Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, called Xinjiang for short, is one of the five autonomous regions of our country and is located in northwestern China and borders the three provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, and Tibet, 3100km from Beijing and 4000 km from Shanghai.
Covering an area of more than 1.66 million square kilometers, Xinjiang is the largest provincial administrative region of China. However, the population of Xinjiang does not match its area. It is about 25 million and divided into 19 ethnic groups. Among them, the Uyghurs are the largest, with more than 11 million, accounting for 47% of the total population. This is why Xinjiang is called the Uyghur Autonomous Region. Because most ethnic minorities are good at singing and dancing, it is known as the “province of song and dance”.
Xinjiang has been part of Chinese territory since the Han Dynasty (60 BC), but since the Tang Dynasty (808), due to civil strife and the invasion of northern nomads, the Chinese government lost control of Xinjiang until After the Qing Dynasty (1759) defeated the Islamic separatist regime (Revolt of the Altishahr Khojas) from Central Asia entrenched in Kashgar, Xinjiang was reincorporated into China’s territory, which is also the origin of the name “Xinjiang”, in Chinese, Xinjiang means “Newly Reclaimed Territory”.
Xinjiang, together with Gansu, has always been the most important part of the Chinese section of the Silk Road. The long-term multi-ethnic and multi-cultural exchanges have spawned many important cities on the Silk Road, such as Urumqi, Turpan, and Kashgar, which are the most important cities in northern, eastern, and southern Xinjiang, respectively. The vast area makes Xinjiang rich in natural landscapes, such as rolling snow-capped mountains and vast grasslands, as well as the Taklamakan Desert, the largest area in China. In addition, as an arid province in the northwest, Xinjiang has many large lakes, so freshwater fish is also one of the specialties of Xinjiang.
Area: 1,664,000 km²
Average annual temperature: 18 degrees
Geography: In the North-West of China.
Population: 25,800,000 inhabitants. (2020)
Ethnic minorities: Mainly populated by Uighurs and Hui, there are also Kazhak, Hui, Mongol, and Kyrgyz minorities.
Economy: Agriculture, Minerals, Oil, and Gas.
How to get to Xinjiang?
The easiest way is to get there by plane via Urumqi airport, which is connected to all major Chinese cities. And the Urumqi also has a train station and the use of the train can be wise if you start from the surrounding areas.
The only international airport is Urumqi International Airport. Kashgar has another domestic airport with direct flights between the two cities.
The regular sleeper train between Xi’an and Urumqi takes between 25 and 32 hours. Between Lanzhou and Urumqi, normal trains take 16 to 20 hours to cover the distance. High-speed rail is still underdeveloped in Xinjiang. All high-speed trains entering Xinjiang will pass through Lanzhou and Gansu, and it takes about 11 hours from Lanzhou to Urumqi.
The road infrastructure is developing rapidly, it is recent and in good condition. However, due to the vast area of Xinjiang and the large expanses of deserts and grasslands, few people choose to travel by car in Xinjiang except for dedicated outdoor enthusiasts.
When to go to Xinjiang?
Climatically, Xinjiang is characterized by a temperate continental climate with coolness at night and intense heat during the day, and better to add some warm clothes to your suitcase when you plan to visit the region.
It’s best to avoid winter, as December and January are the coldest months with temperatures regularly dropping to minus 20 degrees in the Dzungaria Basin. July is the hottest month of the year, the average temperature in Turfan, nicknamed “the land of fire”, the average temperature during the day is 40 degrees and the average temperature at night is 30 degrees.
May-October is the best time to travel in northern Xinjiang.
The summer from June to August is an excellent time to enjoy the lavender fields and the sea of rapeseed flowers; and the scenery of Eastern Switzerland composed of grasslands, lakes, and snow-capped mountains will also be the best during this period. In September, the popular Kanas autumn scenery began to gradually enter the state. The fairyland on earth composed of golden birch forest and Tuva people’s cooking smoke is a paradise favored by photographers.
March-April and August-October are the best time to travel in southern Xinjiang.
At this time, southern Xinjiang is characterized by autumn weather and is full of local fruits, so the comfort level is the highest of the year.
Xinjiang cuisine reflects the different cooking styles of the many ethnic groups that populate this region, one of the most representative is Uyghur cuisine. Characteristic ingredients include roast mutton, kebabs, grilled fish, and rice. Due to the Muslim population, the food is mostly halal.
Famous local specialties cuisine:
Xinjiang DaPanJi: It consists of a huge plate of potatoes, peppers, a whole chicken (including the legs and sometimes the head!), and various spices, and usually, restaurants will give away noodles to eat with this dish.
Uyghur pilaf: It is a mixture of carrots, peppers, rice, and lamb meat cooked in sesame oil and suet. It takes some time to prepare it. In most restaurants, it is often only served for lunch.
Xinjiang lamb skewers (Kawap): Using locally-grazed lamb in Xinjiang, this is considered to taste better than lamb from other parts of China. They sprinkle cumin and pepper while cooking over charcoal (more common) or wood (more authentic). Skewers made from red willow branches are considered the most traditional, and the meat on red willow skewers tastes better when grilled.
Lagman/BanMian/LaTiaoZi: This is a dish with meat, vegetables (usually green peppers, tomatoes, and onions), and oil cooked on a plate of noodles.
You will find more detailed information on Chinese gastronomy on the page: Popular Chinese dishes.
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