The Yumen Gate on the Ancient Silk Road


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黄河上白云一片孤城万仞山

羌笛何不度玉门关。

More than 1300 years ago, a poet wrote this poem to describe the landscape around Yumen. I am not a good translator, meanwhile, you know that the poem is always very difficult to show its feeling in a different language.

From the poem, we get the information that the land outside Yumen Gate was already barren and infertile. The Yellow River was flowing far away. The only town stood besides the barren mountains. Plants should not be blamed not living there, since the spring wind couldn’t get through the Yumen Gate. It seems that the Yumen Gate is the line between life and desert.

Back to the 21 century, the situation seems worse and worse. Not only the area outside the Yumen Gate is difficult for all creatures. In fact the Yumen Gate is standing in the desert.

We drove 90 km by motorcycle from Dunhuang to get there. In my opinion, motorcycle is the best vehicle in this area. The road has not been ready for little cars. Bike cyclists may suffer a lot from the heavy sunshine and it is a really bumpy rode. But there is also a bad news for motorcycler – no gasolinestation on this road and the oil tank may be too small to manage a 180 km journey.

Thousands of beautiful or sad stories about this area are attractive for people to come here. When we think about Yumen, we are likely to get a picture that a General is standing on the gate, looking at the area outside, or a picture of millions soldier fighting in the blood, shouting into the sky.

Hecang RelicThis was an important fort for Han people who living inside the Yumen Gate. Once the nomadic group outside won the war and occupied their land, they didn’t know what would happen to them. On the other hand, the group outside the gate did want the good land to grow their population and to enjoy a better life conditions. You know that every war has a reason related to the land, never changes.

Any way, nomatter what happened thousands years ago, the place has become a real desert gradually. I just saw a lonely yellow mound stands here. History cannot keep silence.

Besides the Yumen Gate, there is the other Han relic called Hecang Town. It was a busy town 2000 years ago. Caravans passed there one by one. They had high street, hotels, restaurants and many shops. But now there are just several yellow walls. Weeds are everywhere, winds blow with sands.