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KASHGAR (1,600 kilometers from Urumqi, 320 kilometers from Pakistan) is a famous Silk Road oasis situated between the Tian Shan, the Pamir Mountains, and the Taklamakan Desert. Also known as Kashi and more reminiscent of a town in Uzbekistan or Turkey than one in China, it features bazaars, narrow alleys, scull caps and mosques and is home to about 350,000 people.

A lot of travelers are drawn to Kashgar as they are to Tibet. Part of the attraction is the adventure of getting there and part of it is the atmosphere and history of the place. If you make it to Kashgar you're almost as closer to the Black Sea than you are to Beijing

Water flows through canals along the main streets and nourish trees and garden plots with melons and vegetables. Back streets are lined by houses made from mud-brick. Women do chores while men sit around drinking tea, playing card games, getting a trim from a sidewalk barbers and shooting pool on outdoors billiard tables. The ochre-colored alleys and archways were so evocative of Old Kabul that the old city was used as the setting in 2007 for the filming of "The Kite Runner." Only a small section is left today for tourists. About 200,000 people, almost all Uyghurs, are being relocated to bland, modern apartment buildings in the suburbs (See Below).

“Dan Levin wrote in the New York Times, “Kashgar has been viewed as the jewel of Uyghur civilization for centuries, a center of trade and Islamic learning on the caravan routes linking Europe and Persia with China. Marco Polo visited in the 13th century. Today, it is the westernmost sizable city in China, near the borders with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Beijing gave it the privileged status of a Special Economic Zone in 2010 in the hope that a flood of investment and infrastructure projects would help quell political instability.” [Source: Dan Levin, New York Times, March 5, 2014]

Alessandro Rippa wrote in The Diplomat, “China’s westernmost city, Kashgar lies at the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, closer to Bagdad than Beijing. For travellers and traders coming from Central Asia and Pakistan, the city offers a first glimpse of China. Yet, in most cases, Kashgar strikes them for its similarities to the countries they have just left. Coming from inner China, on the other hand, Kashgar often leaves the impression of entering another country, particularly as one walks through the narrow alleys of the old town, or watches the crowd at the dusty livestock market on a Sunday morning. [Source: Alessandro Rippa, The Diplomat, October 14, 2013]

About 75 percent of Kashgar's 500,000 residents are Uyghurs, a Muslim people who speak a Turkic language. The figure used to be higher but a lot of Han Chinese have moved in recently. Six of the eleven other minorities that live here are also Muslim They are allowed to worship in large mosques, which the government can monitor, but are discouraged from building of small mosques, which Beijing worries fuels discontent. Until the early 2000s, about 90 percent of Kashgar's permanent residents were Uyghurs, but that proportion has dropped with the migration of about 150,000 Han Chinese to Kashgar. Kashgar County, with about 650,000 people, is still dominated by Uyghurs

Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Maps of Kashgar: chinamaps.org ; Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Kashgar is accessible by air and bus and connected to Urumqi and the rest of China by a new train that began operating in 2004. There are seven of normal trains a day, each way, between Urumqi and Kashgar. The 1,475 kilometer (917 mile) trip takes 17.5 to 25 hours. The hard sleeper ticket is around CNY349.5 per person and the soft sleeper bed is about CNY521.5 per person. There are also flights on Xinjiang Airlines 757s every evening. Travel China Guide Travel China Guide

History of Kashgar

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Kashgar was a major stop on the Silk Road. Located in the extreme west of Xinjiang-China's westernmost province, Kashgar grew upon a lucrative crossroads: the junction of the northern and southern forks of the Silk Road. Much of the westbound and southbound traffic in silk, spices, tea, jade and porcelain passed through Kashgar streets during the Silk Road's 1000-year run. The word Kashgar means "place where jade gathers".

