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Marking the edge of the Wild West and starting point of the Hexi Corridor into China, the Dunhuang oasis played a crucial role in the transmission of goods, and perhaps even more valuable - religion.

The Dunhuang oasis lies nestled at the edge of the unforgiving Gobi Desert in northwest China - a fertile crescent of land that has served as a vital oasis along the ancient Silk Road for over 2,000 years. During the Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC, Dunhuang was set up as one of the garrison outposts and found its name, meaning “blazing beacon.” Dunhuang's abundant supply of water from the snow-fed Daquan River allowed caravans of merchants, monks, soldiers and nomads to replenish their supplies as they crossed the vast and inhospitable desert expanses between China and Central Asia. In fact, here was the crossroads of three major branches of the ancient routes to the west.

Dunhuang still retains its Silk Road charm hundreds of years later to the present, although now in the form of overpopulated tourism. The mirage like oasis, towering sand dunes, and eternal lakes have caught the imagination of this generation, with hundreds upon hundreds of camels deployed daily to transport visitors to a period of history that seemed so far away. The Crescent Moon Lake stands in the middle, seeped with more legends than the sands itself. Li Bai, the famous Chinese poet, was one such to supposedly fall spell under its beauty. Even though the thousands flock the dunes of this oasis city today, nearly 2,000 years ago numerous passerbys flocked here as well - for rejuvenation both physically and spiritually. And it is the spiritual aspect, found in a canyon a short hike away, that put Dunhuang forever on the map…

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What Goods were Traded Here?

AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS - As an oasis, Dunhuang produced melons, wheat and grapes.

MANUSCRIPTS AND SCROLLS - As an important Buddhist center, some of the finest manuscripts were created in Dunhuang.

How to Get Here

We arrived via train from Turpan in Xinjiang to Liuyuan, and then from there we found transport to take us the 1.5 hour journey into Dunhuang.

Our Treasure

Walking slowly up one of the largest sand dunes outside Dunhuang for a picture perfect view of the Crescent Lake and the outpost of Dunhuang. The view is famous - a quintessential Silk Road image - but it was still worth it.

Explore More

    ➨ The Hexi Corridor - Gansu and the Silk Road

S N A P S H O T S   O N   T H E   R O A D

W H E R E   W I L L   Y O U R   J O U R N E Y   T A K E   Y O U   N E X T ?

The Silk Roads have truly tested your limits, both physically and mentally, battling extremes in a way previously imagined. The labor may finally pay off, as the next outpost leads you to Jiayuguan, the western border of China. Or, take a short break and visit the resplendent Mogao Caves, one of the wonders of the Silk Roads.


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