A Full listing of and additional information on Hotan City Landmarks, Monuments, Hotspots and other sites of importance in alphabetical order. Search through the list to find your Full Report and Photo-Virtual Tour of each monument or landmark within the City, or Region of Hotan in Xinjiang-Uygur AR of China (PRC).
Transportation in Hotan
Traditionally and historically, all transportation to- and in Hotan Prefecture was by road. In recent decades however, a lot has changed. Today Hotan has its own Airport. In addition there is a Main Train Station in Hotan Town as well ad neighboring Karakax County Town. Both are stations of the Kashgar to Hotan Railway and thus Hotan Train Station is a terminal train station. Mainstays of local connections are long range bus connections which allow for passage across the very large Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Currently Hotan Airport is the only airport available in the large Hotan City Prefecture, however on June 17 of 2017 the Chinese Government announced that the green light had been given for the construction of an additional airport in Hotan City Prefecture, to be situated at the famous historic Silk Road Town of Keriya (Chinese: Yutian) in the far east of Hotan Prefecture. No intended date of completion has been given but according to the announcement, the new Yutian Airport is to be one of 10 new airports to be built in the restive Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region by the year 2020.
Local transportation is either by bus or by taxi. One might rent a bike to explore the town city of Hotan and Karakax and Lop County Towns, but otherwise distances are far to large to cover. Not mentioning the particularly stressful environment.
No one ventures into the Taklamakan Desert without due preparations, even today. If you insist on going make sure you have GPS, maps, abundant water and so on. Travel at your own risk as navigating the and dunes is not an easy task.
Hotan Train Station:
The Main and only Railway Station of Hotan City is a station of the Kashgar to Hotan Railway. It is found some 5.7 kilometers almost due north of town center at the end of X015 County Road. There is a train to Kashgar at least once every day. Train travels through Karakax County Train Station and various others to Kashgar Main Station.
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Surface Area: The entire Hotan City Prefecture covers an area of approximately 249,100 sq km, accounting for one sixth of Xinjiang's total.
The Urban City of Khotan has a surface area of some 85.035 sq Kilometers (32.832 sq miles).
Population: The population of Hotan City Prefecture was an estimated 2.15 million at the end of the year 2013, according to Government information. The total population of Khotan County-Level City was counted as 322,330 in the year 2010 census.
Ethnic Minorities in Khotan & Prefecture
According to information made available to the public by the Government of the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region, Hotan is named as one of the three main living area's of the Uighur People within the larger territories that are part of the Autonomous Region. The other such area's lie adjacent to the west and north and are the Kashgar City Prefecture and Aksu City Prefecture respectively.
Although in fact, Uighur people also live spread about in other parts of the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region, in which they are with 45.84% of the population still the main ethnic group, tradition counts Aksu, Kashgar and Hotan as the main focal points of Uighur Ethnic Culture. Other locations In Xinjiang where Uighur are found in larger numbers are the famous Turpan Oasis along the north route of the ancient silk road around the Taklamakan Desert and also the Kizulsu (officially) Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture. In the case of the latter this is due to its proximity to Kashgar, the legendary silk road market town which for centuries was dominated by the Uighur Culture and its Bazaars.
The second largest population group in the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region with a 40.48% share are the Han people, who up to as late as 1949 made up but a few individuals among the sea of Uighur, Kazakhe, Hui, Tajik, Kyrgyz, Mongolian, Tibetan and other ethnic groups of the region, including the southern regions surrounding the Taklamakan Desert. Today, although nominally the Uighur are the dominant group in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region and in Hotan Prefecture, it is the Han group who hold most of the political and economic power over the population.
Without elaborating too far, after years of tensions building and unrest smouldering tensions between the two main ethnic groups boiled over in neighoring Kashgar and subsequently in Hotan in 2009. In the subsequent years there has been a multitude of violent attacks, all of them targeting authorities representing the Han ethnic group. In the year 2012 an airplane flying out of Hotan Airport was hijacked and by the year 2017 a full on confrontation with- and suppression of the local Uighur population had develloped. Clearly a war has been declared againt the Uighur Culture as there are bans for islamic beards, islamic style dresses, Islamic style names for babies in effect, and authorities do not shy away from actively disrupting and underming the practice of traditional Islamic Festivals and other basic cultural needs. According to various international newspapers and their articles, this is only a part of the measures taken in order to control the population of Hotan. Security camera's, police and paramilitary checkpoints as well as roaming patrols are verywhere and have become a mainstay of every day life in Hotan.
According to available sources, local Uighurs, especially those in outlying rural agricultural area's such as the counties of Hotan City Prefecture, find little comon ground with Han migrants, many of them well educated and city dwellers. Although, at the highest levels of society Uighur and Han do seem to intermix on occassion, in rural area's both ethnic groups essentially carry on separate lives only joining together when circumstance forces it. Reportedly, inter-marriage between both groups is given taboo.
According on international studies the rural population of Uighur people feel very much disenfranchised, unfairly disadvantaged in their own homeland and left behind in the jump in economic opportunities which have occurred in Xinjiang over the recent decades. Alarming accounts of rural poverty, drug trafficking and use (presumably heroin from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir), lives destroyed in sex trade and also increasing incidence of HIV/ AIDS among rural Uighurs.
The Uighur (or Uygur) people are considered to be a group of originally Central Asian people who's migration to these region started as early as the 3rd century B.C. The Uighur have their own language qhich belongs to the Turkic branch of the Altaic language family. Its written form is based on Arabic script.
