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    Exploring China; visiting remote Xinjiang and Gansu provinces

    Linda G. Oct 31 '12 2

    In this blog, we don't only share our impressions in the master's program, but also our experiences in China. The most special in this international master's program to me is not primarily the study of architecture itself, but the fact that all of us, students, professors and teaching assistants come from all over the world and, moreover, all of us are in a foreign country that we are going to discover. The more we open ourselves, are interested in each other and simultaneously explore China, the more rich will the experience of this period be for all of us.

    Since the first week of October in China is a week of national holidays, I used the time to travel. For quite some time I had been interested in the Autonomous Region inhabited by the Uyghur and other nationalities in the far west of China: Xinjiang. It was interesting to see how different China is. Even before seeing it by myself I could tell from the photographs that both the landscape and cities like Kashgar, but especially the culture of the local people, were completely different than how I knew it from the parts of China that I had visited before. Xinjiang borders on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Mongolia, and obviously has a variety of cultural influences. To me it was very similar to Turkey! In a guide I read that Xinjiang is one of China's most troubled areas, just because of the different cultures, the historical background and because its affiliation to China is partially not accepted . The language of the Uyghur for example (in China Uyghur is a minority, but in Xinjiang it is the largest ethnic group) originates from the Turkish languages. In fact, when you hear it and you don't know Turkish, it sounds like Turkish.

    In a neighboring province of Xinjiang, China's Gansu, our journey began with a visit to the Mogao Grottoes, a world heritage site. In the countless fantastic cave paintings the Buddhist influence was very strong. Buddhas were the main characters in the paintings and sculptures. Since the paintings are very delicate, photographing was prohibited, but I add a photo from the Internet.

    Xinjiang is not only the largest province in China (next to China's largest oil reserves this a major reason for China's interest in this province), it is also home to the second largest desert in the world, the Taklamakan desert. We rode on camels through a small part of this desert and visited an oasis  town that was so unbelievably situated in the nothingness of the sand that you felt like chasing a mirage.

    After a turbulent night in the night train we arrived in Xinjiang and visited the ruins of ancient Jiaohe City near Turpan and later Turpan.

    Turpan is famous for the sweetest grapes in China. Obviously there are grapes grown everywhere you can find hundreds of small rectangular houses, where the grapes are dried, to be sold as raisins later on.
    People say, Turpan is the hottest, driest, sweetest and deepest location. Its level is below sea level, the second lowest point on earth and it hardly ever rains.

    After another day we moved to Kashgar, once an important center on the Silk Road. We visited the Id Kah Mosque and the 2000 year old city center.

    During our trip we ate in the most elaborately decorated Uyghur restaurants. The meals consisted of salty-sour yoghurt, delicious freshly baked breads, kebabs, breads stuffed with vegetables, fresh fruits etc. etc. The food was always excellent.

    One of our great experiences was the visit of a livestock market in a small village just outside Kashgar. It was an unexpectedly large market where you could find almost everything and besides fresh meat, fruits, nuts etc. you could find here and there a cow's head or sheep's head lying on the floor. In the back of the market, ready forsale, were the „still“ living animals such as cows, donkeys, sheep, chickens, etc.

    Another highlight was the visit to an Uighur family, where we could taste the traditional food and were able to see a performance of their traditional singing and dancing. At the end the dancer asked me to dance together with her, which was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had...

    Along the famous Karakorum Highway leading from China to Pakistan, we saw the most incredible and fantastic landscapes you can imagine. From my countless photos I add only a few, but the scenery was so varied and diverse that it would need hundreds of photos to illustrate it.


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About this Blog

In the School of Architecture, the English Program for Master Architecture (EPMA) provides an accredited post-professional program in integrated architectural design. It combines a global network with local implementation. The program is focused on the construction of the human habitat in China, and the application of advanced building technologies.

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