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Located in Gobi Desert, a huge desert between China and Mongolia, near to Dunhuang City and 70 kilometers southwest of the ancient town of Anxi, Suoyang Ruins is what is left of the once famous and glorious Suoyang City.
Founded 2000 years ago, during Western Han Dynasty, the city of Suoyang was an important landmark on the Road of Silk and therefore held a key role in the politics and the economy of the whole area in ancient times.
Not only was it a major cultural center back then, but it also proved to be a first class military fort where the imperial forces repelled the army of Genghis Khan, Mongolia’s leader who was famous for his brutality, trying to invade China. Due to its strategic location the city was also used as a stepping stone to the West and therefore knew a time of great prosperity and fame.
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When first founded, the city of Suoyang was known as Kugucheng and it was given its current name during Tang Dynasty. Legend has it that General Xue Ren-gui and his army passed through the area on their way to concur the West. When outside Kugucheng, they were out of supplies and unable to continue their mission. What kept them alive and going was an eatable plant named Cynomorium, or Suoyang, which grew all over the surroundings of the city. At that point the city was renamed after the precious plant.
Although first built in Western Han Dynasty, Suoyang City really flourished during Tang Dynasty and was abandoned in Ming Dynasty after going under serious damages caused by war. The city is divided into two main sections and the ruins carry remains of various different periods in Chinese history. The first section, known as outer fort, covers an area of 800.000 square meters and was built during the expansion of the city in Tand Dynasty. The second section, known as inner fort, occupies 28.000 square meters and a major part of it was used as a horse breeding area. Horses were widely used by the Chinese military forces in ancient times.
Suoyang Ruins is one of the largest and most well preserved ancient sites in China, with the city’s defense structures and irrigation system still standing in great condition. The city used to host huge soldier camps, as well as, the residences of several military officials and their families. The inner fort was surrounded by huge 8 meter walls and an 18 meter high watchtower stands on the northwestern side of the city. The tower, which is very well preserved, had a store room for weaponry, an alarm platform and various other military facilities. The visitor will also have a chance to admire a well preserved castle which was rebuilt in Tang Dynasty.
Suoyang Ruins mostly follow the architecture style and city planning of Tang Dynasty, but one can also spot various structures dating back to different eras, such as a 14 meter high tower accompanied with no less than 1.000 smaller towers from Yuan Dynasty standing on the northeastern side of the city. The fading remains of a temple which also dates back to Yuan Dynasty can be found close to the tower.
A burial site, known as Suoyang tombs, was recently discovered northeast of Suoyang Ruins. None of the tombs is open to the public yet, but artifacts and relics discovered in them are exhibited in the newly built Suoyang Museum.