Preface – Traveling in Xinjiang in 1988

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From September 1987 to August 1988 I spent a year in China as a foreign student. I was 21 at that time and was studying Chinese at Shanghai’s Fudan University. During that year I had the opportunity to travel all around the country, from Shanghai to Kashgar, from Xiamen to Dali, from Hongkong to Beijing, and to many more destinations as well.

In May 1988, I was traveling to Xinjiang in the far West, on the border to Pakistan and Afghanistan, together with another German student from Fudan. We took the train from Shanghai to Turfan – this was a four-day trip in the „hard sleeper“ open six-bunk compartment class. From Turfan, we took the public bus to Korla, Aksu, and on to Kashgar. From there we headed back to Korla, from where we took the train to Dunhuang.

The slides I took during the time in Xinjiang may have almost „historic“ value today, more than 20 years later. I am quite sure that some of landscapes and buildings I was able to see then have now given way to a more „modern“ and supposedly better way of life. This is why I decided to have them digitized and to post some of them, with the date they were taken and the little background information I can still find in my diary from that time. I decided to post in English to reach a larger audience.

Before you expect too much: you will not find any really spectacular photographs – I never was a skilled photographer, and I was taking the pictures with a simple 35 mm rangefinder camera. Also, do not expect too much background information. I am not an expert on Xinjiang or Uighur culture. Also, the diary entries have been translated without a lot of editing. They are the sometimes rather naive notes of a largely uncritical 21-year-old.

I hope you will enjoy the pictures anyway, and I am looking forward to comments.

P.S. Here are some corrections and observations by a Uyghur colleague of mine:

1. Correct Uyghur Names: (in the order of appearance in Diary text)

Uyghur (more widely accepted and used than „Uighur“), Xinjiang (Official full name: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region), Kashgar, Artush (Artux), Turpan (Turfan, Tufan), Aksana grave (Astane), Gaochang (Gaocheng), Sugong Pagoda or Imin Minaret (Imin Pagoda, Imin Masque are not correct), Qinibagh (Qinibahe Hotel), Heytkah Mosque (Idkah Mosque), Kawap (Kebab), Piter Nun or Bread (Pita bread), Apak Khoja (Abakh Hodja), Tokaq Bread (or Bagel-style bread)

2. Background of Sama Dance:

People, aged as young as seven-year-old and as old as seventy but only man, would begin dancing the Sama Dance in the Heytkah Square (in front of Heytkah Mesqit) after finishing the Heyt Prayer and usually dance for hours until they get really sweaty. The Sama Dance is only held on early mornings of the Ramadan Festival and Haj Festival day during the whole year. (your chance to witness it is 2/365=0.534% less than 1%)!

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