Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The China Chronicles - The Ancient City of Jiaohe
The photos from this site aren't nearly as dramatic as the real thing. We went to the ruins at the end of the day - at sunset, and the light was soft, the air was cool, and it was just so lovely and so dramatic, that the photos just don't capture it.
The Ancient City of Jiaohe lies about 10 km west of Turpan and was founded in 108 BC. It acted as an important capitol in the region until the 13th century when Ghengis Khan invaded it and destroyed it. What makes it unique, is not only that its ruins still exist thanks in large part to the fact that this region is a dessert and receives so little rainfall that the mud structures are still intact, but that it was built on top of a large islet in the middle of a river (now a trickle of a stream), which had eroded the sides of the islet creating a natural fortress with steep cliffs all around.
There are residential areas, the remains of a large government office building, and a large Buddhist temple. Mysteriously, and sadly, they also discovered the mass graves of about 22 infants. Many theories exist as to their existence. Some believe that an epidemic swept through the city, but that would lead you to believe that others would have died as well, some believe that Ghengis Khan's army murdered the babies, and others believe they may have been part of some sacrifice, but that doesn't jive with a Buddhist society. Their small graves, identities and the reason behind their sudden deaths are lost to time.
This next photo is of the Buddhist temple. You can see individually carved Buddhas sitting in the ruin, but they are missing their heads. They were defaced by Muslim extremists. China is trying to get the Jiaohe Ruins listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as they continue to try and preserve the landmarks along the Silk Road.
It was an absolutely lovely and haunting place to walk at sunset, and we had the ruins to ourselves.