In the 9th century a large group of the original Uighur People under pressure from regional wars, once more migrated, finally to settle in the regions south of the Tianshan Mountains, where today they still reside in the above mentioned area's and regions of Xinjiang. After centuries of intermixing with other local groups it is held that their current day culture and ethnic identity was shaped by the time of the passing of Marco Polo in the 13th century A.D.. As one may read in the travel accounts left by Marco Polo, he noted that at the time everyone living in Hotan was Muslim and that the Oasis, although ruled by the Great Mongol Khan (who had also subjected China), Hotan still retained its name and the territory of its former Kingdom was recongnized as a separate Province.
Marco Polo left his readers the impression that Hotan was rather a peaceful Oasis Paradise, remotely flourishing with rows of cotton, abundant wines and alive on agriculture, animal husbandry and a vibrant local trade.
Although through archeological finds scientists and historians have long established that the pathways later known as the silk road(s) existed probably long before, the first recorded history of Hotan begins at about the year 206 BC, when the notorious Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC) which had managed to unite all Chinese states and build a first Great Wall of China, had fallen and been replaced by the Chinese Han Dynasty (221 BC - 220 AD), which would start explorations from Chinese territories westward into Central Asia. Previously, in the 1000 years before it has been found that the southern regions of Xinjiang (The Tarim River Basin) was the realm of strange migrant people, some of who had blue eyes. These people, now famous through the finds of their mummified remains in locations across the basin and the Taklamakan Desert, have been dubbed the Tocharians and their history and origins remain sketchy, hidden by the veils of time. As has since been proven through archeological and other "finds" the Tocharians had their own language (which had two localized versions withing what today is west China (PRC) which made use of a traditional Indo-European script (Bower Manuscript, acquired in Kucha by Hamilton Bower, a British Agent on a mission, in around 1890 AD).
What exactly happened in the few centuries following the first establishment of the Chinese Han Dynasty in 206 AD is material which could quite literally fill books. These events eventually involved in Hotan and the surrounding territories in the economic and cultural development of the silk road which would altogether change the development of humanity and carry on for some 1400 years before losing out to international shipping.
As struggle for control over the territories which today compose the Xinjiang-Uighur Region continued over the decades and centuries, it is generally held by historians that Turpan an important Oasis far to the north of Hotan on the north rim of the Taklamakan Desert was under Chinese Control by 90 AD, at the very latest. Although incursions by vengeful Nomadic Tribes would threaten and conquer Kashgar and Turpan several times, in due time usually would return to Chinese Rule or Dominance. As over centuries and millennia struggles for power and influence ebbed and flowed Hotan, situated more remotely to the south managed to retain independent functions for a long time. For centuries in the first millennium, Hotan was an independent Buddhist Kingdom, although of course one always had to play neighbors off against each other.
At the turn into the 5th century, on what is to date the first recorded overland journey passing from China to India and back (399 AD - 412 AD), a Chinese Monk today identified by the name of Fa Xian traveled through the current day Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region amongs things visiting Turpan Oasis and Hotan. Only after 13 years of travel by land and sea did he manage to return to China, passing on his wisdom and gained information. In his time Fa Xian encountered a Buddhist Community, which as we now know was an offspring of an originally Iranic (Scythian) Saka Buddhist Culture of a people who probably arrived in the Hotan Area at or around 132-130 B.C. or so. Struggling to survive in between of ongoing wars and migrations, these people found in Hotan a remote and safe niche where they succesfully founded a Buddhist Kingdom which as we know from sources as the accounts of Fa Xian and also the first written account of the history of the regions by the Han Dynasty Era historian Sima Qian (145 / 135 BC - 86 BC) lasted for several centuries.
In the 7th Century, during the first flowering period of the Tang Dynasty, a now famous Monk named Xuanzang traveled from China to India along the Silk Road on an epic journey of discovery and learning. Upon his return from India, this Monk traveled through the southern route of the Silk Road in the Tarim River basin, and passed through Hotan back to Dunhuang and on to Chinese Territory.
Later in his writings, Xuanzang would not only reveal his wisdom of Buddhism gained during his journey, but would also leave invaluable accounts of his exploits in the western deserts and in the Buddhist Kingdom of Hotan.
Below is a listing of handy online maps directly relevant to travels to Hotan City Prefecture and its county towns.
The climate in Hotan and Prefecture is pretty much as one may expect from a desert location, that is in general in Hotan Prefecture, the climate is extremely arid with dry but extremely hot summers and in principal dry and frigid winters. Accordingly, during most of the year the humidity of the air hovers between 30 and 35%, with highs of up to 44% in December and Januari. In the earliest travel season, in April, humidity may drop down to as low as 20% making frequent hydration a must for anyone venturing about. As one may find such low himidity means that after a few hours exposed skin starts to feel dry, hands become wrinkly and eyes feel dry and sore.
Hotan (Hetian or Hetien) is an ultra-remote desert Oasis Town with an unimaginably rich and long history during most of which it was an important desert Oasis Town, in the earliest of times even a Kingdom, situated along a crucial pathway of the ancient Silk Road. By now for some 2500 years, Khotan (Hetien) has been situated on the south-western rim of one of the EurAsian Continents most notorious desert area's, the Taklamakan (Never Return) Desert which itself makes up a large proportion of the south of China's (PRC) Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region. During its heydays as an Oasis, market town and unmissable stop-over along what has become known as "the southern route of the
Main Industries and livelihoods in Hotan are agriculture, construction and tourism. According to Government reports agriculture makes up about 30% of the local economy, while construction rates at 20%. Tertiary industries, including tourism make up the other 50%.
Natural resources include huge deposits of natural gas, an estimated 62 billion cubic meters in Hotan Prefecture alone. In addition rivers in Hotan Prefecture are seeing construction of hydro-electric dams which are supposed to suplly renewable electric energy.
