May 25, 2011

The Jade Rush

Jade Prospector  Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

Hotan played an important role as the major market on the oldest Silk Road route. Situated at the base of the Kunlum Mountains and the southern rim of the Taklamakan Desert, it was renowned as a silk weaving center. Yet, centuries later, it’s the unique White Jade that is still being dug from the White Jade River in Hotan today.

To get a better look, I decided to travel up river to Malika Awat, a small village 6km north of Hotan, to see what the locals were digging up. Its was Saturday, and the air thick and mysterious from the sand storm kicking in from the north.

A bad sign for as the car drove up to the edge of the river the view was a dismal empty gravel pit. Except for one lonely Jade prospector, and his team of three men, they were all that was left on the dry riverbed that day. I decided to pay him a visit, and with trepidation, hobbled over the smooth blue and grey stones to find out his story. Its seemed all the other villagers had left due to the sand storm but this man was still working because he was living at the side of the river since his village is 75 miles away. His enthusiasm increased with the news that a villager found a piece of Jade the size of a man’s hand that morning. It was worth an estimated 500,000RMB or $77,000US. I wished him well, and commended him for his perseverance when I learned that this risky endeavor had cost him over 10,000.RMB or $1,500.00US. That’s a lot of money to the Uyghur household. I could only imagine what his wife was thinking as he slept each night alone amongst the rocks.

The next day, while enroute in the opposite direction to the Imam Asim Shrine, I   discovered the big business of Jade, in the 21st century.  The sight and sounds of the gigantic earthmovers was stunning in contrast to the vision of yesterday.

But, it was the small family of one woman and her two children, picking away at the earth that gave me the sense of the desperation. They were all there for the unlikely chance of finding a single piece of jade. The precious stone, when unearthed, glimmers a radiant light that even the smallest pebble is revealed from amongst the other rocks.

Dig for Jade Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

Earth Moving Red Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

Picking in Blue  Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

Stone Seller  Hotan, Xinjiang Province, China

The real business is conducted at the outdoor Jade Market where dozens of prospectors come face to face with the merchants and middlemen involved in the modern Jade trade. Vendors, like this young girl with her stones displayed, compete for the highest price. Like all the others, she is armed with a water bottle from which she continually shoots the stones with water to make them shine.

1 gram of Hotan White Jade A+ quality is valued at 15,000.00RMB or $2,310US
Last year a camel herder dug up a baseball size piece of Jade that earned him 800,000RMB or $123,000US. 

May 21, 2011

Uyghur Wedding Kierya, Xinjiang Province, China

Village Street Donkey Cart  Keirya, Xinjiang China

Inside the old Kierya village the tightly wound, hard packed sand roads are busy with local traffic. Here, away from the rushing highway, the air vibrates with the chirping and twittering sounds of the hundreds of birds taking refuge in the cooling branches of the Poplar trees that line the banks of the gently flowing streams running along side the roads. Donkey carts are still the major means of transport for this fertile region. Keirya is the home to 300,000 people who are primarily Uyghur farmers who work the rich soil to harvest apricots, melons, raisons, corn and wheat for the infamous noodles, the staple of every Uyghur diet.  

I traveled 9182 miles, 20 hours flying time, a total of 3 days travel time to to return to Keirya in China’s Xinjiang Province. The home to the authentic Uyghur people whose way of life is dramatically changing with every passing year. The super highway system that connects this once remote southern oasis city is nearing completion. Now, donkey carts gallantly compete with huge oil tankers, semi-trailers, cars and motorcycles fitted with flatbeds that pass them, speeding down the highway, loaded with people and produce alike. 

I was fortunate to learn of the local wedding of Mamut and Halahnhan, from the friend of my young guide. I ventured into the old village and happily joined in the celebrations just as the entourage arrived at the family homes for their separate receptions; women and girls in one house, men and boy in another house. Luckily for me this was a true boy meets girl next-door love story as both houses were directly across the street from each other. 

 Mother of the Groom Greets Guests in her Home Keirya, Xinjiang China

Hasiyat Turd; Mother of the groom, at the entrance of her family home greeting guest to her son Mamut’s wedding reception. In traditional Uyghur style, she wears the formal attire and the tiny hat once made by the women of this small village in Kierya.  Her tiny hat, worn for weddings and funerals, is very rare as they are no longer handmade by the local village women. 

Aunts Waiting Wedding Party Keirya, Xinjiang China

Bridal Offering Keirya, Xinjiang China

Bride's Wedding Party Keirya, Xinjiang China

Female friends and family of Halahnhan, the young bride, are welcomed into the home of the Groom. They all sit on the heavily carpeted floor as they lean against the colorful wooden panel dado that lines the lower portion of the interior wall. The remaining wall is then covered right to the ceiling in bright patterned carpets. The bride will now live in her husband’s home, becoming part of the larger extended family. 

Cottage Keirya, Xinjiang China

Village Street Keirya, Xinjiang China

Keirya is 112 miles East from Hotan or 4 hours driving time. Hotan is 322.50 miles South East from Kashgar or 10 hours driving time. Kashgar, Xinjiang Province’s far Western city is located 2100 miles, 7 hours flying time from Beijing. New York City is 6760 miles, 13 hours flying time, East to Beijing.

May 9, 2011

Peace Caravan Video Preview

Friends and Patrons gathered on March 24th to preview the new Peace Caravan fund raising video. Soon to be shown on this website in the next coming month. I want to thank the gifted investigative journalist and director Stephen Digges of WIR Media/Pictures for his patience and diligence in making this video.

Coming soon to this website..........

Insight Tarot Fund-raiser

 Friends of the Peace Caravan gathered on April 20th for an evening of fun and individual tarot readings to gain insight and meaning into their most personal issues. Later we all discussed how being attentive to these subtle qualities in our lives can guide us on our journeys through life.  
I want to thank my sister Myra Mossman for the powerful tarot readings that she gave that evening and for her generous donation to the Peace Caravan project.
To learn more about Insight Tarot please visit:

Mt. Ararat

Marla Mossman

My photo
One woman traveling alone, in search of her religious and cultural heritage.