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Geography and Climate

Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. It is the largest city in the western half of the People's Republic of China and has won a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the most remote city from any sea in the world at a distance of about 1,400 miles (2500 km) from the nearest coastline. The average elevation is 800 meters. The city has an area of 10,989 square kilometers with a population of 1.6 million. There are two major ethnic groups, the Han Chinese and the Uyghur, who can mostly speak Mandarin, albeit possibly with an accent, and Uyghur, a Turkic language. Other ethnic groups in Urumqi include Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Mongols and Hui Muslims.

In Urumqi a continental steppe climate with hot and dry summers prevails with average temperatures in July at 24°C (75°F) as well as damp and cold winters with average temperatures in January at -16°C (3°F). The annual average temperature amounts to 5.4°C (41.7°F) and the yearly precipitation is about 273 mm.

History and Culture

Urumqi "fine pasture" in Mongolian was first inhabited by a mixture of ethnic groups about 3,000 years ago. It was once an important town on the new northern route of the Silk Road, which made important contribution in promoting Sino-foreign economic & cultural exchanges. During the 22nd year of the Zhenguan's reign in the Tang Dynasty, 648 A.D., the Tang government set up the town of Luntai in the ancient town seat of Urabo, which is 10 kilometers away from the southern suburb of Urumqi nowadays. The Ancient Luntai Town, which played quit significant  a role on the new northern route of Silk Road in the Tang Dynasty, was the only town of tax collection, the only town of management, the town of supply and the first town as well. In the time of Qing Dynasty (A.D.1763), the emperor Qian Long named the expanded city as "Dihua". UP to A.D.1884, another emperor Guang Xu put up Xinjiang as a Province and the Di Hua city as the capital of Xinjiang. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, by Feb.1, 1954, the city name was restored to its original meaning, i.e., Urumqi.

Islam is the dominant religion in Xinjiang. In cities such as Urumqi and Kashi, huge mosques are still in use. Religious festival days are still observed and it is even possible to encounter older women wearing veils. Today, the city itself has few historical sites to offer tourists, except for the museum of the autonomous region that houses some valuable relics unearthed along the Silk Road. An excursion to Tianchi, however, is worthwhile. 


Urumqi is a major industrial center within Xinjiang. It is also the largest consumer center in the region, recording ¥41.9 billion retail sales of consumer goods in 2008, an increase of 26% from 2007. The GDP per capita reached US$6,222 in 2008. According to statistics, Urumqi ranked 7th in 2008 by the disposable income for urban residents among cities in Western China. Urumqi has been a central developmental target for the China Western Development project that the Central Government is pursuing.

As the economic center, Urumqi has expanded its urban area since the 1990s. The CBDs in the city increase rapidly all around the major districts. Zhong Tian Plaza, located in one of the CBDs in North Xinhua Road, is the tallest building in Urumqi and Xinjiang; with a height of 229 meters, it is also the tallest in Northwestern China and Central Asia. Lacking in subway, the outer ring road for the city was built in 2003, which considerably facilitates transportation. Zhongshan Road in Urumqi has been one of the 10 most famous commercial streets in the People's Republic of China since 2005 through official appraisals, the others being Wangfujing,etc. The Commercial Street of Zhongshan Road has the largest computer, mobile phone and consumer electronics market, i.e Baihuacun, Ccyber Digital Plaza and Fountain Plaza, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region; it is believed to be the focal point of technological products in Urumqi.


Xinjiang University was founded in 1924 and is located in the southern part of Urumqi. It is a national key comprehensive university with students from various ethnic groups and the only university in Xinjiang entering the national “211 Project”. On December 30, 2000, the former Xinjiang University and Xinjiang Engineering Institute merged into a new Xinjiang University. In the past 78 years, the university has seen 65,000 students graduate. Other reputed institutes in Urumqi include Xinjiang Normal University, Xinjiang Agricultural University, Xinjiang Medical University and many others.