Located in the Taklimakan Desert one hundred and fifty kilometers north of Minfeng County of Khotan. Niya Ruins were first discovered by a British named Stein in 1901. Stein collected a lot of precious relics of the Han Dynasty including documents, pottery, wood carvings, coins and others, causing a sensation of the world’s archaeological community at the time. People were unable to unveil the identity of these ancient ruins until the 1930s, when several Han Dynasty letters were discovered among the ruins. Since then, people realized that the ruins were left by the Jingjue Kingdom, one of the thirty-six countries in the Western Regions.
The ruins spread over the Niya River Delta, with a two-meter high stupa as the central landmark. The ruins cover an area of twenty-five kilometers from north to south, and seven kilometers from east to west. More than two hundred sites can be found within the area including temples, houses, cellars, cemeteries, orchards, forests, roads, pools, etc. In spite of the small territory, Jingjue Kingdom became rich and prosperous because of its strategic position. At the same time, it became a target for neighboring forces to compete for. Around the time of the 3rd century, the kingdom gradually disappeared from people’s vision. The Tang Dynasty monk Xuanzang who traveled to India passed the Jingjue Kingdom. In his book “Buddhist Records of the Western World, the master monk described the Niya City as”surrounded by marsh, the weather is hot and humid, it is difficult to travel on the marshland. With lots of weeds and grass, one cannot find the way back.”