This ancient trade route starts
in the old capitals of Luoyang and Xi'an, 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 Sand Mountain.
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
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 Friday prayer.
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.
Xi'an Travel Attractions
of Stone Steles