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Kashgar Sunday Market

In Travel, China by tony5 Comments

Featured image: Cart Parking, Kashgar Sunday Market 1995

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  4 November 2018

Kashgar Sunday Market 1995


I’d always wanted to ascend the Karakorum Highway (KKH) to Hunza and to China ever since I’d first heard of the KKH from books, and in relation to the Great Game and Sir Francis Younghusband.

Woman peruses Shiny Chests, Kashgar Sunday Market

Woman peruses Shiny Chests, Kashgar Sunday Market

I’ve only touched on the Karakorum Highway briefly in my blog articles previously regarding Abbottabad and Osama bin Laden. Since, I’ve written five other articles on the Karakorum Highway journey. These are 1 The Karakorum Highway (KKH), 2 The Lower Karakorum Highway, 3 Besham to Gilgit, the Terrain, 4 Extreme Polo in Gilgit, 5 The Hunza Valley.

It was an amazing journey. I’ve been in contact with a couple of people who have been through the KKH and northern areas of Pakistan recently. One of whom is off to Pattale in Nepal on our recommendation.

Denise and I spent over two months going up and down the KKH. Most people take only a couple of weeks. It did affect us badly, healthwise.

Why should I write about Kashgar in 1995? I remember as a teenager being critically dismissive of friends of my parents talking about travel they did over twenty years ago.

Crowd at the Animal Market, Kashgar Sunday Market

Crowd at the Animal Market, Kashgar Sunday Market

Well, Kashgar has changed and it is useful to know how it used to be. The 1990s were also a transition in world travel from remote places being difficult to get to, to almost anywhere in the world being easily accessible.

I thought things changed quickly soon after we left Kashgar and they did, but not as quickly as they have more recently. There is also a humanitarian crisis brewing in the region.

An article and pictures in the New York Times in 2006, appears to show images of Kashgar not much changed from 1995. Although from 2009 the physical changes were drastic. Since 1995, awe inspiring changes have swept through Kashgar and other areas of Xinjiang, as they have across China. It is the greatest change in the shortest time the world has ever seen.

I cite two recent blogs by Josh Summers and Lesley Lababidi below to give detailed information about Kashgar today.



Kashgar (Kashi) is the Western-most City in China and has been a pivotal trading post on the Silk Road since at least 200 BCE, or for more than two thousand years. Because of its strategic location, Kashgar has been swallowed by and fought over by empires endlessly. Kashgar has been under the rule of the Chinese, Turkic, Mongol and Tibetans to name a few. It was part of the Great Game between Russia and Britain; and Xinjiang (Western China) was used by the Chinese as a buffer against Russian expansion in the nineteenth and 20th century.

Testing a Donkey at Kashgar Sunday Market

Testing a Donkey at Kashgar Sunday Market

Nearby borders are with Afghanistan, Kirghizistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Tibet and India. The Ferghana Valley and Tashkent in Uzbekistan are also not far away.

It is isolated from Urumchi to the north and southern Xinjiang by the Takla Makan Desert. The Takla Makan, supposedly the place from which no one returns, occupies the central part of the Tarim Basin. During the Silk Road period travellers to the north travelled along the base of the Tienshan Mountains or by the southern route along the Kunlun Mountains or Tibetan plateau. By either route one still had to cross the Gobi Desert to the East to get to China.


Today the Kashgar Prefecture is 162,000 sq km with a population of about 4 million. The city of Kashgar has a population of 506,640 and an urban area of 15 sq km at last count. The population has expanded since the 1980s. In 1998 the urban population comprised 81% Uighur and 18% Han Chinese. This may have changed slightly, but unlike Urumchi, Kashgar is not becoming industrialised.

Recent political and economic changes

The Ugliest Bactrian Camel in Kashgar

The Ugliest Bactrian Camel in Kashgar

From the 1980s but especially after the millennium, Uighur nationalism has been a problem for the Chinese. The Uighur (or Uyghur, pronounced ‘Wee-gar’) are a proud Moslem people, but the situation is complex and has been since the turn of the century.

