Gansu Province is the north-western corridor into China, bounded by inhospitable, mountainous Qinghai to the south-west and the Gobi desert to the northeast, and it forms the natural route for the overland silk routes into the heartland of China. Jiayuguan is at the western end of the Great Wall and the Wall forms much of the north-eastern border onto the Gobi desert. The Great Wall snakes along its northern edge up to the Silk Route’s fort at Jiuquan. It has a cool and dry climate. The Dunhuang caves are a major tourist attraction consisting of hundreds of caves cut into the soft sandstone by Buddhist monks fifteen hundred years ago.
Popular Cities: Lanzhou, Longnan, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Jiuquan, Dunhuang
Average temperature: -14°C to 4°C (6.8°F to 39.2°F) in January, 21ºC to 28ºC (69.8ºF to 82.4ºF) in July.
Places to visit
1. The Buddhist Caves at Dunhuang are witness to the famous journey of Buddhism along the Silk Route into China. The Mogao Grottoes contain 2,300 painted statues and large painted murals. They have been protected by desert conditions from harm for centuries. Figures were painted over a period of nearly a thousand years and the depictions give useful insight to changes in sartorial style over time. Dunhuang was positioned as the last (and first place) in China on the pilgrim route to India.
2. Just as impressive as Dunhuang and Maijishan are the Yulin Caves. Also known as Wanfoxia ‘The gorge of ten thousand Buddhas’, it is rather remote and has caves constructed over a thousand year period dug out on two cliffs facing each other across a gorge.
3. The fort of Jiayuguan at Jiuquan marked the Chinese frontier for many travelers long before China extended west into Xinjiang. Built in 1372 of tamped soil it controlled the narrow pass the Silk Route followed into China. The 35 feet [11 meters] high walls were wide enough for horses to ride along the top. Over land travelers must have been extremely impressed by their first glimpse of Chinese grand architecture.
4. Yueyaquan (the Crescent Lake) is a crescent-shaped lake in an oasis, 6 km south of the city of Dunhuang. It was named Yueyaquan in the Qing Dynasty. Mildred Cable & Francesca French visited the lake during their travels in the region and recorded their impressions in their book The Gobi Desert, “All around us we saw tier on tier of lofty sand-hills, giving the lie to our quest, yet when, with a final desperate effort, we hoisted ourselves over the last ridge and looked down on what lay beyond, we saw the lake below, and its beauty was entrancing.
5. Located in the northeast of Zhangye City, Dafo Temple (Big Buddha Temple), also known as “Wofo Temple” (Sleeping Buddha Temple) is very famous because it contains the biggest indoor sleeping Buddha in all of China. The buddha is 34.5 meter long and its shoulder spans across a width of 7.5 meters. Established in 1098 (Western Xia Dynasty), it was rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). Due to its extensive history, it is listed as an immovable cultural relic under state protection.
6. The Yellow River flows through Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province and a city with a history stretching back 2000 years. The Lanzhou government created a 40 km- long Yellow River scenic area in order to make it the “The Bund” of Lanzhou. Famous attractions include the Sculpture of Mother Yellow River, the Lanzhou Waterwheel Exhibition Park and the Zhongshan Bridge. It now has become one of the hottest scenic spots in Lanzhou.
7. The Kongtong Mountain Scenic Area covers around 84 square kilometers. Its main peak stands at 2123.3m high. The mountain, which is called as the “First Mountain of Taoism”, boasts some amazing natural scenery as well as deep Taoist culture. The unique peak, odd caves, strange stones, floating clouds as well as green grasses and trees will make you feel like you’re entering a fairy tale land. Aside from these factors, the area also features a well-known martial arts school. The Kongtong Martial Arts originated from Kongtong Mountain and it is one of the five great martial schools of China.