On October 6, 1906, Gustaf Mannerheim left Kashgar for a return expedition to Khotan, about 500 kilometres away on the southern fringe of the Taklimakan Desert. His mission was to investigate rumours of Japanese and British military officers doing secret reconnaissance in the region. It was a monotonous, grueling trek through desolate, broiling terrain. At one point, Mannerheim became crippled by rheumatism and was forced to stop in Yarkand for more than a month. Here, a Swedish medical missionary tended to him. The entire return trip to Kashgar took almost four months.
In contrast, my road trip to Khotan and back took only four days. The region is the last major Uyghur stronghold in Xinjiang, where the Han Chinese are a small minority. I spent much of this trip investigating the modern colonization of the region by the Han Chinese and, in particular, by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a powerful militia and agro-industrial corporation that operates in sensitive borderland regions.
Click on features to view details of Mannerheim’s return journey from Kashgar to Khotan.
View Chapter 7: To Khotan in a larger map
Click on the icons to view photos of my return trip to Khotan on the southern fringe of the Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang, China.
Michael Manning, an American businessman whom I met in Urumqi, has put together this video of a trip along the southern leg of the Silk Road from Yengisar to Khotan.
For more information about the southern leg of the Silk Road between Kashgar and Khotan, check out these links:
Khotan on Wikipedia
Far West China Blog
Tourist Guide to Khotan
Uyghur Human Rights Project