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heavenly lake from the air

heaven lake 120 kilometers northeast of Urumqi ccity

Welcome to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Situated in the heartland of the Euro-Asian continent, this region is characterized by large expanses of territory, numerous ancient cultural and scenic spots, and a multitude of ethnic people of nationalities as well as a variety of interesting social customs. But today, I will show you around the Heavenly Lake that is cuddled in the Tianshan Moun-tains.Situated on the slope of Mount Bogda, 110 kilometers to the east of Urumqi, the capital city of the Region, the Heavenly Lake is less than a three hour drive from Urumqi.

The Tianshan Mountains cover a vast expanse of hilly areas. They are 1,700 kilometers in length and 300 kilometers in width, roughly one quarter of the whole territory of this northwestern autonomous region. These east-west mountains originate from the Pamirs and lie in the center of Xinjiang, dividing the territory into two, with two basins of Tarim and Junggur on each side. Characterized by steepness and natural grandeur, this huge group of mountains is widely seen as the symbol of Xinjiang.The Tianshan Mountains were first mentioned in the chronological works of the Warring States Period. In later dynasties, various names were applied to them. In a time span of over 2,000 years, this group of steep and snaking mountains and peaks have witnessed a large number of historical events, including various exchanges between China's central government and its neighboring countries in the west. They also bear testimony to the emerging of the world-famous Silk Road.Now we arrive at the foot of the famous natural wonderwork.Featuring snow and ice-covered hills, valleys, glaciers, luxuriant vegetation and fresh open air, the' Tianshan Mountains stand more than 4,000 meters above sea level. They are topped by Mount Bogda, which is 5,445 meters high and looks as if it were a natural guard for the capital city of Urumqi. The snow and ice serve as a natural reservoir that nurture the farming of the autonomous region. Owing to this, local farmers in the region successfully grow wheat, regardless that the average rainfall is less than 150 millimeters. Water found in the glaciers is used for wine brewing and is also packaged as mineral water for drink.The climate of the Tianshan Mountains is characterized by a variety of types. With the ascending topography, the temperature decreases and a clearcut zoning of vegeration appears. In areas where the altitude is 1,600 meters below the sea level, a steppe type prevails. In areas where the altitude is between 1,600 and 2,800 meters, a combined climate type of steppe and forest dominates. In areas that stand 2,800 and 4,000 meters above sea level, an alpine-meadow climate exists.These mountains are also rich in forest resources. This area boasts two million hectares of forested land and more than 100 million cubic meters of timber. Dragon spruce is the dominant species.Siberian larch, birch and other rare trees grow as well.Luxuriant vegetation can be found in the valleys deep in the mountains. As many as 60 species of grass, including medicinal herbs, grow in vast expanses. Droves of wild animals including Mongolian gazelles and red deer roam around. Brown bears, wild hogs, roe deer, argali, snow leopards, lynxs and swans can also be found.Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region also serves as a home to people of 47 ethnic groups such as Uygur, Kazak and Mogolian. The Kazak people mainly live in the picturesque tourist area of Heavenly Lake. Living a nomadic life, the Kazak herdsman dwell in white colored yurts. This way of life was first mentioned in a poem written in the Han Dynasty, and this show that the Kazaks have led this life for at least 2,000 years. A typical yurt is composed of wall-like felt, supporting poles, ceilings, felt rug and the door, which is easy to assemble and dismantle. It can shield against heat in the daylight and chill at night. There is an opening of 0.33 meters in diameter on the ceiling to let in the light.Now let's pay a visit to the yurt. The Kazaks are easy to tell from the costumes they wear. A typical Kazak girl or young women puts on a long and pleated dress that has floral designs on the sleeves.On the outside she dons a leather robe buttoning down the front, and a multi-colored cone-shaped headgear that is decorated with owl plumage. A young man wears a white-colored and lace-trimmed cotton shirt inside and leather robe outside. Men also wear a wide and long cotton belt around their waists to shield from wind. They invariably carry with them a knife on the right side of the belt. The majority of costumes are homemade by themselves.The Kazaks are Moslems. Pork is a strict taboo. The aged people will be given priority when entering the