There is little mention of this anywhere online but new solar plants have sprung up at Guma (Pishan) County Town and also to the south of Hotan Town istelf.
Traditionally allowed by the two large glacial rivers descending off the Kunlun Mountain, Hotan - alike most other Oasis along the Silk Road has made large increases in production of the last few decades, reclaiming land from the desert with use of abundant irrigation. The local water supply is stretched to the maximum and local ground waters have been pumped up in order to have a larger supply. Traditional results of silting of the fields and dramatically falling ground water levels have followed.
Historically, Hotan is one of the larger Oasis Towns along the southern trajectory of the silk road, with the most well known rivers known as Yurungkash (White Jade) and Karakax (Black Jade). Having past the subsequent towns of Hotan and Karakax which for millenia have existed along these two glacal streams, these rivers eventually meet up at some point way up into the sandy Taklamakan Desert to jointly progress nothward as Hotan River. Although today, through damming and over use in irrigation, the waters of both rivers no longer makes it very far out into the desert, historical evidence and written accounts suggest that in a not too far past, the joint Hotan and Karakax River actually spanned across the desert much along the current day G217 National Road does (it is based on the trajectory of the rivers), to connect up with the Tarim River which flows along its northern rim.
It must be noted that since the heydays of exploration and the advent of the Peoples Republic of China there after in 1949 much has changed in the situation in Xinjiang. That is, many rivers and streams which existed previously have dwindled and disappeared, often due to manmade causes.
The greatest example of this is the (near) disappearnce of the great Tarim River flowing traditionally along the north rim of the Taklamakan Desert. Previously the 5th longest river in all of China (P.R.C.), today this river can best be viewed as seasonal with much of its length dammed and its terminus at Lop Nor long since dried up and parched.
More to the south on the other side of the Taklamakan Desert in Hotan, over the last century, many minor streams that used to feed outlying villages and communities to the east of Hotan Town proper have dwindled and no longer flow out into the desert as they used to do. As one may find, where in the early years of the 20th century rivers flowed beyond Lop town to reach for kilometers northward up into the desert, spawning remote village communities and farms along the way, today there is nothing much to find north of lop town except for the remaining empty river beds, trails of wind blown and parched tree stumps and here and there the odd relic site. In fact, the situation has deterioted so much that entire villages or their ruined remains have been swallowed by the advancing sands.
Today, according to Hotan Government Reports, 36 rivers and streams are said to flow in and through Hotan City Prefecture, however the state of many of these - especially smaller streams - is dire. River are under duress from climatic changes bringing an advancing desert and dwindling glaciers and their melting waters. Nevertheless rivers flowing off the Kunlun Mountains are being targeted for the construction of hydro-electric dams.
Rain is a virtually unheard of phenomenon in Hotan Prefecture.
According to a report published through Radio Free Asia (R.F.A.) on February 4 of 2015 at the time, despite 20 years of attempts to improve water infrastructure for the population in Hotan and Prefecture, very little progress hade been made and as a result some 1 million of the 2.15 million total population went without access to proper potable. As the report quotes: "only 750,000 people in the prefecture had access to clean drinking water, while in areas such as Hotan’s Niya (Minfeng) county, up to 80 percent of the population did not". In the historically famous but notoriously water sparse Keriya (Yutian) county water is being piped down from a reservoir further up the Kunlun Mountains to the south, which attempts to buffer and hold as much of the waters of the Keriya River as possible.
The water pumped down from the reservoir and through the pipes has reportedly been of doubtful qualities. According to the RFA report farmers tell how in 2015 the piped water was noy purified or disinfected as there was no facility to do the job. However, the report goes on to mention that in fact, so far, no one had become ill from drinking the piped water in Keriya and County.
Apparently in other parts of the Hotan Prefecture methods similar to those in Keriya are used for providing drinking water; that is a combination of reservoir for desilting and storage of waters, and unprocessed piped water for the better off citizens. For instance, in Hotan’s Lop (Luopu) County the area’s water sources were reservoirs without sanitation stations. The town neighboring Hotan in the West, wells are apparently in use as an additional source of water. Data on the quality of local ground waters is however not publically available.
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Google supported Map of Hetien (Khotan) in Hotan Prefecture of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (P.R.C.), by AsiaReport.com
Silk Road in western China" numerous people have passed through town, among them also world famous travelers, explorers, archeologist and adventurers who by their immeasurable deeds, writings, reporting's and findings at or about Khotan made it unforgettable and famous in world history. To name but a few of them, the Monk Xuanzang - considered founding father of Buddhism in China during the Tang Dynasty, Marco Polo and brothers - renowned as the first western travelers to reach China in the 2nd millennium, a Christian Monk and Papal Emmissary named Bentos de Gois and more recently early 20th century explorers such as Sven Hedin and Marcus Aurel Stein all
left their footsteps in Hotan Prefecture and all contributed a little to its international fame.
Although in modern times Khotan is no longer a crucial stop-over along a major international economic artery this famous desert town remains a cultural crossroads and a very interesting destination to visit while traveling within the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region. As one may find, not only is Hotan part of China's silk road gateway to the west, its location also provides connections southward to Kashmir and beyond India.
Although travel to Hotan has become much easier over the recent decade, the town can now be reached via well paved roads and has its own airport as major transportation hub for tourist travelers, it still takes considerable time and effort to reach there. As a result, only avid Silk Road explorers, history buffs and a whole lot of Chinese Tourists frequent the town which due to remoteness and surrounding desert keeps a thoroughly rural atmosphere compared to major Chinese Cities.
Hotan (Chinese: Hetien) is the center of the Hotan City Prefecture, which is one of the thirteen prefecture-level divisions within Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region. Hotan is counted as one of the
Helpful schematic map showing the position of Xian relative to the coastal cities, the current National Capital and the ancient silk road extending from Xian westwards into the west and Central Asia beyond.
