On the last day of that the trip, as we were heading back from a sightly disappointing visit to the 1000 buddha caves outside of Turpan, we stumbled across this amazing little place that was not on an map, guide, website or whatsoever… a treasure lost in the middle of nowhere, forgotten or ignored by most… kinda like Xinjiang itself!
The place itself was an mazing collection of REAL artifacts collected from locals all over the place, not to mention amazing reproductions of the buddha paintings from close-by caves. However bright and impressive those were, it was the outside that stole the show as far as i was concerned!
As you look at the picture above, follow the numbers to try and understand why I believe i got Xinjiang in a snap!
1- The temple and Siddharva:
Earliest influences in the region were decidedly related to Indian Buddhism, just like everywhere else in China. This little temple at the foot of the hill was beautifully accessorized with carvings and statues. It even had catacombs inside with more sculptures. The whole thing reminiscent of temples seen elsewhere.
2- The Mosque:
Built directly above the temple stood this mini replica of a mosque, much like the Arabian Muslim influence came in after the Indian Buddhism and supplanted it! The temple was literally the foundation of the mosque and was hidden from eyesight depending on the angle as if it was not there. Is that symbology or what?
3- The great Kingdom’s looking at you kid:
The Moslems and the early Buddhists struggled for while, with the formers seizing control of the area. As that was taking place, the Middle kingdom was looking from afar protected by its gates and sizing up the situation.
4- The infiltration:
After a number of years, with the muslims minorities distracted and fighting each other for control, the middle kingdom began infiltration via folklore as evidenced by the little piggy-demon over there. it feels like it was literally teleported from the middle of HAN-china and made to blend and stand out at the same time. It’s bigger than the sum of temple+mosque, standing away from it and retaining some of its color from the front!
6- The village:
As the cultural/religious icon took their place in the land, the village was there, witnessing the struggles, battled, wars, uprisings and declines that ensued. The Villagers just adapted to whatever came along, much like the mountains and deserts around them. They were part of the picture but didn’t care to be center stage.
7- the Trading post:
Standing on a hill, blending in the landscape yet managing to stick out! It fills the background of the picture much like the Silk Road stories fill the pages of history books, novels and imagination. Business keeps trudging along, a discrete witness to the flow of wars and caravans.
that is Xinjiang …