Over its long history Kashgar was controlled by Tibetans, Huns, Arabs and Chinese, and was fought over by Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Marco Polo wrote: "The people are for the most part idolaters, but there are also some Nestorian Christians and Saracens...the inhabitants live by trade and industry. They have fine orchards and vineyards and flourishing estates. Cotton grows here in plenty, besides flax and hemp. The soil is fertile and productive of all the means of life. The country is the starting point from which many merchants set out to market their wares all over the world."

As with most of China, Kashgar's history records cultural and religious swings of amazing breadth. Ruled by China in the early years of the first century AD, by the 9th century Kashgar was solidly Muslim, its cultural roots walking west with the Silk Road to Persia and beyond. Not until the 19th century did the region-today's Xinjiang Province-return to China's control.

In the 19th century Kashgar played a significant role in the Great Game which pitted spies and mercenaries from Russia and Britain against one another. At that time the town was filled with spies and conspiracies. One observer wrote: "You never know what to expect at a banquet in Kashgar and each of our official hosts had prudently brought his own bodyguard. Turkic and Chinese soldiers lounged everywhere; automatic rifles and executioner's swords were much in evidence, and the Mauser pistols of the waiters knocked ominously against the back of your chair as they knelt over you with the dishes."

Kashgar remained an important meeting place for Chinese, Indian and Persian merchants until the 1950s when it was sealed off by the Communists. Kashgar was open to travelers in 1983, and closed in 1990 briefly after an abortive rebellion in a town 100 kilometers miles away. In recent decades Kashgar has experienced a huge influx of Han Chinese, the country's major ethnic group. The city has also undergone profound redevelopment (See Below). Yet despite the changes, Kashgar's bustle and charm remain.

Today, Kashgar is kind of seen by the Chinese government as a hot bed of Muslim extremism and a center of the Xinjiang and Uyghur independence sentiments and activity. From time to time in the 1990a bombs were set off and demonstrations were held, and the Chinese responded with brutal crackdowns. A bombing at hotel in June 1993 killed three local people. In 2008, four days before the Olympics in Beijing began, 16 Chinese border police officers were killed in Kashgar in one of the deadliest terrorist attack in China ever. Two men — aged 28 and 33 — rammed a dump truck into a group of 70 police officers jogging outside the Yiqan Hotel near their barracks. After the truck hit a roadside pole the two leapt out of the truck and began lunging at officers with knives. One tried to throw a home-made explosive at wounded policemen but the device detonated early and blew off his arm. Another threw a home-made bomb at the gate of a police station. Fourteen police officers were killed on the spot. Two more died of their wound on the way to the hospital. Sixteen others were injured. In 2009, citing fire hazards, danger posed by earthquakes and overcrowding, the Chinese government began a US$500 million program to move 50,000 residents from the Old City to new modern apartments.

Development in Kashgar

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Located at an elevation of 1309 meters, Kashgar remained a trading town similar to the one Marco Polo well into the 20th century. Even in the late 1990s donkey carts outnumbered taxis and most of the road were dirt. These days Kashgar is modernizing quick and has become a boom frontier town with new highways, an international airport and new rail line from Beijing that opened in 2004. The old wall that surrounded the city was torn down long ago and replaced with concrete buildings and replaced with “Liberation Road” and “People's Square."

Kashgar boasts a new international trading center. Trade with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is booming. Road leading out of Kashgar also transport good to Pakistan and many countries in Central Asia. A new 600-mile pipeline from Kazakhstan opened in 2006. Thousands of tourists come from Pakistan — and even Afghanistan — to take in the sights and byt cheap Chinese goods. Western backpackers still have a strong presence.

