Photo Documentary – Wandering around in Kashgar’s old town

The fading Ancient Town in Kashgar and its remarkable citizens

Kashgar or Kashi is an oasis county-level city with approximately 350,000 residents in the western extremity of the People’s Republic of China, near the border with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Kashgar is the administrative centre ofKashgar Prefecture of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The modern Chinese name is 喀什 (Kāshí), a shortened form of the longer and less-frequently used (simplified Chinese: 喀什噶尔; traditional Chinese: 喀什噶爾; pinyin: Kāshígé’ěr). The earliest mention of Kashgar occurs when the Chinese Han Dynasty envoy traveled the Northern Silk Road to explore lands to the west.

In 2009, development of Kashgar’s old town accelerated after the revelations of the deadly role of faulty architecture during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Many of the old houses in the old town were built without regulation, and as a result, officials found them to be overcrowded and non-compliant with fire and earthquake codes. When the plan started, 42% of the city’s residents lived in the old town. With compensation, residents of faulty buildings are being counseled to move to newer, safer buildings that will replace the historic structures in the $448 million plan, including high-rise apartments, plazas, and reproductions of ancient Islamic architecture. The European Parliament issued a resolution in 2011 calling for “culture-sensitive methods of renovation.”

The International Scientific Committee on Earthen Architectural Heritage (ISCEAH) has expressed concern over the demolition and reconstruction of historic buildings. ISCEAH has, additionally, urged the implementation of techniques utilized elsewhere in the world to address earthquake vulnerability. In 2011, a spate of violence over two days killed dozens of people. By May 2012 two-thirds of the old city had been demolished, fulfilling “political as well as economic goals.”

The city has a very important Sunday market. Thousands of farmers from the surrounding fertile lands come into the city to sell a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Kashgar’s livestock market is also very lively. Silk and carpets made in Hotan are sold at bazaars, as well as local crafts, such as copper teapots and wooden jewellery boxes.

The movie The Kite Runner was filmed in Kashgar. Kashgar and the surrounding countryside stood in for Kabul and Afghanistan, since filming in Afghanistan was not possible due to safety and security reasons.

Kashgar’s Old City has been called “the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in Central Asia”, although it is currently being largely razed by the authorities to make way for ‘modern development’.

The Karakorum highway (KKH) links Islamabad, Pakistan with Kashgar over the Khunjerab Pass. Bus routes exist for passenger travel south into Pakistan. Kyrgyzstan is also accessible from Kashgar, via the Torugart Pass and Irkeshtam Pass; as of summer 2007, daily bus service connects Kashgar with Bishkek’s Western Bus Terminal. Kashgar is also located on China National HighwaysG314 and G315.


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