During the cultural revolution, some heritage in Kashgar was destroyed and a massive statue of Mao was erected in 1968, which still dominates the People’s Park. There was a minor terrorist attack on police in Kashgar in 2008; and following the Urumchi riots in July 2009 the Chinese government focused on local economic development. The earthquake in Sichuan in 2008 also focused on faulty architecture. This led to a plan to redevelop the old city of Kashgar. When the plan began 42% of the city’s residents lived in the old city. Many have been moved to new apartment blocks. By 2012, two-thirds of the old city had been demolished fulfilling political as well as economic goals. In July of 2014 the Imam of the Id Kah mosque was assassinated by young knife-wielding Uighurs. (see Wikipedia)

Recently many of the Uighur have been herded into concentration camps (see below).


When we were in Kashgar the two main ways for Westerners reaching it were from Pakistan over the Kunjerab Pass or via Urumchi both by bus. The latter route frequently led to the rest of China or Russia, via the Trans-Siberian Railway. The airport in Kashgar was usable but flights were not particularly regular. Because the sleeper bus to Urumchi was three full-days and nights, and we didn’t want to travel through China, we stayed in Kashgar and returned to Pakistan.

Dumpling Seller, Kashgar Sunday Market

Dumpling Seller, Kashgar Sunday Market

Today the railway has reached Kashgar by both routes, from Urumchi and via the southern Tarim Basin. Daily domestic flights are through Urumchi or direct to at least eight major Chinese cities. There are also flights to Pakistan and from there to the Middle East.


When we were in Kashgar in 1995, I would guess that the number of Western tourists visiting the Kashgar Sunday Market was around 20 to 30,000. Today it is one million.

In the last few years the Sunday Market has been split and the animal part has been moved to the edge of town. Some of the main market is open daily.

Used Horse, Kashgar Sunday Market

Used Horse, Kashgar Sunday Market

The trip in 1995

We arrived in Sust (the Pakistan border town) on 1 June 1995 to find that the border had been closed for five days. A bus load of Uighurs returning from the Haj were short of money and had been camping on their bus. A friend from Belfast had been helping them with a few supplies.

We had dinner that night with a lively group of Westerners, who had set out for China that morning but had been stopped by an avalanche in front and behind their bus with rocks raining down on them. Some had had to abandon their luggage. We spent an entertaining night with them full of deeply personal revelations, consumed as they were by a near-death-experience. The following day we explore Sust endlessly (it is tiny) and headed off the day after, with most of them and without problems.

In Discussion, Kashgar Sunday Market

In Discussion, Kashgar Sunday Market

One nice thing was going to China with a friendly group of like-minded travellers and coming back again ten days later with some of them. We drove over the Khunjerab Pass one of the highest road passes in the world.

I said in my travel journal:

The scenery over the Khunjerab Pass is spectacular, beginning with the slow gorge climb out of Pakistan. We saw our first yaks before the top and marvelled at the unique orange-furred marmots (vectors of the Plague from at least 1347). The marmots appeared everywhere and whistled at us above 13,000 feet — watching us, often perched on two legs on top of or near their burrows; or sometimes galloping over the short grass. The swinging wild hair of the yaks was primeval; most were black, but there was an occasional light-haired one.

At the top of the Pass 4730 m (15,500 ft), there was no wind and it seemed mild. Yet, Dave who was an hour or so ahead of us, with the Uighur Hajis, complained of the bitter wind.

Denise at Chinese Border

Denise at Chinese Border

At the Chinese border post, a caravan in the midst of nowhere, they were so glad to see us that all decorum was forgotten. I have a photo of Denise wearing the Chinese officer’s cap.

We, the whole group, did some bad things with the Chinese particularly around the immigration post at Tashkurgan (both coming and going) and caused some loss of face, some of this was deliberate on our part — testing the limits — and some inadvertent.

Our experience of China was very much that described by Vikram Seth in From Heaven Lake. Concerning Urumchi, Seth says:

The status of a “foreign friend” or “ foreign guest” in China is an interesting if unnatural one. Officialdom treats the foreigner as one would a valuable panda given to fits of mischief. On no account must any harm come to the animal. On the other hand, it must be closely watched at all times so that it does not see too much, do too much on its own, or influence the behaviour of the local inhabitants.’

We were perhaps lucky that we weren’t perceived to transgress enough to be punished. Indeed, we saved one Kirghiz trader on our return to Pakistan because everyone on the bus refused to let the Chinese officials remove him. He was quite frightened.