Alessandro Rippa wrote in The Diplomat, ““And Kashgar seems ready to fulfill its role as a major hub between China, Central and South Asia. The fair itself represents an important investment in this direction. Many Pakistani traders, for instance, had all their expenses covered for the four days of the fair: from the expositive space, to the travel expenses, to the custom duties and hotel. They were put up at the new Chini Bagh Hotel, another symbol of Kashgar’s enchantment with its future and detachment from its past. The newly opened four-star facility, in fact, hides a historical building: the old Chini Bagh, former residence of the British consulate in Kashgar between 1890 and 1918. The building is unknown to most visitors, hidden behind crumbling sections of the hotel, and today houses a decrepit Chinese restaurant. An almost unreadable sign, in Mandarin, English and Uyghur, briefly illustrates the historical importance of the building, but barely anybody seems to pay attention to it, and most locals are unaware it even exists. During my first visit to Kashgar, in 2009, I was able to visit the chambers on the second floor, and even enjoy a view of the old town from the roof of the little tower. Today, that’s no longer possible, and this important section of Kashgar’s past is all but lost. With the city’s focus on the future, it’s a loss that will pass largely unremarked.” [Source: Alessandro Rippa, The Diplomat, October 14, 2013]

Kashgar to Become a Special Economic Zone

Kashgar is slated to become a special economic zone. The economic zone, like its inspiration, Shenzhen, will feature tax breaks, investment incentives and easing of regulatory requirements for new businesses. Along with the central government, the city of Shenzhen is sponsoring the Kashgar project, transferring US$1.5 billion this year alone to support the new zone. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2010]

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Chinese officials hope the economic zone status will do for Kashgar what it did for Shenzhen, the South China Sea fishing village that 30 years ago launched China's transformation into a manufacturing superpower. Whereas Shenzhen's wares head by sea to Korea, Japan, Australia, Europe and the United States, Kashgar is viewed increasingly as the launch pad into Pakistan and India, as well as some of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan." [Ibid]

"We want to restore Kashgar to the position it had in the days of the Silk Road," Wang Ning, an economist with the government-run Academy of Social Sciences in Xinjiang, told the Los Angeles Times. "The plan is that by 2020 we should close the gap between east and west and allow the west to share in the prosperity of the east." [Ibid]

“The signs of change are already visible," Demick wrote. “Developers from China's east coast are snapping up land in the area, residents say. Concealed behind a row of graceful poplar trees along the main road to the airport, newly erected green wire fences delineate plots of land slated for development: a factory that makes instant ramen noodles for export to Pakistan and Tajikistan, a warehouse for wheat also headed for central Asia. Tents for construction workers are pitched near empty lots behind the Kashgar Central and Southern Asia Industrial Park, which according to the state press, is being expanded from two square miles to 60. Even on a Sunday afternoon, crews were leveling an access road. "This land used to be desert. Nobody was interested in it," said a 35-year-old local businessman. "Now rich people from the east are coming and buying everything they can... They buy the land. They put in roads. Then they put a wall around it." [Ibid]

For China, Kashgar is a modern-day version of the wild west, a remote and exotic destination far closer to Afghanistan (160 miles) than to Beijing (2,100 miles)," Demick wrote. The first direct flights were introduced only in September 2010. “The city is a convenient shopping hub for Central Asian businessmen, who arrive on tour buses and leave with vinyl shopping bags stuffed with Chinese-made wristwatches, DVD players, cellphones and athletic shoes to sell back home. With the exception of some artisanal knives and rugs, almost all the merchandise today is manufactured on China's east coast, something that should change with the economic zone status. However, the Shenzhen phenomenon won't be easily replicated. The routes to western border crossings out of China run through harsh desert and wind-swept mountain passes frequently closed by weather and political turmoil. [Ibid]

Sights and Tourism in Kashgar

The best time to visit Kashgar is in the spring and autumn. The relatively high altitude makes it bearable in the summer. Winter can be very cold. Kebabs with hot nan bread, mutton-filled pastries and juicy watermelon are all real treats. Muslim restaurants don't serve pork but Chinese restaurants do. Taxis will you take anywhere in the city for the equivalent a few dollars. Travel arrangements can be made to cross Torugart Pass and travel in Central Asia. Many hotels rent bicycles. Donkey carts are still seen in many places. You can ride in them. They are cheap but uncomfortable. A taxi can be hired for US$20 or less for several hours to visit sights outside the city.

Old Town of Kashgar and main the traditional Uyghur area radiates out from Id Kah mosque and is full of men with thin beards, skull caps and sheathed daggers, women with their heads covered, donkeys pulling carts filled with melon and onions, vendors selling lamb, round bread and bowls of plum juice for a few cents a bowl and young craftsmen that fashion bronze pots and Turkish-style, long-neck lutes on little stalls. Once the British Consulate building, the Qiniwak Hotel (in the Wei language, Qiniwak means "beautiful garden") is centrally located within Kashgar's old town, just up the street from the Idkah Mosque. Unfortunately the Old City in Kashgar is now being torn down under orders of the Chinese government and Uyghurs are being forced to move into cinder block apartments on the outskirts of the city. See Below

Alessandro Rippa wrote in The Diplomat, “ Kashgar’s old town, not long ago, was used as a set for the movie The Kite Runner, based on Khaled Hosseini’s homonymous novel, to represent Kabul prior to the Soviet invasion. Today, asked about the movie as they drink cups of milk tea in one of the few Pakistani restaurants in town, Afghan traders admit that the city somewhat reminds them of the Kabul of their youth.” [Source: Alessandro Rippa, The Diplomat, October 14, 2013]

Chinese Area of Kashgar radiates out from the train station, built in 1999, and looks like the central area of other Chinese cities. People's Square contains a 59-foot-tall Mao statue. A theater that used to feature traditional Uyghur dance and music is being renovated into a hotel because it couldn't make enough money. Across the street from People's Square, which is next to People's Park, stands an 85-foot stone statue of Mao, said to be the tallest in China, set among outdoor pool tables and traditional houses.


Idkah Mosque

Idkah (Aidkah, Id Kah) Mosque was the largest mosque in China and is still the biggest in Xinjiang. Established in 1442, this yellow tile structure dominates the old town's central square and encompasses a garden-and tree-filled courtyard. On Friday, 20,000 people sometimes fill the mosque and the area outside it, with men and women praying together. In the back of the mosque is carpet-filled formal praying area. Radiators and thick carpets in the mosque have been paid for by the Chinese government.

The old town around the mosque is packed with mud-brick houses and shops, which sell things like jeweled daggers, copper goods, musical instruments, fur hats and korans. About a half kilometer to northeast is the main carpet shop areas. Many shops her sell Afghan-style carpets produced in Hotan that are more than 50 years old. Dozens of small mosques are scattered throughout the city. Near some of them are unusual beehive-shaped tombs, with little window.

The original mosque built in 1442 is gone. The current mosque was built in 1798 and though it reflects the original's overall design, it's been greatly embellished and expanded. The mosque was building in the Xinjiang Province, accommodating 7,000-plus worshippers. Some 140 highly-decorated green columns support the ornate roof. Within the mosque is a tree-shaded courtyard and pool, where worshippers may cleanse their bodies before prayer. Tourist access is limited to non-prayer hours.

Abak Hoja Tomb

Kashgar's most impressive sight is the Abak Hoja Tomb. Located a few kilometers outside the city and built in 1640, it is one of the holiest sites in Xinjiang and Turkestan. Topped by an 80-foot dome covered by green tiles, this mausoleum is surrounded by gardens and flanked by four slender minarets. Pilgrims come to the tomb to pray for special things. Women who want a child place a red ribbon in a fragment of the wall

Abakh Khoja Tomb houses the remains of several generations from one family, beginning with an Islamic missionary, Yusuf Hoja. The tomb is actually a series of tombs, ranging in style from elegantly simple to simply over-the-top elaborate. The tomb contains the remains of Abak Hoja a 17th century ruler, and many his relatives, the most famous of which is the Fragrant Concubine, an Uyghur princess who is said to have led a rebellion against the Chinese emperor Qinglong and committed suicide after the rebellion failed. A cart outside the mausoleum reportedly was used to carry her body from Beijing to Kashgar.

