• Exnerová, V. (2015). The Veneration and Visitation of the Graves of Saints in Soviet Central Asia. Insights from the Southern Ferghana Valley, Uzbekistan. Archiv Orientalni, 83(3), 501–III,601.  ​
  • Harris, R., & Dawut, R. (2002). Mazar festivals of the Uyghurs: Music, Islam and the Chinese State. British Journal of Ethnomusicology, 11(1), 101–118.  ​
  • Iloliev, A. (2008). Popular culture and religious metaphor: saints and shrines in Wakhan region of Tajikistan. Central Asian Survey, 27(1), 59–73.  ​
  • Kehl-Bodrogi, K. (2006). Who owns the shrine? Competing meanings and authorities at a pilgrimage site in Khorezm1. Central Asian Survey: POST-SOVIET ISLAM: AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE, 25(3), 235–250. ​
  • Mehdi, E. (2016). Shrine Pilgrimage (Ziyarat) in Turco-Iranian Cultural Regions. International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage, l(1).  ​
  • Dawut, R. (2001). Mazars of the Uyghurs. Urumchi: Xinjiang People’s Publishing House. ​
  • Dawut, R., Mehendale, S., & Papas, A.(2012). Desert Mazâr: Sacred Sites in Western China (Essay to Accompany Photo Essay). Cross-Currents (Honolulu, Hawaii), 3. ​
  • Ross, L., Citron, B., Dawut, R., & Papas, A. (2013). Living shrines of Uyghur China (1st ed.). New York: The Monacelli Press. ​
  • Ruffle, K. (2006). Muslim Saints of South Asia: The Eleventh to Fifteenth Centuries [Review of Muslim Saints of South Asia: The Eleventh to Fifteenth Centuries]. The Journal of Asian Studies, 65(2), 450–452. Cambridge University Press.  ​
  • Sugawara, J., & Dawut, R. (2016). Mazar : Studies on Islamic Sacred Sites in Central Eurasia. Fuchu, Tokyo: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Press. ​
  • Thum, R. (2012). Beyond resistance and nationalism: local history and the case of Afaq Khoja. Central Asian Survey: LOCAL HISTORY AS AN IDENTITY DISCIPLINE, 31(3), 293–310. ​
  • Thum, R. (2014). The sacred routes of Uyghur history. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ​
  • Thum, R. (2020, August 24). The Spatial Cleansing of Xinjiang: Mazar Desecration in Context. Made in China Journal. Retrieved from https://madeinchinajournal.com/2020/08/24/the-spatial-cleansing-of-xinjiang-mazar-desecration-in-context/

Gallery

This shrine is situated at the westernmost edge of the Taklamakan Desert. Standing for hundreds of years, and dotted around the cemetery, the toghraq (desert poplar trees  - Populus Euphratica) are crucial in the prevention of tombs being buried by sand, and further desertification of the region. Mazar of Axunlughum, Yopurgha, Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (1).​

Two Uyghur farmers driving their donkey cart past the cemetery. It is a prevailing practice to establish a functioning community cemetery surrounding or in the vicinity of a mazar. Mazar of Axunlughum, Yopurgha, Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (2). ​

Mazar of Axunlughum, Yopurgha, Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (3). ​

In this region, people use a wooden ladder to carry the bodies of their loved ones to the cemetery. After the body is buried, the ladder is then erected in front of the tomb. The ladder symbolises the pathway for the soul of the deceased as it ascends to heaven.  This custom is rare amongst the Uyghur but is practiced in Köne-Ürgench, Turkmenistan, hundreds of miles to Kashgar’s west. Mazar of Axunlughum, Yopurgha, Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (4). ​

The ladder is often decorated with a nameplate, ram horn, ribbons, prayer flags (tugh in Uyghur), flowers, and sometimes fruit. Regarded as the means of connecting Earth and Heaven, the ladder’s symbolic function is also observable in Manichean, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Christian, and mystic Sufi traditions. All these religions historically had large numbers of followers across Central Asia before the advent of Islam. Mazar of Axunlughum (5). ​

Mazar of Axunlughum, Yopurgha, Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (6).​

A Uyghur farmer on his way to the field, near the Mazar of Axunlughum (7)​

Äläm, or tugh - prayer flags bound to tree trunks indicating the location of a tomb. Axunlughum Mazar (8). ​

The Mazar of Chiltän, Yarkand, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (1)​

A devotee prays in front of the shrine. The Mazar of Chiltän, Yarkand, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (2). ​

A devotee prays in front of the shrine. The Mazar of Chiltän, Yarkand, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (3). ​

The piled mud bricks represent a stove. The stick - sometimes burnt – symbolizes the livelihood of a family. Usually a woman who has been unlucky in finding a spouse, comes here to pray for blessings and a happy family. The Mazar of Chiltän, Yarkand (4). ​

A ram’s horn displayed in front of the tomb of a saint. The Mazar of Chiltän (5). ​

Mazar of Yättä-Chiltänlirim, Opal, Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China​

A Kyrgyz shrine site in Atush, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (1)​

A Kyrgyz shrine site in Atush, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (2)​

The interior of a mazar in Yarkand, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. ​

The Mazar of Appaq-Ghoja (Afak-Ghoja), Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China​

The Mazar of Altunluq. This complex, which is adjacent to the Qomul Palace,  includes a mosque, a mausoleum, and the tombs of Qomul Kings and other members of the Royal family and some court officials. Qomul, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China (1).​

Minaret of Altunluq, Qomul, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China​

Details of the mosque entrance in the compound of the Mazar of Appaq-Ghoja (Afak-Ghoja), Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China​

The grand Juma Mosque inside the Altunluq complex is where the local Muslims gather for the two Eid-prayers. Due to the limitation of space, those who cannot be accommodated inside the mosque and the walled-complex pray outside. Qomul, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. ​

The 10th century built Samanid Mausoleum, Bukhara, Uzbekistan (1)​

Details of the Samanid Mausoleum, Bukhara, Uzbekistan (2)​

Uzbek woman reading religious texts inside the Mausoleum (3)​

Shah-i-Zinda, a necropolis of mausoleums, is the holiest pilgrimage site in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. ​
 

Jehangir Mausoleum, Shahrisabz, Uzbekistan. ​

Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum, Köne-Ürgench, Turkmenistan (1)​

Similar to the Mazar of Axunlughum in Xinjiang, a ladder is erected in front of a tomb with similar symbolic function – assisting the dead to reach heaven. Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum, Köne-Ürgench, Turkmenistan (2). This photo is by Harry@https://www.flickr.com/photos/hmcm/6242562107/in/dateposted/​

A Turkmen Sheikh – caretaker of shrines - walking towards Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum (3)​

An ancient cemetery adjacent to the mausoleum of the 11th century Qara-Khanid scholar and lexicographer Mahmud-al-Kashgari. Opal country, Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China​