Manas River: The Ancient Life Force of Xinjiang

A few years ago, owing to my professional commitments, I resided in Manas for a while. During that period, I gazed contemplatively at the ceaseless flow of the Manas River, which endured day and night.

The origin of the Manas River emanates from the northern foothills of the Tianshan Mountain. Hongni Valley, Lucao Valley, and Qingshui River serve as its principal tributaries, bestowing replenishing vigor upon it. These tributaries converge at Kenduanwat, traverse the mountains via Hongshanzui, and meander into Manas Lake. The upper reaches of the Manas River boast rapid currents and are replete with picturesque canyons, while the lower reaches transform into flat plains adorned with intricately developed meanders. Numerous cascade hydropower stations and reservoirs such as Jiahezi, Yuejin, and Mushroom Lake dot the landscape. The Manas River Irrigation District stands as the largest irrigation district in Xinjiang.

Those glaciers, enshrouded in clouds and beneath the azure sky, represent the genesis of the Manas River, where the life of this river commences. The Manas River serpentines its way amidst the mountains, veering from the southeast to the northwest, before gracefully turning northward and entering the desert. Everywhere it traverses, verdant hues emerge. Animals, birds, flowers, and grasslands thrive in its presence. Over millennia, a unique ecological symbiosis has flourished, harmonizing humanity and nature.

When Manas is the topic of discussion, a plethora of captivating subjects arises. Confronted by the vast wealth of classical and historical resources, I often find myself engrossed in the profound cultural heritage of Manas. During the Qianlong era, agricultural endeavors commenced along both banks of this river.

Nomadism stands as a badge of honor bestowed upon us by this river, and millennia of nomadic existence have similarly nurtured the river. The rushing torrents mirror the galloping stride of herdsmen. Even as settlements, both civilian and military, emerged in the middle and lower reaches, the mountainous regions of the upper reaches still echoed with resonating Kazakh pastoral songs. Following the establishment of the county during the Qianlong era, the river transformed into a formidable barrier for Manas City. Merchants, officers, and soldiers traversing from the west to the east were compelled to traverse this river. In these currents, the blood of our ancestors permeates the air, and the backbone of our progenitors becomes visible. Throughout history, the Dayuezhi, Wusun, Sai, Huns, Dingling, and Han people spoke their respective languages, donned distinctive attire, and embraced diverse culinary and recreational customs. Yet, the one unifying factor among them was their profound reliance on this river for sustenance.

The waters of the Manas River have flowed incessantly, nurturing generations of descendants here. They have quenched their thirst from its bountiful currents and borne witness to the subtle tapestry of time and the grand vicissitudes of the ages. Shihezi City and Manas County, flanking both sides of the Manas River, have experienced rapid development and transformative changes, akin to the tumultuous river itself.

I recall that, during that period, I would aimlessly pedal my bicycle alongside the Manas River. The expansive asphalt road showcased the remarkable achievements of constructing and developing a small town in the remote Western Region. If the ancient toponyms were concealed, one could easily mistake it for a modern metropolis. During these rides, we passed several hydropower stations situated along the upper reaches of the east bank of the Ma River, which have dutifully furnished light and warmth to the denizens on both sides of the river for countless decades. Upon entering the county town, the roadsides teemed with shops engaged in the processing and sale of Mahe jade. Undoubtedly, this industry boasts a rich history, endowing the people of Manas with opulent treasures akin to jade.

Journeying southward along the Manas River, one encounters crimson, jagged rocks adorning the riverbanks in diverse formations. This breathtaking landscape constitutes the Shimenyuan Scenic Area, nestled deep within the Tianshan Mountains, renowned as the Baili Gallery. It belongs to the mountain system formed during the Jurassic period. With each step, majestic peaks, cloaked in snow, reveal themselves. The rushing river incessantly erodes the stones, resounding as it cascades out of the valley and courses downstream. Within the tranquil mountain forest, white birches, poplars, and millennia-old poplars stand sentinel, silently recounting their tales. It is here that a magnificent panorama gradually unfolds. Each evening, we embrace the touch of the wind and marvel at the sky ablaze with vibrant clouds, while birds chase the setting sun. Serene cows and sheep leisurely graze in the sunshine, evoking a sense of envy, as theI apologize for the abrupt ending in the previous response. Here’s the continuation:

Serene cows and sheep leisurely graze in the sunshine, evoking a sense of envy, as the pressures of urban life dissipate. The Manas River, with its unyielding spirit, accompanies every step of the way, silently whispering stories of the past.

As I pedaled further, the landscape transitioned from mountains to plains. The river widened, and its currents became calmer, making way for vast stretches of grassland that extended to the horizon. The sight of yurts dotted across the grassy expanse evoked a sense of nostalgia for the nomadic way of life, where people and animals lived in harmony with nature.

The Manas River, as it flows through the plains, plays a crucial role in supporting the agricultural activities of the region. The fertile soil along its banks sustains the growth of crops, and irrigation channels crisscross the fields. During the summer months, the river’s water is channeled into these networks, ensuring the bountiful harvests that the locals depend on.

The presence of the Manas River has not only shaped the physical landscape but also left an indelible mark on the cultural heritage of the region. The epic of Manas, a monumental oral poem that spans over half a million lines, tells the heroic tales of the Kyrgyz people and their struggle for freedom. Passed down through generations, the epic embodies the resilience and courage of the people who call this land their home.

Manas, with its captivating landscapes and rich cultural tapestry, is a testament to the beauty and diversity of our world. It serves as a reminder of the deep interconnections between nature, history, and the human experience. Whether it’s the roaring rapids in the mountains or the tranquil meanders in the plains, the Manas River continues to inspire and captivate all who encounter its timeless flow.

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