Kucha is located in the center-west of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, at the southern base of the middle section of the Tianshan Mountain Ranges, and on the northern edge of the Tarim Basin. It was the political, economic and cultural center of the ancient Wester Regions, as well as the only place where the four great civilizations of the world converged. It bears the reputation of the “Entertainment Capital of the Western Regions”, the “Home of Song and Dance”, the birthplace of world-renowned Kucha culture, and a stunning gem of the ancient Silk Road. Several of its monuments are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List: the majestic Kizil Gaha Beacon Tower, a “red sentry-post” that has stood for thousands of years: the magnificent temple complex of Subashi, where the great Tang monk Xuanzang once lectured for several months; and the world-famous Kizil Cave, which is three hundred years older than the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang.
Kucha is the hometown of Kumārajīva, one of the three major translators of Buddhist scripture in ancient China, and a maestro of music, Sujup. It is also the birthplace of two forms of intangible cultural heritage: the Samar Dances and the Twelve Muqams (types of melodies). The famous line of poetry “The Qiang flute resounds in Longtou, playing the barbarian dance songs of Kucha” is testament to the popularity of Kucha’s music throughout the Central Plains during the Han and Tang dynasties. This city boasts a number of majestic sights: the mysterious Grand Canyon of Tianshan; the yardang of the Red Stone Forest that were beautifully crafted by the forces of nature; the Big and Small Longchi Ponds, embedded like gems in the Tiansan Mountain Ranges; a poplar grove known to the locals as “the essence of life”; as well as a kind of apricot whose honey-like sweetness is so renowned that Kucha is at times referred to as the “hometown of China’s little white apricot”. Kucha is also the main gas source of the country’s “West-to-East Gas Pipeline”, an important base for the development of Tarim oil and gas; a transportation hub connecting northern and southern Xinjiang; as well as southern Xinjiang’s main trade and logistics center and tourist transportation point. It is one of the small to mid-sized cities in China with the greatest potential for investment. Travel over one thousand years back in time and appreciate the fusion of cultures in the warm and welcoming city of Kucha!
The Ruins of Subashi Temple in Kucha City
The Largest Extant Buddhist Temple Ruins in Xinjiang
苏巴什佛寺，又名“昭怙悝大寺”、“雀离大寺”，是目前新疆现存规模最大的佛寺遗址，位于库车市东北20公里却勒塔格山南麓，分东西两寺，隔库车河相望。约建于公元3世纪，鼎盛于公元6世纪至公元10世纪。唐玄奘西行取经过龟兹时，依然“佛像庄饰，殆越人工”。7世纪中叶（公元658年），唐安西都护府移设龟兹后，内地高僧云集，佛事兴隆。晚唐（公元9世纪）渐趋势衰落，13至14世纪被废弃。佛寺东寺由佛堂、僧房、北、中、南三塔组成；西寺建筑遗址较多，以北、中、南三塔和南部寺院为主。该佛寺遗址考古成果颇丰，先后经考古发掘出土有陶器残片、铜钱、铁器、木简、石器、经卷等。1903年，日本的大谷瑞探险队到库车，在苏巴什佛寺遗址中挖掘出了一个木质彩绘有翼童子舍利盒，盒盖、盒身绘有古代龟兹地区非常流行、十分生动的“苏幕遮”乐舞图。1978年在西寺中塔基底发掘清理了一座墓葬，有女人尸骨及随葬品，现藏于库车博物馆。2014年6月22日，在卡塔尔多哈召开的联合国教科文组织第38届世界遗产委员会会议上，苏巴什佛寺遗址作为中国、哈萨克斯坦和吉尔吉斯斯坦三国联合申遗的“丝绸之路：长安-天山廊道的路网”中的一处遗址点成功列入《世界遗产名录》。 The Subashi Buddhist Temple, also known as the “Great Cakra Temple”, is the largest group of Buddhist temple ruins in Xinjiang. It is located at the southern foot of the Queletag Mountains, about 20 km to the northeast of Kucha. It comprises two complexes, one east and one west, that look at one another across the Kucha River. Built around the 3rd Century AD, it flourished from the 6th Century to the 10th Century. When Xuanzang traveled westward past the ancient kingdom of Kucha, he noted that the temple was still “flanked with statues of Buddha, boasting almost superhuman craftsmanship”. In the mid-7th Century (AD 658), after the Protectorate General to Pacify the West was re-stationed in Kucha, the kingdom became a gathering point for senior monks, in turn contributing to the