Uygur Autonomous Region
is located in northwest China and covers 617 thousand square miles.
Its population is 16.62 million. It contains one sixth of the total area of China, and is inhabited with different
minorities and nationalities including Uygur, Han, Kazak, Hui, Mongolian,
Kirgiz, Xihe, Tajik, Uzbek, Manchu, Daur, Tatar, and Russian.
Xinjiang is far from the sea and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains,
boundless deserts and vast grasslands. There are many basins and oases
scattered over the region. The dry climate has created the peculiar
natural scenery such as the Gobi Desert and salt deserts. The clear
water from melted snow and ample sunshine make it an invigorating
After entering the border of Xinjiang, the Silk Road splits into three
routes: the north,
middle and south. Many ruins of ancient cities, watchtowers and numerous historical sites of the Han and Tang dynasties that have been swallowed by the sand remain along the routes. There are also important cities and towns such as Urumqi, Turpan, Kashai, Kuqa, Hotan, and Taxkorgan along the ancient Silk Road.
Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is located on the banks of the Urumqi River at the northern foot of Tianshan Mountain. Urumqi means "the beautiful pastureland" in the Mongolian language. Urumqi is surrounded by mountains on three sides. For over two thousand years, many different minorities who herded sheep and cattle pastured the area around Urumqi. It was an important city along the ancient Silk Road, and is now an important city along China's northwestern border. The moderate temperatures in the spring and autumn results in pleasant seasons for traveling and skiing is the best choice in wintertime. It has rich tourist resources.
Urumqi abounds in rich tourist resources, including mysterious historical and cultural remains, beautiful landscapes and unique folkways. Among the many famous spots is Tianchi Lake, Red Hill.
Red Hill, also known as Tiger Head Hill or Tiger Head Peak, is at the center of Urumqi on the eastern bank of Urumqi River. It is 2,985 feet above sea level. It is called Red Hill because the rocks of the hill are dark red in color.
There is the Pavilion of the Jade Emperor, as well as a 26-foot high Suppressing Dragon Pagoda with 9 layers, that rest on the top of the hill. After 1949, people drew water up to the hill, planted more trees, and built roads at the foot of the hill. Now visitors can climb to the top and have a panoramic view of Urumqi.
Tianchi Lake, or Heavenly Lake, is located in Fukang County, Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture. It is a lake formed by melted snow. It is 6,233 feet above sea level and the depth of waters in some parts reaches 295 feet. It covers an area of 1.9 square miles surrounded by towering dragon spruces and snow-capped mountains.
Turpan has the lowest elevation of any place in China. It is a basin in the mountains of east Xinjiang. Aydingkol Lake is 505 feet below sea level and is the second lowest area of the world, behind the Dead Sea in Jordan. The temperature in the summer is over 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why it is also known as "The Fire Prefecture".
Famous historical sites include the ruins of Jiaohe and Gaochang cities, and the Bizaklik Thousand-Buddha Grottoes. It is 113 miles from Urumqi with expressways linking the two cities.
The Ruins of Gaochang City
Situated at the foot of the Flaming Mountains, 24.8 miles southeast of Turpan, are the Ruins of Gaochang City, which was the political, economic, and cultural center of the Western Regions in the first century, when the Han Dynasty garrisoned troops here and set up administrative divisions. Monk Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty preached Buddhist doctrines here. The area of the ruins is 2,152 square feet. Most of the city walls remain and several rammed city gates are still intact. The doors and windows of the buildings inside the city were in vaulted shapes, very similar to the architecture in today's Turpan.
The Ruins of Jiaohe City
The Ruins of Jiaobe City, or Yar City, are located 6.2 miles west of Turpan on a raised section between two riverbeds in the Yarnaz Valley Village. Two rivers like a deserted islet surround them. It is a key historical and cultural site under state protection. The remains of the ancient city represent the architecture of post-Tang Dynasty. Tourists can clearly distinguish which are houses, government offices, and temples.
The Flaming Mountains
Situated in the middle of the Turpan Basin, the Flaming Mountains are called Kiziltag by the local people, which mean "Red Mountains." The mountains stretch 62 miles from east to west and are 6.2 miles wide, ranging up to 1,640 feet in height. They are formed from russet sandstone, conglomerate and mudstone, which sparkle under the blazing sun. They contained the mountain pass to enter the city of Gaochang. Tourists who come to the Flaming Mountains are surprised to see that the valley called the Grape Valley is covered with a large belt of fresh green plants and is right at the foot of the Flaming Mountains.
The Bizaklik Thousand-Buddha Grottoes
The Bizaklik Thousand-Buddha Grottoes are some of the most famous grottoes in Xinjiang, and are situated about 21 miles northeast of Turpan. The earliest of the Thousand-Buddha Grottoes were built in the Tang Dynasty. Only sixty-four grottoes remain today. Most of the paintings in the grottoes have been destroyed, and only a few remain as colorful as they once were. On both sides of many of the statues are two rows of Buddhist scripture written in Han and Huihu, revealing the prevalence of Buddhism in the Western Regions.
Kan'erjing (Subterranean Canals)
Many of the Kan'erjing are distributed mainly in Turpan, Hami, and Kuqa areas. The largest number of subterranean canals, about 1,200 canals in total, resides in Turpan alone. Kan'er means "well." Kan'erjing is the Chinese description of a subterranean irrigation system, which brings water from deep in the ground to the surface. A Kan'erjing is made up of vertical shafts and subterranean canals that surface in the form of ditches and small ponds. A vertical shaft can be as deep as 230 feet and a subterranean canal can be about 6.2 miles long.
