a lost underground city on the Silk Road – Jiaohe Ruins 絲路上沉默的地下古城 – 交河故城

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

9 August 2015
After our visit to The Grape Valley of Turpan (葡萄溝, 吐魯番) and due to time constraint, we were asked to choose between Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves (柏孜克里千佛洞) and the ruins of ancient city Jiaohe (交河故城) as our next destination, and after some deliberation we chose the latter.

We were actually more than embarrassed to admit that we knew nothing about BOTH places but we knew without a doubt that regardless of which destination we chose, we would be impressed by what we were going to see and be in awe of the ancient history of the site in this country with more than five thousand years of continuous history and civilisation!

Jiaohe Ruins is an archaeological site located in the Yarnaz Valley, 10 km west of the city of Turpan. It is a natural fortress situated atop a leaf-shaped plateau between two deep river valleys and hence the name “jiaohe” (交河) which means “at the confluence of two rivers”. It is the largest, oldest and best-preserved earthen city in the world and was included as part of the Silk Road UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2014 after several years of preparation (被譽為“世界上最完美的廢墟”).

The city was believed to have been first inhabited by Caucasians, the Gushi (姑師) or Cheshi/Jushi people (車師) as early as the second century BC to 7 BC. The houses in the city were built underground by digging downward and the excavated earth was used to build houses on the ground. The underground houses were warm in winter and cool in summer.

This city later became the capital of “Anterior State of Cheshi/Jushi (車師)”, one of the 36 kingdoms in the West Region (是西域36國之一的“車師前國”的都城). It continued to flourish from 108 BC to 450 AD, concurrent with the Han Dynasty, Jin Dynasty, and Southern and Northern Dynasties and later became a prefecture of the Uyghur Empire of the 8th and 9th centuries and a dominion of the Kyrgyz. With its strategic location on the Silk Road, Jiaohe functioned as the political, economic, military and cultural centre of the kingdom. This great city was finally abandoned after its destruction during an invasion by the Mongols led by Genghis Khan in the 13th century.

Thanks to the arid climate the ancient city of Jiaohe is well-preserved considering its history that begun more than 2,300 years ago. Though most of the buildings have been eroded over the centuries, many of them are still distinguishable as the government offices, Buddhist monastery, underground temple and dwelling places etc.

As we had to make a return journey to Urumqi and with the strong wind, we had very limited time and therefore, we did not manage to explore the whole of this ruined city of beauty, sadness and a civilisation long gone.

As we were walking out with the wind blowing sand onto our faces and the darkened sky that threatened to rain (which we knew was just an illusion in this place where rainfall is scarce), I simply felt sad. This vast city with once majestic looking and ingeniously constructed buildings, a strategic fort on the Silk Road where at one point in the ancient times was buzzing with life and filled with travellers and traders loaded with merchandise from afar and a city that due to its location, had stirred up an immeasurable amount of greed and caused everyone to fight over it but over the millennium, although it has endured the ravages of time and natural elements, the glory, splendour and prosperity along with the vast span of history of this city that once sat proudly between two rivers has long perished, crumbled and fallen into the desert sand.

This blog concludes our amazing journey around Xinjiang. Although we have only seen a very small part of this vast autonomous region of China, we are contended as we have realised our dream of setting foot on this “New Frontier” that we first thought was simply too far and too vast for us to travel to.

We were truly blessed with a pleasant, enjoyable and safe journey throughout, wonderful weather including seeing a few drops of rain on our way out from Turpan, a generous and hospitable host Mr Zhang and the opportunity to travel this far and this wide to see and learn so much over just a few days. Glory be unto our amazing God!


张总, 再一次谢谢你让我们这一次遥远的新疆之旅给我们留下了一个非常美的记忆!


我要借此特地感谢热心款待我们的张总. 他细心地为我们安排行程, 招呼周到, 而且还
全程陪我们, 充当我们的的”导爷”, 令我们感激不尽. 谢谢你, 张总!

很可惜这些年来少用中文, 所以中文已不灵光了, 没勇气用中文写自己的感想, 生
怕写出来的东西让人见笑了. 我花了一些时间整理照片, 还要把自己在整个行程里
所看到的, 所领受到的理出个头绪才能下笔, 一切就绪之后才发表在网站上与读者
们分享. 张总, 希望你喜欢我所写的点点滴滴和照得还算过得去的照片… 现在你
应该晓得当我在路途上保持沉默的时候其实我没晕车, 而是在看风景, 在默想, 在
感受, 在被新疆的辽阔, 荒漠和古迹震憾…

张总, 再一次谢谢你让我们这一次遥远的新疆之旅给我们留下了一个非常美的记忆!

2 thoughts on “a lost underground city on the Silk Road – Jiaohe Ruins 絲路上沉默的地下古城 – 交河故城

  1. Pingback: land of fire and oasis – Turpan 沙漠中的绿洲- 吐鲁番 | Colourful Threads of Life

  2. Evon你一定做了很多功课才把我们的行程这么完整无缺的还用了最优美的文字记录下来,谢谢你👍👍


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