Chinese Graveyard: A Memorial of Mighty Engineers and Workers
The Chinese Graveyard is locally known as China Yadgar or The Memorial Park. It stands as a poignant tribute to the mighty Chinese engineers and workers. The graveyard symbolizes the ultimate sacrifice during the construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) in the 1960s and 1970s. It is located in Danyore, approximately 10 km from the capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. The cemetery serves as the final resting place for those who played a significant role in building the 1300 km (Pakistan: 887 km & China: 413 km) long Karakoram Highway.
Historic Background of Karakoram Highway
The Karakoram Highway was a remarkable joint venture between Pakistani and Chinese workers and engineers. It claimed the lives of 810 Pakistanis and about 200 Chinese during its construction. It was commenced in 1959 and concluded in 1977. The highway was officially opened to the public in 1979. As the KKH was being built on the Pakistani section, the Chinese workers who lost their lives were laid to rest in what is now known as the Chinese graveyard.
Establishment and Renovation
The Chinese graveyard was established in the early 70s. It served as a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made during the construction of the KKH. Recognizing its significance, the Chinese government decided to renovate the cemetery, and in 2013. Its renovation was carried out through a Chinese-funded project that successfully restored its condition. The Consular of the Chinese Embassy, Mr. Zhang Lianyou, and the then Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Assembly Speaker, Mr. Wazir Baig, laid the foundation stone for the new cemetery on April 05, 2013. The project was completed in October of the same year.
Access and Location
Access to the memorial park is open and free. A designated custodian is appointed by the Chinese government to oversee its maintenance. Upon entering the main gate, visitors are greeted with a pictographic display on both sides of the pathway. These pictures depict the arduous construction work carried out by Chinese workers and engineers on the KKH under harsh conditions. Additionally, the display showcases the medical aid provided by Chinese doctors to the local community during the highway’s construction.
A series of pictures with accompanying information highlights the reconstruction of the KKH. Moreover, the pictures feature the formation of tunnels, the erection of major bridges (such as the one in Shishkat over Attabad Lake and in Danyore over Gilgit River), and the provision of emergency transportation services across Attabad Lake amidst challenging environmental conditions. The display also offers historical information about the KKH in Urdu, Chinese, and English languages, presented on an adjoining concrete structure.
Design and Layout
The Chinese graveyard features a thoughtful design with four equally sized quarters bordered by a footpath. Each quarter comprises three rows of graves, totaling 27 tombs per quarter, amounting to 108 tombs in all four quarters. Each grave is marked by a tombstone bearing epitaph inscriptions in Chinese characters. Notably, 16 tombs in one of the quarters remain empty, representing the workers who lost their lives under debris during massive landslides or other incidents during the highway’s construction.
Maintained with utmost care, the Chinese graveyard has become not only a place of remembrance but also a significant tourist attraction. It stands as a powerful symbol of the invaluable lives lost in pursuit of the Karakoram Highway. Moreover, the cemetery serves as a testament to the enduring friendship between Pakistan and China. The friendship continues to grow stronger over time.
The Chinese Graveyard, or China Yadgar, stands as a solemn memorial to the indomitable spirit of the engineers and workers who contributed to the construction of the Karakoram Highway. It serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made and a testament to the unbreakable bond between Pakistan and China. As visitors pay their respects within the serene premises of the graveyard, they can’t help but appreciate the enduring friendship that has withstood the test of time.