sightseeing overkill

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There were going to be some serious changes during the next couple of days, so we couldn’t just continue walking through the desert.

Even though we would have liked to very much.

We called up our favorite cab driver again (please please swallow) and devised a route that would take us to some places that were supposed to be fun to visit. (I marked them in the new Google Earth file.)

It was 30°C outside, and the first sight we went to was Dunhuang Film Set 敦煌影视城:

Dunhuang Film Set

A Sino-Japanese joint venture had build this massive “old town” some years ago as a TV production set, and it had been in use ever since.

Today, it seemed as though folks could rent the place for bogus movie productions just for fun though:

tourists taking photos

Well, at least they didn’t look very professional:

people filimg stuff

But it seemed like everybody was having a lot of fun:

filming a scene

We hadn’t come here for movies, so we didn’t stay long.

Our next stop were the Four Thousand Buddha Grottoes 西千佛洞, another sister grotto complex to the Yulin Grottoes (please please swallow) and the Mogao Grottoes:

Four Thousand Buddha Grottoes

Though smaller than both the other grotto parks, this particular place was also very interesting and nice to look at.

We both figured we had seen about enough murals and Buddha statues by now though, so we quickly got back in the cab.

The temperature was rising.

The next thing we were about to see was the legendary Jade Gate Pass 玉门关, and we were pretty excited.

There was a ticket counter somewhere in the desert…

road to the Jade Gate Pass

…and then we had to drive another 50km to the actual site.

Jade Gate Pass… sounds somewhat mesmerizing, doesn’t it?

Poems had been written about this place in ancient times, but now…

Jade Gate Pass

…it was just this.

So what is it all about?

Well, this used to be part of the Chinese western defense line for many centuries. It would serve as a kind of cork in the bottleneck of the Hexi Corridor, the system of valleys and oases cradled between high mountains and deserts that I have been following ever since Lanzhou (one would dream). This was in the first millennium, during which the empire was trying to shield itself off from the nomadic tribes of the western steppes.

Robo near the Jade Gate Pass

Then, after the pax mongolica had appeared and disappeared in the 13th century, during the reign of the Ming-dynasty, these western defense lines were given up and pulled back to Jiayuguan – coffin nail).

I tried making a map about this:

Orange is the corridor, and purple are the two defense lines. The western defense line was given up eventually.

I think that this was among the reasons why the Buddhist grottoes in this area had been sleeping their forgotten slumber here for so many centuries – they had just been left outside of the Chinese conception of the “civilized world”.

Today, they are back though:

tourist in the desert

And Buddhism seems to be back on the rise too:

Buddha in a room

Everybody knows: no defense line is complete without a wall.

And in this case, it’s not just any wall, it’s the Great Wall itself that stretches to its most western extents in this area:

Great Wall near the Jade Gate Pass

I remember telling you that I found the western end of the Great Wall near Jiayuguan (the cry-train).

Well, that was wrong.

In reality it’s probably here, some 380km more to the West.

Temperatures were way above 40°C in the afternoon, so we were happy about every bit of road that we could ride at high speeds with the windows rolled down.

We were going to see the last attraction for today, the Sun Pass 阳关:

mountains in the distance

Okay, another rock with some historical meaning attached to it…

Sun Pass

…but this time it just wasn’t as easy to get to the damn thing:

fence through the desert

We had to get a guide and navigate through a big old museum complex:

rider statue

On the way, we found a place that rented costumes and took funny pictures of ourselves:

dressed up

This was not a requirement in order to see the Sun Pass, but we liked to anyways:

dressed up outside

Then, after what seemed like hours spent in a sightseeing frenzy, we were finally done, and there it was:

fence in front of the Sun Pass

…another rock behind bars in the desert.

Robozwerg says:

“Do I look like a real emperor or WHAT?”



  • Corinna

    Ruben, you look like a real emperor, BUT your shoes don`t!!! 😉
    Die gab`s wohl wegen Fußpilzalarm oder falscher Schuhgröße nicht dazu?

    Have fun!
    C.

    Reply

  • Barry aka Ba Lli

    Alles ziemlich wüst, finde ich.
    Und die Latschen sind mir auch gleich aufgefallen. Wo habt ihr eure netten Stiefelchen gelassen?

