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Hami, the hometown of Hami melon
2010-07-05 source:silkroadcn
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The city of Hami, 595 kilometers from Urumqi and with an average elevation of 760 meters, covers an area of 79,000 square kilometers with an urban area of twenty-three square kilometers.


Hami was called Kunmo in ancient times and Yiwulu in the Han Dynasty. During the Eastern Han Dynasty, the office of the Yihe prefectural General was set up here. During the Northern wei, the prefecture of Yiwu was established. During the Sui Dynasty, Yiwu Prefecture and Rouyuan Town had their seats established in Hami. During the Tang Dynasty, the prefecture of Xiyi was set up and later on it was renamed Yizhou Prefecture. During the Yuan Dynasty, it was called Hamili and was administered by Gansu Province. During the reign of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Yongle, the Hami Fortress was established. In 1759, the twenty-fourth year of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong,, Hami Prefecture was founded and in 1884, the tenth year of the Qing Emperor Guangxu, it was upgraded to the level of a prefecture directly under the administration of the central government. In 1913, the second year of the Republic of China, it was re-established as a county.

The city of Hamo consists of two parts: the new city and the old city, which is called ?°the Mighty Guard of the Tianshan.?± The old city was built in 1727 on a site which is said to be the ruin of a Tang Dynasty city, and it was destroyed in a Hui uprising. In 1884, the tenth year of Emperor Guangxu, it was rebuilt into a city twice as large as the original one and now it is located to the southwest of the present old city. In 1868, the seventh year of the Qing Emperor Tongzhi, the new city was built by the troops under the command of Wen Lin, the Executive Minister of Hami. In June 1880, General Zuo Zongtang's army was stationed in Hami with its headquarters in the new city.


Hami Prefecture has a population of 400,000 of which the Han nationality makes up 67 percent and other minority nationalities 33 percent. The city of Hami includes 24 nationalities in its population of 300,000. The Han nationality accounts for 66 percent, the Uygur 26 percent, the Kazak 2.7 percent, the Hui 3.7 percent and the other 0.4 percent is made up of the Mongol, Manchu, Tibetan, Xibe, Ozbek, Yugur and Kirgiz nationalities.

Hami City has under its administration two towns (Qijiaojing and Yamansu), three neighborhood committees (Donghe, Xihe, Xinshi), two districts (Qinchen, Tianshan) and twenty-one townships.


With the Tianshan Mountains lying across its middle, Hami Prefecture has a few different climates. Generally, the climate of Hami is characterized by drought, change ability of temperature is 14.7??. The annual mean sunshine time is 3,234 hours, the longest in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The annual rainfall is 33.8 millimeters. The frost-free period in the area south of the Tianshan Mountains is 184 days. The prefecture has 586,400 hectares of forest. The prefecture has 1.73 billion cubic meters of exploitable water resources with a hydroelectric resources of 116,000 kilowatts (preliminary estimate). The waterpower resources exploited at present are less than one thirtieth of that total.

As one of the most mineral-rich areas yet to be prospected in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Hami Prefecture has natural resources of iron, copper, nickel, coal, phosphorus, manganese, gold, halite, Glauber?ˉs salt, and building materials. There are in the prefecture a number of wild animals including lynx, snow cock, snow leopard, Mongolian gazelle, bear, ibex, argali, Tianshan red deer, ermine, Asiatic wild ass and vulture. There are in the area over forty Chinese medical herbs such as the astragulus membranaceus, codonopsis pilosula, angelica sinensis, rhubarb, ophedra, coptia, snow lily and licorice root. Also the prefecture has supplies of hairy fungus and Tianshan mushroom.


