As we get ready to leave Gansu, it’s inevitable that we pass through the city of Dunhuang, right on the edge of the province. Strategically located at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road and the main road leading from India, Dunhuang also controls the entrance into the heart of China.
Like I mentioned in the previous post, the Mogao Grottos are located close by in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Dunhuang itself is situated in an oasis (containing Crescent Lake) and surrounded by Mingsha Shan. Crescent Lake, as you can see in the photos, is what’s left of the oasis that used to surround Dunhuang. After thousands of years, the water has evaported and the green life has died, leaving only a crescent-moon-shaped spring. Mingsha Shan gets its name from the sounds that the sands will make when the wind blows across the grains.
There, you’ll be able to experience life on the ancient Silk Road. Let a camel take you across the desert and wear light, flowy clothes to stay cool. And of course, bring water! The park’s entrance closes at 8 p.m., but it doesn’t matter when you leave. I’d suggest to go at around 6, when it’s not terribly hot and make your way to the top of the dunes. Once you’re there, find a good spot to sit at and you can have a small picnic there as you watch the sunset. We stayed there almost until midnight, but if you do, remember that it does get really cold at night (also, the mosquitoes will come out).
But before we head off to Xinjiang province, we’ll pass through one final attraction: Yangguan Pass. Famous Chinese poet Wang Wei once wrote this poem about Yangguan:
Which roughly translates into:
Seeing Yuaner off on a Mission to Anxi
The morning rain of Weicheng dampens the light dust,
The guest house is green with the colour of fresh willows.
Let’s finish another cup of wine, my dear sir,
Out west past the Yangguan, old friends there’ll be none.
Yangguan, the final military post before people in ancient times left the country of China. Once you pass it, you leave China. Thus, it’s this sentiment that Wang Wei sought to express in his poem: once you pass Yangguan, you’ll be a stranger with no friends.