Thence we proceeded south-westward, and arrived after three days at a city, the ruler of which, likewise a Mohammedan, met and regaled us. The next day we passed another city, and after two days' travelling reached the river Ho-Wan mu-lien. We crossed it on a floating bridge, and stopped on its western bank. The guardian of the bridge presented to Chen- hai a fish with an enormous mouth and without scales. The sources of this river are in the south-east, between two snowy mountains; its water is muddy and runs rapidly, the depth being several chang [=10 Chinese feet]. It flows to the north-west, it is unknown how many thousand li, being bounded on the south-west by a desert, without water or grass, extending more than 200 li; for which reason we travelled there in the night. We went southward to high mountains covered with snow (in winter), and then to the west. These mountains are connected with the southern mountains of Sie-mi-sz'-kan (Samarkand).
We then arrived at a city where we found grass and water, and farther on passed another city, the chief of which, a Mohammedan, came to meet us, and entertained us at a place south of the city with a dinner and wine. By his orders boys performed some plays, dancing with swords and climbing on poles. After this we passed two cities more, travelled half a day among mountains, and came out at a valley which stretched from south to north. Here we passed the night under a splendid mulberry tree, which could cover with its shade a hundred men.
Farther on we reached another city, and saw on the road a well more than a hundred feet deep, where an old man, a Mohammedan, had a bullock which turned the draw-beam and raised water for thirsty people. The emperor Chinghiz, when passing here, had seen this man, and ordered that he should be exempted from taxes and duties.
On the 18th of the eleventh month (December 3), after crossing a great river, we arrived at the northern side of the great city of Sie-mi-sz'-kan. We were met in the suburb by the T'ai shi [=the highest Chinese minister; the emperor's counselor] Yi-la kuo kung, the chief officers of the Mongol army, the chiefs of the Mohammedans, &c. and having pitched a great number of tents, we rested there.
Chung lu (the adjutant), who had left the master, and hastened to inform the emperor, was found detained here by some hindrances on the road. He said to the master: "On our road, at a distance of about a thousand li, is a great river (the Amu river). I have been informed that the rebels have destroyed the floating bridge and the boats there. Besides this, we are now in the depth of winter. I think it would be better to wait and start in spring." The master agreed, and some time afterwards we entered the city (of Samarkand) by the north-eastern gate.
Samarkand is laid out on the borders of canals. As it never rains in summer and autumn, the people have conducted two rivers to the city, and distributed the water through all the streets, so that every house can make use of it. Before the dynasty of the suan-tuan (Sultan of Khorezm) was overthrown, the city of Samarkand had a population of more than a hundred thousand families, but after the occupation only the fourth part remained behind. Most of the fields and gardens belong to the Mohammedans, but they are not allowed to dispose of them. They are obliged to manage their properties in conjunction with Ti-tan (i.e., Karakhitai), Chinese, and men from Ho si [=Tanguts]. Chinese workmen are living everywhere. In the middle of the city there is an elevated place, about a hundred feet high, on which the new palace of the Sultan was built. Formerly the T'ai shi lived here, but as this part of the city had become insecure owing to numerous robbers, he had withdrawn to the northern side of the river. The master with his disciples then occupied the palace, declaring that Taoists have no fear. The T'ai shi furnished everything for the master's subsistence, and from day to day his veneration for him increased. We saw there peacocks and great elephants, which had come from Yin-du (India), a country situated several thousand li to the south-east.
The master remained for the winter in Samarkand, and the adjutant with several hundred soldiers proceeded to explore the road in advance. We had often visits of Chinese, who came to bow before the master. There was also an astronomer, whom the master asked about the eclipse, which had happened on the 1st of the fifth month. The astronomer said: "At this place (Samarkand), between seven and nine o'clock in the morning it was at its greatest, when six-tenths of the sun were eclipsed." The master then remarked that he observed the same eclipse on the river Lu ku, and just at noon it was total; but that when he arrived in his journey to the south-west at the Kin shan (Altai mountains), the people told him that at that place the eclipse was at its greatest at ten o'clock in the morning, and seven-tenths of the sun were eclipsed. Thus the same eclipse was seen at different places in different aspects. Kuny Ying ta, in his commentary on the Ch' un ts'iu (Spring and Autumn Annals by Confucius), says: "When it happens that the moon stands opposite the sun, we have an eclipse; but it is only observable for those who are straight under the moon. As regards those who are distant from this spot, the aspect of the eclipse changes for them at every thousand li. If one take, for instance, a fan, and put it before a light, then a place will be seen entirely covered by the shadow; whereas on the sides, where there is gradually more light, one is by degrees farther removed from the overshadowed place."
pp. 75-80, E. Bretschneider's Mediæval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources. (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1888).