Ruins Of 2,300-Year-Old City Of Jiaohe On The Silk Road

Ruins Of 2,300-Year-Old City Of Jiaohe On The Silk Road

As wood was rarely used in those times, all its buildings were constructed out of earth. People dug houses and rooms downward from the earth and built with dried bricks.

Jiaohe’s main street was long and went down to the center of the islet (1650 m in length, 300 m wide) that divided the city into two parts. The western part was for common people, and the rulers lived in the east. In the northwestern part of the city, there is a Buddhist monastery and around China’s oldest Buddhist stupa, there are 25 smaller stupas that are built in all directions.


 Buddhist stupa at Jiaohe Ruins. Photo: commons.wikimedia

Jiaohe that covered a total of 220,000 square meters (2,368,168 square feet), was not as many other ancient cities.

First, it had only two city gates; the South Gate was the main one and has vanished long ago and the East Gate was cut from the side of the cliff and its few remnants are still recognizable today.


No house gates faced the streets; military defense was seemingly the highest priority for this desert military town with a stronghold from 1,600 years ago.

According to Tang dynasty records, Jiaohe had a population of 7,000.

Second, typical city walls that usually surround other ancient cities were never found in the city; instead, Jiaohe faced cliffs on three sides.

Both excavations and historical records reveal evidence that Jiaohe (or ‘Yarkhoto’) was a flourishing ancient trading center and Jiaohe’s military importance.

Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862 – 1943), a British archeologist, an explorer of the Silk Road, who traversed 25,000 miles of central Asia and western China, suggested that the name ‘Yarkhoto’ is a combination of Turkic and Mongolian words, being derived from yar (Turki: ravine) and khoto (Mongolian: town).

Jiaohe ruins

The relics, which are still identifiable in this very unique city, originate from Tang Dynasty (618-907) architectural style, and according to Tang Dynasty historical records, Jiaohe was a capital of the Jushi Kingdom in 108 BC and remained to to 450 AD.

Archaelogical excavations revealed traces of the Jushi Kingdom at Jiaohe valley, shedding more light on the early period of the region.

Later, Jiaohe continued to be an important site, also for the Silk Road, until it lost importance and eventually was destroyed by Genghis Khan.

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