Taxkorgan’s Stone City is a 2000 year old fortress and city located on a junction of the Silk Road between China and the west.
The history of the Stone City stretches back 2000 years ago to the beginning of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). At that time the Stone City was the new capital of the Puli Kingdom which was one of the 36 kingdoms in the western region.
When the entire western area was conquered by China during the Tang Dynasty, the Stone City was made the home of the Congling Government office and was used as a defensive position. After changing ownership a number of times, the Stone City was again a part of China during the early Yuan Dynasty and was expanded.
In the Qing Dynasty the area was made the center of Puli county and government buildings, residences and barracks were built to the south of the Stone City. These new buildings became the core of the new city Taxkorgan and the Stone City was abandoned.
Location and Layout of the Stone City
Taxkorgan is a medium size city in the mountains of western Xinjiang next to the border of Tajikistan. The ruins of the abandoned Stone City are 100 meters to the north of Taxkorgan.
The Stone City was the joining point of the middle and southern routes on the Silk Road and it was also on a vital communications line with roads leading over mountain passes to key cities such as Kashgar, Yechang and Shache. Some historical records indicate Monk Xuan Zang who was immortalized in the Chinese classic “Journey West” passed through Stone City during his travels and Marco Polo also visited Stone City.
The Stone City was built strategically on a steep hill where access was difficult and it had a square shaped perimeter of less than 1,500 meters. The city was built with multiple layers of walls made of stone that followed the terrain and there were watch towers built at the four corners of the city..
Visiting the Taxkorgan Stone City
There is very little left standing of the Stone City and the only visible structure is the fortress/palace on a hill in the center of the city. Most of the rest of the city is just mounds of rubble. The fortress itself is in surprisingly good condition with a number of battlements that are still intact and the remains of inner and outer walls are clearly visible.
The views of the surrounding area from the ruins of the fortress very impressive with the Tajik (local ethnic minority) pastures and summer living quarters spread out below. Walking through the ruins of the fortress in the center of the Stone City is a haunting experience and imagining it as the hub of a thriving community on the Silk Road 2000 years ago is not hard.
The admission fee for the Stone City is 10rmb and the entrance is a comfortable walk from the center of Taxkorgan. One hour is more than enough time to enjoy exploring and experiencing the Stone City.