Hotan(Hetian) Travel Guide, Xinjiang
Hotan (also Khotan, Hetian), one of the remotest places in China, has remained famous for centuries for its jade, silk and carpets.Even today the highlight of a visit to Khotan is seeing the factories where these materials are worked or produced, in much the same way as they always have been. Bleak and dusty, the town is not to everyone's taste, but unless you are heading right off the beaten track it's the most authentic Uigur town you are likely to see, and certainly worth a visit. As a bonus, people here are very hospitable and don't seem to have heard of the concept of foreigners paying more for anything.
The small town centre comprises a couple of blocks to the south and west of the junction between Nuerwake Lu (running east-west) and Gulibake Lu (north-south). The bus station is about 1km to the north of here.
Getting there and away
Khotan's airport lies 10km west from town, and access is either by taxi, or by the airport bus that meets incoming flights - the only flights in or out of Khotan at present are the daily connections to Ürümqi.
From 9:00am to 6:30pm, there is a bus from Hotan to Urumqi (via the new desert route) every 2 hours. Buses from Hotan to Korla leave at 11:00am, 4:00pm and 6:00pm. There are also daily buses connect Hotan with Kashgar and Qiemo in the southern Silk Road.
The Hotan bus station is in the north of the city. To reach Nuerwake Lu from the bus station on foot takes about 20 minutes, turn right as you come out onto the main road. It's probably more sensible to take a cycle-rickshaw, though - they'll charge about Y5 to any hotel.
- The Khotan Shi Binguan (tel 0903/2023564; dorms up to Y30, rooms Y30-75), on the intersection of Nuerwake Lu and Tanai Lu, which has four-bed dorms with communal bath and doubles with private bath.
There's a travel service (tel 0903/2028994) in Room 228 of the hotel, which can book bus and plane tickets and offers a day tour of the factories and Melikawat for Y300. They can also arrange lengthier, expensive tours including interesting four- or five- day jeep-trips to Korla and Dunhuang along the Southern Silk Road, via routes not necessarily covered by public transport. CITS (tel 0903/2026090), inconveniently located on the third floor of a building at the end of Bositan Lu, offers similar deals.
- Khotan Binguan (tel 0903/2022824; dorms up to Y30, rooms Y30-75), in a quiet courtyard off Tanai Lu.
Eating in Khotan is not as limited as it first appears. There is an excellent Uigur night market on Tanai Lu, just south of Nuerwake Lu. You can get roast chickens, pulau, eggs and fish here, as well as the customary kebabs, sheep heads and laghman. For Chinese food , try the area of Gulibake Lu. Just pull open the curtains in the doorways, and go in; most of the proprietors here are Sichuanese in exile.
There are few attractions in the town itself.
- Museum/和田博物馆 - Located on Tanai Nan Road at the city center, just south of where it intersects with Nuerwake Lu (west of Gulibake Lu), it showcases over 400 pieces of cultural relics excavated from the ancient cities of Niya , Mallikurwatur, and Yotkan. The items on display include colored pottery, ancient coins, silk and woolen textiles, documents on wood slips, clay and wood sculptures, and mummies, reflecting the history, politics, economy, culture and customs of Hetian over the past 2000 years.
The museum features ancient Yutian culture, proving the importance and influence of Hetian on the Silk Road. It offers a window on Silk Road contributions to cultural exchange and trade between central China and border areas, and between China and west Asian countries.
Admission Fee: Y20
- Jade Factory - Immediately to the south of the museum is the jade factory where you can see craftsmen bent over small lathes. The results of their labour are on sale in the shop above, with prices between Y30 and Y30,000, and in shops all over the town. The bigggest concentration of stalls selling jade is at the east end of Nuerwake Lu.
- White Jade River - about 4km east of the town, following Nuerwake Lu, is the White Jade River from which, historically, so much jade has been recovered, and which still yields the odd stone for casual searchers. The river flows through a wide, stony plain; it's easy to get down here and forage, but you'll need to find one of the locals - who come here with garden forks to rake the stones - to show you what you are looking for, or you may end up with a pocketful of pretty but worthless quartz.
