History and tradition of the modern Kuchar

Breathtaking sights of Kuchar city

In the north of Xinjiang there lies one of the ancient cities of Eastern Turkestan – Kuchar. In ancient time it was the capital of the state with the same name. This region was inhabited by people of different nationalities, professing different religions. But the greatest influence on all aspects of the resident population was exerted by the Great Silk Road.

The city’s history begins from the first millennium BC. As one of the cities, located on the Great Silk Road, Kuchar became a political and economic center of the region. When Buddhism found its way to Eastern Turkestan, Kuchar became a place of pilgrimage. The city’s history is full of wars and different revolts, with the largest one taken place in 1847.

Modern Kuchar is more a small city with the population about 70,000 people. It differs much from the other cities of Xinjiang, such as Hotan, Aksu or Kashgar, its main sights are located in the suburbs, rather than in the city itself.

The first thing attracting the attention on the way to the city is picturesque landscapes which can be easily mistaken for moon ones, since the mountains surrounding the city are absolutely bold, but the hillsides of these “bald mountains” are covered with many-colored flowers. One of the mountains is called as the Mountain of Five Colors.

However, the main sight of Kucha is the well-known Kyzyl caves or the Caves of Thousand Buddhas. The origin of these caves dated back to the beginning of operation of the Great Silk Road. Over several years, Buddhist monks and pilgrims, traveling from India to Eastern Turkestan, dug caves for reading prayers near Kuchar, which thereafter developed into the whole Buddhist complex.

All the caves from inside were covered with unique frescos of religious nature, many of which did not survive up to date. A part of them was destroyed by Muslims (the frescos depicted people), another part was taken by the expedition headed by А. Von Le Coq to Germany, many of them were damaged by weather conditions. Along with the numerous frescos, a statue located in front of the caves is also of great interest. It was devoted to the Indian monk Kumarajiva, one of the most famous translators of the first Buddhist texts from Sanskrit (the ancient Indian script) into the Chinese language.

Today’s Kuchar is rather traditional for Xinjiang. Its residents are very friendly and hospitable. At the local markets, not as large as in Kashgar, Hotan or Turpan, you can purchase carpets, fabrics, and metal products. Kuchar can boast with a developed crafts, but the main kind of activity of the resident population is still agriculture. They grow various fruits there, however the city gained popularity due to its amazing apricots, Kuchar is famous for, throughout the whole China.