We have been traveling in Turpan and Dun Huang for the past few days, tracking the portion of the Silk Road through Northern China. From Dunhuang, there were two routes westward. the northern route was faster but more dangerous, and the southern route was longer but easier. The easier route connected a series of oases that were 4 to 5 days apart, whereas the harder route stretched the distances between water. Traders and emissaries had to plan their strategies for survival carefully.
Aside from extreme weather conditions and access to food and water, they could not predict who they would encounter. Dunhuang was the outpost and garrison for the Han Dynasty troops. They regulated the comings and goings of each caravan and made sure that they were entitled to passage through these points. While the influence of the Sogdians from Samarkand and the current day Uighur population were prominent in Xinjiang, there appears to be reduced or little significance in the Gansu region.
The photos above are a replica of what existed on the site previously. It is difficult to reconcile original ruins that leave a lot to the imagination, with wanting to see something that is close to the conditions at the time the site was active. This site is now a museum and contains a lot of history that helps to bring the original situation to life.
If you think this looks more like a stage set, the irony is that there is a full scale working model of an ancient city in Dunhuang. It’s something like a Universal City. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and other history-based films were shot there. We decided to pass on the experience.
Just a note on postings: still having problems uploading pictures and this continues to persist. Please let me know if you are still experiencing problems viewing them.