Turfan water system

Turfan water system

The Turfan water system (locally called "karez water system") in Turfan, located in the Turfan Depression, Xinjiang, China, is a qanat system that has been listed as one of the three greatest water projects of ancient China together with the Du Jiang Yan Irrigation System, and the Grand Canal. The "karezes" are an important invention by the Turpan people. [cite web
title= Turpan
] The word "karez" means "well" in the local Uyghur language. Turfan has the Turfan Water Museum (a Protected Area of the People's Republic of China) dedicated to demonstrating its "karez" water system, as well as exhibiting other historical artifacts. Turfan's well system was crucial in Turfan's development as an important oasis stopover on the ancient Silk Route skirting the barren and hostile Taklamakan Desert. Turfan owes its prosperity to the water provided by its karez well system.


Turpan's karez water system is made up of a horizontal series of vertically dug wells that are then linked by underground water canals to collect water from the watershed surface runoff from the base of the Tian Shan Mountains and the nearby the Flaming Mountains. The canals channel the water to the surface, taking advantage of the current provided by the gravity of the downward slope of the Turfan Depression. The canals are mostly underground to reduce water evaporation.

The system has wells, dams and underground canals built to store the water and control the amount of water flow. Vertical wells are dug at various points to tap into the water current flowing down sloping land from the source, the mountain runoff. The water is then channeled through underground canals dug from the bottom of one well to the next well and then to the desired destination, Turfan's irrigation system. This irrigation system of special connected wells originated during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD).cite web
title=Turpan -- Ancient Stop on the Silk Road

In Xinjiang, the greatest number of karez wells are in the Turfan Depression, where today there remain over 1100 karez wells and channels having a total length of over 5000 kilometers. The local geography makes karez wells practical for agricultural irrigation and other uses. Turfan is located in the second deepest geographical depression in the world, with over 4,000 square kilometers of land below sea level and with soil that forms a sturdy basin.cite web
title=Karez (Qanats) of Turpan, China
publisher=water history.org
] Water naturally flows down from the nearby mountains during the rainy season in an underground current to the low depression basin under the desert. The Turfan summer is very hot and dry with periods of wind and blowing sand. The water from the underground channels provides a stable water source year round, independent of season.cite web
title=Karez Well


Ample water was crucial to Turfan, so that the oasis city could service the many caravans on the Silk Route resting there near a route skirting the Taklamakan Desert. The caravans included merchant traders and missionaries with their armed escorts, animals including camels, sometimes numbering into the thousands, along with camel drivers, agents and other personnel, all of whom might stay for a week or more. The caravans needed pastures for their animals, resting facilities, trading bazaars for conducting business, and replenishment of food and water.cite book
last= Boulnois
year= 2005
title=Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants
publisher=Odessey Books & Guides
location=Hong Kong
pages= pp 148–149, 201
id= ISBN 962-217-721-2

ee also

*Taklamakan Desert
*Tarim Basin
*Cities along the Silk Road


External links

* [http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=42.780762,89.340820&spn=1.949458,3.746887&t=k&hl=en Satellite map showing deep basin from Google]
* [http://www.waterhistory.org/histories/turpan/silkroadmap.jpgLink to Silk Road map]
* [http://www.china.org.cn/english/RS/42078.htm Turpan -- Ancient Stop on the Silk Road]

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