development of Buddhist culture there. In the late Tang dynasy (9th Century AD), the use of the temple began to gradually decline; it was eventually abandoned by the 13th or 14th Century. The eastern complex is composed of a Buddhist temple, the monks’ living quarters, as well as three towers: northern, central and southern. There are more architectural ruins in the western complex. It too has northern, central and southern towers, as well as a temple to the south. Archeological excavations at the Subashi Temple ruins have been fruitful, unearthing pottery, copper coins, iron ware, wooden slabs, stone wares and scriptures. In 1903, Japanese Buddhist abbot Ōtani Kōzui led a team of explorers to Kucha. During their expedition, they excavated a wooden box featuring a painted image of a winged boy in the ruins of the Subashi Buddhist Temple. The box and its lid also represent the vivacious “Sumuzhe” songs and dances, which were extremely popular in the ancient kingdom of Kucha. In 1978, a tomb was excavated at the base of the middle tower of the western complex. Inside, archaeologists discovered women’s bones and grave goods, which are now stored in the Kucha Museum. On June 22, 2014, at the 38th UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Doha, Qatar, the Subashi Temple Ruins were successfully incorporated into the World Heritage List as part of the “Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor”, having been nominated by China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
佛音袅袅传千古 / After Thousands of Years, the Words of Buddhism Resound as Clearly as Ever
万籁俱寂 / Silence Reigns Supreme
Kizil Gaha Beacon Tower
The Oldest Beacon Tower Ruins on the Silk Road
克孜尔尕哈烽隧位于库车市西北10公里处，与克孜尔尕哈石窟仅相距千米，始建于汉宣帝年间（公元前1世纪），即西域都护府移设乌垒之后，夜间点火为烽，白天放烟为燧，是汉代的军事报警设施，也是汉唐时期长城防御体系中的一个重要组成部分。尕哈烽隧平面呈长方形，由基底向上逐渐缩收呈梯形，高约13.5米，夯土结构，上建望楼，木栅残迹尚存。它是目前古丝绸之路中道上年代最早、保存最完好的一个烽燧遗址。2014年6月22日，在卡塔尔多哈召开的联合国教科文组织第38届世界遗产委员会会议上，克孜尔尕哈峰燧作为中国、哈萨克斯坦和吉尔吉斯斯坦三国联合申遗的“丝绸之路：长安-天山廊道的路网”中的一处遗址点成功列入《世界遗产名录》。 The Kizil Gaha Beacon Tower is located 10 km northwest of Kucha City, only a few kilometers away from the Kizil Caves. It was built during the reign of Emperor Xuan of Han (1st Century BC), after the Protectorate of the Western Regions was re-stationed in the ancient city of Wulei. It acted as a military alarm in the Han dynasty and an important part of the Great Wall defence system during the Han and Tang dynasties. The presence of fire at night or smoke in the day atop the tower indicated approaching enemy battalions. From head-on, the Kizil Gaha Beacon Tower resembles an oblong that gradually tapers from the base to the top to form a trapezoid shape. It has a total height of 13.5 m and is made of rammed earth. Atop is a watch tower; remains of a wooden palisade can still be found. It is the oldest and best-preserved military beacon tower along the middle segment of the ancient Silk Road. On June 22, 2014, at the 38th UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Doha, Qatar, the Kizil Gaha Beacon Tower was successfully inscribed into the World Heritage List as part of the “Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor” nominated by China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
历史的见证 / Withstanding the Sands of Time
赤岸苍茫浮千古 / Rolling Banks of Ancient Red Earth
The Mysterious Grand Canyon of Kucha’s Tianshan Mountain Ranges
A Stunning Gem on the Golden Tourist Line of the Ancient Silk Road
