turpan buddha caves

Friend, have you ever explored the culture of the Western Region along the ancient Silk Road?
Have you ever seen the spectacular and mysterious Flaming Mountain as recorded in the Chinese classic"Journey to the West"? Or experienced the colorful ethnic lifestyles and customs of the northwestern border of China? Or enjoyed the richness and beauty of the "Grape Kingdom"?This magical and fertile, ancient and yet young Treasure Land is the world-famous western region city of Turpan.When we say Turpan is magical it is because it has the 'high' of snow-covered peaks of the Tianshan Mountains that are over 4,000 meters above sea level, and the 'low' of the Aydingkol Lake which is 154 meters below sea level, -- the second lowest point on earth; it also has the Flaming Mountain which is full of fairytale wonder, and the scenic Grape Valley which is permeated with the fragrance of fruit and melon; then there is the desolately barren Gobi Desert where no birds fly over but dotted with oases;under the surface there are the karez, a man-made wonder of irrigation system in which water flows all

the year around. This place is a pleasant blend of 'land of fire', 'land of wind','land of sand', and 'land of oases'. It is a museum of natural georgaphy and landforms, created by nature, but perfected by man.When we say Turpan is rich, it is because it has grape,Hami melon, and long staple cotton which are well-known native products sold throughout the world, and are the three treasures of the land. The salt, coal, and mirabillite deposits are plentiful, and their future development prospects are awesome.The Treasure Land is true to name. The residents of Turpan have not only created a glorious history with their wisdom, talent, and diligence,but they are also building a thriving, affluent and beautiful
Turpan today.We say Turpan is ancient it is because like Dunhuang, it was another glistening pearl on the Silk Road. There are the ruins of Gaochang and Jiaohe of the Han and Tang dynasties, the Thousand Buddha Caves dug since the Jin and Tang dynasties, and the thousand-year old dried corpses of the Astana tombs; and unique Islamic architectural wonder of the Sugong Minaret, and the unearthed relics. Turpan is a land that has the best of historical relics and ruins of an ancient culture. The rise of the Chinese Dunhuang - Turpan Studies has opened up a brand new path for the development and application of this precious source of historical relics.When we say Turpan is young, it is because as a city for modern tourism, it has only just taken its initial step, much, much more needs doing and to be done, but the future is bright. Today, the people of Turpan are in the midst of an opening-up environment, and they are striving for the prosperity of the land and contributing their all to its four modernizations. The Turpan people are ready in a new way, and their arms are open to welcome from near and far, friends who come to tour, to do business, to participate in cultural and scholarly exchanges and research, and together with them, write a new page of praise on the cultural traditions of the Silk Road.Prepared by the Editorial Board of the XINJIANG, CHINA - Turpan Album.

 