Tashkurgan Fort

Tashkurgan Fort

We stayed the first night in Tashkurgan (meaning ‘stone fort’ in Turkic). The current fort is 13th century but the original fort is much older. The hotel was reasonable but the toilets were rather foul, particularly in the morning rush because of a lack of water. At the front desk, the pleasant manager said: The temperature went down to -42 °C in winter and split every water pipe in town. There is no running water in Tashkurgan. The first hotel we tried was hideous.

Next day we headed on the long drive to Kashgar (six-and-a-half hours) after being delayed for four hours without explanation. The patriotic bus driver put the bus into ‘angel gear’ (neutral) on every downhill stretch of a very dangerous road to save petrol for the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Magnificent Glacier Riven Mustagh Ata, 7546m

Magnificent Glacier Riven Mustagh Ata, 7546m

Our night in Tashkurgan was marvellous despite the hotel, because we’d been starved of vegetables and just starved in Pakistan. Several of the group spoke passable Mandarin — as they’d been teaching English in Taiwan. They were jaundiced of the mainland Chinese and quite negative, insisting one had to agree on the price of every item on the menu before ordering. Once we did that we had a feast for kings and we ‘pigged out’ every night we were in Kashgar or at least those of us who were returning to Pakistan. We ate vegetables as if famished. Carefully, ignoring how they had been grown, as we did the whole of our sojourn of ten days.

Sand Mountain

Sand Mountain

They were not wrong that it is every Chinese’s patriotic duty to rip off Westerners. As next day I was charged (pennies) for a cup of tea, a thing unheard of in China. Things have probably changed!

Our experienced Chinese travellers called the endlessly re-used chopsticks we had to eat with ‘hep’ sticks and always dipped them in the plentiful boiling water not that I think it would have prevented hepatititis.

Avenue of Poplars & Mule Cart on the way to Kashgar Sunday Market

Avenue of Poplars & Mule Cart on the way to Kashgar Sunday Market

The highlights of the trip were the scenery along the wild river, Mustagh Ata, the sand mountain; a rather grim holiday camp at Lake Karakul when the weather closed in and our first close-up views of Bactrian camels in the sleet and icy wind.

I wrote the following purple prose about Mustagh Ata in my journal:

From Tashkurgan, after crossing the swampy Tagh Ama Basin, the most spectacular sight was Muztagh Ata mountain 7546 m (24,750) when the cloud cleared. This mountain looks small but wild from the road. It may be further away than it looks, or the flatness of the landscape draws it down to earth, it doesn’t loom like the Karakorums do, but even so it is a most awe inspiring sight. The mountain from one angle is riven by three gigantic splits — made by the hand of God in some instant of cataclysmic rage. One imagines a three-clawed hand and understands why the Egyptians worshipped cats — such a cat! Down these chasms glaciers roar in frozen time.

At Chini Bagh most of us decamped for Seman Hotel. Chini Bagh is the site of the old British consulate and Seman of the old Russian consulate. Both are now State owned hotels for tourists.

Denise and I, and another couple opted for luxury doubles at 80 Yuan (Y) per night. At US$10 this was better than anything that we’d had in Pakistan. (The Yuan today is not much less — 80 Y is ~ USD $11.60.) Although we’d never paid this much before. The rooms were good except for the ‘iffy’ hot water provided twice a day, which seemed to get less reliable the longer we stayed, three nights. The bathroom cubicles were also strange fibreglass shells, like something out of William Gibson. Then we moved into the pleasant large shared backpacker room at Seman with our friends. Faded luxury surrounded by dusty dark red velvet curtains and divan type beds.

Kashgar (for ten nights)

The Kashgar Sunday Market

Approach to Kashgar Sunday Market Entry

Approach to Kashgar Sunday Market Entry

Our first full day was Sunday 4 June and thus we had the opportunity to attend two Sunday markets during our stay. For the descriptions of Kashgar I’ll stick closely to my journal to retain the flavour of 1995. Although the photographs are better than any description could be.

The Kashgar Sunday Market is hard to describe. It is like a super annual country Field Days in Australia, but one that runs every week and is also smaller too than one expects. Six of us shared a motorcycle taxi. We entered by a narrow lane that crosses the Tuman River — a small muddy stream that comes from the distant mountains and eventually disappears into the Tarim River and the Takla Makan Desert.

