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Turpan
The summer is very hot in this major tourist city, Turpan is situated in the basin area, the lowest point on the mainland of China. The local people have developed karez, an irrigation system composed of wells connected by underground channels, to counter the heat and drought of this area. At the foot of the Flaming Mountain, east of Turpan lies the famous Grape Gully, known as Green Pearl City, an oasis where the scorching sunshine is shut off by luxuriant tree foliages and grapevine trellises that cover 220 hectares and are crisscrossed by irrigation ditches.
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No place in China is hotter in summer than the Flaming Mountain in Turpan, a mountain made famous by the classical Chinese mythological novel, Journey to the West. Xinjiang's largest ancient pagoda, Dorbiljin Pagoda, (also called Sugong Pagoda) stands 2 km east of downtown Turpan. To the east lies Gaochang, which until the early Ming was a thriving town on the Silk Road; today it has been reduced to a 2 million-square-meter stretch of broken walls and deserted fields. The inexorable episode of history is keenly felt at Jiaohe, another ancient city that was deserted during the early Ming dynasty, leaving a pile of ruins in west of Turpan.

Ancient City of Gaochang (Kharakhoja)

About 46 kilometers southeast of Turpan, near the "Flaming Mountains" seats an impressive ruins of the ancient city of Gaochang. Built in the first century B.C., Gaochang used to be a garrison town and later became a key point along the ancient Silk Road. By the seventh century it held over 21other towns. The practice of Buddhism led to the establishment of many monasteries and temples here. In the ninth century, the Uigur established the Kharakhoja Kingdom here and the local economy quickly flourished. The city was burnt down around the 14th century, during a period of warfare lasting 40 years.
The ruins originally consisted of three parts: the inner and outer cities, and a palace complex. The outer city extended 5.4 kilometers long with a city wall of 11.5 meter high and 12 meter thick. Nine city gates were built on cardinal points, three in the south and two in other three directions respectively. Visitors are usually suggested to enter the best preserved gate in the west to the core. The inner city is about 3 kilometer's long, of which the western and eastern sections are well preserved. In the northern part of the inner walls is the Palace City. It shared its southern wall with the inner city. A square adobe pagoda called "Khan's castle" which means "Imperial Palace" stands on a high terrace in the very north. The ancient city was now brought under the protection as the historical site by the state in 1961.

Ancient City of Jiaohe

Located in the Yarnaz Valley about 13 kilometers west of Turpan, the ancient city Jiaohe used to be the capital of the State of South Cheshi, which seats at the junction of two rivers, hence the name of 'Jiaohe'. Screened by precipitous cliffs, the city was built on a 30-meter-high loess plateau with length of 1,650 meters and width 300 meters. During the Western Han dynasty ( 202 BC-08 AD), "Jiaohe" was established as a Prefecture under the jurisdiction of Gaochang Kingdom. At the end of the thirteenth century, it was destroyed in Mongolian aristocratic rebellions. The dry climate protects this ancient ruin. The enceinte, temples, workshops and residential houses in the streets are still visible. The road leads to a grand Buddhist temple in the north-central part of the city. Forest of towers in front of the temple remains intact, and the panoramic view of the whole city on top of the tower is amazing. Buildings in this city have distinguished style that the two-storied houses all built without windows. The house was half-underground and caves underground served as living rooms. The city was brought under the protection as the historical site by the state in 1961.

Astana (Karakhoja) Ancient Tombs

Around 40 kilometers southeast of Turpan, and close to the ancient city of Gaochang, this ancient Tombs of Tang dynasty known as the "Underground Museum" attracts stream of archaeologists both at home and abroad. Astana means "capital" in Uigur and Karakhoja is the name of a legendary Uigur hero who expelled the evils by killing a vicious dragon.

The tombs range 2 km from north to south and 5 km from east to west. Those died from imperial families and noble officials were buried here. However, the tomb for the King of Gaochang has been found nowhere in the tombs. A 10 meter steep and narrow passage leads down into a small dark chamber where the corpses were lay down. The dry climate preserved the bodies and artifacts perfectly. A fine collection of relics from Astana including painted stucco figurines with traditional costumes, and riding accoutrements are exhibited at the Museum in Urumqi. Remains of grains, breads, pastries and dumplings placed in the graves that gave the insight of their diet in that period. One of the tombs was buried with General Zhang Xiong and his wife of the Gaochang Kingdom in the Tang dynasty, which are now encased in Turpan Regional Museum. Up to now, three tombs have been opened to visitors and the ancient city was brought under the protection as historical site by the state in 1961.

Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves

The Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, located about 56 km northeast of Turpan, contains 67 caves dating from the Northern and Southern dynasties (317 - 589 AD) to the Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368). In the Uigur language, Bezeklik means "place with paintings". The area used to be an important center for Buddhist worship under the Xizhou Huigu government of Gaochang Kindom, which built the royal temple of the King of Huigu at this site. The caves are well hidden and rest on a long ridge overlooking a valley where the monastery was located. Originally it was accessible via a winding pathway to the cliff top, and a steep stairway leading down to the monastery about 30 feet below. Among the 83 grottoes which was recorded with numbers, about 40 of them have rich remains of murals. Some murals present clearly the figurines of the Huigu's noble people and their daily life, some showed Indian monks and portraits of Buddha at different periods throughout history. One could have learned a lot of the ancient history from the visit of these murals in the numerous caves. The Bezeklik Thousand-Buddha Caves became an important historical and cultural spot and was protected by the state since 1961.

Grape Valley

Lying at the base of the Flaming Mountains is the famous vineyards known as - Grape Valley. This 8 km long, half a km wide gorge, inhabited by about 6,000 people of the Uigur, Hui and Han, has more than 400 hectares of cultivated land, 220 hectares of which is the grape garden. Grapes growing in the valley are of several strains, including the seedless white, rose-pink, mare's-nipple', black, Kashihar, bijiagan etc. The vinery nearby produces wines and dried grapes. The trellised walkways are overhung with bunches of grapes as well as in each of the local family's courtyards. Scattered everywhere are trees of mulberry, peach, apricot, apple, pomegranate, watermelons and muskmelons. It is one of the must see scene spots for all tourists when come to visit Turpan.


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