Karez Water System an indispensable invention in Turpan

Karez Water System Turpan Xinjiang
For 2,000 years, Turpan had survived in the desert of Taklamakan through a Karez water system. This ingenious method helps retrieve glacier water and transport it to Turpan while protecting it from the sun. Without it, it would have been difficult to live, cultivate land and replenish the caravans of the Silk Road.

Local Needs

In China, there are three large hydraulic inventions: the Grand Canal linking Beijing to Hangzhou, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System and the Turpan Karez water system. Created around 100 BC, this system has long supplied water to the city of Turpan. In the desert of Taklamakan, it is difficult to survive without water and, considering the size of Turpan, water supplies are essential. It would indeed provide water for the residents but its water was vital in cultivating their land and replenishing traders from the Silk Road. To satisfy these needs, the Karez system (which comes from Uighur language to say "well") was established.

Ingenious Irrigation System 

At the time, the tunnels brought water from glaciers and groundwater was dug by hand. It took months or even years to finish a tunnel. Considering the situation of how the city was located below sea level, it was easy to reach the waters of Turpan; gravity took care of everything. Located in the basement, these tunnels provided a means to preserve water evaporation and, with a system of wells and dams, accumulate water in some places.

Karez Museum

The Karez remained the principal means of water supply until the 1950s. At that point, construction of canals and concrete wells were built to provide most of the water for the city and its people. Thus, of the 5,000 kilometers of the Karez once existed, only a small part is still used today. In the city of Turpan (or Turfan), there is now a museum dedicated to this ingenious system. Inside of it lies all information that showcases the history of the Karez and its technical use. Photos and models are used to represent a Karez as it was before the development of modern processes. The tour also includes an opportunity to experience a more recent Karez, so that you can truly appreciate this system’s ingenuity for yourself.



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