Kashgar is an old city in the far western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Known as Kashi to the Chinese, it was a major stop on the ancient Silk Road and a focus of the intrigues of the 'Great Game' a hundred years ago. Today, Xinjiang is populated by ethnic Turkic moslem peoples, whose vibrant culture is refreshingly distinct from that of modern Communist China.
I have visited Kashgar twice -- in 1985 and again in 1990, for a total of 4 weeks -- so you know I found it interesting. When you learn that Kashgar is a four-day bus ride south across the barren Taklamakan ("Go-in, don't come out") Desert from Urumqi -- the capital of Xinjiang and the nearest railway outpost -- and that it is a three-day ride north over the "Karakoram Highway" from Gilgit in the Northern Territory of Pakistan (map at right), you may wonder why people bother to go at all. I have travelled to Kashgar both ways now, and here are the photos to show you why it's a World Class destination! (On other pages, you can follow my trip Across the Karakoram from Pakistan)
I've recently seen an article describing the new railroad that has just been completed from Urumqi to Kashgar (in 2003), which will no doubt finish off the "Sinization" of the area -- bringing yet thousands and thousands more Han Chinese to dilute the Turkistani culture that is -- or was -- the fascinating heart of Kashgar and its surroundings, that I recall. [A correspondent informs me that the rail journey from Urumqi takes 24 hours.] Here are the pics...
Indexed Links to:Into Kashgar from the East Streets of Kashgar Id Kah Square Kashgar Shops and Stalls People's Park Sunday Market Daily Market Live Animal Market Market Food Market Grounds Turpan
You probably wouldn't enter Kashgar for the first time from the eastern desert, but that's how my city tour begins, by aproaching the city from the arid countryside to the east.
Left: 15 miles out in the desert, little remains of the Buddhist
city of Ancient Ha Noi, which flourished from the 7th to 12th
centuries. The Mor Stupa is at right.
Right: The land is arid, but where irrigated by canals of runoff
from the Pamirs, homes of mud-brick are shaded in verdant
orchards and vinyards. We had lunch with a family here.
Abakh Hoja Tomb:
Left: As you approach Kashgar you may be surprised to see this
elegant mausoleum, which looks more like a mosque.
Right: Over 70 graves fill the yard of this beautiful 17th century
Taj-like complex. The tombs are for decendants of the Muslim
missionary Mahatum Ajam. (1985 photos)
Abakh Hoja Tomb:
Left: The entryway to the mausoleum leads through a pleasantly shaded
courtyard, past prayer and meeting rooms.
Right: The main building contains two very large
crypts -- one for Ajam's grandson Abakh Hoja; the second is
reputedly for Hoja's granddaughter Ikparhan, who has been identified
(legendarily) with Xiang Fei.
Abakh Hoja Tomb:
Xiang Fei was the infamous concubine of the Qing Emperor Qianlong.
Left: Inside the crypt, numerous other relatives are buried;
no photos are allowed but this image is from a Chinese tourism brochure.
Right: On my 1990 visit, the tiles on the dome still needed work, but
the graves had a new splash of pink!
Kashgar Back Streets:
Left: Just past Abakh Hoja, you pass the Kashgar Guest House
(Xin Binguan) and the city's outskirts begin. The most available
way to get into town is on a horse cart! Cheap, too.
Right: Of course you have to do some bargaining -- with your
fingers?! Now you've arrived in Kashgar city!
Left: The back streets of Kashgar can seem almost Biblical at times,
with bicycles the modern alternative to donkey carts for transportation.
Right: Deep in the desert, wood products of all kinds are at a
premium -- from brush to firewood to timber.
Left: In 1985 the rare foreigners -- as everywhere in China --
were mobbed as curiosities, especially on market days; Sam signs a
Right: Not much had changed in the neighborhood in this same
view from 1990. (Oh, there is one new TV antenna.)
Left: Sometimes the backstreets break out into a vegetable market.
a hand-powered knife sharpener.
Right: As we make our way towards the central square, the buildings get
a little nicer, but the street scene can remain fairly biblical! You
notice that Kashgar is a city of many hats!