In 2009 Ana Escobedo, an undergraduate in classical archaeology at Brown University (now graduate student at Cambridge University) created “Save Kashgar” in response to Chinese government’s plan to raze the old oasis city of Kashgar to the ground. As a fulfillment of her summer internship at SAFE, Ana’s multi-faceted campaign includes a “Save Kashgar” cause page on Facebook (now boasting more than 1,000 members) and an online petition appealing to the Chinese Cultural Minister to save what remained of the cultural heritage of Kashgar. She also launched a flickr group dedicated to creating a consolidated photographic record of pre-destruction Kashgar. Read Ana’s own account of her journey into saving Kashgar, and how she reached out to concerned others for support, while making sure that her work supported, rather than competed, with other efforts already in place.
Ana’s project dovetails the organization’s efforts in this regard, expressed in this editorial “Cultural vandalism”: The destruction of ancient Kashgar, posted two days after the May 27, 2009 New York Times article. This was followed by the Statement of Concern and Appeal for International Cooperation to Save Ancient Kashgar that SAFE initiated with Heritage Watch, which was signed by a coalition of cultural heritage organizations, archaeologists and art historians. The statement was mailed to Mr. Francesco Bandarin, Director of UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
Kashgar, “virtually untouched by modern society,” is an important oasis city strategically located on the ancient Silk Road in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. Architect and historian George Michell described Kashgar as “the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in central Asia.” The Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic group, predating the advent of Islam, are one of China’s largest ethnic minorities.
Because Kashgar is a city that lies in the heart of Central Asia, it was one of the most important cities along the northern route of ancient Silk Road. As much influenced by European, Islamic, and Persian cultures as Chinese, the city has been known to exist in this area since the Han Dynasty (ca. 202 B.C. – 221 A.D.). Since that time, it has seen heavy traffic from people coming from Europe, Central Asia, and East Asia as they made their way from the city of Xian in the East, all the way to the western part of the Roman Empire. Today, it is a city that covers roughly 15 square kilometers, and is still an important connection point on routes between China and northern Pakistan over and around the Taklamakan Desert.