September 1, 2009

The Flaming Mountain is a legendary mountain, running from Shanshan County on west, 98 kilometers in length and 9 kilometers across, with a relative height of 500 meters and the highest peak 831.7 meters. The mountain is a branch range of the Bogda Mountain , formed in the orogenic movements of the Himalayas . Its highest air temperature in summer is 47.8 degrees centigrade, and the ground is over 70 degrees centigrade in summer. For this reason and its natural geographical features, people vividly call it “ Flaming Mountain ”. Through the well-known story about this mountain in the novel “Journey to the West”, the mountain has enjoyed great popularity and become an ideal place for tour.

 

The Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves are complex of Buddhist cave grottos dating from the 5th to the 9th centuries between the cities of Turpan and Shanshan (Loulan) at the north-east of the Taklamakan Desert near the ancient ruins of Gaochang in the Mutou Valley, a gorge in the Flaming Mountains.  They are high on the cliffs of the west Mutou Valley under the Flaming Mountains.
There are 77 rock-cut caves at the site. Most have rectangular spaces with rounded arch ceilings often divided into four sections, each with a mural of Buddha. The effect is of entire ceiling covers with hundreds of Buddha murals. Some ceilings are painted with a large Buddha surrounded by other figures, including Indians, Persians and Europeans. The quality of the murals varies with some being artistically naive while others are masterpieces of religious art.

 

 

September 1, 2009

Gaochang is the site of an ancient oasis city built on the northern rim of the inhospitable Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang. A busy trading center, it was a stopping point for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Route. The ruins are located 30 km southeast of modern Turpan.

Gaochang was built in the 1st century BC. It was an important site along the Silk Road. It was burnt down in wars in the 14th century. Old palace ruins and inside and outside cities can still be seen today.
It played a key role as a transportation hub in western China. There is not much documented history surviving today, only stories passed on through oral tradition exist to detail the history.

 

September 1, 2009

 

On the western face of the Flaming Mountains, east of Turpan is the Grape Valley. Despite the sweltering summer heat that hits Turpan, this 8km (5 mile) long valley remains cool and humid. Grapes were first grown in the city over 2,000 years ago and together with Turpan’s melons and wines, soon became the region’s specialty products. The delicious produce was often presented as tribute to the Tang imperial court.
The Grape Valley is filled with trellised walkways, that in the peak season of July to August, are covered with bunches of grapes. The valley produces the famous seedless white grape and red and black grapes in the fall. Peaches, apricots, apples, pomegranates, pears, and various types of melon are also grown here.
In the valley you will find a park as well as patios and outdoor tables where you can eat the grapes and other fruit or enjoy a delicious meal complemented by the locally produced wine.

 

September 1, 2009

 

Turfan is located about 150 km southeast of Urumuqi, Xinjiang’s capital, in a mountain basin, on the northern side of the Turfan Depression, at an elevation of 98 feet (30 meters) above sea level.
Turfan’s climate is harsh, of the arid continental type, with very hot summers, very cold winters, and minimal precipitation, which amounts to only 20 mm (0.9 inch) per year. July is the hottest month, with averages highs of 39°C (103°F) and lows of 25°C (77°F), while January is the coldest, with highs of -4°C (26°F) and lows of -16°C (4°F). The Highest temperature ever measured in Turfan is 55°C (131°F) and the lowest is -38°C (-36.4°F).[1]
However, the very heat and dryness of the summer, when combined with the area’s ancient system of irrigation, allows the countryside around Turfan to produce great quantities of high-quality fruit.
 Turfan covers an area of over 69000 square kilometers, and the city of Turfan is the seat of the administrative office of the prefecture. The prefecture has one city and two counties under its jurisdiction, with a population of 540 thousands. The lowest place in the depression is 154 meters below sea level. Turfan is a traffic hub linking the southern part and northern part of Xinjiang together and linking Xinjiang with the hinterland of the country. According to historical records, the native inhabitants in Turfan are Gushi people. In 60 B.C., the kingdom of Cheshi submitted to the authority of the Han Dynasty. The Governor-General Government for Controlling the Western Regions was established in the same year and Zhen Ji was appointed as the first Governor-General. In 48 B.C., the Han Dynasty set up the Wuji Xiaowei Military Office in Jiaohe City in Anterior Cheshi to control the reclaiming affairs in the Western Countries. In 499 A .D., Turfan came into the period of Qu`s Gaochang Kingdom. In the 14th year of Zhenguan period ( 640A .D.) of the Tang Dynasty ,the Gaochang Kingdom was conquered and the West Prefecture was set up here. In 866 A .D., the Gaochang Uighurian Kingdom was set up here, which took the Gaochang as its center, and kept unconquered until submitting to Genghis Khan, then Uighur was renamed “Wei-Wu-Er”. In the 10th year of Guangxu period of the Qing Dynasty ( 1884A .D,), Turfan Department was established, which was renamed Turfan County in 1913. In 1984, the county was changed as city. Turfan is a town of military importance on the Silk Roads, rich in historical relics of Chinese and Western types both on ground and underground. Today, Turfan has been built into a beautiful oasis garden city, not only features in history and civilization of the ancient Silk Roads, but also presents modern elegant demeanors. Now Turfan is an important base of grape, cotton, Hami melon and oil of the autonomous region and even in our country.

