Sayram Lake

The Sayram Lake, like a large emerald, is enchased in the hinterland of the Tianshan Mountains. It is 90 kilometers southwest of the Bole City, on the north side of the Urumchi-Yining Road, and is connected to the Fruit Valley of Yili at Songshutou in Northwest China'sXinjiangUygur Autonomous Region.

Sayram in Kazak means "blessing." The lake is the largest alpine lake in Xinjiang and lies at the highest altitude, with a height of 2,073 meters above sea level. It is about 20 kilometers long from east to west and about 30 kilometers wide from north to south, occupying an area of 454 square kilometers. The lake, about 90 meters deep at the greatest depth, holds 21 billion cubic meters of water.

About 70 million years ago, during the Himalayas' period of orogenic (mountain-forming) movement, this section of the Tianshan Mountains sank in suddenly and the Sayram Lake, which geologists call the rift-valley lake, came into being.

The Sayram Lake is on the northernSilk Road, and beside the lake and on the mid-lake island, historic spots like the LongwangTemple(DragonKing Temple), the Hai Temple, and other constructions once were built, but now all have unfortunately disappeared.

Writers and poets throughout the centuries have praised the lake in their poets and literary works. Hong Liangji, a poet of theQing Dynasty(1644-1911), described the Sayram Lake in one of his poems as "a unique place in the Western Regions, Xanadu on the earth."

The land around Sayram Lake is vast green grassland. In the summer the sapphire water of the lake seems to meet the sky in the distance, and the yurts of the Kazak or Mongolian herdsmen can be seen on the mountain slopes. The pasture is a charming scene of flourishing trees, waving grass, and wildflowers that are reflected in the clear water of the lake. The grassland, stretching to the horizon, is dotted with the tents of the herdsmen. Smoke from kitchen chimneys curls upward, as groups of cattle and sheep move like clouds in the sky…

In the winter, snow falls and the water of the lake turns to ice. Only a small portion of the lake can be seen in the vast whiteness of the ice and snow.