Turpan, Xinjiang, China
A ruined oasis lies in the heart of the Turpan Depression known in antiquity as Gaochang, a former Silk Road trading center. From the 4th century A.D. until it’s destruction in the 14th century, the town witnessed many events and gained wealth at its strategic locations. Thousands of their inhabitants were burried in a nearby cemetery known as the Astana Tombs. The extreme arid environment greatly preserved numerous of these tombs, making them a valuable peephole into the ancient history of Turpan.
The complex spans a large, flat area encompassing 10 square km, with many of the tombs accessed via passageways into rock-cut chambers. Murals, textiles, pottery and wooden caskets were discovered here. Coins, ranging from Byzantine to Chinese, gave evidence to the multicultural melting pot the Silk Roads created. People ranging from nobles to peasants all shared this space as a vast cemetery of this people.
In east-central Xinjiang, around 30 km east to the town of Turpan in the Turpan Depression.
The tomb complex was used in the 4th century until its destruction in the 14th century A.D.
A burial place for the residents of the nearby Silk Road town of Gaocheng, holding thousands of gravesites from nobles to peasants.
Visitors are allowed to access three of the rock-cut tombs after paying a modest entrance fee (40 CNY as of 2023).
At the present only 3 of the the hundreds of tombs are open to visitors. The landscape around the tombs we found quite stunning with the flaming mountains and remote feel. After paying a moderate entrance fee of 40 CNY to visit the tombs, visitors are free to explore the complex. Descending into the hound of the rock-cut tombs were an eerie experience, especially when seeing one of the mummies still lying in place. Some murals could be made out as well. We found it worthwhile if already visiting the ruins of Gaochang nearby, forming a more complete picture of this ancient people.
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