Tourists visiting Turpan -- without exception -- have the desire to penetrate through the mysterious veil of this ancient basin and to have a taste of its enchanting ,unique, and exotic scenery and customs. When one climbs a top the lonely yet magnificent Jiaohe with the sunset glow still offsetting the background, or when one enters the ancient city of Gaochang imbued with a solemn and stirring atmosphere, or when one walks into the Bezkilik Thousand-Buddha Caves riddled with gaping wounds, or when one admires the superb craftsmanship manifested in the Emin Minaret, he will suddenly realize that what are being unfolded before his eyes is none the less than a brilliant picture scroll of Turpan history.
The ancient city of Jiaohe is located on a lonely island shaped like a willow leaf about 10 kms to the west of the city of Turpan. It is 1,650 meters long and 300 meters wide. Steep cliffs surrounding the city renders it a strategic point easy to defend and difficult to attack. A thoroughfare traversing the city from north to south naturally divides the city into two main parts: the East and the West. The northern part of the city are chiefly temples and mosques. Thanks to little rainfall, the ancient official residence, living quarters, pottery kilns, temples' stupas,wells and streets can still be seen. According to historical records, from 108 B.C. to 450 A.D. Jiaohe served as the capital city of the former
Cheshi (a kindom there). In the first years of the Tang Dynasty (640-658 A.D.), the Commanding Office of Anxi, the highest military and administrative authority of the Western Region, was stationed there. It was in the latter half of the fourteenth century that this thousand-year-old city was destroyed by fire.
The ancient city of Gaochang lies in Halahezhuo, a rural township about 40 kms to the east of the city of Turpan. Tourists today can still see the towering city wall reflecting the magnificence of its heyday. The layout of the ancient city is roughly an irregular sqaure in three levels: the outer city, the inner city and the palace. At the foundation the wall is 12 meters thick, 11.5 meters high with a circumference of 5 kms. In the first century B.C., the garrisoned troops of the West Han Dynasty were stationed there to open up wasteland, and Gaochang gained the status of a prefecture. In 450 A.D. the remaining force of North Liang wiped out the former Kingdom of Cheshi, Gaochang was set up as a temporary town. In 327 A.D. Gaochang was promoted to the position of being the political, economic and cultural center of the Turpan Basin,and in 460 A.D. became the capital of the Gaochang Kingdom. In 640 A.D. Gaochang was included into the map of the Tang Dynasty which set up the Xizhou Prefecture; under the Prefecture were five counties: Gaochang, Jiaohe, Liuzhong, Tianshan and Puchang. From the middle of the 9th century, it was the capital city of Gaochang Kingdom set up by a people called the Huihe. In 1275 A.D. the nomadic noble named Duwa rose in rebellion and laid siege to Huozhou (Gaochang) with a force of 120,000 strong. The siege lasted for six months and Barshu Alte,the Huihe king of Gaochang died heroically in battle. Consequently the city of Gaochang was totally ruined.To the north of Gaochang is the famous Astana-Halahezhuo Burial Ground, where archaeologists have unearthed tens of thousands of cultural relics from over 400 ancient graves. Among the relics the most treasured ones are ancient documents and superb quality silk fabrics.The burial ground was in use around the 3rd to the 8th century. Those who were buried there include: Juqufengdai, Mayor of the Gaochang Prefecture during the Dynasty of Northern Liang, Zhang Xiong, a famous general of Gaochang Kingdom, and Gaoyao, Vice Commander of the Belting Military Region during the Tang Dynasty. The corpses of Zhang Xiong and others have dried up but their hair and beards can still be seen and their facial countenance still show their awe-inspring majestic bearing.The Bezkilik Thousand-Buddha Caves are situated in the middle part of the Flaming Mountian's Wood Valley. 83 grottoes are extant,among which more than 40 have mural paintings inside them. The total area of mural paintings exceeds 1,200 square meters. The mural paintings of the earlier period of Huihe Gaochang are highly recommended for their strict composition, bold and vigorous lines, and plump figures. They represent a continuation of the painting style of the Mogao Grottoes typical of the Tang Dynasty. The representative subject is predestined relationship as in such stories as "The Child-Manjue's transformation". It is widely acknowledged that this is the most important,best-preserved and most representative art treasure in Huihe's Buddhist art.The Emin Minaret (also named Sugong Minaret) stands to the north of the ancient city of Anle. It is the most magnificent and majestic minaret of Xinjiang Islamic architecture. It is 37 meters high, built of bricks and timber. Inside, the minaret has a 72-step spiral stair that leads directly to the top. Eminhoja was a Uygur leader of Turpan, and owing to his outstanding contribution in upholding the unification of China,he was made a prince by the Qing Court. In the 42nd year during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1777) of the Qing Dynasty this minaret was completed when Eminhoja was 83 years old. His official residence was where what is now the Lukeqing Townghip of Shanshan County, i.e.,the famous Liuzhong of the Han and Tang Dynasties.In the recent years several surveys of cultural relics and ruins have indicated that in the Turpan Basin there are a total of 175 historical ruins which can be divided into a number of categories such as: ruins of the Neolithic Age, ruins of ancient cities, signal tower, ancient graves,grottoes with Buddhist carvings, rock paintings, ancient mail posts, ancient ethnic buildings, etc. Thanks to the uniquely favorable natural
conditions of sparse rainfall and dry weather, historical relics and ruins both above and underground can be preserved for a very long time.Though many centuries have elapsed, they are still intact and free from decay. When unearthed, thc original colours were as good as new.That is why Turpan is granted the title of a "natural museum".

 