yurt; visitors are supposed to sit on the rug instead of the host's bed. Visitors should accept the host's treat even if they do not feel like food or drink. They should wash their hands before and after the meal.Tea with milk is an everyday drink that is widely enjoyed by the Kazaks, It is made of brick tea, fresh milk and salt. The drink contains aromatic oil that helps in digestion and refreshing. Kazaks enjoy a fermented and baked flour pancake as their staple food. Known as "nang," this food is prepared in a round frying pan. Specially fried rice is also widely enjoyed by the Kazak people. It is prepared with fresh mutton, carrot, onion, vegetable oil, lamb oil and rice. Many herdsmen also enjoy boiled mutton. This course is served with a knife, and the guest can help himself with his own hands as well. Proceeding forward again, we will finally arrive at the Heavenly Lake. The first sight of the wonder is the Stone Entrance, or one of the eight wonders of the Heavenly Lake tourist area. This scene features precipitous cliffs and deep gorges with roaring waters flowing between.On the west, the visitors will see a pool of clear and tranquil water, which is known as Western Minor Heavenly Lake. Termed as Dragon's Pool Reflecting the Bright Moon, it is one of the eight wonders in this area.Proceeding along the zigzagging path, we will at last reach the lake proper. The Heavenly Lake is shaped like a crescent. It is 3,400 meters long and 1,500 meters wide, and covers a space of 4.9 square kilometers. Standing 1,980 meters above sea level, this lake is 40 meters deep on average, with the deepest reaching 105 meters.The Heavenly Lake is a moraine by nature. Splendid peaks andglaciers were developed some 200,000 years ago. As a result of prolonged scouring and wearing off of the glaciers, a gigantic pit was formed. Later, the climate turned warmer, glaciers receded and a large amount of gravel accumulated, resulting in huge terminal moraines. In the end, the Heavenly lake took shape. Since remote times, quite a few of myths and legends circulated concerning the beautiful scenery. Standing by the clear lake, visitors can admire another three wonders of the area. On the northern bank of the lake stands an old elm, which is the only tree by the water. It is termed the "Magic Needle that Tranquilizes the Ocean." On the southeast, people will see the snow-covered Mount Bogda. In the bright sunlight, the three main peaks shine and glisten. This scene is known as "Appreciating Snow on the Southern Hills." In addition, people can also see the sunrise amidst vapors and mists. This is known as "First Rays on Seas of Mountains." Visitors can also enjoy different yet beautiful views in the afternoon and at dusk. Proceeding further westward, there stand three huge rocks in deep valleys some 4,000 meters away. These rocks are 2,718 metersabove the sea level and resemble three candles in a row, hence the name of "Three Stones that Support the Sky." In the olden times, the Taoist priests that lived in the mountains used to hang lamps atop the huge stones as a sign of peace and stability. Therefore, these stones are also known as the "Lamppost Hills."Still, there is one more scene known as "Viewing Pines on theWestern Slope." Visitors can enjoy the beautiful forests of countless dragon spruces. Wild mushrooms can also be gathered in the woods. At last, in the downstream of the Heavenly Lake, there is a running and roaring cataract that is known as "Soaring Cataract and Suspending Fountains." The pool at the foot of the cataract is known as Eastern Minor Heavenly Lake. Now I'd like to tell you something more about the lifestyle of the Kazaks. The Kazaks are music lovers, and fine horses and songs are likened as wings for them. Many of them pluck "dongbula," a string instrument, and sing songs on horseback. There are lyricists who sing folk songs and ballads for a living. On each summer, a number of competitions are held and rewards are offered for prize-winning lyricists. Each competition will last about seven to ten days. The Kazaks are also fond of a dynamic dance that is rich in nomadic characteristics. They usually dance to the accompaniment of dongbulas. Corban and Rozah are the most important eventful festivals for the Kazaks. On these occasions they are duty-bound to pay visits to friends and relatives. What is more, on each Spring Equinox, the Kazak people celebrate it as their New Year's Day. A special meal that is a blend of mutton, cheese and cereal will be prepared. The Kazaks, both men and women, are good horse riders. On major festivals a variety of equestrian competitions are held. Marks manship and wrestling contests that are carried out on horseback are also held. With this our visit to the Heavenly Lake and the accompanying tourist wonders draws to a conclusion. I hope this will leave you with a rewarding and lasting impression. Thank you all.