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Jeremy | all galleries >> Yesteryear's Old Photos ... >> Travel Images - Xinjiang (Urumqi & Turpan) > Where Is Urumqi & Turpan?
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Where Is Urumqi & Turpan?

Many people may be wondering, where on earth is Urumqi & Turpan? Both are cities in Xinjiang, a remote province of China located in the hinterland of Eurasia. But their claim to fame (and tourist attention) does not derive from that fact, but comes from their association with the ancient Silk Road between Asia and Europe as shown in the scanned map.

Urumqi is the capital city of Xinjiang. It is not located directly on the Silk Road, but is used by many tourists as the base or springboard town for exploring the Silk Road in China. Whereas Turpan is one of the major historic cities located directly along the Silk Road route. It is about 200 kilometres east of Urumqi and now connected to it by a modern expressway.

The Silk Road was the greatest East-West trade route between Asia and Europe in ancient times, dating back to as early as the 2nd century BC. The term “Silk Road” was first used by the German scholar, Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen, in 1879 to describe this ancient trading route. China was the first country in the world to breed silkworms, and silk products were exported by China to Europe along this trade route, hence the name. The term stuck and its use spread all around the world.

The Silk Road starts at Chang’an, the great capital city of ancient China which is now known as Xi’an (of the terra-cotta army fame), and extends westwards through Gansu province and the Hexi Corridor to the western end of the Great Wall of China near Dunhuang. From here, the trade caravans of camels may take the northern route through the Jade Gate Pass (Yumenguan), travelling along the southern foothills of the Heaveny Mountains (Tian Shan) and the northern rim of the Taklamakan Desert, through the towns of Hami, Turpan and Kucha to Kashgar. Or they could take the more ardous but direct southern route through Yangguan Pass, travelling along the northern foothills of the Kunlun Mountains and the southern edge of the Taklamakan Desert, to Loulan, Khotan (Hetian) and Yarkand to Kashgar.

Beyond Kashgar (which lies near the limit of the territorial boundaries of today’s China), there were more choices. Some went westwards over the Terek Pass in the Heavenly Mountains (Tian Shan) to Samarkand, Bokhara and Merv. Others cross the High Pamirs to the south and cuts through Afghanistan to meet up with the northern route at Merv.

From Merv, the Silk Road continued west on an easier path to Hamadan, southwest of Teheran, then on to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and the Roman Empire.

The Silk Road began to decline from the ninth century onwards, with the development of the sea routes from southern China to the Middle East, as well as the fall of the Tang Dynasty in China, and it eventually fell into disuse. One by one, many of the oasis towns along the Silk Road were abandoned and some disappeared altogether, lost to the sands of the deserts. The fanatical spread of Islam from the Middle East also caused the disappearance of many Buddhist civilizations along the Silk Road together with their heritage. It was only with the arrival of Western archaeologists and treasure hunters like Sir Aurel Stein, Albert Von Le Coq and Sven Hedin, etc in the late 1800s and early 1900s, that interest in the Silk Road was revived. Today, the Silk Road continues to retain an aura of romance and mystery, even as the United Nations describes it as a ‘Road of Dialogue’ and a ‘Cultural and Commercial Super-Highway’, and more and more tourists both local and from abroad come and visit or explore it each year.

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Ken 19-Nov-2008 02:36
Nice Job on the Website Tom :)
Tom Briggs23-Oct-2007 16:49
Thanks, Jeremy ... brings this whole gallery into focus.
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