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A Civilization in Desert

9 September 2009

The heritage site of the Han Civilisation along the Silk Road in China's Xiyu (西域) - Westland

As earlier as in year 101BC, Han troops and their families began to cultivate the great wasteland in the vast Westland (西域), and the military settlements later developed into towns and cities.

In year 60BC (汉宣帝神爵二年) during the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220AD), Chinese emperor established an administration called Westland Prefecture (西域都护府) in today's Xinjiang Province. By then the main residents in the area were mainly Hans, Qiangs, Xiongnus, Sais, Rouzhis and Wusuns.

About 941 years later in year 840AD, a kingdom named Uighur (回纥 or 回鹘 in ancient Chinese for 维吾尔) in the west of the Han's Westland collapsed after years of natural disasters and internal fighting. A large number of the refugees crossed the border entering the Han territory and settled in the Westland ever since, while the rest of the homeless Uighurs fled further west into the region known as Turkey today.

Xinjiang Province, the great Westland with vast wasteland, at the moment is the home to 47 different ethnic groups, including Han, Kazac, Uzbek, Tajik, Kirgiz, Dour, Tatar, Hui, Uighur, Mongol and Russian.


One of the most memorable landmarks along the ancient Silk Road must be the Dunhuang Grotto (敦煌) with thousands of Buddhist murals and sculptures. Further southwest-ward about 5 km away lays another oasis where a Han-style temple is semi-encircled by a waterway called Crescent Fountain(月牙泉).

According to historical records, back in the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220AD), the oasis was a popular tourist destination for the cultured travelers who left numerous poems lauding the amazing landscape; later during the Tang era (618 - 906), a Han-style temple was erected on the shore with boats drifting in the pool.

The sand dunes surrounded the oasis are called Roaring Sand Hill (鸣沙山). When a gust of wind blows over the land, the hill would growl and bellow as the sands shift, oddly, not downwards to the pool but upwards to the summit. Which is the reason why the Crescent Fountain never dries up.

(Source of photos: 夜郎老怪/新华博客)

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The Spectacle of Sand

On September 6, 2009, in China's southern coastal city Xiamen (厦门), Fujian Province, 58 sand sculptures spreading in the area of 120,000 M2 materialised in the Sand Sculpture Park (沙雕文化公园) on Mt Guanyin (观音山).

Among the 58 sand sculptures, the most visually stunning one is the statue of General Yue Fei (岳飞), an exalted poet of the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) and one of the most respected national heroes in Chinese history. Today, his legacy still inspires the young generations in China to give themselves away when needed in order to protect Chinese people, preserve national sovereignty, safeguard territorial integrity and defend Chinese civilization.

(Source of info/photos: 金怡-新华社)

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