Coordinates: 37°53′6″N 77°24′47″E / 37.88500°N 77.41306°E / 37.88500; 77.41306

Kargilik Town
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese葉城
Simplified Chinese叶城
Han Dynasty name
Alternate Han Dynasty name
Literal meaningDrifting sands
Uyghur name

Kargilik or Karghalik or Yecheng in Chinese, is a town in Xinjiang, China. It is to the southeast of Kashgar, at a distance of 249 km by road and is north of Mazar by 249 km.[1] It is the seat of Kargilik (Yecheng) County.

Kargilik/Yecheng is the name of both the oasis and the town. It is situated on the southern rim of the Taklamakan desert, about halfway between Pishan and Yarkand on the southern route around the Tarim Basin. It is about 50 km north of Kokyar,[2] The rich loess terraces of the oasis are watered by the Tiznaf river and several smaller streams. They are joined to the north by a belt of cultivated land stretching about 40 km from the town of Yecheng to the Yarkand River.


During the Former Han period Xiye (W-G: Tzu-ho) was described as having 350 households, 4,000 people, and 1,000 men able to bear arms,[3].

In the Later Han period it was known as Xiye, and also Piaosha which translates literally as "drifting sands". It was noted for producing baicao (白草 literally "white grass") which gave a very poisonous substance used on arrow tips - probably from an aconite plant. Xiye is recorded (in the Hou Hanshu as having 2,500 households, more than 10,000 people, and 3,000 men able to bear arms.[4][5]

The Chinese pilgrim monk, Song Yun, passed through the kingdom ("Zhujuban") on his way from Khotan in 519 CE. He described it as being 5 days' journey around, and that it produced lots of cereals, which they made into cakes. The inhabitants did not allow the slaughter of animals and only ate those which had died a natural death. Many of them lived in the mountains. They resembled the people of Khotan in their language and customs while their writing was like that of the Brahmans from India.[6]

Xuanzang, travelling through the country in 644 CE, described it as being very fertile, with abundant grapes, pears and plums. He said it was more than 1,000 li in circuit, with a capital city measuring more than 10 li around. The writing was like that of Khotan but the spoken language was different. Although he says the people were sincere Buddhists, they had little culture or education and he found them rude and deceitful. Many monasteries were in ruins and the 100 or so monks left were of the Mahayana school. He added that the Mahayana canonical texts were more numerous here than in any other country Buddhism had reached.

It apparently sent an embassy to China at the beginning of the Taiyan period (435-439 CE) and tribute was sent regularly after that. It later fell under the power of the Hephthalites and then the Western Turks. In 639 the ruler sent an embassy to the Chinese court and by 659 was included as part of the region called the "Four Garrisons" by the Chinese after their defeat of the Turkish chief, Duman.

The population were presumably converted to Islam soon after the new religion arrived in the Tarim Basin about 1006 CE.

In earlier times it was important as the usual starting-point for caravans to India, through the Pamirs, via Tashkurghan, or through Ladakh by the Karakoram passes.

Kargalik held a large number of foreign slaves who integrated into the Chinese state. After being freed, many slaves such as Gilgitis in Xinjiang cities like Tashkurgan, Yarkand, and Karghallik, stayed rather than return Hunza in Gilgit. Most of these slaves were women who married local slave and non slave men and had children with them. Sometimes the women were married to their masters, other slaves, or free men who were not their masters. There were ten slave men to slave women married couples, and 15 master slave women couples, with several other non master free men married to slave women. Both slave and free Turki and Chinese men fathered children with Hunza slave women. A freeman, Khas Muhammad, was married with 2 children to a woman slave named Daulat, aged 24. A Gilgiti slave woman aged 26, Makhmal, was married to a Chinese slave man, Allah Vardi and had 3 children with him.[7]

Today there is a small town with a market, some shops and a bank. The Yecheng oasis is one of 11 counties, known as the Kargilik County, included in the Kashgar Prefecture. Large-scale irrigation has transformed huge areas of desert into productive agricultural land. Yecheng is the main centre for Chinese immigration into western Xinjiang and it has become quite a large, sprawling town.[1]

On 28 February 2012 ethnic Uyghurs, wielding knives, attacked a market in Yecheng, killing 13 people, mostly ethnic Han. The police shot seven attackers.[8]


Yecheng is served by China National Highways 219, 315 and the Kashgar-Hotan Railway.


  1. ^ a b Dorje (2009), p. 453.
  2. ^ Hill (2009), p. 196.
  3. ^ Hulsewé, A. F. P. and Loewe, M. A. N. 1979. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty, pp. 100-101. E. J. Brill, Leiden
  4. ^ "Les pays d'Occident d’après le Heou Han chou." Édouard Chavannes. T'oung Pao 8, (1907) p. 174.
  5. ^ Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." 2nd Draft Edition. [1]
  6. ^ Legge, James 1886. A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms: Being an account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hien of his travels in India and Ceylon (A.D. 399-414) in search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline, pp. lxxxviii-lxxxix. Oxford, Clarendon Press. Reprint: New York, Paragon Book Reprint Corp. 1965.
  7. ^ Raṇabīra Samāddāra (2002). Space, territory, and the state: new readings in international politics. Orient Blackswan. p. 83. ISBN 81-250-2209-0. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
  8. ^ "Deadly attack". Retrieved 18 June 2019.[dead link]


  • Dorje, Gyurme (2009). Tibet Handbook. 4th Edition. Footprint, Bath, England. ISBN 978-1-906098-32-2.
  • Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilue 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation. [2]
  • Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
  • Hulsewé, A. F. P. and Loewe, M. A. N. 1979. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty. E. J. Brill, Leiden.
  • Mallory, J. P. and Mair, Victor H. 2000. The Tarim Mummies: Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West. Thames & Hudson. London. 2000.
  • Stein, Aurel M. 1907. Ancient Khotan: Detailed report of archaeological explorations in Chinese Turkestan, 2 vols. Clarendon Press. Oxford. [3]
  • Watters, Thomas 1904-1905. On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India. London. Royal Asiatic Society. Reprint: Delhi. Mushiram Manoharlal. 1973.

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