Xinjiang was our final stop on the Silk Route, thus concluding my two-week long trip that began in Xi’an and passed through three uniquely beautiful provinces. But perhaps more interesting than the scenery were the people themselves, a diverse and hospitable group who truly treasured their heritage, and their lifestyles.
Naturally, all of the places along the Road are historically rich and abundant with artifacts from both before and after the rise of the Silk Road. Xi’an is probably the largest city out of all the stops, since today it has become a commercial and industrial center. The rest of the locations are focused primarily on tourism, and the population there is sparse. Many of the museums here hold treasures from the ancient Silk Road, and even if you’re not particularly into museums, it’s still worth spending some time here to learn about the history and culture of China during its golden age. A good majority of the sites are religiously based, and as you travel more to the west, you’ll notice a shift from Chinese Buddhism/Confucianism to Islam in the culture and architecture.
By the time you arrive in Xinjiang, the people will begin to look a lot like Europeans. The stereotypical Chinese people that you think of are probably Han, the largest ethnic group in China (about 92% of mainland China). But here in Xinjiang, you’ll find many people of Kazakhs, Tajiks, Hui, Uyghur, Kyrgyz, Mongols, and Russian ethnicity. As you can see, these ethnic groups closely mirror the neighboring countries bordering Xinjiang (i.e. Kazakstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Mongolia). Therefore, a lot of the people in this region are fair-skinned and many are Muslim (almost about half of the population in Xinjiang). It’s an interesting intersection of cultures, religion and ideas here in Xinjiang. In the below paintings, you can see how some ethnic groups in China dress (also, their outfits are absolutely gorgeous).