The prefecture has 289 industrial enterprises. The major industries in the area are steel and iron, electric power, coal, cement, chemistry, paper making, salt, pharmaceuticals and building materials. The Lanzhou Xinjiang railway passes through 317.3 kilometers of the prefecture, with stations in 26 towns, while the prefecture?ˉs highways cover 1,966.6 kilometers in total. Hami has 212,667 hectares of arable land and 4.11 million hectares of high-quality natural grassland, with over 200 grass species of more than thirty families. The main crops grown in the area are wheat, corn,, cotton, rape seed, melon and fruit. As the hometown of the Hami melon, the prefecture has been known far and wide since the reign of the Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi, when the Islamic king of Hami began to use Hami melons as gifts to the Qing court. Now, there are about thirty species of Hami melon with a sugar content of between ten and eighteen percent. Of the thirty species the ?°Crisp Red Heart,?± ?°Black Brow?± and ?°Smile?± are the sweetest and sell well both at home and abroad.


The prefecture has one branch of the television university, one teachers?ˉ college, four secondary specialized schools, one technical school and forty-seven ordinary secondary schools. There are 173 public health organizations with over 2,000 hospital beds and 2,600medical workers.

The prefecture has four professional scientific research institutions, over ten technical service and popularization stations and 2,500 professionals and technicians, 500 of which are of national minorities.

The prefecture has four professional art organizations, thirteen cultural centers at the county and township-level, and six radio and television broadcasting stations.


Islamic King Tombs

Located two kilometers south of the Hami city proper, the tombs were built around 1840 for the burial of Islamic kings and their wives. Two of the tombs are well preserved. The one to the south consists of two magnificent pavilion-type buildings with upturned eaves, carved beams, painted rafters and round supporting columns. The other one is a twenty-five-meter high, dome-shaped building with a square base and a domed top. The building is covered with glazed bricks and has a spiral earthen flight of stairs leading to the top. Opposite the tomb is a mosque, upon whose four walls are inscribed religious scriptures and colorful designs; its ceilings are painted with colored drawings and its beams carved with floral patterns. The mosque has a capacity of 3,000 persons.

Geys' Tomb

Located in the western part of the urban area is the tomb of Geys, an Arab missionary who came to China during the Tang Dynasty. He died in Xingxing Valley and was hastily buried there. The tomb is fifteen meters high and built of green glazed bricks with a square base and a round arch top.

Wubao Ancient Tombs

Seventy kilometers southwest of the city of Hami, the tombs, belonging to the latter part of the New Stone Age, cover an area of 5,000 square meters. Because of the dry climate here, the dried-up corpses were unearthed with undamaged clothes, elastic flesh, intact eyebrows and unsunken eyes. The hair of the corpses was of brown color. It caused a great sensation when one of the female corpses was put on display in Shanghai. According to research conducted by the scientific research departments concerned, Wubao Ancient Tombs are 2,900 to 3,200 years old.

The Ancient City of Labuqiaoke

?°Labuqiaoke?± in Uygur means ?°The Four Forts. The city, sixty kilometers southwest of the city proper, was garrisoned by some reclamation troops stationed here in the Han Dynasty. It became the seat of Nazhi County during the Tang Dynasty. The city is 440 meters long and 124 meters wide with several beacon towers and temples outside of it.

Poplar Valley Buddhist Temple

The temple is located on the sides of Poplar Valley near the Liushuquan Farm, fifty kilometers west of Hami City. With the snow-capped Tianshan Mountains behind, the ruins are scattered over an area two kilometers long and half a kilometer wide. The east-facing main hall has a fifty-meter wide facade. In the center of the back hall, there is a big sitting-Buddha statue ten meters high, created in the style of the period between the Tang Dynasty and the Xizhou Huigu. The remaining ?°images of a thousand Buddhas?± in the ten or more grottoes hewn on the clay cliff north of the main hall are still visible and clearly reveal the historical facts about the ancient Yiwu people's belief in Mahayana. The ruins of the temple are valuable evidence for studies of the religious beliefs of the ancient Uygur people and of the religious history of the Xinjiang area.

