Aksu on the Silk Road

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text and pho­to­graphs by Zhu Xingxin

The suc­cess­ful Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion, held in Beijing in May 2017, has cre­ated great op­por­tu­ni­ties for the devel­op­ment of the Xin­jiang Uygur Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion lo­cated at the core area of the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt. From May 15 to 18, Aksu, an im­por­tant hub along the an­cient Silk Road, wel­comed jour­nal­ists from both Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions who came for a news re­port­ing cam­paign themed “Ap­proach­ing the Core Ar­eas of the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt.”

Lo­cated at the south­ern foot of Mt. Tian­shan in Xin­jiang, Aksu is an an­cient city that was bustling as early as two mil­len­nia ago as a stop for car­a­vans and trav­el­ers along the an­cient Silk Road. It is also an im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal lo­ca­tion as the des­ti­na­tion of Zhang Qian, an en­voy of the Han Dy­nasty (202 B.C.-A.D. 220) who was dis­patched by Em­peror Wudi to the Western Re­gions on mis­sions of peace and friend­ship, and a rest stop for Xuan­zang, an em­i­nent monk of the Tang Dy­nasty (618-907), who en­dured un­told suf­fer­ings on a pil­grim­age to In­dia seek­ing Bud­dhist scrip­tures.

Thanks to its ge­o­graph­i­cal ad­van­tage, the city has long hours of sun­light in sum­mers and wide-rang­ing tem­per­a­tures that give Aksu es­pe­cially-lus­cious fruits such as grapes, dates, and Hami mel­ons, which are sold well glob­ally.

Cen­turies ago, Aksu was a hub for the small king­doms of Qi­uci and Gumo in the Western Re­gions as well as the first stop for Bud­dhist cul­ture from In­dia mov­ing to­wards cen­tral China. The place is where East­ern and Western cul­tures clashed to give birth to world-renowned Qi­uci and Dolan cul­tures. In 2006, Dolan Muqam, a ma­jor com­po­nent of the Uygur cul­ture, was in­cluded on the first list of China’s in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage. Many farmer painters in the Dolan tribe con­tinue to work and re­ceive lofty praise from vis­i­tors from all over the world de­spite a lack of any for­mal train­ing. “We are in­spired by our lives, which are each dif­fer­ent from the other,” il­lus­trates Sha­nia, a 35-year-old fe­male farmer painter.

Before 1949, Xin­jiang was plagued by un­der­de­vel­oped ed­u­ca­tion: Or­di­nary peo­ple rarely found a chance to go to school. Since the found­ing of New China in 1949, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment has con­cen­trated heav­ily on ed­u­ca­tion thanks to the im­mense sup­port from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. In 2016, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment of Xin­jiang in­vested 1 bil­lion yuan to es­tab­lish 552 bilin­gual kinder­gartens in its ru­ral ar­eas, which now num­ber 4,387 af­ter con­struc­tion and re­fur­bish­ment. The goals set in the 13th Five-year Plan (2016-2020) will be reached ahead of sched­ule, and more than 560,000 ad­di­tional chil­dren across ru­ral Xin­jiang will re­ceive three years of bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion free of charge.

Tex­tiles have al­ways been a tra­di­tional pil­lar in­dus­try in China. Over 60 per­cent of the coun­try’s cot­ton comes from Xin­jiang. Aksu has cot­ton plant­ing ar­eas to­tal­ing some 270,000 hectares, which con­trib­ute a ninth of the coun­try’s to­tal out­put. A key in­dus­trial park in Xin­jiang, Aksu Tex­tile In­dus­trial City (TIC) has a planned area of 54.58 square kilo­me­ters, with an an­nual pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity of 6 mil­lion spin­dles. To­day, it serves as a lead­ing pro­duc­tion base for tex­tile ex­ports to Cen­tral Asia, South Asia, and Europe from some 70 gar­ment pro­duc­ers in­clud­ing Huafu Top Dyed Me­lange Yarn Co., Ltd., Youn­gor Group

and Jiangsu Lianfa Tex­ti­tle Co., Ltd. In 2016 alone, Aksu TIC wel­comed 28 projects worth nearly 15.6 bil­lion yuan.

As the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive has taken off, a new, promis­ing mod­ern tex­tile in­dus­trial city has emerged and cre­ated great op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal raw ma­te­rial sup­pli­ers, sur­plus la­bor, young peo­ple from eth­nic mi­nori­ties, skill train­ing in tex­tiles and gar­ment pro­duc­tion, and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion.

To­day, Aksu is at­trac­tive to for­eign in­vestors and has great potential thanks to its boom­ing tex­tile e-com­merce plat­forms and the cot­ton in­dus­try.

May 16, 2017: Chil­dren at a bilin­gual kinder­garten in Aksu, Xin­jiang.

May 16, 2017: A Uygur fam­ily in Aksu en­ter­tains for­eign guests.

Home to the Dolan Cul­ture, an in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage of China, Aksu at­tracts vis­i­tors from around the world with its his­tor­i­cal relics, unique ar­chi­tec­ture, lo­cal food and time­less cer­e­monies.

May 16, 2017: A Dolan Muqam per­for­mance in the Dolan Tribe Scenic Spot in Awat County, Aksu.

Ac­tors and ac­tresses per­form with a ro­tary swing at the Dolan Tribe Scenic Spot in Awat County, Aksu.

May 17, 2017: The Great Canyon of Mt. Tian­shan in Wensu County, Aksu.

May 17, 2017: The pro­duc­tion line of Huafu Top Dyed Me­lange Yarn Co., Ltd. in Asku TIC.

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