Kashgar Horse Markets

Kashgar Horse & Livestock Markets



Photos courtesy of Sarah Howey


The famous livestock market just outside of China’s westernmost city has met every Sunday for thousands of years. A crucial hub on the Silk Road, Kashgar has served as an oasis and trading post between China, the Middle East and Europe for ages. Bazaar is Uighur language meaning market and trade place. The traditional bazaar was originally held on Sundays but is currently divided into two sections. One is for livestock from the district open only on Sundays .The bazaar is open every day of the week for handicrafts, clothes, and food but it’s on Sundays that things really heat up. That’s when local farmers mostly of Uighur descent gather to buy and sell livestock including sheep, goats, camels and horses. At present there are more than 20 large scale bazaars in Kashgar of which the one located at the East Gate of Kashgar City is the largest. This bazaar also named ‘International Trade Market of Central and Western Asia’ is the largest international trade market in Northwest China enjoying the fame ‘Material Fair of Central Asia’.

It is the largest garden aggregate market of Kashgar City and in Xinjiang Province taking up an area of 250 mu (41 acres) composed of 21 specialized markets including over 4,000 fixed booths and a food street. It was noted as ‘the Largest Fair in Asia’ in ancient times. As early as in 128 BC when Zhang Qian was dispatched to the Western Regions by Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220) he was surprised to see the prosperous market full of dazzling goods and merchants coming from different countries. The market competes with other local markets and even ones further out like the one in Hotan; but the Kashgar Market is by far the largest and most popular. Kashgar remains one of the best examples of Islamic China. Its influences from the Middle East are present at the market as are those from Tibet, Mongolia, and Turkey. One can find a little piece of each of these at the Kashgar Bazaar. You can enjoy and buy various things such as general merchandise, handicrafts, livestock, local specialties, vegetables, coats, and second hand merchandise as well as many other items from cattle and horses to needle and thread. Since the Khunjerab Pass and Tuergate Port were opened a large number of foreign merchants have come with a great many goods. Arts and crafts of Pakistan, scarves of Turkey and dry fruits of Saudi Arabia can all be bought at a reasonable price. Moreover one can experience an ancient peculiar trade form: barter

Food stalls and vendors

Colourful exotic displays

Local hardware store

Traditional carts plus a motorbike

The roadway to the marketplace

Good quality forage for sale including superior Lucerne Hay

Goats or sheep

Sheep and young forage carrier

Western forage inspection passes muster

This scene would not have changed much after many centuries of trading

Traditional ‘barter’ is intricate and highly specialised. It is almost imperceptible.

Domesticated cattle are mostly horned breeds

The camels have been doing it tough

Fat tailed sheep are highly prized; for their ‘beauty’ as well as commercial value! These animals were jumped off the back of the truck

Ample rear-ends are much admired and greatly valued in Uighur society; udders to match!

Crutching Uighur style is really a beauty salon

Close inspection is vital

Trinkets and small goods on ground display

Donkeys are highly prized as beasts of burden

Horse and donkeys are selected for ‘fitness’ rather than ‘fatness’; as opposed to sheep and goats

This equid resembles a traditional Przewalski’s horse

It’s tough being a Uighur trader! Note the footwear

Vigilant agents keeping a hawkish watch for incipient trade

Intergenerational social discourse

Concessions to the modern era