Aksu City

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ئاقسۇ شەھىرى
Aksu pedestrian street
Aksu pedestrian street
Location of Aksu City (pink) in Aksu Prefecture and Xinjiang
Location of Aksu City (pink) in Aksu Prefecture and Xinjiang
Aksu is located in Xinjiang
Location of the city centre in Xinjiang
Coordinates: 41°10′20″N 80°16′30″E / 41.17222°N 80.27500°E / 41.17222; 80.27500Coordinates: 41°10′20″N 80°16′30″E / 41.17222°N 80.27500°E / 41.17222; 80.27500
CountryPeople's Republic of China
 • County-level city14,668 km2 (5,663 sq mi)
 • Urban
Time zoneUTC+8 (China Standard)
Postal code
Area code(s)0997
Aksu City
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese阿克苏
Traditional Chinese阿克蘇
Uyghur name

Aksu is a city in and the seat of Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang, lying at the northern edge of the Tarim Basin. The name Aksu literally means "white water" (in Turkic) and is used for both the oasis town and the river.

The economy of Aksu is mostly agricultural, with cotton, in particular long-staple cotton, as the main product. Also produced are grain, fruits, oils and beets. The industry mostly consists of weaving, cement and chemical industries.

The land currently under the administration of the Aksu City is divided in two parts, separated by the Aral City. The northern part hosts the city center, while the southern part is occupied by the Taklamakan Desert.


The name Aksu comes from the Uyghur word for "white water". It is also transliterated Akesu, Ak-su, Akshu, Aqsu.


Han dynasty[edit]

From the Former Han dynasty (125 BCE to 23 CE) at least until the early Tang dynasty (618-907 CE), Aksu was known as Gumo 姑墨 [Ku-mo].[2][3] The ancient capital town of Nan ("Southern Town") was likely well south of the present town.

During the Han dynasty, Gumo is described as a "kingdom" (guo) containing 3,500 households and 24,500 individuals, including 4,500 people able to bear arms. It is said to have produced copper, iron and orpiment.[4] The territory of Gumo was roughly situated in the counties of Baicheng and Wensu and the city of Aksu of nowadays.[5]

Tang dynasty[edit]

During the Buddhist era, it was known as Bharuka,[6] Bohuan and Baluka,[7] Bolujia (in pinyin), Po-lu-chia (in Wade-Giles).

The Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang visited this "kingdom" in 629 CE and referred to it as Baluka.[8] He recorded that there were tens of Sarvastivadin Buddhist monasteries in the kingdom and over 1,000 monks. He said the kingdom was 600 li from east to west, and 300 li from north to south. Its capital was said to be six li in circumference. He reported that the "native products, climate, temperament of the people, customs, written language and law are the same as in the country of Kuci or modern Kucha, (some 300 km or 190 mi to the east), but the spoken language is somewhat different [from Kuchean]." He also stated that fine cotton and hemp cloth made in the area was traded in neighbouring countries.[9]

In the 7th, 8th, and early 9th centuries, control of the entire region was often contested by the Chinese Tang dynasty, the Tibetan Empire, and the Uyghur Empire; cities frequently changed hands. Tibet seized Aksu in 670, but Tang forces reconquered the region in 692.

Tang dynasty Chinese General Tang Jiahui led the Chinese to defeat an Arab-Tibetan attack in the Battle of Aksu (717).[10] The attack on Aksu was joined by Turgesh Khan Suluk.[11][12] Both Uch Turfan and Aksu were attacked by the Turgesh, Arab, and Tibetan force on 15 August 717. Qarluqs serving under Chinese command, under Arsila Xian, a Western Turkic Qaghan serving under the Chinese Assistant Grand Protector General Tang Jiahui defeated the attack. Al-Yashkuri, the Arab commander and his army fled to Tashkent after they were defeated.[13][14]

Tibet regained the Tarim Basin in the late 720s, and the Tang dynasty again annexed the region in the 740s. The Battle of Talas led to the gradual withdrawal of Chinese forces, and the region was then contested between the Uyghurs and Tibetans.

