At the western end of the Gansu's Province Hexi Corridor, there lies an oasis of tranquility and beauty – the Dunhuang. This ancient town used to be a major point in the Great Silk Road of China. Its name is a combination of two words – grandness (dun) and prosperity (huan). It is located at the juncture of the Xinjiang, Gansu and Qinghai, which makes it very strategic for China's trading activities. Highlights of the Dunhuang include the Mogao Grottos, the Yumen Pass, the Yang Pass and Crescent Lake.

The Mogao Grottos

Also called the 1,000-Buddha Caves or the Dunhuang Grottos, the Mogao Grotto is one of the three major Buddhist sites in the country. It started with the Han Dynasty, up until the Tang dynasty. Over its 2,000 years of existence, it has accumulated an awesome collection of clay sculptures (numbering around 2,000) and frescoes. Its mural paintings cover a surface area of about 45,000 square meters. These murals are to be found in the caves. The contents of close to 500 of the 1,000 caves have been preserved. Sadly, the other murals have been ruined by time and the abuses of people who stayed in the cave. The murals are mostly about Buddha – his portraits, the history of Buddhism and depictions of Buddhist scriptures and legends. These also depict people dancing and singing, hunting, fishing, and people practicing martial arts and acrobatics. Clay is plastered into the walls, allowed to dry and finishing details are engraved or painted on for a complete picture.

The grottos also feature cave-temple architecture, painted scrolls and manuscripts. The collection is so vast that it is considered the most important ancient Buddhist culture sites in the world. The Mogao Grottos are located at the desert cliffs 25 kilometers southwest of the city of Dunhuang. At the foot of the Sanwei Mountain, across the Mogao Grottos, you will find the Dunhuang Art Exhibition Center, which also has replicas of some parts of the Grotto.

Yumen Pass

This is one of the two defensive passes that protected Dunhuang from attacks. If you are from China at that time, and you want to go to the west of the Silk Road, you will have to go through the Yumen Pass. It is also called Little Square City because of a rare jade piece that passed through this area from the Han emperor.

Yang Pass

This is the second defensive pass that prevented invasion, with high walls and beacon towers. It was built by Emperor Wu and used to be an important section of the Great Silk Road. However, time has eroded its past splendor. What you can see are the foundations of some of the walls.

Crescent Lake

This is a popular tourist destination. The lake is surrounded by high dunes. You can go on a camel ride or go down the dunes aboard a sled. There is also a pagoda which you can visit. This is built in the lines of Han Chinese architecture.

There are also other attractions, such as the Sanwei Mountain and Wuwa Pond. Aside from these, you also get to shop for souvenirs at the city's night market. Here, you can buy jewelry, scrolls, sculptures and jade.