China Elevator Stories

Gaochang Ruins, turpan: “A Few People Get Heat Stroke Every Year”

I visit the Gaochang Ruins near Turpan in Xinjiang in July 2016.


Ruth Silbermayr-Song


I’m impressed by how well-preserved they are and by their size. It has 45°C (113°F) during the day. I take a golf cart that stops at various spots around the ruins, and get off and walk around to look at some of the preserved buildings. After this, I stay in the cart to recover from the unbearable heat. I talk with the driver, a 40-year-old woman covered from head to toe in light-colored clothes, wearing protective sleeves and a hat with a face cover that only leaves her eyes out in the open. Her family moved to Turpan from Sichuan when she was little.

She tells me: “You are lucky because it’s a little cloudy today. It was even hotter yesterday. The hottest phase starts on 20 July and lasts through August. It can get way over 50°C (122°F).”

“Do you work in the heat every day?”

“I do. Summer is travel season, so we can’t take off. A few people get heat stroke every year. Some ride around the area on a bike, others simply walk around on foot during the day. Last year, I picked up one person who had fainted and brought him to the building at the entrance so he could cool down. We gave him electrolytes, but it still took him 2.5 hours until he was okay again. He just walked around the sight alone during the worst heat of the day.”

Have you ever traveled around a really hot area?