Aksu was positioned on a junction of trade routes: the northern-Tarim route Silk road, and the dangerous route north via the Tian Shan's Muzart Pass to the fertile Ili River valley.[15]

Mongol era[edit]

In 1207–08, they submitted to Genghis Khan. Around 1220, Aksu became the capital of the Kingdom of Mangalai. The area had been part of the whole Mongol Empire before it was occupied by the independent-minded Chagatai Khanate under the House of Ogedei in 1286 from the hands of Kublai's Yuan Dynasty. After the decline of the Yuan Dynasty in the mid-14th century and subsequently the Chagatai Khanate in the late 14th century, Aksu fell under the power of Turkic and Mongol warlords.

Along with most of Xinjiang, Aksu fell under the control of the Khojas, and later that of Yaqub Beg, during the Dungan Rebellion of 1864–1877. Yakub Beg seized Aksu from Chinese Muslim forces.[16] After the defeat of the rebellion, a learned cleric named Musa Sayrami (1836–1917), who had occupied positions of importance in Aksu under both rebel regimes, authored Tārīkh-i amniyya (History of Peace), which is considered by modern historians as one of the most important historical sources on the period.[17]

Modern era[edit]

Map of Aksu and surrounding region from the International Map of the World (1950)

British Army officer Francis Younghusband visited Aksu in 1887 on his overland journey from Beijing to India. He described it as being the largest town he had seen on his way from the Chinese capital, with a population of about 20,000, besides other inhabitants of the district and a garrison of about 2,000 soldiers. "There were large bazaars and several inns—some for travellers, others for merchants wishing to make a prolonged stay to sell goods."[18]

The Battle of Aksu (1933) occurred here on May 31, 1933.[19] Isma'il Beg, a Uighur, became the rebel Tao-yin of Aksu.[20] After the outbreak of the Ili Rebellion, the Ili National Army forces led by Abdulkerim Abbas attempting to take Aksu were repelled by National Revolutionary Army defenders commanded by Zhao Hanqi after two bitter sieges in September 1945.

Aksu was the site of a bombing in 2010.


Aksu has a cold desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWk) with extreme seasonal variation in temperature. The monthly 24-hour average temperature ranges from −7.8 °C (18.0 °F) in January to 23.8 °C (74.8 °F), and the annual mean is 10.25 °C (50.4 °F). Precipitation totals only 74 millimetres (2.9 in) annually, and mostly falls in summer, as compared to an annual evaporation rate of about 1,200 to 1,500 mm (47 to 59 in); there are about 2,800−3,000 hours of bright sunshine annually. The frost-free period averages 200−220 days.

Climate data for Aksu (1971−2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 7.3
Average high °C (°F) −0.9
Daily mean °C (°F) −7.8
Average low °C (°F) −13.3
Record low °C (°F) −25.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 1.6
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 2.3 2.2 1.6 1.5 3.1 5.3 6.6 6.3 3.3 1.1 0.7 1.9 35.9
Source: Weather China


Although the Tarim Basin is largely dominated by the Uyghurs, there are many Han Chinese in Aksu due to the presence of bingtuan state farms here.[21] The Chinese government had encouraged migration to Xinjiang from the late 1950s and early 1960s onwards, and by 1998, Han Chinese formed the majority in the urban area of Aksu. The population in 2015, 44.67% of the population was Han Chinese.[22]

In the 2000 census, a figure of 561,822 was recorded for the city's population. In the 2010 census figure, the population in the city of Aksu dropped slightly to 535,657.[23] The difference may be partly due to boundary changes.[24]


The county is served by the Southern Xinjiang Railway.


  • Before 600 the region was under control of Huns and Uyghur Turkic tribes.
  • 630: Xuanzang visited the kingdom.
  • 800: Kuseen Uyghur kingdom was controlling the region.
  • 1000: Qarakhanids Uyghur Empire started controlling the region.
  • 1250: Chagatay Mongol started controlling the region.
  • 1500: Yarkant Uyghur Empire started controlling the region.


The kingdom bordered Kashgar to the south-west, and Kucha, Karasahr then Turpan to the east. Across the desert to the south was Khotan.

