leader of the project and Adviser to the Ministry of Railways. Further more, the topographers were Parker C. Chen and F. Bergman, the road engineers I.C. Yew and C. C. Kung, medical officer Dr. David Huommel and motor experts and interpreters George Soederbom and K: E. Hill Except Yew, Kung and Hill, all the others had been members of the former Sino-Swedish expedition 1927-33.
The highway expedition travelled at first along the main caravan road to Hami via Pei-ling-miao (Batu Khalaghan-u Sueme). West of Chendamen they had to . leave the caravane road because of the increased drift sand. On Christmas Eve they arrived at Wayun Tooroy near the river Edsengol. The journey was continued on January 16th 1934 and entered the Black Gobi. The survey with motor cars, made by Chen and Bergman, was carried on until Huang-lu-kang, 25 km.. before reaching Hami. At Hami they found themselves in the midst of the rebellious Tungan army of Ma-chung-ying which was advancing from Anhsi toward Tihwa. During the remaining journey of the expedition via Turfan, Karashar to Korla under severe military control through the country where civil war was raging, any kind of survey was impossible. Their adventures and hardships in the hands of undisciplined soldiers, first by the Tungans, later by the victorious provincial governamental troops, have been vividly told by Hedin in Vol. III of the History of the Expedition 1933-35 (1945). After their release, they had the opportunity to survey the lower Tarim River and its delta with the new lake of Lobnor.
On April 15th. the whole expedition moved to Yue-li-hsien and divided into two. parties. One with motor cars travelled along the edge of the gravelly Piedmont desert, halting at certain places to wait the boat party. The road survey and mapping were carried out by Yew, kung and Bergman. The boat party consisted of Hedin and Chen, 10 boatmen and six double canoes. The mapping of the river was done by Hedin; Chen was engaged with measuring the swiftness of the current and the speed attained by the paddles. Chen measured also the depth profile of the river and its volume sometimes.
On April 24th, the boat party reached the second meeting place with the motorcar party encamped close to the river, south of the well Yardang Bulak. From here the boat party continued down the river following its main artery. This took them to the ruined watch tower of Tuken. Owing to shallowness of the waterways an attempt to the proper lake failed. Finally a navigable channel was found which took them into the narrow northern part of Lobnor. Their mapping by boat ended in May 1934.
On April 29th, Bergman and Soederbom with a guide started an exploration of graves in this part of desert with a small caravane of donkeys. They found many graves and burial places dating from Lou-lan times and some centuries later in the middle of the Lob Desert. The abundance of fragments of potery and other artifacts found on the surfaces over a large area bear witness of former habitation in this region which is today sandy desert.
From June 13th. until August 8th 1934 Chen prformed the feat of mapping at the height of summer. The whole system of lakes along the Southern side of the Tarim River to the scale of 1:50,000 thus completing and adjusting the map made by Hedin during the boat journey.
By the end of August the whole party proceeded to Tihwa. Dr. Hummel was seriously ill and Bergman accompanied him on the journey home. The next point on Hedin's programme was to complete the survey of the silk road from Anhsi and Tunhuang to Altmish Bulak. Hedin wanted also to complete the survey of the present configuration of the lake Lobnor and the changes which occured after 1931. They left Tihwa on October 21st and reached Anhsi nine days later. A new survey party to Lobnor was started from Tunhuang on November 8th with two lorries and a sedan car. At Ma-lien-chuean faint traces of an ancient road were encountered running slightly south of west, marked by cairns and a few ruined watch towers. This ancient road took them to Loto-ching where they lost the traces. On December 3rd the survey was continued. Later on their route to the West they went over an undulating plain of black gravel. They stayed for five days on the ancient beach of Greater Lobnor.
They returned to Anhsi by the same route as they left and reached Sian on February 8th 1935. In March Hedin came back to Peiping, after his official visit to Nanking and Hankow. On March 14th the author invited him to held a public lecture in the National Peiping Normal University where the author was professor at that time. On March 14th and 16th the members of the former Scientific Expedi-tion and the Scientific Association at Peiping held dinner parties to celebrate Hedin's success and return and also his 70th birthday.
Dr. Svery Hedin was born on February 19th, 1865, and died on November 18th, 1957. in Stockholm, Sweden.

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