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Page history last edited by Michael 7 months, 1 week ago

back to Sinkiang province or the Pulp Index


     An important city in western Sinkiang province.


     The city sits at the edge of the Kyzyl Su river, behind stone walls fifty feet high and twenty feet thick. A moat, dry except in the winter, surrounds most of the city.


     Outside the city, to the southwest, is the Swedish mission, schools, hospital and orphanage. North of town are the British and Soviet consulates, and the Soviet-built aerodrome. Next to the landing-field is a locked shed (with perhaps two dozen 55 gallon drums of aviation gasoline, a couple of hand pumps, and a few drums of lubricating oil), a rickety 'control' tower, and a wind sock -- there are no maintenance facilities here, and no airplanes are normally stationed here.


The British Consulate:  the buildings are the consulate itself (three stories), a barracks for the guards, an apartment building for the staff and translators, a building with the electrical generator and wireless transmitter, a stable, and a garage containing a sedan and two trucks. On the north side of the consulate building is a large, grassy terrace, looking down over the valley containing the airfield. There are fifteen Hunza guards (from the Gilgit Scouts) stationed here. Colonel Thomson-Glover is the consul. Mr. Wang, the chief Chinese interpreter employed by the consulate, has recently (since January 1935) come under suspicion of being a Soviet spy.


The Soviet Consulate:  mostly contained in one large three-story building constructed in the 1880s using a very florid Second Empire style. Lots of plaster, pastel paint, and some very grand furniture from before the Revolution. The guard force consists of at least a dozen Cossacks, and a military band, plus a couple dozen diplomats/NKVD agents. The Soviet consulate owns an automobile, and can get several military trucks.


     Half-a-dozen cemeteries, old mosques and odd shrines are dotted about the landscape outside of the city, all within a few hundred yards of the walls. A mile or so from the city is an old Buddhist stupa, now a crumbling ruin. To the southeast is the Great Bazaar, open only on Sundays. Livestock pens and animal bazaars are south of the city. Fields and orchards are planted wherever irrigation can be persuaded to occur.


     Four gates pierce the city walls -- north, east, south and west; a few blocks of buildings lie outside the north (Russian), south (Sand) and east (Teshik = open) gates. Most notable of these is the caravanserai, near the Russian gate; lodging and water are free for travelers here, but food and animal fodder must be paid for. The caravanserai is a long masonry building, with several dozen alcoves (each about the size of a two-car garage) leading off from the central courtyard. Some of the alcoves have small fireplaces built into the back walls. A covered well stands at one end of the courtyard.


     The Yangi (new) gate, on the west, leads into the citadel, and isn't normally used by "civilian" traffic. The citadel contains a parade ground, barracks for about a thousand provincial troops, and the palace (yamen) and personal treasury of the tao-yin (district administrator). Half a dozen Russian advisers live in the citadel, also. Garages along the inside of the citadel wall house a couple dozen Russian-built trucks and a few armored cars, many worn out or broken down; and the tao-yin's official car (rarely used); stables house the much more reliable cavalry mounts. There are probably a couple hundred gallons of gasoline stored here somewhere; the arsenal contains many bolt-action rifles and lots of ammunition (mostly .303" Lee-Enfield and 7.62x54mm Russian), along with a few machineguns and some old artillery pieces.


     Inside the walls 80,000 people live in densely-packed buildings. Only a few mosques, temples and yamen (official palaces and offices) rise more than three stories tall. There are dozens of specialized bazaars -- for ironworkers, shoes, jewelry, knives, food, clothes, carpets, herbs, pottery, musical instruments, etc. The slave bazaar was closed about two decades ago. In the middle of the city is the Chinese quarter, home to a couple thousand Mandarin-speaking folk -- many are military officers or government officials and their families. Among the government buildings are a post office, mint (creating worthless paper money), court, jail, Mandarin-language school, and telegraph office (though the telegraph line is often out of order). There are no telephones nor any (local) newspapers. There are no Christian churches inside the city (although a Nestorian church was destroyed here in 1933, and several dozen Nestorian Christians were killed). A couple of Chinese (Buddhist) temples exist, and a dozen or more mosques. The most famous and largest mosque is the Idkah, built in 1442.


     There are only three passenger cars in the city:  the tao-yin's car, the British consular automobile, and the sedan of the Soviet consulate.    


     Local officials are:


  • Chiang Yu-fen - Han Chinese, chief-of-staff to Liu Pin at Kashgar. An efficient officer, ruthless when the occasion demands.

  • Liu Pin - Han Chinese, born 1895. The tao-yin (district commander) at Kashgar.

  • Ma Shih-Chang - a wealthy Uighur leader and patriarch, appointed by the provincial governor as commander of the provincial military forces at Kashgar and Yarkand. Preparing for an Uighur uprising and the foundation of a Sharia-based Islamic nation of Turkmenistan. Seeking support from the Afghans, Soviets, or British ...

  • Qadir Beg - an Uighur, pro-Soviet chief of police in Kashgar. Working pretty closely with several covert NKVD officers.

  • Salih - an Uighur, the commander of the garrison troops in Kashgar.


     There is a "Young Kashgar Party" (YKP) which supports pan-Turkic solidarity; it is anti-Chinese, but has shadowy Soviet connections (or not -- people tend to see Commies everywhere).


     An outbreak of bubonic plague strikes the town in the spring and summer of 1935. Back in 1933 the city was briefly occupied by the Republic of East Turkestan; all the Nestorian Christians, and most of the Protestant Chinese Christians, were enslaved or killed.


Slant-eyed Kirghiz and bearded Tadjiks from the hills moved with a hint of swagger among the self-effacing Turkis. Here and there a stiff black horse-hair veil, a brightly striped robe, betrayed a woman from Andijan or Samarkand. An occasional Russian lorry bumped in from Urumchi, to scatter the knots of philosophers gathered in an open space before the principal mosque. More rarely still a Russian 'adviser' -- dressed for the backblocks but not in uniform, admirably mounted -- trotted down the street; the bulge in his pocket, his penetrating but evasive stare, his air of furtive consequence conformed splendidly to the standards of discreet melodrama ... From the city walls you saw only a huddle of flat mud roofs, broken here and there by the sweeping and bedevilled eaves of a yamen or a temple. Through the dusty sun-lit streets donkeys trotted, as you had often watched them trot, loaded with grey lumps of salt or with bundles of fodder or fuel ... Strings of camels stalked through the city westwards, carrying -- at a gait and pace well known -- bales of wool and other goods to the Russian railhead over the passes, at Osh in Andijan.

-- A Journey from Peking to Kashmir, by Peter Fleming, pub. 1936


yellowish-green denotes land under cultivation, or the aerodrome runway;

brown-ish hatch marks are contour lines, more or less


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