A couple of hours drive from this Chinese city takes you to the love site – the heavenly lake - where dozens of couples hold their hands together every day promising to live as one forever. It is not easy to book a date at the heavenly lake. Brides and grooms, getting their romantic moments eternal by the professional photographers, said they were being charged between 5000-6000 Yaun for the whole package that included loads of pictures and make-up of the brides on the site.

The rates seemed a bit high compared to the average salary of around 2500-4000 Yaun per month for the general Chinese workers but all the brides and grooms at the heavenly lake agreed it was worth it.

Chun, a bride recording her unforgettable moments, said she and her husband thought this was once in a lifetime investment but will live in the hearts forever.

“We have travelled around 1000 kilometres (from within China) to get here. Everything is going smooth and we are loving it,” she said in her broken English.

Another bride Bao, meaning gem in Chinese, said she was here to live her entire life in a few hours. “These are memorable moments. We will not forget this ever,” the newly-wed girl told The Nation.

The heavenly lake is nestled in the middle of Bogda Peak, 110 kilometres east of Urumqi. Covering 4.9 square kilometres, this crescent-shaped water area deserves its name, Pearl of Heavenly Mountain (Tianshan Mountain). With melted snow as its source, Heavenly Lake enjoys crystal water.

In summer, the beautiful place is an ideal cool resort. Boaters on it see the ever-changing silvery mountains soaring into the blue sky, their slopes highlighted with verdant pasture and flamboyant wild flowers. Fishing at dusk has its own special charm. A day in this fairyland promises restoration.

Heavenly lake, a relic of the Quaternary Period Glacier and its surrounding geological relics, offers science lovers exploring opportunities. And as if the natural beauty of heavenly lake were not enough, legend added a mysterious touch. It is said that the West Queen (Xi Wang Mu) entertained King Mu of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100BC-771BC) here. The West Queen fell in love with the king and asked him in her poem, ‘The white clouds drift while the mountains reach the blue sky. Passing thousands of mountains, crossing ten thousands of rivers, you come to us from a faraway place. If you are still strong and fine, would you like to come back to us again?’ The king answered in his poem, ‘After I go back to central China and lead the people to a prosperous life, I will come to you again.’

Nobody knows why the king never returned. Only the placid lake and the silent mountains witnessed the lovesickness of the West Queen.

Heavenly Mountain stretches for some 2500 kilometres and separates Tarim Basin from Dzungarian Basin, Bogda, the highest peak, stands at 5445 meters above the sea-level. In a shape of half-moon at an height of 1910 meters above the sea-level, the heavenly lake is just like a green pearl inlayed into the northern side of the Heavenly Mountain, 3400 meters in length, 800-1500 meters in width and 105 meters in deepest point. The water of the lake comes from melted snow of the surrounding mountains, hence it makes the place a well-known summer resort.

With heavenly lake as the centre, the lake and Heavenly Mountain Scenic Area comprises four intact and vertical mountain land landscape belts, which covers a total area of 380.69 square kilometres. In the mountains by heavenly lake there live many precious flora and fauna such as snow cocks, roe deer and saussurea involucrate.

The tops of the mountains are even home to contemporary glaciers and rich in contemporary glaciers, like copper, iron and mica. In 1982 heavenly lake and Heavenly Mountain Scenic Area became one of the first national-level scenic spots in China and in 1990 it was added on the list of Bogda Nature Preserve of Man and the Biosphere by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

In 1783 during Qing Dynasty, the current name of the lake was used in by Mingliang, a military and political official in Urumqi. In 1970s, Guo Moruo (1892-1978, a renowned Chinese scholar, writer and social activist) spoke highly of the natural beauty of heavenly lake when visiting it with Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia from 1941 to 1955 and The King-Father of Cambodia since 2004 after his abdication. The heavenly lake has also two lesser wing-lakes on both sides. The one at the east side is nicknamed ‘Lesser Eastern Heavenly Lake’ or ‘Black Dragon Pool’ which is said to be the bath pool of Queen Mother of the West, the western on is called ‘Lesser Western Heavenly Lake’ or ‘Maiden Pool’ the place where the goddess washed her feet. It is amazing that there is a waterfall near the two small lakes respectively.

Today, the Great Eight Temples constructed by the heavenly lake do not exist there anymore and only the Temple of goddess has been rebuilt for pilgrims’ worship. In summer, the beautiful lake is an ideal cool resort. Boaters on the lake see the ever-changing silvery mountains soaring into the blue sky, their slopes highlighted with verdant pasture and flamboyant wild flowers. Fishing at dusk has its own special charm when the lake is particularly still.

In snowy winter, visitors can come to the icebound lake and try their hand at skating. The tourists love to see brides and grooms around them as they rejoice the beauty of the nature. Buses leave from the north end of Renmin Park in Urumqi between 9am and 9:30am every day and return from the lake between 4pm and 4:30pm.

The trip takes between 90 minutes and 4 hours, depending on the type of transport. Minibuses are the most efficient. There are also private buses running from the Hongshan Hotel. It takes about 2 hours to get there from the main city, or one and half hours journey through the Urumuqi Highway, and riding up the mountain has a 20 Yuan per hour fee.

Biming, a groom ready to cuddle his bride before the hundreds of tourists and romantic waves of the lake, said he had planned to record his marriage all alone with his partner and was too happy to fulfil his wish.

“It is like out of this world. We are happy and lucky to have started our journey from here,” he remarked.

Officials at the lake said dozens of newly-weds visited the lake daily for dates. Besides, they said, the lake was a big attraction for the tourists.

As the new couples go out of the lake, a big statue of the goddess of love and a lucky shrine is always waiting to bless them. For new couples, the heavenly lake is indeed a paradise.