Barkol Beacon Towers

There are about twenty remnants of ancient beacon towers scattered over this area. These remaining towers, five to ten meters in height and twenty square meters in area at the base, are mostly square in shape and built of tamped earth, although some are built of stones and lime. The intervals between these towers vary from three to four kilometers. The scene is vividly described by the lines by Cen Shen, celebrated poet of the Tang Dynasty:

Cold courier stations look like tiny dots afar,

Frontier beacon towers keep each other near.

There remains of the period from the Tang Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty provide the clues and substance for inspecting and visiting the military posts and courier stations on the ancient Silk Road.

Liushu Valley Rock Inscriptions

The inscriptions are located in the Liushu Valley on Jiashan Mountain about fifty kilometers west of the seat of the Barkol Kazak Autonomous County. The topography of the mountain is peculiar, with twisted granite rocks of various shapes dotting the landscape. Just below a cliff there is a spring flowing into a pond filled with crystal water which is regarded by the local people as holy water. Concentrated on the granite cliff just behind the spring, the carved rock inscriptions include images of bharals, goats, double deer facing each other, human beings hunting with bows, high-wheeled carts and the sun. Generally these images are ten to twenty centimeters in size. They are indeed valuable materials for the study of ancient carved rock inscriptions.

The Wonder of Monkey Mountain

In the southern part of Qincheng Township of Hami, there is a strange mountain called ?°The Monkey Mountain,?± on which there are many lifelike stone monkeys, stone bears, stone sheep and stone eagles. All these ?°sculptures,?± strangely enough, did not come from man?ˉs hands, but are the masterpieces of Mother Nature. ?°Carving?± unflaggingly for thousands of years, the sun, rain, snow and wind have, with their mighty power, created this wonderful spectacle. The grotesquely shaped rocks possess different figures when viewed from different angles. These unending changes carry viewers away with strange images flashing through their minds. Whenever the wind blows the mountain sends out different wonderful sounds——sometimes bamboo flutes, playing gently, sadly and mournfully; sometimes tigers growling and lions roaring; sometimes shining swords clashing and armored horses galloping; all adding mysteriousness to the mysterious Monkey Mountain.

White Rock

Sixty kilometers from the city of Hami on the northern slope of the Tianshan Mountains, the place got its name ?°White Rock? because there is giant white rock standing on the grassland there. Situated on the slope of a mountain and overlooking a river, it is comfortably cool in summer. Graced with green pine trees and surrounded by a vast grassland dotted with cattle and sheep, the place is really an ideal summer resort. Also on the way to and from the place, visitors can enjoy the beautiful landscape of the Tianshan Mountains. In White Rock visitors can ride horses and camels to go sightseeing on the mountains, and they can visit the gerdsmen?ˉs yurts to see the local customs and habits.

The Sounding Sandhill

To the northwest of White Rock and seventy kilometers from the city of Hami, a sandhill over five kilometers long and fifty meters high rises up out of the grassland. The hill, with springs bubbling up and lush water weeds growing around it, is made up of very fine and pure sand without any dirt. The Liutiao River winds its way through at the foot of the hill. Whenever there is a breeze or a traveler slides down from the top, different sounds can be heard, rising and falling, like deafening thunder when it gets loud and like melodious pastoral music played with a flute when it gets weak. Because of these wonderful sounds, people call it ?°The Sounding Sandhill.

The Cultural Relics Exhibition

Located in the urban area of Hami, the exhibition hall was officially opened to the public in 1985. On display in the exhibition are more than 300 cultural relics unearthed in the prefecture in the last thirty years or so. The ancient dried-up corpses unearthed in Wubao are also on display here.

Hami Melon Fields

From July to September every year when the Hami melon is ripe, the air is heavy with the aroma of the melon, and it is really intoxicating to pay a visit to the melon fields.

The Karez System

Along the railway, there are karez for people to visit, complete with wells, underground channels, surface canals and small reservoirs, with lighting facilities and steps for visitors.