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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Great Game. The term Great Game describes the global contest between the British and Russian Empires for dominance in Central Asia during the 19th Century. The city of Kashgar played a central role in this contest because of it's strategic location as a trading post on the old Silk Road. Both the Russians and British maintained consulates in this area during that period.

The British consul was a man by the name of George Macartney, who arrived in Kashgar in 1890. Macartney was eventually joined by his wife, Catherine, who stayed with him in Kashgar until the end of World War I. She is known for bringing European civilization to the consulate, including cuttings from English gardens, exotic flowers, tennis courts, and Brahms records. She even managed to have a piano hauled over the mountains. She tells her story in a book called, An English Lady in Chinese Turkestan.

Kashgar is isolated, but very pretty. During the years of the Great Game, this isolation made the relationship between the Russian and British consuls very important, because both sides were keen on getting what information they could from the other. The relationship was sometimes testy, as exemplified by an incident described in the Lonely Planet where the Russian consul gave the British consul an expensive pane of glass, and subsquently demanded it back after a disagreement over a political cartoon.

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