The Ancient City of Niya is located in the desert 150 kilometers (approximately 93 miles) from Minfeng County in Hotan, which was an important state on the Silk Road in Han Dynasty. It is a major national cultural relic and is regarded as the 'Eastern Pompeii'. Together with the Ancient City of Loulan, Niya ranks among the two famous ancient cities in China which have been buried by the desert.
According to historical records, it was once the site of the Jingjue Kingdom which was occupied by the western minorities in ancient China. It has supplied precious materials to the study of the relationships between the empire located in the Central Plains and ancient kingdoms in the Western Regions, which covers the area of the present-day Xinjiang and parts of Central Asia. It is also of great importance to the study of the cultural exchanges between the East and the West, as well as the Silk Road.
It was an oasis located deep in the Takla Makan Desert, lying to the north of Niya River. It was a famous kingdom among the 36 kingdoms located in that area. Like Pompeii, it was once prosperous but suddenly disappeared. No one knows the actual reason. Some people believe that it was destroyed by war, but others believe that it was destroyed by wind-blown sand.
At the ancient site of Niya there have been excavated a large number of cultural relics. The relics unearthed provide precious and accurate information that is very useful in studying the ancient minorities in China, the history of Silk Road and the cultural exchange between China and foreign countries. Most of them are old wooden articles, iron and copper items, pottery, stone articles and woolen fabrics. Ancient copper coins of the East Hun Dynasty were discovered as well as a large number of wooden slates mostly written in the Sanskrit language. Some of the slates were also written in the old Hotan and Chinese languages.
At one site there was an iron re-finery with burned articles found. In one of the graves of the Hun Dynasty amale mummy was found on which the following Chinese Characters were imprinted on the fabric: "Everything turns out as you wish". In October 1995 a piece of silk fabric was excavated with following words imprinted: "Five stars rising from the East, is an auspicious symbol for China".
Wooden implements, stone implements, bronze wares, iron wares, pottery, woolen goods and even remnants of food such as wheat, highland barley wild oat, mutton, and pork were excavated. The cotton clothes unearthed are regarded as the earliest cotton textiles that can be found in China. The relics of amanuensis including imperial edicts, public documents, and letters are valuable material for studying the history of minorities in ancient China. Here you can also see the relics of houses, courtyards, furniture, artwork, Buddhist pagoda, and coffins, each of which was made by drilling on one log. A site used for smelting iron in the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220) was also discovered near site of this ancient city.
You can also visit Hetian Museum, which is famous for a historic painted scroll of the ancient Yutian State. It showcases over 400 pieces of cultural relics excavated from the ancient cities of Niya, Mallikurwatur and Yotkan.