    Reply

  • Florian (Flo Li Anh,

    Das Bild vom "Sun Pass" ist äußerst hitverdächtig! Ich alter Wanderer bin jedes Mal wieder begeistert und beeindruckt von diesen gigantischen Berggketten.

    Was für Veränderungen Euch vom Wandern abhalten, ist mir aus Deinem Text nicht so ganz hervorgegangen…ich hoffe sie halten Euch nicht zu dolle auf…

    Naja, diese Badelatschen,… wenn die nicht wären, ja dann…..dann… weiß ich auch nicht…

    Reply

  • Leichelt

    Hallo,
    Bis jetzt war ich ein unsichtbarer leser von Deinem Blog. Habe erst vor kurzem alles bis zum heutigen tag durchgelesen. Also, zum background, bin Deutscher, lebe aber schon ewigkeiten in suedfrankreich (knapp 30 jahre). Naja, ich bin auch amateur-photograph… und Deine photos (oder Fotos) heute sind einfach nur fantastisch !!!
    JJa, ich bin eifersuechtig ;-).
    Ich wollte Dir aber sagen das ich nie in China war (bis auf eine woche in Hong-Kong in 1994)… und es war klasse. Aber dein Blog hat mir erst richtig die augen ueber China geoeffnet.
    Vielen dank !!
    Jan

    Reply

  • Gisela

    Ja die Latschen sind wohl das Thema heute. Sie sind mir auch als erstes ins Auge gefallen. Sie stören das Gesamtkunstwerk ein wenig.
    An "Sun Pass" dagegen gibt es nun wirklich nichts zu mäkeln. Toll, irgendwie unwirklich.

    Reply

  • Alfredo

    I just read your July 26th post (I have been away for a month in Beijing, now I am catching up!), and I am curious: who was the Swedish guy who could not get his Chinese names right?
    I wonder if by any chance you have been reading Sven Hedin…

    Reply

  • Freddy

    This one really looks great. But dude, how much did you spend on your cab? I am bleeding for you when I see that "50KM"…

    Reply

  • Patrick

    man these are really awesome pictures again. looking really really good.

    Reply

  • Anonymous

    Hey Leute-> DIE LATSCHEN geben den Bildern erst den unverwechselbaren Chrischie-Touch (den mit dem Augenzwinkern ;o)…ich fands herrlich, wenn's auch sicher nicht beabsichtigt war!!! Aber wer weiß?!!, die Chinesen haben auch die Adiletten erfunden – MAYBE???!!!

    Reply

  • Florian (Flo Li Anh,

    …nicht dass uns solcherlei Detail entgehen würde! Hier wird alles registriert, bis ins kleinste Detail, das ist ja wohl klar.

    Reply

  • Momo

    Alle haben gleich die Badelatschen entdeckt… okay, ich auch, ABER: Wenn der Emperor sagt, die Badelatschen sind cool, dann sind die Badelatschen cool. Hund, will er seinen Kopf verlieren?!? 😉

    Reply

  • Christoph

    Corinna: Haha, die Pausenlatschen sind enttarnt!
    Barry aka Ba Lli: Wir hatten die ja nie an, die Stiefel.
    Florian (Flo Li Anh, 開花): Haha, hier passiert erst mal lauftechnisch nix.
    Leichelt: Hey Jan, zuerst mal willkommen auf dem Weg! Danke für deinen netten Kommentar – und wenn du mal Zeit hast, dann fahr mal in China ein bisschen rum, ist total super!
    Gisela: Schade wegen der Latschen?
    Alfredo: Haha, I was wondering why nobody had asked that question, but my intellectually challenging Alfredo wouldn't let me off the hook like that. Thanks man! Actually I've only heard about Hedin and Stein, but I've never read them. The book I've been talking about is a recent Mankell. I would love to hear what you think about the kind of opinion on China that is portrayed in that book (although it probably shouldn't be taken too seriously to start with).
    Freddy: Oh, we agreed with the driver on a fixed price for the whole day and a certain route: 300rmb.
    Patrick: Thanks, chief!
    andy aka Anh Di 勇敢: Natürlich nicht beabsichtigt, hahaha!
    Momo: Völlig richtig.

    Reply

  • Freddy

    things are really cheap there…

    Reply

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