For the ethnic Uighurs in far western China, perhaps nothing is more essential than a knife. 

Farmers use them to slice open melons that they sell on the roadside. In open-air markets, butchers slaughter sheep and cattle in accordance with Muslim practice.

A knife by the bedside is thought to keep away bad dreams. On a baby’s seventh day of life, it’s tradition for parents to briefly slip a blade under the sleeping infant’s head to guarantee a long and healthy life.

But in the wake of a string of deadly clashes and terrorist attacks, including a mass slashing, knives have taken on a deadly cast in the region.

Photos: Julie Makinen / Los Angeles Times