"Yangguan" Yangguan by mke1963
Yangguan Travel Guide: 2 reviews and 4 photos
Here at the very edge of civilization was the very end of the Great Wall, although it actually ran to the north, ending at the Yumenguan, well to the north-east of Dunhuang.
But at Nanhu - or South Lake - lies the southerly of the two main passes out of China and into the great unknown. Until this point, the monks, merchants and itinerant travellers would cast a backward glance at the military camp, the oasis growing grapes and melons, and the friendly familiar faces, then turn to face the winds of the Taklamakan Desert - the sea of death. The traveller would pass through the fort gate and pass the final watchtower on the ridge...beyond? Nothing. Flat desert. A hard gravelly plain, baked in turn by the scorching summer sun and the evil cold winds of winter. This southern route would lead the traveller to Khotan and then up into the Karakoram Mountains towards Pakistan, leading his mule, horse or camel train loaded with spices, porcelain, silks, carpets......
The other way came goods from South Asia, Persia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. From time to time, a religious man would come clutching paintings, scriptures telling of some mystical religion...Buddhism, Nestorianism, Christianity, Judaism. Buddhism would eventually become the longest-lasting import along this dusty path, and at Yangguan you can feel the history as little has changed over the years.
The pass buildings exist no more and there is still debate as to exactly where the pass and fort were located. Some say it is on the ridge alongside the remaining watchtower, while others point to the village of Gaobudong, some 3km back to the east where a deep gorge and stream provide an obvious defensive position.
Nanhu village still exists, and lies to the south of the current visitor centre. It is about an hour by car from Dunhuang, and the route passes several watchtowers that would have been happy sites for the intrepid early traveller. Today, the village earns a fair income from tourism, but also continues to grow excellent (and enormous) grapes. The harvest in mid September brings families back together again, as children return from distant towns and cities to help out on the farm.
As well as the information on this page, there is more on the village of Nanhu here. You can travel north to Yumenguan, but need to go back a bit towards Dunhuang first.
The Visitor Centre is unusual because it is privately owned and is very, very good. It has not one but two museums. One... more travel advice
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