Small Group Tour in Central Asia 2024-2025

Province of Gansu, China

Province of Gansu, China

For centuries Gansu was the vital corridor between China and Central Asia: there passed almost 1600-kilometre section of the Silk Road. The province was considered the “gold sector” of that international route. As a proof you will see numerous ancient monuments scattered along the entire Silk Road - temples, monasteries, pagodas, towers and ancient palaces. Besides, the province has a considerable part of the Great Wall of China, whose ruins can impress you with their sizes.

Gansu boasts its 2,200-year-old history. The territory of the modern province of Gansu was conquered and developed before Christian era. Gansu province was first mentioned in the sources of the imperial dynasty Northern Song (960-1127) when the imperial military department on Gansu affairs was established in Ganzhou (now Zhangye). In the time of Mongolian Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) the region was officially annexed to the territory of Gansu province. It was created by merging Qingyuan, Lingao and Feng.

The region is well-known for its traditions of horse breeding (the first farms appeared during the rule of Wu of Han in 100 BC). From there horses started spreading all over China; the battle horses from Gansu were the backbone of the military divisions of ancient Chinese army.

The region has repeatedly changed its names: Ganzhou (Cao Wei – 220-265, Tang dynasty – 618-907), Suzhou (the old name of the modern city of Jiuquan). In antiquity the area was also named Lunsi or Luniu marking the region’s geographical position in the western part of the Lunshan mountains.

Standing on the Silk Road made the territory multinational. As a result various religions have settled there: Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Confucianism and Taoism. The province is populated by Tibetans, Hui people, Uyghur people, and Mongols.

Lanchzhou, the capital of Gansu Province

Lanchow, which is over 2,000 years old, is the heart of Gansu province since it occupies its central part. In antiquity it took the strategic position on the Silk Road. The army of the well-known general Ho Tsui Bin was deployed there. The city stands at the crossing of the Silk Road and the Hwang Ho and spreads like a narrow strip along its southern bank. In the south it is stopped by steep mountain slopes.

One of the main places of interest in Lanchow is Binhe Park. It is located in the northern part of the city long the Hwang Ho. The park has a great variety of blossoming plants, flowers and trees with sculptures reflecting various periods of Lanchow history among them. There you can look at the statue of Mother of the Hwang Ho, the group of camels on the Silk Road, the pilgrims heading East and others.

Hexi Corridor, Gansu Province

From the 1,600 km of the Silk Road in Gansu province 1,200 km go through Hexi Corridor. Hexi Corridor starts in the city of Lanchow and ends at Uimen (Jasper gate) through which nephrite which was made in Hotan (now Xinjiang) got to Central Asia. The corridor ran at the height of 1,000-1,500 m with a number of cities standing along it.

Museum of Gansu Province, Gansu Province

The museum was constructed in 1959. However, the museum’s exhibits have are much older. You will see there the frescos of Wei (220-265) and Jin (265-420) epochs, the map of the Silk Road and the expositions dedicated to the revolution. All in all there are about 100, 000 exhibits which include the well-known statue of the Flying Horse aged 2, 000, the wooden tablets of Han Dynasty, the statue of the soldier of Tang Dynasty period and the remains of a four-meter mammoth. The museum itself reminds a hieroglyph interpreted as “mountain”.

White Pagoda Mountain, Gansu Province

The mountain is located on the northern bank of the Hwang Ho. Its top is decorated by the White Pagoda dated Ming dynasty (middle of the 15th century).

The height of the 7-storeyed pagoda is 17 m. Below the pagoda you will find a bronze bell and a drum made of elephant’s skin. If you reach the top of it you will be able to enjoy the great view of Lanchow and the Hwang Ho. There are other beautiful temples on the mountain. At the mountain foot you will see two gorges: the Gold City and the Jasper hollow. The pagoda and its vicinities were opened for public in 1958.

Five Springs Mountain, Gansu Province

The height of this mountain is 1,600 m above the sea level. It was named so after the five springs on its slopes - Men, Hei, Sweet Dew, Monzi и Zuiye. Men and Hei are also known as the eastern and western “jaws of the dragon” from which the water is falling down. In time of Ming and Qing dynasties a lot of temples were built on the mountain.  In 1955 the national park was opened there. The Park is ancient indeed: it became a vacation spot about 2,000 years ago.

