The Gaochang Ancient Town site is located on the plain where the north edge of the Turpan Basin borders the Gobi desert on the south foot of the Flaming Mountain. The surrounding land is relatively flat. It enjoys a typical continental temperate climate, with abundant sunshine, fierce heat and extreme dryness.
The city, as seen from its name, refers to a city that is no longer in existence. The Gaochang Ancient Town is in ruins now. Seen from far away, it looks just like the Yar-dang phenomenom frequently seen in the desert, which is formed by the corrosion of wind and sand and is not like any architecture built by human beings.
The Gaochang Ancient Town is the biggest well known historical and cultural city in the range of Xinjing and one of the first national key cultural relic protection units. The Gaochang Ancient Town originated from the Tunken Military Castle in the West Han Dynasty and developed into a county level city and the city of the local authority (sometimes as the state in direct jurisdiction of the central authority) from a military beachhead.
It has mainly experienced the following five historical stages: Gaochang Wall, Gaochang County, Gaochang Capital, Xizhou City in the Tang Dynasty, Huihu Gaochang and Gaochang, the capital of Huihu State. By the beginning of the Ming Dynasty the city had been abandoned and by then it had a history of about 1400 years.
In 460 AD a country was set up independently in Gaochang and Gaochang City was made the capital. In 640 AD the Gaochang State was destroyed by the Tang and replaced by Xizhou. Gaochang became the office of Xizhou and also the office of Gaochang County. In 866 AD Pugujun, the leader of the Huihu people in the north, seized Xizhou and built a country there with Gaochang as its capital. It was called Xizhou Gaochang or Huihu Gaochang in history. In 1383 AD Hedirhuz was enthroned as the Kham of Beshibeli Chagatai and organized his troops for religious wars against the Turpan region and forced the local people to believe in Islam. Gaochang Town was destroyed by fire during the fighting.
As an essential junction on the ancient Silk Road and an important gateway the value of Gaochang can still be found in today's Gaochang Ancient Town. The city is in a rectangular shape and is composed of an outside city, inner city and the city palace. The sites like the temples in the city are still vaguely recognizable. There were nine gates altogether and we can tell from bases inside the city that there were buildings as high as four floors.