Silk Road Travel to China
Located in eastern Asia, China has a population of over 1.35 billion, making it the most populated country in the world. The landscape is vast and very diverse. There are two arid deserts to the north, the Gobi desert and the Taklimakan desert, and subtropical forests in the southern areas. Separating China from the south and from Central Asia are the Tian Shan, Pamir, Himalaya and Karakoram mountain ranges. Running from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated east are the Yellow and the Yangtze Rivers. The Yangtze is the third longest river in the world, and the Yellow River is the sixth longest.
China has a long history of warring factions, with rulers and dynasties rising and falling over many centuries. The last imperial dynasty was the Qing dynasty, which lasted from 1644 to 1912. The Republic of China was established in January of 1912 and lasted, in one form or another, until 1949, at which time China mainly came under Communist control. China has the world’s largest standing army and is recognized as a nuclear weapons state. China adopted its current constitution in 1982.
After economic reforms in 1978, the republic rapidly grew to become the second largest economy in the world, as well the world’s biggest importer and exporter.
In 2001 the country formally joined the World Trade Organization.
China and the Great Silk Road
Beginning around 206 BC during the Han Dynasty, this four thousand mile long route was vital to the lucrative Chinese silk trade business. Chinese silk was highly valued all over the world for its beauty and luxurious texture. The Chinese insured the safety of their trade by erecting the Great Wall of China in order to protect their merchants from thieves.
Around the year 114 BC the Han Dynasty expanded the Silk Road through Central Asia. This expansion was accomplished primarily by missions sent by Zhang Qian, of the Chinese Imperial Envoy. The Great Silk Road was actually a network of many branches, rather than just one road, and most merchants did not travel the entire four thousand mile length; there were many trade posts and cities along the way where goods were sold. Although the major trade commodity from China was silk, many other products and goods were also traded along the Silk Road. Some of the other goods included in the commerce were tea, salt, spices, sugar and porcelain.
A side- effect of trading along the Silk Road was the impact on the cultural development of civilizations in many countries, including China, India, Europe and Arabia. The reason behind this impact on various civilizations is that besides the trade of goods, there was also an exchange of ideas, technology, religion and philosophy. The impact of the Silk Road on the economic and political development of the countries along its network is immensely significant.
The Chang’an-Tianshan corridor of the Silk Road was designated as a World Heritage Site in June of 2014.
Central Asia Tours is pleased to welcome you to China, a land rich in history, beauty and mystique, as we set forth on this unique adventure!
We begin our Central Asia tour in China, where the legendary Great Silk Road originated and flourished for thousands of years. On the first day of the tour we will arrive in the city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.
The name Urumqi means “beautiful pasture” In Mongolian, a tribute to the stunning panoramic views of this historical city. It was at one time one of the main hubs for trade on the Silk Road. It developed into a leading commercial and cultural center during the Qing Dynasty. Today it is a primary industrial and consumer center in the region, and an economic center as well. Basically a Chinese city, nearly 90 per cent of the population is Chinese and about ten per cent ethnic minorities.
Urumqi is the largest city in western China, and possibly the largest city in all of Central Asia. It is often used as a base for tours to Central Asia due to its location and its strong ties to the legendary Silk Road. It boasts uniquely interesting tourist attractions such as the Uyghur Regional Museum and the lively International Bazaar. There are lovely clear mountain lakes that reflect the sky, and lush mountain forests enhancing the spectacular scenery.
The city is surrounded by deserts, but the region does enjoy a natural supply of water from the many small rivers flowing from the snow-topped Tian Shan mountain range. There also exists a network of reservoirs and canals that effectively irrigate all along the mountain foothills through redistribution of water.
The climate in Urumqi is officially categorized as semi-arid, with a great disparity in temperature between summer and winter. In the summer months temperatures can reach 90 degrees F, while in the heart of winter the temperature can plummet to 9 degrees. Relative humidity is lowest during the summer when the city enjoys 70% days of potential bright sunshine. The low humidity makes the sunny days more pleasant than uncomfortable. The ideal times to visit here are spring, fall and the early summer.
