Evening Stroll at the Jiaohe Ruins
We were lucky to find the Jiāohé Ruins empty for strolling at leisure, being the top tourist site in Turpan. This small city once bustled with 7000 people who called it home, with constant trade flowing from east to west.
An Important City Along the Silk Route
The Jiāohé Ruins were organised into sections comprising of residential areas for commoners and aristocrats, shops and Buddhist temples. The government administrative centre came with benefits – it was dug deeper into the ground and therefore was much cooler, providing excellent respite from the desert heat. It also came with a private well which supplied the officials with their own water.
Best Preserved Earthen Ruins in the World
The ancient city of Jiāohé was an important stop along the Silk Route and flourished for 2000 years, before it was finally laid to waste by Genghis Khan’s Mongol troops in the 13th century. Devoid of human habitation, it then further stood the test against time and harsh weather conditions, to earn its recognition as the best preserved ruins in the world dug entirely from earth.
Nature Inspired Uygur Decor
Typical Uygur decor, brightly coloured and inspired by nature. Muslims do not use any animals or human portraits for decorative elements, in case these become idolised and worshipped instead of Allah.
Patterned Dome at the Karez Museum
The Karez underground water system was an ingenious feat of architecture – brilliant creativity derived from necessity, which made Turpan a crucial oasis stop along the Silk Route. Known as the ‘Underground Great Wall of China’, these wells were dug manually with crude tools and were aligned for 5000 km. Melted snow from the Tianshan Mountains could then flow freely, irrigating large crops of land below, and providing the people with their main source of water at the hottest and deepest point in China.
The Flaming Mountains of the Classic Chinese Novel, “Journey to the West”
Every Chinese person knows the classic novel 西游记 (Journey to the West), a story detailing the Buddhist priest Xuan Zang’s danger fraught pilgramage to India with his four disciples. One of the harsh landscapes they had to cross was a mountain of fire, which is the Flaming Mountains in present day Turpan.
The Ruddy Mountains of Turpan
Temperatures soar to 40 degrees celsius in summer here, which at midday creates the illusion that tongues of flame are burning on the ruddy mountain slopes.
A Valley with an Old World Charm
A little valley which bore an old world charm, and was a refreshing change of scenery from the endless brown hues of the desert and mountains. The incessant bleating of the grazing sheep echoed within the hollow, and the sound was rather hypnotic. The constant gurgling of the running river further lulled me into an unguarded state of mind.
The Surreal Landscape of Silent Sand Dunes
While driving towards the marked tourist spot of the Flaming Mountains, the landscape was surreal with nothing but towering sand dunes looming silently in the distance.
Bowl of Turpan Style La Mian
A delicious and colourful bowl of Uygur style 拉面 (lā miàn) – hand-pulled wheat noodles with a springy texture. Long beans are a Turpan specialty, and have been included in the hearty mixture.
Dining on the Streets of Turpan
We sat, communed and enjoyed an assortment of local food at this outdoor hawker area.
Part 2 can be viewed here: The Rich Silk Route History of Turpan: Part 2
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