China Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo
Area: 9,596,960 sq km
Climate: extremely diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in north
Terrain: mostly mountains, high plateaus, deserts in west; plains, deltas, and hills in east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Turpan Pendi -154 m highest point: Mount Everest 8,848 m
Geographynote: world's fourth-largest country (after Russia, Canada, and US
Population: 1,246,871,951 (July 1999 est.)
Ethnic groups: Han Chinese 91.9%, Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 8.1%
Religions: Daoism (Taoism), Buddhism, Muslim 2%-3%, Christian 1% (est.) note: officially atheist, but traditionally pragmatic and eclectic
Languages: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages
|Busch has a successful production joint-venture with a Chinese company in Shanghai for more than twenty years now.||Médecins Sans Frontières help prevent the spread of water-borne diseases in China. See the link to the MSF-website for more information on MSF's activities in China.|
The expression "Silk Route" was first used by a German geographer in the late 19th century. Rather than describing one single road it describes the whole network of East-West connections between Asia and Europe. There have been trade connections on these routes since 200 BC at least. Only Chinese knew the secrets of cultivating silkworms at the time, so when silk became popular in the Roman Empire, the "Silk Route(s)" were used by caravans to transport the goods. Silk was not the only good transported, though: Apart from other luxury goods, cultural exchange, technological inventions and religions went both ways. The Silk Route is an early example of how trade benefits countries in many ways: China benefitted from the gold and silver paid for the silk. The cities on the route flourished even though they were located in barren regions. And there is the famous story of Marco Polo bringing pasta and paper money to Italy.
After the Mongol Khans, the Silk Routes slowly deteriorated as they were replaced by the sea routes. A map of the silk route in China is provided by www.britannica.com and a map of all silk routes is provided by www.encarta.com.
Route notes of the rally:
coming from Kyrgyzstan.
Wednesday 24th May - Day 24 Naryn to Kashgar 360km
This is a day to remember, an early morning start takes in the climb over the snow-covered Toragart Pass at 3800m before the descent on superb gravel roads into the border of China and Kashgar.
Thursday 25th May - Day 25 Rest Day in Kashgar
Friday 26th May - Day 26 Kashgar to Hotian 520km
With the snow-capped peaks of the Kunlun Shan hopefully visible on our right all day, we follow the southern arm of the Silk Road to Yarkand, a large oasis that retains a very strong Central Asian character. Then its back into the desert to reach Hotian, famous for centuries for its jade, silk and carpets - still an attractive purchase today. Khotan also has a reputation for learning and was once a major centre for Buddhism - an early traveller reported the presence of 10,000 monks and many temples and monasteries - probably an exaggeration, but an indication of its importance in past times.
Saturday 27th May - Day 27 Hotian to Menfeng 300km
We now make our way to the next oasis, Keriya or Yutian. Beyond Keriya the desert becomes hotter and more barren, and we begin to appreciate the subtle variations in the desert scenery as we drive on to Menfeng, the modern town which has supplanted the ancient city in the desert 120km to the north.
Sunday 28th May - Day 28 Menfeng to Korla 750km
A long day! We take the totally new (tarmac) Fast Desert Highway, which heads high across the centre of the Taklimaken. For much of the day the road passes between sand dunes roamed by Bactrian camels. Eventually we cross the Tarim River and traverse the fringes of the desert to join the northern arm of the Silk Road, and turn east to reach Korla.
Monday 29 th May - Day 29 Korla to Turfan 350km
East of Korla the road runs through desert before we climb steadily through a strange landscape reminiscent of a giant's slagheap to the top of a pass around 1,830m. A continuous descent, initially through a narrow gorge, takes us deep into the Turfan depression. As we descend, the temperature rises, and we continue on the Turfan past ancient irrigation channels. Turfan is one of the more remarkable of the Silk Road oases, lying about 150m below sea level (only the Dead Sea is lower) and irrigated by a series of underground channels which come down from the mountains. The heat can be oppressive in summer (hot motoring). Those arriving early should have time to see the Buddhist complex at Bezeklik, an amazing collection of caves and brick temples, once profusely decorated with paintings, but plundered in the early part of this century by the German Von Le Coq. The site is very attractive, in a canyon beyond the 'Flaming Mountains', a remarkable range of eroded hills that glow red and orange in the changing light.
Tuesday 30th May - Day 30 Rest Day in Turfan
Wednesday 31st May - Day 31 Turfan to Hami 415km
Climbing out of the Turfan depression, the road passes through gobi (the word means flat, gravel desert) alternating with oases, which diminish in number as we gain height. After crossing a low pass, the road descends steadily through more gobi to reach Hami, a large oasis town famous throughout China for the quality of its melons.