天山神秘大峡谷地处天山山脉南麓、库车市以北64公里的山区，集人间峡谷之妙，兼天山奇景之长，蕴万古之灵气；谷底蜿蜒曲折，峰回路转；步步有景，举目成趣；泉水叮咚，寒暑不侵，游人称绝。整个峡谷犹如一条尾震天山头，口饮库车河，曲身九十九的巨龙劈山而卧，呼风唤雨，神秘莫测。更令人称奇的是，距谷口1400米深处，高约35米的悬壁上，有一始建于公元6世纪的千佛洞遗址，就文字记载和绘画艺术而言，在古西域地区至今已发现的300多座佛教石窟中绝无仅有，实属罕见。 The Tianshan Mysterious Grand Canyon is located at the southern foothills of the Tianshan Mountains, 64 km north of Kucha. At this tourist destination, one can simultaneously wonder at the depths of the canyon and the breadth of the mountain ranges. It has a historic atmosphere – one can sense the souls that lingered here in ancient times. At the bottom of the canyon, the terrain rises and falls like a turbulent sea. The path back to the peak winds in all directions, and everywhere one looks is more beauty to behold. The valley is clement in winter and summer; water can be heard trickling from the spring at all times of the year. The whole gorge resembles an enormous dragon lying down, sipping from the Kucha River, crashing its tail down upon the Tianshan mountaintops, and controlling the elements with its breath. This site exudes a powerful sense of mystery. What’s even more awe-inspiring is that, on a cliff about 35 m high and 1400 m from the mouth of the canyon, one can find the ruins of the Thousand Buddhas Cave from the 6th Century. This cave stands out from the other 300 Buddhist grottoes discovered in the ancient Western Regions in terms of its textual records and paintings.
苍穹 / The Vast Heavens
飞翔 / Soaring
红山石林 / A Forest of Red Stone
潺潺流水 / Gurgling Water
峡谷奇光 / Dazzling Sights
The Yardang Landforms of Kucha
An Inextinguishable Flame at the Depths of the Mountain Ranges
从库车出发向北，一路上都是叠嶂起伏的自然风光，穿过天工神韵的雅丹地貌、直刺云霄的盐水沟风景区，66公里的路程处处让你惊叹不已。在众多的山峦中，红山石林赤红的山体更是令人陡然一亮。山体呈红色，原海底的岩石由于造山运动而形成的直立的单斜岩石组成了层层叠叠的“石林”，分外壮观，与附近不同色彩的山体错落有致，交相辉映，构成一处天山奇观。一年四季都有诸多国内外的摄影爱好者、画家来这里采风、创作。 On the road northward from Kucha, one’s gaze is greeted by never-ending natural scenery. On a 66-kilometer drive, you will gasp in awe at the yardang formations of the Saltwater Ditch Scenic Area that pierce the heavens. However, among these towering shapes, the most eye-catching are no doubt the undulating rock faces of the Red Stone Forest. These slanted vermillion rocks rose out of the ground to form an overlapping stone forest as a result of the movement of tectonic plates. They are interspersed with other mountain bodies of different colors, creating a majestic sight to behold. Photography enthusiasts and painters from China and abroad come here all year round to create art.
层峦叠嶂 / Undulating Ranges
大地的造化 / Miraculous Creation
崇山峻岭 / Precipitous Peaks
俯瞰库车河 / Looking Down upon Kucha River
幸福之路 / Road to Happiness
Duku Highway (Kucha Section)
A Scenic Route Down the Backbone of the Tianshan Ranges
在独库公路库车段，人们还将欣赏到壮丽的克孜利亚山地景观，这里的红山石林蔚为壮观。库车河一直伴随在公路一侧，当公路通过天山南麓的“火焰地带”后，取而代之的是陡峭的岩壁，茵茵的绿草，满树激情盛开着黄色花儿的荆棘，以及零零落落的松树。山谷中弥漫着野花芳香，高耸入云的山峰上驻留着寒气逼人的白雪。路边的峭壁如刀劈一般，相对高度差在百米以上。The Duku Highway that runs from Dushanzi in the north to Kucha in the south, is the earliest incarnation of National Highway 217. More than half of the 561-kilometer long highway spans the precipitous peaks of the Tianshan ranges and crosses the deep canyon, linking many settlements of ethnic minorities along the way. It was appraised by China National Geographic as “a scenic route down the backbone of the Tianshan ranges”. This absolutely unforgettable highway that winds through the mountains is as awe-inspiring as it is steep. Not only does it abound in natural beauty – it is also a monument to human determination, crystallizing a decade of hardships on the part of tens of thousands of workers. This is a majestic road that brings together all the stunning sights that Xinjiang has to offer. In the Kucha section of Duku Highway, people can also take in the magnificent landscape of the Keziliya Mountain, with its breathtaking red stone forest. The highway continually snakes down one side of the Kucha River until the “flame zone” on the southern foot of the Tiansham Mountains. There, the river gives way to steep rock walls, lush green grass, violent profusions of golden blossoms and sparse pine trees. The valley is filled with the fragrance of wild flowers, while its towering peaks are capped with snow. The cliffs on either side of the road are like blades; their height differs by a margin of more than 100 meters.
