land of fire and oasis – Turpan 沙漠中的绿洲- 吐鲁番

(Distant Xinjiang – Part 5 of 6) – Part 4 of 6 here

9 August 2015
After travelling for a round trip of close to 2,000 km on the road between Urumqi and the beautiful Kanas nature reserve, the 2-hour journey from Urumqi to Turpan seemd like a rather short trip to us.

We were greeted by a very cool and drizzling morning in Urumqi but the rain did not bother us as it was a nice change and we enjoyed the cool weather. Besides, we were making our way to Turpan/Turfan or Tulufan (吐鲁番) and heading for the heat!

scenes on the way to Turpan

miles and miles of absolute nothingness on both sides of the road but Gobi (戈壁) sand! 寸草不生!

miles and miles of absolute nothingness on both sides of the road but Gobi (戈壁) sand! 寸草不生!

barren mountains

barren mountains

we drove through the windy area (風區) and my goodness, the wind was so strong that we could even feel it in the car! With the strong wind and the height of the van we had no choice but to reduce the speed, quite a scary experience!

we drove through the windy area (風區) and my goodness, the wind was so strong that we could even feel it in the car! With the strong wind and the height of the van we had no choice but to reduce the speed, quite a scary experience!

Turpan is historically and strategically an important town located along the Silk Road so we had practically set foot on the Silk Road!!!

turpan xinjiang

We were ready for the high temperature of around 45°C which we were told in advance to be prepared for but when we stepped out of the van we realised that the temperature was only around 38°C and considered rather mild in this “land of fire”! We were actually slightly disappointed that we did not get to experience what it was like to be “roasted” in “The Oven” (Turpan is nick-named “The Oven” of China)!

Turpan is an inland depression (盆地) with low altitude of more than 4,000 km² below sea level. Apart from having the lowest altitude, it also surpasses other cities in China for having the hottest weather with long hot summer days, driest climate with very little rain throughout the year and a variety of the sweetest fruit around and of course, the first and foremost being the grapes!

Lifeline…
Our first stop in Turpan was to see the impressive Karez system of water supply (坎兒井(坎兒井地下水利工程)) at Karez Water Museum.

turpan xinjiang

karez turpan xinjing

The “lifeline” of Turpan’s agriculture is the ancient Karez water system, an underground water supply which takes advantage of gravity and the slopes of the landscape to collect water from mountainous melting snow and channels it through its intricate series of vertical shafts, underground and above-ground canals and small reservoirs to provide essential irrigation in the dessert and water for daily use throughout all seasons of the year and it is also an ingenious way to reduce water evaporation.

The Karez technology dated back over 2,000 years ago and originated during the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – A.D. 24). It is recognised as one of the three most intriguing and impressive ancient engineering works in China together with The Great Wall and The Grand Canal (also known as the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal) (坎兒井地下水利工程與萬里長城和大運河/京杭大運河並稱為中國古代三大工程)!

As time moved on concrete canals and ditches were built, pipes installed, more wells dug and water resource management implemented and majority of these Karez wells have dried up. Today there are less than 300 of them left.

our tour guide was late so our host Mr Zhang took up the role as a part-time guide temporarily :)

our tour guide was late so our host Mr Zhang took up the role as a part-time guide temporarily 🙂

originally there were 1,784 Karez wells

originally there were 1,784 Karez wells

original length of the channel totalled at 5,272 km, wow!

original length of the channel totalled at 5,272 km, wow!

a brief lesson on the Karez water system

a brief lesson on the Karez water system

karez turpan xinjiang

we have gone underground, literally...

we have gone underground, literally…

guide explaining to us how it works...

guide explaining to us how it works…

stream of fresh cooling water...

stream of fresh cooling water…

for remembrance...

for remembrance…

After being wowed by the ancient water system and coming out from the museum, we got to see what Turpan is famous for…..

grapes!

grapes!

more grapes!

more grapes!