Yekshenbe Bazari

Yekshenbe Bazari (Sunday bazaar in Kashgar) is reputed to be the largest market in Central Asia. Sometimes covering almost a square mile, it is filled with tents and stalls, and 100,000 people buying and selling a wide assortment of stuff. The market is organized so that people selling the same kinds of things are grouped together.

Among the items on sale are live chickens, caged songbirds, spices, tools, herbal medicines, colorful silk dresses, linen, parsnips, green peppers, scallions, tomatoes, sacks of grain, polished beans in a variety of shapes and colors, tools, gold necklaces, dyed silk clothes, dried reptile carcasses (used for medicine), multicolored piles of yarn, jeweled knives, firewood, boom boxes, camels, and snow leopard pelts. There are also sidewalk dentists, street barbers, donkey cart parking lots, bearded men in skullcaps and, tethered sheep, and merchants conducting horses auctions. Knife makers used old bicycles altered to spin grindstones to sharpen their knives.

One tourist website said the Sunday Market “is noisy, crowded, dusty and confusing-just as every respectable open-air market should be! Originally a livestock market-now separated to a nearby location and still the "E Ticket" event-the Kashgar Sunday Market pulls in what appears to be the province's entire population-and then some! Carpets, furniture, meat and produce can be had for a haggle but the most fun is at the livelier livestock section where you can test-ride a camel or scrutinize a yak's molars. The action begins at dawn and continues well into the night hours.”

Tearing Down Kashgar's Old Town

Ignoring protests from preservationists abroad, the Chinese government bulldozed most of Kashgar's historic old city 2009, destroying 85 percent of the labyrinthine alleys of mud-brick houses in the name of earthquake safety. About 200,000 people, almost all Uyghurs, were being relocated to bland, modern apartment buildings in the suburbs. Entire Uyghur neighborhoods of mud-brick homes, where Uyghur shopkeepers have lived and worked for hundreds of years, were btorn down. Left behind were piles of brick and rubble, houses without roofs. Rows of brick-fronted shops were left on the main streets to hide the destruction behind them. About 220,000 people, or 42 percent of the city's residents, live in the old town. Houses marked for destruction were marked with an ominous-looking Chinese character written in red with a circle drawn around it. The character, pronounced chai in Chinese, means demolish.

Jane MaCartney wrote in the Times of London, “Bulldozers are already crashing through the packed-mud walls of centuries-old homes. Yellow-helmeted workers toss bricks into wheelbarrows as they clear the rubble. Walls throughout the town are stencilled with signs exhorting residents to support the makeover to prevent the damage wrought by last year's massive earthquake in southwestern Sichuan province that killed 90,000 people. [Source: Jane MaCartney, The Times, June 18, 2009]

Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times: “Some residents say they also prefer a more modern environment. The thousand-year-old design that gives the Old City its charm often precludes basics like garbage pickup, sewers and fire hydrants." In the mayor's view, “demolition will give the Uyghurs a better life and spare them from disaster in one fell swoop. All that said, there is a certain aura of forcible eviction about the demolition, an urgency that fear of earthquakes does not completely explain. The city is offering cash bonuses to residents who move out early — about US$30 for those who vacate within 20 days; US$15 if they move in a month. Homes are razed as soon as they become empty, giving some alleys a gap-tooth look."[Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, May 28, 2009]

From a cultural and historical perspective, this plan of theirs is stupid, Wu Lili, the managing director of the Beijing Cultural Protection Center, a nongovernmental group devoted to historic preservation, told the New York Times. From the perspective of the locals, it's cruel. Efforts by preservationist and overseas Uyghurs to halt the development have largely been ineffective. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, May 28, 2009] For more information See the article

Redevelopment of Kashgar

A US$448 million plan moved about 50,000 residents out of the old city and into modern apartment buildings kicked off in February 2009 with the first 100 families moving into government housing. At that stage community service officers visited families one by one, urging them to come to their offices and discuss compensation plans for moving out. [Source: Maureen Fan, Washington Post, March 24, 2009]

