Ancient City of Niya

The Ancient City of Niya, another Pompeii-like city on the Silk Road, lies 150 km from Minfeng, an oasis county in the Taklimakan Desert. The Niya ruins are believed to be the ancient Kingdom of Jingjue, one of the oasis states recorded in the Chinese Han Dynasty chronicles. However, the city vanished circa 500 to 1000 AD.

Ancient City of NiyaAncient City of Niya

It is said that a long ago there was a king. He had 300 soldiers, 3,000 residents in his state and one gold camel, which was his dearest possession. But he fell in love with a woman who was also loved by the king of another state, and thus a war was started. God, angered by the war, blew up a black sandstorm that lasted for 80 days and buried the entire kingdom, including the gold camel.

In 1901 British explorer Aurel Stein rediscovered the Niya ruins, made some astonishing finds, and acquired many artifacts. In 1993 and 1995, two Sino-Japanese expeditions unearthed previously undiscovered ruins. At the heart of Taklimakan Desert, some existing wooden structures, including houses with courtyards, stables, graves, and clay Buddhist stupas, and even a bridge were found. In the residential quarter, the team also found jewelry, bronze mirrors, coins, arrowheads, household utensils and other items. Wooden tablets written in the long dead Kharoshthi writings were considered very important finds. Preserved beneath the sand, some naturally mummified corpses resting in hollowed-out tree trunks were excavated in the city ruins too. Those corpses together with other findings indicate the city was once a place where Chinese met with Indians and Europeans. The city was not only a trading post but also a culture exchange post. Evidence indicates that it was the encroaching desert that destroyed the once prosperous city, enemy invasions might also have contributed to its demise.

Niya, believed to have flourished from the 1st century BC to the 4th century, has remained the best preserved and one of the largest ruins of the city states that were scattered along the ancient Silk Road. It became known as the 'Pompeii of the Silk Road'.

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