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Urumqi Introduction

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 Grape Valley    Kanas Lake   Ancient State of Loulan     Tianchi Lake

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Xinjiang covers 16% of the total land area of China and is Populated by 13 of China's 55 minority nationalities. Of the total population of 11 nationalities, who favor dressing in costumes, have distinct cultural traditions. Other prominent nationalities of this region are ethnic Chinese, Kazaks, and Hui. 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 3,270 km. (2,050 miles) from  Beijing (a five-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 A.D., the Tang government set up the town of  Luntai in the ancient town seat of Urabo, which is 10 kilometers 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 (A.D.1763) , the emperor Qian Long named the expanded city as "Dihua". UP to A.D.1884, 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 seven districts under her jurisdiction. Such as Urumqi county, Tianshan District, Sharyibark District, Toutunhe District, Shuimogou District, Xinshi District, Dongshan District, Nanshan Mine District.

Although forbidding 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.   

Economy and Culture

Historically a poor region, Xinjiang has been developed both agriculturally and industrially in recent years. Because rainfall is scarce, many parts of Xinjiang are barren. The main source of irrigation water is the snow and ice at the higher reaches of the Tian Shan range. To harness this supply, rivers have been re-channeled and irrigation canals dug. Xinjiang now has over 400 reservoirs and 30,000 km.  re-channeled waterways.

Referring to the period before 1949, a local inhabitant recounts that "at that time, one could get an ampoule of penicillin only by exchanging it for a horse, a battery flashlight for a lamb, a meter of cloth for three catties of wheat, and a small box of matches for a kilogram of wool." Now Xinjiang produces steel, oil, chemicals, sugar, tractors, and various other kinds of farm machinery. Trucks are the main method of transportation and thousands of miles of roads have now been paved.

There are eight universities in Xinjiang, including two medical schools. One medical college specializes in cancer research (Uygur people have a high incidence of laryngeal cancer, attributed to drinking hot liquids).

Islam is the dominant religion in Xinjiang. In cities such as Urumqi and Kashi, huge mosques are still in use. Religious festival days are still observed and it is even possible to encounter older women wearing veils.

Silk Road and Urumqi

Because the northern route of the "Silk Road" passed through Urumqi, it became a heavily-guarded fort in the Han Dynasty, and remained so for centuries. But today, the city itself has few historical sites to offer tourists, except for the museum of the autonomous region that houses some valuable relics unearthed along the "Silk Road". An excursion to Tianchi, however, is worthwhile.

A 113-mile journey southeast from Urumqi will take you to the oasis of Turpan, which lies in one of the world's great land depressions, 505 feet below sea level. Known as a "Furnace Town", its summer temperature soars regularly into the 100s Fahrenheit, while the desert rocks are said to reach 170F. But it is well irrigated and produces much fruit such as seedless  grapes and Hami melons.

Tianchi, or "Lake of Heaven", is about 30 miles southeast of Urumqi, at an elevation of 6,435 ft. above sea level. It is a beautiful highland lake, flanked by rugged pines and cypresses, and with clear waters that reflect the surrounding mountains. In winter, it provides an ideal alpine skating rink. In fact, China's winter skating games have been held there.