Today in Dunhuang, You can visit the West Side to Dunhuang city for the following attractions: Ancient Dunhuang City, the West Thousand Buddha Cave, the Site of Ancient Yangguan Pass, the Site of Ancient Yumen Pass (UNESCO World Heritage), Yadan National Geological Park. All of them are located to the west of Dunhuang city and can be easily reached by private van one by one in sequence.
Some useful information about the attractions today in Dunhuang:
From near to far
1. Ancient Dunhuang City,
This Ancient Dunhuang City is 16km west of Dunhuang City and backed by Mingsha Mountain (Echo Sand Hill). It was co-built by China and Japan in 1987 for a large-scale historical film "Dunhuang". The city was modeled after the ancient city of Shazhou (the old Dunhuang city), based on famous ancient painting, the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival of Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD.). Now it is the base of film and television shooting. It used to be the scene of the film Dunhuang. The ancient city reproduced the splendor and magnificence of Dunhuang in the Tang and Song Dynasties.
The architectural style of the Ancient Dunhuang City has a strong western Chinese style, with three gates in the east, west and south of the city. The city is composed of five main streets with the architectural style representing the style of one of the 5 ancient cities along the Silk Road: Gaochang, Dunhuang, Ganzhou, Xingqing and Bianliang. Tourists can find Buddhist temples, pawnshops, stores, wine shops and residential buildings on both sides of the streets. The city covers an area of 150,000 square meters and a building area of 15,000 square meters. The standard tour time in this Ancient Dunhuang City is 1 hour.
2. The West Thousand Buddha Cave,
The West Thousand Buddha Cave is located to the west of Mogao Grottoes, hence the name. It is only separated from Mogao Grottoes by Mingsha Mountain (Echo Sand Hill). It is located on the cliff beside the Mother River of Dunhuang area - Dang River Valley. The cliff top is equal to the highway and the Gobi desert. The tour bus stops at the cliff top and tourists can walk along the steps down to the Dang River valley.
Tourists should be guided by the local guide of the cave to enter the caves, and it is strictly forbidden to take photos inside the caves.
The building time of the West Thousand Buddha Cave is earlier than that of the Mogao Grottos. So it has high historical and cultural value.
Of course, although the West Thousand Buddha Cave has 16 complete caves at present, because most of them were built in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD), with a long history and serious damage, there are only 9 caves which visitors can be allowed to visit, while the other caves can only be looked up under the cliff.
Under the eastern seat of the central pillar of Cave 6 in the Northern Wei Dynasty, there is a prayer written by Buddhist disciple Xinzang for his deceased grand parentsand parents. There are still more than 70 words to identify. This handwritten authentic handwriting in the Northern Wei Dynasty is extremely precious and of high historical value.
Among the existing caves, the earliest is the caves of the Northern Wei Dynasty. There are 1 cave built in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD), 3 caves built in the Northern Zhou Dynasty (557-581 AD), 2 caves built in the Sui Dynasty (581–618 AD), 3 caves built in the Early and Prosperous Period of Tang Dynasty (618-766 AD), 1 cave built in the Middle Tang Dynasty (766-836 AD), 1 cave built in the Five Dynasties (907-979 AD), 3 caves built by Uighur of ancient Shazhou (Dunhuang) city, 2 caves built in the Western Xia Dynasty (1038-1227 AD) and the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368AD), and 2 caves with unknown ages.
Cave 1-16 islocated on the Bank of Danghe River, and Another 3 caves are located in the north of Nanhudian (南湖店). The shape of the cave is basically the same as that of the Mogao Grottoes in the same period. It can be roughly divided into four types: central tower pillar grottoes, duplicate top grottoes, flat-top square grottoes and big open vertical rectangular niches. However, the shape of the Cave 11 built in Sui Dynasty (581–618AD) is similar to the circular tent of nomadic people, which is an only one case in Dunhuang Grottoes. There are 34 statues and 800 square meters of murals in the West Thousand Buddha Cave. The sculptures were mostly reconstructed in the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China, but there were also a few original sculptures. The style of the murals was basically the same as that of the murals of the same period in the Mogao Grottoes. The West Thousand Buddha Cave has its own characteristics in its grotto art. Many time renovations on caves of many generations make the style characteristics of many generations appear in one cave.
3. The Site of Ancient Yangguan Pass,
Yangguan Pass (Yang means south) is the throat of ancient land transportation in the northwest China and the pass which passengers must pass along the southern Silk Road. Because it is in the south of Yumen Pass, hence the name.
Yangguan Pass was built in the period of Emperior Wudis "Establishing Four Counties and Protecting Two Passes" as early as 121 BC, the West Han Dynasty. In order to resist the harassment of the Huns to the frontier, to control the Western Regions of China steadily. The emperior set up Wuwei, Zhangye, Jiuquan and Dunhuang counties in the Hexi Corridor (the middle of west region of Gansu Province), and established Yangguan Pass and Yumenguan Pass, both of them are important passes along the Silk Road.
After the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), due to the gradual decline of land transportation with the West, this pass was abandoned.
Now there is only one very big ancient Beacon Tower standing on the Gobi and sand desert. Tourist can visit one newly built Yangguan Pass city, take the battery van to the big ancient Beacon Tower, walk on the Gobi and sand area where the ancient Yangguan Pass once stood.
4. The Site of Ancient Yumen Pass (UNESCO World Heritage),
The Yumenguan Pass site is centered on Xiaofangpancheng Castle (Small Square Castle), including 2 castles, 20 beacons and 18 sections of the Great Wall sites (built in Han Dynasty, 202 BC–AD 220). It was linearly distributed in an area about 45 kilometers long and 0.5 kilometers wide.
The Great Wall changes their appearance with the time, whether because of material or function, it condenses the defensive history of the Western Han Dynasty. After thousands of years of wind and rain erosion, the Great Wall of the Han Dynasty (202 BC–AD 220) still stands in the Gobi Desert. It is one of the most well-preserved Great Wall of the Han Dynasty in China, and this wall proves the indomitable spirit of the Chinese nation. Along the city wall, tourists can step on the broken sandstone under your feet, touch the sand gently, to see whether you can feel the feeling from thousands of years ago.
5. Yadan National Geological Park,
The landform in the Geo Park is like a fossil standing on the ground, with all kinds of weathered bare rocks, which makes the desert more mysterious and smart. With about 100,000 years of geomantic erosion, the Quaternary sediment "sculpture" has become large-scale today. But in fact, magnificent Yadan bodies of ridge, wall and tower pillar forms provide an excellent natural classroom for the study of Yadan landscape formation enthusiasts. Three-thirds of the scene, seven-thirds of the imagination, tourists can insert wings to the imagination, to fantasize, to feel the magic of nature!
In the Geo Park, tourists will also take the shuttle bus to stop at the following places along the road, for tourists to come down and take photos for sightseeing:
1) Golden Lion Welcoming Toruists,
3) Standing Peacock and West Sea Fleet;
Tourists will also enjoy the desert sunset here!
Today tourists will come back downtown Dunhuang very late, say around 11 PM.
* These 5 places are located outside of the downtown area of Dunhuang city. The farthest attraction, Yadan National Geological Parks, is around 170 KM/2 hours van drive from downtown Dunhuang. So we suggest tourists can rent a whole day taxi to visit these places.