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Tranquil Narat Grassland

Horses are grazing on Narat Grassland. Photo:


“Narat” in Mongolian literally means “the place where sunshine first appears”. The “place” is now Narat Grassland in Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang. There is a story behind how the word “Narat” was coined. Genghis Khan’s troop led by his second son Changatai (1185–1241) marched westward trying to cross the Ili Valley in the hinterland of Tianshan Mountain. In the Ili Valley, the weather was terrible and detrimental with big snow. Cold and tired, the soldiers were reluctant to go further. Then suddenly they found a beautiful, sunny and fertile area where Narat Grassland is located. The soldiers shouted “Narat” which means the sun is coming here. Later the term “Narat” was adopted by local Kazakhs.


Narat Grassland is about 180km long from east to west along the river bed sandwiched by the mountains of Tianshan in three sides. The famous Ili River zigzags through Ili Valley. Ili River is formed by its principal three tributaries - Kashi, Kunes, and Tekes. Kunes River is the upper reaches of Ili River, passing through the river bed of Narat Grassland.


As a river bed grassland, Narat Grassland is located at the sea-level of 1800 meters. It is populated by Kazakhs who raise their herds in the grassland. Yurts can be found everywhere on Narat Grassland.


Under the river bed grassland is the fertile black soil, which makes the grass grow better. It is said that the grass can be grown as high as 70-90cm in September. In winter, it is very cold on the river bed, reaching over 40 degrees below zero.


Kunes River cuts through Narat Grassland from east to west.

Yurts can be seen everywhere on Narat Grassland. Photo:


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