Why are Gaochang Ruins special?
Gaochang is on the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Covering an area of two million square km, Gaochang is known as the biggest existing ruined city in ancient western region. Located 30 km southeast of modern Turpan, it used to be a traffic hub for merchant traders traveling on the Silk Road.
Gaochang Ruins Highlights
The ancient city of Gaochang was built as a garrison town in the first century B.C. The nomadic Jushi people, who were native inhabitants of the territory, invited the Chinese Han dynasty to take over, giving them their allegiance. 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 Uygur. 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.
Layout of Three Cities
Gaochang ruined city has three cities: the outer city, the inner city and the palace city. And each has its own unique characteristics.
The outer city 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. And Buddhism was firmly established there under the Tang Dynasty. In the southwestern and southeastern parts of the outer city stand two temples ruins.
The inner city is located right in the middle of the outer city, with the western and southern parts of the city walls 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. 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. The general pattern of the well-ordered streets, similar to those of the Chang-an capital city of the Tang, can still be somewhat seen in the city.