An oasis in the midst of extreme environments, kept relevant for thousands of years due to a precious resource that is found in abundance here.
A tiny, dusty village rests on the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert. It would likely have been forgotten despite one valuable commodity that transformed Hotan into a Silk Road oasis town - jade. The Yurungkash River flows through the center of town, transporting sediment from the mighty Kunlun Mountains to the south into broad alluvial deposits, rich in jade. This precious stone was sifted through the water and stones here as early as 5th century B.C., continuing as a living tradition to this day. It transformed this region bringing great wealth and supplying China with the majority of its jade for many centuries. Merchants and explorers alike ventured into Hotan along the Silk Road to strike rich as well, reminsecent of the 1800’s Gold rush in California. To this day, imagine yourself walking along the broad basins with many locals, sifting through countless rocks, often with your mind playing tricks on you, hoping to randomly come across a glinter of jade.
Into the town, Hotan hosts a colorful Sunday bazaar bearing many striking textiles, delicacies, snacks, crafts and of course jade, both fake and real. There are few places as colorful as here. Local women show off their brilliant garments, children play in the streets with balloons, and men wear their doppas (traditional hats) of many colors. It is a beautiful reminder of breathing traditions as one sits back, observing the colorfully- adorned locals go about their day alongside modern day merchants exchanging wares for coins. Life is simple here in a land wedged by extreme terrains of glaciers to the south and endless desert to the north, a weary respite from a long journey that looms ahead.
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
How We Got Here
Hotan stands as an oasis town just south of the mighty Taklamakan Desert. We arrived by train from Kashgar.
As we were leaving Hotan, we took an overnight bus crossing straight through the Taklamakan. It was surreal to cross endless sand dunes by road, which used to be one of earth’s most treacherous journeys
Walking down into the dry riverbed that runs through town to look for jade, only for a group of local men help us identify each piece of probable rock we picked up.