A Jamatkhana in Tashkorgan, China


Tashkorgan in the Xinjiang Province of China is 295km (183 miles) South West of Kashgar. The town marked the end of the Silk Routes for Chinese traders arriving from Kashgar. Their goods would be transferred to caravans, which continued on to Gilgit and thence either south to the Indian Ocean along the Indus River, or west through Kabul, Herat, and Mashhad, ultimately reaching the Mediterranean Sea at Antioch or Tyrus. Map Credit: Wikipedia

Tashkorgan in the Xinjiang Province of China is 295km (183 miles) South West of Kashgar. The town marked the end of the Silk Routes for Chinese traders arriving from Kashgar. Their goods would be transferred to caravans, which continued on to Gilgit and thence either south to the Indian Ocean along the Indus River, or west through Kabul, Herat, and Mashhad, ultimately reaching the Mediterranean Sea at Antioch or Tyrus. Map Credit: Wikipedia

IMPORTANT NOTE: As a follow up, please see Ali Karim’s excellent travelogue Silk Road Travelogue By Ali Karim: (4) Scenes from Tashkurgan and an Encounter with an Ismaili Family, and the Drive to Northern Hunza on the Iconic Khunjerab Pass. Karim states that the Jamatkhana in Tashkorgan has remained closed for the past 2 years – Ed.

Tashkorgan is a vibrant market town nestled amongst the Pamir Mountains in China’s Xinjiang province. The town is situated at an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,811 ft) on the borders of both Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and close to the border of Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan. The town has a market for sheep, wool and woollen goods, particularly carpets, and is surrounded by orchards.

Tashkorgan was a Silk Road staging post. Its Uighur name means ‘Stone Fortress’ or ‘Stone Tower’. Photo: Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay.com. Copyright.

The majority population in the town are ethnic Tajiks and most people speak Sarikoli. There is also a village of Wakhi speakers. Chinese and Uyghur are also spoken. Today Tashkorgan is on the Karakoram Highway which follows the old Silk Road route from China to Pakistan. Tashkorgan is a recommended overnight stop for road travellers from China to Pakistan in order to have the best chance of crossing the snow-prone Khunjerab Pass in daylight. Thus decent accommodation is available in the town. For example, the Crown Inn on Pamir Road has positive reviews at Trip Advisor.  

Tashkorgan Jamatkhana, China, is off the main highway leading in and out of the town in an open field with the mountains behind. Photo: Nuram. Copyright.

Tashkorgan is home to an Ismaili Jamatkhana. The town of approximately 30,000 people also has an art and culture centre in which a huge room is dedicated to the Ismailis of the region, their faith and culture. The centre is open to all and has Ismailis as tour guides.  An entry in Wikipedia on Muslim Groups in China notes that the “Shia Chinese Muslims are mostly Ismailis including Tajiks of Xinjiang of the Tashkorgan and Sariqul areas of Xingjiang.”

The Karakoram Highway leading out of Tashkorgan. Photo: Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay.com. Copyright.

We are very pleased to share the following small but fascinating collection of photographs of the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Tashkorgan. They were taken with a simple Sony digital camera. The last two photos are of an Ismaili home and the town’s arts and culture centre.

(Please click photos for enlargements)

The Jamatkhana

A close up photo of the Jamatkhana shown above. Photo: Nuram. Copyright.


The Jamatkhana as seen from a closer distance. A sign (see next photo for detail) is at the entrance on the arch which leads into an open simple courtyard of stone. Photo: Nuram. Copyright. Please click this photo for enlargement.


This sign at the entrance simply says “Jamatkhana” in a Persian script. Photo: Nuram. Copyright. Please click this photo for enlargement.


A section of the stone courtyard. The door where the man is standing leads into a very small foyer which then leads into the Jamatkhana hall. Photo: Nuram. Copyright. Please click this photo for enlargement.


In the interior of the Jamatkhana, one sees the traditional pillars. In one of the corners of the Jamatkhana there is a notebook containing names of individuals who render services.  Photo: Nuram. Copyright. Please click this photo for enlargement.