The project began abruptly in 2009 soon after China's central government said it would spend US$584 billion on public works to combat the global financial crisis. It would complete a piecemeal dismantling of old Kashgar that began decades ago. The city wall, a 25-foot-thick earthen berm nearly 35 feet high, has largely been torn down. In the 1980s, the city paved the surrounding moat to create a ring highway. Then it opened a main street through the old town center. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, May 28, 2009]

According to the plan 66 percent to 85 percent of Kashgar's Old City was bulldozed. Alleys were be covered over. Narrow roads were widened to 20 feet under the government's plan. In place of the old Old Old City is a new Old City, a mix of midrise apartments, plazas, alleys widened into avenues and reproductions of ancient Islamic architecture to preserve the Uyghur culture, Kashgar's vice mayor, Xu Jianrong, told the New York Times. When the plan is complete Kashgar will look a lot more like a typical Chinese city or town.

Kashgar's New Old Town

The Chinese government turned small remaining area of Kashgar’s Old Town into a tourist center, where it said it would create an international heritage scenery to increase tourism. The Uyghur American Association said there was no indication who would benefit from a Chinese-managed Kashgar Old City. The association expressed a fear that the small remaining section will take on the characteristics of an open-air museum of Uyghur culture, where once a vibrant community lived.

Kashgar's mayor told the New York Times that important buildings and areas of the Old City have been included in the country's special preservation list and would not be disturbed. No archaeologists monitored the razings, he said, because the government already knows everything about old Kashgar. The state official Wang Zhengrong, said the old city will be “protected, managed, and developed” with the aim of “creating international heritage scenery." This will increase income from tourism, says Wang, who adds that under the plans tourists will still be able to view “minority lifestyle and architectural characteristics." [Source:Henryk Szadziewski, Opendemocracy.net, April 03, 2009]

Henryk Szadziewski wrote in Opendemocracy.net, “In addition, the changes appear to involve new management of the old city. There have been rumors circulating online that the local government in Kashgar has offered a group of Han Chinese from Wenzhou the right to administer the area around the heart of the old city, the ancient Id-Kah mosque. In addition, oversight of the Appaq Khoja Mazar-a place of religious significance to Uyghurs, though outside the old city itself-has it is said been offered to a Han Chinese company called Jinkun. Whether these rumors are true, there is a genuine concern as to who the real beneficiaries are from the “residents' resettlement project." [Ibid]

China Highlights called the new Kashgar Old City — the “Seoul of Kashgar.” According to their website: In downtown Kashi, there is an old city made of yellow mud bricks standing on a small hill – Kashgar Old City. The Old City has been rebuilt, so it's more like a new town on the old city location. But the architecture there retains its traditional style. You can still observe local life there: children playing on the streets, small shops selling food and souvenirs, and craftsmen making bronze ware. Kashgar Old City contains many Uyghur houses; 630 homes with more than 2,450 people, all of whom are Muslim. Situated in a precipitous location, the mud-thatched buildings are densely packed together. Numerous small lanes crisscross the old city, stretching into every corner. It's like walking in a maze, exploring the small alleys in the old city.

“Inside the old city are many buildings hundreds of years old. Most are two or three stories tall. Each house is typically equipped with a staircase leading to the top of the building. The mud bricks feature Islamic and Uyghur styles, with flower-carved decorations. Each house has a courtyard, the size of which varies according to the terrain. All the yards grow popular Muslim trees and flowers, such as mulberry, fig, pomegranate, almond, grape, rose, or China rose. The yards are heavily shaded, providing a tranquil environment for relaxation. Inside the bigger yards, owners have even built pergolas for growing grape vines.