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China Report - Map o/t Taklamakan Desert & Tarim River Basin 2a
A Second Satellite Image Map of the entire Taklamakan Desert and the Tarim River Basin in Xinjiang-Autonomous Region of Western China.
During the Time this Image was taken it was early spring; Mountains were snowcapped and a dust storm is blowing in the Central and Most Arid Regions of the Tarim River Basin.
Map gives explanation and backgrounds to Local Geography, the Flow of the Tarim River from the Pamir Mountains in the West to Lop Nur (Dry) in the East, ancient Oasis Cities of the Tarim Basin and Taklamakan Desert, the North and South Routes of the Silk Road in this Area, Past and Current Climate and Historic Backgrounds.
China Report - Map o/t Taklamakan Desert & Tarim River Basin 1A
A Satellite Image Map of the entire Taklamakan Desert and the Tarim River Basin in Xinjiang-Autonomous Region of Western China.
Map gives explanation and backgrounds to Local Geography, the Flow of the Tarim River from the Pamir Mountains in the West to Lop Nur (Dry) in the East, ancient Oasis Cities of the Tarim Basin and Taklamakan Desert, the North and South Routes of the Silk Road in this Area, Past and Current Climate and Historic Backgrounds.
four prefecture-level cities, which is the highest ranking among prefectures in the administrative order. Regardless of being counted as City Prefecture, in reality Hotan is but a small city surrounded by small county towns and a base of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps which as of January 1 of 2016 operates as an independent administrative prefecture on land that was previously part of Hotan Prefecture.
Taken clockwise around Hotan City Prefecture itself is bordered by Aksu Prefecture to the north, the very large Baiyin Gholin Mongol Autonomous Region to the north-east and east, Tibet to the south-east and India to the south-west. The original border with India (Originally disputed between India and Tibet), shaped by the Kunlun Mountain Range, lies only some 135 kilometers to the south, although in the 1962 China-India border war the situation was altered bringing some 41.128 square kilometers of utterly barren yet disputed land under factual Chinese Control and laying the factual border with India far more to the south.
Crucially, interestingly and of enormous importance for understanding the true meaning of the events in its history, Khotan finds itself wedged between the large Taklamakan sandy desert which lies to the north and surrounding it and high mountains to the south. As one may understand, most of the sandy desert is uninhabitable and also unfit in any way for agriculture. With high mountains leading up to the Tibetan plateaux to the South, only a narrow strip of arable land is available in between. As a result, the historical and current settlements of Hotan are all found in a relatively small area with civilization mainly extending east and west along the historic silk road and the most easily traversed terrains.
With little or no rainfall all year around, the water that gives life to the communities of Hotan and Prefecture is provided by glacial melting waters which flow off the southern mountains in the shape of two main streams. These are the Black Jade (Karakax) and White Jade (Hotan) Rivers. As one may infer from their names, the two rivers feeding life in Hotan and the many passerby on the Silk Road not only brought water, but their valleys were also the finding places of excellent qualities of Jade Stone, in particular of a black or a white nature. In addition to the wealth of life brought by the jade filled rivers, the stones were the source of a fountain of revenue, which since earliest recorded history have brought financial fortune and ample trade to Hotan Town and the towns and villages of the Prefecture. Hotan Jade today is recognized world wide as a unique micro-brand, a historic source of which the stones collected stand alone as a sub-group by themselves. Although after over 2 millennia local jade resources have been depleted considerably, the valleys and crevices of the Kunlun Mountains keep offering up small but valuable bits of jade for those who still make an informed effort at looking, searching and often digging.
The mountains to the south are usually counted as part of the larger Kunlun Mountain Range, but are factually best perceived as the northern rim and foothills of the Tibetan Plateaux and thus a historic route from the north into Tibet. Theoretically, this provides a road up into Tibet, however the mountains to the south allow for few openings to travel through. As one may find upon further reading of the adventures in which Hotan served a backdrop, in previous times, the only practical connections into Tibetan Territories lay to the east, passing through Karghilik (today: Yecheng Town in Kashgar City Prefecture, or considerably to the west by passing through the town of Cherchen (Today: Qiemo in Bayingholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture). The latter route was taken in the early 20th century by world famous explorer Sven Hedin and in his writings he more than made clear that it had been one of the most unpleasant journeys he had ever undertaken, something not to be repeated.
Even today, with a much improved network over say the situation 30 years ago, there is but one mountain road leading south out of Hotan to lead southward and up into the mountains. This road, the S126 Provincial Road however does not venture beyond the first ring of mountains which are not even snowcapped.
Thus, without even the most minor roads and few valleys to access them the mountains to the south of Hotan are rarely explored by anyone except perhaps for the Chinese PLA Army. As a result, heights of local mountain peaks are often not readily available, not even through mountaineers channels. Many lower peaks simply remain un-named.
The first year around snowy peaks are situated at roughly 118 to 120 kilometers south of Hotan Town center. On the other side of this range is a narrow valley on the southern side of which lies another snowy mountain range which historically formed the border between three regions; India, Eastern Tibet and Xinjiang. A historically uninhabitable but traversable area, even today what lies beyond remains mostly mysterious except for online available satellite imagery.
At some 125 kilometers due south of Hotan one finally reaches the Aksai Chin region, since 1969 and a brief war with India, promoted to Chinese held territory under exclusive administration by the Chinese Military. It is a deadly and inaccessible high altitude desert about which the world is allowed little or no knowledge.
