On a casual Thursday night, I was reminiscing my good ol’ childhood spent watching documentaries upon documentaries from my favourite National Geographic channel on Astro. That channel is my source of knowledge and inspiration where I learnt about the world; the different cultures and traditions; the vastly different landscapes; the ancient civilisations..and the list goes on. One of my all-time favourites was on Marco Polo’s expedition on the Silk Road featuring Mike Yamashita. I first watched the documentary nearly 10 years ago when I was in secondary school; my eyes were glistened with amazement as images of the faraway, exotic lands were brought to life on the TV screen. My mind wandered and my heart longed to go and explore these far-flung places one day.
|Nat Geo photographer, Mike Yamashita
Photo taken from http://thefreemanview.com/featured_photographer/mike-yamashita/
One of the places mentioned in the documentary was Kashgar, which lies on the edge of the Xinjiang province, west of China. Once an oasis capital on the Silk Road teeming with traders from all over the world, now it’s a modernised city under the Chinese government ruling. One of the attractions in Kashgar is its Old City, which is deemed to be the most well-preserved ancient Islamic city in Central Asia. While researching about this place on the internet, I came across the news that a mass-demolition was called to order by the Chinese government in the name of “modern development” and as a safety precaution to prevent unnecessary deaths occurring in natural disasters.
I was instantly disheartened by the news (it wasn’t really a news as it happened in 2009/2010). The Old City is the heart and soul of the people living there as these houses were passed down from generation to generation. These people were forcibly moved from their homes to modern housing and apartments, their old way of living would be radically changed; the two thousand year-old sights and heritage would be gone, forever. Though the authorities claimed that they would re-build similar buildings to serve as tourist’s attractions, it will not be the same without the laughter of children running around the narrow, cobble-stoned streets; the lively neighbourhood teeming with activity.
|Aerial view of Kashgar’s massive Old City
One would never know what the true motives of the authorities were , but it may be an open secret that the Chinese authorities are strengthening their grip on this westernmost province, for their abundant natural resources, especially its oil and gas reserves.