Xinjiang I’ve been fascinated with Xinjiang, in China’s northwest, since the mid-90s when I lived in Beijing. Behind the university’s back gate was a dusty lane leading to the Uyghur village. The Uyghurs (sounds like “wee guhrs”), the main ethnic minority in Xinjiang, seemed as foreign in Beijing as us ‘foreigners.’ Their language was Turkic, their religion Islam, and their food and familial warmth felt to me more Mediterranean than Chinese. None of us belonged there. Xinjiang (aka Chinese Turkistan), is China’s gateway to the Silk Road. Its beautiful but harsh landscape contains Taklamakan (“he who comes in does not go out”) and Gobi deserts and the Karakorum, Tianshan and Kunlun mountain ranges, which act as China’s physical borders with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and India. The historic population is Central Asian, yet their land is within the PRC. The Uyghurs make up a third of its population (25 million). China has given Xinjiang infrastructure, education and jobs but the cost of ‘progress’ has been a steady erosion of its culture. This is physically evident in the demolition of Kashgar’s Old City, a tangle of narrow mud-brick alleyways. The ancient city, an isolated oasis tucked between the foot of the Pamir Mountains and the vast Taklamakan Desert, was the greatest market city on the Silk Road for two millennia. When I visited, there were just a few acres left of Old City, where remaining residents lived next to rubble. Most had left, moving to modern apartment blocks on the outskirts of town.