Baotou was a stopping point on the northern Silk Road. The name Baotou means Head of Packages, according to Owen Lattimore, the place where loads of wool and hides were discharged from boats and loaded onto camels. |
"Down the Yellow River, all the way from Lanzhou, come rafts and boats with the wool and hides of Gansu and the Kokonor; out from Baotou, the current of the river being too swift for any volume of traffic up river, go caravan roads to the Ordos and the principality of Alashan in Inner Mongolia, and cart and camel roads to Ningxia and Lanzhou in Gansu. I stayed for a few days in Baotou, a little husk of a town in a great hollow shell of mud ramparts, where two busy streets made a traders' quarter in a wilderness of frozen cesspools where children whooped, curs wrangled over garbage, and black vagrants went moodily about their occasions.
I was lodged in a caravenserai around hose courts were the quarters of a score of traders, bankers and brokers. Here again I was thrown among men whose talk was forever of the prices of wool and camels, of caravan rates and cart hire, of journey's counted in many tens of days from Baotou into the remote hinterland of Asia, and of the bandits besetting this road or the soldiers obstructing that".**
Today Baotou is a large polluted industrial city in western Inner Mongolia. Sits just north of the northern most bend of the Yellow River.
This image is of families burning spirit money on the sidewalks of Baotou on the night of August 8, 2006. The favorite places seem to be crossroads because that is where roads meet, and presumably the spirts will also gather there.
**From Owen Lattimore's The Desert Road To Turkeststan, Little Brown and Company, 1929, a record of Owen's caravan trip through the area in 1926.