What is known that up on the heights one may find notoriously windy plateaux which are devout of trees, wood or life. Of the few lakes available non have drinkable waters. Travelers who have managed to make the journey and report on it are very few.
Altogether, as briefly glanced above, for avid Silk Road travelers and those who have spent the time reading up on the incredible stories associated with the silk road and this small area along it, an opportunity to visit Hotan Town and explore famed or unnamed parts of it must be welcomed as an opportunity. However, for the uninformed or for pure leisure travelers there is nothing much to find in Hotan except for the lively local scene, hints of exotic central Asian cultures and the awe inspiring mountain and desert landscape. There are no resorts, no swimming pools, not much a nightlife and except for a trek in the mountains there are no dangerous exploits and adventures to undertake.
Luckily, although many of the inhabitants suffer from a lack of potable water, the needs of the modern traveler have been well understood by Chinese Official Tourism Agencies and thus various necessary facilities have been provided. Hotan has abundant hotels for passing tourist. They are clean and tidy. A neat night market exists to brighten up the town and also the taxi drivers, buses and tour operators needed to transport everyone to the most famous locations have been made available. Many of the local people welcome the seasonal influx of tourists who provide for a living standard otherwise not within reach in this remote and in many ways struggling rural agricultural town.
Main sites of interest in town: Kunlun Park.
Just outside of town one may find: Hotan Train Station of the Hotan to Kashgar Railway, the Jiya Historic Village and the much more renowned Yotkan Ancient Village, a protected and by now well examined Silk Road relic site. To the north-east of town at a location only marked on our available Google Satellite Image based map(s) lies the lost silk road relic site of Ake Sipe'Er Village. Yet another ancient silk road relic site may be find some 30 kilometers out in the desert to the north-east of Hotan Town proper. This is the Rewake Fosi Relic Site, a hard to find historically famous location which lies surrounded by the sandy dunes of the Taklamakan Desert at some distance east of G217 National Road. Although site may be famous among archeologists, historians and the odd silk road buff most local people may have never heard if this location as it is not found described as a major tourist site of Hotan in most travel guides dealing with the destination Hotan. (Read more in: "Landmarks & Monuments of Hotan").
Travel to the various county towns of the prefecture would be to go completely off any beaten tourist path in China. Regardless of the odd expedition or dare devil cross-country bicyclist no one takes the time and makes the effort to do all this. The outlying towns however reveal the true nature of existence and predicament in this niche of life between mountains and desert.
Nearest county towns to travel to are Karakax (Black Jade) Town to the north-west and Lop Town to the east. The latter, Lop Town is a struggling community with inhabitants in which one may still trace the original Lop People, the local inhabitants of (mixed) Tibetan origins which up to less than a century ago occupied these lands and who's ways and cultures were left described by the traveling adventurers of the Silk Road. As we know through their explorations, Lop Town is the location of two historic silk road towns now lost to the advancing desert. These are the Shanpula Tomb and Ake Sipe'Er Village.
Not much is known about the current state of affairs of Lop Town, but today many inhabitants are not Tibetan Buddhists but Islamic Uighurs. Reportedly, due to climatic woes and the ever dwindling of local glacial rivers which have provided the town for millennia with abundant waters to thrive on, the Lop Town community struggles to have access to clean potable waters.
As recent as 2015 violent outburst have occurred in and around Lop Town and also in other parts of Hotan Prefecture allegedly as a result of frictions between the local Islamic Population and heavy handed Chinese decision makers. Left powerless, elements within the local population have resorted to stabbing's, shootings, bombings and attacks on Government installations.
When traveling in Hotan Prefecture, especially with video and photo cameras, expect to be stopped by local authorities and at the very least questioned on the spot. Police and Paramilitary forces patrol the city prefecture and counties in force backed up by selected Han ethnic "volunteer" militia from Kurumqash (Kunyu) base of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
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Since almost decade by now, Hotan has its very own Hotan Airport. The Airport functions as the main gateway to Hotan and surrounding towns including the in 2016 officialized Han immigration colony of the town of Kurumkash (Kunyu) established by what is known as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. For this crucial Government administered base Hotan Airport is the absolutely life-line with mainland Chinese Cities and of course the Capital Beijing. To date, all flight connections from Hotan Airport pass to Urumqi or Kashgar or Beijing-Capital Airport. There are no other available destinations.
Road Transportation in Hotan and Prefecture:
The first and main road in Hotan Town and Prefecture is G315 National, which, running from as far away East as Charkliq County (Ruoqiang) (ancient Silk Road Town of Miran) in Bayingholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, passes through Hotan Town to lead westward as far as Kashgar, the famous market town and gateway to Central Asia, Pakistan and India. This is the route that best represents the path of the ancient Silk Road as it led past Hotan Town for well over two millenia now.
The second important road in Hotan City Prefecture is the northbound G217 National Road. Established at a much later date, the G217 is a relatively new road which leads northward to cut straight through the sands of the Taklamakan Desert o connect with Aral City and Awat Town of Aksu City Prefecture, both situated along the north rim of the Taklamakan and along what was originally China's 5th longest river, the Tarim River.
The third road available in Hotan Town and Prefecture is the southbound S216 County Road. This is a much smaller road which penetrates the first mountains to the south of Hotan to lead up to a a village named Kashitashi (Kashitashi Xiang). At Kashitashi Village the road is downgraded and leads further southward only as X063 County Road, which is mostly a rough gravel path seemingly best fit for four wheel drive vehicles. This pathway runs further into the mountains ultimately to stop at the small settlement of Ku'Ergake (Ku'ErGake Cun) which sits on the south bank of the Kuoxia Daliya (River). Officially there is no road beyond Ku'ErGake Village however a rough path continues onward to lead to the nearest snowcapped mountain. Only experience hikers and mountaineers go beyond. Hire a local guide and vehicle to take you up there in order to reach the dwindling glacier and perhaps the mountain top itself. There is no registered international name for the mountain nor is there a record of anyone ever summitting its peak.
