Yarnaz Valley is a river valley eroded by floods in the ancient times and in the middle part of the valley there is willow-leaf-shape platform, 1650 meters long and 300 meters wide. As the River divides into two parts flowing below the ruined town, the town was named after “Jiaohe” (which in Chinese means the place where two rivers meet), and due to the erosion of the river water, cliffs were formed, as high as 30 meters. The local people call it “Yarhotu”, meaning “Yartown”. There are pathways on both east and south side, which extend down to the low place from the upper platform. On the walls there are two square-shape gate-frames to which gates are fixed. Out of the gates are the slopes down to the low ends of the platform. There are no walls round the edges of the buildings but a broken clay wall on the southwestern edge. The total building area amounts to about 220,000 square meters. And there is a road in the middle of the town, 300 meters long and 10 meters wide. This road divides the town into three parts. At the southern end of the road and eastern side there are lanes leading to the outside of the town and on both sides of the main road are high and thick clay walls but no windows and doors facing the road. Many small lanes from the main road, horizontal or vertical in direction, divide the buildings into many blocks, and gates of courtyards can be seen on the both sides of small lanes. The block on the northern part of the main road was a large temple area with many stupas in it and in the center of the block is a great stupa. There used to be a Buddha statue but nothing is left now. The eastern part of the southern block to the road was the ruins of some office buildings and residential area, about 3,000 square meters in area. The structure of the building is that of two-storey and there are stairs that connect the two. Inside the walls there is the square of the ruined town. In the western part of the town are residential blocks with clear divisions of lanes and courtyards and handicraft workshops as well. It is a characteristic of the architecture of the ruined town that there are walls and bases that support houses which were “dug out” from the clay ground. The floors between two-storey houses were supported by the rafters that were put into the holes of the clay walls. The roofs were clay-covered with few tiles.
Li Shuo, a Tang poet, wrote a poem which describes the prosperity of Jiaohe of his time, two lines go like this: “Climbing hills day time to watch the beacon fire and water horses at dust in Jiaohe River.” But when Chen Cheng, an official of the Ming Court of China went to the Western Regions as an envoy and passed by Jiaohe, he wrote some lines describing the ruins of Jiaohe as he saw: “Two branches of a sand river meet here and a strategic town was built on the water, it is dangerous with broken walls on the cliffs and I may ask how many years since it has been ruined.” From his poem we can see when Chen Cheng was staying here, the town had been ruined. Modern archaeologists came to a conclusion that the town was ruined in a great fire as they found there are burned traces in the most of ruined buildings.
Jiaohe has stood in Turfan for two thousand years and many buildings are preserved comparatively in good shape due to the dry climate and lack of water erosion. From the 19th century, many foreign explorers came here to try their luck and since 1950’s Chinese archaeologists have carried out systematic surveys in the ruins and they have made many important discoveries. Now, the Jiaohe Ruins, as a rare ruined clay-made town in China, attract tourists from all over the world.
Selected from Entering Xinjiang (Xinjiang Fine Arts and Photography Publishing House, Urumqi, 2011)
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