Yili Kazak autonomous prefecture (shortened as Yili prefecture) situates in the northwest border of People’s Republic of China, also in the northwestern part of Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region. It borders Russia and Mongolia in the northeast, and it connects Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture and Bayinguoleng Mongol autonomous prefecture in the southeast. It faces Akesu area in the southwest, and it borders the Republic of Kazakhstan in the northwest.
The autonomous prefecture has an area of 350 thousand square kilometers and occupies one fifth of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The borderline in Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture is as long as two thousand kilometers and it is three fifths of the borderline in Xinjiang. Along the borderline there are eight trading ports at national level.
The trading ports have already become the cultural and economic bridgehead between China and Central Asia, east Europe and Russia. “Three mountains, two valleys, and three basins” is the brief summary of the geography in Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture. The mountains there include Altay Mountain, Taer Bahatai Mountain, Sawuer Mountain, Tianshan Mountain and its branch Poluo Kenu Mountain. The valleys there are formed because of the Irtysh River and Yili River. The mountains and rivers in Yili have divided the triangle area to the north of Tianshan Mountain into three different basins, namely, Junggar Basin, Tacheng-Emin Basin, and Tekesi—zhaosu basin.
Praise for Yili
Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture is praised as “lush southern type fields north of the Great Wall”. Yili autonomous prefecture got its name because of the Yili River. Yili River and its branches Kashi River, Kunes River, and Tekes River, like blood vessels, cross the whole area. The Yili Valley is surrounded by mountains in three sides and the valley opens in the west. The rainfall in the valley is plentiful and there are many rivers there, so the grass there is luxuriant and the soil there fertile. It has 40 percent of the water resource in the whole Xinjiang and it is an oasis in the dry central Asia, so it is called “the oasis in Central Asia”.
The special geography, landform, and climate in Yili give birth to beautiful natural conditions and fantastic natural scenery. The forest in Yili valley is thick, the grassland there is extensive, and sheep and cows can be found anywhere there. The beauty and richness of Yili can be better summarized by one sentence: “The width of China can never be known if you have never been in Xinjiang, and the beauty of Xinjiang can never be known if you have never been in Yili.
Population in Yili
There are 13 ethnic groups living in Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture. It has a population of 3.82 million. Among them, 988 thousand are Kazak, 613 thousand are Uygur, and 1.71 million are Han. Yili is the main passage in the ancient Silk Road. Now, it is a bridge of the new Europe-Asia continents, the bridgehead in West China, and center in which western culture and eastern culture exchange. The ethnic groups which keep their special traditions make Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture a place which has heavy ethnic customs and places of colorful cultural interest.
Yili area is one of the three areas which under the administration of Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture. Yining is the capital city in Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, and also the political and economic center in Yili area. Yili got its name because of the Yili River. This can be traced in the history of west Han dynasty, a book written by Bangu, a famous historian in east Han dynasty. Yili had been called Yilie, Yilii, Yini, and it got its present name in Qianlong period of Qing dynasty.
Administrative divisions: Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture is a prefecture at semi- provincial level. It is the only autonomous prefecture which can not only govern districts and but also govern counties and cities at county level.
It administers two districts, Tacheng District, and Aletay District, two cities at county level Yining city, and Kuntun city, seven counties, Nileke County, Xinyuan County, Gongliu County, Tekes County, Zhaosu County, Qapqal County, Huocheng County, and an autonomous county, Xibo autonomous county. Besides those, in Yili there troops Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. Xinjiang Mining and Metallurgy Bureau, Tianxi Forestry Bureau, Ashan Forestry Bureau also situate in Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture. The people’s government of Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture lies in No. 60, Stalin Street, Yining City.