Panoramic view of the Flaming Mountains from the Bezeklik Buddhist caves
Next to the Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves is the Flaming Mountains. They are called that because the ground temperatures are so high on these mountains -- up to 50 degrees Centigrade or even higher -- that no plants or animals can live here.
The red sandstone also makes the mountains look like they are "on fire".
During ancient times, merchants and Buddhist pilgrims traveling along the Silk Road would avoid the Flaming Mountains and try to find oasis towns nearby, such as Gaochang.
The valleys are caused by erosion of the sandstone.
The Flaming Mountains have also achieved literary fame through the novel Journey to the West, when a Buddhist monk makes a pilgrimage accompanied by a Monkey King who has magical powers. At one point in the story, the monk runs through a wall of flames, a fictionalized (and embellished) account of monk Xuanzang's travels to India to learn more about Buddhism.
In Journey to the West, Monkey King creates a disturbance in the heavens, knocking over a kiln that causes the embers to fall from the sky onto the place where the Flaming Mountains are.
Alternatively in a Uyghur legend, a dragon lived in the Tianshan Mountains and liked to eat little children. As a result a Uyghur hero slayed the dragon and cut it up into eight pieces. The dragon's blood turned into a scarlet mountain of blood and the eight pieces formed the eight valleys in the Flaming Mountains.
Aren't these stories of how Flaming Mountains came about wonderful and creative?