Keriya Town

Coordinates: 36°53′N 81°36′E / 36.883°N 81.600°E / 36.883; 81.600

Keriya Town
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 木尕拉鎮
Simplified Chinese 木尕拉镇
Uyghur name

Keriya Town or Mugala Town is a town in Keriya (Yutian) County, Xinjiang, China, on the old Southern Silk Road. As the commercial and administrative centre of Keriya County, it is about 166 km east of Hotan, 80 km east of Qira, and 120 km west of Niya. Yutian County has a population of about 160,000.


During the Former Han Dynasty the kingdom based on the Keriya Oasis was known as Wumi (扜彌, Wūmí) and that there were, "3340 households, 20040 individuals with 3540 persons able to bear arms".[1] These figures seem to be out of balance with too a high number of individuals per household. Perhaps to correct this, the Hou Hanshu - which records the kingdom as Jumi (拘彌, Jūmí) - states that, during the Later Han Dynasty (25-220 CE), it "controls 2,173 households, 7,251 individuals, and 1,760 people able to bear arms."[2] The later Weilüe and the Tangshu refer to Keriya as Hanmi (扞彌, Hànmí).[3]

Both the Hanshu and the Hou Hanshu place this kingdom 390 li [162 km] east of Khotan. This is very close to the distance between Khotan and Keriya on modern maps, and confirms the identification of Wumi/Jumi with Keriya.[4]

The small modern town of Keriya is situated on the western bank of the Keriya River. Approximately 180 km north along the Keriya River is the ancient fortified site of Karadong where the world's oldest Buddhist murals have been found. It was abandoned in the 4th century CE. Another site, Yuan Sha, some 40 km north of Karadong, dates from the Iron Age but was abandoned by about 130 BCE.

There is a village about 75 km south of Keriya called Pulu. There are a number of peaks over 6,000 metres to the south of the oasis, including Qong Muztag at 6,962 m (22,841 ft) in the upper Keriya River Valley. About 100 families of the distinctive Keriya Uyghurs, who are said to be quite distinct from other Uyghurs, live at Tangzubasti Village, about 170 km north of the town of Yutian. It is said to be on the ruins of the ancient city of Keladun where artifacts from the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 222 CE) have been found.

Marco Polo visited the oasis in the late 13th century. He described it as being five day's journey in extent, but with sandy deserts to both east and west. Both the Province and the capital city were called Pem or Peyn. He noted that the people were Muslims, and that there were many towns and villages. He indicated that there were plenty of products there, including cotton. He also mentions that "jasper" (probably nephrite jade) and chalcedony were found in the rivers and the people "live by manufacture and trade". He also wrote of their custom: "...if a married man goes to a distance from home to be absent twenty days, his wife has a right, if she is inclined, to take another husband; and the men, on the same principle, marry wherever they happen to reside.[5]

Gold mines were reported near Keriya in the 19th century.[6]


  1. Hulsewé (1979), p. 95.
  2. Hill (2015) Vol. I, p. 15.
  3. Hill (2015) Vol. I, p. 194.
  4. Hill (2015) Vol.I, p. 194.
  5. J.M. Dent (1908), "Chapter 34: Of the Province of Peyn - of the chalcedonies and jasper found in its river - and of a peculiar custom with regard to marriage", The travels of Marco Polo the Venetian, p. 97
  6. Hill (2015) Vol. I, p. 196.


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