Kashgar's Lively Livestock Market
   2012-06-13 23:10:39    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Zhangjin

A Uygur man buys a donkey at the livestock market in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, in northwest China on Sunday, June 10, 2012. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/Zhang Xu]

by Zhang Xu

Kashgar in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is located near the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

When most tourists come to the ancient Silk Road city, they can't miss one thing. That's the Kashgar livestock market, one of the biggest such markets in Central Asia.

The livestock market is only open on Sundays and the new market was moved to western suburbs of Kashgar last October. At eight o'clock in the morning, the market was crowded with Uygur sellers and buyers as well as thousands of animals including cattle, sheep, donkeys and horses.

Animals are tied in lines, their owners stand by them and look for buyers. Buyers closely examine the animals, touching them, and carefully checking their teeth, tails, hooves and hair. After the buyers feel satisfied, they begin to dicker with the sellers. Most sellers and buyers look very serious before they make a deal. They bargain repeatedly and some of them even reach agreements using body language. After they reach a deal it is sealed with a strong handshake and hug.

The lively market often attracts tourists from throughout the world, many who photograph and take videos of the lively scene. Tim comes from England and this is his first time here.

"I have never seen so many sheep together or all this activity by everybody buying and hugging and handshakes, that's great!"

For Pamela from the U.S., it's her second time at the market. The market is so interesting to her that she took a taxi to come directly from the Kashgar airport.

"The first time is in 2004, so I want to see the difference. This animal market is even better. The first time, the market was in a different place. There are more individual farmers here selling their own sheep, their own cows, cattle. Before most of them were, like, you know, big farmers bringing their sheep in or businessman."

The livestock market is now divided into different areas according to the animal species. Sheep are one of the most popular animals here because most Uygurs like to eat mutton.

Yusufjan has been a sheep trader for more than 10 years and today he has taken 16 sheep to the market. He collects sheep from neighboring counties and cuts their wool before entering the market.

"The sheep feel cooler in hot summer if we cut their wool, and it's easy to keep lice off a sheared sheep. Moreover, buyers can more easily check whether the sheep is healthy or not."

The Uygur people often buy sheep in the market to eat and to breed with other sheep. In addition. some buy younger sheep in the market, breed them and sell them several months later for a higher price. The market price of a sheep is at least 1,500 yuan (about US$236), and a sheep that weighs less than 50-kilograms doesn't have to be weighed. So it's important to have sharp skills to able to tell a good sheep. Yusufjan tells how.

"A good sheep has a high nose bridge, longer ears, pure wool and a big tail. Moreover, its body should be long and wide."

Donkeys have played important roles in transportation and plowing fields in Kashgar's mountain areas. Because of the donkeys' bad tempers, the donkey area is more capacious and set up at the rear of the market.

The local donkeys are famous for their short but strong bodies. Sellers usually like to debate with others, boasting that their donkeys are the best.

Here 45-year-old Turhan Mehmet appears to promote sales and to make peace. Mehmet is a farmer, but every Sunday he becomes a mediator at the market. He mainly helps donkey sellers and buyers strike a deal.

"I came here for the first time to buy a donkey when I was 18. At that time, donkeys were used mostly in transportation and buyers often drove the donkeys to run for a test, but now they don't need it. Because now we have advanced vehicles like motorcycles, and donkeys are mostly used to plow the land."

Most buyers purchase animals here for personal use, but some of the buyers transport them to inland China to be sold as food. Azirti Ali is one of them.

"Inland Chinese people like delicious beef and mutton from Kashgar. We purchase animals such as cattle and sheep in the market and transport them into inland China like Beijing, east China's Shandong Province, north China's Hebei Province and west China's Qinghai Province. I have done it for five years and earned a yearly net income of 150,000 yuan to 200,000 yuan."

After the buyers and sellers finish their deals, some go to restaurants inside the market, eating food such as Uygur-style pulled noodles and nan. The market is busy the whole day until it is closed at about six in the afternoon.

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