天梯 / Heavenly Stairway
光影 / Light and Shadows
牛羊遍地贺丰年 / Cattle and Sheep Celebrate the Harvest
风光不与四时同 / Scenery that Differs from One Season to the Next
住在草原的毡房里吃烤肉、喝酸奶、听民歌、赏美景，你会感觉到这里就是真正的人间天堂。 Encircled by mountains 144 km north of Kucha City, there are two natural lakes made of melting alpine snow, commonly known as the Big and Small Longchi Ponds. Located at 2300 m above sea level, close to National Highway 217, they offer tremendous views. The Longchi Ponds have a combined aquatic surface area of approximately 2 square kilometers. The mountaintops are covered year-round in a thick blanket of snow and are home to a prized ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine: the snow lotus. At the foot of the mountain are resplendent cedars and cypresses, lush grass, trickling spring water, as well as herds of cattle and sheep. Shepherds’ dwellings dot the landscape and one can occasionally spot snow chickens, Mongolian gazelle and snow leopards. The eastern part of the pond is flat, with luxuriant grass on its banks and clear blue water that reflects the snowy peaks. This spectacular scenery makes it a popular resort for tourism in the summer. At the crack of dawn, the hillside pine forest is swathed in warm pastel hues and the lake is dyed red. As day shifts to night, the color of the water transforms again – this time, from azure to deep blue. At times the hills are enveloped in fog and clouds that cast a light drizzle, and then they part, revealing a bright blue sky. Eating barbecued meat, drinking yoghurt, listening to folk songs and enjoying the beautiful scenery from a yurt on the grasslands, visitors may come to the conclusion that this is heaven on earth.
水天一色 / Sky and Water of the Same Shade of Blue
湖光山色 / Brilliant Lakes and Stunning Mountains
水墨龙池 / Dark Water Resembling an Inkwell
The Poplar Grove of Kucha
The “Essence of Life” in a “Sea of Death”
塔里木胡场林国家森林距离库车市80公里，集塔河自然景观、胡杨景观、沙漠景观为一体，是世界上最古老、面积最大、保存最完整、最原始的胡杨林保护区。胡杨是公元三世纪残余的古老树种，是一种因沙化后而转化的植物，其珍贵程度与银杏齐名，具有极强的生命力，有活化石之称。春天，胡杨微吐绿芽，一派欣欣向荣的繁盛景象；盛夏，胡杨身披绿荫，落英缤纷；金秋，胡杨秀丽的风姿或倒影水中，或屹立于大漠，尽显生命的灿烂辉煌；在狂风飘雪的冬季，不屈的胡杨身披银装，不得不使人赞叹这茫茫沙海中的大漠英雄……此情此景不免让人心生感慨：不到新疆，不知胡杨之壮美，不看胡杨，不知生命之辉煌。 The National Tarim Poplar Forest is 80 km away from Kucha City. Here, the mighty Tarim River, poplar trees and desert landscapes come together to form a feast for the eyes. It is the oldest, largest, best preserved and least denatured poplar reserve in the world. Populus euphratica is an ancient tree species left over from the 3rd Century and transformed by desertification. It is a precious as the ginkgo, extremely robust, and it is thought of as a living fossil. In spring small green buds burst forth from this type of poplar, creating an image of imminent prosperity. In the middle of summer, Populus euphratica is covered in a shawl of luxurious foliage and colorful blossoms. In autumn, one can contemplate the noble poplar reflected in the water, or standing tall in the desert – a dignified display of vitality. In the snowy winter, the unyielding poplar dresses in silver like a lone hero in the desert, inspiring sights of awe from visitors. If you don’t visit Xinjiang, you will never know the beauty of life represented by Populus euphratica.
