It is a short donkey-cart ride from the new hotel for foreigners to the Sunday market in this city, better known as Kashgar. It is also a return to centuries past and storybook visions of a "bazaar," the local word for this weekly event that brings more than 60,000 people to a dusty open space to sell their crafts, camels and sheep, hand-hammered tin and hand-lathed wood items, carpets, carcasses, spices and much more.

In one section the specialty is hats, particularly the embroidered four-sided beanie the men wear here. You can buy the embroidered fabric for 3 yuan ($1) or a finished hat for about 8 yuan ($3). In the stalls nearby are fox-trimmed velvet hats that look as though they were made for an Oscar de la Renta fashion show.

Near the mosque is the clothing section, the least interesting part of the market. The hot item is cotton hose, but plastic jelly shoes and see-through blouses and scarves threaded with gold are popular, too. The felted dresses and slips unique in China to the Uygur women are also displayed.

Near the parking lot for donkey carts, past the stands for lamb kebabs and bagels and noodle soup, is the fabric area. A few women sell atlas, the hand-woven silk ikat in bright reds or pinks or black and white that is one of the prize creations from this area.

There is a layer of dust on everything -- the food, faces and clothes of everyone -- but it seems to bother no one, not even the barbers shaving the heads of young boys and the faces of their fathers alongside the road.

As everywhere else in China, they are rebuilding roads and strengthening bridges in Kashi, an important stop on the Silk Road. Carrying culture and commerce between China and India down to the Mediterranean and Europe, use of the Silk Road peaked in the first century, but according to Dai Xing, secretary of one of the import-export corporations here, it is about to reopen. Caravans come from Pakistan across the Karakurum Pass and into China twice yearly, and starting in July there will be regular trade along this route. From Pakistan the Chinese will get fresh fruits and vegetables, and from China the Pakistanis will buy household goods such as glasses and plates -- and, of course, silks.