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Mingsha Mountain and the Crescent Spring
    2007-11-25 16:12:56     CRIENGLISH.com
2009-01-03 Let's Go Skiing
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We'll stop by a magnificent scenic spot--the Mingsha Mountain and the Crescent Spring, located close to the renowned Mogao Grottoes. Here is our guide Ning Yan.


Just like the fact that oil and water can not mix, springs and deserts can hardly be related to each other. But the Crescent Spring is an exception.

The Mingsha Mountain and the Crescent Spring are 5 kilometers southwest of Dunhuang city. We went there by car and arrived much quicker than expected.

It's really a sandy world at first sight. Then we found a green crescent fallen down in the desert: a lake lies at the center of this barren land with many trees surrounding it.

On the sign at this world-famous site, we saw a sentence that describes its characteristics: "Mountain and spring coexist. Sand and water live together.

Zhang Hongxia, a tour guide who has worked at the scenic spot for about two years, tells us an amazing truth:

"Mingsha Dunes and the Crescent Spring have already existed for more than 2,000 years, but as you can see, the shape of the mountain and the shape of the Crescent Spring almost have never changed much."

The Mingsha Mountain, also called Singing Sand Dunes, is celebrated for the sound produced by the moving sand. Named Sha Jiao Mountain in the Eastern Han Dynasty, it is 800 square kilometers in size, stretching 40 km from the east to the west and 20 kilometers from the south to the north. The main peak is 1,715 meters above the sea level. Its ridges and peaks are known to be as sharp as a knife. Stepping on the sand may change its shape temporarily, but the sand always returns to its original shape the next day. Walking on the sand, one can also hear sounds as light as those produced by bamboo instruments or as loud as those by thunderous drums.

Within the Mingsha Mountain lies the Crescent Spring. It is so named because of its shape. The water is sweet and crystal clear, where fish also live. At various times in history, it was once called Sha-Jing (Sand Well), Yao-Quan (Medicine Spring), or Wo Wa Pool. It received its current name in the Qing Dynasty. There are three treasures in the Crescent Spring, the iron back fish, the seven-star grass and the five-colored sand. Having been lying among these sand dunes for thousands of years and with surprise attacks of sandstorms, the Crescent Spring is still clear.

As the sand never gets into spring, and the water is never muddy and the spring has not dried up. The Crescent Spring can be called a natural wonder in the Gobi Desert. Zhang Hongxia explained this natural wonder for us.

"Now we can see the sand dunes are just around the spring. Why has the sand never entered into the spring and buried the spring? That's the secret. The reason from here we can see is the special geographical reason."

She said the wind always blows the sands upwards instead of blowing them into the spring. That means in this special crescent landform the wind created this depression, as the cross-ventilated theory states, the falling sands from the surrounding mountains would be sent back to the other side of nearby Mingsha Mountain. Thus, the sand does not clog the spring. This geological movement keeps the sand dunes and the spring in a harmonious and almost paradoxical existence.

However, the depth of the crescent lake has been changing in recent years. Zhang Hongxia gave us some detailed data.

"It is two hundred meters from the east to the west, and 34 meters from the south to the north. The average depth of its water is 1 meter while the deepest place can reach 1.5 meters. But during the 1950s, the spring covered an area of 22 mu. The average depth of the water was seven meters, the deepest place could reach nine meters."

That means the area of the water has shrunk, leaving only a mini lake surrounded by sand at the present. Zhang said the problem was caused by the dry weather and the reduction of underground water.

Fortunately, the local government and non-governmental organizations have taken a series of measures, including water diversion to stop the possibility of the lake's disappearance.

There is also a pavilion standing tall at the south bank of the crescent spring. It has an empress palace, a dragon royal palace, a Bodhisattva palace, a god of medicine cave, a scripture hall, and a thunder spirit table.

Here you can enjoy not only the rare views where an oasis meets the desert, but also have fun sand adventures, such as riding camels, "dune surfing" and sand sliding. After climbing to the top of the dunes, you can not help but marvel at the stunning view. You have discovered the wondrous sight of the Crescent Spring.

We met a group of American tourists who just finished an exciting ride on camels' backs. Ms. Pauller Maier expressed her excitement:

"My name is Pauller Maier, from America, in the middle of the United States. [The camel] It is very wonderful. It is easy to get on because he kneeled down, but riding on it is much like riding on a horse. It feels very similar. It's a little slower than a horse, a little slower, but I don't ride on a horse very fast."

When asked about the impression of the scenic spot, Ms. Pauller Maier couldn't stop her laudatory words.

"It's beautiful, yeah, it's nice weather, sure, it's not so cold to me, it's just fine. We've had great weather here, wonderful trip in China! It's just been a great trip!"

Ms. Pauller Maier was also excited to see the Mogao caves, the best preserved treasure-house of Buddhist art. Because the Mogao Grottoes is just nearby, it is convenient for travelers to visit the Mingsha Mountain and the Crescent Spring in the morning and return to the Mogao caves after lunch. This is a typical day-trip arrangement in Dunhuang city.



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