Yining or Gulja, city (1994 est. pop. 197,500), W Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China, on the Ili River in the Dzungarian basin. An old commercial center trading in tea and cattle, it is still and agricultural area with extensive livestock raising. It has fruit orchards, and iron and coal are mined nearby. Yining was seized by the Russians in 1871 but was restored to China in 1881. It became the capital of an autonomous district in 1954. The names were formerly spelled Ining and Kuldja.

Yining (Uighur غۇلجا Ghulja; also Ili, Yili, Kuldja, Kulja, Ghulja, Ining, Kulca) is a county-level city in western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of northwestern China, and the capital of the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture. Also known in ancient times as Almaliq.

Kulja was also a name of the Ili region in the past.

Area and Population

Administratively, the City of Yining is a county-level administrative unit. As of 2004, it occupied 629 km², with the population of 430,000 people. The city is located at the elevation of about 640 meters.

The land area and population of the City of Yining were smaller before 2004; the increase resulted from the transfer of 2 villages with some 100 km² of land from the adjacent Yining County (which is a separate administrative unit from the City of Yining).


Yining is located on the northern side of the Ili River in the Dzungarian basin, near the border with Kazakhstan, and about 710Km west of Urumqi. The Ili River valley is far wetter than any other part of Xinjiang and has rich grazing land.

The City of Yining borders on Huocheng County in the west and the Yining County in the east; across the river in the south is Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County.


Note on historical place names

From 13-15th century it was under the control of Chagatai Khanate known as Almaligh. In the 19th and early 20th century, the word Kuldja or Kulja was often used in Russia and in the West as the name for the entire Chinese part of the Ili River basin as well as for its two main cities. The usage of 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica is fairly characteristic: it defines Kulja as a "territory in north-west China" bounded by the Russian border and the mountains that surround the Ili basin, and it talks about two major cities of the region:

  • Kulja (i.e. today's Yining), or more spcifically Old Kulja (elsewhere, also called Taranchi Kulja), which was the commercial center of the region.
  • Suidun (i.e. Suiding, now called Shuiding), or more specifically New Kulja, Manchu Kulja, or Ili (elsewhere, also Chinese Kulja), the Chinese fortress and the regional capital.

Suiding was located some 40 km to the northwest of Yining, in today's Huocheng County; the regional capital was moved there circa 1883, prior to which the apellation New Kulja or Manchu Kulja was applied to the Huiyuan Cheng fortress, which was a bit closer to Yining.

Qing Dynasty

Yining was the site of the Sino-Russian Treaty of Kulja 1851, which opened the area for trade.

In 1864-66, the city suffered severely from fighting during the Muslim Rebellion. The city and the rest of the Ili River basin was seized by the Russians in 1871 during Yakub Beg's independent rule of Kashgaria. It was restored to China under the terms of the Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1881).

People's republic

Yining became the capital of an autonomous district in 1954. In 1962, major Sino-Soviet clashes took place along the Ili River.


Yining is the chief city, agricultural market, and commercial centre of the Ili River valley. It is an old commercial center trading in tea and cattle, and it is still an agricultural area with extensive livestock raising. It has fruit orchards. Iron and coal are mined nearby.


Regular bus service is available to other cities in the region, and taxis are available locally. A few km North of town there is an airport, with commercial service to Urumqi only. There is no rail service.


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