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Introducing Yengisar

The tiny town of Yengisar (Yīngjíshā) is synonymous with knife production. A lesser-known but more sensitive fact is it’s the birthplace of the Uighur’s icon of nationalism, Isa Yusuf Alptekin (1901–95), the leader of the First East Turkestan Republic in Kashgar who died in exile in Istanbul.

There are dozens of knife shops here, most of them strung along the highway; ask for the ‘knife factories’ (小刀厂; xiǎodāochǎng in Chinese; pichak chilik karakhana in Uighur). Each worker makes the blade, handle and inlays himself, using only the most basic of tools. To get there from the main bus station, hop in a taxi (¥5) for the 3km trip to the knife shops. They are right on the main road, so you’d even pass them on the way to Yarkand. Note that knives are prohibited in check-in luggage, so you’ll have to ship them home.

Buses pass through the town regularly en route to Yarkand (¥28, 1½ hours) and Kashgar (¥13, 1½ hours).