Baotou, an emerging industrial city in the north of China, more precisely in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
With an estimated 2.5 million inhabitants it is the largest city around, even larger than the capital Hohhot.
The longest road is the steel street, named after the most important article of exportation. But very close and yet so distant there is a product, linked to this realm and people since time immemorial: the Cashmere.
Leaving the city at the Huang He northbound one enters the remoteness of a dry, mountainous area. It is here, where the oldest part of the Great Wall of China was built, mainly from earth, about 300 years BC.
A bleak landscape, that sees winters of minus 25°C or colder.
Continuing the journey uphill we come upon the first summer camps of the cashmere shephards, whose daily duty consists of hours in accompaniment of their herds throughout the heights, guiding them to the spots where they can find enough forage crops.
Cashmere goats develop an extrafine and long underdown that is combed out once a year between the end of may and beginning of june.
Each mature goat generates up to 1kg of raw wool, which, after cleansing, results in about 400gr of pure cashmere.
The goats in their shelter.
This part of China hosts the highest ranking Buddhist temple of the country, actively managed by priests or „lamas", who receive their religious education in this Lamasery.
It might surprise to find Tibetan originated Buddhism so far from its cradle, but this Indian religion found a lot of followers in the tibeto-mongolian area.
The religiousness of the locals - whether Han Chinese or Mongolian - is very distinct and finds ist respectful expression in charity and prayers.
It is here that an intimate coherence is revealed between the cashmere producing regions, located so far apart from each other: on one hand you have the mountain-nomadic lifestyle of the shephards, that you can study on the old paintings on the temple walls showing horsemen, priests, yurts, camels and goats (!). But probably the most important link of all is the Tibetan Buddhist doctrine.
Here you can see unprocessed cashmere wool.
The length of the fibre and fine gauge cashmere strands are the most important criteria for a top quality. The climate in Inner Mongolia undisputedly provides perfect conditions for highest standards in cashmere worldwide.
Of course many working steps are required before a hairball of goat wool can turn into luxurious cashmere, all of which are done by one manufacturer only, who personally buys the raw wool from the farmers, as in ancient times against cash upon delivery.
Washing and cleansing the wool, carding, dyeing, mixing, spinning, knitting or weaving, cleaning again, ironing and packing: all done by one company!
Most important of all is the internal control system on all steps of the production, either in a laboratory or, as on the image, using shining-through light.
Our scarfs are made on computerised machines - the berets and bonnets are all made by hand.