One of the world’s oldest and most historically important trade routes, the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of Gansu Province. Helping to build a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures, it linked traders, pilgrims, monks, soldiers and adventurers from China to the Mediterranean Sea for thousands of years. Visitors can now follow in the footsteps of these explorers and discover the achievements of ancient civilisations, whilst taking in the beauty of this rugged and remote region of China.
Referred to as “Sha Zhou” (beautiful desert oasis) during ancient times, the city of Dunhuang is a fertile oasis in the middle of a vast desert.
The County Museum contains numerous artefacts from the surrounding area.
Also known as the Caves of a Thousand Buddhas, this UNESCO World Heritage Site contains some of the finest examples of Buddhist art spanning a period of 1000 years. According to local legend, a Buddhist monk, had a vision of a thousand Buddha’s, which inspired the excavation of the caves he envisioned. The number of temples eventually grew to more than a thousand. As Buddhist monks valued austerity in life, they sought retreat in remote caves to further their quest for enlightenment. Among the thousands of items discovered in 1907, by a western explorer, was the world’s earliest printed book, in scroll form.
Jade Pass & South Pass
The Jade Pass and South Pass were originally built as military outposts. For the traders travelling back to the Middle East in their caravans, the Jade Pass also marked the start of the northern passage to Turpan, whereas the South Pass was the beginning of the southern route to Xian.
2000 years ago, the city of Jiayuguan was deemed to be the final frontier for the Chinese, as beyond that lay, to them, the barbarian and lawless North-West region. Today, it is a popular, almost mandatory, stop for tourists on the Silk Route.
Jiayuguan Fort was known as the “Impregnable Defile Under Heaven”. Commanding a narrow and critical mountain pass, which was a tempting route for an ancient invading army, Jiayuguan Fort was a logical place to collect duties from the caravans travelling along the Silk Road. The bastion’s solid construction and intelligent military layout inspired ancients to proudly call Jiayuguan “The strongest pass under heaven”.
Overhanging Great Wall
Situated about 10 kms from Jiayuguan Fort, this part of the Great wall was built during the Ming Dynasty, nearly 500 years ago. Sweeping views can be had from the watch towers.
Wei Jin Tombs
Located in the desert, 20 kms from the city of Jiayuguan, the paintings, found on the walls of the tombs, offer a glimpse into the lives of the locals nearly 2000 years ago.
July 1st Glacier
Adventure seekers can explore this remote glacier, which sits in the middle of the Qilian Shan mountain range, at over 4000 metres. The journey involves a scenic three hour train journey, from Jiayuguan, and the final 20 kms by road. Upon reaching the glacier, there is a 5 km walking trail.
Great Wall Museum & End of Great Wall – already mentioned the Great Wall in blurb above.
The first major city situated on the Yellow River, Lanzhou has been the key transport link between the heartlands of China and China’s North-West for centuries. Flowing through the centre of the city, the Yellow River is home to Lanzhou’s main attractions, the Iron Bridge and the ancient Water Mill. Before the introduction of the Iron Bridge in 1904, locals and travellers had to create a bridge by chaining together flotillas of boats.
Gansu Provincial Museum
The main attraction of Gansu, this Provincial Museum showcases painted pottery, wooden artifacts, bronze statues and a beguiling 4000 year old Greco-Roman silver plate.
White Pagoda Hill
Situated on the Yellow River’s northern bank, White Pagoda Hill, as the name suggests, has a White Pagoda Temple at its peak and offers great views of Lanzhou city.
Located 250 kms west of Xian, Tianshui is a pleasant town, with a population of half a million, which is famous for its Buddhist Caves.
Maiji Shan Grottoes
The Maiji Shan Grottoes, situated 35 kms from Tianshui, make up one of China’s largest temple groups. Sculptures and statues, created over 1500 years ago, abound in the caves of this single rock formation.
The Yuquan Temple, or Jade Spring Temple, is perched on a hill above Tianshui and offers an insight into the Taoist religion.
One of the foremost Tibetan monastery towns outside of Lhasa, Xiahe is the closest you will get to Tibet, without actually visiting Tibet. The town’s population is 50% Tibetan and the town itself is set in a spectacular mountain valley.
Founded 300 years ago, the Labrang Monastery is a must for people wanting to learn more about the Tibetan way of life. Over 1000 monks still reside here today.
Tibetan Monastery Town
Already mentioned above
As well as the famous Labrang Monastery, there is also an interesting nunnery to visit in Xiahe.
Qilian Shan Range
Located between the towns of Zhangye and Jiayuguan, the Qilian Shan mountain range sits at 5500 metres. The area is very popular for hiking.
A small town located between Tianshui and Lanzhou, Luomen is most famous for its surrounding sandstone topography.
Water Curtain Caves
The Water Curtain Caves contain Buddhist and Taoist Temples amidst a beautiful backdrop of sandstone canyons. One of the highlights is a 30m painting of a Buddha on an overhanging cliff.
Moon Canyon is renowned for its rock formations and rivers. It is very popular with hikers who walk around its valleys.