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高昌Gaochang's early beginnings goes back to the second half of the 西汉朝Western Han Dynasty (206BCE - 8BCE) when it was set up as a garrison town in the year 46BCE. It was then named Gaochang. Down the centuries after the collapse of the 汉朝Han Dynasty (206BCE - 220AD), when people were fleeing the chaotic fields of the eastern provinces, many settled in this area. By year 460, the first Gaochang kingdom was established. From then on three more successive royal families followed. All were of Han descendents1.    The last kingdom came to an end after the establishment of the 唐朝Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). In the fourteenth year of 贞观Zhenguan (year 640), the Tang conquered it and renamed the terratory as Gaochang county. Later, as the Tang empire declined after being drastically weaked by the 安史之乱Anshi Rebellion, a normadic group from north of the Gobi, called the 回鹘Uigur, came and annexed Gaochang (year 840);   and thus started the Uigur kingdom in Gaochang. Centuries later, during the early 明朝Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), warfare between the Uigurs and remnants of the Mongolian nobles in this now mixed region caused the destruction of the capital city. As a result, the tumbled towers and toppled steles, the collapsed palace, and ruined adobe houses were all left to the scorching heat.

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NEW -- July 21, 2010

The beautiful city of Suzhou crisscrossed with narrow water canals

Region: 新疆Xinjiang

高昌故城图片Gaochang Ruins Pictures

  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 驴车 Gaochang Ruins - Donkey Cart

    Tourist donkey carts are readily available. You can hop on for a ride to the palace or anywhere you like. The wheels of these carts are especially equipped with spikes, so they are quick and efficient on the ruins's rough mud road.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 驴车 Gaochang Ruins - Donkey Cart
  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins
  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins
  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins

    The ruins with the 火焰山 Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains) in the background.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins

    The ruins with the 火焰山 Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains) in the background.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins
  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins

    The ruins with the 火焰山 Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains) in the background.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins
  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 驴车 Gaochang Ruins - Donkey Cart
  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 驴车 Gaochang Ruins - Donkey Cart

    The donkey carts rushing through what used to be the main roads through the old capital city. In the background of the ruins is the 火焰山 Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains) Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains) in the background.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 驴车 Gaochang Ruins - Donkey Cart

    Some of the ruins are still quite high, But nothing blocks the unique 火焰山 Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains) lying in the background.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins

    In the background of the ruins is the 火焰山 Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains) in the background.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins

    In the background of the ruins is the 火焰山 Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains) in the background.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 驴车 Gaochang Ruins - Donkey Cart
  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins
  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins

    Inside cave-like ruins.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins
  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins
  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins - adobe structure

    This building is reconstructed in the 1980's, but I was unable to confirm its identity. Some said it is a General's Headquarter, but that seems too small. It is more likely a reconstruction of a buddhist meditation chamber - more fitting and more important in this once highly regarded buddhist center.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins-adobe building
  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins - adobe structure

    This structure is reconstructed in the 1980's, but I was unable to confirm its identity. Some said it is a General's Headquarter, but that seems too small. It is more likely a reconstruction of a Buddhist meditation chamber - more fitting and more important in this once highly regarded Buddhist center.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins - adobe structure
  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 地方美女 Gaochang Ruins - Local Beauties

    Three local beauties to keep the tourists busy.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins - Palace area  remains

    The surviving remains of the palace area. A large temple was also in the area.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins - Palace area  remains

    The surviving remains of the palace area.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins - Palace area remains

    The remaining walls of the palace complex.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins - Palace area remains

    The surviving remains of the palace area.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 Gaochang Ruins - Palace area remains

    The remaining walls of the palace complex.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 游客 Gaochang Ruins - Tourists

    Tourists exploring the palace complex.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 城墙 Gaochang Ruins - City Wall

    The thick city wall. Although parts of the wall had crumbled, it's remain size is still impressive.

  • Picture of 高昌故城 - 骆驼 Gaochang Ruins - Camel

    A camel tied to the outter city wall.

    Notes:
  • 1A dynastic chart of the four kingdoms can be found at 维基百科 the Chinese site of Wikipedia, in the article on 高昌Gaochang.
  • 2.The city layout data are derived from 百度百科Baidu Baike's article of the same subject.
image of an old man looking toward Shanghai\'s 浦东 Pudong skylineShanghai\'s 浦东 Pudong skyline

上海Shanghai: Today, the financial center of China as well as one of its cultural centers. Fashion lovers, misfits, intelectuals, dreamers, refugees, outcasts, and outlaws alike rush to Shanghai for its haven and riches. You come to Shanghai not for any historical attractions, but rather for the city itself -- its interactions of all things good and bad that generate hot gossips.

image of stone lion

The stone lions, chimeras, toistoises and unicorns that guarded the royal tombs of the 六朝Six Dynasties Era for the past 1600 years.

trucks on the desert road

Pictures I took while on a bus traveling through the sandy deserts of 甘肃Gansu on my way to 嘉峪关Jiayuguan.

image of people on a boat in the Three Gorges area of the Changjiang river area

See the 三峡Three Gorges of the 长江Changjiang (Yangzi River) between 重庆市Chongqing city and 宜昌Yichang.

image of Wudangshan temple

The extraordinary temple complex in 湖北Hubei's legendary Daoist mountains - the source of much of China's famed 功夫Gongfu tradition.

