Exploring the Hidden Treasures: Travelling Through Gansu, China

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Gansu is a province in northwestern China that is often overlooked by tourists. However, this vast and diverse region is home to a number of hidden treasures, from the stunning rainbow mountains of Zhangye Danxia National Park to the ancient Mogao Caves in Dunhuang.

In this Gansu travel guide, we will explore some of the best Gansu attractions. We will also provide tips on how to plan your trip and make the most of your time in this amazing region.

Gateway to History: Gansu’s Rich Cultural Heritage

Gansu Province has been a big deal for China since ancient times. It’s basically the entrance to the rest of the world, and it’s where the Silk Road and Yellow River both passed through. You’re sure to be amazed by the stunning sights of wide deserts, grasslands, snowy mountains, and Danxia landforms – it’s proof of nature’s incredible power. Plus, you can take in the religious cultures of Buddhism and Islam, and get a feel of life in a Tibetan area. More people are visiting to uncover the beauty of Gansu.

Labrang Monastery – It’s situated in Labuleng Town in the west and is known as the ‘Tibetan University’ due to its comprehensive Buddhism studies, with six academies teaching Esoteric and Exoteric Buddhism, medicine, astronomy, and more. It takes up to 15 years to complete some of the courses.

Bingling Temple Grottoes – The Bingling Temple Grottoes have been around for over 1600 years, situated along the Yellow River. It’s full of caves and niches containing 694 stone statues, as well as 82 clay sculptures and 900 square meters of murals.

Yulin Grottoes – Located near the desert oasis town of Dunhuang, about 160km away, the Yulin Caves got their name from the elm trees that line the river running through the cliffs. It’s part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and includes 43 caves with 5,200m2 of murals and over 259 sculptures. Pretty similar to the Mogao Caves, it’s often referred to as the ‘sister caves’.

Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty at Jiayu Pass – You’ll be awe-struck by the gorgeous view of the sunset over the ancient city walls and desert. In autumn, the reed marshes swaying in the wind beneath the gate towers look simply stunning.

Sculpted in Nature: Spectacular Landscapes of Gansu

Gansu is known for its towering mountains, deep canyons, and otherworldly rock formations. These landscapes have been sculpted by nature over millions of years, and they continue to amaze and awe visitors from all over the world.

Mogao Caves – Visiting the Mogao Caves is like taking a stroll through an art gallery in the desert. The murals are the main attraction and most people come to see the incredible Buddhist artwork. The walls of the caves are a showcase of paintings that span a thousand years, depicting social life, fairy tales, and Buddhist stories.

Maiji Mountain Grottoes – If you take a look, the mountain is totally covered in winding, hanging plank roads. All you have to do is walk along them to reach the Maiji Mountain Grottoes. Inside, you’ll find over 7,000 amazing clay sculptures and carved stone statues from the last thousand years that show the evolution and development of clay sculpture art in China.

Rainbow Mountains – The ridges of the hills have all sorts of vibrant colors, like a rainbow cast over the landscape. Taking pictures there is especially amazing at sunset on a sunny day, when the golden light just makes it look even more stunning. It’s definitely one of the most photogenic places around!

Dunhuang Singing Sand Dunes – The Singing Sand Dunes have this really cool natural phenomenon – as you slide down the slopes, the dunes will echo with the sound of the shifting sand. If there’s a strong wind, you’ll hear the sand roar, but when it’s just a light breeze, it’s more like a gentle, musical sound.

Gourmet Gansu: Culinary Adventures in a Flavorful Province

The Hui ethnicity have had a big impact on the food in Gansu, since Muslims don’t eat pork and it’s too cold for white meat. So beef and mutton are the staples. Gansu is known for its use of a variety of seasonings, usually giving dishes a salty and spicy flavour. If you’re travelling around Gansu, be aware that the dishes there are usually full of fat and oil, so be prepared for some extra pounds!

Lanzhou Beef Noodles – This delicious noodle dish from Lanzhou is one of the most popular around the province. It first appeared during the Qing Dynasty and was created by an old Hui man named Ma Baozi. The noodles are pulled by hand quickly and boiled, then served in a clear soup with beef, cilantro, garlic, radish slices, and some red peppers for a spicy kick. Yum!

Grabbing Mutton – This dish is a hit with many of China’s Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang and Ningxia, but the “Grabbing Mutton” from Linxia County in Gansu is the bomb. It got its name from being sold on the street – you’d just “grab” a piece with your hands and eat it. Just don’t forget to pay first!

Stir-Fried Hump with Five Shredded Toppings – If you’re aiming to try the signature dish from Dunhuang, you might be out of luck. Camels were such valuable pack-animals that they were never killed for meat, meaning you can only try this dish if the camel died of natural causes. And since camels can live up to 40 to 50 years, you could be waiting a while!

Snowy Mountain Camel Hoof – This fancy dish is made from the meat of a camel that has passed away naturally, making it a luxury item. Don’t worry, the meat isn’t from the hoof, so you don’t have to worry about getting dentures afterwards! The name and look of the dish comes from the camel’s significance in the Silk Road.

In conclusion, Gansu, China is a region rich in history and culture, with many hidden treasures waiting to be explored. Travellers can explore everyday life along the Great Wall.  With its unique geography and diverse population, Gansu is a fascinating destination for those seeking adventure and discovery.

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