on the northwestern border in the interior of Central
Asia was set up as an autonomous region on October 1,
1955. It has an area of more than 1.6 million square kilometers,
one-sixth the size of China and larger than any other
province or autonomous region, and a population of 12.83
million, of which 22 per cent live in the cities and 78
per cent in the farming and pastoral areas. Of its total
population, 5 million are the Uygurs, the principal nationality
there, 5 million are the Hans, and the rest are the Kazaks,
Mongolians, Huis, Xibes, Kirgizes, Ozbeks, Tajiks, Russians,
Manchus, Daurs and Tatars.
Kashi -- Oasis in the Desert
Turpan -- Ancient Stop on the Silk
Urumqi -- Land of Contrasts
is divided into five topographical zones: 1) The Tianshan
Mountain Area, mostly 3,000--5,000 meters above sea level,
consists of several ranges running parallel from west
to east across the middle part of the region. The Tianshan
range divides Xinjiang into two vastly different natural
geographical regions, northern and southern Xinjiang.
The numerous intermontane basins and valleys are important
farming-pastoral areas. The area around the Hami and Turpan
basins is customarily called eastern Xinjiang. 2) The
Altay range lies in the north and northeast. 3) In the
south are the Karakorum, Kunlun and Altun mountains and
the Pamirs. 4) The Junggar Basin between the Tianshan
and Altay ranges has the Curbantunggut Desert in the middle.
5) The Tarim Basin south of the Tianshan range makes up
more than half of the region's total area and has the
Taklimakan Desert in the middle. Deserts make up about
22 per cent of the area of Xinjiang. Mount Qogir, towering
8,611 meters above sea level over the China-Pakistan border,
is the highest peak in the region. Aydingkol Lake in the
Turpan Depression with its surface 154.43 meters below
sea level is the lowest point in China.
are 20-some larger rivers in Xinjiang, including the Tarim,
Ili, Ertix and Manas. Lop Nur is its largest lake.
deep in the interior of Asia and unpenetrated by the air
currents from the oceans, Xinjiang has conspicuous continental
climate, with highly changeable temperature, sharp difference
in temperature between day and night, abundant sunshine,
intense evaporation and little precipitation. The mean
annual temperature of northern Xinjiang is 4°-8ºC.
and that of southern Xinjiang 9°-12ºC. The arid
south has a mean annual precipitation of 25-100 mm., while
the greater part of the north has 100-500 mm.
project to quicken train speed on the Lanzhou-Xinjiang
Railway, one of the major projects in China’s third
drive to upgrade train speed, is expected to be completed
by October 1, 2000. The Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway, which
extends more 2,000 kilometers from Lanzhou City in Gansu
Province in the east to the Alataw Pass, the westernmost
point on the Chinese section of the second Eurasian Bridge,
is an artery linking China’s west and east and the
only railroad leading from Xinjiang to the rest of China.
The dual-track route of the Lanzhou-Urumqi Railroad has
been open to traffic. Construction of the Korla-Kashi
section of the Southern Xinjiang Railroad, also a major
project, is in full swing. An investment of 2.4 billion
yuan has been completed in the westward extension project
of the Southern Xinjiang Railroad. On December 29, 1998,
tracks were laid to Xiggar. A total of 826.9 kilometers
of tracks were laid, 101 kilometers more than that in
the annual plan. On December 1, 1998, the Korla-Aksu section
was put into trial operation. In 1998, the Urumqi Railway
Bureau transported 29.142 million tons of freight, increasing
3.9 percent over that in the previous year.
Highways now reach 99 percent towns and villages in all
counties and prefectures. A road-transportation network
comprising seven national highways and 62 regional main
highways links Urumqi with Gansu and QingHai provinces
in the east, the Tibet Autonomous Region in the south,
and Central Asian counties in the west. In 1998, the length
of major highways open to traffic reached 32,701 kilometers.
Seasonal steamers and barges can sail on the Ili and Ertix
Xinjiang leads China’s other provinces and autonomous
regions in the number of airports and the length of civil
aviation routes. The Urumqi International Airport, one
of China’s six major airports, has flights to West
Asian and European countries. Air routes lead from Urumqi
to Lanzhou, Xi’an, Beijing, Shanghai as well as
Xinjiang’s Hami, Korla, Kuqa, Hetan, Kashi, Aksu,
Yining, Karamay, Fuyun, and Altay. The Urumqi International
Airport now is under expansion. In 1998, the Xinjiang
Airline Company shipped a freight volume of 298.7734 million
tons/kilometers, a passenger volume of 1,340,600 people/times,
and a mail volume of 26,862.4 tons.