Some 52 kilometers beyond this first reachable snow capped mountain peak stands the Cholpanglik Mountain Peak, which is situated just within the Aksai Chin Region and historically represented the border with India. There has however never been an official mountain pass crossing in this region mostly due to the impossible terrain in combination with heights, a very harsh climate and absence of fresh water.
The current day City Prefecture of Hotan has 7 Counties, which is one down from the situation prior to 2016. The counties of Hotan are from east to west following the silk road out of China and also the side branch from Xining (Tibet), Niya (Minfeng), Keriya (Mugala ; Chinese: Yutian), Qira Town and County also Cele (Qira Nahiyisi ; Cele Zhen), and Lop County (also Luopu). In the middle lies Hotan Town as the center of Hotan County. Then to the east of Hotan County-Level City proper; Karakax or Karakash County, Kurumkash County (since Jan. 1 of 2016 not any longer part of Hotan), finally Pishan County. (For an overview please refer to adjacent detailed satellite image map of China by AsiaReport.com).
It may be noted that since that China gained territory from India in the 1962 border territories war between both states. The territories gained, including a barren high altitude plateau which historically formed an uninhabited no man's land and traffic corridor between three large Civilizations (India, Tibet and China) and is historically known as Aksai Chin, has been added to the territories of Hotan Prefecture, with the given disputed territories being added to the surface area of the Hotan County administrative unit.
Nevertheless, from the available information one may glance that not all is well in Hotan.
Among things, there is mention of chronic water shortages as well as problems with the quality of the available water. Reportedly, in some counties up to 70% of the population must do without potable water, which then is often shipped in by tanker truck from other locations, naturally at considerable cost.
Another woe in Hotan are the apparent tensions between local populations and the Chinese Authorities. As late as the 26th December of 2016, local authorities published an fresh update on security measures in Hotan Prefecture, revealing rather staggering numbers. That is, according to authorities local Police forces count 6817 members who have 1130 convenience police stations across the Prefecture for a total population of some 2 million and 150 thousand people.
Hotan has been notorious for attacks on local authorities at least since the year 2011 when a group of no less than 18 disgruntled Uighur Men attacked and took over a Police Station at Nuerbage Street in Hotan taking 8 hostages and leaving 2 dead in the process. Before reinforcements arrived the attackers rebelliously removed the Chinese Flag from the Police Station replacing with their own flag, the nature of which remains disputed. Chinese authorities claim it was a "terrorism associated flag", but factually few outsiders can be sure to this date due to the lack of information, fact and imagery.
As might have been expected, the rebellious gesture did not last long. In a subsequent shoot out with local police and paramilitary forces 14 of the attackers were left dead with four captured and two hostages dead.
It was shocking and momentous event for the whole community.
Although or perhaps because authorities cracked down hard afterwards, among things by sentencing the four captured to death, the after effects of the attack resound to this day. Frictions with the local population consisting mostly of Islamic Uighurs also continues.
In the very same month that the mentioned report was published, December 2016, an undientified number of attackers drove a truck into a Police Station in Moyu County of Hotan Prefecture, subsequently entering and stabbing staff and setting off at least one explosive device. This attack left 5 dead and in the immediate aftermath both the head of Moyu County and the head of Hotan Prefecture have been put under investigation by higher authorities obviosuly displeased with the situation.
As late as January 9 of 2017, the local Police and National Newspapers once more reported that Police had shot dead 3 Uighurs while pursuing them. Not many details have become available but apparently, local authorities had been on the trail of the group as they were wanted in connection with another violent incident in Hotan Prefecture in April 2015. As usual, authorities report that the dead suspects were in fact dangerous gangsters and also people associated with Islamic Terrorist organizations aiming to overthrow Chinese rule at least locally.
Not very much is known about what exactly causes the tensions in Hotan Prefecture, although plenty of theories have been offered.
Most cited is the repression of Uighur Cultural rights and religious cultural traits, but there are also widespread reports of lack of jobs and opportunities for the minorities, in case the local Uighur people. Often, Uighurs say they feel treated like second rate citizens in their own home, with the imported Han people, be they highly educated technicians or local police and authorities, taking the majority of the jobs in the region especially the well paying jobs. In addition, there are conflicts over land and water use, with again the same frictions between ethnic groups.
In realtion to land disputes, and distribution of benefits of local development. One should note that as of January 1, the Han Chinese migration colony previously established at Kurumkash due west of Hotan, has been declared an independent administrative entity taking land from the Hotan Prefecture. This new entity under control of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, which itself is Central Government agency, actually ranks above Hotan in importance.
Travelers to Hotan, please do mind that according to informed sources (Sinocism ; Michael Forsythe (2015) attacks in Xinjiang occur on almost a daily basis but that only 5% of these violent events is reported to the outside world (China and beyond). Recent statistics reveal that the number of arrests in Hotan related to Terrorism doubled from 2014 to 2015, and as the number of reported events has increased since one might start descerning a certain image.
In January of 2017 the Hotan Prefecture Government announced it would increase border controls so as to make sure no one could enter or leave the territory without due permission. It has been confirmed that the Chinese military uses drones in order to achieve better control of mountains and passes to the south and west of Hotan and Hotan Prefectural borders. Due to factors described in our main introduction to Hotan it is unlikely anyone will emerge from the mountainous border with India in the southernmost regions of Hotan Prefecture. Yet, local authorities claim that local terrorist are receiving training in Afghanistan and Pakistan, after which they are sent over to do misdeeds in Chinese controlled territories in Xinjiang.
