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Ancient City of Gaochang

Visitors come to the Ancient City of Gaochang
Visitors in the Ancient City of Gaochang
 Picture of the Ancient City of Gaochang
In the boundless desolate Gobi desert stand the ruins of the ancient city of Gaochang, shining like a resplendent precious stone inlaid in the barren desert and shining on the Silk Road. It is located at the foot of the Flaming Mountain, about 46 kilometers (about 29 miles) southeast of Turpan. Withstanding the test of time and weather, the ancient city of Gaochang, and the ancient city of Jiaohe, are the best-preserved ruins of the ancient cities in China. These two cities were added to the World Heritage List on June 22, 2014.

The city was initially built as a garrison town in the first century B.C., called Gaochang Wall, and later renamed Kharakhoja, Kocho or King City. It was a key point along the Silk Road. During the successive dynasties, it was ruled as Gaochang Prefecture, Gaochang Kingdom and West Prefecture. By the 14th century, the city was damaged and abandoned due to warfare between Mongolian aristocrats and Uigurs. After 2,000 years, the weather-beaten ancient city still displays its past greatness and glory even though the walls are incomplete the magnificent outline remains.

The ruins are an irregular square, covering an area of about 2,200,000 sq meters (2,631,178 sq yards). The layout is similar to that of Chang'an City in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The city is composed of three sections: an outer city, an inner city and a palace city. The outer city with a perimeter of 5.4 kilometers (3.4 miles), is enclosed by a city wall of 12 meters (39 feet) thick and 11.5 meters (37.7 feet) high, and built with tamped earth. Nine city gates are located in the four cardinal points: three in the South, and two in each of the other directions. The gates in the west are the best preserved. In the southwestern and southeastern parts of the outer city stand two temples ruins. The temple in the southwestern corner consists of a gate, a courtyard, a sermon hall, a sutra depository and monks' abodes. The southeastern temple consists of a polygonal tower and a worship grotto, where splendid murals remain well preserved.

Visitors share the same donkey cart
Visitors on a donkey cart
Gaochang Ancient City, Turpan
Gaochang Ancient City, Turpan
The inner city, situated right in the middle of the outer city, has a perimeter of 3 kilometers (2 miles). The western and southern parts of the city walls are well preserved. The eastern and southern parts were badly damaged, only with the northeastern highlands and the southeastern earthen platforms are still visible. No trace of the inner city's gates remain.

The Palace City is located in the north of the inner city, sharing its southern wall with the inner city and northern wall with the outer city. It is a rectangle with a perimeter of 700 meters (2,296 feet). Within the city, many large  cornerstones remains are still visible, with an average height of 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) to 4 meters (13 feet). These cornerstones are relics of a 4-storied palace. An irregular adobe square standing in a high earthen platform is called "Khan's Castle", which was the imperial residence.

Camel is an important transport means there
Camel, the main form of transportation 
in Xinjiang in the ancient times
As one of the key points along the Silk Road, the ancient city of Gaochang was also a sanctuary of world religious culture. Xuanzhuang, a well-known Buddhist monk in the Tang Dynasty stopped here and delivered lectures on his way to India. Today, the remains standing here remind us of the grandeur and prosperity of the ancient city.

Admission Fee: CNY 40
Opening Hours: 08:00 - 17:00

How to get there:
1. Take the tourist bus from Turpan to Doushan, it stops at Shengjinkou, then transfer to motorcycles from Shengjinkou to the site.
2. Take a bus from Turpan to Sanbao Township Government, and then transfer to motorcycles to get there.
3. Take a taxi.

Tips:
The best time to visit Turpan is from June to August when various melons and fruits are ripe, so you may taste the delicious fruits. The Grape Festival held in August every year is also quite exciting and very enjoyable. During the Grape Festival, a variety of cultural activities such as evening parties, and the grape wine festival are enjoyable events to attend.