A saying goes: "Anyone visiting Xinjiang without seeing Turpan is bound to regret his incomplete tour of the Northwest."The Turpan Basin is located in the eastern part of Xi~jiang. The Basin is 245 kms long from east to west and 75 kms wide
from north to south. It covers a total area of 50,147 square kilometers of which about 4,050 square kilometers are below sea level. The basin slopes from the north toward the south, and the land has very strong irradiation of sunlight. The surrounding high mountains make it difficult for the heat to escape so this special geographic condition gives rise to a unique climate environment which is dry and windy. In the summer, the temperature at the center of the basin reaches 47.6 ~C with the highest record of 48.9 ~C . The ground temperature is around 70 ~C , which sometimes reaches as high as 82.3 ~C . That is why in history Turpan Basin has been called "the land of fire". A saying goes that "on sand mounds eggs can be cooked, and on the rock, cakes can be baked." There is a folktale about "a county magistrate who had to do his office work with his body immersed in a tub of water to keep cool."
The hot weather in Turpan is reinforced by dryness, and its strong winds. Statistics shows that the average rainfall is merely 16mm, while the evaporation reaches 3,000mm. Spring is the basin's main windy season. Winds of force 8 or above is common.Even hurricanes of force 12 or over is not unrare. Toksun County, located in the western part of the Basin, has long been known as the "windy city".The Flaming Mountain known far and wide resembles a fiery dragon winding from east to west. It extends for 100 kilometers with the maximum width of 10 kilometers. The Mountain is 851 meters above sea level and what is seen above the
ground mainly consists of arenaceous rock and red mudstone of the Jurassic Period, the Cretaceous Period and the Permian Period. The colour of the rocks is a brownish red and the mountain slopes are full of crevasses. When the sunlight hits the mountain slope, the red is intercheckered with blue resembling many fiery dragons. Wu Cheng'en, a Ming-Dynasty novelist,
wrote a number of very interesting stories around the subject of the Flaming Mountain, thus making the Mountain famous all over the world, attracting an endless flow of tourists from both China and abroad.The Grape Valley is a small valley of the Flaming Mountain. The Valley is 8 kilometers long with the maximum width of 2 kilometers, with a small stream winding through it. On both sides of the valley are seen layer upon layer of grape trellises
interspersed with flowers and fruit trees. Farmhouses dot the village, and high on the mountain slopes are some "cooling houses". In the summer the cooling houses are refuges from the suffocating heat. They are the tourists' favorite retreafln ISPI
inclemently hot Turpan.The Aydingkol Lake represents the lowest point of China. Its water surface is 154 meters below sea level, and the lake bottom is flat with shallow water. The lake-bed is 40 kilometers long from east to west and 8 kilometers wide from north to
south. The depth of water is only 1 meter at the deepest point. In the western part there is still water which is bitterly salt. The rate of mineralization of the water is as high as 200 grams per litre. As a result of strong evaporation and condensation of the
years, there are in the lake bottom and nearby some nitre mines and salt mines.
Because of the serious lack of rain and snow, Turpan Basin has since very ancient times been relying on underground water irrigation. Thus, karez, a marvellous water irrigation system, becomes a unique scene in Turpan. The Karez is a system of skillfully drawing water from underground by digging a string of underground channels. The karez system consists of wells,
hidden channels and open channels. Wells are linked to hidden channel which in turn is linked to open channel. The underground water is channeled to farmland by both the hidden and open channels. The earth from the dug wells and channels is piled around the well, forming small mounds resembling craters of volcanoes. A bird's-eye view reveals many wells forming a
straighttline which is a grand sight. What is more interesting is that in the deep of winter the well's opening is warm with vapor,while in the summer it is cool and breezy, and a traveler can cool off sitting by it.Shifting sand of the years has formed deserts within the basin. The Kumtag Desert lies to the south of Shanshan county with a total area of 2,500 square kilometers. And the converging winds have brought about clusters of sand hills in the shape of pyramids. The place has also been developed as a tourist resort where visitors can have a full view of the magnificence of the desert without actually venturing out into it.
Through long-time practice, people in Turpan have discovered the fact that the sand in the desert heated by sunlight can be used for curing various diseases including rheumatism and arthritis. Every year when the hot summer approaches, patients from everywhere come to Turpan. They put up simply-equipped tents as shelter against the hot sun and then bury the diseased part of their body into the burning-hot sand as part of a "fire oasis sand-therapy" which is a combination of thermotherapy,massage and magnetic therapy. The scene is very much like sunbathing on a beach, which is a unique marvel of Turpan.

