• An unexpected gem…

    Definitely a trip highlight

    Definitely a trip highlight

    First impressions of Hotan (or Khotan, or Hetain…it seems to have a million transliterations…) were the kind that make you question why on earth you had come there.  It is a Uighur town  in western China that has been subject to increased migration of Han Chinese in recent years as road, rail and economic links to the rest of China have improved (which also makes it easier for travellers to get to) It is a town that depending on where abouts in it you are, seems to fluctuate between being very obviously Chinese, to being a town that also reflects its geographical position of being only 100 miles away from Kashmir.  Security is tight here, police and soldiers stand guard behind iron grates and barbed wire with the recent tensions in the Xinjiang Province somewhat at odds with the large statue of Mao embracing a Uighur man in the centre of town.

    Mao statue with Uighur man

    Chairman Mao loves everyone

    But just outside this town, and given only a cursory mention in the Lonely Planet China guide stood what is undoubteldy for me another trip highlight.  15km from the centre, on the edge of, and slowly being enveloped by, the surrounding desert, stands an Islamic holy site, the Tomb of the Imam Asim. The strange beauty of this site, with the only noise coming from the 100’s of flags flapping in the wind really was moving, as the desert stretched out beyond the site with mountains just visible in the distance.

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    It was a if some strange ghostly pirate ship had emerged from the desert sands. It was unlike any shrine or tomb I’ve seen from any religion before or since and it ‘just felt’ very old, almost biblical. The photos and video below can’t hope to give justice to the moment, but if nothing else will hopefully persuade you that if, for whatever reason, you find yourself nearby (ok it would probably have to be quite a weird reason its not exactly on the tourist trail) you must pay this place a visit.

    I’d only stumbled across this town because the trains from Kashgar to Urumqi were fully booked for the whole week after my arrival forcing me to immediately give up on my initial plan and take a rather more roundabout route onwards into China. Proof again perhaps that some of the best travel experiences result from things initially not going to plan…

    Tomb of the Imam Asim

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3 Responsesso far.

  1. […] the rest of my time in China.  I’ve deliberately missed off photos of the Great Wall and Tomb of the Imam Asim as they have been covered elsewhere in my […]

  2. […] desert at twilight, the majestic mosques of ancient Bukhara in Uzbekistan, the hauntingly spiritual Mausoleum of Iman Asim at Hotan in China, the terrifying beauty of Halong Bay observed whilst clinging onto a rock with […]

  3. […] place and the feelings of wonder about how I had got there that it provoked. I have blogged on it before, it was at the Tomb of the Imam Asim, on the outskirts of Hotan in China. Whilst I might not have […]

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