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Kashi, a pearl on the Old Silk Road

 

This is a narrow, quiet lane. The road is lined with houses of one or two storied built of adobe or red brick. It is Saturday. A group of Uygur children are playing, bringing a joyful atmosphere to the quiet bane. At the end of the lane, a sign reading "Vegetable Bazaar Lane" reminds people of its past. The bazaar no longer exists, and people can only imagine the brisk scene here in the old days.

In the old districts of Kashi, many streets have "bazaar" as part of their names. Although most of the bazaars have ceased to exist except in name, there are still some that are still in use. From the names of these streets people can imagine the past glory of this ancient trading city on the Old Silk Road.

Kashi, located in the southwestern part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, has a history of more than 2,000 years. It has occupied an important position in northwestern China since ancient times. Situated at the juncture of the southern and northern routes of the Old Silk Road, it attracted merchants from many parts of the world to trade here . So Kashi became a famous trading city, called a bright pearl on the Old Silk Road. Meanwhile, Kashi is also a sacred place of Islam. Atigar Mosque, the largest mosque in Xinjiang, situated on Atigar Square in the center of the city, is more than 500 years old. The city has produced many famous figures throughout its history.

Kashi is divided into two parts: the new district and the old district, the streets are wide and lined with high-rise buildings, little different from other cities in China ; in the old district, the streets are narrow and most houses are low brick or adobe one.

In fact, today's Kashi has preserved the old traditions. On streets one can find markets selling various commodities, such as vegetables, fruits, food, garments, tools and handicrafts.

Kashi's markets differ from markets in other places in that most of the commodities on sale are made by the vendors themselves. Here tourists can see the handicrafts actually being made in the workshops. Wandering along an ancient street in Kashi, it is as if one has traveled back in time. At the shoes and caps market, the caps and boots on sale are made on the spot.

Going ahead, one can hear the clanging of blacksmiths' hammers. If you hear the sound of an electric saw, then you can go and see carpenters making furniture and kitchen utensils. If you smell the fragrance of baked cakes, you will soon find an eating place serving nang, the staple food of the Uygur people. The nang is broken into small pieces and dipped in soup. It is said nang can be kept for weeks without going stale.

These markets are open every day. The famous Sunday bazaar has been operating since ancient times, and the scale has become larger and larger, attracting merchants from all over Xinjiang and neighboring countries such as Pakistan and Kirghizstan.

Farmers from the suburbs of Kashi come to the bazaar early in the morning, using various means of transportation, such as bicycles, motorcycles, tractors, trucks and donkey-drawn carts. The highways leading to Kashi are crowded with these vehicles and pedestrians on Sunday mornings, as well as with flocks of sheep.

On Sunday the whole city becomes a big market. It is hard to tell the markets from the ordinary streets. Of the 20 markets, some are comprehensive ones, and some are specialized markets selling local produce, arts and crafts, garments, knives, timber, coal or animals. Among them, the animal markets are the largest. Each day, more than 1,000 head of cattle, horses, sheep and camels are traded here.

October is the best season to visit Kashi, as the weather is pleasant and the autumn harvest makes the markets more brisk. In autumn, many types of fruit are on sale, such as grapes, watermelons, Hami melons and figs. Other local products include Xinjiang knives and carpets, which make good souvenirs for tourists.

Uygur people make up most of Kashi's inhabitants. On the streets, one can seldom see people of other ethnic groups except foreign tourists and tourists from other parts of China.

On the ancient streets of Kashi everywhere there are men wearing Uygur skullcaps and women wearing brown veils. The Uygur language is universally spoken by the local people.

After visiting Kashi's Sunday bazaar, people will understand the saying" without visiting Kashi, one cannot say he has visited Kashi. If you have a chance to visit Kashi, don't miss the chance to visit its Sunday Bazaar.

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