“阿克其米西”就是库车小白杏。色泽浅黄透亮、外表光滑无毛的小白杏吃到嘴里细腻无渣、绵甜清爽、馥郁芬芳，真不愧“库车白杏赛蜜糖”的美誉。 Kucha is known as the “Hometown of the Chinese White Apricot”. In May 2014, the little white apricots of Kucha were officially registered as a landmark agricultural product by the Ministry of Agriculture. There are dozens of apricot varieties in Kucha, including ginkgo, dabian apricots, butter apricots and pepper apricots. However, the most famous is “xiaobai”, or “little white apricots”. Every June, the first ripe apricots drop to the ground with a thud, marking the beginning of the apricot season in Kucha. No matter the season – even when the apricots are green and sour, even when the pomegrantes hang seductively low on the trees – the Kucha people still affectionately refer to their hometown as an “apricot orchard”, demonstrating the place that these fruits hold in their hearts. “Akximix” is the Uyghur word for these apricots. These translucent yellow, smooth and hairless apricots have a delicate taste free of dregs. With their refreshing sweetness and enchanting fragrance, it isn’t hard to understand why people say that “the little white apricots of Kucha are sweet as honey”.
晒“杏”福 / Life is Sweet Like an Apricot
晒“杏”福 / Life is Sweet Like an Apricot
Kucha Folk Customs (The Samar Dances of Kucha)
“Singing and Dancing Giant Pandas”: An Intangible Heritage
有“歌舞大熊猫”之称的萨玛尔舞，发源于2000多年前的新疆龟兹地区，是新疆首批非物质文化遗产。在克孜尔千佛洞第38号窟里，就可以看到萨玛尔舞的壁画。萨玛尔舞融歌舞与杂技为一体，是从龟兹人接待宾客的仪式演变而来的舞蹈形式。舞蹈者在唢呐、铁鼓的伴奏下，头顶重达5公斤的铜盘、铜壶或叠起的细瓷小碗，随着旋律翩翩起舞，而头顶的重物不能滑落。 Samar dances, also referred to as “singing and dancing giant pandas”, originated in the ancient kingdom of Kucha over 2000 years ago. They were included in Xinjiang Autonomous Region’s first batch of intangible cultural heritage. In Cave No. 38 of the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves, you can find frescoes of these dances. Samar performances combine song and dance with acrobatics. It is a dance form that evolved from ancient Kucheans’ rituals for receiving guests. To the rhythm of suona and iron drums, dancers move while carefully balancing copper plates, copperpots or small porcelain bowls weighing up to 5 kg on their heads.
萨玛尔舞 / Samar Dances
The Earthenware of Kucha
An Art Form Combining Clay and Fire
库车土陶技术以家庭式陶艺作坊为主，基本沿用口口相传的方式传授技艺。土陶的造型、着色都蕴含了维吾尔族人民的历史传统和民族特色，充分体现了维吾尔族人民独特的审美情趣、美学思维和创作才华，其中亦可见古丝绸之路中西文化碰撞的影响和新疆其他民族文化的影响，为古西域东西方文明交流史，特别是中华文化一脉多枝的研究和说明提供了重要例证，具有重要的历史、文化价值。 Kucha earthenware is primarily produced in household pottery workshops, where potters basically use word-of-mouth to impart their skills. The shape and color of earthenware is influenced by the historical traditions and cultural characteristics of the Uyghur people. These objects fully reflect the Uyghur people’s unique aesthetic vision and creative talents. They also demonstrate the impact of the collision of Chinese and Western cultures along the ancient Silk Road, as well as the fusion of multiple ethnic cultures in Xinjiang. They act as important sources that illustrate the history of cultural exchanges between eastern and western civilizations in China’s Western Regions, and are particularly valuable when it comes to elucidating the many sub-branches of Chinese culture.
陶艺人 / Potter
制陶作坊 / Pottery Workshop
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