Published: March 8th 2010March 9th 2010
Moon Lake/Crescent Spring of Dunhuang
PHOTO JOURNAL, PART 1: With the Mingsha Desert Mountains in the backgroud the clear Crescent Spring Moon Lake is named so for its shape. It has been sitting here, near Dunhuang, Gansu, PRC, perhaps for millions of years, never drying up.
Dunhuang is a small but ancient and historical city in China's province of Guansu. It is an Oasis city along the fabled Silk Road, leading from the important city of Xi'an (home of the Terra Cotta Warriors) toward the countries of the West. Dunhuang is the half way point from the ancient metropolis of Xi'an to the borders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and India and was an important desert-oasis rest-stop for the travelling caravans of merchants, religious and diplomatic envoys, and adventurers heading to and from China.
It is a very beautiful and green city, but is completely surrounded by huge desert sand dunes and larger forboding mountains. Dunhuang has seen its importance rise and fall with the development of more modern and efficient transportation of China's valuable exports of Silk, Porcelain, Spices, Jade throughout China's long history.
Once a melting pot of cultures and religions, Dunhuang's ancient and spectacular historical sites, especially the fascinating Mogao Cave Paintings, are now visited by an ever increasing influx of tourists from around the world.
***(Please re-visit my TravelBlog #119 to review some of these beautiful sites and repositories of Buddhist art surrounding this lovely oasis-city of Dunhuang.)*****
The Crescent Spring is only 4 miles from Dunhuang, Gansu
PHOTO JOURNAL, PART 1: To everyone's surprise, who visit this natural wonder, the lucid and clear spring water has never dried up for thousands/millions of years. Carvans along the the ancient Silk Road have made it a pleasant rest stop on their journeys toward East and West.
3 miles south of Dunhuang, and only 5 minutes from my unique and comfortable hotel, is "Yueya Quan", also known as the Crescent Moon Lake, a small freshwater lake that has been a vital sources of water here for thousands of years. It is situated adjacent to the "Mingsha Shan" (the Singing Sand Mountain-Dunes), which tower several hundred feet high. The dunes were named after the noise made as the grains of sand are crunched under foot. I was quite aware of this sound as we climbed these steep dunes for some remarkable views across the city of Dunhuang and the surrounding desert.
For the many hundreds of daily tourists like me, a range of exciting activities are available surrounding these golden sand dunes, making it a more memorable visit. Of course there are the obligatory camel rides along the desert trails leading toward to height of the mountain like sand dunes, as well as para-gliding, ultralights, and sand tobogganing.
Dunhuang's Crescent-shaped Spring is encircled by the MingSha Sand-Mountain. It is unique for its crescent-shaped water body, about 100 feet long from south to north and 60 feet wide from east to west. It is deepest (15 feet)
The Oasis of the Crescent Spring Lake is completely surrounded by the shifting Sand Dunes.
PHOTO JOURNAL, PART 1: Ancient sand dunes and their shapes actually protect the location of this water oasis. The body of water is about 100 feet long and about 60 feet wide and about 15 feet at its deepest point.
in the east-water and more shallow in the west.
The blue water of the graceful Crescent-shaped Spring looks like an in-laid jewel in the golden sands. Grasses, weaving reeds and some scattered willows grow around the body of spring-water. This tiny body of fresh-water has been on this spot for unknown thousands and perhaps millions of years, never drying up and never covered by sand. It has served and refreshed caravans of merchants and travellers along the Silk Road since its inception.
A story tells of living forever and never growing old after eating the "Tiebei Fish / Qixing Cao" within the spring water. I had no luck finding some of these tiny fish, and so I can only imagine, that my years on earth are still numbered.
In ancient historical scrolls of the region, the crescent-shaped water has been described as blue, clear and bright as a mirror. It is lauded as a unique geographical miracle, that the spring water never dries up in a location, where the evaporation is 100 times as large as the rainfall.
A poem written by a poet in the Qing Dynasty vividly traces the splendor of the Crescent-shaped Spring:
A Camel journey along the Mingsha Mountain
PHOTO JOURNAL, PART 2: An exciting journey for any visitor to Dunhuang, Gansu is the camel ride along the ridge of Mingsha Mountain, stretching about 30 miles. Mingsha means, "Sound Producing Sand".
"Crescent-shaped Spring water being clear, blue and bright like a mirror,
what matter if wind blows and sand beats,
the inter-promoting relation exists between them,
getting spring water to cook tea after strolling the spring."
Only a few temples remain of hundreds, that were once situated along the south bank of the spring, and the site became an important Taoist holy ground in Dunhuang. The region of the Mogao Grotto and Caves was known as the Holy Land of Buddhism and the Crescent-shape Spring and the Mingsha Mountains became that for the Taoists. Taoism is the most traditional philosophy of the Chinese culture.
The visit to this beautiful Crescent-shaped Spring, looking up into the sky as if it were a bright eye, encircled by the golden Mingsha Mountain, certainly was another highlight during my summer travels of 2009. I owe great thanks for the invitation to travel with our college President, Mr. Xu, my friend Arthur and some of the other wonderful college administrators.
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