The Chinese authorities are demolishing ancient Kashgar (wiki) in far western China. Once an important stop on the Silk Road, Kashgar is a historic center of Islamic & Uighur Culture in China (over 77 percent of Kashgar city’s 325,000 citizens are Uighur Muslims).
The New York Times reports on this devastating blow to the Uighur people:
Nine hundred families already have been moved from Kashgar’s Old City, “the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in central Asia,” as the architect and historian George Michell wrote in the 2008 book “Kashgar: Oasis City on China’s Old Silk Road.”
Over the next few years, city officials say, they will demolish at least 85 percent of this warren of picturesque, if run-down homes and shops. Many of its 13,000 families, Muslims from a Turkic ethnic group called the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs), will be moved.
In its place will rise a new Old City, a mix of midrise apartments, plazas, alleys widened into avenues and reproductions of ancient Islamic architecture “to preserve the Uighur culture,” Kashgar’s vice mayor, Xu Jianrong, said in a phone interview. (source)
Of course, the idea that this architectural destruction will “preserve” Uighur culture is ridiculous:
“From a cultural and historical perspective, this plan of theirs is stupid,” said Wu Lili, the managing director of the Beijing Cultural Protection Center, a nongovernmental group devoted to historic preservation. “From the perspective of the locals, it’s cruel.”
- Great audio slideshow of Old Kashgar (via NYTimes) here.
- Some other photos of Kashgar (via Ben’s Silk Road photos) here.
- More photos (via Sunda Photography) here.
- Large map of Kashgar here.
- “China’s Western Doorway” in the Nov/Dec 2001 edition of Aramco World.
- Maps of the Silk Road, incl. Kashgar’s position on the historic trade route.
- Info about the beliefs and practices of the Uighur.
All photos by Shiho Fukada for The New York Times (via the wonderful Istanbul-based blog, Kamil Pasha)