New Housing for Residents of Kashgar's Old Town

In the Old Town Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times, “Three of the Old City's seven sectors are judged unfit for Uyghur architecture and will be rebuilt with decidedly generic apartment buildings. Two thousand other homes will be razed to build public plazas and schools. Poor residents, who live in the smallest homes, already are being permanently moved to boxy, concrete public housing on Kashgar's outskirts. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, May 28, 2009]

The old houses are being replaced with local-style brick buildings with steel reinforcement and concrete highrises. One Uyghur resident old Reuters, “The thing is these buildings are what makes Kashgar unique. They are nowhere else in the world. So it's a shame to tear them down and replace them with this." Although the city offers the displaced residents the opportunity to build new homes on the sites of their old ones, some also complain that the proposed compensation does not pay for the cost of rebuilding.[Source: Lucy Hornby, Reuters, July 2010]

The relocated areas are eight or nie kilometers form the Old Town, Some of the new apartments there sitting in the desert are not so popular. These include square stone buildings marked “earthquake resistant housing” that sit empty among planted poplars. Not all are opposed to moving on. One elderly Muslim merchant in an embroidered skullcap told the Times of London “The new houses are much cleaner. They have a bathroom and a kitchen. It's good to have proper sanitation." He said will still come down to the Old Town to gossip with friends around the main Id Kah Mosque. His son shrugs about the prospect of life in a block of flats. What can you do? What can you do? We have no choice. [Source: Jane MaCartney, The Times, June 18, 2009]

Near Kashgar

The region are Kashgar is primarily agricultural. Snow melt from nearby mountains provides plenty of water for irrigation and the soil is fertile so even without mechanization people don't work too hard.

Mausoleum of Mahmud al-Kashgari (in Upal, 35 kilometers southwest of Kashgar) is one of the few sites in the Kashgar area that dates back to Silk Road era. Mahmud ibn Hussayn ibn Muhammed al-Kashgari (1005-1102) was an 11th-century Kara-Khanid scholar and lexicographer of the Turkic languages from Kashgar. He died in Upal and was buried there. A mausoleum was erected on his gravesite. Al-Kashgari studied the Turkic languages of his time and composed the first comprehensive dictionary of Turkic languages, the Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk ("Compendium of the languages of the Turks") in 1072-74 in Baghdad.. It was intended for use by the Abbasid Caliphate, the new Arab allies of the Turks.

Irkeshtam Pass (100 kilometers south of Torugart Pass) was one of the main passes used by Silk Road caravan traveling between China and Central Asia linking up Kashgar with the Fergana Valley. It is strictly off limits to foreign travelers.

Shipton's Arch (40 kilometers west of Kashgar) is the largest natural arch in the world. Located in the mountains near the border of Kyrgzstan and Tajikstan, spectacular 10,394-foot-high natural arch named after the British explorer Eric Shipton. It can be reached from the Uighar-Kyrgz village of Mingyol. In his book Mountains of Tartary Shipton described the "scores of bold pinnacles...pierced by a hole...below its summit almost down to its base."

Shipton's Arch is difficult to get to. Around it are a maze of slot canyons and conglomerate rock mountains. Shipton needed months to reach it. In 2000, a team led by Jeremy Schmidi became the first to climb it. They measured the arch as being 1,500 feet high with a 1,200 hole, making it far and away the largest arch in the world. Few people have ever laid eyes on it. It is very easy to get lost in slot canyons and never find a way out. [Source: Jeremy Schmidi, National Geographic, December 2000]

Oil-Related Towns Between Urumqi and Kashgar

Korla (250 kilometers south of Urumqi) is a center of oil exploration in Xinjiang. It is home to 300,000 people and is surrounded by fruit orchards and vegetable fields. Near Korla there is 45-foot-high Han-era earth tower. Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: is accessible by train from Urumqi and Kashgar.

Kuche is the at the center an area with some of China's largest deposits or oil and natural gas. A pipeline carries gas 3,200 miles across China to Shanghai. Outside the town is a network of refineries that produce gasoline,

Yili (65 kilometers south of Korla) has been dubbed “China's Kuwait” because of the discoveries of large amounts of natural gas, oil and coal in the region.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, Nolls China Web site; CNTO; Perrochon photo site; Beifan.com; University of Washington; Ohio State University; UNESCO; Wikipedia; Julie Chao photo site

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020

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