Karez Irrigation System, Turpan

The famous system of underground and surface channels of Turfan

Turpan is known as one of the hottest places in the world. The rainfalls there are less than 16 mm per year, while permanent dry wind blowing from the Taklamakan and Gobi Deserts, makes the existence of any life impossible there. But for the last two millennia, Turpan is one of the most advanced and well-developed agricultural oases of Eastern Turkestan.

The secret of the success lies in a karez ancient irrigation system, once invented by the Persians, and successfully brought to life by the Turpan people. The Chinese people are proud of these feats of engineering as they are proud of the Great Wall of China.

The karez irrigation system is a system of underground and surface channels connected by wells. It is fed with water flowing during the deglaciation. Initially, the water is accumulated in so-called collecting wells, and from there by special channels it comes to agricultural valleys for irrigation and directly to Turpan.

The length of the canal system reaches 5000 km – its scope and grandeur of idea are comparable only to those of the Great Wall of China. The system delivered water not only to the oasis of Turpan, but also to other cities on the Silk Road, and was the only saving grace for caravans and lonely travelers for a great while.

The tourists coming to the city can visit the ancient wells, which attract the city folk, in particularly hot days, and also unique parks located on the road between ancient Jiaohe and Turpan and watch the famous underground channels in operation.