Wuqia and Turugart Pass in Xinjiang

Wuqia (乌恰) county or Ulugqat which is geographically China’s most western county, is 7 hours of driving from Tashkorgan. It is within the Kizilsu (克孜勒苏) Kirqhiz Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang. The population is about 60,000 where 80% of them are ethnic Kirghiz. Many of them are still living in their tents like their predecessors, as nomad herders in the grassland at the foot of great mountain ranges.

Over here, China is seperated from the rest of central Asia by the two great mountain ranges called the Kunlun and the Tianshan mountains. There are two historical entry point that was established during the ancient Silk Road, from China to West Asia, via Kirgiztan border. These are at Irkeshtan 伊尔克什但 and Turugart 吐尔尕特 Pass.

The documentary crew visited a Kirghiz nomad settlement near the border, close to Irkeshtan. The village is called Yuqutashi 玉具塔什, and most of the people live in tents and rear sheeps. The Kirghiz people have oriental looks, and their cultural symbols are the peculiar white hat that the menfolks wear, and their traditional three stringed banjo like musical  equiptment called Kumuzi.

There is a regular bus service from Turugart to Bishek (Kirgizstan capital) every Monday and Tuesday. The price is 570RMB and it takes 12 hours for the 600km journey. The buses return on Thursday and Friday. The China side of the checkpoint is actually about 109km away from the actual border demarcation line. At the border point, the elevation is 3795m, and strict border check is conducted.  The documentary mentions the Turugart border checkpoint as first grade national border checkpoint, while I have read travellers reports mentioning it as available for locals only. Perhaps the checkpoint has been upgraded quite recently.

Though Wuqia has been known since Han dynasty, the town looks new and planned. This is because it was rebuilt following a 7.5 scale earthquake in 1985.


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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