Yesterday’s “ancient Kashgar” and today’s “museum-turned-Kashgar” as seen by foreigners

It is known that the Chinese government is targeting Kashgar, the birthplace of Uyghur culture, to destroy Uyghur culture and customs. Especially in recent years, reports by Chinese authorities about the so-called “development and prosperity” of holy sites have revealed that China is trying to assimilate Chinese culture in place of the remaining traces of ancient Uyghur culture on Uyghur land.

“Among cities that continue to develop over time, Kashgar, where the camel bells were heard on the Silk Road more than 2,000 years ago, today fosters a glorious Chinese culture and has achieved unparalleled development.”

These sentences are part of the propaganda that has recently been repeated in Chinese media about the “new look” of Kashgar city.

In fact, various economic, trade and tourism development campaigns targeting Kashgar in recent years have made this ancient Uyghur land truly authentic by “museumizing” the vibrant and dynamic culture of the city of Kashgar over the centuries. The aim is to turn it into a tourist destination. There is no doubt that the Chinese government’s political ambition to sinicize and strengthen its power is becoming one of the important points that some foreign experts studying Uyghur culture overseas are also paying attention to.

Margareta Wenfors Hauk, author of The Himalayas and a resident of Sweden, was interviewed by a radio station about this topic. He said he was born in the Himalayas in the 1930s when his parents went to Kashmir as part of a Swedish medical team. Margareta said of the ancient city of Kashgar, which she visited in later years:

“I had the opportunity to visit Kashmir in 1998 and was very happy. My parents told me that they first went to Kashmir in the 1930s with a Swedish medical task force. Photos taken in Kashgar and old photos of Kashgar My parents have many photographs of Kashmiri markets and streets from when they worked in Kashmir. These photographs and documents are now located in the Samuel Friend Ness, east Turkistan Collection, International Archives in Stockholm. (Samuel Friend Ness, east Turkistan Collection, International Archives in Stockholm).

Mrs. Margareta, who visited Kashgar in 1998, remembers the city of her youth.

“When you visit Kashgar, it is of course amazing to see the traffic jams, skyscrapers and bright lights at night, because Kashgar has not retained any vestiges or smells of the old days.Sweden A good example of this is that all the buildings within the city walls date back to ancient times, with no skyscrapers remaining.

Dr. Patrick Halzon, a researcher at the Institute of Turkish Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden, commented on the matter to the radio station. He mentioned that China has been trying to turn Kashgar into a so-called “high-end industrial tourism city” for several years, and shared his views on this matter with listeners.

“We know that Kashgar is one of the oldest cities in the world. But today it has become an important tourist destination. Kashgar is one of the most important trading cities along the Silk Road. But now we know that the winding roads and traditional markets surrounding the city wall have been destroyed. is promoted as a historic area in its tourism campaigns. But in reality, what visitors see is mostly newly built sites. portions were demolished and most of the traditional settlements were completely destroyed.

Patrick Harzon also emphasized the importance of introducing Uyghur culture and customs to the outside world, including the rich culture of Uyghur music. However, he believes that the current Chinese government is somehow trying to turn Uyghur music and traditional clothing customs into non-existent elements in its tourism campaigns about Uyghurs and Kashmir. he added:

“I think there are a lot of problems with tourism here that tourists don’t see, because this tourist area is experiencing a level of cultural genocide that is unprecedented in China since the Cultural Revolution. But there is a hidden tragedy.”We also know that hundreds of thousands of mosques, cemeteries and shrines in Kashmir and other parts of the Uyghur region have been vandalized or destroyed. Many Uighur intellectuals have been silenced, disappeared, or imprisoned. ”

When Dr. Rune Stenberg, a German anthropologist and Uyghur culture researcher who had lived in Kashgar for some time, joined the conversation, he said that since 2008, the Chinese government had destroyed the city of Kashgar and deported the Uyghur people. He pointed out that plans have begun to resettle them. He appealed to the people in the name of building “earthquake-resistant housing.” . As a result, 85 percent of the ancient city of Kashgar was destroyed and new construction began, he said. He recalled what he had seen and heard during his previous stay in Kashmir.

Dr. Rune Stenberg also mentioned Gunnar Jarring, a Swedish Uyghur culture researcher and famous diplomat, and expressed his thoughts on Kashgar, comparing it to his second visit to Kashgar after 50 years.

In fact, in his book Kashgar Revisited, Gunnar Jaring writes of the Kashgar he saw again 50 years after 1929: In the brand new Kashmir, you will find everything you need for modern life. But what we miss is the old magic of Kashgar city and the Uighurs who know me as Kadina.

During her visit, Margareta emphasized that the traditional ancient culture of Kashgar, the birthplace of Uyghur culture, is currently being completely destroyed.

“Of course, modern developments have led to the construction of high-rise buildings and the number of people living in them. It’s very sad, because these ancient walls and castles have a unique national identity and history and culture. So may Allah grant peace to all the peoples of East Turkestan and help them survive this terrible detention. I pray that you will be released from this place.”

Speaking about this, researcher Patrick Halzon pointed out that Kashgar’s former historical settlements are being destroyed and Kashgar is only presented as a “museum” for tourists.

“What I want to emphasize here is that Uyghurs are played as puppets to sing, dance and entertain tourists to Kashmir. Of course, the current oppression of the Uyghur and Tibetan people and the plundering of their resources is similar to what colonial regimes have done in the past. Similar in many ways.

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