The (Gansu) Hexi Corridor 河西走廊
Driving about 200 kilometres west of Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, tourists will reach Gansu Province. The province looks like a panhandle geographically. It covers about 1,600 kilometres of the Silk Road, of which 1,200 kilometres is situated in the (Gansu) Hexi Corridor 河西走廊(1,200 kilometres fromLanzhou, the provincial capital in the east to the Yumen (Jade Gate) Pass 玉门关（so named because the jade produced in Hetian 和田 in what is now Xinjiang region was transported to Central China through this pass), a strategic pass on the ancient Silk Road at the bank of Shule River ffiKj’M in the west, the narrowest being over 40 kilometres to more than 100 kilometres from north to south, average elevation being 1,000 to 1,500 metres. Located west of the Yellow River, the corridor is a passageway between the Qilian Mountains 祁连山 and the Beishan Mountain匕山.It was lined with many towns and is today crammed with as many centres of tourist attractions. The terrains in the province get higher and higher as tourists go from the central to the west till they reach about 1,500 metres above sea level in Lanzhou.
Lanzhou is in the shape of a panhandle, through which the Yellow River flows. People have the false impression that the city is adjacent to the border region of the far Northwest China, but it actually is in the heartland of the country.
After going beyond Lanzhou and the Wushaoling Mountain 乌銷岭, tourists enter the majestic and impressive Gansu Corridor. The Qilian
Mountains, which skirt the corridor, are about 4,000 to 5,000 metres above, sea level. In the language of Xiongnu 匈奴（Huns, an ancient ethnic tribe in Northwest China), qilian means sky. As the name implies, the Qilian Mountains are sky-high, with their snow-capped peaks piercing the clouds. A train ride through the broad corridor will provide a fascinating view of the unpopulated Gobi wilderness, which extends to the foot of the mountains, with the desert dotted with towns, hamlets, luxuriant trees and plots of farmland. Perhaps partly because of drought and scanty rainfall, the province is on the whole to be developed. Fed by molten snow down from the Qilian Mountains, however, the Gansu Province is an exception. Numerous historical sites and countless cultural relics unearthed point to its great days in history. They are delightful places to visit, and you’ll begin to feel the quiet calm the places possess. Major places of interest in the province include: the Iron Bridge at the foot of the White Pagoda Mountain，the White Pagoda and Five-Spring Park 兰州市白塔山下黄河大铁桥、白塔寺、五泉山Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang and the Crescent Spring Pool and Singing Sands Dunes 敦煌月牙泉、鸣沙山、莫高窟，Yulin Grottoes in Anxi County 安西县榆林石窟，the Big Buddha Temple, the Wooden Pagoda and Horse’s Hoof Grottoes in Zhangye City 张掖市大佛寺木塔、马蹄寺石窟，the Bingling Monastery in Yongjing临夏市永靖县炳灵寺石窟，Lashao Monastery and Cascade ( Waterfall) Cave in Wushan County 武山县拉梢寺和水帘洞，the Maiji Mountain Grottoes in
Tianshui 天水市麦积山石窟，the Lady Queen Palace Grottoes in Jingchuan径川王母宫石窟，the Northern Grotto Monastery in Xifeng City 西峰市北石窟寺，the Labrang Lamasery in Xiahe 夏河县拉卜楞寺，Jiayu Pass 嘉峪关，the western terminus of the Great Wall, acclaimed as wMight Pass Number One Under Heaven 天下第一雄关” and Overhanging Great Wall. Arresting in a more dynamic way is the bronze horse together with other 230 cultural relics from an Eastern Han (AD 25-220) tomb discovered at Leitai in Wuwei City, Gansu Province on the route of the Old Silk Road in October 1969. He is poised as if flying, and one of his hooves rests lightly on a swallow with wings outstretched, suggesting in a beautiful and imaginative way the almost
divine power, which the Chinese people at this time believed the horse to possess. He is the symbol of Chinese tourism. 1969 年 10 月在甘肃省武威市雷台下发现东汉晚期大型砖室墓一座，出土文物230余件，其中铜制器物170余件，有铸造精致的武装车马出行行列。马有驾车马、骑马，骏健生动，姿态各异。一足踏着飞鸟，三足腾空，长尾高翘，昂首嘶鸣，风驰电掣，飞奔前进。造型奇特，别具匠心，既富于浪漫主义色彩，又合乎力学平衡原理，是古代艺术珍品。它是中国旅游图形标志——马超龙雀。Grottoes resemble a string of Buddhist beads, forming a grotto corridor on the ancient Silk Road and distributing on 1,600-kilometre-long region.
Grottoes originated in Buddhist architectural art in India, but the Chinese grottoes formed its own characteristics such as the grotto eaves, Buddhist figure and murals. The grottoes along this grotto corridor have existed more than 1,000 years. The just and sound evaluation is： Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang are the treasure house of murals; Maijishan Grottoes are the museum of painted sculptures; the Horse’s Hoof Cave in Zhangye is the initial creation of painted sculpture flying Apsaras (as in the frescoes of the Horse’s Hoof Cave in Zhangye). Also there are the ruins of the Great Wall, and the beacon towers dotted here and there signalling military operation in ancient times; there are also multitude of monasteries and tombs and other cultural relics.
Dunhuang and Jiayu Pass, both situated in the (Gansu) Hexi Corridor, are the most frequently visited by explorers on the Silk Road. The Magao Grottoes in Dunhuang 敦煌的莫高窟，which is acclaimed as “ a glittering pearl that adorns the Silk Road 被誉为丝绸之路上的明珠，” is the most famous grottoes in China. The mural paintings there occupy a total space of 45,000 square metres. It is regarded as the greatest treasure house of Buddhist art still standing in the world today. Artists invariably wish to have a chance to visit the grottoes. Jiayu Pass is the western terminus of the Great Wall. It is known as “the Mighty Pass No One Under Heaven 天下第一’雄关Unlike Shanhai Pass in Hebei Province or Juyong Pass in Beijing along the Great Wall, it nestles against the Qilian Mountains and the Gobi Desert and is therefore imposing in its own salient feature. Erected on the Gobi Desert, its gate-tower looks all the more robust and impregnable. Looking around on the gate-tower, tourists find the Great Wall snaking eastward toward the Bohai Bay and climbing westward up the Qilian Mountains like an M Overhanging Great Wall 悬臂长城,” as the section of the wall is now popularly called.
Gansu Province contains so many beautiful sights along the Gansu section of the Silk Road that one short visit is insufficient to include them all. You will want to return.
Situated in the middle of the Gansu Province, Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, has a history of more than 2,000 years. In ancient times, it used to be of strategic importance on the well-travelled ancient Silk Road. Huo Qubing, famous general of the Han Dynasty stationed his troops here and Xuan Zang (602-664), eminent Buddhist monk of the Tang Dynasty also passed through this place on his pilgrimage way to India. Nowadays, the city is the hub of Longhai ( Lianyungang-Lanzhou), Lanxin ( Lanzhou-Xinjiang), and Lanqing ( Lanzhou-Qinghai) railways. The Yellow River runs through the entire city. Its main industries include oil-refinery, chemicals, machinery, non-ferrous, metallurgy, woollen textile and electric power. Prime tourist attractions include the Five-Spring and White Pagoda parks, renowned for their picturesque landscape and unique architecture, were built around the hills on both banks of the Yellow River that squeezes its way through the city. The view from their tops sweeps over the whole city and down the Yellow River.