Loulan Ruins Travel Guide, Xinjiang
Loulan Ruins lies on the eastern edge of the Tarim Basin and northwest of the Lop Nur , some 300km northeast of Ruoqiang, adjacent to Dunhuang in Gansu.
Loulan Kingdom, one of the 36 kingdoms in the Western Region during the Han Dynasty, was built in 176 BC and flourished for over 800 years. At its heyday, the kingdom ruled over a vast region to the Yangguan Pass in the east, reached the Yani Ancient City in the west, stretched to Aerjin Mountain in the south and Hani in the north. Loulan City served as the capital and economical, political and cultural of the Kingdom. As one of the major stops on the old Silk Road, the city was a center for the trading of silks, teas, fruit and jewels with the inland. Merchants also used Loulan as a stopover in their travels. The weary trade caravans plodding on the trade route would have a short refreshing stay and exchanged their merchandise with the local products in this oasis.
However, the prosperous city was waned into history as times passed by. One of the great mysteries in Chinese history is the disappearance of the ancient city of Loulan. Like the Pompeii in ancient Rome which drowned in a sea of volcanic ash, Loulan fell victim to an incredible natural disaster that transformed the once beautiful city into a barren and perilous desert landscape. This inexplicable event has whetted the curiosity of archaeologists and other scientists over the years. Tourists, too, have been intrigued by this site and many venture there despite adverse weather and terrain conditions.
The Loulan Kingdom is now a lifeless zone with endless "forests" of mounds rarely seen in other parts of the world. The scene here is desolate, with scattered ruins of the Silk Road accompanied by vast petroleum and mineral resources deep below the earth. The area still possesses a shroud of mystery, clearly the lure which has attracted so many visitors from oversea countries.
Inside the city, there are the ruins of government offices, civilian dwellings, Buddhist pagodas and temples. In the suburbs there are the remnants of meandering dried rivers, ditches and farmland while in the north of the city one can see scattered ancient tombs, stupas and beacon towers. Surrounding the whole city, there are dozens of temples, residential houses and graveyards.
A large amount of valuable relic has been excavated since the discovery of the ruins, including Han Dynasty coins, bronze mirrors and lacquer ware, iron instruments, silk cloths, woolen fabrics in Greek and Roman styles. These all reflect the once flourishing social status of Loulan and the constant business exchanges between East and West. The most historically significant find was the mummies of the Loulan beauty, which lying there for over 3,800 years. Another famous discovery at the Loulan Ruins is the Sanjian Fang, a three-room building said to be the yamen of the area's governor, and a pagoda with 10.4m. high, the tallest building in the city.
Best time to visit -Mid-April and mid-October, when it is less windy in the desert.
Getting there and away
Take coach from Korla to Ruoqiang county seat first. From Ruoqiang, there are sightseeing buses to Loulan Ruins, but they can not enter the exact site, the last 20km have be covered wither on foot or by camel. Vehicles in Loulan area can run no more than 2~3km per hour due to the harsh road and frequent sharp turns
Admission Fee: not finally determined yet.
Tips & Reminders
Because of the difficult elements, Loulan is also known as "the forbidden zone". A trip to the Ancient City of Loulan is not recommended to casual tourists or individual backpackers, as the journey is difficult and the environment harsh. If you are still determined to go, please heed the following tips:
- Vehicles can go no closer than 18km to the ruins of the ancient city, and you will have to finish the rest of the journey on foot or by camel.
- You must have company and several off-road vehicles to go to Loulan. Other necessities include a car-repair kit, GPS, satellite phone and medicine, as well as enough water and food to last for at least 15 days.
- The temperature difference between day and night can be huge in the desert, so make sure you have appropriate clothing. If the worse comes to the worst, it's also a good idea for your clothes and tents to be a striking color so that rescuers can spot them easily.