August 30, 2009

Two kilometers east of Turpan stands the Emin Mosque with its monumental minaret, the tallest in China. Also known as Sugong Tower (Sugong Ta), the minaret was built in a simple Islamic style. It is circular, 44 meters in height, and 10 meters in diameter at the base. Unfortunately, the minaret is no longer open to the public in an effort to preserve the structure, however, you can view the surroundings from the roof of the mosque. The mosque was built in 1779 during the Qing Dynasty in memory of the Uighur King Emin Khoja by his son King Suleiman. The large fortified mosque, raised on a platform, stands alone outside the city, devoid of any auxiliary buildings.

The Sugong Tower is the biggest ancient pagoda existing in Xinjiang and the only Islamic ancient pagoda in the country.

 

August 30, 2009

 

The karezes water system are an important invention by the Turfan people. The word karez means “well” in the local Uygur language
The Karez system is made up of a horizontal series of vertically dug wells that are then linked by underground water canals to collect water from the watershed surface runoff from the base of the Tian Shan Mountains and the nearby the Flaming Mountains. The canals channel the water to the surface, taking advantage of the current provided by the gravity of the downward slope of the Turfan Depression. The canals are mostly underground to reduce water evaporation.

The system has wells, dams and underground canals built to store the water and control the amount of water flow. Vertical wells are dug at various points to tap into the water current flowing down sloping land from the source, the mountain runoff. The water is then channeled through underground canals dug from the bottom of one well to the next well and then to the desired destination. This irrigation system of special connected wells originated during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 24 CE).

In Xinjiang, the greatest number of karez wells are in the Turfan Depression, where today there remain over 1100 karez wells and channels having a total length of over 5,000 kilometers. The local geography makes karez wells practical for agricultural irrigation and other uses. Turfan is located in the second deepest geographical depression in the world, with over 4,000 km2  of land below sea level and with soil that forms a sturdy basin.[ Water naturally flows down from the nearby mountains during the rainy season in an underground current to the low depression basin under the desert. The Turfan summer is very hot and dry with periods of wind and blowing sand. The water from the underground channels provides a stable water source year round, independent of season.

The Turfan water system has been listed as one of the three greatest water projects of ancient China together with the Du Jiang Yan Irrigation System, and the Grand Canal.

August 30, 2009

Kashgar Prefecture, with a total area of 162,000 kilometers, lies in the southern part of Xinjiang, and 1,473 kilometers away from the city of Urumqi,  with an area of 15 square kilometers and an average elevation of 1289.5 meters. Located in the plain climate zone with the clear four seasons, Kashi has a long summer and a short winter. The annual mean temperature in Kashi is 11.7 , with the lowest temperature of -24.4 in January and the hottest 40.1 in July. The frost-free period averages 215 days.
Kashi prefecture was called Shule in ancient times and it has a history of more than two thousand years. In the beginning of the Han Dynasty, it belonged to the Zhuangpu Prefecture General’s Office of the Hun. In the latter half of the second century B.C., after the Han Dynasty Emperor Wudi sent Zhang Qian as his special envoy to the Western Region, Kashi submitted to the authorities of the Western Han Dynasty. During the first century, Kashi was the supreme headquarters of Ban Chao, an imperial general who administered the Western Region. During the reign of the Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong and afterwards, it was an important military stronghold of the Tang government. Kashi was one of the four important towns in Anxi at the time; thus it was made the seat of the Shule Superintendent’s Office. The Karakhanid Dynasty also established its capital in Kashgar. Before Genghis Khan went on his western expedition, Kashgar was the south capital of the Western Liao Regime established by Khitans. After Khan’s western expedition was over, Kashgar became the fief of the crown prince of Chagatai. During the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong, Kashgar became the seat of government of the Kashgar Councilor of the Qing government.