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Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Caves & Flaming Mountains

 Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Caves, Turpan

Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Caves

Located 45 km (28 miles) east of Turpan are the Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Caves in the western cliffs of the Mutou Vally under the Flaming Mountain. Out of 83 man-made caves or grottos, only 57 are intact. Murals in 40 of the caves cover a combined area of about 1,200 sq meters. So Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Caves are one of the most valuable Buddhist cave sites found in all of China.

With the first cave being carved during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-581), and with more caves added during the Tang (618-907), the Five Dynasties (907-960), Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368). This site was once a royal Buddhist temple complex for the ancient Gaochang Kingdom with most of the relics found in the Bizaklik Thousand Buddha Caves being representations of Gaochang culture. Murals of that period depict the King and Queen of Gaochang Kingdom, the stories and images of Buddha and the life of the Gaochang people vividly. Inscriptions on the murals written in ancient Uigur, Chinese and other languages also provide authentic references, invaluable for historical research as a key point along the ancient Silk Road; Turpan was the place where east and west met. A mural found in cave No. 17 depicting the doctrines of the ancient third century Persian religion of Manicheism being some of the best evidence.

The caves also had different usages; most of them being shrines, however, some of them were residences and schools for monks to learn and practice Buddhism, and a few of the caves were shrines dedicated to monks of great renown.

Admission Fee: CNY 20

Flaming Mountains, Turpan Flaming Mountains

The Flaming Mountain lies 10 km (6.2 miles) east of Turpan City and is very famous because of the legendary Monkey King from the novel Journey to the West. According to this wonderful book, The Monkey King kicked over an elixir oven while fighting with gods in heaven. Charcoals from the oven fell onto the mountain and started a fire, hence, the name Flaming Mountain. In fact, this 100-kilometer long mountain is made of red sandstone laid down in Jurassic times. The temperature of this deserted mountain is indeed the highest found in China . The temperature of the earth's surface can be over 80 C ( 176 F )! A huge thermometer at the centre of the Flaming Mountain Museum will show you how hot it is. Detailed explanations of the history of Flaming Mountain, its geology as well as the legend are displayed in the museum  
Admission Fee: CNY 20

Nearby Attraction
Aydingkol Lake (Moonlight Lake)

Located about 50 km (31 miles) southeast of Turpan City, Aydingkol Lake is the second lowest point of world with an altitude of 154.33 meters (505 ft) high below sea level! The raising of the Himalayas about 200 millions years ago created the lake. Because of the increase in population and a lowering of the water table, the lake only covers an area of 22 sq km (about 5,436 acres) now. Aydingkol Lake consists of three parts; the outer area being salt flats, and due to severe evaporation, the ground is rock hard. The middle area is a salt marsh full of silts. The inner area consists of brackish water and crystal salt. The local Uigur people call it Moonlight Lake because of the reflective nature of the salt crystals.

Due to the high concentrations of salt in the lakebed, neither fish nor bird will be found around the area of the lake. The special geographical location and desert views have allured many visitors in recent years.

Admission Fee: CNY 10