drying house (晾房) - dry air passes through the holes between the bricks and air-dries the grapes naturally, and turns them into raisins

drying house (晾房) – dry air passes through the holes between the bricks and air-dries the grapes naturally, and turns them into raisins

guide explaining how raisins are made - simply hung them on the frame to air dry in the drying house

guide explaining how raisins are made – simply hung them on the frame to air dry in the drying house

another view of the external wall of the drying house

another view of the external wall of the drying house

these grapes are just for show for tourists like us... :) (photo courtesy of May)

these grapes are just for show for tourists like us… 🙂
(photo courtesy of May)

freshly squeezed grape juice, refreshing!

freshly squeezed grape juice, refreshing!

After Karez we moved on to another famous touristy attraction in Turpan, the Grape Valley (葡萄溝) not far away from Karez.

grape valley turpan xinjiang

a long drive after the main gate and we drove past the local Uyghur villages before we got to the Grape Valley

a long drive after the main gate and we drove past the local Uyghur villages before we got to the Grape Valley

sights and sounds around Grape Valley

the local Uyghurs (維吾爾族人) sleep outside as it is cooler at night and there are beds like this outside or in the courtyard of every house

the local Uyghurs (維吾爾族人) sleep outside as it is cooler at night and there are beds like this outside or in the courtyard of every house

close-up of the Xinjiang barbecue where we had our lunch under the grape vines

close-up of the Xinjiang barbecue where we had our lunch under the grape vines

delicious seedless grapes and juicy water melon

delicious seedless grapes and juicy water melon

we were introduced to a few varieties of grapes....

we were introduced to a few varieties of grapes….

grape valley turpan xinjiang

grape valley  turpan xinjiang

Emma and I enjoying the cooling air-conditioning by the door of the building before (reluctantly!) going in to learn how wine was made and have a taste of the (rather sweet) Chinese wine! (photo courtesy of May)

Emma and I enjoying the cooling air-conditioning by the door of the building before (reluctantly!) going in to learn how wine was made and have a taste of the (rather sweet) Chinese wine!
(photo courtesy of May)

music and dance performance by the Uyghurs

music and dance performance by the Uyghurs

grape valley turpan xinjiang

grape valley turpan xinjiang

I found the architecture around Turpan very interesting…

houses of local Uyghurs
karez turpan xinjiang

karez turpan xinjiang

around Karez Water Museum
karez turpan xinjiang

karez turpan xinjiang

karez turpan xinjiang

karez turpan xinjiang

mosque
karez turpan xinjiang

karez turpan xinjiang

on our way out…

a variety of raisins taken at our guide's house when he invited us in for a short while after our tour had ended

a variety of raisins taken at our guide’s house when he invited us in for a short while after our tour had ended

May posed with our guide's wife and daughter

May posed with our guide’s wife and daughter

Emma enjoying the sweet seedless grapes freshly plucked and were still warm from the afternoon sun from our hospitable guide's back garden... wonderful experience!

Emma enjoying the sweet seedless grapes freshly plucked and were still warm from the afternoon sun from our hospitable guide’s back garden… wonderful experience!

(End of Part 5 of 6) – Part 6 of 6 here

3 thoughts on “land of fire and oasis – Turpan 沙漠中的绿洲- 吐鲁番

  1. Pingback: a lost underground city on the Silk Road – Jiaohe Ruins 絲路上沉默的地下古城 – 交河故城 | Colourful Threads of Life

  2. Pingback: colours of northern Xinjiang and ethnic Tuwa villages 北疆色彩和圖瓦人的民族風情 | Colourful Threads of Life

  3. True! It wasn’t as hot as what we had expected it to be 😀
    The Karez water state was truly amazing! Knew nothing about this grand ancient engineering work before we made the visit. 让我想起愚公移山的故事。 不坐以待毙,付之坚毅的恒心和努力去为子孙开荒造田让后辈得享成果,还有让那牺牲小我,完成大我的精神永垂不朽。佩服,佩服👍

    Liked by 1 person

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