One Nation—Divided

Xinjiang lies beyond the place where the great wall crumbles to the earth. Across these hot sands the first Turkic camel trains probed into the Middle Kingdom 2,000 years ago, laden with ivory and gold, skirting the forbidding Taklimakan desert — the name means "Those who enter may never leave" — to secure silks, which were the rage in Rome. Through this dusty back door they brought China some of its greatest treasures: spices, ivory, Buddhism and, later, Islam.

It's the latter that Abdul wants to talk about, but not right away — there are too many Chinese...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!