Located on the historic border between the Chinese and Russian empires, Yīníng (伊宁; Yili or Gulja) has long been subject to a tug-of-war between the two sides. The city was occupied by Russian troops between 1872 and 1881, and in 1962 there were major Sino–Soviet clashes along the Ili River (Yīlí Hé). There are no unmissable sights here but it’s a pleasant, little-visited stop on route to Sayram Lake, or a good place to break an overland journey to Kazakhstan.
In 2014, the stadium in Yīníng was the site of a mass trial in which 55 Uighurs were charged with terrorist activities. At least one death sentence was handed down. A similar mass trial was held in 1997 and is the subject of Nick Holdstead's book The Tree That Bleeds.