The people of Urumqi are accustomed to tourists, and they have a friendly and welcoming attitude.
An interesting fact about Urumqi is that it is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the one city in the entire world most remote from any sea.
Central Asia Tours is proud to introduce you to Turpan!
The city of Turpan, blessed by plenty of water from the ancient Karez canal system, has long been a fertile oasis and major trade center in China. Turpan was historically located at the northern route of the Silk Road, and was a very important stop for trade along the Silk Road in ancient times.
Turpan is situated in a mountain basin approximately 93 miles southeast of Urumqi, the capital city of Xingjian Uygur Autonomous Region. Turpan is the city with the lowest elevation in all of China, with most areas having an elevation below 1, 640 feet. The climate in this city is harsh, with drastic differences in seasonal temperatures and a cold desert climate. The summers are hot; in fact some claim Turpan is the hottest city in China. (The city is also known as Huo Zhou, which means “a place as hot as fire”). There generally are around 150 or more hot days during the summer, but the low humidity makes the summers comfortable enough for getting about. Spring and Fall are brief but very pleasant in terms of weather conditions.
There is very little precipitation in Turpan, with rainfall averaging less than an inch per year. However, thanks to the excellent ancient system of irrigation coupled with abundant sunshine (over 75% of sunny days in September, for example) the surrounding countryside produces large amounts of very high quality fruit and produce. Melons and other produce grown in Turpan are well known for their high sugar content. The grapes in particular, of which there are hundreds of varieties, are delicious, and Turpan is known throughout China and Central Asia as “the Hometown of Grapes”.
There exists a pleasing blend of both Western and Eastern cultures and religions in this city. In the streets, shops and local bazaars you can find a wide assortment of mouth-watering snacks, teas and beverages, as well as a broad variety of exquisite home -crafted souvenirs. The landscapes are singularly unique, and the rare historical relics are intriguing.
There are several famous sightseeing stops for tourists to Turpan. Among them are the Jiaohe Ancient City, the Bizalkik Thousand Buddha Caves, the Karez System of irrigation, and the Emin minaret. Visitors to Turpan tend to cite this city as one of the most interesting places on the Central Asia tour.
Located near the borders of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Kashgar is the westernmost city in China. It is an oasis county-level city and the administrative center of Kashgar Prefecture of the Xingjian Uyghur Autonomous Region. Kashgar, a crossroads city, was highly significant because it connected China with Central Asia, allowing travelers along the ancient Silk Road to travel to and trade with Central Asia countries such as Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The administrative district of Kashgar covers 214 square miles. With a population of approximately three and half million, the city extends about sixty-three thousand square miles. The urban portion of the city is a little over five square miles.
Like many other cities one comes across in China and Central Asia, Kashgar has survived a great many rebellions, invasions and military take-overs. Beginning as far back as the second century BC there have been more than thirty periods of conquering, with various dynasties and kingdoms rising and falling throughout its turbulent history.
Attracting more than a million tourists annually, Kashgar is an important and popular highlight of Central Asia travel. The Old City has been described as the most well-preserved illustration of a traditional Islamic city to be found in all of Central Asia. In fact, the way the culture developed here has resulted in the native people considering themselves more Central Asian than Chinese. The people are primarily Muslim and have a language and customs very similar to those of Central Asia.
In this city you will observe fascinating scenes as the inhabitants go about their daily lives. You can watch skilled artisan bakers making their famous bread, and shopkeepers arranging their colorful wares as shoppers try to argue and haggle for the best prices. There is a popular tourist attraction called the Sunday Market, said to be the biggest in Central Asia, as well as a livestock market, where sheep, camels, donkeys and other livestock are brought for sale and trade. The livestock market is two thousand years old!
You will get a good idea just from walking around the streets of what life was like in this city - as well as in Central Asia -all through their long and historically - rich existence.
While you travel Central Asia you will probably want to visit a few of the main tourist attractions in Kashgar, such as the Irkhan Mosque, the tomb of Apok Khoja, and Mor stupa.