Full Name: Aksu Prefecture
Chinese Name: 阿克苏地区 (ā kè sū dì qū)
Area: 132,500 square kilometers (51,159 square miles)
Nationalities: Uygur, Han
Before the Han Dynasty (206BC – 220AD) brought the region under the central government in 60 BC, several kingdoms existed in Aksu. The Protectorate of the West Region (Xiyu Douhufu) was established by the court with Aksu as its political, economic, military and cultural center. On the ancient Silk Road, Aksu became important as a connecting point for Central China with Central Asia and West Asia.
Aksu Prefecture is located in the southwest portion of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It shares a 235 kilometers-long boundary to the northwest with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In the south, it is separated from Hotan by the Taklamakan Desert. It is about 450 kilometers northeast of Kashgar.
Aksu lies at the south foot of Tianshan Mountain on the north edge of the Tarim Basin. The Tianshan Mountains are in the north while the Taklamakan Desert lies to the south.
The region's climate is dry and chilly in the winter and arid and torrid in the summer. Temperatures vary greatly between day and night. While there is abundant sunshine, the area gets inadequate rainfall. The average annual temperature is around 10 – 11C. September and October are the best times to visit Aksu.
Islam is the chief religion in the region. The Corban Festival on the tenth day of the twelfth month and the Ramadan Festival in the ninth month of the Islam calendar are the most important festivals during the year. Corban is also called the 'butchering' festival since it features the sacrifice of livestock. During Ramadan, Muslims avoid eating in the daytime. They usually take two meals a day—one before dawn and one after dusk.
In addition, the Qiuci Culture and Tourism Festival is celebrated from June to August. Tourists and business travelers from far and near attend to witness unique folk performances.
Special Local Products:
Agricultural output includes melons; walnuts; apples; pears and apricots. Uygur apparel featuring folk costumes; riding boots and embroidered caps and waist bands.
Hightlights in Aksu:
Kuqa Mosque is a grand Islam temple second only in size to the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar. It is about four kilometers from the newly formed district of Kuqa County. This is an area that dates back to the fifteenth century.
The Mystic Grand Canyon of the Tianshan Mountains is located on the Dushanzi-Kuqa Highway about seventy kilometers from the Kuqa county seat. This canyon is famous for its russet rocks formed by wind and rain over millions of years.
The mysterious Aay Grotto which is about two kilometers from the canyon entrance was built during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
Tumur Peak marks the apex of Tianshan Mountain. Around Tumur there are many peaks over 6,000 meters above sea level. Five of these peaks actually exceed 6,800 meters in height. There are enormous glaciers here and the snow and ice caps provide an important water source for the vast lands in the area.
Other Scenic Spots: Thousand Buddhas Cave of Kizil; Aiximan Lake, Tarim River
Aksu Airport is 10 kilometers north of Aksu City. It operates two to three scheduled flights a week to Ururmqi. Additionally, there are four flights a week between Urumqi and Hotan that connect in Aksu.
The south Xinjiang Railway has been extended southwestward to Kashgar. There are conveniently scheduled trips from Urumqi, Kashgar and Lanzhou to Aksu. The Aksu Railway Station is located six kilometers southeast of Aksu City. High-speed trains take about sixteen hours from Urumqi to Aksu.
Being the traffic hub of southern Xinjiang, Aksu's network of roads is well developed. Visitors can find the city's main bus station on Wuka Zhong Lu.