Ancient City of Niya

The Ancient City of Niya is located in the desert 150 kilometers (approximately 93 miles) from Minfeng County in Hotan. It is a major national cultural relic and is regarded as the 'Eastern Pompeii'. Together with the Ancient City of Loulan, Niya ranks among the two famous ancient cities in China which have been buried by the desert.

According to historical records, it was once the site of the Jingjue Kingdom which was occupied by the western minorities in ancient China. It was an oasis located deep in the Takla Makan Desert, lying to the north of Niya River. It was a famous kingdom among the 36 kingdoms located in that area. Like Pompeii, it was once prosperous but suddenly disappeared. No one knows the actual reason. Some people believe that it was destroyed by war, but others believe that it was destroyed by wind-blown sand.

The ancient city is surrounded by rolling sand hills and was first discovered in 1901 by a British explorer. Wooden implements, stone implements, bronze wares, iron wares, pottery, woolen goods and even remnants of food such as wheat, highland barley wild oat, mutton, and pork were excavated. The cotton clothes unearthed are regarded as the earliest cotton textiles that can be found in China. The relics of amanuensis including imperial edicts, public documents, and letters are valuable material for studying the history of minorities in ancient China. Here you can also see the relics of houses, courtyards, furniture, artwork, Buddhist pagoda, and coffins, each of which was made by drilling on one log. A site used for smelting iron in the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220) was also discovered near site of this ancient city. The relics unearthed provide precious and accurate information that is very useful in studying the ancient minorities in China, the history of Silk Road and the cultural exchange between China and foreign countries.

Nowadays, the local Cultural-Relic department has set a Cultural-Relics Agent who imposes a high fee to the exploration teams. In order to develop the travel industry, a sealed access road has been constructed. It should be stressed that to access the ancient city by this road on foot, you must be physically fit and have strong determination. If you fall ill in the desert, it is very likely that you will never get out.
- Last updated on Jul. 18, 2022 -
Questions & Answers on Ancient City of Niya
Asked by Jorg Ostrowski from CANADA | Jun. 17, 2011 23:34Reply
Hotan history & archaeology??
Mr. Qi Jian: Thank you for your interesting, quick & kind response. Have you been to the Niya site? Is it easy to get to? How much do they charge? Do you know of an informed, trustworthy, modest local guide, who may also know of its history before the Han dynasty, if there is any? Anything else of archaeological value to see in the area? My key question: is there a shortcut from Tashkurgan to Hotan, without having to drive back to Kashgar? Please stay in touch.

Jorg Ostrowski
Answers (1)
Answered by Sandy from CHINA | Jun. 19, 2011 21:35

It is not very easy to get there because the ruins is in desert and the transportation there is not very convenient. To enter the Niya Ruins, you should ask for permission from local Cultural Heritage Admission and pay for the maintainance fee which is not cheaper. It is the ruin of Jingjue Kingdom in the Han Dynasty. No further information about the information about that place before the Han Dynasty. It was dicovered by a British man in 1901. Many important cultual relics and Kharosthi (an ancient language of Central Asia) written in wood slips were moved to British. Fewer tourists go there. Visitors are usually there for a civil service job, archeology, or group visit. Usually, you should go to Kashgar and then to Hetian. It seems there is shortcut but need off- road vehicles and find a good local driver.
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