China 08 – Silk Road 05 -The Outer Limits

Full photo set @ flickr

I’ve arrived in Dunhuang, remote outpost of the ancient Chinese empire beyond the wall (ignore that city of several hundred thousand just over there). Frontier country in the old Silk Road days. The Han Dynasty built part of the Great Wall out here sometime back in the 6th Century or thereabout, subsequent emperors retreated due to the fierceness of the climate and the local Hun.

I’ve taken a tour to get to some of the more remote and interesting sites out of town. The heat is on, it’s somewhere in the mid 40’s and things are starting to shimmer.

First stop is to “Old Dunhuang”, the original old walled city. Well, it was until half of it was demolished to make room for a movie studio and the rest completely rebuilt so that anything original is buried deep underneath. Still a good place for a wander, get some sort of idea of life back in the day I guess.

Not-so-old Dunhuang

We move out to Yanguang Pass, an old garrison and lookout post (looking out over some of the most unforgiving and relentless desert stretching out into the horizon … leaves me wondering who was insane enough to be riding out across that), and guarding a nearby strategic oasis. There’s still the remains of an old sentry building on top of the hill nearby with commanding views across the sea of rocky sand spreading beyond the eye’s reach. There’s the option of an electric cart to whick you up to the top and back, I opt to just walk up which the other tourists take to mean I’m verging on insane. I want to ge an appreciation for the conditions people endured out here or something … or maybe I just don’t like being herded into sardine can compression under blaring speakers. One of the two.


Beyond that we find an odd pyramidal shaped outpost building overlooking a sizeable oasis in the middle of nowhere, and the final remains of the original Han Dynasty Great Wall poking out like nub ends in the endless sand. Impressive that this was an earth mound wall built 1600 years ago. Wait … wasn’t Jaiyaguan, 600km to the east, touted as the “end of the Great Wall”?

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