Xinjiang is the largest province in China, comprising of 16% of the country's land surface. Xinjiang has retained an air of mystery despite its substantial development. Vast deserts and arid plains stretch for thousands of kilometers. Xinjiang is inhabited by at least 13 of China's official 56 national minorities. In 1955, when the province was renamed the Xinjiang Uihur Autonomous Region, more than 90% of the population was non-Chinese. But now, Han makes up slightly more than half total the total. China "modernized" the city of Xinjiang despite the minority protest.
Xinjiang's history has largely been one of continuing wars and conflicts between the native populations, coupled with repeated Chinese invasions. The first Chinese conquest of Xinjiang was between 73 and 97 AD. With the demise of the Han Dynasty in the 3-rd century, the Chinese lost control of the region until Tang expeditions re-conquered it. With the fall of the Tang Dynasty, the region was once again lost to the Chinese; it was re-conquered back until Qing Dynasty came to power. With the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Xinjiang came under the rule of warlords, over whom the Kuomintang (National army) had very little control. This rule continued until the end of World War ll. The only real attempt to establish an independent state was in the 1940s, when a Kazakh, named Osman, led a rebellion with the Uighurs, Kazakhs and Mongols. He took control of southwestern Xinjiang and established an independent eastern Turkestan Republic in January 1945.
The Kuomintang convinced the Muslims to abolish their new republic in return for a pledge of real autonomy. This promise was not kept, but Chiang Kaishek was too preoccupied with the civil to successfully control the region. The Kuomintang eventually appointed a Muslim named Burhan as governor of the region in 1948, unaware that he was actually a Communist supporter.
A Muslim league opposed to Chinese rule was formed in Xinjinag, but in August 1949 a number of its most prominent leaders died in a mysterious plane crash on their way to Beijing to hold talks with the new Communist leaders. Muslim opposition to Chinese rule was collapsed, although the Kaxakh Osman continued to fight the Chinese in early 1951. Since 1949, China's main goal has been to keep a lid on minority separatism. Xinjiang's minorities make little secret of their dislike of China's politics and have staged sporadic protest over the past few decades, some of them violent.
The Silk Road extended 7000 km from Xi'an to Iraq and Syria from 138 B.C until the 14th century. It declined because traders started to use the sea, an easy and faster way to trade. Xinjiang is inhabited by at least 13 of China's official 56 national minorities. The Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs are the most numerous in this interesting population of ethic groups. The Chinese had turned their original alphabet into the Roman alphabet, but it couldn't take root. So today they use the original lettering. Modern as it can get, this region continues to maintain its cultural traditions and values.
Because of the dry climate, 90% of the cultivated land is fully dependent on irrigation. The most important crops are wheat, corn, rice sorghum, and millet. The fruit of Xinjiang is famous throughout China: apples from the Ili Valley, sweet melons for wool is met by Xinjiang-home of 25% of the country's sheep. Xinjiang has developed into an important industrial center since 1949. The expansion of transportation network made possible the mining of the province's abundant mineral resources. Petroleum, coal, iron ore and gold are among the most important. Uranium deposits are very important and have made Xinjiang the center of nuclear power research. A large number of uranium areas have been built in the past 20 years.
Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang has some very nice sites to see. Xijiang Autonomous Region Museum contains some interesting exhibitions relating to the Xinjiang minority groups and is worth a look. Notables among the exhibits are Daur hats (made from animal heads) with large fur rims. There are about 103,000 Daur people and Heilongjiang. Tianchi is a heavy tourist point for it has a lot of beautiful scenery. The small, deep-blue lake is surrounded by hills covered with fir-trees and grazed by wild horses. It looks like a chunk of Switzerland or Canada.
Turpan is also an attractive place. The center of the country is the Turpan oasis, a small city set in a vast tract of grain fields. Despite the concrete-block architecture of the city center, it's a pleasant, relaxing place. Turpan is the hottest spot in China; the highest recoded temperature here was 49.6C or 121F. Fortunately, the humidity is low. Kuqa, the oasis town was a key spot in the ancient Silk Road. Scattered around the area are at least seven Thousand Buddha Caves, which rival those of Dunhuang, Datong and Luoyang. There are also at least four ancient ruined cities in the area. The Buddhist cave painting and ruined cities in the area are remains of a pre-Islamic Buddhist civilization.