This ancient trade route starts in the
old capitals of Luoyang and X'ian,reaches the Yellow River
at Lanzhou, follows along the "Gansu Corridor"
and stretches along the edge of deserts and mountains.
Before the discovery of the sea route to India, the Silk
Road was the most important connection between the Orient
and the West. It experienced its last great era during
the time of Mongols, when the entire route from China
to the Mediterranean was part of one empire. At that time,
Nicolo and Marco Polo traveled from Kashgar to the Far
East along the southern route. The overland link quickly
lost its importance as trade across the seas developed.
Today it has been replaced in China with the railway line
Lanzhou-Hami-Urumqi. The last part, to Alma-Ata in Kazatchstan
was completed in 1992. The trade route was never known
as the Silk Road historically. It was given the name by
a German geographer Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen.
Zhangye, the capital of Zhangye province
was founded in 121 BC as a garrison town, has a bell
tower in the town centre. It dates from 1509 , with
a bell from the Tang period. The Wooden Pagoda found
here is also dates from the Tang period, though its
the first six floors out of a total of eight are actually
made of brick. It is generally no possible for travelers
to stay in these places as some of them are restricted
Jinquan, which is a growing industrial
town, was founded in 111 BC as a garrison town, Between
127 and 102 BC, the Han emperors relocated about 980,000
peasant families as paramilitary peasants including
at least 700,000 victims of the flood in Shandong. The
charming Springs Parks at the edge of the town was built
as a memorial to General Huo Qubing who is once said
to have been given a barrel of wine by the Han emperor
Wudi as a reward for having gained a decisive victory
over the Xiongnu. About 15 km south-west of the town
is the Buddhist temple site of Wenshushan.
Dunhuang, the oasis town lies in
an irrigated cotton-producing oasis. Between cotton
fields and threshing areas at the edge of the town,
the White Pagoda Dagoda is reminiscent in its shape
of the White Dagoda in Beijing.
The Mogao Caves which is about 25
km southeast of the town has 492 grottoes. The first
caves are said to have been built by the monk Lezun
in 366 and the last ones were carved out at the time
of the Mongolian conquest in 1277. Purely touristic
attractions in Dunhuang are the Lunar Lake and the Singing
Urumqi, the capital of the Autonomous
Region lies 900 metres above sea level is a huge town.
About 75 percent of its population are Han Chinese and
only 10 percent each are Uighur and Hui people. The
development of industry has resulted in considerable
environmental pollution in the recent years. The Museum
of the Autonomous Region is worth a visit. Apart from
significant archaeological finds it also exhibits life-size
models of the houses and tools of the most important
nationalities in the region. It is worth taking an excursion
to the Lake of Heaven which is 100 km away. It lies
1,900 metres high in the Tianshan mountains at the foot
of the 5,445 metres high Bogdashan where the journey
passes some scenic landscape.
Turfan, can be reached from Urumqi
in a half-day bus journey from the town. Only a few
old buildings have been preserved in Turfan. The Imin
Minaret, built with clay bricks in 1776 and the sparsely
furnished mosque next to it are the symbols of the town.
The underground irrigation system or Karez is worth
visiting. In Karez, the melting water from the mountains
is channeled underground to the oasis over long distances.
The local museum shows relics from the Silk Road, mummies
from the Astana Graves, silks from the early period
of transcontinental trade and funerary objects.
Kashgar lies 1,300 metres high on
the bank of Tuman river in the middle of an irrigation
oasis with cotton and agricultural cultivation. The
population of 240,000 is predominantly Uighur. Kashgar
only became Chinese around 200 BC, then again during
the Tang period and finally during the period of the
Qing emperors. Kashgar is the furthest away form the
sea of all the big towns and it is closer to Moscow
, Islamabad, Delhi, Kabul and Teheran than to Beijing.
The Id Kah Mosque in the town centre was
renovated in 1981 and it is China's biggest mosque with
a central dome and two flanking minarets. Behind the
gate are open, tree-lined squares for prayers and 100
metres behind Is the Great Prayer Hall, open only for
Taxkorgan about 250 km from Kashgar is the
"last outpost" in China before Paksitan is
the capital of the Autonomous District of the same name
with majority of Tadzhik peoples. According to accounts
by Ptolemy, trader from the East and West used to trade
their goods here without crossing the borders.
Xinjiang Travel attractions