Historic city of Kasgar to be destroyed

The historic city of Kashgar is going to be pulled down and replaced by concrete.

The Chinese government is to demolish 85% of the historic Old city, with the remaining 15% left as a cultural musuem.  Kashgar is the best preserved Islamic city to be found anywhere in central Asia  (George Michell – Kashgar: Oasis City on China’s Old Silk Road). Many of the 13,000 UIghur  families will be moved, and in place of the Old city, and New Old City will be built with reproduction of ancient Islamic architecture “to preserve the Uighur culture”.

The demolition is said to be urgent because of the earthquake risk, with Chinese officals arguing that it is protecting its citizens from natural disasters.

I would dispute this point, and it would appear the locals take the same view:

Locals scoff at the claims about safety, saying that the damage to the local housing had been minimal in recent earthquakes and that these old structures had fared better than modern ones.

“There was an earthquake in 2004, but none of the houses in the Old City collapsed,” the businessman said. “People in the Old City believe that the old houses are stronger than modern buildings being built. They’ve survived for hundred of years.” Ronald Knapp, a professor emeritus at State University of New York, said there had been some loss of life from cave-ins of adobe structures over the centuries, but Sichuan’s problems seemed to have resulted “more from very poor ‘modern’ construction rather than the shortcomings of traditional practices”.

Uyghur Human Right project article

There is some seismic resistance in these mud brick buildings, and failures in earthquakes come from poor quality modern construction, rather than historic structures. A fine example of this was the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

This is a very sad state of affairs, and the buildings should at least be documented before they are pulled down.

Thanks to Ronald Rael of Earth Architecture

New York Times Article

New York Times Slideshow

Uyghur Human Rights Project Article


One thought on “Historic city of Kasgar to be destroyed

  1. Paul, thank you for keeping up such a great blog and website about rammed earth! I am headed to Spain in July for travel, and will definitely have a look at some of these historic structures you mention. I had the fortune of attending the AdobeUSA conference in May. It is a Journey, but it would be great to see you make it to the next one and present something! So many of us can benefit from your knowledge!

    All the best,

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