Photos: For Kazakh Herdsmen, Epic Cross-Desert Migration is Annual Rite of Summer

Summer is a season of migration: students head home, the gainfully employed abandon their cubicles in favor of travel, and families embark on predictably angsty vacations together. But in northwestern China's Xinjiang province, Kazakh herdsmen complete a very different kind of migration. At the beginning of the long winter each year, they take their herds across long stretches of terrain in search of fodder and water. Then, as the weather warms up, the herdsmen return to their summer pastures with their goats, horses, and camels, traveling a total of 1,000 kilometers through the Gobi Desert in the process.

The Kazakh people, an ethnic group who reside predominantly in Mongolia and parts of Xinjiang, are traditionally nomadic. However, in more recent years, more and more Kazakhs have been persuaded by the promise of better access to education, healthcare, and technological conveniences to settle permanently or for part of the year in volunteer housing programs. The panoramic photographs above, taken in June of this year, capture scenes from their epic — but slowly dwindling — summer migration.

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Emily Feng is a contributor to Asia Blog and will be finishing her last year at Duke University this fall.