An Ismaili elder radiantly shows a picture of Mawlana Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan). The photo is not displayed openly in conformity with Government rules, but is housed in this (blue) wall cabinet which is kept locked. See preceding photo to view location of the blue cabinet. Photo: Nuram. Copyright. Please click this photo for enlargement.


An Ismaili Home in Tashkorgan

A typical Ismaili home in Tashkorgan, like the one above, has a peculiar structure and is full of symbolic meanings. The five pillars of the house are named after the members of Ahl al-Bait: the Prophet Muhammad, his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatima, his cousin and son-in-law, the Imam Ali, and their children Hazrat Hasan and Imam Hussein. Generally this is the standard structure of Ismaili homes in the entire Pamir region. It is known as a ‘cheed’. Photo: Nuram. Copyright. Please click this photo for enlargement.


The Culture and Art Centre of Tashkorgan

The Tashkorgan cultural and art centre has a separate space dedicated to the Ismailis of the region, their faith and culture. The museum is open to all and has Ismailis as tour guides. Photo: Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay.com. Copyright.


Date article posted on Simerg: February 23, 2011
Date last updated: July 29, 2017.
Photos: Nuram and Rhett A. Butler. Copyright.

(Photos may not be reproduced without written consent from Nuram and Rhett A. Butler of Mongabay.com)


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61 thoughts on “A Jamatkhana in Tashkorgan, China

  1. Can anyone please provide CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES of this Jamatkhana, others in China, as well as the plight of the ISMAILIS, IF any, in 2020, under the persecution of the Chinese government , of the Muslims?

    Firoza Shariff nee Lalani,
    Toronto, Canada
    August 8, 2020.

  2. I love to visit that place, kindly if any jamati tour to visit china jk inform me i am interested to visit also.
    Moiz Mansoor Ali

  3. Thanks for the wonder and and fascinating articles and for informing us about the Jamatkhana in china. I remember our old jamatkhana buildings in Sidhapur district in India.

  4. Very nice place and a beautiful jamatkhana.

    Thanks to Allah, I am an Ismaili

    Ya Ali Madad

    Dost Mohammad Khan,
    Chitral, Pakistan,

  5. Ya Ali Madad,

    I am a Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim from Hyderabad India. I am immensely happy to find this page. My husband and I are shifting to China, Beijing. Can anybody please provide me with the address of the Beijing jamatkhana, if there is one there?


  6. In 1993 I was fortunate enough to offer my khidmat to teachers and pupils in Hunza Valley where I stayed for some 5 months, visiting about 6-7 places to help with Spoken English as this could increase confidence in schools with English as the medium of instruction. My farthest north point was a day’s trip right up to Khunjearab Pass taken by my host family. Because I was on Pakistan side, even if there were Ismailis on the border from China, I missed my fellow brothers and sisters. This article jogs my memory of that unique experience in my journey of life. Not just visit to Hunza but living with the people there is a remarkable soul-lifting experience that can change one’s spiritual perspective on Pluralism that Mowlana Hazar Imam upholds.

  7. Tashqurgan is close Hunza Valley just next to the Pakistan-China border. Its 4 to 5 hours away from hunza by bus, and I often visit through the border as I am from Hunza.

  8. Ya Ali Madad

    I hope to visit this Jamatkhana in the near future when I go to Hunza. Need to know from someone how far it is from Hunza and what is the best time to visit it.

  9. Nice piece of information indeed. My grandmother, late Tajul Nisa spent her early childhood years in Tashkurgan with her late father, Mr. Fateh Ali Khan( famous as Munshi Fateh Ali khan), who happened to be the ambassador to China from Hunza State for more then a decade. She had some great memories to share related to this place which still echo in my ears when where I recall her story telling from of my childhood days. One interesting part was how her father introduced the Ismailis practices in the region. It must have been part of his obligation as a diplomat or maybe at his own initiative to keep the Ismaili teachings alive in that part of China. He ended up
    facing a hard time at a jail as was the case with other prominent religious figures from Hunza. I salute those brave ones who kept the Ismaili torch alive during communist rule. Hopefully I will be able to share some of my grandmother’s stories that relate to Tashkurgan.

