Today, Kashgar is an out of the way place but in ancient times it was a strategically important crossroads where the northern and southern routes of the silk road going around the Taklamakan desert to the east, met with the northern and southern routes towards the west ( north through the Torugart pass to the Fergana valley and south through the Kunjerab pass to Gilgit). The Han Chinese arrived here in the 2nd century BC and successively held and lost Kashgar over and over again until now.
In the late 17th century, the mongol Djungar khans, who were allied to the Tibetans and had adopted Lamaism, conquered Kashgaria, Turfan and Hami previously held by the Muslim Khodja and attempted to unify the Mongols against manchu China. Their cavalry could not overcome the modern manchu cannons and was decimated. The manchu annexed their territories including of course Kashgar in 1759.
The Muslim population rebelled often against the Qing rule. In 1863 Yakub Beg seized control of Xinjiang and set up the independent Islamic state of Kashgaria which was recognized by the British and the Russians who were competing for the control of Central Asia. Kashgaria fell back under the control of the Qing in 1877 but Kashgar continued to be considered strategic by the British and the Russians who established consulates there to play the "Great Game".
The Seman Hotel where I stayed used to be the Russian consulate and the Chini Bagh Hotel 200 meters up the street, used to be the British consulate. Of course, both have been heavily restored since their heyday as centers of spying and intrigue a hundred years ago.
There are few Chinese here, the population is mostly Uighur with Tajik, Kyrgyz and Uzbek minorities all of which are Muslim. Their main place of worship, the Id Kah Mosque (built in 1442 and enlarged in the 18th century), is surrounded by colourful bazaar streets in the center of town.
Today, Kashgar is best known by the travelling public for its famous market held in the eastern suburbs on Sundays when 100 000 people come from God knows where to trade.
Many travellers come here on their way to or from the Karakoram highway to Pakistan or on their way to or from Kyrgyzstan but a visit to the Sunday Market is worth the long trip to get here all by itself.
Kashgar's Sunday Market is really huge, you can't loiter if you want to see all of it in one day. This large yard is the bird market where pigeons and songbirds are traded.
Of course, the sheep market is an essential part of any Muslim market place.
I was surprised by the number and quality of the bulls on sale in this remote desert land.
I could not understand a word of the animated conversation these three gentlemen were having in the grains market but their faces was worth a shot.
Most people did not mind being photographed at all.
At least a dozen barbers were busy shaving heads and massaging faces in this corner of the market but I don't recall seeing any of them shave or trim beards!
Food stalls everywhere offered a wide variety of fare from all kinds of fresh fruit to soups and stews to grilled skewered mutton.
The real treat however was the variety of interesting faces to be seen and photographed as you can see below.