Exploring The Opposite End Of China

It would be a fantastic experience to travel in Xinjiang--the opposite end of China, a large land located in the northwestern side of the country— not only a wealth of varied landscapes raging from glaciers to desert oasis but also the colorful lifestyles and customs of the people from many ethnic groups living in Xinjiang hold a special attraction for travelers to the western region.

The region is home to many extraordinarily rich and colorful tourist attractions. There are the Heaven Lake and the Bogda Mountain; there are also the Flaming Mountain of Turpan, so called for the deeply fissured red sandstone slopes which twist heavenward like flickering flames. Then there is the rich archaeological legacy in the ancient cities like Loulan, Jiaohe and Gaochang handed down from the ancient Silk Road.

Heaven Lake (Tian Chi)

Being 2,000 meters (6,500) above sea level, Heavenly Lake is a huge clear lake being 2,000 meters (6,500 ft) above sea level and surrounded by the perennial snow-capped Heaven Moutain range (Tianshan). The steep Heaven Mountain are densely packed with pine and cypress trees as well as fields of wild flowers and herbs; and the lake is deep, calm and limpid (the deepest spot of the lake is 373m.). When the peaks and the clouds are mirrored in the glittering water, the scenery is simply stunning that one feels like they are in paradise.

Heaven Lake freezes up in late October and thaws in early May. Coming from the glacier of Bogda Mountain, the water of Heaven Lake is pure and the ice surface is smooth. In summer the temperature stays at around 20 °C, being a pleasant and comfortable summer resort; while in winter, it is a good alpine skating rink, with a gentle breeze blowing most of the time.

Heaven Lake and Heaven Mountain .


Flaming Mountain (Huoyan Shan)

Flaming Mountain are red sandstone hills on the northern edge of the Turpan Basin. The red of the hills has been likened to burning flames, and the temperatures often reach a sweltering 55°C. Flaming Mountain are so named because in the evenings the red clay Mountain reflect the heat and glow of the desert and seem to burn.

The Mountain were made famous in the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West by the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) writer Wu Cheng'en. which describes Buddhist monk Xuan Zang’ pilgrimage to India. In the Han account of the legend, it is said the Monkey King stirred up trouble in Heaven and kicked off the oven for making immortal pills. Charcoals fell from the sky to where the Flaming Mountain now lies. The mountain is barren and extremely hot in summer. During the trek approaching the mountain, visitors will find the soles of their shoes soften in the intense heat. 

Loulan Ancient City (Loulan Gucheng)

Founded in the 2nd century BC in an oasis with rich water network, Loulan was an ancient city along the central Old Silk Road where the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220) central government set up its administrative organs. By the fourth century it was the most prosperous city in Xinjiang with a population of 14,000, where merchants of all nationalities converged. It suddenly waned into the history after about 800 years flourish, and as totally collapsed into dust since then. Archaeologists conclude that a change in river course and deterioration of the natural environment led to the city's vanish.

A Swedish explorer Sven Hedin accidentally discovered the city buried in desert in 1900. Ruins of government offices, residences, and Buddhist pagodas, as well as exquisite silk fabrics and glassware have been unearthed. The most significant finding was a female mummy, the "Loulan beauty," whose good looks are undiminished after 1,000 years later.

Ruins of residences.