Ancient Technology—Modern Marvel
“THE town [Turfan], in one of the hottest, most inhospitable places on earth, remains a verdant oasis, thanks to technology that is 2,000 years old,” reported The Globe and Mail of Toronto, Canada.
Turfan has the reputation of being not only the hottest city in China but also one of the hottest and driest spots on earth. Its population of about 180,000 live on the northern edge of the Turfan Depression, an extension of the Takla Makan Desert. Rainfall is practically unknown, and because of the intense heat, the little rain that does fall evaporates before it touches the ground. During the summer months, the temperature commonly reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit [54° C.] in the shade.
Yet, trees and shrubs surround Turfan, covering an area of some 8,000 acres [3,200 ha]. These serve to protect the inhabitants against the blustering sandstorms that regularly swirl around its perimeter. The storms originate in the Takla Makan Desert and carry huge quantities of sand that could completely bury buildings and smother fertile fields. The trees and shrubs thus guard the city oasis from the destructive forces of the desert.
Despite this hostile environment of turbulent sandstorms and sizzling temperatures, Turfan is thriving as an agricultural center. The place is a veritable supermarket of exotic foods, producing desert dates, grapes, melons, pomegranates, peaches, apricots, apples, eggplants, onions, and wheat and other grains, not to speak of the finest long-fiber cotton grown in China. As long as can be remembered, Turfan has been known for the quality and variety of its agricultural produce. For thousands of years, it has been a thriving community in a fertile oasis.
What is the 2,000-year-old technology that maintains such a marvelous success story? The Globe and Mail claims that the city owes its success to “an ancient irrigation system that is one of mankind’s most ingenious and lasting engineering works.” The newspaper adds: “The secret of [Turfan’s] survival is an incredible labyrinth of irrigation tunnels and wells—known in the local Uighur dialect as karez—that collect the water running off the snow-capped Tian Shan mountains, 80 kilometres [50 miles] to the northwest.” The water would likely evaporate before reaching the city canals if it was not supplied underground by means of the hundreds of tunnels that make up the elaborate irrigation system.
Long before the Uighurs developed their irrigation system, the ancient Persians used a similar network of irrigation tunnels. Says the Encyclopædia Britannica: “The Persians developed underground sources of water by digging tunnels, or kanats, into the hills, often several hundred feet below the surface and as much as 12 miles (19 kilometres) long.” Indeed, this ancient irrigation technology is a marvel even in modern times, as it maintains an oasis in one of the hottest, driest places on earth.
While old and new technology convert deserts into beautiful gardens, in the not-too-distant future, by means of his Kingdom government, Jehovah will make all the deserts of the earth blossom, to the delight of the human family. Says the prophet of Jehovah: “The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. Without fail it will blossom, and it will really be joyful with joyousness and with glad crying out. The glory of Lebanon itself must be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and of Sharon. There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.”—Isaiah 35:1, 2.