Xinjiang is one of the most exciting provinces in China. It is covering 16% of China's land surface and is situated 3,000 kilometer from the coast. Xinjiang borders Mongolia, CIS Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Resourcefully rich and ethnically diverse, this province today attracts many adventurous travelers, keen to discover something about the western area of China.
The area was first settled in about 3C BC, by people of Turkish descent. Xinjiang was made most famous however, with the opening of the Silk Road over 2 million years ago, whereby major trading and religous expeditions between east and west took place until well into the eighth century.
Archaeologists believe that the Uygurs (the major ethnic group in Xinjiang) are of European descent.
Indeed, even in terms of appearance, the Uygurs look very different from the Han Chinese and they certainly show themselves this way. 50% of the 15 million people here are Uygur. On numerous occasions this group (especially those based around the Ili valley), have tried to break free of Chinese control and declare their independence. In 1955, Xinjiang was renamed the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, an attempt by the Chinese to appease the Uygur population.
Despite this difficult history, the people in Xinjiang are extremely friendly and welcome tourists to join in their festivals, celebrations and experience their unique way of life. Kirghs, Kazakhs, Tajiks, Hui, Mongols, Daur and Russians (among others) all inhabit the lands here, using the rich Xinjiang resources in different ways.
Although much of the land itself is extremely inhospitable, consisting of vast expanses of desert and mountain, the resources here are good. Grape, fruit and cattle thrive well and the land itself offers some spectacular scenery. The Tianshan Mountain range divides the whole area into 2 with Urumqi, Yining and Hami in the north and Turpan, Kashgar and Hotar in the south.
The landscape is incredibly diverse and as you travel across the province, the scenery changes from desert to lush green Alpine hills in one hour, and to valleys and Turkish settlements in the next. Xinjiang contains the driest, hottest and coolest spots in all of China. The longest inland river; the Tarim River is here, the lowest area; the Aidin Lake in the Turpan Basin and the largest desert in China; the Taklamakan Desert, can also be found in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang has a desert climate with a low annual rainfall of only 150 mm. The winters are very cold and summers extremely hot. The best time to visit this province is in the autumn, when the days are long, the sky is clear and temperatures more bearable than in the heat of the summer. Another excellent reason to visit at that time is the abundance of delicious melons and other fruits and vegetables which are then available.
While you are visiting Xinjiang, it is important to be aware of the time zone being used. Although officially run on Beijing time, Xinjiang people also use there own system. If Beijing time is used it means that the sun doesn't raise until 9 am and it is still light at midnight in the summer months. When making travel arrangements, be sure which time zone or system is being used or you could get caught out.
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