The subterranean canals are supplied with water from the melted ice and snow of the Tianshan Mountain. The canals are solidly built so that the water neither overflows nor dries out. The Kan'erjing, along with the Great Wall and the Great Canal, are known as the three largest and most impressive man-made projects of ancient China.
Grape Valley is a valley located on the western slopes of the Flaming Mountains. In ancient times, grapes were introduced to the central plains from the Western Regions along the Silk Road. Turpan, once an important strategic place on the Silk Road, has had 2,000 years of history of grape cultivation. Turpan has a perfect environment to grow grapes. The grapes here have never suffered from plant diseases or pests, so no chemicals or pesticides are applied. Once in history Turpan achieved an output of over 8,800 pounds of seedless white grapes per train cart. Tourists can take a donkey to pull a cart to visit the Grape Valley. They can even enjoy the local minority songs and dances.
Aydingkol Lake contains a high concentration of salt crystals. The lake surface is 505 feet below sea level and it is the lowest lake in China, the second lowest in the world. The water in Aydingkol Lake comes from melting ice and snow on the surrounding mountains and plains. In summer the high temperatures cause the lake water to evaporate quickly and only the southwestern part of the lake is covered with shallow water.
Kashi is situated southwest of Xinjiang. Its downtown sits on the Kashgar delta. It is the political, economic, and cultural center of the Kashi region. It covers 37 square miles and has a population of 250,000. Kashi was a fundamental town along the Silk Road because it rests at the junction of the southern and northern routes. The northern route of the ancient Silk Road ran west from Kashi across the Pamirs into ancient India in the south or west to Yuezhi, Persia and other countries.
The people of Kashi are good at handicrafts, in addition to being famous for their folk songs and dances. Main scenic spots include the Tomb of Apak Roja and the big bazaar.
Bazaar means a fair or market. Kashi is the biggest collecting and distributing center in the region. The big bazaar is an attractive place, garden-like and comprehensive. The Big Bazaar of Kashi lies in the eastern bank of the Tuman River at the northeastern corner of the city. It is the biggest market in the city. It is also known as the "Mid-Asia Goods Fair". There are 5,000 stalls in the bazaar and the goods come from inland China, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Pakistan and West Asia. Everything a person needs can be found there, from oxen, horses and camels to needles, threads and buttons.
The Tomb of Apak Hoja
The Tomb of Apak Hoja is located at Ezret Village, 3.1 miles northeast of the city. It was built in 1640 and is the tomb of Apak Hoja and his family members, the largest Islamic mausoleum in China. Apak Hoja was the king of the Hoja State of Kashgar. The tomb is composed of gate towers, large and small mosques, scripture halls, and main tomb chambers. High trees also surround the tomb, providing it with a quiet and beautiful environment.
This was an important strategic place on the Silk Road, also known as Kunwu in ancient times. Hami is the eastern gate of Xinjiang and a convenient transport point. The Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway and Highway run through it and buses also stop at all the counties.
Hami King's Mausoleum
Situated in Shazaojing, Huicheng, a western suburb of the city, the Hami King's Mausoleum is the largest mosque in the area. The mausoleum is covered with green glazed and white patterned tiles. The vault is majestic and decorated with colorful paintings. Opposite the mausoleum is another large mosque, the ceiling of which is supported by 108 carved wooden pillars and the inside walls are painted with flower patterns with extracts from the Koran.
Korla is located 292 miles from Urumqi and is a center of transportation from the Southern Region to Urumqi and inland. People can take a flight or drive through the Taklimakan, the world's second largest desert, to get onto the south route of the Silk Road. Main scenic spots include The Ruins of the Ancient City of Loulan, the Wonder of Yadan, and the Bayanbulak Nature Reserve.
The Ruins of the Ancient City of Loulan
Loulan was one of the 36 states of the Western Regions in the Han Dynasty and is at the eastern end of Tarim Basin, hub of the ancient Silk Road. The Ancient City of Loulan was the capital of the State of Loulan, and later became the administrative office of the Viceroy of the Western Regions in the Wei,
Jin and former Liang dynasties.
It was the only way from the central plains to the southern route of the Western Regions during the Han Dynasty, and played a very important role in cultural exchanges between East and West.
Hotan was once known as the State of Yutian. It is an important city in southern Xinjiang and was once the major transport center of the southern route of the Silk Road. It is 22 miles east of Zam Grottoes, a scenic spot related to the Silk Road, and 12.4 miles south of the Ruins of Rawak.
Since long ago, Hotan has been rich in jade. In history, the king of the State of Yutian always chose jade to pay tribute to the rulers in the inland. The major deposits of Hotan jade are tucked away deep in the lofty Kunlun Mountains. It was made inaccessible to the public in the past. Previously people had to search for the lumps of rough jade, which were carried down by summer torrents to the foot of mountains or to the adjacent plains. It became a custom to look for precious stones on flood land.
Kuqa is located in the central part of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, in the middle of the northern section of Tarim Basin. It is a famous city on the Silk Road and was the center of Buddhism in the Western Regions after the Northern and Southern Dynasties. During the Tang Dynasty, it was a thriving city at the peak of its cultural development. Now Kuqa is the home of 340,000 people of the Uygur, Han and Hui minorities.
It was built on a high terrace in the county town of Kuqa during the Qing Dynasty. It is composed of a main tower, halls, unknown tombs, scripture learning rooms and religious buildings. Each room is divided by some partition boards. The skylight was shaped like a tent. The main tower is 65 feet high and the temple maintains the grand and imposing style of Uygur architecture.
Kizilgah Beacon Tower
Kizilgish Beacon Tower stands at the side of the highway 6.2 miles west of Kuqa. It is an imposing, deserted structure 50 feet high.