Testing a Horse

Testing a Horse

Over to the right are the animal sales and horse testing area, which includes donkey cart making and furniture sales; but you can’t get there directly from where we entered and one must circle around three sides of a square through market streets. Inside is an amazing cacophony of horse, mule, donkey, sheep and cattle sales, with the odd goat and Bactrian camel, as well. Some of the sheep have the fatty double bums that make them look almost like humans in the butcher’s shops and some are the fluffy single bum variety, whose coats look vaguely Angora-like. The horses are both ridden and buggy-harnessed, most are stallions (complete). The testing is often quite ruthless — hard mouth and whip. The horses don’t seem to respond to the bit, but get the message if you whip them about the head with the reins. Denise declined the horse testing; although there may well have been some seller resistance to a woman riding.

Sullen Girl in Crowd

Sullen Girl in Crowd

Across the road from the agricultural arena is a large market bazaar with a good array of goods, including clothes, hardware and variety wares. There are also food stalls within the main bazaar, plus little restaurants in the lanes surrounding it and on the main road through the market. Inside a big pavilion was a drinks and resting area. I discovered a tolerable Lychee juice drink for 1 Y a small bottle and 2 Y in the large beer bottle size. We ate wonton soup for lunch at a small stall for 2.5 Y a bowl and also tried the baked Uighur empanandas. In the food stalls in the main market they were making Chinese noodles, under what I’d call adverse conditions, including boiling them over flaring wood fires. Along the main street, wherever there are food stalls, there are also wood-fired geysers for drawing off boiling water for tea. I should know! Where we had lunch, I almost washed my hands under a geyser, instead of using the teapot of cold water beside it that I’d been directed to. For the next half hour, I watched them drawing off huge kettles of boiling water from the spigot, every few minutes and winced at the memory of a near scalding.

Snow Leopard Skin? In Main Bazaar

Snow Leopard Skin? In Main Bazaar

The second Kashgar Sunday Market, as with everything in life, was less awesome than the first, but still wonderful and the crowds were even larger. We caught a horse cart to the markets this time, which wended its way around the back streets, as it was not allowed on the main roads.

Of new interest were the fur and hat areas. Caroline bought two hats for 80Y, so they were cheap. We didn’t price the boots. The hat people also had beautiful skins of lynx, fox, mink, ermine and marmot (the marmot was dark brown and not the orange we saw). I looked again at the skins that seemed to be snow leopard and couldn’t see how they could be fake. But there are so many that one wonders if there are enough left in the world to supply Kashgar with skins. The traders had no English name for the animal but called it ‘Bow-yo’ — Mark says that someone said it was a ‘snow leopard’ in English.

At the livestock market, we met the two young Quebecois males (23) who’d bought horses (3,200 Y each) last week for the trek to Pakistan. They looked in good hands with the horse trader and the CITS (tourist) man in particular. The latter had thrown himself into the expedition wholeheartedly. They’d bought all the gear during the week and had just purchased the food (hay and hard corn) for the horses. Such bravery needed rewarding, but the first week or so would be painful and the learning immense.

They weren’t horse people and had been overwhelmed with information. Denise’s advice, I thought, was concise and pertinent: ‘Don’t be afraid to get off and walk, especially in the first few days when you are sore,’ she said. ‘And don’t let go of the horse, no matter what!’ In the first week or so, the horses would head straight back to Kashgar, if given the chance.

Butcher with Double-Bummed Sheep, Kashgar Sunday Market

Butcher with Double-Bummed Sheep, Kashgar Sunday Market

Impressions of Kashgar

During the week we cycled out to the Tomb of Abakh Hoja, visited the Id Kah Mosque and the main bazaar, saw the Mao statue and cycled to the tomb of Yusuf Hazi Hajip.

Abakh Hoja Tomb

Abakh Hoja Tomb


The Chinese Department Stores — with the exception of the one near the Post Office with some electronic goods, TVs and modern consumer items — were old and sad and didn’t seem to have sold much since 1960. The staff were mainly asleep on the dusty counters. In 1995 one gained the distinct impression that some or many of the Han Chinese had been sent here as a punishment and weren’t enjoying it.

Donkey Unimpressed by Shiny Chests, Kashgar Sunday Market

Donkey Unimpressed by Shiny Chests, Kashgar Sunday Market

The main bazaar and cloth bazaars, by contrast, were humming. Yet the goods are depressing. Awful synthetic cloth, junk variety goods and bric-a-brac. It makes you realise just how little the Uighurs have and have to choose from.

