Ancient City of Gaocheng
Ancient City of Gaocheng is located near the “Flaming Mountains”, it is 46 kms southeast of the city of Turpan. Gaochang ancient city was built in the first century B.C; it was a key point on the ancient Silk Road, but after many changes in fortune over a period of 1,300 years, and under the jurisdictions of the Gaochang Prefecture, the Gaochang Kingdom and Huozhou Prefecture, the city was burnt down in wars in the fourteenth century.
Looking down from high position nearby, it can be seen that the ancient city is in the shape of a rough square surrounded by a deep moat, the outline of the ancient city is still clearly visible. It is made up outer wall, inner wall and palace wall, the base of the walls are twelve-meter thick, outer wall is 11.5 meters high and 5.4kms in circumference. It is built of rammed earth with layers; each layer of the wall ranges is eight to twelve centimeters in thickness.
The inner city is located in the center of the outer city. It has a 3-kilometer long wall, most of the west and the east sections are well preserved. The rectangular palace city is in the northern part of the city of Gaochang ancient city and it shares the north wall with the outer city and uses the north wall of the inner city as its south wall. There are still several 3 to 4 meters high earthen platforms in the palace city where the court of Huigu Gaochang Kingdom was seated. In the north central part of the inner city, there is a high terrace on which stands a square pagoda built of adobe called “Khan’s castle” which means “Imperial Palace”. Somewhat to its west there is a half-underground, two-story structure which was probably the ruins of a palace. In the southwestern part of the outer city there is a temple which is 130 meters long from east to west, 85 meters wide from south to north and covers an area of 10,000 square meters. The temple consists of an arched gate, courtyard, a lecture hall, a library of sutras, a main hall and the monks’ dormitory. Murals remaining in the main hall are still visible.
The renowned Buddhist monk Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty is said to have lectured in the temple for more than one month in the year 628 on his way to India to obtain Buddhist scriptures. In the vicinity of the temple there are also ruins of workshops and market sites. In the southeastern part of the outer city there is a smaller temple, the ruins of the murals within which are better than those in the main hall. There were probably three gates in the southern wall of the ancient city, each side two gates. The best preserved gates stand on the north and west side. Outside the gates are walled enclosures for defense. Inner city wall of the southern and western parts are still intact. The palace walls stand in the northern part of the city, pressed between the inner and outer walls.