You can call it a real ‘Jade Gate’. Archaeologists have locally unearthed jade artefacts from around 5000 BC, proving that Hotan (Hétián; also known as Khotan) and its jewel trading preceded by a large chunk of time the horse-trading that later spurred Chinese trade routes westward.
Hotanese also uncovered the secret of Chinese silk by the 5th century AD – thus the famed road names hereabouts – and later established themselves as the region’s foremost carpet weavers.
But Hotan today is certainly no Kashgar and the silk, carpets, and jade exist, but mostly in highly touristic fashion. Visits to carpet and silk factories are interesting for some, but what may make the 500km-long slog from Kashgar worthwhile is the fantastic Sunday Market, the largest and least visited in Xīnjiāng.
For those setting off on the infrequently explored southern Silk Road, via Keriya (Yútián), Cherchen (Qiěmò), Charklik (Ruòqiāng) and on to Golmud, this is the last place to take care of important errands like changing money, stocking up on supplies or extending your visa.
Hotan destination guides
The Silk Road of China
Geographically and culturally, Northwest China is about as far away from “traditional China” as you can get without crossing the border. The source of the Silk Road—the ancient trade route that helped create the modern world—is unlike anything you’ll find in Beijing or Xi'an, and this 17-day adventure takes you deep into the China few ever see.