The only wood seems to be the ubiquitous poplar, which is covered with thin shiny metal in gold and silver, for possession boxes and cradles. Everything is cheap and tacky, but the food is good. Plenty of mutton, chicken and home grown vegetables, unlike in northen Pakistan where all the fresh vegetables are dried for the winter.

Mates Taking a Break

Mates Taking a Break

Visual impressions are of poplars lining the roads sometimes four or five deep surrounding the fields; of poplar leaves rippling in the sunlight and of millions of leaves moving in the slanting rays of the sun. Irrigation ditches and water. The sight of water raises your spirits because the knowledge of desert is indelibly printed in your mind.

Other sensory impressions are of wind and dust, fine dust everywhere; of water sprinkled on the dust of the road and hexagonal block foot and bicycle paths. Of friable loess soil and clean swept mud roads. Of houses made into fortresses of mud-brick with pleasant courtyards. The graves are also made of mud and straw and mud-brick. You sense that it doesn’t often rain in Kashgar. The water comes in rivers and streams from the nearby snow-capped mountains.

Fluffy Sheep, Kashgar Sunday Market

Fluffy Sheep, Kashgar Sunday Market

Communism seems to rest lightly on Kashgar. The Han Chinese one deals with are helpful in their own limited way. The girl at the Business Centre in Seman Hotel who is so enthusiastic and eager to please.

The Uighurs like their food and drink too. They get really pissed and stagger up the street, sometimes singing.

That is the true charm of Kashgar after Pakistan — the variety of food, fresh vegetables and alcohol: beer, Turfan wine (red and white — a sweet-cross between sherry, port and wine — but very palatable).

Serious Work, Kashagar Sunday Market

Serious Work, Kashagar Sunday Market

Islam seems to rest lightly here too, not fanatical, though part might be suppression by the Chinese, but part too is a love of life and good things; even the women are bolder and more independent than in Pakistan.

Also there are the pool tables in the street (no rain), the video games parlours (with Chinese men in uniform avidly playing), the soldiers standing at attention all day under umbrellas at gateways (the mind-numbing boringness of the Chinese jobs), the dusty Department stores with no customers, the bustling main bazaar with its almost embarrassing poor quality goods.

Cart Jam, Kashgar Sunday Market

Cart Jam, Kashgar Sunday Market

No wonder the spangle-sequin cloth dresses in pink, red, gold and silver are so popular. They seem to wear them at such inappropriate times and places. Little girls in party frocks in the mud and women in these dresses in the fields. Also dressed-up in the street in their gaudy dresses and high heels.

The infants with the slits in their pants and nappies to let the poo flow. The cradles with the hole and the wood plugs or more direct plastic catheters.

Expert Noodle Maker

Expert Noodle Maker

An oasis in the desert — sitting at John’s Cafe, eating kebabs at the night market or hanging out in your room at the Seman Hotel — it’s easy to forget how isolated that Kashgar really is. A three-day trip to Urumchi or two days to Sust in Pakistan (which is in the middle of nowhere), are the normal tourist routes. Other routes: the Torughut Pass into Khirghizistan, the Terek via Tajikistan into Uzbekistan, the desert routes through Tajikistan, with a possible diversion into Afghanistan or the long road into Tibet (forbidden to tourists though one of our party was determined to try, he failed after a month) are all desert and mountain routes. Kashgar has been a welcome stop on the Silk Road and earlier trade routes for 3,000 years, but it’s really only a caravanserai and a market town situated precariously on the edge of a hostile desert, and of necessity growing its own food and self-sufficient. For hundreds of years in its history the trade routes were closed.

Cooking the Noodles, Kashgar Sunday Market

Cooking the Noodles, Kashgar Sunday Market

Two types of street food were readily available everywhere. Little delightful kebabs cooked over charcoal braziers and large wok-like cauldrons of dark liquid slow-cooked for hours. If you watched a sheep’s head would occasionally float to the surface its glazed eyes watching you. The slow-cooked meat was not eaten on the street, but placed in plastic bags as takeaway for the home. The delicacy appeared to be the sheep’s cheek, which was cut away carefully and placed in the plastic bag with some liquid. We only had a taste but it was good!

Hand Shearing before Sale, Kashgar Sunday Market

Hand Shearing before Sale, Kashgar Sunday Market

The night eating market and the promenade around the adjacent traffic circle are pleasant places to watch and to be.