Literary sources[edit]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cox, W (2018). Demographia World Urban Areas. 14th Annual Edition (PDF). St. Louis: Demographia. p. 22.
  2. ^ Hill (2009), p. 408, n. 20.13. "In Buddhist Sanskrit, it was known as Bharuka."
  3. ^ Bailey, H. W. (1985): Indo-Scythian Studies being Khotanese Texts Volume VII. Cambridge University Press. 1985.
  4. ^ Hulsewé, A. F. P. and Loewe, M. A. N. 1979. China in Central Asia: The Early Stage 125 BC – AD 23: an annotated translation of chapters 61 and 96 of the History of the Former Han Dynasty, p. 162. E. J. Brill, Leiden.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2013-08-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Bernard Samuel Myers (1959). Encyclopedia of World Art. McGraw-Hill. p. 445. The city bearing the Turkish name of Aksu was perhaps earlier called Bharuka and may overlie the ancient site, of which nothing has yet been found.
  7. ^ John E. Hill (July 2003). "Section 20 – The Kingdom of Suoche 莎車 (Yarkand).". Notes to The Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu (2nd ed.). Washington University. Retrieved 3 February 2020. Neolithic artefacts from 5000 BC have been discovered in the Aksu area. By the first century BC news had reached the Chinese imperial court of the Kingdom of Baluka, one of the 36 kingdoms of the Western Regions.
  8. ^ Xuanzang. "跋禄迦國" [Kingdom of Baluka]. Great Tang Records on the Western Regions (in Chinese). 1 – via Wikisource.
  9. ^ Li, Rongxi. Translator. 1996. The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research. Berkeley, California.
  10. ^ Insight Guides (1 April 2017). Insight Guides Silk Road. APA. ISBN 978-1-78671-699-6.
  11. ^ René Grousset (1970). The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. Rutgers University Press. pp. 114–. ISBN 978-0-8135-1304-1. aksu 717.
  12. ^ Jonathan Karam Skaff (6 August 2012). Sui-Tang China and Its Turko-Mongol Neighbors: Culture, Power, and Connections, 580-800. Oxford University Press. pp. 311–. ISBN 978-0-19-999627-8.
  13. ^ Christopher I. Beckwith (28 March 1993). The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power Among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and Chinese During the Early Middle Ages. Princeton University Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 0-691-02469-3.
  14. ^ Marvin C. Whiting (2002). Imperial Chinese Military History: 8000 BC-1912 AD. iUniverse. pp. 277–. ISBN 978-0-595-22134-9.
  15. ^ Wright, George Frederick (2009), Asiatic Russia, Volume 1, BiblioBazaar, LLC, pp. 47–48, ISBN 1-110-26901-3 (Reprint of a 19th-century edition)
  16. ^ Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons (1871). Accounts and papers of the House of Commons. Ordered to be printed. p. 34. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  17. ^ Kim, Ho-dong (2004). Holy war in China: the Muslim rebellion and state in Chinese Central Asia, 1864–1877. Stanford University Press. p. xvi. ISBN 0-8047-4884-5.
  18. ^ Younghusband, Francis E. (1896). The Heart of a Continent. London: John Murray. p. 154.
  19. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 89. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  20. ^ Andrew D. W. Forbes (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: a political history of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949. Cambridge, England: CUP Archive. p. 241. ISBN 0-521-25514-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  21. ^ Stanley W. Toops (15 March 2004). "The Demography of Xinjiang". In S. Frederick Starr (ed.). Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland. Routledge. p. 254. ISBN 978-0765613189.
  22. ^ Stanley W. Toops (15 March 2004). "The Demography of Xinjiang". In S. Frederick Starr (ed.). Xinjiang: China's Muslim Borderland. Routledge. pp. 256–257. ISBN 978-0765613189.
  23. ^ "Largest Cities in China 2016". Country Digest.
  24. ^ "ĀKÈSŪ SHÌ (County-level City)". City Population.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
  • Puri, B. N. Buddhism in Central Asia, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, Delhi, 1987. (2000 reprint).
  • Stein, Aurel M. 1907. Ancient Khotan: Detailed report of archaeological explorations in Chinese Turkestan, 2 vols. Clarendon Press. Oxford. [1]
  • Stein, Aurel M. 1921. Serindia: Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China, 5 vols. London & Oxford. Clarendon Press. Reprint: Delhi. Motilal Banarsidass. 1980. [2]
  • Yu, Taishan. 2004. A History of the Relationships between the Western and Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions. Sino-Platonic Papers No. 131 March, 2004. Dept. of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania.

External links[edit]