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Home > Destinations > Xinjiang> Turpan (Turfan) > Karez Channels

Karez Channels

Karez Channels Turpan, Xinjiang Silk RoadThe Karez underground irrigation channel in Turpan is one of China's three greatest feats of ancient engineering, along with the Great Wall and the Grand Canal. Construction began on this ancient irrigation system during the Han Dynasty and as the Silk Road developed, methods of construction found their way to Central Asia and Persia.

Turpan has a name the 'Fire Prefecture' and 'Home of Winds' for its very dry climate, Nevertheless, there are vast luxuriant and green oases around. The secret lies in the networks of wells and irrigation channels spreading underground like vascular nets, which provide the lifeblood of Turpan.This subterranean canals or underground water system was built by the local people inaccordance with local weather and hydrological conditions.

Karez Channels Turpan, Xinjiang Silk RoadThis irrigation system uses gravity and the slope of the land to direct water flow into underground channels, thereby lessening the effects of evaporation under direct sunlight. The system comprises wells, underground drain channels (some up to 8km long), and collection wells (where the water reaches a certain level and runs into above ground irrigation channels). In the entire system, there are over one thousand wells and the total length of the channels reaches 3,000km. The most astonishing fact is that this feat of engineering was all completed by hand using simple tools.

Karez wells are a successful application of the sinking technology of the Central Plains in the Turfan area. It is a historic inheritance and promotion of the sinking technology of the Central Plains, and plays a very important role in the study of the sinking technology both in the Central Plain and in the Middle and West Asia. There are more than 1400 Karez wells in Turfan. The total length amounts to more than 5000 km with an annual runoff volume up to 300 million cubic meters, surpassing the total runoff volume of the Flaming Mountain water system.

Karez Channels Turpan, Xinjiang Silk RoadKarez well can realize irrigation by water flowing automatically, which means low cost in running the system. It reduces evaporation, and avoids contamination caused by sand storm, to ensure the regular flow of irrigation water. It is stable in runoff volume and good in water quality to meet the standard for drink and irrigation. The technological requirement for the construction of the Karez well is not very high, and there is no lining for protection. The cover material is very simple and handy in local places with rather low cost. The total length will surpass 4400 km which is longer than the Yellow River, which is the "cradle river".

In the oasis of Turfan, Karez wells nourish the crops, nurture the people in this oasis and provide water sources for the passing merchants who are traveling through the great desert. As the great irrigation project initiated by the ancient people, it is a great undertaking which benefits both the contemporaries and later generations.  

Karez Channels Turpan, Xinjiang Silk RoadAs an ancient irrigation system, the Karez well system has ever played a very important role in the daily life and in the production of the people in Turfan area. Though there is highly advanced electromechanical irrigation system, the function and position of the Karez system can not be superseded completely. On May 25, 1993, the 3rd Session of the 4th Standing Committee of Turfan Municipal People's Congress proved Provisions on the Administration of Turfan Karez Wells. It can be seen that its authenticity and integrity can be well preserved in the future.

How to get Karez Channels : There are many places to enjoy the scenery along the channel system, but most minibus tours stop at one spot on the western side of the city. Hiring a minibus to see several sights around the surrounding countryside should cost between RMB300-RMB500 for six people. Drivers cruise the streets of Turpan looking for customers.

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