Thursday 1st June - Day 32 Hami to Dunhuang 420km
An easy day on an excellent road. For the first 50 km or so the road passes through a series of extended oases, and then we are back into serious gobi, steadily climbing to reach a range of broken hills and the summit of the pass (1830m) at Xingxingxia which marks the border with Gansu province. Descending out of the hills into a stretch of featureless desert, the landscape then changes with scrubby vegetation around before arriving in Dunhuang. Dunhuang was once one of the most important staging-posts on the Silk Road. Now it is returning to its previous importance, as just outside the town is the oldest Buddhist shrine in China and the greatest collection of Buddhist art in the World - the Mogao caves. Some 500 of the caves, carved out of steep sandstone cliffs, have been studied and catalogued.
The earliest paintings date from the fourth century AD, the most recent from about a millenium later: the caves were unknown to the west until the beginning of this century, although they were still a place of pilgrimage for oasis people. As well asthe innumerable statues and paintings of Buddha, the vivid and colourful cave paintings are remarkable as a thousand-year record of life on the Silk Road. Merchants and pilgrims commissioned paintings and statues in the hope that this would secure them a safe crossing of the desert. Unfortunately many of the finest works, including the oldest printed book in existence, were removed early this century by the British Sir Mark Aurel Stein and others, and now languish in various museums.
Friday 2nd June - Day 33 Dunhuang to Zhangye 650km
We head back into the desert, with a few oases en route, before arriving at Jiayuguan, at the western extremity of the Great Wall, where there is a fine restored fort. The road now enters the 'Gansu Corridor', the traditional route between desert to the north and mountains to the south by which pilgrims, merchants and armies have travelled from central Asia into China. Fertile river valleys lie between barren hills as we make our way to Zhangye for the night.
Saturday 3rd June - Day 34 Zhangye to Lanzhou 510km
We continue through the Gansu Corridor to Wuwel, at the western end of the Tengger desert, and then turn south to cross the Qilian Shan range to reach Lanzhou, capitol of Gansu, a large, modern, industrial city straddling the Yellow River.
Sunday 4th June - Day 35 Rest Day in Lanzhou
Rest day in a city with good workshop facilities, but not a great deal to see though the museum is well worth a visit. Enjoy the rest and repair facilities.
Monday 5th June - Day 36 Lanzhou to Yinchuan 480km
We exit Lanzhou on one of China's new motorways, then pass through several small agricultural towns before starting the long, but quite easy climb back over the Qilian Shan. Once over the top, there is a steady descent to the southern edge of the Tengger Desert, and we rejoin the Yellow River where massive sand dunes reach right to the water's edge at Zhongwei, noted for its huge pagoda temple. The road then follows the Yellow River valley, with occasional glimpses of ruined mud-built sections of the Great Wall, to Yinchuan, capitol of Ningxia Autonomous Region, a largely Muslim province.
Tuesday 6th June - Day 37 Yinchuan to Baotou 550km
A long but easy day, again following the Yellow River valley, first through the characteristic semi-desert landscape of Inner Mongolia, which we enter after crossing the Yellow River at Shizuishan, the land becoming more fertile as we approach Baotou, a huge city with a high concentration of heavy industry.
Wednesday 7th June - Day 38 Baotou to Zhangliakou 480km
An easy drive on motorway below the Daqing Shan range to Hohhot, the political capitol of Inner Mongolia. The rest of the day is mainly through rolling hills, to reach Zhangliakou, a small town only recently opened to foreigners.
Thursday 8th June - Day 39 Zhabgliakou to Peking 230km
We are likely to be in convoy for at least part of today, as it is a very busy road, and without police escort, very long delays may occur. For most of the time the road runs through a very broad valley with hills in the distance, until we get close to the Great Wall at Badaling, when the road climbs to cross the range on which the Great Wall is built. Once through the Wall, we soon join a new motorway, which leads directly into Beijing. You have now driven right across Europe and Asia!
Friday 9th June - Day 40 Rest Day in Peking
Enjoy a well-earned rest whilst CARS UK organise the airlift to Alaska and preparations are made for the Black Tie 'London to Peking' Prizegiving in the evening.
Saturday 10th June - Day 41 Rest Day in Peking
Whilst the 'Around the World' entrants prepare for the 2nd Leg, 'London to Peking' competitors are free to explore the city and make their preparations for their journey home. We cross the International Dateline on our journey to Anchorage, causing the clocks to go back 24 hours, thus the Rally arrives the same day as it left.
moving on to the United States (Alaska).