The three cafes around the Seman circle reminded me of Khao San Road in Bangkok (as it was in 1995); convenient and good food cheaply without hassle. Perhaps not a good example, as there were only three, and they were much of a muchness. The Limin had the cutest waitresses, John’s was in the middle and the Seman Cafe was the best.

A magnificent meal at the Seman Cafe, a balanced sample of three good dishes: Chicken with dry chilli and peanuts, beef with walnuts and a cold cucumber dish with garlic and sweet soy sauce. Another bottle of red Turfan wine and Beijing beer. Heaven!

Boy in the Tuman River

Boy in the Tuman River

One could order, kebabs from vendors in the street, as a side dish. One night because of a confusion we ordered far too many kebabs but ate them all anyway. They were tiny strips of lamb like kebabs in Thailand. On another night the oil-filled transformer on a telegraph pole 50-metres away exploded with a wild electric cascade of sparks like fireworks.

We left on Monday 12 June for the two day trip back to Tashkurgan and Sust. After Sust eight of us stopped at Passu. Passu had been gloomy gray and raining on the way up an unattractive place. Now it was sunny a lovely garden surrounded by glacial moraine with wonderful walks and incredible mountain views.

Spice Seller, Kashgar Sunday Market

Spice Seller, Kashgar Sunday Market

Political Comment about the Uighur

China has long been criticised for its poor treatment of ethnic minorities across the country, especially Tibetans. I know a little about the plight of hill tribe people in southern China because of my Akha friends in Chiang Mai. However, as an Australian I feel a little reluctant to criticise China (apart from the Tibetans), because of the way we have treated our own indigenous minority and more recently the tiny trickle refugees arriving in Australia by boat.

Nevertheless, there is a growing fear that the treatment of Uighur people in Xinjiang is going beyond poor treatment into outright repression and perhaps worse. The plight of the Uighur has been championed for some years by Rebiya Kadeer, a Uighur activist who has fled China.

Boy Concentrating on Task, Kashgar Sunday Market

Boy Concentrating on Task, Kashgar Sunday Market

Peter Hartcher, International Editor for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, said in an article on 16 October 2018 that Rebiya Kadeer had told him in April that a million of her people out of a population of ten million were locked up in concentration camps. Mike Pompeo Secretary of State for the USA said the same on 21 September.

Hartcher says:

The Chinese authorities are still building new camps, according to the government’s public tender documents. …

Until recently, Beijing said the camps were career retraining centres. How benign. … But Kadeer describes them as concentration camps where propaganda sessions are compulsory and contact with the outside world prohibited.

With international criticism starting to emerge, the Chinese authorities last week rewrote the law to give retrospective legality to the camps. The new law allows authorities to use “vocational skills training centres” to “deradicalise” people suspected of extremism. Regardless of the cover story, it has become undeniable that a vast program of ethnic and religious persecution is under way.

The story seems to be entering the mass media globally. Kirsty Needham wrote a further article with photographs in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald about China’s ‘Re-education’ Centres. The article was mainly about Turfan (Turpan) which in 1995 people we met said was a very pleasant ‘oasis’ town the centre of Xinjiang’s wine industry. The photograph of the enormous white ‘re-education’ centre behind brick walls, I found horrifying.

Kirsty Needham says:

Markets, a lively outdoor community affair, when I visited a decade ago, now take place inside a dark cage. Entry is made through a gauntlet of security officers and a walk-through scanner.

Inside are no Uighur men of working age among the stalls selling Turpan’s prized sultanas and raisins. There are few seen on the streets outside, either. Where are they?

The three stories Hartcher highlights in his article were the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, the atrocities against the Rohingya people in Myanmar and the treatment of the Uighur in China. He complains that there isn’t enough outrage over the Asian examples.

Although atrocities around the world come to light more easily these days, are we becoming inured to things that would have once appalled us? Governments, including Australia’s, seem to think they can get away with cheating and lying on a massive scale and that people will eventually forget. Hartcher a senior political journalist seems in despair that he cannot highlight the plight of the Rohingya and now the Uighur enough to fuel ongoing and persistent outrage. We need to begin to ignore the 24-hour news cycle, to examine things more deeply and not to forget.

