Qinghai's dark clouds cover the snowy mountains,
An isolated town sees the view of Yumen Pass.
Armatures wear out after numerous battles,
Not to return home without capturing Loulan.
By Wang Changling, a Chinese poet in the Tang Dynasty
The poem depicts Loulan, a beautiful name for a lost ancient empire, once it flourished, but in later times, its inhabitants destroyed most of surrounding forests because their misguided notions of development. In the absence of the protective barrier of trees, the area was then engulfed by sandstorms. Although the people tried to restore the empire their efforts were in vain. The Loulan people had lost their hope, they were in exile and could not go back to their homeland at all. This dry land later became an essential part of the northwestern frontier in Chinese history. The people were frequently harassed by ethnic invaders who used the area as a gateway on their way south. A deserted zone nowadays, with deep yellowish withered tree trunks all around, some of the relics here are still testifying to its past prosperity and glory.
Known as the "West Sea" in old times, the Bosten Lake lies on the outskirts of Korla City, which is the largest inland freshwater lake in China. "Bosten" in Mongol means "standing", because there are three stone pillars erect in the middle of the lake. It is a place of natural beauty and harmony, tranquility of the vast landscape with dense vegetation and swarms of birds flying. Apart from the picturesque lake scene, its surrounding area includes the views of snowy mountain, desert and oasis.
In downtown Korla, like other cities in the Xinjiang region, fruit specialties and local snacks are very mouth-watering, but, be prepared for the ever-changing weather conditions.
Situated at the southeast foot of the Tianshan Mountain, 360km away from Korla. The fertile prairie is characterized by abundant water resource, verdant grass, flocks of sheep and castles. Bayandulak means "abundant springs" in the local dialect. The 23sqkm grassland is home to Mongol, Tibetan and other 6 ethical groups who jointly contribute the area's cultural diversity.
The famed Swan Lake is located on the prairie. The lake actually is a vast marshland filled with numerous connected small lakes. The area is luxuriant with comfortable weather condition and beautiful natural scenery, making it the first natural reserve for swans. Every morning, when the sun rises and people in yurts begin to work, endless flocks of swans fly over the lake and hover above the grassland. Swans, flocks of flying wild gooses, rippling lake water, towering snow-capped mountains, verdant valleys and the yurts create a stunningly beautiful scene. In addition, the area also settle many other birds such as mallards, lavrocks, larks, wild gooses.
Getting there - take a bus from Urumqi Bus Station bound for Bayanbulak Grassland, along Wuyi highway via Duku highway. Then you may start out from Hejing County to the west, along the mountain road which is about 300km to enter the Bayanbulak Grassland. Hotels, guesthouses and tents are available for lodging.
The period from May to June is the best time to watch swans.
Be alert of slipping into the marshland when there.
The temperature in the prairie is low, so you need to cover yourself with a thick quilt in the evening, even though it might be summer
57km northeast of Korla, Bosten Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Xinjiang, which serves as a natural reservoir. The lake, covering over 1,000 square kilometers reflects the beauty of the southern countryside with luxuriant vegetation. It is also a large fishery where a variety of fish grow. The lake is known as the Oriental Hawaii of Xinjiang because of its unique and beautiful scenery in the Gobi desert.
Also called Iron Pass or Iron Gate Pass, lies at the mouth of a 14km long valley, 8km north of Korla. It was of strategic importance in Chinese history and listed as one of the 26 key Passes. Tiemen was at the throat of the Silk Road and the traffic junction
between northern and southern Xinjiang. Nearby, there are still traces of an ancient barracks and military activities. Four Chinese characters are inscribed on the cliff beside the pass. The characters describe the steepness and precipitousness of the pass.
Lying east of Korla and covering 3,000 sqkm, was an important station on the Silk Road and once a very large lake. In the Han dynasty, Lop Nur was such a vast lake that it was often mistaken as the source of the Yellow River. However, over deforestation and environmental deterioration caused by human activity curtailed the lifespan of the lake and during the 4th century A.D. codes and regulations had to be introduced to control the use of the insufficient water. When Marco Polo reached Lop Nur in 1275 he found nothing more than sand. Its contraction continued and Lop Nur finally disappeared in 1972. In 1996 a famous explorer, Yu Chunshun, died accidentally in Lop Nur on his expedition, and before him, another Chinese scientist, Peng Jiamu lost his life there whilst carrying out his research in 1979.
Yadan is an internationally used term referring to a special physiognomy in the arid areas. The word originated from Uygur language, one of the many ethnical languages in China. It means steep earth mounds. Many years of erosion of strong winds and heavy rains over the gradient loess have formed dozens of parallel ridges and gullies. These ridges stretches according to the direction of winds, take different shapes, lengths. The longest one is hundreds of meters while the shortest one is just several centimeters. Yandan is widely spread in the Lop Nur area.
The most typical Yadan is the Dragon City (Longcheng) in Ruoqiang County. Looked from the top of a 10-meter-tall earth mound, small yellowish earth hillocks scatter around everywhere. They take different shape some like solid castles, some resembling high rises interconnected by a web of streets and alleys.
Tips: Bring warm clothing even in hot summer. Gauze masks, cream, eye lotion, specially-made spectacle are adviced to protect against the strong wind.
Loulan was the victim to an incredible natural disaster that transformed the once beautiful city into a barren and perilous desert landscape.
Subashi Ruins bear witness to the years of change, the stories of Buddhism and the development of civilization in this vast land.
Takla Makan Desert
In Uigur language, Takla Makan means "you can get into it but can never get out" and the desert has another name 'the Sea of Death'. It is regarded as being very powerful among the people.
The Kizil Thousand Buddha CavesSituated 67 kilometers west of Kucha County the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves is the oldest of its kind in China and the largest ruins of Buddhist culture in Xinjiang. It is also the second largest treasure house of mural paintings the world over, next only to the Dunhuang Grottoes in Gansu Province. There are now 236 numbered grottoes in this cave, which houses nearly 10,000 square meters of mural paintings.