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Karez Well

Post Date: 2020/03/18 15:10
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Karez Well is one of UNESCO World Heritage sites in China.It is a special irrigation system in desert areas. There are over 1100 karez well with a total length of about 5000 kilometers in Turpan since it's hottest city in China and known as "Fire State". It is one of three major man-make projects in China, the others are China Great Wall & Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal.It is suitable for foothills and alluvial Areas, mainly for intercepting underground diving for farmland irrigation and residential water use. As an ancient irrigation system, the Karez well system has ever played a very important role in the daily life and in the production of the people in Turfan area. It is reflect ancient people’s diligence and intelligence. The Karez Well regared as the life source of Turpan.

Karez Well Turpan_02.png

History of Karez Well
The Karez wells is an underground water transmission system which started in the Middle East and Persia. Though the discovery of these wells is often debatable, researches have indicated that qanats were created around 800BC in Central Asia. During the ancient period, when the trading caravans passed through the Turpan area, they would halt for trade and get rest and related provisions. There were many cities, kingdoms, and forts around the northern side of Turpan Basin. Around 44 km away from Turpan area, two cities called Gaochang and Jiaohe were the main settling areas for these caravans.

Karez Well Turpan_05.png

They needed fooder, food and water for travellers, traders and their camels and animals. That led to a high demand for food and water to support the population throughout the Turpan.Karez well system was highly used to supply water in this area. Between 1279-1368 AD, Yuan Dynasty conquered many parts of China and also destroyed both Jiaohe and Gaochang. However, they still used the route for their Silk Road trade. Even after the empire collapsed, people continued to use Karezes till modern days. In 1949, over 600 karez wells were used for irrigation purpose. But now they have been mostly replaced by concrete canals, ditches, pipes and other wells. These days approximately 300 karez wells are used, supplying only 16% of water in this Chinese region.

Who & How Built Karez Well
The Karez well was invented and built by ancient farmers from the various ethnic minorities of Turpan. These are a few of the engineering challenges the ancient Uyghur faced when digging out 5,000 km worth of underground canals. At first, the most important challenge, was maintaining a slope that would use gravity to keep the water flowing without forcing the engineers to dig too deep a well. Workers used this level to measure distance from ground level and to make sure that with each new well dug, they were reaching their goal of meeting the city of Turpan at the right level. The actual digging was done by hand using a large work force of Uyghur labor. However, the method by which they entered the shafts and discarded of the dirt and rock was incredible at the time. It was done using a primitive level tool & useing a series of pulleys and rope tied to and ox or horse. At this point, it was just a matter of time and labor required to build these karez.

Karez Well Turpan_03.png

Functioning of Karez Well & How it Works
The function of Karezes is depend on climate, hydrology, topography, geology, and other local agricultural activity. The Karez well is composed of the open channel, underground channel, the vertical well and a small reservoir. The most improtant part of Karez well is the underground channel and it is regarded as the key of the system. The vertical well works is the exit for the mud and gravels when digging. The water outlet that stays there in the underground channel is called as "Dragon mouth," which is in relation with the open channels above ground. The water of the wells is further drained out into a small reservoir before it is strained out into the channels.


The Karez Well works different in different seasons. When the temperature getting, the water source will come from the melting snow & ice water from the high mountain area, the water will follow the river goes into the Gobi Desert, get soaked through sand and ultimately forms an underground stream. The underground stream also come from the spring, rivers, lakes, and oasis, it will goes into the lower land area.

Value of Karez Well
Karez Well as an ancient irrigation system, the system has ever played a very important role in the daily life and in the production of the people in Turfan area. Though there is highly advanced electromechanical irrigation system, the function and position of the Karez system can not be superseded completely. On May 25, 1993, the 3rd Session of the 4th Standing Committee of Turfan Municipal People's Congress proved Provisions on the Administration of Turfan Karez Wells. It can be seen that its authenticity and integrity can be well preserved in the future.

Basic Information
Location: About 6KM from Turpan City
Entrance Fee: 40CNY
Opening Hours: 10:00AM-21:00PM
How to get there: 1) visitors can get the Karez Water System Folkways Center by bus; 2) Take taxi from Turpan city; 3) Take city bus No. 1,No.101& No.102 from downtown to reach Karez Well Scenic Area.

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