Since, International News challes have reported the wildest measures against the local population such as bans on head scarfs for women (reportedly popular among Islamic women in Hotan since about the year 2009 and not before), "Islamic styled beards and dress", Islamic names for newborn children, measures to keep open alcohol stores and restaurants during Islamic holidays and festivals and so on.
Although Hotan is famous, as hinted above it is also situated in an a traditionally ultra-remote location. In addition, not so much historically but in recent decades and especially in the recent years, Hotan has been a restive City and Prefecture. Among the various City Prefectures and Autonomous Territories within the very large Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region, Hotan is counted as one of the most restive. In addition, internet and other restrictions within Xinjiang are enormous, hence, for all the above reasons little or no news or information comes available from Hotan Prefecture. Most of the information that does come out is passed on via the given official Government Channels and thus information is colored and biased.
As informed travelers know, on average, the warmest month is July and the coldest month is January. Especially at that time, no one comes down to Hotan in order to explore the tourist sites and although venturing into the desert in winter is better than going there in mid summer, icy cold weather combined with sharp winds could make even the most hardened adventurer cry for mercy after prolonged exposure.
Oddly, while December is the wettest month with the most precipitation, rain, hail and snow, the January month is the driest and in historic time the best time for trade caravans to move along the silk road pathways. This is not so much due to the air humidity but rather because in the winter months, the air remains frigid day
Map Trade Routes in Asia in the 13Th Century
A Schematic Map of the Eurasian Trade Routes existing in the 13Th Century. Clearly marked in Red Accent on the Map are the cities of the network of land-bound trading routes through Central Asia known as the Silk Road (the path of Marco Polo and others). Marked in Blue Accent are the Main Ports and Harbors of the Maritime Trade Routes that operated between the Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and Coastal Cities, the Straights of Malacca, the South-China Sea's and beyond. As shown, Maritime Trade to China mainly entered through Southern Harbors, then was distributed internally by use of the Grand Canal, the Yangtze River and the Yellow River.
Map includes the Route traveled by Marco Polo, William of Rubruck and John of Pian de Carpine, the three famed European Travelers of the Time.
Locations of Main Trading Ports and Cities on Trade Routes of the Time are marked.
Much later Hotan reappears in the 13th century travel reports of Marco Polo, as a major and often unavoidable stop over point on the two routes leading together into the Chinese heartlands, the name of Hotan keeps reappearing as a place of considerable interest.
In the first decades of the 20th century, when Xinjiang was a wild eastern land and control by China was once more flimsy, Russian invaders and explorers, Cossacks, spies and western explorers and archeologists appeared on the scene, the latter (mostly) once more returning Hotan a position of world attention.
In the 2nd half of the 20 century other territories surrounding the Taklamakan Desert were subjected to the effects off over 40 atmospheric detonations of large nuclear devices (bombs). Although the radition has dropped to near normal levels, after effects linger, usually kept out of sight of passing visitors. Genetic damage exists giving rise to deformities or various forms of cancer.
Most of the sites associated with the Chinese Effort to create their own nuclear bombs and various delivering methods are however situated well to the north-east of Hotan along the north rim of the Tarim River Basin and east of Bosten Lake. At a distance of some 850 kilometers to the majority of the detonation sites and up wind from their locations, Hotan suffered relatively little.
In 2002 Hotan was struck by a major earthquake.
In the current days of the 21st century Hotan rarely makes the news except for the repeated occurrence of violent attacks on representatives of Chinese Government Authority. Among things bombing / stabbings and attacks on Police Stations have occurred in Hotan in recent years.
In 2009 ethnic riots of Uighurs targeting Han peoples erupted in Hotan and neighboring Kashgar City, soon transmitting up to the regional Capital of Urumqi where chaos also erupted.
Since June of 2011, Hotan has a Train Station with connections westward to Kashgar (along the Kashgar-Hotan Railway). To date there is but one train daily.
A geographic overview Map of Tibet, the Tibetan Plateaux and relevant adjoining regions and territories. Map includes a large part of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (PRC), Kashmir, North-West Pakistan, Northern India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the culturally associated region of Myanmar (Burma). A small part of Yunnan Province of China is also depicted.
This Map clearly defines disputed borders and territories, Nations (except for Tibet), Provinces and Regions, as well as geographical features such as main mountain ranges, main rivers & lakes of the region, basins and plains, plus the locations and names of main cities, towns, monuments and landmarks.
Browse the Map and follow the Links where available to access more maps, information and photos on each location and landmark.
Considerably more may be said about the climate. As mentioned, a rather large part of the south of the Prefecture is taken up by mountains. With Hotan already at an elevation of some 1400 meters, the mountains climb quite steeply up to form what is in effect the Tibetan Plateaux. The first steps of this plateaux lie between 2000 and 4000 meters, however distant peaks forming the (historic) border with India rise to 6000 meters and over. Accordingly, all of these parts of the prefecture have an entirely different climate from the parts of the prefecture situated at the level of the desert.
The climate up in the mountains is notoriously arid and windy and few desire to explore there. On the opposite side, in the north out in the Taklamakan Desert sand dunes and a few wind swept plains, often filled with gravel, dominate the landscape and therefor, out in the north additional measures are to be taken before venturing about. Sunshades, abundant water and sun block are the very minimum one should think of for protecting ones self.
Naturally, most tourist travelers prefer to keep to the irrigated zone that composes the various Oasis strung along the pathway of the historic silk road.
The traveling season in Hotan starts early in the months April and May, however in these months sand storms also notoriously occur in Hotan Prefecture. If you are going in early spring, prepare - at least mentally - for such an event which is quite spectacular but also dangerous. In general, in modern times no one gets buried by a sand storm anymore, so you will probably be alright. Sand storms are however unhealthy and full exposure can be cause of silicosis of the lungs.
