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Profile in Ili, Xinjiang Sayram Lake, also called "Santai Haizi", is a stunning and peaceful lake. The lake received its name because the Elezhuyitubomu military dais was built on the east bank of the lake during the Qing Dynasty. Sayram in Kazak means "blessing". It lies in the Botala Prefecture in the western section of the Tianshan Mountains.

Sayram Lake is about 30 kilometers long from east to west and is over 20 kilometers wide. The lake is about 85 meters deep and the capacity of the water is 210 hundred million cubic meters. In addition, the lake is 2,073 meters above sea level.

The alp lake is the largest in Xinjiang and lies at the highest altitude. The land around Sayram Lake is vast green grassland which provides abundant grazing land.

In the summer the sapphire water of the lake seems to meet the sky in the distance and the yurts of the Kazak or Mongolian herdsmen can be seen on the mountain slopes. The pasture is a charming scene of flourishing trees, waving grass and wildflowers which reflect off the clear water of the lake. The grassland, which stretches to the horizon, is dotted with the tents of the herdsmen. Smoke from kitchen chimneys curls upward, as groups of cattle and sheep move like clouds in the sky. In August, the Mongolian people celebrate the "Nadam Fair" for six days beside the lake. Nadam means recreation or games in Mongolian. Mongolians, Kazaks, Han Chinese and the people of other ethnic groups in Xinjiang participate in the festival. During this time, Sayram Lake is blessed with a double portion of good fortune in water and grassland. During the Nadam Fair, competitions are held in horse-racing, wrestling and archery, which are considered the three basic skills of men.

Mongolian herders from nearby regions attend the fair and dress in traditional ethnic costumes. In addition to the competitions, there is singing, dancing and the age-old competition of "girl-chasing". The fair is great fun for tourists and is very entertaining.

In the winter, snow falls and the water of the lake turns to ice. Only a small portion of the lake can be seen in the vast whiteness of the ice and snow.

Throughout the ages, poets and writers have used vivid and glowing words to describe Sayram Lake. During the middle period of the Qing Dynasty, Ye Honggao called Sayram Lake a "clear sea". Later, Song Bolu used verse to describe the natural scenery of the wide and clear Sayram Lake, "The surrounding mounts engulf; the emerald lake wipes the sky clear."

In the 1970's, a program was begun to cultivate fish in a large part of the lake. This has been very successful and the region has become a popular tourist destination. Today, Sayram Lake is one of the largest live marine bases in the Bortala Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture
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