Urumqi (also called Dihua in history) is the capital city of
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The city is situated at the
northern foothill of the snow-capped Tianshan Mountains. There are
about 49 nationalities are living and working in this city,
Urumqi, meaning "fine pasture" in Mongolian, was first inhabited by
a mixture of ethnic groups about 3,000 years ago. Since the northern
route of the Silk Road passed through the city, it was a heavily
guarded fort in the Han Dynasty, and remained so for many centuries.
Today, the city itself has few historical sites to offer tourists,
except for the museum of the autonomous region that houses some
valuable relics unearthed along the Silk Road. An excursion to
Tianchi, however, is worthwhile.
Tianchi, or “Lake of Heaven,” is about 30 miles southeast of Urumqi,
at an elevation of 6,435 feet above sea level. It is a beautiful
highland lake, flanked by rugged pines and cypresses, and with clear
waters that reflect the surrounding mountains. In winter, it
provides an ideal alpine skating rink. In fact, China's winter
skating games have been held there.