Ancient City of Gaochang in China


The famous ancient city of Gaochang(高昌Gāochāng), shining like a resplendent and brilliant precious stone inlaid in the barren desert and shining on the Silk Road. Gaochang is located at the foot of the Flaming Mountain, nearly 46 kilometers southeast of Turpan. Withstanding the test of time and weather, the ancient city of Gaochang, and the ancient city of Jiaohe, are the best-preserved ruins of the ancient cities in China.

The ancient city of Gaochang was built as a garrison town in the first century B.C., initially called Gaochang Wall, and later renamed Kharakhoja, Kocho or King City. It was a key point along the Silk Road. During the successive dynasties, it was ruled as Gaochang Prefecture, Gaochang Kingdom and West Prefecture. By the 14th century, the city was damaged and abandoned due to warfare between Mongolian aristocrats and Uigurs. After 2,000 years, the weather-beaten(worn by exposure to the weather) ancient city still displays its past greatness and glory even though the walls are incomplete the huge and magnificent outline ruins.

The ruins are an irregular square, covering an area of about 2,200,000 sq meters. The layout is similar to that of Chang’an City in the Tang Dynasty.The city is composed of three sections: an outer city, an inner city and a palace city. The outer city with a perimeter of 5.4 kilometers, is enclosed by a city wall of 12 meters thick and 11.5 meters high, and built with tamped earth. Nine city gates are located in the four cardinal points: three in the South, and two in each of the other directions. The gates in the west are the best preserved. In the southwestern and southeastern parts of the outer city you can find two temples ruins. The temple in the southwestern corner consists of a gate, a courtyard, a sermon hall, a sutra depository and monks’ abodes. The southeastern temple consists of a polygonal tower and a worship grotto, where splendid murals remain well preserved.

The inner city, situated right in the middle of the outer city, has a perimeter of 3 kilometers. The western and southern parts of the city walls are well preserved. The eastern and southern parts were badly damaged, only with the northeastern highlands and the southeastern earthen platforms are still visible. No trace of the inner city’s gates remain.

The Palace City is located in the north of the inner city, sharing its southern wall with the inner city and northern wall with the outer city. It is a rectangle with a perimeter of 700 meters. Within the city, many large cornerstones remains are still visible, with an average height of 3.5 meters to 4 meters. These cornerstones are relics of a 4-storied palace. An irregular adobe square standing in a high earthen platform is called “Khan’s Castle”, which was the imperial residence.

As one of the key points along the Silk Road, the ancient city of Gaochang was also a sanctuary of world religious culture. Xuanzhuang, a well-known Buddhist monk in the Tang Dynasty stopped here and delivered lectures on his way to India. Today, the remains standing here remind us of the prosperity and grandeur of the Ancienne ville.

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