Karez well systems in the Turpan Depression
Following the Silk Road route out through western China takes you through Turpan and the so called “Turpan Depression”. Turpan sits in a vast depression -the second lowest point on Earth at 155m below sea level. This means that the area can get very hot (up to 48 degrees), so water is important. The area has numerous underground water systems called “karez”.
The Turpan Water Museum has examples of how these ancient water systems work. The word “karez” means “well” in the local Uyghur language – basically they are channels that take water run-off from the mountains across the desert underground (this prevents the water from evaporating). Turpan was an important oasis stop on this section of the Silk Road route as it passed the hostile Taklamakan Desert area.
These systems are like the “qanat” water systems in Iran – something that I’d encounter later in my journey in Yazd. Both “karez” and “qanat” type water management systems can be found throughout central Asia and the Middle East. The wells and channels at Turpan have been collecting the surface run-off from the Tianshan Mountains for a couple of thousand years and some are still in use today.
I also managed to get a peek into the rehearsals of a group of Uyghur performers at the Turpan Water Museum.
Here are some more pictures from Turpan and the Turpan Depression: