Most Important Historic Sights in China (II)
Most Important Historic Sights in China: Dunhuang
The ancient oasis town of Dunhuang lies near the spot where the Silk Road once frayed apart into a handful of different routes that skirted the foreboding Taklamakan Desert to the west. The remains of two Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) watchtowers – Jade Pass and South Pass – lie to the west, but it's the nearby megadunes and Mogao Caves that have made Dunhuang particularly famous.
Dunhuang (Blazing Beacon) was originally founded in 117 BCE as a garrison town and a crucial node in a series of beacon towers that stretched along the Hexi Corridor and out into the desert. As the last major caravan stop before the massive Taklamakan, Dunhuang quickly became an important center of not only trade, but also the new Buddhist religion.
What's here? The sights are all out of town, but Dunhuang itself is a pleasant enough place to relax during the hottest moments of the day. After the Mogao Caves, the main sight is the sand dunes at Singing Sands Mountain and Crescent Moon Lake. Whether you want to arrange overnight camel rides out here (check with the cafés in town) or simply climb up along the continually shifting ridges and listen to the desert's silence, you won't be disappointed.
Most Important Historic Sights in China: Dunhuang – How do I get here?
A handful of trains are supposed to serve Dunhuang directly, but it's just as likely that you'll need to go through the main train station at Liuyuan, which is a good two hours away by bus.
Dunhuang is connected to some other Silk Road towns by bus, but it can be a long haul.
Most Important Historic Sights in China: Xi'an City Walls
The largest surviving city walls in China, Xi’an’s fortifications date from the Ming dynasty and have a circumference of 8.5 miles (13.7km). They’re actually built atop the former Inner City Walls of Chang’an (the original capital of China), which should give you some idea as to the city’s massive expanse during its heyday in the Tang dynasty (618–907). The Outer City Walls enclosed an area seven times the size of the Inner City.
Enormously thick at the top (up to 45 feet or 14m across), not only can you stroll along the wall for a bird’s-eye view of the city, but you can even rent a bike and cycle the entire length.