A statue in Hotan’s main square shows Mao Zedong shaking hands with an old Uighur. As the story behind this statue goes, Kurban Tulum, also called Uncle Kurban or Uncle Kuerban was a Uighur electrician, born in 1883 in the Keriya oasis. When the People’s Liberation Army marched into Xinjiang, a few years after the 1949 revolution, Kurban Tulum wanted to show his appreciation so he rode more than 1,500 km around the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang to the provincial capital of Urumqi on his donkey to bring grapes or a melon as a symbol of appreciation for Chairman Mao.
Party officials saw the public relations opportunity and flew him the remaining more than 3,000 km to from Urumqi to Beijing to meet with Mao Zedong. They first met in 1958 and the handshake was reenacted some time later in front of a Communist party meeting, where the famous photo on which these two monuments are based was taken. The government likes to hold up Kurban as an ideal for Uyghurs, who they believe should welcome the government’s policies in Xinjiang.