Xinjiang - Urumqi
Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China's most western province. The most 'inland' city in the world; the furthest from any major body of water, Urumqi is located 3,270 kilometer from Beijing (a 5-hour flight). With a population of one million, the city lies as a green-blanketed oasis amidst Xinjiang's barren and uninhabited deserts, loess highlands, and the snowcapped peaks of the Heavenly Mountain.
Urumqi means "A beautiful Pasture land" in ancient Mongolian used by the Junggar tribe; 2000 years ago it was once an important town on the new northern route of the Silk Road, which made important contribution in promoting Sino-foreign economic & cultural exchanges.
During the 22nd year of the Zhenguan's reign in the Tang dynasty, 648 AD, the Tang government set up the town of Luntai in the ancient town seat of Urabo, which is 10 kilometer away from the southern suburb of Urumqi nowadays. The Ancient Luntai Town, which played quit significant a role on the new northern route of Silk Road in the Tang dynasty, was the only town of tax collection, the only town of management, the town of supply and the first town as well.
In the time of Qing dynasty, the emperor Qian Long named the expanded city as 'Dihua'. Up to 1884 AD, another emperor Guang Xu put up Xinjiang as a Province and the Di Hua city as the capital of Xinjiang. After the founding of the People's Republic of China , by Feb.1, 1954, the city name was restored to its original meaning, i.e., Urumqi.
Urumqi has one county and 7 districts under her jurisdiction. Such as Urumqi county, Tianshan District, Sharyibark District, Toutunhe District, Shuimogou District, Xinshi District, Dongshan District, Nanshan Mine District.
Although unattractive in winter, Urumqi's climate is pleasant during the summer, with warm days and cool evenings. An extensive series of tree belts planted around the capital has helped to reduce wind, dust, and cold.
Urumqi is a city where multiethnic groups of people live in compact of mixed communities. They are the Uygur, Han, Hui, Kazak, Mongolian, Kirgiz, Xibe, totally over 40 ethnic groups of people. The city's uniqueness, the strong colorful ethnic life styles and local customs are quite attractive to visitors. From architectural complex to family courtyards, from furniture to utensils, from food to clothing, from etiquette of the young to rituals of the old, from marriage customs to funeral rites, at all times and on all occasions, one senses a strong unique ethnicity.
In the middle of Bogda Peak, 110 kilometer east of Urumqi, nestles Heavenly Lake (Tian Chi). Covering 4.9 square kilometer, this crescent-shaped lake deserves its name, Pearl of Heavenly Mountain (Tianshan Mountain). With melted snow as its source, Heavenly Lake enjoys crystal water.
In summer, the beautiful lake is an ideal cool resort. Boaters on the lake see the ever-changing silvery mountains soaring into the blue sky, their slopes highlighted with verdant pasture and flamboyant wild flowers. Fishing at dusk has its own special charm. A day in this fairyland promises restoration. Heavenly Lake, a relic of the Quaternary Period Glacier and its surrounding geological relics, offers science lovers exploring opportunities.
As if the natural beauty of Heavenly Lake were not enough, legend adds a mysterious touch. It is said that the West Queen (Xi Wang Mu) entertained King Mu of the Western Zhou dynasty at the Lake. The West Queen fell in love with the king and asked him in her poem, "The white clouds drift while the mountains reach the blue sky. Passing thousands of mountains, crossing ten thousands of rivers, you come to us from a faraway place. If you are still strong and fine, would you like to come back to us again"? The king answered in his poem, "After I go back to central China and lead the people to a prosperous life, I will come to you again".
We do not know why the king never returned. Only the placid lake and the silent mountains witnessed the lovesickness of the West Queen.
Red Hill (Hong Shan) is a symbol of Urumqi, owing to its uniqueness. The body of the mountain, made up of aubergine rock, has a reddish brown color, hence, the name Red Hill. The hill is 1.5 kilometer long and 1 kilometer wide from east to west.
Less than 1 kilometer away, Yamalike Hill stands facing Red Hill. Legend has it that in ancient times a red dragon fled from Heavenly Lake and the Heavenly Empress caught him and sliced him in 2 with her sword.
Later on, a hill was formed by each half of the dragon. The western hill is Yamalike Hill and the eastern one is Red Hill. The sword turned into the Urumqi River. Oddly enough, topographic pictures tell us the 2 hills were once one and were separated into 2 parts due to stratum rupture.
Eventually, ancient legend affected real life. In 1785 and 1786, floods hit Urumqi causing much destruction. Rumors arose that Red Hill and Yamalike Hill were growing closer and closer together. Once they met, the Urumqi River between the 2 hills would be blocked and the city would become flooded as the water rose. Therefore, in 1788 Shang An; the highest military officer, ordered the Zhen Long (in Chinese, to subdue the dragon) Pagodas built on both hills. These 2 pagodas were made of gray brick, 10.5- m high with 6 sides, 9 stories, and an octagonal roof.
Today, Red Hill has been developed into the beautiful Red Hill Park. Modern entertainment facilities and ethnic performances bring a fresh and lively atmosphere to the park. On the peak of Red Hill, you will have a great view of the city of Urumqi.
Renovated in 1902 and again in 1987, the Southern Mosque takes its name from is proximity to the South Gate of Urumqi.
Embraced by 4 minarets, the vaulted mosque, both grand and imposing, expresses the elegant character of Islamic architecture. The tower shaped main body of the mosque has 4 floors, 2 below ground level and 2 above.
The floors below ground are shops and living areas while the 2 above contain the prayer hall and seminary. The walls of the passageway leading to the prayer hall are decorated with carved orchids, plums, bamboo and lotuses. The compound also includes a washing room for ablution before prayers.
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