Karez System (also called Karez or Karez Well System 坎儿井), with a history of more than 2000 years, is a kind of underground water conservancy project created in the long historical development of the working people in arid areas. Together with the Great Wall, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, they are renowned as the “Three Great Engineering Projects in Ancient China”. Karez, which was called "Jingqu" (井渠) in ancient times, brings out underground water and turns desert into oasis. There are about 1600 Karez in Xinjiang, including 1108 Karez in Turpan, with a total length of about 5000 km, equivalent to the mileage from Urumqi to Harbin, and a water yield of more than 300 million cubic meters. At present, only 214 Karez with water are still in use.
Due to the dry climate, little rain and lack of water resources in Turpan, the local people creatively built this system to guide the groundwater (a large amount of rainwater, glacier and snow melt water seeping into the ground in spring and summer) to the ground for irrigation and daily use.
Karez in different places have different regional characteristics in specific structure, but generally speaking, a complete Karez system includes four main parts: access shaft, underground channel, outlet, and ground channel. Usually a Karez has several to hundreds of shafts. The shallowest is about 1 meter, and the deepest can reach 120 meters. The shaft is for ventilation, lighting, a passage to go up and down, and storage of daily necessities for the workers when excavating the channel. It is also how people make sure the underground channel is in the right direction. Karez brings snow water from Tianshan Mountain to farmland and villages in Turpan. This huge underground water system composed of hundreds of wells has become the lifeline of the development of Gobi civilization.
Karez doesn’t mean a specific place as it is common in Turpan. It stretches miles and you may see a section of it as you wander around the city. But if you want to get more information about or have a closer look at this ancient water system, here are some recommended places. They are all in downtown area and near to each other.
Karez Folk Custom Garden is the most popular place to discover more about Karez. There is original Karez, Karez Museum, folk custom street, residential hotel, vineyard, etc. It integrates the time-honored Karez with Uyghur courtyard-style residential hotel, which allows people to not only visit Karez with a history of more than 400 years, learn more about its developing process, but also have a better understanding of the Uyghur folk customs. Inside the folk custom garden, while you are tasting authentic ethnic snacks and delicious fruits, you are able to enjoy the Uyghur song and dance performances at the same time. Entering the Karez Museum, this man-made miracle of diligence and wisdom is presented in the most vivid and intuitive way.
Karez Park is in the middle of Karez Folk Custom Garden and Jiaoheyi Karez Source Scenic Area. It is known as the old Karez by local people because it preserves the most original Karez and that is also why it can attract a steady flow of tourists.
The park was officially opened to tourists at home and abroad on May 16, 1993. It covers an area of 7 mu (about 4667 ㎡), with flowing water, towering trees and charming scenery. The long grape corridor, flat lawn, unique exhibition hall of Karez Research Center, ethnic restaurants and guest rooms are all available, which make the trip more pleasant. Tourists can also enter the Karez 10 meters underground, being amazed at the project while escaping from the heat on the ground.
Jiaoheyi Karez Source Scenic Area started to open to tourists in 2017. There are two main attractions: one is Jiaoheyi (Jiaohe Courier Station), an important post station on the Silk Road in the Tang Dynasty, and the other is a section of Karez which has a history of 570 years.
The whole scenic area is equipped with a courier station conference hall, caravan, Karez, grand airing room, grape corridor, etc. The scenic spot presents the history of Karez in multiple forms, and reproduces the ancient ways of transmitting information in the old days. You can have a glimpse of the glory of the Silk Road post stations. The Karez well in the spot is called Aisicarl Aji (艾斯卡尔•阿吉坎儿井). Tourists can take an elevator going deep to 50 meters underground to explore the source of Karez.
