Along the Silk Road in Western China – Xian, Jiayuaguan, Dunhang, Turpan, Kashgar and Tash Rabhat.

Phil Cooper

Phil Cooper HistoricTravelTalks
East Midlands
Notice Period:
Regular (more than one month's notice)
U3A, Rotary, Probus, Schools
21st September 2018
Silk Road | China (Western) | Kashgar | Turpan

The Silk Road in Western China, obviously many associate with its most famous trading route, but it is also how religion spread in the region.

Please copy and paste to view the places visited

Xian is famous for being the start of the Silk Road, where silk is till made. Apart from the Terracotta Army, it boasts a city wall, which runs for 8.5 miles.

Mount Kongtong is one of the important sites in the Taoist religion, while Xiahe lying on the fringe of the Tibetan plains has an impressive Labrang monastery. Nearby Bigling was the seat of Bhudism and there is the huge statue of the Buddha.

This theme is continued further on at the extensive monastery at the Magao “Caves of a thousand Buddhas”, near Dunhuang. These had been covered by sand, but were dug out in 1900 by a local Buddhist monk. This led to a scramble for historic manuscripts, with Aurel Stein and French man Paul Pelliot competing for them. The impressive wall paintings date back to the 7th century AD. Nearby are the singing sand dunes of Mingsh Shan. Dunhuang was a garrison town and an important stop over along the caravans, being at the junction of the northern and southern legs of the Silk Road. Nearby is Crescent Lake, with a Buddhist pavilion.

These days the signs of Islam are visible with numerous modern mosques along the route.

This part of the Silk Road travels through the Taklamakan Desert, which experiences extremes of temperature. The meaning of Taklamakan is generally taken to mean that you may enter, but you may not leave. Other natural sites include Heavenly Lake and aspects of the natural geographical rainbow coloured sandstone which runs the length of the route.

To protect the trade routes Jiayuguan Fort was built at the most western point of China, particularly in apprehension of attacks from Tamerlane, whose capital was in Samarkand. Nearby is the Overhanging Wall, which is part of the Great Wall.

Turpan was a major stop over along the Silk road and is well below sea level. Irrigated by the karaz canals running underground there are signs all around of the buildings to hang the grapes, The raisins were declared the best in the world. A visit to a local Uygur village literally was a flashback in time.

Nearby are the ruins of Jiaohe or Yar city. This was a major city on the old trade routes and displays many Buddhist features.

Kashgar is perhaps the most important city in the area and was of great strategic and trading importance. The soul of Kashgar is the old city some of it remains, while other parts have been restored. It changed hands several times and towards the end of the 19th century became a centre of intrigue between the British and Russians. Some put the Sunday Market as one of the worlds “to see” sites, which has been the centre of regional trading for 2,000 years. It was the worlds first truly global market, but now it is somewhat isolated. The animal market is where unique views of local Uygur's buy, sell and barter livestock,which is brought in by a variety of vehicles.

Entering the mountainous country of Kyrgystan, the focal point point is Tash rabat. Probably originally a Nestorian or Buddhist monastery it became an important caravanserai, where the local Khan collected taxes.

Many of the sites of interest were some distance apart and travel took quite a lot of the time. It was however a very worthwhile trip and as usual full of historical sites and stories.

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About Phil Cooper

I have accumulated what I feel are good photographs to illustrate my talks which relate to my travel experience. These are to places, often with a historical background and often not readily visited. These include Syria and Jordan, the Silk Road in Central Asia and Western China,, India, Cuba and Peru.

“Great presentation – I spoke to people tonight they were the cleanest photos seen at a Travel Club Presentation. Very good 9 out of 10. It must have been good, hardly anyone dropped off to sleep!” (Taradale Travel Club New Zealand).

My blog site is (Copy and paste)

The last trip I undertook was to Northern India and the wildlife reserves in Assam, such as Kaziranga, where there is a large variety of wildlife, including the vulnerable One Horned Rhino. This is the basis of a talk which was well received at Havelock North Rotary Club, Hawkes Bay New Zealand in February 2018.

I look back at my trip in the Middle East - from Cairo to Istanbul and reflect on what I saw then and what I see currently in places like Aleppo. However the highlight for me was the crusader fortress of Krak des Chevaliers, which is shown on the photo I have included. This was described by TE Lawrence as "perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world". Indeed he associated with many places along this journey.

I research the topics thoroughly and I provide a narrative and background to illustrated talks. I operate on a voluntary basis and am prepared to travel within reasonable distances from my home in North Nottinghamshire.

 Along the Silk Road in Central Asia Talk Feedback

This part of Central Asia included in particular Kunya Urgench, Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. The buildings are simply stunning and the area is historically very interesting. It is the arena where the Great Game was played out, the political and diplomatic confrontation between Britain and Russia in the 19th century, which was described by one of the audience as fascinating.

"Very interesting talk. I could hear every word. I knew nothing about this area and learnt a lot. Pleased I came!!"

“Your talk was extremely interesting and I do believe, if you had spoken for much longer   everyone should enjoy it, and no-one would be bored. I did like the aspect that you kept referring to the map when relating to the history this indeed helps when discussing reasons and timings when situations occurred in the distant past. I also feel that your talk appeals to almost all  age groups, and both male and female.”

I am a former graduate Biology teacher and also coached cricket for 24 seasons. mainly in New Zealand,Scotland and Amsterdam. as a professional.

I currently spend the early part of the year in New Zealand (mainly January and February) and I have delivered several talks, often in New Zealand, which of course I also have an extensive knowledge of having visited the country 14 times. This would be another option, but i suspect many have already visited this wonderful country.

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