Home Photography Treasures along the Silk Road: Mingsha Mountain, Crescent Oasis

Treasures along the Silk Road: Mingsha Mountain, Crescent Oasis

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Stories of the Silk Road are full of mystery and intrigue, from Marco Polo to camels to caravans. It was then that I arrived in Dunhuang at the former junction of the two main routes of the Silk Road network. Its main draw is something I have always associated with Silk Road: deserts, oases. Mingsha Mountain, Crescent Oasis.

Mingsha Mountain

Dunhuang is located near the intersection of three western Chinese provinces, Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang. It is more than 2300 km (1400+ miles), from Beijing. It is east of the Gobi Desert, and south of it there is a range desert sand dunes called Mingsha Mountain.

Mingsha roughly translates to Singing Sands/Echoing Sands. It refers to the sounds made from the sand dunes.

Marco Polo believed that the sounds of singing sands were caused by evil spirits. However, scientists have a scientific explanation and extensive research. (Here’s a great explanation from National Geographic.

It is difficult to hear the singing at Mingsha Mountain due to the loudness of the crowds. Don’t let this deter you. It is still full of wonders.

Sunrise is the most beautiful and popular time to visit.

It’s worth arriving early because it takes a little while to reach the entrance. Once you reach the dunes you will need to climb up for a good view. To make things easier, ladders have been placed in the sand.

If you arrive at the gate and are told by the ticket inspectors that it is too late to see the sunrise, don’t be discouraged. The guy said that I would never be able to reach the dunes in the time allowed.

Well, boom.

Mingsha Mountain sunrise

Crescent Oasis

The best views of Crescent Oasis can be seen from the top of the dunes. It is everything you would expect an oasis to be.

Crescent Oasis Dunhuang

Scientists are still trying to understand Crescent Oasis.

The natural crescent shape of the oasis is quite natural. It’s surrounded by sand and seems almost to have an invincibility shield around it. Visitors can explore the oasis and buildings nearby, but the best vantage point to see it is from the top. Make sure you climb the dunes nearest to it.

If you are looking for something more and can afford the Y=120 peak season ticket, there are several options. You can ride a camel in a caravan, experience a thrill on an ATV and take in the aerial view from a glider or helicopter.

Mingsha Mountain ATV

Dunhuang, a true treasure in western China is Mingsha Mountain or Crescent Oasis.

If you are unable to make it soon, you can watch the video of my glider ride for now. Enjoy!


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