Grottoes of Maijishan, Gansu Province

Mount Maijishan is located in the eastern part of Gansu. Translated from Chinese the name means “wheat stack”: Its shaped indeed reminds a huge stack. The mountain’s height is 142 m. Tourists come there to look at the grottoes. There are 194 of them: 54 are in the eastern part, 140 – in the western. But the real surprise is in the grottoes: more than 7,200 clay and stone sculptures, over 1.300 sq. m. of frescos created from the 4th to 19th centuries. Except for the sculptures more than 2,000 objects made from ceramics, bronze, iron and jaspers, ancient books, documents, pictures and works of calligraphers were found there. The highest sculpture stands 16 m tall, and the smallest is only 10 cm. By the way, the only way to get from one cave to another is via the wooden bridge across precipice. It is indeed a breathtaking experience!

Labrang Lamasery, Gansu Province

Labrang Lamasery is located in the south of Gansu province in the midst of the green hills. It was constructed in 1710 and is the important centre of Tibetan Buddhism outside the Tibet. The monastery was erected when the region was still a part of the Tibet. The majority of its buildings were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). They were restored only in the 1990s. Now lamasery is home for 1,200 monks.

Labrang Lamasery is the treasury of artifacts. There you will see tremendous frescos and tapestries, Tibetan furniture and a great number of statues of the Buddha decorated with precious stones and gold.

Binlin Monastery, Gansu Province

Binlin cave monastery is not far from Lanchow. The grottoes there are also well-known. This Buddhist sanctuary is dated the 5th AD Binlin is also called the Caves of Thousand Buddhas, though the number of caves is much smaller. In their historical value they come third after the grottoes in Dunhuang and Mount Maijishan. The grottoes there have preserved stone figures and clay sculptures and a big number of frescos. Besides, there is a square stone pagoda and 4 clay ones. The two thirds of all sculptures there were cut during Tang dynasty period.

Singing Sand and Crescent Moon Spring, Gansu Province  

The Yueyaquan Mountains or Singing Sand mountains are located 6 km from the city of Dunhuan. They stretch for 40 km from the east to the west and 20 km from the north to the south. The height of the dunes varies between 80 and 90 m. In their middle amidst dunes the crescent moon-shaped spring is located.
Sand and water are amazing creations of nature. Crystal waters of the spring framed by golden sandy dunes can be compared to jasper. The spring is decorated with reed thickets.

But, perhaps, the most surprising are the sounds produced by the sand. According to Chinese experts sand singing is the phenomenon of resonance. In warm sunny weather the spring water evaporates under the direct sun rays and creates an invisible shield which turns into the natural resonator. Among the sound frequencies produced by sand friction at least will coincide with the frequency of the resonator. This sound increase makes the sand sing.

The city of Dunhuang, Gansu Province

Located in the province’s northwest on the very edge of the Taklamakan desert is the city of Dunhuang. It is the most known historical place of Gansu province.

The founder of the city of Dunhuang was the emperor of Hanshui Wu Di (117 BC). Throughout the entire period of ruling Han dynasty the city was the main link between China and the rest of the world. Later it became the terminal on the Silk Road which made it the target of numerous attacks. To the north from Dunhuang there is the fortress of the Great Wall of China, - Yumenguan, and to the south the ruins of Yanguan fortress. The fortresses served as outposts for caravans of camels and horses. The glorious historical past of the city gave it the rich artifacts collection which is carefully preserved - Buddhist temples with sculptures, pictures, frescos, and utensils.

To the southeast from Dunhuang there is Buddhist cave monastery, Mogao Caves (“Caves of Thousand Buddhas”) of the 4th – 14th centuries. There, about 480 caves with sculptures and frescos have survived. The frescos depict the scenes from the life of Buddha and his followers.

Among all Dunhuang caves Mogao grottoes are considered the most valuable.

Dunhuang cave temples are unique both in terms of their sculptures and pictures and the duration of their construction. It is the shiniest jewel in the treasury of Chinese national art, and is considered the cultural heritage of all mankind. Impressive Buddhist buildings, sculptures and frescos are the main attractions of Dunhuang.

Mogao Caves, Gansu Province  

Mogao Grottoes are located on the western slopes of Singing Sand Mountains near Dunhuang.  They were also one of the stops on an ancient Silk Road and are considered the world-renown treasury of Buddhist art. The largest and best preserved ancient Buddhist art collection in China is kept in the caves.

The construction of the grottoes began in 366 BC and continued until the 16th century. Today 492 caves contain 45, 000 sq.m of wall drawings and more than 2,415 decorated sculptures. They were created for 1600 years under 10 dynasties. The dimensions of the largest grotto are 40х30 m. From above there is a breathtaking view of the steep rock and 9-storeyed tower standing among 492 grottoes. Mogao grottoes are divided into the northern and the southern. All caves are connected by means of footpaths.

Mogao grottoes complex includes 5 wooden buildings erected in the days of Tang (618-916) and Song (960-1279) dynasties where about 50 thousand documents and other historical artifacts are kept. The grottoes are designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Site and are the important landmark of China.