Turpan is known as one of the hottest places in the world. The basin is up to 154 meters below sea level. Precipitation is less than 16 mm per year, and permanent dry wind from the deserts of Taklamakan and Gobi makes life impossible there. However, Turpan has been one of the most advanced and developed agricultural oases in East Turkestan over the last two millennia.
The secret of success lies in an ancient Karez irrigation system that was once invented by the Persians and successfully brought to life by the Turpan people. The Karez irrigation system is a system of underground channels connected by wells. The Turpan Basin consists of three rings of varying terrain: the towering snow-capped mountains, the Gobi Desert and the oasis in the center. Snow and ice on the mountains melt in warm seasons and flow into the rivers. When the rivers arrive in the Gobi, they dive through the sand and become subterranean streams.
The water collects first in so-called collecting wells, from there it comes through special channels in agricultural valleys for irrigation and directly to Turpan. The Turpan Basin is crisscrossed with about a thousand such channels, of which about 850 are actively used. The length of the canal system is 5000 km. The system not only delivered water to the oasis of Turpan, but also to other cities on the Silk Road. Since 2008, it is registered on the Preliminary list of UNESCO World Heritage in the People’s Republic of China.
The Karez Fountains nourish the booming agriculture in the basin. The area is particularly famous for grapes and honeydew melons. The rich and fertile soil, the abundant sunlight and the dry weather make fruits especially sweet.