Jiayu Pass & the West End of the Great Wall
Jiayu Mountain is located in Gansu's north, close to Inner Mongolia and Qinghai province. At the foot of the Jiayu Mountain lies Jiayuguan, one of the greatest ancient forts on the Silk Road. The Fort was founded during the Ming Dynasty, built to an existing watchtower and completed in 1372. It was the western end of the Great Wall and for the Chinese the last outpost of civilization, beyond which lay barbarian country. The Fort is also known as “Impregnable Defile under the Heaven” and has been crowned as the best in China due to its bleak location.
Along the Hexi Corridor and 43 miles southwest to Dunhuang City in Gansu Province, Yangguan Pass is one of the two important western passes (the other one is Yumenguan Pass) of Great Wall in Western Han Dynasty (206BC -24AD). The Emperor Wu ordered to build it in the purpose of consolidating the frontier defense as well as developing the remote western region. For years and years, the flowing dunes have eroded this Great Wall pass into a broken beacon tower, standing alone in the boundless desert. It measures 15.4 feet high and 8.7 yards wide. Around the relic, you cannot even see the dismantled walls, because they were all eroded by the wind and buried under earth. South to the pass, there is a "Curio Beach". It is a small valley where you can find lots of dynasties' tiles, coins, weapons, and decorations.
Dunhuang Grottos & Sand Dunes
Dunhuang, "City of the Sands", is located in Gansu, northwest of China. It was a former terminal of the ancient Silk Road, perched on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, one of the world's largest deserts (272,000 sq km). Dunhuang is home to the Mogao Grottos, one of the richest collections of ancient Buddhist murals and statues in China. These grottos were carved into a 1600-meter high cliff and created during over nine dynasties (4th - 14th centuries). They contain 492 caves, each housing murals (45,000), Buddhist paintings and terra-cotta statues (2,000).
At the "Mingshashan Sand Dunes" -which Marco Polo referred to as the "rumbling sands"- one can visit "Crescent Moon Lake", a lush green oasis. A stunning view of a green oasis surrounded by endless desert scenery will open to you when climbing to the top of the dunes.
Gansu and Gannan (South Gansu)
Gansu is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China. It lies between Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, and the Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia to the north and Xinjiang to the west. The Yellow River passes the southern part of the province. Gannan (South Gansu) is the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where Lanzhou & Xiahe are located. The famous attractions are Labrang Monastery and Langmu Monastery.
Xiahe & Labrang Monastery, Gannan
is a tiny, bustling town nestles in a mountain valley at an elevation of 2,900m in Ganan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, southwest Gansu. The town was divided into two sections, primarily Hui (Muslim) and Han Chinese at its eastern end, changing abruptly to a Tibetan town as you climb westward to the gorgeous gilded roofs of the vast Labrang Monastery. Bent and walnut-visaged Tibetan pilgrims make you welcome on the 3km circuit around the monastery's perimeter.
It is not just the amazing sights of the Labrang Monastery and the Sangke Grassland that will enamour you with Xiahe, but also the vibrant atmosphere. The locals and nomads in the village live a laid-back lifestyle. The population here is made up of 45% Tibetan, 45% Han and 10% Hui, making this a good place to behold monks in bright purple, yellow and red, nomads clad in sheepskins, and the Hui Muslims with skull caps and wispy beards. The town is also a thoroughfare for inbound pilgrims from Qinghai and Tibet.
Located in the southern part of Gansu, part of the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo. It is one of the six major monasteries of the Gelukpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet, and the most important one in Amdo. Built in 1710, it is headed by the Jamyang-zhaypa. It has 6 dratsang (colleges), and houses over sixty thousand religious texts and other works of literature as well as other cultural artifacts.
Langmu Monastery -- quiet and picturesque paradise
In Langmu, in the south of Gansu, there is a monastery which is divided into two parts by the Bailongjiang River, one half belonging to Sichuan and the other to Gansu. It has two Tibetan monasteries and two schools. The Tibetans who live in Langmu Monastery share the living habits in daily life and often also the religious activities. Langmu means “fairy” in Tibetan language. The Monastery got its name because inside the cave there is a rock bearing the resemblance of a beautiful young lady which was believed to be a transformation of a fairy. Langmusi is an ideal destination for the backpackers, quiet and picturesque.