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Urumqi -- Land of Contrasts
Urumqi, seat of government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is on the northern slope of the Tianshan Mountains and on the Urumqi River. The name Urumqi means "beautiful pasture" in Mongolian.

Xinjiang, the most northwestern region in China, has conspicuous continental climate, with highly changeable temperature, sharp difference in temperature between day and night, abundant sunshine, intense evaporation and little precipitation. The contrast of climate in northern and southern Xinjiang, divided by the Tianshan Mountains, is also very obvious. The mean annual temperature of northern Xinjiang where Urumqi located is 4ºC-8ºC (33ºF-46.4ºF) and that of southern Xinjiang 9ºC-12ºC (48.2ºF-55.6ºF).

Starting from the Han (206 B.C. - A.D. 220) and Tang dynasties, the Chinese government recruited soldiers and civilians and stationed them in this area to open up wasteland and develop agriculture. The city arose during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and has now become an important industrial center in China's northwest.

In the surrounding regions, the rich oases, grasslands, forests, vast expanse of desert, and especially the Huoyan Mountain, known as "Fiery Mountain" in a classical Chinese novel Journey to the West which has given the mountain such a mysterious tinge, never fail to charm whoever comes to this mystical land. Forty-seven out of China's some sixty ethnic groups totaling over twelve million people, live in the region. The Kirgizs and the Mongolians. The ancient customs of many of the minority people and their hospitality always leave an unforgettable impression on visitors.

Swallow's Nest (Yan'er Wo)

The tombs of revolutionary martyrs Chen Tanqiu and Mao Zemin stand here in the southern suburbs of Urumqi. This is where visitors to Urumqi usually begin their tour into the deserts around the Tianshan Mountains, the ruins of ancient towns along the Silk Road, and the settlements of some of the area's extraordinary ethnic groups.

The Bazaar Tour

It is fun to go on a bazaar tour in Urumqi, for it provides a good opportunity to mingle with the different ethnic groups and understand the life and customs of the local people. When you see the peddlers in their little embroidered caps and the women in their colorful shawls, or hear the haunting ballads at streetside restaurants, there is no mistaking where you are. Visitors can taste a variety of national foods, enjoy fresh fruits (the grapes and melons are exceptionally sweet), and buy the local Xinjiang handicrafts.

Water Mill Valley (Shuimogou)

The stream in this long and narrow valley in the eastern suburbs of the city is fed by dozens of springs. The stream, which is flanked by shade trees and bushes, provides a good place for swimming in summer.

White Poplar Valley (Baiyanggou)

Dragon spruces and flowers of all sports grow luxuriantly in this valley sixty kilometers south of Urumqi. With a plentiful water supply from springs, the valley is a natural pasture for grazing cattle as well as a summer resort.

Also called Pochengzi, Urabo is the site of an ancient city dating to the Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279), and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties. The site is ten kilometers south of Urumqi, and one can still see the ruins of crumbling walls and houses. Pottery, jade articles, and other relics have been excavated here, providing valuable data for historical studies of Urumqi.

Heavenly Lake (Tianchi)

This lake is halfway up Mount Bogda in the Tianshan Mountains. It is 1,900 meters above sea level and ninety meters deep, and its water comes from melted snow on nearby mountains. The blue lake, the snow-capped mountains, the evergreens on the mountain slopes -- together these form an idyllic scene. Legend says that fairies used to gather in this wonderland. In winter, Heavenly Lake becomes a unique natural skating rink and is used for various winter sports events.


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