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Kashkar

Kashgar or Kashi is an oasis city with approximately 350,000 residents in the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. Kashgar is the administrative centre of Kashgar Prefecture which has an area of 162,000 km² and a population of approximately 3.5 million.

The city covers an area of 15 km². The altitude averages 1,289.5 m/4,282 ft. above sea level. The annual mean temperature is 11.7°C, with a low of -24.4° in January and up to 40.1° in July. The frost-free period averages 215 days.

Geography
Kashgar is sited west of the Taklamakan Desert at the feet of the Tian Shan mountain range, south of Argu Tagh mountain range.

Situated at the junction of routes from the valley of the Oxus, from Khokand and Samarkand, Almati, Aksu, and Khotan, the last two leading from China and Pakistan, Kashgar has been noted from ancient times as a political and commercial centre.

The Kashgar oasis is where both the northern and southern routes from China around the Taklamakan Desert converge. It is also almost directly north of Tashkurgan through which traffic passed from the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Gandhara, in what is now Pakistan, and Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.

View of Kashgar and the mountains to the west, 1868About 200 km (120 mi) west of the present city, just past the present border with Kyrgyzstan, the main Silk Road crossed into the head of the Alay Valley from where relatively easy routes led southwest to Balkh or northwest to Ferghana. The present main road now travels northwest through the Torugart pass.

History
Han Dynasty
The earliest mention of Kashgar is when the Chinese Han Dynasty envoy traveled the Northern Silk Road to explore lands to the west.

Another early mention of Kashgar is during the Former Han (also known as the Western Han Dynasty), when the Chinese conquered the Xiongnu, Yutian (Khotan), Sulei (Kashgar), and a group of states in the Tarim basin almost up to the foot of the Tian Shan mountains. This happened in 76 BC.

Ptolemy speaks of Scythia beyond the Imaus, which is in a 'Kasia Regio', probably exhibiting the name from which Kashgar and Kashgaria (often applied to the district) are formed.

The country's people practised Zoroastrianism and Buddhism before the coming of Islam.

In the Hanshu (Book of the Former Han), which covers the period between 125 BC and 23 AD, it is recorded that there were 1,510 households, 18,647 people and 2,000 persons able to bear arms. By the time covered by the Hou Hanshu (roughly 25 to 170), it had grown to 21,000 households and had 3,000 men able to bear arms.

Three Kingdoms to the Sui
These centuries are marked by the general silence on Kashgar and the Tarim Basin in general.

The Weilüe, composed in the second third of the 3rd century, mentions a number of states as dependencies of Kashgar: the kingdom of Zhenzhong, the kingdom of Suoju (Yarkand), the kingdom of Jieshi, the kingdom of Qusha, the kingdom of Xiye (Khargalik), the kingdom of Yinai (Tashkurghan), the kingdom of Manli (modern Karasul), the kingdom of Yire (Mazar or Tokanak), the kingdom of Yuling, the kingdom of Juandu ('Tax Control' - near modern Irkeshtam), the kingdom of Xiuxiu ('Excellent Rest Stop' - near Karakavak), and the kingdom of Qin.

However, much of the information on the Western Regions contained in the Weilüe seems to have ended roughly about (170), near the end of Han power. So, we can't be sure that this is a reference to the state of affairs during the Cao Wei (220-265), or whether it refers to the situation before the civil war during the Later Han when China lost touch with most foreign countries and came to be divided into three separate kingdoms.

The Sanguoshi, ch. 30 says that after the beginning of the Wei Dynasty (220) the states of the Western Regions did not arrive as before, except for the larger ones such as Kucha, Khotan, Kangju, Wusun, Kashgar, Yuezhi, Shanshan and Turpan, who are said to have come to present tribute every year, as in Han times.

In 270, four states from the Western Regions were said to have presented tribute: Karashahr, Turpan, Shanshan, and Kucha. Some wooden documents from Niya seem to indicate that contacts were also maintained with Kashgar and Khotan also had contact about this time.

In 422, according to the Songshu, ch. 98, the king of Shanshan, Bilong, came to the court and "the thirty-six states in the Western Regions" all swore their allegiance and presented tribute. It must be assumed that these 36 states included Kashgar.

The "Songji" of the Zizhi Tongjian records that in the 5th month of 435, nine states: Kucha, Kashgar, Wusun, Yueban, Tashkurghan, Shanshan, Karashahr, Turpan and Sute all came to the Wei court.

In 439, according to the Weishu, ch. 4A, Shanshan, Kashgar and Karashahr sent envoys to present tribute.

According to the Weishu, ch. 102, Chapter on the Western Regions, the kingdoms of Kucha, Kashgar, Wusun, Yueban, Tashkurghan, Shanshan, Karashahr, Turpan and Sute all began sending envoys to present tribute in the Taiyuan reign period (435-440).