  10. Thanks for the information. I often visit China but haven’t come across any Ismaili. It would be good to know the location of Tashkorgan in relation to other larger cities nearby. Any information would be welcome. I am from
    Surat City Gujrat. Ya Ali madad

  11. For the first time I have seen a jamatkhana photo in China. A very informative piece. Thank you, simerg.com.

  12. Great article and pictures. Now that there is a pak-china agreement for a tunnel worth $18b it will be easy to visit this jamatkhana.

  13. It is my hope that during my current visit to China where I have come to study, I will try to visit Tashkorgan and see the Jamatkhana as well as meet my brothers and sisters.

    Zeeshan Shoukat Ali Gulwani
    Jingzhou, Hubei, China

  14. Mashallah mere mawla ke murid aur mere mawla ka gharye jamatkhana yehi to murid murshid ke pyar ki nishani he. Mawla bapa bless all ismailis

    Ya Ali Madad


  15. Whenever I read about Muslims in China in media, I thought about Ismailis in China. I heard a little about Ismailis in China. This is the first time I am seeing a Jamatkhana in China.Thanks to simera.com for providing this information on Ismailis in China.

  16. I have been many times to China and never seen like a Jamatkahana. Next time, I shall try and visit the town and visit the jamatkahana.

    • Ya Ali Madad

      If anyone wants see more pictures of the jamatkhana and jamat in China, please visit my Facebook page. I shall be posting more pictures later.

      Thank you
      Yahya Bakhtyar

  17. One should create an Ismaili map with population and other related information. So it would be easier for Ismaili travellers to locate and have connections with higher authorities like Ismaili Councils and other social cultural organisations so not to miss important centres of their interest to visit. Thank you for sharing to know new geography and history of Ismailis in China and its neighbouring areas.

  18. Superb and amazing. Love to go there and visit via the Silk and scenic route. Previously there was a desire to visit and now an urge, a purpose, a destination. To see the beauty of the hearts of the Ismailies in China. I pray that my wish be fulfilled.

    • Recently, I went to a presentation and discussion session at Darkhana in London, UK at the launching of Farhad Daftary’s latest book. There, in the discussion period, the moderator had raised the question of the number of Ismailis in the world. So I questioned Mr Daftary and the panel on the global number and speciifcally the number of 15 million which has been talked about for many decades now. To my mind it seems highly over-estimated. We went through country by country and the Chinese Ismaili leader on the panel said there were 32,000 in China according to their records. In my youth, we were always told that there were “millions of Ismailis in China”.

      Farouk Jamal

      • In 1976, the editor of Ismaili Mirror, Pakistan, had an opportunity to interview Babajan Gafurov, an eminent academician of Tajikistan and ask him how many Ismailis there were in the Soviet Union and his response was: “I assess almost 50,000 Ismailis live in Tajikistan.” He then went on to mention the prominent positions Ismailis were holding in public life. See interview excerpts in Ilm, Volume 1, Number 3, page 16. The visits by Mawlana Hazar Imam to Tajikistan over the past 15 years suggest a higher number. It would be interesting to come up with a more reliable figure of the size of the Jamat around the world, but this may take some time to establish. Sadly, we don’t even appear to have the precise size of the Jamat in Canada. I think this is very easy for the Council to establish but we come up with numbers ranging from 60,000 to 90,000 judging by the reports that have appeared in the media! This is an important exercise to carry out, especially in countries where numbers can be accounted for with a very minor discepancy.

      • I have always wondered about the number of Ismailis in the world too, and they have always mentioned (like you said) that there are few million Ismailis in China and Central Asia. It appears the numbers are too high.

  19. I am imagining right now what would it be like sitting inside that Jamatkhana and praying with our Ismaili Brethren from China. It would be quite an experience.