The three places mentioned above are near Turpan downtown. They are on the same road in a north-south order as Jiaoheyi Karez Source Scenic Area, Karez Park, and Karez Folk Custom Garden. From Jiaoheyi to Karez Park, it’s about 2 km, 5 minutes’ drive. From Karez Park to Karez Folk Custom Garden, it’s about 4 km, 10 minutes’ drive. Take Karez Folk Custom Garden for example, it is about:
Turpan is on the Lanzhou-Urumqi High-speed Railway. Therefore, it is convenient to get to Turpan by high speed train from cities on the Silk Road such as Urumqi (1h), Dunhuang (3.5h), Zhangye (5h), Jiayuguan (6.5), Lanzhou (9.5-10h), Xining (8-8.5h), Xian (12.5h), etc. You can also fly to Turpan from Lanzhou (2.5h), Beijing (5.5h), Chengdu (5.5h), Changsha (4.5h), Zhengzhou (4.5h), etc. But the flight schedule is not stable. It is also available to get to Urumqi (the capital of Xinjiang) first, which has more flights between major cities in China, and then transfer to Turpan. Read more about Turpan Transportation >
With only 5 km away from downtown, both taxi and bus are convenient. But the bus will take about 50 minutes and longer to the other two attractions. So it is more recommended to travel by car to save your time.
Travel with China Discovery: If you want to get rid of hustle of public transportation and troublesome navigation, you can book a private tour package which covers sightseeing, dining and transfer from us. Our knowledgeable local tour guide and skilled driver will escort you to visit Karez with speed and convenience, and take care of all the details. You just need to focus on sightseeing. Contact us to customize a worry-free tour package now!
How to Get to Turpan: There are high speed trains to Turpan from Xian (about 12.5h), Lanzhou (about 9.5h), Xining (about 8h), Zhangye (about 6.5h), Jiayuguan (about 5h), Dunhuang (about 3.5h), etc. and flights from Urumqi (1h), Beijing (5.5h), Lanzhou (2.5h), Changsha (4.5h), Korla (1h), Burqin (1h15min), etc. Many travelers also travel to Urumqi by flight first and then transfer to Turpan.
Best Time to Visit Turpan: May to October is the best time to visit Turpan. It is cold in late autumn and winter (November ~ next February) and rather windy in early and mid-spring (March and April). The temperature is high in summer, but you will get a lot of sweet fruits.
Generally, a classic Turpan tour takes 2 ~ 3 days. If your time is limited, you can focus on the essence of Turpan City. We suggest you spend 1 day touring the highlights of Turpan City, such as Karez System - a magic project bringing out underground water to this barren land, Turpan Museum where lots of historical exhibits including mummies are collected and Jiaohe Ancient City - the world's largest and oldest city ruins, and another day exploring its attractive surroundings, including Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Cave with exquisite murals & profound Buddhist culture, Flaming Mountain Grand Canyon with breathtaking landform, and peaceful Mazar Village (in Tuyuk Valley) where people still live traditionally. If you have one more day, don't miss Kumtag Desert, a beautiful desert offering amazing desert landscape and many interesting activities (like jeep safari, desert hiking, desert surfing, etc.).
Of course, it's far from enough if you just visit Turpan. Travelers always travel Turpan with Urumqi - the tourist center in northern Xinjiang together. It needs about 1~2 days to visit landmarks of Urumqi City, like Xinjiang Regional Museum, Red Hill Park and Erdaoqiao Grand Bazzar. Heavenly Lake, only 70 km away from Urumqi downtown is a must. If you are interested in Muslim culture and Silk Road culture, don't hesitate to go to Kashgar, one of Xinjiang's golden triangle tourist cities together with Turpan and Urumqi. In Kashgar, there is time-honored Kashgar Old City, yellow-tiled Id Kah Mosque, busy Grand Sunday Bazaar, etc.
If your time allows, traveling along China's Silk Road is strongly recommended. You can trace the footprints of ancient travelers from Xian - China's old capital city of 13 dynasties, to Qinghai (Xining, Qinghai Lake), Gansu (Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang) and Xinjiang (Urumqi, Turpan, Kashgar). An in-depth Silk Road tour can be 2 weeks long, but you can spend a shorter time admiring the essence at your own pace.
☛ 10 Days Classic Silk Road Tour (Xian - Dunhuang - Turpan - Kashgar)
☛ 11 Days In-depth Wild Silk Road Adventure Tour (Lanzhou - Zhangye - Jiayuguan - Dunhuang - Urumqi - Kasgar)
☛ 12 Days Silk Road Tour from Beijing (Beijing - Xian - Dunhuang - Turpan - Urumqi)
Top 3 Turpan tours chosen by most customers to explore Turpan in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.
Urumqi - Turpan
Lanzhou / Zhangye / Jiayuguan / Dunhuang / Turpan / Urumqi / Kashgar
Urumqi - Turpan - Kashgar - Tashkurgan
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