This aerial photo taken on Aug. 11, 2023 shows the Jiaohe ancient city in sunset in Turpan, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Jiaohe ancient city, located in the oasis north of the Turpan basin, was once an important town on the ancient Silk Road, and was listed as one of the first batch of national key cultural relic protection units in 1961. (Xinhua/Ma Ning)
URUMQI, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- During her childhood, Gulbakre Maimin would often play hide-and-seek with her friends in the ancient city of Jiaohe. As she grew older, she followed in the footsteps of her father and her grandfather by becoming a guardian of the world cultural heritage site.
"My family has engaged in the preservation of the ancient city for around half a century, dating back to 1972. Both my father and grandfather are cultural relics conservators," Gulbakre Maimin said.
Nestled in the city of Turpan, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the Jiaohe Ruins are the best-preserved, longest-lasting and largest relics of a clay-built city in the world. The ancient city of Jiaohe served as a main traffic artery along the Silk Road, witnessing the over 5,000-year history of the Chinese civilization and is of huge historical value.
"I really enjoy taking a stroll around the ancient city, walking through its alleys and imagining its past glory. Sometimes, I feel as if I can sense the ancient people walking out from the houses, inviting me for a cup of tea," the 40-year-old said.
During her undergraduate and graduate studies, Gulbakre Maimin majored in history and cultural heritage conservation.
Over the past decade, Gulbakre Maimin has been dedicated to her work, which consists of daily patrols, inspections and maintenance within the ancient city. She also takes part in cultural activities for tourists and ensures the safety of visitors during their tours.
A visitor takes photos at the Jiaohe ancient city in Turpan, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Aug. 11, 2023. Jiaohe ancient city, located in the oasis north of the Turpan basin, was once an important town on the ancient Silk Road, and was listed as one of the first batch of national key cultural relic protection units in 1961. (Xinhua/Ma Ning)
"I am very familiar with every corner of the ancient city. I even know the exact location of each small wooden peg embedded in the earthen wall during the maintenance and reinforcement work," she said.
"My job may seem insignificant to others, but to me it is quite meaningful, since protecting our civilization is the responsibility of each one of us," Gulbakre Maimin added.
One of Gulbakre Maimin's proudest moments is her involvement in the application for UNESCO World Heritage status for the Jiaohe Ruins. During the preparations, she was busy with recording and archiving every day and taking part in numerous publicity activities.
She always remembers the day of June 22, 2014, when the UNESCO designated a 5,000 km stretch of the Silk Road network from central China to the Zhetysu region of Central Asia as a World Heritage site, and the Jiaohe city, once a crucial stop along the Silk Road, is part of it.
"If my grandfather was still alive, he would surely be extremely happy and proud as well," she said.
Today, protection efforts for the ancient city are continuing. More than 120 million yuan (about 16.45 million U.S. dollars) has been pooled into the preservation of the ancient city in recent years.
A new reinforcement project is scheduled to be launched in 2024.
So far, there are a total of 13 cultural relics protectors, including Gulbakre Maimin, who are making contributions to the protection of the ancient city. ■