In 453 Kashgar sent envoys to present tribute (Weishu, ch. 5), and again in 455.

An embassy sent during the reign of Wencheng Di (452-466) from the king of Kashgar presented a supposed sacred relic of the Buddha; a dress which was incombustible.

In 507 Kashgar, is said to have sent envoys in both the 9th and 10th months (Weishu, ch. 8). In 512, Kashgar sent envoys in the 1st and 5th months. (Weishu, ch. 8).

Early in the 6th century Kashgar is included among the many territories controlled by the Yeda or Hephthalite Huns, but their empire collapsed at the onslaught of the Western Turks between 563 and 567 who then probably gained control over Kashgar and most of the states in the Tarim Basin.

The Tang Dynasty
Kashgar's Sunday marketThe opening of the Tang Dynasty, in 618, saw the beginning of a prolonged struggle between China and the Western Turks for control of the Tarim Basin.

In 635 the Tang Annals report an embassy from the king of Kashgar. In 639 there was a second embassy bringing products of Kashgar as a token of submission.

Xuan Zang passed through Kashgar (which he calls 'Ka-sha') in 644 on his return journey from India to China. The Buddhist religion, then beginning to decay in India, was active in Kashgar. Xuan Zang records that they flattened their babies heads, were ill-favoured, tattooed their bodies and had green eyes. He said they had abundant crops, fruits and flowers, wove fine woollen stuffs and rugs, their writing had been copied from India but their language was different from that of other countries. The inhabitants were sincere believers in Buddhism and there were some hundreds of monasteries with more than 10,000 followers, all members of the Sarvastivadin School.

Contemporaneously, Nestorian Christians were establishing bishoprics at Herat, Merv and Samarkand, whence they subsequently proceeded to Kashgar, and finally to China itself.

In 646, when the Turkish Kagan asked for the hand of a Chinese princess, the Emperor claimed Kucha, Khotan, Kashgar, Karashahr and Sarikol as a marriage gift, but this was not to happen.

In a series of campaigns between 652 and 658, with the help of the Uyghurs, the Chinese finally defeated the Western Turk tribes and took control of all their domains, including the Tarim Basin kingdoms.

In 662 a rebellion broke out in the Western Regions and a Chinese army sent to control it was badly defeated by the Tibetans south of Kashgar.

After another defeat of the Chinese forces in 670, the Tibetans gained control of the whole region and completely subjugated Kashgar in 676-8 and retained possession of it until 692, when China regained control of all their former territories, and retained it for the next fifty years.

In 722 Kashgar sent 4,000 troops to assist the Chinese to force the "Tibetans out of "Little Bolu" or Gilgit.

In 728, the king of Kashgar was awarded a brevet by the Chinese emperor.

In 739, the Tangshu relates that the governor of the Chinese garrison in Kashgar, with the help of Ferghana, was interfering in the affairs of the Turgash tribes as far as Talas.

In 751 the Chinese suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Arabs in Talas; a blow from which they never fully recovered. The Tibetans cut all communication between China and the West in 766.

Soon after the Chinese pilgrim monk Wukong passed through Kashgar in 753. He again reached Kashgar on his return trip from India in 786 and mentions a Chinese deputy governor as well as the local king.

The Arab Caliphate
In the 8th century came the Arab rule from the west, and we find Kashgar and Turkestan lending assistance to the reigning queen of Bokhara, to enable her to repel the enemy. But although the Muslim religion from the very commencement sustained checks, it nevertheless made its weight felt upon the independent states of Turkestan to the north and east, and thus acquired a steadily growing influence. It was not, however, till the 10th century that Islam was established at Kashgar, under the Uyghur kingdom.

The Uyghurs
An Uyghur naan baker.Modern Uyghurs are the descendants of ancient Turkic tribes including Uyghurs and ancient Caucasian inhabitants of Tarim basin. Sultan Satuq Bughra Khan, the most celebrated prince of this line, converted to Islam late in the 10th century and the Uyghur kingdom lasted until 1120 but was distracted by complicated dynastic struggles. The Uyghurs employed an alphabet based upon the Syriac and borrowed from the Nestorian missionaries, but after converting to Islam widely used also an Arabic script. They spoke a dialect of Turkish preserved in the Kudatku Bilik, a moral treatise composed in 1065.

The Mongols
The Uyghur kingdom was destroyed by an invasion of the Kara-Khitai, another Turkish tribe pressing westwards from the Chinese frontier, who in their turn were swept away in 1219 by Genghis Khan. His invasion gave a decided check to the progress of the Muslim creed, but on his death, and during the rule of the Jagatai Khans, who became converts to that faith, it began to reassert its ascendancy.

Marco Polo visited the city, which he calls Cascar, about 1273-4 and recorded the presence of numerous Nestorian Christians, who had their own churches.

