On the northern outskirts of the engulfing Taklamakan Desert, Kuqa lies at a crucial outpost between the Kashgar and further east towards China.
Kuqa has seen days far more glorious than at present. From the first through seventh centuries, Kuqa was the center of a Buddhist kingdom of the same name, and the most populous oasis city along the Tarim Basin section of the Silk Road. More than 80,000 inhabitants once lived in this small town, then known as the largest of the “Thirty-six kingdoms of the Western Regions.” However, like some other Silk Road oases, time has not been friendly to Kuqa, where it has slowly faded away into obscurity.
A modern visit to Kuqa is still delightful, witnessing locals in brightly colored garb shopping the markets, tasting the delicious Uyghur snacks, or walking through the old roads full of blue-painted doors. On the outskirts of Kuqa lie crumbling adobe ruins of a long forgotten Buddhist complex lasting a thousand years, from the 3rd to 13th centuries. Subashi is the name- the “headwater of a river” – which lies either side of the Kuqa River in a desolate, yet starkly beautiful desert. Slightly to the north of Kuqa lies an impressive cathedral of cliffs, known as the Tianshan Grand Canyon. Nearby, ancient caves still adorn brightly colored paintings of Buddhist art. Kuqa, now an obscure town in Xinjiang, China, holds many secrets of days long gone, where the imagination runs wild.
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
How We Got Here
Kuqa lies on the northern end of the Taklamakan Desert. We reached this oasis town by overnight bus from Hotan, taking 10 hours and crossing right through the seemingly endless desert.
Tasting the delicious Uyghur cuisine found throughout the town - found fried lamb noodles, local sweets, to giant naan bread.
Outside of Kuqa lies a beautiful canyon of impossible narrows. Uon arriving, the entrance was closed due to rain, but the sun appeared, enabling us to explore the canyons.
S N A P S H O T S O N T H E R O A D
W H E R E W I L L Y O U R J O U R N E Y T A K E Y O U N E X T ?
Though it may seem surprising, the road gets even more hot and dry from here.
On the northern outskirts of the Takalamakan Desert lies a depression flanked by flaming mountains. Yet an oasis called Turpan holds many surprises...