A large square stands before the Eidkah Mosque where tens of thousands of Moslems kneel during Corban or the Fast-breaking Festival. Even venders on the street interrupt business long enough to assume the posture and face the direction of Mecca as the rhythmic sing-song of a revered imam’s voice leads them in prayer. Kashi becomes one in that moment: the people’s soul strengthened by their shared beliefs, focused on the heart of their city – the Eidkah Mosque.
The Tomb of Xiangfei (Iparhan)
In Kashi another popular tourist attraction is the tomb of Xiangfei (Iparhan), often referred to in English as the “tomb of the Fragrant Concubine.”
This unique and beautiful example of ancient Uygur architecture is actually a complex of buildings and gardens located five kilometers northeast of the city, surrounded by a lake and shaded by green trees. Although regarded as Xiangfei’s tomb, it actually served as the family tomb of Abakh Khoja, the powerful ruler of Kashgar in the 17th century who was revered as a prophet second only to Mohammed. According to a legend, Xiangfei, the ruler’s great grand niece, was buried here. It is said that the girl’s body sent forth a delicate fragrance, which earned her the name “Iparhan,” meaning “fragrant girl,” and her story is tragic.
According to legend, she was selected as a concubine by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty and the “Fragrant Concubine” became a great favorite of the emperor. She later died of disease because she was unaccustomed to the climate of Beijing. The emperor arranged to have her buried in her hometown. According to historical records, Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) did take a Uygur concubine, but of the fragrance of her skin nothing can be established. Famous writers Louis Cha (Jin Yong) and Chiung Yao (Qiong Yao) wrote novels set in the Qing Dynasty, and Xiangfei’s story was especially enchanting to them and their readers. No wonder the tomb of Xiangfei has aroused so much attention.
The mausoleum consists of a group of magnificent buildings, including the Gate Tower, the Main Hall, the Doctrine Teaching Hall, the Grand Mosque, and the Lesser Hall of Prayer. The Main Hall is 26 meters high and the outside of the building is covered with green glazed tiles in various unusual patterns. The interior of the hall is high and spacious, the dome making columns unnecessary; tombs are arranged on a high terrace, and these are also covered in gorgeously decorated glazed tiles.
The Grand Mosque in the western part of the mausoleum is the place where Moslems attend services on important holy days. The Lesser Hall of Prayer and the Gate Tower are outlying buildings artfully decorated with little vignettes and sporting elegant brick carvings. The crystal-clear pond outside the mausoleum is lined with tall trees, making the place pleasantly solemn, cool and peaceful.
Visiting the big bazaar is a must for those who make their way to Kashi; in fact it is often the main reason. Bazaar means “market” in the Uygur language. It is an important part of local life, where tourists can see Uygur people in their ethnic dress go about their normal business.