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)
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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