Per-Anders Pettersson

ON ASSIGNMENT: CHINA'S SILK ROAD

I traveled on the Chinese part of the Silk Road in June 2007, a journey from Xian in the east to Kashgar, in the west. A journey of about 3200 kilometers (about 2000 miles) that took 3 weeks by train, bus, plane, 4x4. The journey to describe the life along the Silk Road in today’s China.

Xian-Lanzhou-Donhuang-Turpan-Korla-Aksu-Kucha-Taklamakan-Hotan-Kashgar.

The Silk Road got its name only in the 1870s by a German scholar but the trade-route, probably the greatest ever East-west trade route, was first traveled by ambassador Zhang Qian in the second century BC while on a mission from Emperor Wudi of the Han dynasty.

The early trade in Silk was done by great caravans of merchants and animals, traveling on some of the most inhospitable land on earth, including waterless deserts and mountain passes with snow.

Silk composed a small portion of the trade along the Silk Road: eastbound caravans brought gold, precious metals, stones, ivory, textiles etc, and westbound caravans transported ceramics, bronze weapons, furs, cinnamon barks and rhubarb.

Very few caravans completed the entire route and the towns along the way became important stops on the way to take on fresh merchants, animals and goods.

These oasis towns prospered considerably because of the trading caravans.

Perhaps the most challenging part of the trip was crossing the Liu sha, or “moving sands”, known as the Taklamakan Desert. Fierce wind and sandstorms made the crossing a challenge.

Taklamakan means, “go in and you will not come out” in Turki, and has been feared by travelers for more than 2,000 years.

A new highway was recently completed from Aksu to Hotian, the new Taklamakan desert highway that considerably cuts the traveling time through the desert.

A man carries wooden slides along a path in the desert dunes in Gobi desert, DunHuang, China, 2007
  
An ethnic Uygur man drinks tea while resting in hot sand at a Sand Therapy Center, Turpan, China, 2007
  
Zhang Yi, age 44, a director for an insurance company with 200 employees, plays golf at the Xian Country Club, Xian, China, 2007
     
  
A woman works out in a park as her daughter plays nearby in central Xian, China, 2007
  
A man has fallen asleep on a bench after reading a newspaper in a park in central Xian, China, 2007
  
A Uygur woman rests in the sand as her husband takes a break from therapy at a sand therapy center, Turpan, China, 2007. An important part of Uygur traditional medicine.
     
  
Migrant workers construct a new exclusive residential building in central Lanzhou, China, 2007
  
A young girl stands on the roof of the family house in an ancient village, Tuyoq, China, 2007
  
A worker rests on a pile of coal in a steel factory outside Turpan, China, 2007
     
  
A migrant worker rests next to a new exclusive residential building in central Lanzhou, China, 2007
  
An elderly man sits outside his house with his grandson in a small farming village outside DunHuang, China, 2007
  
A man rides on a wooden slide in the desert dunes in Gobi desert, DunHuang, China, 2007
     
  
Chinese tourists ride on Quad bikes along the desert dunes in the Gobi desert outside DunHuang, China, 2007
  
Chinese tourists pose for pictures with camels at the desert dunes in the Gobi desert, DunHuang, China, 2007
  
Performers in the Fetian Song and Dance Troupe dress backstage before an evening show in a hotel, DunHuang, China, 2007
     
  
School children wait to perform during a talent competition, Kurle, China, 2007
  
Shuidong Lxuidon, age 42, a truck diver, lays on the ground next to his truck outside Kurle, China, 2007. He drove straight for about 26 hours and fell asleep and drove off the road.
  
Ethnic Uygur villagers buy food from a stall at a weekly market, Khotan, China, 2007. Thousands of villagers attend every week dressed in traditional clothing.
     
  
Migrant workers play pool at dusk in central Lanzhou, China, 2007
  
A young woman performs a striptease show in a trendy nightclub, Xian, China, 2007
  
Chinese oil workers dance with prostitutes in a brothel, Tazhong, China, 2007
     
  
Truck drivers share a meal at a truck stop outside Turpan, China, 2007
  
A couple performs a traditional dance in a car dealership outside Turpan, China, 2007. BYD, a new Chinese/Japanese family car was introduced for the first time in the city.
  
A girl plays in a walking rubber ball on a river, Kurle, China, 2007