The Turpan Basin boasts of a large variety of geological and topographical features and it is also endowed with very rich natural resources. In "The Book of Hun -- Record of the West Region", there is a description: "The land of the Cheshi Kingdom is fertile and beautiful." In "The Book of Northern Dynasty -- Record of the Western Region" Turpan Basin is depicted as where "The climate is mildly warm, and the land is fertile. Rice and wheat can be harvested twice a year, silkworm breeding is suitable, fruit is abundant, and rich in paint, has is a kind of grass called the sheep*thorn on which honey is grown,tasting good. There is a highly developed irrigation system. Cheshi also produces red salt which is very delicious, an white salt as clean as jade. People in Gaochang use white salt to fill their pillows, which they even present to the imperial court of China as tribute. Grape wine is abundant ...... In the kindom sheep and horses are herded to obscure places to prevent them from being robbed, and where cannot find, outsiders." These historical records indicate that ever since very ancient times the agriculture in the Turpan Basin has been highly developed and the salt mines have long been explored and utilized.The total area of arable land in Turpan Basin amounts to 700,000 mu. Farm crops consist chiefly of wheat and sorghum.As there is plenty of light and heat resources, great day*night temperature difference and little rainfall, the grape, Hami-melon and long~staple cotton produced here are highly recommended in the world for their excellent quality. Grapes grown in Turpan fall into more than 10 varieties, such as the Horse Udder, seedless White, Red Grape, Kashhar Grape, Suo-Suo Grape, etc.
Since 1960s, 300 new strains of grapes have been introduced from abroad for trial planting, thus substantially enriching the variety of grapes in the Basin. Hami melon is another special local product of the Turpan Basin, boasting of such fine-quality varieties as Crisp Red-Core, Black Eyebrow, Honey Sweet, Paotai Red, Bag of Sugar and Golden Dragon. A large amount of Hami melons are exported abroad and sold to other places in China. It is reputed as the ~most precious fruit". Besides, this famous land of melon and fruit also abounds with water-melon, pear, apricot, peach, pomegranate, mulberry, fig, sand date,
etc. The bumper harvests of melons and fruits bring about a thriving processing industry. The Turpan Melon and Fruit Company and Hongliuhe Fruit Farm, the Shanshan County Fruit Winery, etc. have installed advanced equipment from other places of China or from abroad by means of joint management. As a result, the pure grape juice wines they brew are highly
reputed for their superb quality and mellow taste. Other products they offer, such as grape juice, Hami melon juice and mulberry juice as well as various kinds of canned fruits are also priced products. The raisins of Turpan have long been enjoying the fame of "green pearls of China" for their colour, mellow taste and delicious sour/sweet flavour. Dried Hami melon, dried apricot, and preserved peach also demonstrate their outstanding tastiness. All these products are favorites of the tourists.Long-staple cotton is an important raw material for the textile industry. The cotton grown in Turpan is pure-white with excellent spinnability. 80% of the cotton is up to the quality standards of Grade-1 and Grade-2 cotton, which is exported to Japan, the USSR and Romania, enjoying an enthusiastic international market. The Basin is also rich in vegetables. At the foot of the Flaming Mountain, the spring season arrives earlier than anywhere else in Xinjiang and, therefore, the spring vegetables
grown there are on the market earlier than those of any other places of Xinjiang and are sold in Urumqi and other cities. The Basin is surrounded by large tracts of grassland on which sheep, horses, cattle, donkeys, and camels are fattened.Along with the development of modern science and technology, the abundant resources of Turpan are being further explored and utilized.On the southern slope of the Bogda Peak there is a glacier with a total area of 120 square kilometers. In order to make full use of the water sources, reservoirs have been built, such as the Kokya, Hongshan and Shengjin reservoirs. The water is also used to develop fish farming. Initial survey indicates that the reserve of mirabilite in the Aydingkol Lake reaches 25 million tons and that of salt 60 million tons. These constitute an advantageous condition for the development of the chemical industry. The Seven-Spring Lake Chemical Plant which was set up in 1959 produces 50,000 tons of anhydrous sulphuric acid,
15,000 tons of sodium sulphate, 85,000 tons of refined salt; all the products enjoy high quality and low cost, with an enthusiastic market both at home and abroad. Salt pillow, which was used in the ancient times as a tribute to the imperial court, is produced in the Salt Mountain. The salt mine-bed is as thick as scores of meters, crystal clear and suitable for carving artistic works and its artistic effect is similar to that of ice carving. The Turpan Basin has considerable coal deposit, too. Other metal and non-metal ores being dug include: iron, copper, gold, manganese, petroleum, gypsum, limestone, expanded perlite, quartz,
marble, asbestos, boron, crude soda, and mineral water. Geological prospects show that Turpan might be the third most promising basin for finding petroleum next only to the Junggar Basin and the Tarim Basin. In the Turpan Basin thermo-power stations, hydro-power stations and train power stations spread all over. The inexhaustible light and thermal resources and wind
power resources have a bright future for further development.

