Friday, October 14, 2011

Kashgar - Abakh Hoja Mausoleum

It takes five minutes in a rusty taxi to get from the Kashgar Sunday bazaar to the Aba Khoja Mausoleum. The mausoleum is arguably the biggest tourist site in Kashgar, is easily it’s most impressive building and is also a holy and important place – yet the road to get there is still dirt and lined with small homes.

It's incredible that you drive through rough streets and poverty, to get to an entrance like this.

So who is this Abakh Hoja dude? He is pretty much the only ruler of Kashgar that the Uyghurs really ever liked. His granddaughter Ikparhan (she’s known as Xiang Fei or the “Fragrant Concubine”, but I dunno whats up with that) is also buried there. She led the Uyghur people in a revolt against the Han Chinese ruling powers, but she lost and had to be Emperor Qianlong’s concubine. Tough break. The story goes that she was murdered for refusing to submit to this new beau. Or that she was driven to suicide by her new mother-in-law. But there is another story that she just died of old age later. So you can pretty much choose your own ending Goosebumps style.

I digress. No amount of historical inaccuracy could take the take-your-breath-away- effect away from this building.

The mausoleum itself was built way back in the 17th century and has lasted pretty damn well considering. The tiles are incredibly luminescent and in the sun the whole building shines like a big somber disco ball.

In front of the mausoleum there is a perfect rose garden, and a camel that you can ride around. We had just returned from riding camels in the desert though, so passed on that particular experience. 

There is a big big big Islamic cemetery beside the mausoleum too where the graves are iconic and also a little strangely beautiful. This burial site is still used by devout Uyghur locals. It’s an incredible sight.

Elsewhere in the Abakh Hoja complex there is a mosque and a prayer hall and a lecture hall and a pond. Although it’s all a bit rundown now, it was clearly remarkable in it’s day. The paint has faded and the rubble is piling up and the tiles are falling off, but the area is withoutadoubt very special. At no time would I have guessed I was in China. 

I am really struggling to communicate how profound this place is. I began writing a short story about it and it has got me really excited. I feel like some places in the world are just too visually stimulating, it's unbearable!

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