The Ancient City of Loulan is located on the west banks of the Lop Nur Lake in Ruoqiang County, Bayinguole in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The city occupied a very significant position on the Silk Road leading to the West during the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220) and played an important role in promoting cultural exchanges between the East and the West. However, the city was later swallowed up by the desert. There are no historical documents recording the exact location of the ancient city, which has been buried for thousands of years. Reputed as the Pompeii in the desert, the city became a mystery of Chinese history.
In the spring of 1900, the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin accidentally discovered a huge Buddhist pagoda and the ruins of an ancient city that proved to be the Ancient City of Loulan. In 1979 and 1980, Xinjiang archaeologists carried out many excavations at the site.
The Ancient City of Loulan is located 89"55"-89"22" east longitude and 40"45"-40"55" north latitude. The city is an irregular square shape with the east wall stretching along 333 meters; the south wall, 329 meters; and the west and north walls, 327 meters each. There are gaps in the center of the south and north walls that were probably used as gates.
The tallest construction inside the city is a 10.4-meter-high Buddhist pagoda in the east of the city. The pagoda was built using adobe mixed with timber and has a square-shaped base about 19.5 meters long on each side. Five kilometers northwest of the ancient city is a 12-meter-high beacon tower made of clay and timber.
The most special construction site inside the city is the three-room site located in the middle. These three rooms are the only structures made from adobe. Sitting in the north and facing south, the rooms have wooden houses at their east and west ends. With traces of red paint, some of the timbers are 6.4 meters long. The rooms' location and the architectural style suggest they were the site of the Loulan government office.
The constructions in the residential area southwest of the city have long perished. There is an ancient tunnel, however, stretching from the east to the west through the compound which archeologists believe served as a water source for Loulan residents.
Ruins of Buddhist temples, a beacon fire and tombs were also unearthed around the city, including a large number of cultural relics, such as a 5-zhu coin (24 zhu=1 liang, or 0.05 kilograms) from the Han Dynasty, coins from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), remnants of bamboo slips with Han and Khatoshthi characters, silk and wool fabrics, lacquers, wooden wares, jade ware, bronze ware and fragments of glass ware. Many excavated items, which were not made in the Central Plain areas, provide important materials for the study of the transportation and cultural exchanges between the East and the West, as well as the historical relationship between border areas and China's inland.