The Flaming Mountains of Turpan, Xinjiang: A Sea of Fire Flames

    Posted on: May 10, 2017 | Post your comment here Comments | 中文

    The Flaming Mountain of Turpan, Xinjiang (source: Ancient Origins) - Flaming Mountains of Turpan, Xinjiang

    The Flaming Mountain of Turpan, Xinjiang (source: Ancient Origins)

    The Flaming Mountain was initially well-known to the world because of its description in the ancient Chinese novel “Journey to the West”. In a chapter of the novel, Tang Sanzhang, a devout monk and his three disciples passed the Flaming Mountain on their way to the West for Buddhist scriptures, and it was in the Flaming Mountain area that they were blocked by the mountain where it was extremely hot all year round due to fire flames extending eight hundred miles. It was a place of no spring or autumn, and had no plants. The novel described this place in these words: “Even the “iron body” is burnt into liquid. Sun Wukong, the first disciple of Tang Sanzhang, fought against the Bull Demon King with wisdom in order to borrow his magic weapon – a palm-leaf fan – for three times, and with this magic fan, he put down the fires of the mountain and the monk and his three disciples got over the mountain and went on with their journey.

    Known as the “Land of Fire” and located in Turpan Basin in East Xinjiang, Northwest China, the Flaming Mountain is an offset of Tianshan Mountains and now it is a famous scenic spot in Turpan. Running in an east-west direction, the Flaming Mountain starts from Langanliusha River in the east and ending at Peach Valley in the west, stretching about 100 km long, 10 km wide, with an altitude of about 500 meters and a main peak 831.7 meters high. With stretching ridges, rolling hills and crackles and crumples, the mountain is just like rolling heat waving belt against direct sunlight, The surface temperature is over 70°C in the condition of barren land as well as burning sunlight shining on the bare red sandstone. It looks as if flames are spurting out from underground.

    The unique natural landscape and the story from “Journey to the West” has made the Flaming Mountain mysterious. Now tourists coming to the foot of the mountain will see the “horse-fastening pile” once “used” by Tang Sanzhang, which in fact is a towering hill stone standing at Shengjinkou. On a flat hill roof-like slope afar is the “horse stepping stone” for Tang Sanzhang. To its east across the valley, there stands a giant stone in a long mouth shape on one peak, known as Bajie Stone (Bajie is one of the disciples of Tang Sanzhang in the Journey to the West who was supposedly incarnated in the body of a pig). It is interesting to climb the “cloud ladder”, 660-meter high, when one is traveling to the Flaming Mountain, where he or she would appreciate the magnificent mountain scenery and listen to the story of “Sun Wukong Borrowing Palm-leaf Fan for Three Times”.

    As for its red hills, the Journey to the West gave full play to the imagination, saying that Sun Wukong had knocked off Alchemy Furnace of Lao Zi, the very high lord in Taoism with a stick when he caused a tremendous uproar in the heavenly palace, and it happened that one of the burning bricks of the Alchemy Furnace had fallen down to the place. And modern geologists said that the mountain actually used to be in great flames some million years ago.

    Flaming Mountains of Turpan, Xinjiang

    (Source: Top China Travel)

    Scholars discovered that the stratum of the mountain contained coal bed after their field investigation, and there has been a long-time coalfield self-combustion here that caused the fire. But the flaming that people now see is made by nature, that is, when sunlight shines on the rocks and stones of the mountain, which contain a large amount of iron elements. Hence, iron red is the main colour of the mountain. Blazing sun shining on the rocks every summer causes a unique scene: “a sea of flames” in the mountain.  

    Those tourists who come to the mountain will be astonishingly impressed by the scorching weather here, caused by both sunlight and hot wind. Being the lowest but the hottest place of China, the highest temperature recorded in the summer was 47.8°C, and the highest surface temperature is more than 70°C. Many tourists lie to do an “experiment” here: they put eggs on the rock or the sand, in no more than 40 minutes are they ready for eating! They can be baked in the sand nest. The highest absolute temperature recorded in history was 49.6 degrees (July 13, 1975), with a surface temperature of 83.3 degrees. Thus it deserves the name “Hot Pole in China”. Meanwhile, average rainfall over the years is only 16 mm, and in Toksun, a county in Turpan Basin, it is only 5.9 mm. “No rain and little rain”, not surprisingly, is quite a normal situation here.

    There are other interesting sites for tourists who come to the scenic spot.

    They will experience the plainness of Mount Mantou, a part of the Flaming Mountain, the vicissitude of the thousand-Buddha Caves at the valleys of the mountain, dangers of the suspension bridge, the hospitality of “Memet Courtyard” with local ethnic flavors, and the magnificence of the Thousand-Buddha Mountain. Besides, they will also have a taste of the sweet grapes growing at the mountain valleys. The tougher the environment, the sweeter the fruits produced there. Hot and dry weather makes grapes in Turpan especially sweet.

    Flaming Mountains of Turpan, Xinjiang

    (Source: Pinterest)

    In sharp contrast to the bare hills and the Flaming Mountain, there are many valleys running here and there, with clear springs and green trees at the bottom. The Grape Valley and Toyuk Valley are ranked among the most famous besides the Peach Valley, Wood Ditch, Lianmin Valley, Subo Valley, Gangou Valley and Shubai Valley.

    The Grape Valley, at the foot of the Flaming Mountain, is also reputed as “the Peach Garden (an ideal world)”. In the western ends, the steep cliffs upstand, but at its bottom are springs and small streams. The beautiful Grape Valley is famous for producing high-quality grapes. Nearly 100 species, including Seedless Grapes, Horse Breast Grapes, White and Dry Grapes, Red Rose Grapes and Suosuo Grapes, all of them make the valley a natural grape museum. In 2007, Grape Valley was approved as a National 5A Tourist Attraction by the National Tourism Administration.

    Tuyuk Valley is of great mystery, with not only valley scenes with jagged rocks and vertical or horizontal gullies, but also Tuyuk Thousand-Buddha Grottoes and Tuyuk Mazar (ancient Muslim Graveyard). Moreover, there are also mosques with typical Islamic architectural style, and the ruins of Tibetan Buddhism temples and ancient Manichean temples.

    Tuyuk Mazar Village, located south of the valley, is the oldest Uyghur village in the Turpan area, where some ancient Uyghur traditions and customs are well-preserved. Both houses and the thousand-year Buddha caves were built with earth, and the village has been a traditional settlement of local human beings for over two thousand years.

    There is an old saying in Xinjiang and in China as well: “There is no Flaming Mountain that cannot be climbed”, which means that there is no difficulty that cannot be overcome. Would you like to personally experience this in the Flaming Mountain?

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