The Singing (Soughing) Dunes and the Crescent Spring

The Singing (Soughing) Dunes and the Crescent Spring鸣沙山和月牙泉

The Singing Dunes, formerly known as Shensha Hills or Shajiaoshan Hills, are located 6 kilometers away from the city of Dunhuang. The Singing Dunes stretch about 40 kilometers from east to west, and 20 kilometers from north to south. The dunes range from 80 to 90 meters in height. The Singing Dunes are rolling like a “wriggling dragon” and glittering like golden hills with a clear spring shaped like a new moon lying in their bosom. The green spring water, resembling a jadeite, is inlaid on the golden dunes. Reeds grow luxuriously by the side of the spring, and, in gentle breeze, the water-surface ripples and the dunes are reflected in the water, forming a very spectacular view.


According to the record of The Old Tang Annals, The Singing Dunes are also called Shajiaoshan Hills. In fine days, sand roars like thunder which can be heard in the city, hence the name of Singing Dunes. When visitors climb up the dunes and slide downward from the summit, the sand can collapse with them and give out a peal of loud sound, like the howls of beasts and roar of thunder if it is listened to in the vicinity and like celestial melodies if it is listened to in the distance. Since the ancient times, this scenic spot has been regarded as a riddle.

What has brought about the phenomenon of singing sand? Up to now there is yet no satisfactory answer. Some Japanese think that perhaps there are ancient palaces under the dunes; the Russians deem that the quartz content in the singing sand is very considerable, and when quartz crystals are squeezed, they would produce electric charges which would in turn change into sound. Chinese scientists have carried out the study on the cause of the singing of sand for years and they believe that the singing of sand is a phenomenon of resonance. The Singing Dunes are as high as 80 to 90 meters and their ridges are as sharp as the edge of a knife. At the foot of the Singing Dunes lies the Crescent Spring (known as Sand Well in the ancient times). In warm and sunny weather, the spring water at the foot of the Singing Dunes evaporates under the direct sunshine and forms an invisible shield, which happens to constitute a natural resonator together with the steep, crescent slope of the Singing Dunes. Among the sounds of different frequencies given out by the friction of sand-drift, there will inevitably be a sound, which will bring about resonance of the resonator by chance. Along with the amplification of the sound, the resonance turns out to be like the roar of thunder, hence there comes the singing sand.

More interesting than the singing sand is the phenomenon of M nonencroachment of sand on spring at the Singing Dunes and Crescent Spring. The havoc caused by wind and sand in the Northwest is terrific. They can turn fertile farmland into desert, blow sheep up into the sky and even overturn a train. The small Crescent Spring at the foot of the Singing Dunes,however, can go through all vicissitudes and remain safe and sound despite evaporation that is tens of times more than precipitation. It is indeed mysterious that the precipitous dunes beside the spring have never collapsed and buried the spring water, but, on the contrary, it has surrounded and protected the spring like iron arms and kept the spring water even in long drought.

With regard to the long-existent riddle of the Crescent Spring, there are a lot of explanations. Some hold that the land in the neighborhood might have been the former Danghe River Bend, a part of Dunhuang Oasis. Owing to the drift of dunes and the change of river-courses, a water system of its own was formed; and due to the low terrain, groundwater constantly replenishes the spring water, so the spring is always filled with water and never dries up even in drought. And because of the existence of underground watercourses, which connect with the spring and help the diversion of water, the water will not overflow even after long period of rain. This explanation seems to give the reason why the Crescent Spring does not vanish, but it by no means explains why the flying sand does not fall into the spring. Another theory goes like this:” The Crescent Spring might have been a wind-eroded lake. The Taoist Priests who lived beside the Crescent Spring witnessed in person that the sand sliding down from sand dunes was blown up by strong wind to the summit. This might have been one of the reasons why the Crescent Spring was not buried by sand.

The beautiful sight and the wonderful natural structure of the Singing Dunes and the Crescent Spring have added to their fascination. To know, you must go!

A number of stunning icons were built in particular along the affluent Silk Road. Other grottoes in Gansu are the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, Jiuguan Wenshu Mountain Grottoes, Anxi Yulin Grottoes, Zhangye Ladder Grottoes, Qingyang North Stone Grottoes, Jinchuan South Stone Grottoes. The Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes and Maiji Mountain Grottoes are the Largest.

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