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Turpan, Dunhuang and Jiuguan

Turpan, Dunhuang and Jiuguan in 1987

Turpan, also spelled Turfan or Tulufan, is a city located in the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang in western China. It is situated in the Turpan Depression, which is the second lowest point (after the Dead Sea) on Earth’s surface. Turpan has a harsh, arid climate, with extremely hot summers (often reaching 40C in July) and cold winters.

The region around Turpan is known for its historical and cultural significance. It was an important stop along the ancient Silk Road, serving as a key hub for trade and cultural exchange between East and West. The city has a rich history, with archaeological sites, ancient ruins, and well-preserved artifacts attesting to its past.

One notable feature of Turpan is the system of karez wells, an ancient underground irrigation system that brings water from the nearby mountains to the agricultural fields. This system has been crucial for the cultivation of crops in the arid climate of the region.

Tourist attractions in and around Turpan include the Jiaohe Ruins (an ancient city ruins), the Emin Minaret, the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves, and the Flaming Mountains. Additionally, Turpan is famous for its grapes, and the region produces raisins and wine.

Dunhuang is a city located in the northwestern part of Gansu Province in China. It is situated in an oasis in the Gobi Desert, along the ancient Silk Road. Dunhuang is renowned for its historical and cultural significance, as well as its striking natural landscapes. Here are some key features of Dunhuang:

  1. Mogao Caves (Mogao Grottoes): The Mogao Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important Buddhist cave complexes in China. These caves house a vast collection of murals, sculptures, and manuscripts, dating from the 4th to the 14th centuries. The art within the caves reflects a fusion of different cultures along the Silk Road.
  2. Crescent Lake (Yueyaquan): This is a crescent-shaped oasis located just outside Dunhuang. It is surrounded by towering sand dunes and is a popular tourist attraction due to its picturesque setting. Despite the harsh desert environment, the lake has persisted for centuries.
  3. Echoing-Sand Mountain (Mingsha Shan): This massive sand dune mountain is named for the sound produced by the shifting sands when the wind blows, creating a sound that resembles a distant drum or the roar of an approaching train. Visitors often enjoy camel rides or sandboarding on the dunes.
  4. Dunhuang Museum: The Dunhuang Museum showcases the history, art, and culture of the region. It provides insights into the Silk Road trade, the development of Buddhism in the area, and the significance of Dunhuang as a cultural crossroads.
  5. Western Thousand Buddha Caves: Apart from the Mogao Caves, Dunhuang is also home to other cave complexes, including the Western Thousand Buddha Caves. These caves contain Buddhist art and sculptures and offer a glimpse into the historical and artistic development of the region.

Dunhuang’s strategic location along the Silk Road contributed to its historical importance as a major center for trade, culture, and religious exchange.

Jiuquan is a city in the northwestern part of Gansu Province, China. It is an important military and space launch center and has historical significance as a key location along the ancient Silk Road. The Jiayuguan Pass, also known as the “First and Greatest Pass Under Heaven,” is a significant historical and cultural site. It was a military fortification guarding the western end of the Ming Dynasty section of the Great Wall. The pass has a museum that provides insights into the history of the region and the Great Wall.


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