The arable land in Ho chung (Samarkand) is suitable for all kinds of corn. Only the k'iao mai (buckwheat) and the to tou (soya bean) are not found there. In the fourth month (May) wheat ripens; when gathered, the people pile it up in heaps. In the sixth month the intendant of the t'ai shi made a present to the master of water-melons, which in this country are very fragrant and sweet, and of enormous size. We have no water-melons like these in China. When, in the sixth month, the second prince returned, Chung lu requested the master to give him some of his water-melons for a present to the prince. The country is very rich in fruits and vegetables, but yü (colocasia) and chestnuts are wanting. The k'ie [=eggplant] there have the shape of enormous fingers, and are of a purplish colour. Men and women braid their hair. The caps of the nien at a distance resemble hills. They are adorned with embroidery and tassels. All officers wear such caps. The men of the lower classes wrap their heads about with a piece of white mo-sz', about six feet long. The women of the chieftains and the rich envelop their heads with a piece of gauze, from five to six feet long, and of a black or dark red colour. Sometimes flowers and plants or other figures are embroidered upon it. They wear their hair dishevelled. Sometimes they put wadding under it (under the covering of the head?). The women of the lower classes do not braid their hair into a queue on the top of the head. They cover their heads with linen and other stuff, and thus bear some resemblance to our (Buddhist) nuns. As to their dress, men as well as women are wont to put on a kind of shirt made of woollen stuff, of a white colour, which has the appearance of a bag, narrow in the upper part, wide beneath, with sleeves attached to it. If a man grows poor, his wife takes another husband. In the case of the husband going on a journey and not returning home within the space of three months, his wife is allowed to marry another husband. But there is one thing very odd among these people. Some of their women have beards and moustaches.
The carts, boats, and implements of husbandry in that country are very different in appearance from those used in China. Their weapons are made of steel. Most of the vessels they use are made of copper, but there are also found vessels of porcelain, as in China. The vessels for wine are made only of glass. The money they use in commerce is of gold, but has no hole. On both sides are Mohammedan letters.
The people are very strong and tall. They sometimes bear very heavy burdens on their backs without any crossbeam. There are men well versed in books, and who are exclusively taken up with writing. They are called Da-shi-ma. In winter they fast for a whole month, during which every day, at night, the superior kills a sheep for the meal, when all sit round cross-legged, and eat the whole night till morning. Besides this, they have six fastings in other months.
They have high buildings [=minarets] with rafters on the top, standing out about ten feet all around, and on these rafters an empty pavilion rises, hung with tassels. Every morning and evening the superior [=muezzin] goes up and bows to the west. They call this kao t'ien (praying to heaven), for they believe not in Buddhism or Taoism. The superior above sings in a loud tone, and the men and women, hearing his voice, meet at this place and pray below. The same custom exists throughout the whole country. Whoever neglects to perform these ceremonies is executed. The superior is dressed like the others, only his head is wrapped with a piece of white mo-sz'.
In the seventh month, as the new moon had just appeared (August 8, 1222), the master sent A-li-sien with a report to the emperor, asking about the time for the explanation of the doctrine of Tao. The answer of the emperor, written on the same report, was received on the 7th of the eighth month (September).
On the 8th of the same month (September 14) we set out for the emperor's encampment. The T'ai shi accompanied the master twenty or thirty li, and returned. On the 12th (September 18) we passed the city of lie-shi (Kash). On the 13th we were joined by a convoy of 1000 men on foot and 300 on horseback, and entered the high mountains. The route we followed now went round the T'ie men kuan (Iron gate). We crossed a river with red water, and proceeded through a defile to the south-east, where there were rocks several li in height. At the foot of the mountains is a salt spring, the water of which deposits white salt after evaporation. We took a large quantity of it with us. Farther to the south-east we ascended a mountain which forms a watershed. To the west we saw a high valley, which seemed to be filled up with ice, but it was salt. On the top of the mountain there was a red-coloured salt, with the appearance of stone, which the master tasted himself. In the eastern countries (China, Mongolia) salt is only found in low grounds, but here it is also met with in the mountains. The Mohammedans eat cakes with salt. When thirsty they drink water, even in winter. Poor men sell water in jars.
pp. 89-92, E. Bretschneider's Mediæval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources. (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1888).