Urumqi and The Xinjiang Autonomous Region - Page 3

City of Urumqi (Translation -- Beautiful Grassland) and The Xinjiang Autonomous Region

Economy and Culture

Historically a poor region, Xinjiang has been developed both agriculturally and industrially in recent years. Because rainfall is scarce, many parts of Xinjiang are barren. The main source of irrigation water is the snow and ice at the higher reaches of the Tian Shan range. To harness this supply, rivers have been rechanneled and irrigation canals dug. Xinjiang now has over 400 reservoirs and 30,000 km. (18,000 mi.) of rechanneled waterways.

Referring to the period before 1949, a local inhabitant recounts that "at that time, one could get an ampoule of penicillin only by exchanging it for a horse, a battery flashlight for a lamb, a meter of cloth for three catties of wheat, and a small box of matches for a kilogram of wool." Now Xinjiang produces steel, oil, chemicals, sugar, tractors, and various other kinds of farm machinery. Trucks are the main method of transportation and thousands of miles of roads have now been paved. There are eight universities in Xinjiang, including two medical schools. One medical college specializes in cancer research (Uighur people have a high incidence of laryngeal cancer, attributed to drinking hot liquids). 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.