In 1389–1390 Timur ravaged Kashgar, Andijan and the intervening country. Kashgar endured a troubled time, and in 1514, on the invasion of the Khan Sultan Said, was destroyed by Mirza Ababakar, who with the aid of ten thousand men built a new fort with massive defences higher up on the banks of the Tuman river. The dynasty of the Jagatai Khans collapsed in 1572 with the division of the country among rival factions; soon after, two powerful Khoja factions, the White and Black Mountaineers (Ak Taghliq or Afaqi, and Kara Taghliq or Ishaqi), arose whose differences and war-making gestures, with the intermittent episode of the Oirats of Dzungaria, make up much of recorded history in Kashgar until 1759.

Qing Reconquest
In 1759, a Qing army from Ili (Kulja) invaded Turkistan and consolidated their authority by settling other ethnics emigrants in the vicinity of a Manchu garrison.

The Qing had thoughts of pushing their conquests towards Transoxiana and Samarkand, the chiefs of which sent to ask assistance of the Afghan king Ahmed Shah Abdali. This monarch dispatched an ambassador to Beijing to demand the restitution of the Muslim states of Central Asia, but the representative was not well received, and Ahmed Shah was too busy fighting off the Sikhs to attempt to enforce his demands by arms. The Qing continued to hold Kashgar with occasional interruptions from Muslim-centered groups. One of the most serious of these occurred in 1827, when the city was taken by Jahanghir Khoja; Chang-lung, however, the Qing general of Ili, regained possession of Kashgar and the other rebellious cities in 1828. A revolt in 1829 under Mahommed Ali Khan and Yusuf, brother of Jahanghir resulted in the concession of several important trade privileges to the Muslims of the district of Alty Shahr (the 'six cities'), as it was then called.

The area then enjoyed relative calm until 1846 under the rule of Zahir-ud-din, the local Uyghur governor, but in that year a new Khoja revolt under Kath Tora led to his accession to rulership of the city as an authoritarian ruler. His reign, however, was brief, for at the end of seventy-five days, on the approach of the Chinese, he fled back to Khokand amid the jeers of the inhabitants. The last of the Khoja revolts (1857) was of about equal duration, and took place under Wali-Khan, who murdered the famous traveler Adolf Schlagintweit.

The 1862 revolt
The great Tungani (Dungani) revolt, or insurrection of the Uygur Turks, which broke out in 1862 in Gansu, spread rapidly to Dzungaria and through the line of towns in the Tarim Basin.

The Tungani troops in Yarkand rose, and in August 1864 massacred some seven thousand Chinese, while the inhabitants of Kashgar, rising in their turn against their masters, invoked the aid of Sadik Beg, a Kyrgyz chief, who was reinforced by Buzurg Khan, the heir of Jahanghir, and his general Yakub Beg (surnamed the Atalik Ghazi), these being dispatched at Sadik's request by the ruler of Khokand to raise what troops they could to aid his Muslim friends in Kashgar.

Sadik Beg soon repented of having asked for a Khoja, and eventually marched against Kashgar, which by this time had succumbed to Buzurg Khan and Yakub Beg, but was defeated and driven back to Khokand. Buzurg Khan delivered himself up to indolence and debauchery, but Yakub Beg, with singular energy and perseverance, made himself master of Yangi Shahr, Yangi-Hissar, Yarkand and other towns, and eventually became sole master of the country, Buzurg Khan proving himself totally unfit for the post of ruler.

With the overthrow of Chinese rule in 1865 by Yakub Beg (1820-1877), the manufacturing industries of Kashgar are supposed to have declined.

Kashgar and the other cities of the Tarim Basin remained under Yakub Beg' rule until May 1877, when he died at Korla and Kashgaria was reconquered by the forces of the Qing general Zuo Zongtang.

Sights
Kashga's Old City has been called "the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in Central Asia."  In ancient times, this trading hub on the Silk Road, on which caravans carrying silk and jade from China crossed with merchants from Central Asia bringing furs and spices. Today, it is visited by tourists seeking a flavour of Kashgar' rich history. And it is estimated to attract more than one million tourist visitors annually.

-Id Kah Mosque: it is the largest mosque in China, located in the heart of the city.

-Statue of Mao Zedong: 18-meter high, it is one of the few large-scale statues of Mao remaining in China.

-The Tomb of Abakh Khoja: it is considered the holiest Muslim site in Xinjiang. Built in the 17th century, the tiled mausoleum 5 km northeast of the city center also contains the tombs of five generations of his family. Abakh was a powerful ruler, controlling Khotan, Yarkand, Korla, Kucha and Aksu as well as Kashgar. Among some Uyghur Muslims, he was considered a prophet, second only to Mohammed in importance.

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