Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

Xinjiang, China's largest province-level unit of administration in terms of territory, stretches along the National Highway 312 from Urumqi and Turpan in the east to Horgas and Yili in the west, with stops in various major cities and same towns along the way, including Changji, Kuiton and Shihezi.

October 1, 1955, marked the dissolution of Xinjiang's provincial status, and thereafter, in line with the country's national regional autonomy policy, Xinjiang became the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

A rough sketch of the region's rather complicated administrative divisions reveals that the prefecture-level cities of Urumqi and Karamay and the county-level city of Shihezi are under the direct administration of the regional government, with a further breakdown revealing eight prefectures, five autonomous prefectures, eight cities under the administration of prefectures, six autonomous counties, 54 counties and seven self-governed urban districts.

Location: Xinjiang lies in northwest China, bordering on Gansu and Qinghai provinces to the southeast and the Tibet Autonomous Region to the south, sharing a 5,000-km border line with eight countries.

Area: 1,600,000 sq km

Climate: While Xinjiang enjoys between 2,500 to 3,000 hours of sunshine each year, the amount of annual precipitation for the entire region averages a mere 150 milliliters (ml), and thus the air is quite dry.

Provincial capital: Urumqi

Population: 16.25 millions (March 2001)

Population: Xinjiang, with a total population of nearly 1.56 million, was home to 47 of China's 56 ethnic groups, including the Uygur (47.47 %), Han(37.58 %) and Kazak (7.3 %) ethnic groups, as well as the Mongolian, Khirghiz, Xibe, Tajik, Uzbek, Manchu, Daur, Tartar and Russian ethnic groups. The predominant languages in use today, however, include Chinese, Uygur, Kazak, Mongolian, Xibe and Kirghiz.

Ethnic groups: Uygur (47.47 %), Han(37.58 %) and Kazak (7.3 %) ethnic groups, as well as the Mongolian, Khirghiz, Xibe, Tajik, Uzbek, Manchu, Daur, Tartar and Russian ethnic groups.

Xinjiang's diversity is also reflected in the practice of religion, with major religions ranging from Lamaism (Tibetan Buddhism), Islam, Buddhism and Taoism to Christianity, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox and Shamanism.

Tourism: Xinjiang is also known far and wide for its magnificent scenic vistas and enchanting spectacles of the nature. The region, the driest area in China, is home to China's longest inland river, the lowest depression in terms of elevation, most expansive desert, and both the warmest and coldest areas in the country.

Tourists visiting Xinjiang have the unique opportunity to visit one of the world's most spectacular and divergent regions which features unique rock and sand formations naturally sculpted over the millennia by erosion, ancient grottos, stone forests, desert mirages, mysterious echoing sand dunes and a treasure trove of flora and fauna.

The divergence has given rise to the saying that Xinjiang is home to an area where "the four seasons coexist simultaneously in the same valley, and the gamut of weather conditions can be found in an area on larger than 100 square miles". While mountains and hills cover some 44 percent of the total land in Xinjiang, the region is also home to numerous inland rivers, alpine lakes, hot springs and glaciers. The mountain peaks offer breathtaking vistas of deserts, oases, lakes, basins and snow-covered ranges stretching as far as the eye can see, while the grasslands below are teeming with thriving herds of livestock grazing amongst the brilliantly colored flora.

While Xinjiang is famous for the ancient Silk Road, it is also home to 256 ancient cultural sites, tombs, ruins, Buddhist caves, stone sculptures and numerous contemporary monuments, some 154 of the sites are under state protection. In recent years, the region has opened 22 nature reserves for the protection of flora and fauna. The discovery of petroglyphs in Altay and dinosaur fossils has aroused the interests of experts, scholars and tourists alike.

Xinjiang is not only known as the land of fruits and melons, but also as the home to music and dance. When visiting Turpan one can either watch or join in singing and dancing the "maixilaipu" with friendly Uygurs. While sitting under trellises laden with grapes and enjoying the sweet fragrance of grapes, melons and various other fruits wafting through the air, one is most often entertained by Uygurs singing rousing folk songs to the accompaniment of a three-stringed dotar.

Agriculture: the region has had 15 successive years of good harvests with total grain output for the end of the year reaching 7.06 million ton, in addition to over 34.59 million head of livestock. The output of staple crops increased significantly, with unprecedented figures recorded for the output of cotton and sugar beets.

Industry: The region's relatively well developed industrial structure focuses on a whole range industries, such as textiles, foodstuff processing, leather, paper, sugar, carpets, raw and refined oil, iron and steel, metallurgy, machinery, chemicals, power generation, building materials and the light industry.

Editor:Liu Kan