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Journey to the breathtaking West

(Shanghai Daily)

08:50, October 24, 2011

Yadan Devil City in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, is so named because of the disturbing sounds and landform shaped by gales.(Photo by Han Jing/Shanghai Daily)

I began my journey in China's mythical western region on an overnight train that traveled 1,333 kilometers from Lanzhou, capital city of Gansu Province, through plains, dunes and endless rugged desert where battles were fought, hermetic monks created cave art, and caravans headed to the Mediterranean.

I looked out of the window at a stark, passing landscape and also read Japanese writer Inoue Yashushi's riveting historical fiction "Tonkou" ("Dunhuang") published in the 1950s. It's an epic tale of incessant turmoil and chaos in ancient China's western border wars between the ruler of the central plains and other powers in the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

I could imagine the ancient towns and sandy winds from the Silk Road, blowing 5,000 years ago, much as they do now. The gritty winds could even be worse today because of desertification and increased erosion.

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