  20. These are wonderful photographs. I would suggest that a tour should be organized to see all the Jamat Khanas in the remoted locations in Central Asia and China, Tashkorgan included, as well as the Ismaili Centre in Dushanbe.

    Perhaps a tour could be organized from Toronto. We should learn more about Chinese Ismailies by going there in person.

    Amir Tharani
    Scarborough, Toronto, Canada

  21. It was wonderful to learn about our Ismaili brothers and sisters in China. I shall certainly remember them during the forthcoming Didar in Dar-es-Salaam, and hope that they will alo have a Mulaqat with Mawlana Hazar Imam soon.

    • Karim,

      Please do remember us too, Our Toronto Jamat and our Canadian Jamat.
      There are so many Jamati members who are in affat, balaa and bimari, please ask Him for Jamati Mushkil Assan.

      Tell Him, we do remember Him and we remember Him by saying Ya Ali, Ya Muhammad and Ya Allah, and we pray for His Deedar to Canadian Jamat. Ameen.

  22. I was very pleased to learn about the Jamat Khana in this region of China. I am planning to travel to China from Canada in the near future, and it would be nice to know the best way to reach there from Beijing.

  23. It’s great to see these beautiful pictures of a Jamatkhana in China. I go to China very often but have never been to this part.

  24. I’m deeply touched by those who have little contact with their Imam and can show their love in such a sincere way. I live in Shanghai.

    • Ya Ali Madad Malik.
      On my next visit to Shanghai, I would be happy to meet with you. I am often in Asia business related, it would be an opportunity to discuss on many topics. Please do email your contact via Simerg@aol.com.

  25. Learning about the presence of the Jamat in the lap of Pamir and that they practice their faith in one way or another, even though they haven’t seen their Imam for years and years, has been hear-warming and encouraging. This is what faith is all about. Congratulations to them and those who have made us aware about the Jamat. Wishing everyone all the best.

    Abdul Rahim

  26. It’s great to read about this Jamatkahana and the Jamat in Tashkarghan China. It would be interesting to know how one can get there from Beijing. Best Regards.

  27. Great pictures of the Jamat Khana in Tashkorghan…it is interesting to note that although the Ismailis, in that region, had little contact with the Imam until recently, they have continued to practice thier faith – form may vary, the Essence remains the same….

    Thank you

  28. During the recent Rays of Light exhibition, a tour guide told us that there were five Ismaili Jamatkhanas in China.


  29. Wonderful! I absolutely love it very much. I am myself an Uighur from Kazakhstan and I liked your story. I honestly didn’t know that there was such a city as Tashkorgan until now and that my Uighur brothers live there. May Prince Aga Khan, the Ismaili leader, have good health.

  30. Never knew there was a Jamatkhana in China. I only had information of Ismailis there. It would be interesting from someone who has been there to inform us what is the best way and time to go there.

  31. This is the first time I am seeing this Jamatkhana picture. Very nice of you to share it with your readers.

    Anwar Allahwala

  32. I am extremely happy and delighted to see the pictures of the Jamatkhana in China. I go to China very often but have never been to this part.

  33. Thank you or sharing the photograhs. I have been to this Jamatkhana on the occasion of Eid.

    The Ismailis assembled here perform some very old rituals. In the 1930’s, the late Imam had sent a very special guide line that it was obligation on the Jamat to be loyal to the Government and Country of adoption. On the basis of that guide line, today even the Government Officials quote that “Toojiks [or Tajiks’] love their mother country.” This is often quoted among the educated.

    This is due to the guidance of the Imam of the Time. We are thankful to the Imam and its institutions for the time based guidance. I have blood relations across the border, so I know how strong the bonds of Ismailis of China are with the government and country. Of course, this loyalty to the adoption of country is very common with Ismailis around the Globe. The Imam has said something along the lines that we should remain loyal to the country of adoption and to the government which looks after our welfare.

    Engr. Baig Ali
    Islamabad, Pakistan

    • Learning about the Ismailis in China has given me immense pleasure. I am proud to be an Ismaili Muslim under the leadership of my beloved Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

      Mehboob Ali

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