Badlands of Xinjiang

A photo essay from China’s far west – Patrick Wack

In Chinese, Xinjiang means “new territory.” Chinese officials have been stationed there for millennia, and the region was ruled by the Qing dynasty since the 18th century, before becoming a province of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, but it has always held a different identity on the fringe of China, populated by Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. There’s even a special word, túntián (屯田), for the Han Chinese strategy of making Xinjiang “Chinese” by encouraging Chinese people to live there. It takes a unique person to find desert landscapes beautiful, and not to be overwhelmed by their loneliness.