Author Archives: Annie Chan

Archaeology at the border: survey and excavation in Xinjiang

The view from the site where I am excavating.

As far as archaeological fieldwork goes, there are certainly far less accommodating places than where I have fortunately found myself for three consecutive field seasons. My summer fieldwork in Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, a picturesque area of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region less than 30 km from China’s border with Kazakhstan, has offered just the […]

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Journey across China. Day 9 – Homestretch

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On the last day, we traveled across Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture before making our way northward into Bortala Mongol Autonomous Prefecture. On both sides of the highway were spectacular views of velvety green hills with fir trees and fields of lavender. We passed a few roadside stores selling wild berry jams and honey in the […]

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Journey across China. Days 7 and 8 – Into a hidden paradise

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I was excited to see the Taklamakhan Desert again after I traveled across it by bus two years ago on the western route that runs through the heart of the desert. There are two roads that cut north-south through the desert. This time, we took the eastern route that passes through the lower reaches of […]

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Journey across China. Day 6 – The mesmerizing sands

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Leaving Ge’ermu at dawn, we resumed our journey westward, accompanied on the road only by towering trucks maneuvering themselves slowly toward mining operations on the Chaidamu (Qaidam) salt flats; there were barely any passenger vehicles.  At some point, we crossed one of the major salt lakes, Chaerhan salt lake, on a 32 km land bridge […]

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Journey across China. Day 5- Upward and westward

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The next morning, we left Dulan and made a detour to a nearby village, Reshui 熱水, where there is a large Tang Dynasty (7th - 10th centuries) cemetery.  The main tombs are situated on top of a mound of roughly 80 m high. Because of the altitude (3300 m), it was difficult to make it all […]

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Journey across China. Day 4- Atop the Tibetan Plateau

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The hills outside Xining were dressed in a velvety moss-green, a stark contrast to the landscape in Gansu. We headed for Qinghai Lake, the largest saline lake  (also the largest lake) in China, which was to be the highlight of our drive on day four. At 3200 m, the sun was deceivingly mild in the […]

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Journey across China. Day 3 – 4 provinces in 1 day

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As we continued driving west, it became noticeably more hilly, the altitude had increased to 1500m. At Hongsibao 紅寺堡, Ningxia Hui (Chinese Muslim) Autonomous Region, we got on the Jingzang Highway 京藏高速 that runs from Beijing to Tibet. It took only a few hours to travel cross Ningxia and soon we found ourselves in Gansu […]

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Journey across China. Day 2- Where the Yellow River flows

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Bright and early at six in the morning, we began our journey west. The first quest was to travel beyond the Fourth Ring Road by 7am to avoid traffic fines (a policy implemented by the government to ease congestion in the inner city). We headed southwest toward Baoding 保定, and after driving for nearly an […]

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Journey across China from Beijing to Bortala. Day 1- Beijing

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The hazy morning sun, the wide intersections flanked by colossal buildings accommodating commuters on various forms of conveyance, and the hustle and bustle of a morning market are scenes characteristic of the center of Beijing. What strikes me as a distinct difference from the previous times I had been here is how refreshingly balmy it […]

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