5 MORE Facts You Didn't Know about Xinjiang | Xinjiang: Far West China

5 MORE Facts You Didn’t Know about Xinjiang

May 26 | 7 Comments

Last year I had fun compiling a list of trivia about Xinjiang that the average person probably wouldn’t know (see: 5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Xinjiang).  Since then I’ve kept my eye out for other useless, yet entertaining, facts about the largest province in China.

You won’t find these facts in the Guinness Book of Records and you won’t read about them in any China travel guides.   These fun tidbits are usually buried behind mounds of more important information, but today it is my pleasure to share them with you.  5 MORE facts about Xinjiang you probably didn’t know.

1.  Xinjiang Has the Highest road in the World

Completed in 1957, the Xinjiang-Tibet highway (also known as national highway 219) is the highest road in the world.  Its pass through the Kunlun Mountains onto the Tibetan Plateau reaches over 6,000m in elevation and is arguably one of the more difficult ways to travel from Xinjiang to Tibet because much of it isn’t paved.  As a side note, part of this road passes into the “disputed zone” between China and India (i.e. they both claim the land to be theirs).

The Xinjiang-Tibet highway, the highest in the world

2.  Home to China’s only Wild Camel Reserve

The two-humped camel, also called the Bactrian camel, is currently found wild in only three places in the world – the Taklamakan Desert, Lop Nur, and a part of the China/Mongolia border.  The camel reserve was established in 1999 and covers 65,000 square kilometers of barren nothing-ness.  Thankfully camels seem to be immune to the effects of nuclear radiation. (See a map of the camel reserve)

Camels waiting to be ridden

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3.  You’ve Probably Seen it in the Movie Theater

Xinjiang has been the setting for quite a few Chinese films, but more than likely you haven’t seen any of them.  There are, however, a few movies you probably have seen that you might not realize were shot in Xinjiang.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Movie

The Kite Runner was entirely filmed in Kashgar, a city on the western tip of Xinjiang, while a scene from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed at the Karamay Ghost City in the north.

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4.  Bill Gates Spent his Honeymoon Here

Ok, so not *all* of his honeymoon, but he did stop here.  For those who have read Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler, this fact won’t come as much of a shock but what’s interesting is that I can find no other evidence to back up this claim.  Regardless, it’s a pretty fun trivia fact.  According to Hessler they only spent a few hours there checking out the Xinjiang museum mummies and meeting with a woman who is now China’s #1 enemy.

Bill Gates in a 1985 Windows advertisement

5.  Home to the Oldest Chinese Papercut

Apparently an ancient Chinese soldier got pretty bored while being stationed in one of the garrison towns along the Silk Road.  His paper creation was found and dated back to the 5th or 6th century during the Southern and Northern dynasties.

China's oldest papercut found in Xinjiang

h/t to the Bovey Blog

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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  1. Xinjiangs wild Bactrian camels

    The interesting thing about these wild camels is that they are able to survive on extremely salty water being fully adapted to drinking it.

    “There is no fresh water in the Gashun Gobi only salt springs”
    from: The Lost Camels of Tartary : John Hare 1998. Page 80

    You appear to have found more camels than Mr Hare so perhaps their numbers are increasing.


    Josh on May 31st, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Interesting fact there…I had no idea they drank salty water.

    The camels in that picture are actually domesticated and I’m not sure how much they count towards the “increasing numbers”. I think the conservation efforts have been fruitful, however, especially those on the China/Mongolia border.


  2. This guy rode a motorcycle with his wife on the back across Ti bet.No doubt using highway 219 to come out at Ali.


    Some truly amazing scenery.


    Josh on June 4th, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks for the link. Those really were some sweet-looking pics along Tibetan roads. I know a few guys from Shihezi who did that trip as well as a similar crossing of the Tianshan. Unfortunately I never had the time, but I think I would have had to upgrade my bike before making such a journey. 125 just wouldn’t have cut it.


The 2015 Xinjiang travel guide is here!