 

"Wear fur in the morning, but gauze at noon; hug the stove while enjoying melons" is a popular saying in Xinjiang. The first half of the saying depicts the huge temperature difference within the same day, while the latter half is a description of what
one sees in Turpan. Hami melons and watermelons in Turpan can be preserved until the following spring. In the winter, on melon stalls, a fire is built for warming while the hawker sells his watermelon. When visitors see this unique scene they cannot
but be attracted to sit by the stove and enjoy the melon. The total area of the Turpan Prefecture is 6,728 square kilometers consisting of Turpan City, Shanshan County and Toksun County inhabited by a population of 460,000 composed of Uygurs,Hans and Huis. With the Uygurs making up 70% of the population. Turpan City is the political, economic and cultural center
of the prefecture and historically it was an important strategic spot on the Silk Road. Today, Turpan is well-known as a city of grapes, equipped with complete tourist facilities. The population of the city proper is 60,000. And in the suburbs there are
grapevines, orchards, karezes, as well as ancient cities, ancient minarets, ancient graveyards, thousand-buddha grottoes and ancient Islamic buildings, spread all over. Turpan is a famous city with a long history, situated in the northwest of China, Its
unique feature typical of the West Region and its colorful ethnic customs are attracting an endless flow o[ both Chinese and foreign tourists.The Uygurs and the Huis are believers of Islam, and they pray five times a day. Each year they observe two important
festivals: the Lesser Bayram and the Corban, They strictly adhere to the teachings of the Koran, and the convention of not eating pork. The Uygur people are simple and honest, and they respect the old and care for the young. The are hospitable and attach great importance to courtesy. When guests arrive, the most senior person has priority of entrance. The guests sit on carpets and young do not smoke or drink in front of the old. When meeting their seniors, friends or relatives, they hold up the left hand to touch the chest with the upper part of the body leanding slightly forward, as a way of paying respect and regards.
Before and after the elderly people have had their meals as guests or in their own house, they often stroke their cheeks with both hands to make a "Duwa" (a religious ritual of blessing.) Sometimes even after shaking hands with a friend, the old one
would also make a "Duwa". All the people irrespective sex and age are fond of wearing small square hats bearing colourful patterns. The patterns are embroidered bright and beautiful. Women are fond of wearing long skirts. In winter they wear short coats over the skirts, and thick underwear to keep off the cold. They love to wear ornaments such as earrings, bracelets and necklaces. As they use vegetable dye on their eyebrows beginning in childhood, so their brows are extraordinarily thick and black. Young girls comb their hair into more than ten plaits, looking all the more lovely. The Uygurs like milk-tea. "Nan", one of their staple foods, is a bread made in their home-ovens. The bread is dry and,therefore, can be preserved for a long time. Another staple food is pilaf prepared with rice, lamb, carrots and raisins. It is colorful and delicious. It is also a 'must' when entertaining guests or observing festivals. Daily fare include hand-stretched noodles and piece noodles. Barbacued whole lamb, shish kebab, baked stuffed bun, thin-wrapped steamed stuffed bun and boiled lamb are famous foods of local ethnic flavour.The ethnic architecture of Turpan has its own style. In particular, the mosques and mazars (graves of saints), with their domed roofs, demonstrate distinct features of Islamic architecture. Houses built with wood and mud or with sun-dried mud bricks are the traditional buildings of the locality. Entering a farmer's courtyard, once can generally see a grape trellis, The houses usually have quite deep corridors. Inside the room is a raised dirt platform floor, On it is laid a felt mattress for sitting
or lying down. The walls are usually half-covered with fabric, and the Uygurs are especially fond of hanging expensive rugs on the walls as decoration. Many adobes with ventilation holes on all sides can be seen everywhere. These are the traditional drying rooms for air-drying grapes.The Uygurs are highly respected for their excellent handicrafts. Traditional products include: felt rugs and carpets, silk fabrics, printed cotton fabrics, flower-patterned hats, knives and high boots. Their folk embroidery shows a strong local style
and ethnic features. In summer, women love to wear dresses made of "Atlas" silk fabric. This is a unique Uygur creation with bright patterns and sharp contrast of colours. Wearing dresses made of this fabric, the women seem to become colorful clouds moving gracefully in the sky. Turpan is also a famous land of song and dances. All the Uygurs, men and women, old and young, are unexceptionally fond of dancing. Especially on holidays, festivals, wedding ceremonies or welcoming parties, they would organize grand parties to sing and dance, A very popular mass singing and dancing party is called the "Mexrep". It is a combination of singing, dancing and other folk amusements. At a mexrep men and women would gather to sing and dance to their heart's content to musical accompaniment.