- The town carpet factory - stands just across the river and to the left; you might try dropping in for a visit, particularly if you are interested in making a purchase. Prices here, and in the shop in town, are very cheap. The atmosphere in the factory workshop is friendly, with the workers, mostly young women, exchanging banter as they weave with incredible dexterity. They encourage visitors to take pictures, and ask to be sent copies.
- The secrets of modern silk production - You can do this through a travel service, or independently if you wish. Take bus #1 from Gulibake Lu, five minutes' walk north of Nuerwake Lu and to the east, where the road is bisected by a small park, right to its last stop. Walk back just a few hundred metres towards town and you'll come to the front entrance of the head office of the silk factory. The security man there should understand what you want. If you come during the week (avoid the long lunch break, 1-3pm), the chances are that you will be supplied with an English-speaking factory employee to show you round for free. You can see the whole process: the initial unpicking of the cocoons, the twisting together of the strands to form a thread (ten strands for each silk thread), the winding of the thread onto reels, and finally the weaving and dying. The women here have it hard compared to their sisters in the carpet factory: the noise in the workshops is immense, and they stand all day long.
- Local bazaar - takes place every Friday and Sunday. There's not much to buy here except silk and spices, but it's well worth wandering around to watch the innumerable blacksmiths, tinsmiths, goldsmiths and carpenters hard at work among the stalls. The bazaar stretches across the whole of the northeast part of town, and the easiest way to reach it is to head east along Nuerwake Lu, past the turn off with Guibake Lu, then take the first left.
Around Hotan City
- Melikawat Ruins / 买力克阿瓦提遗址
Also known as Mallikurwatur Ruins. The site is at the fringe of the Taklimakan Desert, 25km southwest of Hetian, on the west bank of the Jade Dragon Kashgar River. This city, formerly an important regional capital on the Silk Road, was abandoned well over a thousand years ago.
Majority of the ruins are buried underground in the deep sands. The only trace of the city is a broken section of a city wall in the north. Ancient stone tools, pottery pieces, coins, beads litter everywhere around the wall. Over this century, the ruins have seen groups of explorers and large amount of relic has been collected. However, as long as so far, archeologists are still unable to sketch out details of this mystical ancient city.
- Niya Ruins / 尼雅遗址
at the lower reach of the Niya River, 150km north of the Minfeng county. The ruins were buried deep in the Taklimakan Desert. Niya was the remains of the Jingjue Kingdom, one of the 36 kingdoms in the Western Region, which existing from the Han Dynasty to the Jin Dynasty. The flourishing oasis was of significance importance on the Silk Road.
The Jingjue Kingdom was nourished by the Niya River, traces of whose course are still visible today. The fertile green cultivated land and the splendid culture waned into history soon after residents here used out the last drip of the precious water here. In this strip-like city ruins, remains of temples, houses tombs scatter around everywhere. Farmlands, forests, irrigation networks are faintly visible.
The city is believed to be divided into two sections by the Niya River. The south part was the rich community while the poor resided in the north part. Every housed was attached with a orchard, coops and a reservoir. In the middle of the ruins lie remnants of the earth pagoda.
Jingjue Kingdom was located at the center of the Taklimakan Desert and the opening of the Silk Road was the major factor for its rise. The weary trade incoming caravans stopped by Jingjue and exchanged their merchants with camels to convey their merchandise into Inner province of China.Jingjue's economical and cultural prosperity had never improved its poor natural condition and hash climate feature. Hemmed in by the fatal sand desert, shortage of water and the shifting sands threatened JIngjue people all the time. Inhabitants once tried hard to fight against the desert by planting large amount of forest. Laws were applied to protect the forests and water.
Niya was vanished during the Jin Dynasty. Archeologist and historians discovered very little clue on how it was abandoned.