As mentioned, the summer is extremely hot. The warmest months are June, July and August. While the average daily temperature for that month is fixed at about 27 degrees Celsius this does not take into account the daily and nightly extremes. Whereas in other
regions hot days mean hot and often steamy nights, not so in Hotan. Even in summer night time temperatures may drop to near zero. Only in the month of June average night time temperatures exceed 10 Degrees Celcius going as high as above 14 Degrees Celsius in the warmest nights.
Although this is not frequently mentioned in travel guides, the month of June is also notoriously windy. Combine this with an abundance of sand in the desert and one may understand just how the endless lines of shifting sand dunes in the Taklamakan Desert are created and exist.
As ancient Silk Road travelers already knew by heart, only fools venture out into the desert in the summer months. Thus in September and October travelers return in order to enjoy what are usually steely blue skies, nice weather with a good average temperature. Depending on the year, good temperatures may last into October at which time the night time temperatures fall well below zero and can be extremely uncomfortable.
and night, so allowing for the transportation of ice blocks on camel backs, which could provide drinking and cooking water when needed, at least for a while. The ability to carry along fresh drinking water and at many times avoid the use of brackish wells found in the desert was of course an enormous advantage. As a rule all long range camel caravans in all surrounding territories moved during the winter.
There is little or no mention of ethnic groups other than the Uighur and Han in current day Hotan Prefecture, however historically the town of Lop is known to have been a separate entity, its population consisting of the last vestiges of the so called Lop People, a group or tribe with its very own language belonging to the Tibetan language and culture.
A Full and complete Map of China (PRC) identifying all Language Areas big and small in all Provinces and Autonomous Regions of China.
Map includes Turkic Languages (Uygur, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Salar & Uzbek), Mongolian Language and Sub-Divisions (Mongol, Tu, Daur and Dongxian), Tungusic Peoples (Oroqen, Evenki and Xibe) and Languages, Korean, Tajik (Tadzhik), Mon-Khmer (Kawa + Puman (or Pulang)), Hui, Uygur (Uighur), Tibeto-Bhurman Languages, Tai and Miao, Yao and She' Language Area's and Borders. Main Area's and sub-divisions of Han Languages (Northern Mandarin, Eastern Mandarin, South-Western Mandarin and Cantonese) further included. This color-coded ethno-linguistic Map (of 1967 AD) identifies at a glance most ethnic minority regions in China
Map China Ethno-Linguistic / Language Distribution China
In the year 2012 an airplane flying out of Hotan to Urumqi was nearly hijacked, since leading to increased security and scrutiny of persons of the airport and the train station.
In February of 2014 a major earthquake rattled (Keriya) Yutian and County of Hotan Prefecture. With a strength measured at 6.9 on the Richter scale the quake was felt throughout the Tibetan Plateau, in Kashmir and north India and as far away as Almaty in Kazakhstan. No deaths or major material damage was reported.
In July of 2015 Pishan County of Hotan Prefecture was struck by a heavy earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale and striking some 10 kilometers below the surface. In the event some 3000 houses were toppled, six people lost their lives and 38 were injured.
The full 2500 year history of Hotan is impossible to summarize as it involves a multitude of historic events and quite the number of famous historic persona. For more information on the history of Hotan, please refer to:
On the north rim of the Tibetan High Plateaux Hotan is situated in notorious earthquake territory. A minor 4.0 on the Richter scale shock is felt every few months or at the very least once a year. Heavier earthquakes which are a major hazzard are more rare but may strike at any time.
The first in a series of major quakes to strike Hotan in the 21st century occurred in 2002 with a magnitude between 6.8 and 7.3 on the Richter Scale.
More recently, the so called 2014 Yutian earthquake struck Xinjiang on 12 February at 17:19 Beijing Time. The epicenter was located in Aqiang Township, Yutian County in the extreme east of Hotan Prefecture. The United States Geological Survey reported its magnitude to be 6.9. Chinese News reports indicate that no people were killed, but that the earthquake could be felt in the seat of Yutian County, Aqiang Township, and as far away as Aksu Prefecture several hundred kilometers to the north.
On the other side of the Kunlun Mountains and the Tibetan Plateau, the earthquake was reported to be felt in Ngari, Zanda and Tholing, and as far away as Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Kashmir, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, parts of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, northern Pakistan, western Nepal, eastern Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and also in Almaty, the 2nd Capital of Kazakhstan.
But slightly more than a year later in 2015 the next major earthquake hit Hotan with 6.4 on the Richter scale. While the 2015 quake was not very strong for the region, nevertheless it wrecked some 3000 houses in Pishan, the county which was most affected. Mostly as a precaution but nevertheless, traffic on the train line between Hotan and Kashgar was suspended and one airport (unidentified by source, but probably Hotan Civil Airport) in the region shut down for the day. Altogether, 6 people were killed and 38 injured due to the earthquake in 2015.
Interestingly, according to the Chinese Airforce (PLAAF) and the Ministry of Defense, in the aftermath of the July 2015 earthquake, the air force for the first time had dispatched a military drone aircraft and used its capabilities in order to asses the earthquake damage across the large territory of Pishan County and Hotan Prefecture. According to the press release the drone aircraft flew over the stricken area for about 100 minutes, in so doing affording local authorities a timely assesment of the damage and accordingly the locations in need of immediate help.
As one may find, the local Hotan Airport not only doubles as Hotan Military Base, it also serves as the main base for drone aircraft in this sector of the southern border with India, which so happens to be of a crucial strategic importance.