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China: Jiaohe Ruins

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Jiaohe Ruins | China | Asia

[Visited: July 2010]

Since I planned to visit Jiaohe Ruins on my rented bike, I waited until the worst heat was over before leaving Turpan and cycling west. I had wanted to visit the Karez museum as well, but the turn-off turned out to be signposted only in Chinese. So I was cycling west, with the sun in my face, on my pink Chinese bike with a basket, taking over other cyclists and even motorized carts. After driving down towards a bridge, I reached the foot of the Jiaohe Ruins earlier than expected. I parked the bike, bought a ticket, and walked up to the platform on which the ruins are located. Actually, Jiaohe means river junction in Chinese, and the islet on which the city of Jiaohe was constructed, is a 1650 metres long, up to 300 metres wide, and up to 30 metres high platform. It was that platform I first had to reach.

Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Sun setting over the Jiaohe Ruins

Once I reached the Jiaohe Ruins, I was quickly struck by its beauty. All around me, soft yellow light was reflected from crumbling walls, with doors in them, windows, holes... To have the best views, I ignored the Forbidden to enter signs and walked the western side of the ruins. From here, every time I reached a higher point, below me and ahead of me I saw a multitude of walls, of towers, of streets. In the background, more barren mountains and some trees. Jiaohe was constructed by carving buildings from the platform on which it stands, and was already a capital of the Jushi Kingdom in 108 BCE. It continued to be an important site, also for the Silk Road, until it lost importance and eventually was destroyed by Genghis Khan.

Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Stupa Grove with the main stupa in the centre

After walking around the residential area and its neat streets, I continued walking westward and soon came across large buildings - the temples of the city that are somehow all built close to each other. Enormous walls were hiding the shrines inside, but all were easily accessible. Looking at the western gate - actually, Jiaohe did not need city walls because it was built on a platform with steep cliffs on all sides - the wind took my Turkmen cap away, which I could recover just before it disappeared off the high cliffs. The most impressive part was the one I saw last: the Stupa Forest, an area where, around a major Buddhist stupa, 25 smaller stupas are built in all directions. The sun was getting lower now, making the light and shadows look this place very beautiful. I stayed to see the lights change, went to the Great Monastery again with its faint and half-crumbled Buddha statues, returned to the Stupa Grove for even better views, until the sun was really disappearing and I had to be on my way out. All the while, I noticed that I was the only visitor apart from a lone Italian - the place being empty only added to its attraction. Blisters were appearing on my feet while I walked back and continued climbing and jumping off walls. And then, as a fine end of the day, I cycled back to Turpan after a very satisfying visit to Jiaohe Ruins.

Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Ruins of one of the temples in Jiaohe
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Part of the Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Residential area of the Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Remains of tower at Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): The cliffs of Jiaohe Ruins rising from the river bed below
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Great Monastery wall of Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Arched doorways in the Northwest Small Buddhist temple of Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Western gate giving access to the Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Remains of Buddhist statues in the Great Monastery of the Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Buddhist stupa towering over the other stupas in the Stupa Grove at the Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Sun setting over one of the temples at Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Warm light reflecting from the Jiaohe Ruins
Picture of Jiaohe Ruins (China): Sunset at the Jiaohe Ruins

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