URUMQI, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Liu Wei and Qi Shoucheng, who live 600 km apart, met again under the scorching sun of Turpan, a tourist destination and a famous "fire land" in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The two barely contacted each other all year, but by coincidence, have met every summer over the past four years. They did not come to Turpan for sightseeing, but for the burning sand -- which they believe can ease discomfort and make them healthier.
The Turpan depression is the lowest point in China and also home to the Huoyan (flaming) Mountain, one of the hottest places in China. The temperature here can soar up to over 45 degrees Celsius even in the shade in July and August. The temperature on the surface of the sand dunes can reach as high as 70 degrees Celsius.
While locals have used all their imagination and creativity to escape the heat, it is deemed the best season for many non-locals like Liu and Qi.
"My heart has flown to Turpan as summer approaches," said Liu. A native of Shaanxi province, the 45-year old has to take a 30-hour train to reach Turpan. "But everything was worth it when my body touched the sand."
Sand therapy, also called sand burying therapy, is believed to be able to help treat some chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), promote blood circulation and improve fitness with the effect of sunlight and heat in the sand.
Zhang suffers from RA, and his body swells and aches badly in winter. He tried sand therapy eight years ago at the recommendation of a relative and coming here has hence become part of his summer schedule.
He has even made many friends. "We always see familiar faces in the sand dunes," Liu said while helping bury Qi in the sand with a shovel.
Qi has entered his second week for sand therapy this year, during which he spent about five hours in the sand dunes every day. He, like many others, lie under colorful sunshades as if they are on a pleasant vacation in Hawaii. They sometimes stretch their necks, lean forward and take a gulp of hot tea to dissipate perspiration.
A sand therapy chain including hospital, hostels, canteens and other conveniences have been established in Shanghu village, the best location for sand therapy, to better serve migrant visitors. "Patients" and visitors from countries including Russia, Thailand, Malaysia and the United States also visit here during summer.
This year, all 300 bunks in the sand therapy health center have already been reserved, and the village receives more than 10,000 visitors every day.
"My hostel now has more than 160 visitors, and I can make about 100,000 yuan (about 14,551 U.S. dollars) a month," said Bawudon Gujiahmat in Shanghu village, who said local residents have also reaped benefits from sand therapy. "My hostel alone has created 20 job opportunities for local residents."