If a nation does not know its history, if the country loses its history, then its citizens have nowhere to go.
Mirzhakyp Dulatuly

Craftsmen of Taraz

Old Taraz was famous not only thanks to its bazaar. The town that minted its gold and silver and copper coins was not only a major transit point of international trade.

Old Taraz was famous not only thanks to its bazaar. The town that minted its gold and silver and copper coins was not only a major transit point of international trade. In the course of many centuries it was a center of non-ferrous metallurgy. Four farsahs away from Taraz there were hearth furnaces; smoking day and night. Ten thousand slaves mined ore and made silver from There was so much silver that according to Makhmud of Mashgaria the Turkic khan Shu by name who had his headquarters in the Chu Valley had a bath n of silver and took it along with him when he was on a campaign.

The Turkic metal experts knew all the seven hard metals of the ancient times: gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, zinc. All these metals were mil large quantities on the spot.

The craftsmen of Taraz knew different methods of hot working of me smelting, casting and forging. Metal-makers were skilful in smelting and producing alloys. Copper articles of Taraz workshops such as jugs, cosme boxes, lampions, decorations for arms, clothes and harness travelled all over the world. These things were distinguished thanks to artistic cast and forged ornamentation. What is especially valuable is the fact that the masterly traditions did not die away, they passed over from generation to generation got perfected. An example of casting art is the ritual boiler (kazan) in the mausoleum of Ahmed Yasawi in Turkestan, it is second to none by its dimensions. Its diameter is 2.2 m, the weight — 2 tons.

Taraz inhabitants were skilful silk-weavers. It is not right to say that silk weaving was the monopoly of Chinese masters. The Chinese did not n secret their knack of making silk fabric. In Taraz silk mills there were many workers who adopted the methods of Chinese craftsmen. Along the irrigation canals that began from the Talas River a lot of mulberry trees grew and people brought up silkworms on them. Silk threads twisted from cocoons were used for making thin muslin, dense taffeta with ribs or patterns on a mat groundwork, canopy, used for decorating thrones, beds, altars of nobles’ bedrooms. Silks from Taraz were but little inferior to gold-brocaded fabric of China and India and Byzantine purple.

Jeweler’s art flourished in the period of caravan trade. Taraz jewelers applied a number of methods to work jewelry material. They used small portable melting pots, melted metal in them and shaped it as required. The cutting of precious stones was done in the jewelry workshops. The Taraz masters worked at many germs, but turquoise was their favorite stone.

The jeweler had special liking for nielloing silver, secrets of which were passed over from generation to generation. Most talented masters enjoyed esteem and honor on the part of the people. Two names came to us from the far past, those of Mukash and Elash.

In 1896 at the All-Russia exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod Kazakh bracelet-blesiki made of nielloed silver called forth a real sensation, they were awarded gold medals.

A lot of other handicrafts were known to the people of Taraz. In those old days esteemed were the trades of gunsmiths, chain armourers, paper copyists, potters, weavers, dressmakers, tailors, harness-makers, shoe-makers, yourta-makers, water-raisers, fire-sellers carrying red-hot charcoals in earthenware pots. One — two steps lower came dyers, glass-blowers, herb-doctors, heralds, barbers, tooth-pullers, water-carriers, green-grocers, bone setters, corpse- washers, night lamp-carriers, sewage-cleaners. There were many ghost- conjurers, secret murderers of unfaithful wives, crazy fortune-foretellers, gleeful beauty — abductors, gloomy persons who suffocate of illegitimate children, noiseless, like shadows, sellers of hashish and opium poison and omnipresent procuresses.

Wars, plunders, fires destroyed ancient Taraz. The multi-voiced bazaar in the town came to a standstill. Wonderful eastern goods were forgotten long ago. But the radial-circular town planning of ancient Taraz has retained in modern town of Dzhambul. Just as two thousand years ago the present-day greens bazaar is on the very place. When you walk along its rows now, you feel the dust of millenniums under your feet.

Rakip Nasyrov, “Along the Great Silk Road”, published by “Kramds—reklama”, 1991.