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Published: November 21st 2011
train into Gunsu and Hexi Corridore
snow melt from mountains feed oasis towns down this narrow province
Gansu is a long province east of Xinjiang where the Silk Road tracks bottleneck between the mountains of the Tibetan plateau and mountains of Mongolia .The area is called the Hexi Corridor (“Her-she”) and is mostly stony desert with oasis towns along its length. Strong winds here have made it a major ‘wind farm’ area of China with thousands of huge wind turbines along the rail tracks.
Some of the rich merchants in this corridor have become ‘patrons of the arts’ over the centuries supporting Buddhists sculptors and painters. There was a lot of religious tolerance during this period. The result is many cave art grottoes. The most famous is the World Heritage site at Dunhuang. Unfortunatly, no cameras were allows inside and you could only go in with registered guide. However, well worth the visit, especially since many surrounding plants were in Autumn colours.
The city was OK with 2 small western style restaurants which was a change from the mostly greasy yak and fatty lamb food so far. Also less Islamic faces and more Mongolian now.
The Hexi Corridor also forms a natural channel for people coming into China from the east.
The last fort on the western end of the Great Wall, Jaiyiguan was a main defense, customs and immigration area. The fort there now is a reconstruction, but still impressive. This was the main ‘wild west’ border for China and Silk Road merchants and outsiders were controlled here. There was a sign here which translated said…
“This is the end of civilization. Beyond here lay bandits and demons”.
Sounds like a challenge.
The winter weather and cold were still persistant, and the last two places involved a lot of travel and miserable weather with a cold. The next stop was the capital of Gansu, Lanzhou and jump off place for final 2 destinations before Beijing and home.
This was one of the major cities on the Silk Road, but unfortunately, not much remains of interesting sites, due to industrial pollution taking over. However, it was the easiest way to get to my two final destinations.
There is more evenly mix of Chinese, Mongolian in this city, and different Islamic groups also, including the Hui. The Hui are more integrated into Chinese life; speaking Chinese but still eating lamb instead of pork. Even their
mosques look Chinese.
Lanzhou did have a very good Silk Road Museum with lots of artifacts. Also some interesting mosques and Daoist temple. The cable car ride across the Yellow River is worth the trip especially in autumn due to the unusual Autumn colours. Due mainly to fir trees I think.
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