01 October 2009

Kashgar: Fabled City of the Ancient Silk Route

Kashgar, located in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, lies at the heart of Central Asia along the ancient Silk Route. Many of the city's 350,000 residents lead a simple life reminiscent of the past. A bustling old town district with mud and clay houses, dusty alleyways and thriving markets selling everything from dried lizards for medicinal purposes to rare spices from Tajikistan and India. Traditional trades are commonplace, with copper pots being pounded into shape with rustic hammers alongside kebab stands and mosques.

In recent decades, aggressive immigration policies set in place by the Chinese government in Beijing has drawn thousands of Han Chinese to Kashgar with promises of wealth and fame. Kashgar as it was known as recently as 1980 is fading away. The old walls that once protected the city from Mongols are being torn down and replaced with cheap Chinese high-rise buildings. Much of the old town area is already gone and what little is left is being destroyed in the name of Chinese prosperity.

At the current rate, there will only be a handful of traditional structures left standing in twenty years and the city will become fully Chinese.

Uyghur Child in the Old Town district of Kashgar.

Muslim Uyghur woman in Kashgar.

Uyghur man holding the reigns to a donkey he bought at the Livestock Market in Kashgar.

Uyghur men selling spices from India to Tajikistan at the Sunday Market in Kashgar.

Uyghur man scraping hair off lamb heads with a wire brush in Old Town Kashgar.

Uyghur men making naan bread in Old Town Kashgar.

Uyghur blacksmiths in Old Town Kashgar.

Cityscape of Kashgar with Old Town in the center surrounded by new Han Chinese buildings.

Links to images included in this blog post:
Poverty Child, Muslim Woman, Kashgar Livestock Market Donkey, Kashgar Sunday Market Spices, Lamb Heads, Naan Bread, Uyghur Blacksmith, Disappearing Kashgar

To view more of my photos of Kashgar and Uyghur people in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, please click on the colored links.

I traveled to Kashgar in June/July 2009. It is an absolutely beautiful city that I fell in love with and will be returning to again, hopefully before the Old Town is bulldozed by the Chinese government. While I was there (also in Urumqi) it was easy to see the tensions between the Uyghur and Han Chinese populations. Rampant racism, both visible and audible, was a very depressing thing to experience. I remember talking to some Han Chinese at a restaurant in Urumqi and when I asked them about their thoughts on Uyghurs and the destruction of their main city, the Hans replied saying they hated the Uyghurs because they were not Chinese. They were a part of China, but they would be better off without them.

When I asked Uyghurs about the Chinese and what was happening to their city, they did not want to speak about it. They knew and understood what was happening and one elderly Uyghur man told me that they were all aware of what was happening and there was nothing anyone could do about it. He said that while Tibet got all of the world's attention, China was free to do whatever they desired in Xinjiang and Kashgar and get away with horrible things with no punishment from the outside world.


Anonymous said...

Hey man, I haven't been the best of friends out there, but I just want you to know this new website and the portfolio are looking more incredible than ever. It seems like you are finding more and more what your Vision and Style is... I could be way off but its cool to see.

I cant believe you were in Pakistan! I've been doing some light reading on the Indus River Valley and some Northern Pakistan and CAI... I want to go very much.

I hope I get a chance to keep in touch.

The Beerman
(there will be more homemade beer in Oct)

Anonymous said...

Interesting post... Looks like flash memory is really beginning to take off. Hopefully we'll start seeing decreasing solid-state drive prices in the near future. 5 dollar 32 gigabyte Micro SD Cards for your DS flash card... imagine that!

(Submitted on Fling for R4i Nintendo DS.)

Anonymous said...

Please, can you PM me and tell me few more thinks about this, I am really fan of your blog...