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Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor

Xinjiang Travel Guide

Introduction of the Silk Roads (2014)

The Silk Road placed on the World Heritage List include 33 sites of three countries, including capital cities and palace complexes from various empires and Khan kingdoms, trading settlements, Buddhist cave temples, ancient paths, post houses, passes, beacon towers, sections of The Great Wall, fortifications, tombs and religious buildings. All these are a subtle look into the bustling town along the silk road.

The Silk Road stretches some 5,000 kilometers, including 33 listed cultural heritage sites. The total area was 42,680 square hectares, and the cultural heritage sites, along with the buffer areas, occupy a total area of 234,464 hectares. Among them, 22 listed sites (including archeological sites and ancient buildings) are in China, with 4 scattered along Henan Province, 7 in Shaanxi Province, 5 in Gansu Province and 6 in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. There are 8 listed sites in Kazakhstan and 3 in Kyrgyzstan.


Due to the vast scale of the Silk Road project, the application was divided into four corridors to show the different geographic conditions, cultures and political systems, particularly Central China, Hexi Corridorm North and South of Tianshan Mountains and Zhetysu Region, including 25 archeological sites, 3 historic buildings, 1 ancient tomb and 4 cave temples.

Central China

On the fertile land of Central China are the 12 listed cultural heritage sites. It was there that China witnessed two powerful dynasties, the Qin and Han dynasties. The two thriving dynasties laid a solid foundation for prosperity of successive dynasties for over 12 centuries. The city culture, Buddhist artifacts and nomadic culture of ethnic minorities was passed down from feudal dynasties as well as Zhang Qian’s westward expedition to current generations.An important diplomatic event is the highlight of this route. Listed below are the cultural heritage sites in this area:

Luoyang City of the Eastern Han to Northern Wei Dynasty, Luoyang, Henan Province

Dingding Gate, Luoyang City of the Sui and Tang Dynasty, Luoyang, Henan Province

Longmen Grottoes (a preexisting World Heritage Site), Luoyang, Henan Province

Hangu Pass, Lingbao, Henan Province

Shihao section of Xiaohan Route, Xin'an County, Henan Province

Weiyang Palace, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province

Daming Palace, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province

Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province

Small Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province

Xingjiao Temple, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province

Bin County Cave Temple, Bin County, Shaanxi Province

Tomb of Zhang Qian, Chenggu County, Shaanxi Province

Maijishan Cave Temple Complex, Tianshui, Gansu Province

Hexi Corridor

This corridor includes 5 cultural heritage sites. The uniquely designed cave temples are representative of the glory of border areas, said to be the best part of the Silk Road. There are fortresses and beacon towers that were used to guide travelers in the area as well as post houses used to provide accommodation for camel transport teams. Listed below are cultural heritage sites in this area:

Bingling Cave Temple Complex, Yongjing County, Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province

Yumen Pass, Dunhuang, Gansu Province

Xuanquanzhi Posthouse, Dunhuang, Gansu Province

Mogao Caves (already inscribed on the World Heritage List), Dunhuang, Gansu Province

Suoyang City Ruins, Anxi, Gansu Province

North and South of Tianshan Mountains

This region includes 5 cultural heritages where countries were established by nomadic ethnic groups between the 2nd to 16th century. It was in the northern and southern corners of the Taklimakan Desert that Buddhism was introduced to China. Listed below are the cultural heritage sites in this area:

Qocho (Gaochang) City Ruins, Turpan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Yar City Site of Bashbaliq City (Jiaohe Ruins), Turpan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Beshbalik City Ruins, Jimsar County, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Kizil Gaha Beacon Tower, Kuqa, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Kizil Caves, Kuqa, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Subash Buddhist Temple Ruins, Kuqa, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Zhetysu Region

The cultural heritages in this region are strategic passes, which used to be important and some trading settlements. The highlights of this region include sandstone palaces and post houses that are a testament to the local people’s shift from nomadic lifestyle to settled agriculture and trade.

The Silk Road, stretching from Xi’an (called Chang’an in ancient times) to Roman, is an ancient trade route across the Afro-Eurasian landmass where Chinese silks were exported to countries through the Mediterranean region.