Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 70 ›› Issue (5): 796-808.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201505010

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatio-temporal characteristics of cultural sites and an analysis of their driving forces in the Ili River Valley in historical periods

Fang WANG1,2(), Xiaolei ZHANG1(), Zhaoping YANG1, Fuming LUAN3, Heigang XIONG4, Zhaoguo WANG1,2, Hui SHI1,2   

  1. 1. Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, CAS, Urumqi 830011, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. Business School, Lishui University, Lishui 323000, Zhejiang, China
    4. College of Art and Science, Beijing Union University, Beijing 100083, China
  • Received:2014-06-30 Revised:2015-01-10 Online:2015-05-20 Published:2015-05-20
  • Supported by:
    National Science and Technology Pillar Program, No.2012BAH48F01;Chinese Academy of Sciences Visiting Professorship for Senior International Scientists, No.2013T2Z0004;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41171165, No.41301204


This paper presents an analysis of the spatio-temporal distribution of cultural sites in the Ili River Valley in Northwest China based on the application of ArcGIS software. It further explores the relationships between the spatio -temporal evolution of the sites, human history, and the natural environment. The results indicate that the numbers and proportions of the sites, and the frequency of their occurrence, exhibited an inverted V-shaped change trend during six historical periods. These covered the initial, peak, and declining stages of six periods extending from the Xia-Western Zhou dynasties to the Qing-Modern period. The spatial distribution pattern shifted from "high in the east and low in the west" during the first three periods to "high in the west and low in the east" during the latter three periods, illustrating a change in the spatial center of gravity of human activities. The sites were mainly distributed on slopes of grades 1-5. The proportion of sites increased from 75% during the Spring and Autumn-Qin dynasties to 93.75% during the Qing-Modern period. The concentrated distribution of site elevations shifted from grades 4-8 during the Spring and Autumn-Qin dynasties, and the Western Han-Northern and Southern dynasties to grades 1-4 during the latter three periods. The number of sites showed a shifting trend from high mountains and hills to low plains, and from high slopes to low slopes. In particular, the evolutionary pattern of sites in the study area exhibited a special "moist" pattern of migration from middle and upstream areas to downstream areas, as opposed to the migration pattern of sites located in typical arid areas. The paper also includes a discussion of factors influencing the distribution and spatio -temporal evolution of cultural sites, notably, human factors such as politics, economy, and productivity, and natural factors such as geomorphology, altitude, slope, and climate. Although the distribution and spatio -temporal evolution of cultural sites exhibited an orientation toward natural laws pertaining to factors such as river valleys, terraces, plains, and water resources, they presented a significant orientation toward laws, relating to human-driven forces including productivity levels, political stability, economic development, business and trade, and transport, which were more evident during the latter historical periods.

Key words: Ili River Valley, historical periods, cultural sites, spatio -temporal distribution, driving forces