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Section 2
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Section 3
silk road city loulan once a very important silk road hub



silk road xinjiang loulan ruins
   

The ruins of the world-famous ancient city of Loulan lie to the west of Lop Nur. In a bygone era, Loulan was the hub of communications in the Western Region and a very important town on the Silk Road. Flourishing trade was carried on here in silk and tea brought from Central China as well as the horses, grapes and precious stones of the Western Region. Many trading caravans passing through the oasis of Loulan would stop for a while and transact a little business. Founded before 176 B.C., the Kingdom of Loulan survived 800 years, its territory covering a vast area between the ancient city of Yangguan in the east and the ancient city of Niya in the west, and between Hami in the north and the Altun Mountains in the south. With the passage of time , however, the kingdom gradually waned and finally disappeared. Why it happened remains a mystery to this day.The ancient city of Loulan was the major economic and political center of the Kingdom of Loulan in the early period. Only after the fourth century did this prosperous Silk Road city quietly disappear from history. In 126 B.C. when Zhang Qian , after going through all kinds of hardships as an envoy to the Western Region returned to the Central Plains, he reported to Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty that Loulan had inner and outer city walls and stood near a salt lake . The "salt lake" means Lop Nur of course, but for a long time archaeologists failed to pinpoint the whereabouts of the ancient city. No ancient literature gave its accurate location and it remained an insoluble enigma for hundreds of years until the early days of this century, when Ardik , a brave Uygur, made the miraculous discovery of the ancient city, bringing it to light again. The puzzle was unraveled. In the spring of 1900 the Swedish explorer Sven Anders Hedin was surveying the area west of Lop NUL One night his Uygur guide, Ardik, went back to their former base camp to fetch a missing pick, and lost his way in a rising sandstorm. Moving by dim moonlight, this daring Uygur guide found the lost pick and then discovered the ruins of a huge Buddhist pagoda, some half-buried wooden beams decorated with exquisite carvings and copper coins spread in the sand. Later, excavations were conducted in this place, which turned out to be the site of the ancient city of Loulan. We owe the discovery of the city to Ardik. Recalling the event, Sven Anders Hedin wrote: "How fortunate it was that Ardik forgot to bring his pick! Otherwise I would never have been able to return to this ancient city, and this priceless discovery which has shed new light on the ancient history of Central Asia would never have been made." After the liberation of Xinjiang , a Chinese investigatory team discovered many relics of early civilization around Loulan, including shells and strings of beads resembling those used in primitive society as ornaments, coins, bronze and iron objects, saddles and leather coats. They provide important evidence for studying the Silk Road and the rise and decline of the Kingdom of Loulan. The team also excavated a heap of coppers on the slopes of Baylung Hill northeast of the ancient city. Altogether 970 coppers made in the Tang Dynasty were recovered, probably the remainder of a string of 1,000 cash dropped by an ancient trade caravan. This find provides convincing evidence that the Silk Road was open and clear to traffic in the Tang Dynasty. ' Overcoming many difficulties the Chinese team finally reached the ruins of the ancient city buried in wind-eroded terrain at 89??55'22'~ longitude east and 40025'55" latitude north. Loulan was in the shape of a rough square, with rammed earth walls built in the same way as the section of the Great Wall near Dunhuang, stretch-ing 1,316 meters all round the city. There were gaps in the middle of the northern and southern walls, which must have been where gates once stood.

The highest building left standing within the ancient city of Loulan is a 10.4-meter-high Buddhist pagoda in the eastern part of the city. It was built of adobes and timber on a square base, each side measuring 19.5 meters. The southern side of the pagoda is linked to the' ruins of many large buildings, where a huge pile of timber which has been carefully cut into shape sits. It was here that Sven Anders Hedin and Marc Aurel Stein discovered boards carved with various fine designs and wooden Buddhist sculptures. Five kilometers northwest of the ancient city is a beacon tower standing twelve meters high built of clay and timber. The people at that time built beacon towers every five kilometers and posted soldiers to guard them. The most outstanding ruins in the ancient city are three houses which stand facing the southern gate. They are the only buildings in the city that have walls built solely of adobe. The rooms at the eastern and western ends of the houses were built of wood, and vestiges of red lacquer remain on the timber, some of which is over six meters long. The structure and location of these houses indicate that they were probably the seat of government of the Loulan rulers. Documents have been unearthed at Loulan, including an order forbidding people to cut down trees carelessly. "Whoever cuts down a tree with its roots," it says, "shall be fined a horse." "Nobody is allowed to fell a tree during its growing period. Whoever cuts a major branch shall pay. a cow for it." This may be the earliest forest-protection law ever discovered in China. As early as 1,900 years ago the king, ministers and citizens of the Kingdom of Loulan knew the importance of trees in the desert and made a law to protect them. The observation team also discovered the traces of an ancient canal which once flowed east to west through the city. It must have provided the water supply for the city's inhabitants. In addition the team collected large numbers of thick pottery vat fragments, pieces of broken stone mills and damaged wooden buckets, and all kinds of coins, rings, earrings as well as wooden slips with Han inscriptions. All these are invaluable to archaeologists.