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Regarded as the outer limit of civilization since it was first brought under Chinese control in the Qin Dynasty (BC 221-206), Gansu province forms a natural corridor between Mongolia's Gobi Desert to the north and the Qilian Mountains of the Tibetan plateau to the south and west.

Tourism is now an important cash cow, especially in Lanzhou. Dunhuang and Jiayuguan. There are more than 1000 historical places in the province including Dunhuang, the world cultural heritage site designated by the United Union Cultural Organization.

Gansu is located in the northwest of China, bordering on Xinjiang. Its location at the heart of the Silk Road has left a legacy of rich historical interest.

Gansu stretches from the Yellow River in the north, through mountains and deserts to the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in the south. For centuries the Hexi Corridor that bisects the province provided the only trading route between China and the west and still today the only east-west rail link follows the narrow pass.

The total area of the province is 454.4 thousand sqm. and total population of Gansu is 24.56 million. people in the province are ethnically mixed and centered on the capital Lanzhou and the industrial center of Tianshui. Ethnic groups include Han, Kazak, Mongol and Tibetan, etc.

Recommended Scenic Spots

Mogao Caves in Dunhuang

Located 25km (16 miles) outside Dunhuang, a city in West Gansu, the Mogao Caves are the best example of Buddhist cave art to be found in China. There are almost 500 caves, decorated with 45,000 sq meters of frescoes and over 2,000 painted statues carved into the east side of Mingsha Hill.

Legend has it that the cave art was initiated by a monk on a pilgrimage to India in 366AD. It is said that he saw rays of light sparkling in the cliffs, which inspired him to carve a cave to honor Buddha. Subsequently other pilgrims stopped and added their artistic contributions by carving and decorating caves and niches in part as tribute to Buddha and to ensure their own safe journey.

Artistic styles from the Jin dynasty (265-420AD) to the Tang dynasty (618-907AD) can be seen in the caves. The paintings from the Tang era feature many asparas (flying angels) which are a famous characteristic of Dunhuang cave art.

In 1900, a cave containing 50,000 religious and historical manuscripts was found at Dunhuang. It is believed that the texts were hidden by Buddhist monks during the 11th century. The texts included rare and ancient works in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Uighur, Chinese and other languages. Over the next 2 decades most of the library was stolen or purchased by adventurers and archaeologists and the Dunhuang Books have been scattered worldwide.

In 1987 the Mogao Caves were listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Crescent-Moon Pool in Dunhuang

The lake is 6 kilometers (3.73 miles) south of the center of Dunhuang nearby the Echoing-Sand Mountain, where the oasis meets the desert. Spring water trickles up into a depression between huge sand dunes, forming a crescent-shaped pond (not to be confused with the concrete storage pool nearby).

The climb to the top of the dunes is sweaty work, but the dramatic view back across the rolling desert sands towards the oasis makes the effort worthwhile.

Out here the recreational activities include the predictable camel rides, the more novel "dune surfing" (sand sliding) and paragliding (jumping off the top of high dunes with a chute on your back). There is also a tow-gliding operation closer to the entry gate: continue past it if you want to jump off a dune.


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