An oasis in the Taklamakan Desert, Kashgar is at the heart of Chinese Islam, where resides a large Muslim community (90% of the population being Uyghurs and only 2% of the population being Chinese Hans). As Kashgar was once the key trading post bridging the East and the West, one can also find some of the finest markets in Kashgar. In fact, Kashgar was globalised even before the word globalization was invented! Situated at the foot of the impressive Pamir Mountains, this ancient oasis city still retains the exotic feel of the Silk Road era.
Kucha or Kuqa
An ancient Buddhist kingdom located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin and south of the Muzat River.The inhabitants were Indo-European Tocharians, who migrated down from Anatolia (Turkey) and the Caucasus. Drawing on inspiration from Gandhara and Persia, Kuqan musicians and artists were very much the fashion in the cosmopolitan capital of Chang'an. Monks adhered to Hinayana Buddhism, in contrast to other Tarim basin towns and China proper, which adhered to the more complex Mahayana tradition. The trade caravans brought wealth to the city, which subsidized giant Buddhist monasteries here. Nowadays the city is divided in an old and a new, mainly Han-populated, part. In the old city you will find mosques, bazaars and enjoy its central Asian atmosphere which is very different to Chinese towns.
The Taklamakan Desert
China' s largest and second in the world. There is hardly any place in the world which is that far away from any ocean. As its rolling sand dunes stretch out over 3,376,000 square kilometers, Taklimakan is one of the eight biggest deserts of the world. The dunes may be up to 200 meters high and have almost no vegetation. The temperatures vary 20 to 30 degrees Celsius from day to night and although there are not many animals that can survive in this tough weather conditions, there is a great wild-life. So it is one of the last areas were wild camels can still be found.
Tianshan Canyon & the Poplar Trees
The dense forest of diversiform poplar and mulberry trees, bushes and streams can be seen by the Tarim river, which is part of the Tarim Euphrates Poplar National Nature Reserve. The poplar trees in the vicinity of the Tarim River are the oldest poplar trees in the world, emerging with the upheaval of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. This kind of poplar tree has existed for more than 60 million years. They are living fossils that date back to the Tertiary period.
Kizil Thousand Buddha Grotto of Thousand Buddhas
It holds some of the most impressive Buddhist art in Central Asia and it dates back to the third century. The caves are said to be the earliest major Buddhist cave complex in China, at least 1000 square metres of wall paintings remain.