My translations of some Chinese poems.

image of Pingyao streetimage of the main gate tower to the Chang family's compound and gardern

The compounds and manors of the extreme wealthy in 山西Shanxi's small towns and villages. See the old town of 平遥Pingyao with well-preserved Ming and Qing city wall and street layout.

image of Jiayuguan fort

嘉峪关Jiayuguan (Jiayu Pass) - the lone fort at the edges of the desolate and bare Gobi desert. It is at once both a timeless symbol of human's uncompromising reach and an otherworldly mirage.

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From the glorious days of the 丝绸之路Silk Route (or Silk Road) Era, which started from about the same time as the beginnings of Gaochang, this oasis town had been a favorite stop for monks and merchants. In time it became a very prosperous and populated town, with thousands of households inside its walls.  As a well-trafficed site, hosting distant people with larger cultural influences, this sunken desert spot became a crossroad for the transmission of ideas and transaction of materials. Although other religions coexisted in this area, Buddhism was by far the largest and most active. Eleven years after the creation of the Tang empire, the monk and traveller 玄奘Xuan Zhuang stopped here and lectured Buddhism. The then Buddhist ruler was so fond of the young monk that he kept him for a month, not allowing him to continue on his journey to India. Eventually the king finally gave in after Xuan Zhuang staged a hunger strike (probably the first of its kind). In his farewell, Xuan Zhuang promised the ruler that on his return he will stay with the king for a year; he then left with the men, camels, horses, and passports provided by the king. On his return trip 17 years later, Xuan Zhuang learned that the king had died — just 6 years before, the Tang army came and annexed Gaochang. And so ended an everlasting friendship that has been much sung about.

Gaochang's city layout was modelled after the Tang capital, 长安Changan (today's 西安Xian). It consisted of an outer wall, an inner wall, and a palace. The outer wall was rectangular and had a perimeter of five kilometer surrounding a 2 million square meter area; its walls were 12 meters thick and equally high. Its western wall had two gates, including one with a 瓮城barbican. The south and southeast section was the monks district with its monasteries. The southwest section was more important, with temple gates, temples and Buddha sculptures and frescoes. The inner city was in the middle of the outer city. The palace was north of the inner city.2.  

Travelogues and travel notes.

trucks on the desert road

Pictures I took while on a bus traveling through the sandy deserts of 甘肃Gansu on my way to 嘉峪关Jiayuguan.

Travel Information

    location map of Gaochang Gucheng Ruins

    高昌故城位置location of Gaochang Gucheng Ruins -- Green Arrow

  1. 吐鲁番市Tulufan (Turpan or Turfan) City
  2. 苏公塔Sugong Ta (Emin Minaret)
  3. 火焰山Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountain)
  4. 二堡乡Erbaoxiang Township
  5. 高昌故城Gaochang Gucheng Ruins
  6. 三堡乡Sanbaoxiang Township
Getting There:

高昌古城Old Gaochang City is in 二堡乡Erbaoxiang (Second Township), which is about 45 kilometers east of 吐鲁番市Tulufan City.  A few kilometers to its north is 火焰山Huoyan Shan (Flaming Mountains). The easiet way to get there is to hire a taxi(Y7-Y8) or a minivan, which will take you there in less than half hour; however, waiting for it to pool enough people may take longer. Normally, the driver will gather 4 - 5 passenger before heading out of the city, unless you are willing to pay Y40 - Y50 for the private ride there.  Most of the passengers will be local Uygur heading back to their town or villages; so, the driver will go around a few places before dropping you off at the site's entrance. A public bus also stops at the township, but the station is outside next to the highway. From there you will have to hire a motuo bike to the ruins. This may be inconvenient, especially if you are carrying more than one bag. Of course, you can also walk to the spot, which I estimate to be about 45 minutes.

Entrance Ticket:

30 Yuan. (summer 2006).

Restrictions:

Because the protected site is delicate, tripods are not allowed inside its areas. If you have a tripod, the ticket office will hold it for you.

Miscellaneous:

In the fiery summers, bring plenty of water as there are no vendors inside the site. Although walking around the site is easy, letting a donkey pulls you while sitting on a cart may be fun experience.