Key Words: Kashgar, Sunday Market, Pakistan, Uighur, Han Chinese, Sust, Tashkurgan, Xinjiang, Karakorum Highway, Tarim Basin, Takla Makan Desert, Urumchi, Chini Bagh, Seman’s Hotel, Tuman River, Bactrian Camel, Snow Leopard, horse, Passu

Further Information


All the photographs above, except for the seven obvious ones were taken at the Kashgar Sunday Market. I didn’t talk much about the old city or other aspects of Kashgar, such as the old city and Kirghiz Traders spending an afternoon eating and drinking in our hotel courtyard — they were very hospitable. This was partly because I haven’t got many photographs and partly because I wanted to stay on topic.


Wikipedia also has some good coverage of Kashgar, which I used in the Introduction.

Wikipedia on Kashgar

Wikipedia on Abhak Hoja and Abakh Hoja Tomb

Other Good Blogs on Kashgar

Josh Summers in his Far West China Blog writes in July 2017 about the changes in Kashgar’s old city from 2009. The article and photos are good and there is an 8-min video of his impressions of his first trip in 2008 (before the old city was torn down) and today.

Another blogger Nomad4Now‘s Lesley Lababidi posted this interesting article about Kashgar in August 2018 Kashgar …15 years too late, which gives a bit of history and other things I’ve left out and also includes videos.

My friend Peggy also posted some quirky but interesting observations on Kashgar from her trip through Central Asia in 2012:

Cheap & cheerful: Chinese food at its best  — a nice restaurant in Kashgar.

The End of China’s Earth — Peggy has some lovely photos of the demolition of the Old City in 2012.

Always agree on the price first — Poor John’s hair cut proves the point made by our cynical friends about China, even though the barber was probably a Uighur (maybe not).

Hardest Beds on the Planet — sounds tough!

The Uighur Repression

Peter Hartcher

The article in the Canberra Times on 16 October from which I am quoting is marginally different from the Sydney Morning Herald version, as is the title: Getting Away with Murder. The three sister newspapers do this occasionally. Hartcher was using the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul to link with the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Uighur in China as the three great humanitarian atrocities of our time. He was pondering on why there isn’t more outrage over the Asian examples. I thought he might be exaggerating over the last, but as more news emerges of China’s actions in far off Xinjiang it is something that requires more attention and global condemnation.

The article with comments by Mike Pompeo is ‘Awful Abuses’: US denounces China’s treatment of Uighurs The Guardian 21 October 2018.

This Weekend’s 3-4 November Article

Kirsty Needham Ruined Dreams: the people locked up in China’s desert ‘re-education’ centres Sydney Morning Herald 3-4 November 2018.

Further Reading

There are many books on Kashgar and the Silk Road

Books I read at the time were:

C. P. Skrine and Pamela Nightingale Macartney at Kashgar: new light on British, Chinese and Russian activities in Sinkiang, 1890-1918, 1973.

Peter Hopkirk Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, 1984.

Peter Hopkirk The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia, 1992.

John Keay Where Men and Mountains Meet: Explorers of the Western Himalayas 1820-1875, 1994.

I also have on my bookshelf, that I haven’t yet got around to:

Peter Frankopan The Silk Roads: a new history of the world, 2016.


Josh Summers Far West China also has a good selection of books on Xinjiang

Posted in Canberra




  1. Thanks for the memories. In 2012, we travelled to Kashgar overland from Kyrgyzstan. By then the market was much more modern. The one you saw in 1995 was still the norm in 2012 eastern Kyrgyzstan.

    And yes, sadly there isn’t enough outrage over the Asian examples.

    1. Author

      My apologies Peggy. We’ve just got back from a week away and as well as being in a rush to post for November — I had some weird technical problems too. I have now rectified the situation and linked to your articles. I particularly liked John’s haircut story because even if not relevant to our companions stories on China. It seems to make the point.

      I also loved your 2012 old city demolition photos. An important historical snapshot!


  2. Author

    Thanks Denise. It was a wonderful trip and it is nice to compare what things were like over twenty years ago with what has changed since. Despite my views as a teenager, it is sometimes worth looking back to understand the way the world is now. Unlike Australia, where Sydney’s new airport was decided upon fifty years ago and will take now take15 years to build once they turn the first sod, the Chinese have built thousands of kilometres of new fast rail line from two directions into Kashgar and I suspect the airport has been thoroughly modernised. But not without costs to culture. The oppression of the Uighur also seems to be an atrocity beyond all explanation.


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