Xaidulla, also spelled Shahidullah or Shahidula (altitude ca. 3,646 m or 11,962 ft), or Saitula in Chinese, is a town in Pishan County in the southwestern part of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China. It is strategically located on the upper Karakash River, just to the north of the Karakoram Pass on the old caravan route from the Tarim Basin to Ladakh. It lies next to the main Chinese road between Kashgar and Tibet, 25 km east of Mazar and 139 km west of Bazar Dara.
Xaidulla was probably the site of the Kingdom of Zihe (Chinese: 子合; pinyin: Zihé) mentioned in the Hou Hanshu. It is described as being situated in a gorge, 1,000 li (416 km) from Shule (modern Kashgar), and controlling: "350 households, 4,000 people, and 1,000 men able to bear arms."
The earlier Hanshu 96A, puts Zihe and Xiye (Chinese: 西夜; pinyin: Xiyè) under one king and states that the people are ". . . different than the Hu, their race is of the same type as the Chiang and the Di".
Xiye is almost certainly modern Yecheng. However, the Hou Hanshu states: "The Hanshu wrongly stated that Xiye (Yecheng) and Zihe (Xaidulla) formed one kingdom. Each now has its own king." This might simply indicate that the two 'kingdoms' (國 - guó) were under the one king during the time of the Former Han, but each had their own king by the time of the Later Han. However, both accounts give exactly the same population figures, in the Hou Hanshu were simply copied from those given in the Hanshu, and probably originally referred to the combined population of both small kingdoms.
Although this region clearly must have remained a welcome stop-over for caravans on the important branch route from the Tarim Basin to Ladakh and India, there are few, if any, further written records of it until the British merchant, Robert Shaw, reached it.
Robert Barkley Shaw, a British merchant resident in Kangra, India, visited Xaidulla in 1868 on his trip to Yarkand, via Leh, Ladakh and the Nubra Valley, over the Karakoram Pass. He was held in detention there for a time in a small fort made of sun-died bricks on a shingly plain near the Karakash River which, at that time, was under the control of the Governor of Yarkand on behalf of the ruler of Kashgaria, Yaqub Beg. Shaw says there was no village at all: "it is merely a camping-ground on the regular old route between Ladâk and Yârkand, and the first place where I should strike that route. Four years ago [i.e. in 1864], while the troubles were still going on in Toorkistân, the Maharaja of Cashmeer sent a few soldiers and workmen across the Karakoram ranges (his real boundary), and built a small fort at Shahidoolla. This fort his troops occupied during two summers; but last year, when matters became settled; and the whole country united under the King of Yarkand, these troops were withdrawn."
Robert Shaw's nephew, Francis Younghusband, visited Xaidulla in 1889 and reported: "At Shahidula there was the remains of an old fort, but otherwise there were no permanent habitations. And the valley, though affording that rough pasturage upon which the hardy sheep and goats, camels and ponies of the Khirghiz find sustenance, was to the ordinary eye very barren in appearance, and the surrounding mountains of no special grandeur. It was a desolate, unattractive spot."
He also reported that it was over 12,000 ft (3,658 m) in altitude and that nothing was grown there. All grain had to be imported from the villages of Turkestan, a six days' march over a pass 17,000 ft (5,182 m) high. It was also some 180 miles (290 km) to the nearest village in Ladakh over three passes averaging over 18,000 ft (5,486 m).
20th and 21st centuries
By the early 20th century, the whole region was under Chinese control and considered part of Xinjiang Province, and has remained so ever since. Xaidulla is well to the north of any territories claimed by either India or Pakistan, while the Sanju and Kilian passes are further to the north of Xaidulla. A major Chinese road runs from Yecheng in the Tarim Basin, south through Xaidulla, and across the Aksai Chin region controlled by China, but claimed by India, and into northwestern Tibet.
- Hill (2015) Vol. I, p. 21.
- Hulsewé and Loewe (1979), p. 101.
- Hill (2015) Vol. I, pp. 205-206.
- Hill (2015) Vol. I, pp. 205-206.
- Hill (2015) Vol. I, pp. 19, 205-206.
- Shaw (1871), pp. 53-56.
- Shaw (1871), p. 107.
- Younghusband (1924), p. 108.
- Younghusband (1896), pp. 223-224.
- Stanton (1908). Map. No. 19 - Sinkiang.
- National Geographic Atlas of China (2008), p. 28.
- * Hill, John E. (2015). Through the Jade Gate - China to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. Volumes I and II. CreateSpace, Charleston, SC. ISBN 978-1500696702 and ISBN 978-1503384620.
- Hulsewé, A.F.P. and Loewe, M. A. N. (1979).China in Central Asia: The Early Stage: 125 B.C.-A.D. 23. E.J. Brill, Leiden. ISBN 90-04-05884-2.
- National Geographic Atlas of China (2008). National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. ISBN 978-1-4262-0136-3.
- Shaw, Robert. (1871) Visits to High Tartary, Yarkand and Kashgar. John Murray, London. (1871). Reprint with new introduction (1984): Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-583830-0.
- Stanton, Edward. (1908) Atlas of the Chinese Empire. Prepared for the China Inland Mission. Morgan & Scott, Ltd. London.
- Younghusband, Francis. Wonders of the Himalayas. (1924) Reprint (1977): Abhishek Publications, Chandigarh.
- Younghusband, Francis (1896). The Heart of a Continent. John Murray, London. Facsimile reprint: (2005) Elbiron Classics. ISBN 1-4212-6551-6 (pbk); ISBN 1-4212-6550-8 (hardcover)