The oldest remains found in this area date back to the Neolithic Age, but the history of Urumqi City really begins in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-9 AD), when troops were stationed here to safeguard the flourishing Silk Road and corn was grown to feed them. This remained the status quo for hundreds of years and though the settlement remained little more than a small oasis and trading post, its strategic positioning in the pass between the Tarim and Zhunggar basins ensured its survival.
In 1763, Xinjiang was formally incorporated into the Chinese Empire after a centuries-long struggle between China and various Mongolian warlords for control of the region. The city now known as Urumqi was renamed Dihua, and when formal trade routes were opened up with Russia over a century later, Dihua was named capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
In the first half of the 20th Century, the city was split into three distinct areas: the older Muslim community, a newer district of Chinese groups and an area housing a large Russian population, who fled to China in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Warlords still controlled much of Xinjiang until 1950, continuing to use the City of Dihua as the capital. After the establishment of Communist Party rule brought the Chinese Civil War to a close in the late 1940' s, Dihua had its name changed to Urumqi in 1954.
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