Hami: A City of History on the Silk Road

Updated: 2007-06-19 09:07

Guardians of Gaisi Tomb

It is said that Gaisi was a Islamic missionary coming to China to spread Islam during the Tang Dynasty (618-917 AD). He died in Xingxingxia and King Hami built a tomb for him. In 1945, Muslims in Hami donated funds to move Gaisi's remaining bones to the current tomb. It is said that Gaisi was taller than average people and respected as "Sage" after his death. While his remaining bones were removed, Muslims welcomed along the road.

I arrived in Gaisi's tomb in the evening. There is a small courtyard house in front of the tomb where a Uygur family live. The lady asked us to buy tickets which is RMB 6 for each. The tomb, surrounded by thriving trees, is a typical Islamic style. The lady said her family began to live here since her grandparents. The ticket income, which the local cultural heritage administration distributes to her by a certain proportion, is her family's living source. It seems that that ancient missionary left not only the impact of Islam on local politics, culture and religion but also a means of living.

Before I left, the lady's daughter came back from school. She spoke fluent mandarin and you can only tell her Uygur blood from her deep eye sockets.

Mingsha (sand-resounding) Hill

Mingsha Hill, 70 kilometers away from Hami, is surrounded by high mountains and the dunes move from northwest to southeast. Because of water evaporation, a steam resonant box is formed. When people slide down from the hill top, sounds are produced and thus the hill is so named.

No one can tell how the hill was formed. Some said the hill is where female general Fan Lihua and her soldiers were buried. In one night, yellow sand covered dead bodies of the 72 soldiers and the current 72 domes are tombs for the 72 soldiers. Some said that the hill used to have flowers, grass and a spring. Although there was not plenty of water in the spring, it never stopped. There was also a gold bowl for passers-by to drink water. The other day, a greedy businessman walked by. He drank water and took the gold bowl away. From then on, the spring turned dry and flowers and grass withered. Only sand left on the hill.

It is surprising that no single grass grow in the hill but at the foot of the hill and on surrounding hills are growing plenty of trees and grass. When I climbed on the top of the hill, I saw snow mountains and clouds in a distance and sheep grazing on the grassland nearby. It is really a beautiful landscape.