The Great Silk Road
The Great Silk Road - is one of the most grandiose and ancient system of caravan roads, which served as the main connecting link between West and East during almost two millenniums and took a part in cultural exchange between ancient countries. German geographer gave this name as silk was the main transported goods. The fist Chinese caravan came out on the road in 121 year BC: camels with precious cloth and bronze products went through the sands of Turpan cavity and Fiery Mountains to the Fergana Oasis. When the road was completely formed it consisted of 3 lines. It started from Xian city and reached Xinjiang, from where the road divided into three destinations: northern, central and southern.
It passed almost through all of Xinjiang cities therefore in these centuries there have been collected a lot of monuments which give information about caravan road. Beside the silk there were a lot of goods which were popular in overseas countries such as best-known white Chinese porcelain with graceful paintings and which was very expensive in Europe, jewelries, mirrors, umbrellas, tea, Chinese paperspices and cinnamon, vines, perfumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, weapon, gold, silver, glass, tea etc. Nowadays it is possible to travel around the territory of the Great Silk Road and visit cities lost in desserts
The Red Mountain is towering in the very heart of Urumqi is a symbol of this city. Because of special type of sandstone, mountain has red-brown color, that’s why it is called as a Red Mountain. It stretches for 1.5 km from north to south and for 1 km from east to west. There is a big park near the foothill, where you can climb to the top of the mountain, or take a boat and watch ethnic performances.
There is a Zhenlongta pagoda on the top, which is 10 meters in height and it was built after formation of In the opposite side of China on the place of former “Dragon’s conquests” pagoda. In front of Red Mountain less than in 1 km there is towering Yamalike hill, which were the one whole mountain and according to the legend it was divided into two after killing red dragon, where its two parts formed this two hills. The ruler of China Shan-Han ordered to build these two pagodas because he wanted to protect the territory of the city from flood, as once the river overflew. Pagodas were made of grey brick, each of them are in 10.5 meters in height and consist of 9 floors. There is also a complex of Buddhist Temples on the Red Mountain. It is open daily from 10 a.m. till 9 p.m
Lavender plantations of Khochen County
Imagine endless field covered with bright violet flowers, planted in slim lines between which it is almost impossible to see green leaves. A placatory flavor is spread over the field. It is surprising to see such lavender fields in hot county of Xinjiang. Khochen is the first in the top eight world manufacturers of this flower in China. In the past Khochen was the key point on the route of the Great Silk Road and always was one of the cultural, financial and political centers of Xinjiang. In the middle of the 20th century here was the first time of growing Lavender, when the specialists from Beijing Botanical Garden have come to do that.
After some time Khochen county became the lavender capital of Celestial. As a rule lavender blossoms in the middle of June. In this time all plantations look like Indian clothes painted in rich tones of violet color. This is the best time for visiting these fields, because later they will be gathered and go to perfumery factories.
Tianchi Heavenly Lake in Tien-Shan Mountains
This lake is placed high in the mountains under the shade of Bogdo-Ula mountain ridge. Tianchi lake is positioned 110 km away from Urumqi 2000 meters above the sea level with the length 3.3 km and width 1.5 km. Locals call this pace as a “pearl of heavenly mountain” (“Tien-Shan” means “heavenly mountain” from Chinese). The lake is filling by waters of melting snow, therefore the water inside is crystal clear. As most of the territory of Xinjiang consist deserts and mountains Tianchi Lake become a real oasis for inhabitants. Water is always cool and refreshing. Picturesque peaks of mountains covered with eternal snows, pine forests and meadows.
The most impressing among them is Bogdafen peak with the height more than 6000 meters. Earlier the lake was called as “Yaochi” what means “nephrite lake” from Chinese language; but its modern name was given in 1783. It is possible to see flying eagles in the sky during the trip along Tianchi Lake. One can also fishing there and spend night in yurt. It is very cold in winter time, that’s why it is better to visit lake from May to September.
The former name of Urumqi was Djungar what means from ancient Mongolian language “wonderful grassland”. Thus this name was given to the city millenniums ago it still didn’t lose its actuality. The territory of wonderful Southern pastures which have total area about 119 sq. km starts only in one hour drive away from city.
Valleys covered with thick green grass stretched along the northern foothill of Karawuquntag mountains. In summer time this place become a real resort, where local Kazakhs, Uygurs, Uzbeks and tourists have rest in yurts on banks of the rivers. Here one can make breathtaking trip to waterfall, see the settlements of Kazakh nomads who always gladly meet foreigners. If you’re lucky these hospitable people will invite you in yurt and treat some milky tea, cheese and fried lamb. It is better to take the warm clothes because it is cold at night time.
After visiting main sights and museums, tasting exotic dishes of local cuisine and having a rest in one of the parks, travelers as a rule are usually puzzled by souvenirs buying – such pleasant things, which remind us about perfect trip at home, which revive in our memory flavors and sounds of far countries. Urumqi is the most successful place in Xinjiang for buying souvenirs and if you ask locals whether it is better place to buy national goods, everyone will answer you that this place is “Erdaoqiao” bazaar. Nowadays this bazaar is known as a “Grand Bazaar” or “Big bazaar”. This market is called “the fair of the people from all over the world”. In evening hundreds of traders whose screams are drowned out by live music gather there. Bazaar looks like a large colorful mosaic consisting of numerous shops, where people sell embroidered Uygur headdresses, heavy silver ornaments, elegant knives, colorful handmade carpets, silk clothes, etc.
