After having breakfast, we will be going to those attractions east of Turpan. 30km east from Turpan, Gaochang Ancient City was a major staging post on the Silk Road since the 1st century and became the Uyghur capital in AD 850. In her day she was a vibrant thriving place. But in the 5th century, the Silk Road's fortunes took a turn for the worse. The Middle Kingdom no longer is the sole empire that know the secret of silk making. Many of these once thriving cities along the Silk Road fell afterwards, and in the 14th century Gaochang Ancient City was burnt during a war.
15 km east of Gaochang Ancient City and 50km away from Turpan downtown area, Tuyuk Valley is an ancient oasis-valley located in the middle of Taklamakan desert. In Uighur, Tuyuk means ‘inaccessible valley’. This scenic area is relatively unknown and less visited by most of the tourists. Unique, mysterious and mesmerising, this would be the perfect place if you want to explore areas with rich historical and cultural relics in Turpan. Tuyuk Valley was once a melting pot of religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Manichaeism, Nestorianism, Shamanism, and Zoroastrianism. Islamic style buildings, mosque, Chinese style wood carving on the door, Buddhist temple ruins, here, you can see the collision and fusion of cultures and religions. Tuyuk Valley Scenic Area consists of three attractions: Tuyuk Grand Valley, Tuyuk Thousand Buddha Cave and Ma Za Village.
Tuyuk Grand Canyon is an 8 km long green belt valley cutting through Flaming Mountain. On the southern land of Tuyuk Grand Canyon, find the oldest Uighur settlement, with 1700 years of history, in Turpan -- Ma Za Village. Ochre mountain, ochre residences, ochre land, almost everything there are in ochre. Villagers made use of the only material available to them, the ochre adobe, to construct buildings. It is now the most well preserved adobe housing in China. The best time to visit the village would be from April to May. Tuyuk Thousand Buddha Cave, originally dug between 266A.D and 420A.D, only 9 out of 94 caves survived through wars and earthquakes. Most of the cave arts are removed by expedition teams from other countries in the 19th century.
Not far from Gaochang Ancient City, we will have our lunch near Erbao Village. Mouth-watering while you are waiting for those local dishes, such as handmade yogurt and naan.
If you want to apprehend the history of ancient Silk Road, paying a visit to Astana-Karakhoja Ancient Tombs is a must. Though most of the antiques found from this tomb are exhibited in Turpan Museum and Provincial Museum, you still can see the layout of the tombs. It is 4km away from Gaochang Ancient City, and 7km away from Flaming Mountain. The tombs belongs to the nobilities during Western Jin Dynasty and Tang Dynasty (3th century to end of 8th century) from Gaochang. With 1700 years of history, this archaeological site is considered as the living historical document of Gaochang and an underground museum in Turpan.
Take a 30 minute drive from Astana-Karakhoja Ancient Tombs, you will come across a group of caves up a sheer cliff. These are the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Cave. Bezeklik means ‘half way up the mountain’ in Uyghur and this grottoes set itself half way up a section of Flaming Mountain in Turpan. This thousand Buddha grottoes can be dated back to the 6th century. Till the 11th century, murals painted in the grottoes reached the highest point in Uyghur Buddhist art. Located in the middle of a desert, Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Cave was once the most important and gorgeous grottoes on the Silk Road. Moreover, it was belonged to the royal family in Gaochang. Sadly, in the early 20th century, most of its unique cave art were removed by foreign expedition teams. Only 57 out of the 83 caves hardly survived, with remaining caves were badly damaged. Today, only a few caves are opened to the public, however it is definitely worth a trip.
Flaming Mountain is the hottest place in China, reaching a temperature of 47.8 degree Celsius, and with surface temperature of 89 degree Celsius. (You can certainly make an egg sandwich there.) Hot, dry and desolate, yet the area is astonishingly colourful. In summer, if you are going under the scorching sun, it is highly recommended to put on some sunblock. We will see the main section of flaming mountain on the car and then return to the hotel.