It is possible to buy the sweetest raisin, dried apricots, orient spices, nuts and other dried fruits. Don’t forget to trade with customers as you can buy things twice cheaper. This bazaar is the largest wholesale and retail market of national goods in Xinjiang. It is easy to find bazaar as it is placed in the center of the city on main highway road of Urumqi and it can be found and recognized by new pavilions, decorated in Arabian architectural style. The total area of the bazaar is about 35 thousand sq. m. and it contains more than 600 shops with various goods and products.
Xinjiang Museum of Local Lore located in Urumqi on Xibei Lu street represents a large scientific-educational complex contains exhibition halls as well as Xinjiang cultural relics study center. Xinjiang Museum of Local Lore was constructed in 1953 in Uygur architectural style; the total square of exhibition area is 7800 sq. m. More than fifty thousand exhibits illustrate cultural features of minority living in Xinjiang and introduce visitors with history of this region.
It is possible to see here ancient silk clothes, which got there through the Great Silk Road: ancient pictures and embroidery, traditional clothing and headdresses of locals, rich carpets, and tableware found in excavations, etc. The most curious exhibits are 10 ancient mummies so called “the singing dead of Takla Makan desert”. These mummies whose age is about 2200-3800 years were found in desert not far away from Urumqi in 20th century and became the real sensation in scientific world. Mummies were called “singing” as their mouths were open as they scream or sing. Because of very dry climate
Tatar and Qinghai mosques
Diaspora. The complex was reconstructed in 1919 with the support of Dekhe Yanshan – local philanthropist. Nowadays the mosque – is important Islamic center in Urumqi, main thing in religious activity of local Kazakh, Tatar, Uygur, Uzbek and Hui people. The total area of whole complex is about 3000 sq. m. where main hall occupies 800 sq. km. with capacity of 1000 people. Mosque is decorated in Tatar cult architectural style: the upper part is crowned with a golden tower in the form of crescent; columns, cornices, doors and beams are decorated with carving and plaster moldings with complicated ornament in the form of flowers or geometric paintings.
There are no any images of animals as well as in other mosques. Beside chapels there are rooms for Koran studying, reception hall, rest room for Imam and other rooms. Tatar mosque is opened for tourists but visitors must follow the rules: mustn’t wear shorts, short skirts and open t-shirts; clothing must be modest, low-key and closed; shoes must be taken of before entering the mosque; it is prohibited to raise a voice, to use foul language or laugh.
Qinghai mosque was constructed in 1868 with the support of Qinghai Hui people (Chinese Muslims) and it was called Xining at first. Later in 1918 and 1947 mosque was generally reconstructed. Brick-wooden complex has total area 1 232 sq. m. and consist of main prayer hall and yard with the gates. Its capacity is about 500 people.
This big orient mosque, which holds about thousand people, was constructed in the period of Qing dynasty and reconstructed in 1906. The mosque is protected by the state and belongs to the key relics of culture. Unlike other mosques it was built from traditional brick as wooden buildings of Chinese central region.
Majestic and wonderful monument of architecture with 40 red columns is affronted to east side. Above the arch there is carved an inscription “White Koran”. The elevated part is “Moon Pavilion”. This is a place from where Imam of the mosque watches the moon and proclaim about that. This pavilion is octagonal which is rare in Xinjiang.
National Park of Urumqi
National Park has 115-year history. Initially the name of the park was Jianhu Park or Western Park as it is located on the west side of “Western bridge” of Urumqi. Park is parted in traditional Chinese style of park architecture: Danfenggchayong Tower, Longweng Temple, Zhuixia Pavilion, Xiaochun Pavilion, Jianhu Pavilion, Yueweichaotang Chamber. This is nice place for rest, very green with large number of flowers. It is situated on the place where officers who built the Urumqi had a rest.
There a lot of marvelous sites for rest: Children Entertainment Park, skating rink. Ancient lake is filled with boats. In spring and autumn there held exhibitions of flowers, potted landscape exhibition, exhibition of portrait painting, photography exhibition. There is also held ice carving and the skating rink opening.
Tien-Shan Safari Park
The total area of the park is 63 sq. km. and it is placed in mountains 35 km away from Urumqi (in 1 km from Turpan -Urumqi highway road). This is a reserve where excursions in “safari” style (visitors are in the bus, animals are outside). 3 000 of animals of 170 different kinds inhabit here. Here are represented: white swans, snow leopard, Siberian tiger, white-collar heron, peacock, wild camel, deer, yak, golden monkey, ostrich, ibex, lion and many other animals and birds.
Two circus playgrounds work here: birds perform on one playground, predators, dogs and monkeys perform on another. It is possible to move by car in zoo. Here you can see animals entered in list of guarded animals such as snow leopard, ibex, argali, bustard, black stork, bear, red deer, grey crane. The founders of the park are planning to create more zones for tourists as well for animals.