A Ruined Ruin

I have for the past two days, went through Mogao Caves, Yueya Springs and the other popular tourist spots that is within the reach of a bus. 

All the other famous attractions are quite a distant away, 70 ~ 100km away. 

You have to rely on taxis and the price is then undetermined. 

So my target today is the Ancient City of Dunhuan, which is about 15km away. What attracts me is it being labeled as an Ancient City.


The employees at the hostel don’t know for sure how to get there though, 

suggest that I walk west ward to the West Bridge, there’s a bus station and may offer me a solution. 

So I grabbed a packet of “little basket buns” for breakfast and stroll toward the West Bridge Station. 

Dunhuan city center is a rather small but really busy, the suburbs though are rather bleak. 

I asked quite a few bus drivers at the station but it seems there are no direct route to the Ancient City. 

There are bus routes passing by, but I will have to stop a passing by bus on the way back. 

Sounds to be a minor problem so off I go on a bus to Nanhu. 

When I got on the bus there are a few passengers already but no driver, so I asked when does this bus leave. 


What the heck?!!! It’s 09h30 in the morning now! 

Why the hell would you guys sit on this bus for?

I sure am not going to sit there and wait. Left the station and strolling at a wholesale market. 

Gonna grab something to nibble and perhaps find a way to get to the Ancient City. 

Bought 500g of raisins to nibble. These are green ones and really nice. Not very commercial, 

just a whole grape dried. I also bought about 500g worth of pan fried cakes (stuffed with mince & vegetables) for reserves. 

Eventually I came across a grocer where I bought two ice popsicles and asked the shopkeeper if he knew any way to get to the Ancient City. 

What bugged me why is there not a direct route to this site? 

Isn’t this site supposed to be a popular tourist spot? 

Luckily the shopkeeper used to be a taxi driver and he has a friend who is still in this business, the fare is 20 RMB. 

Obviously that’s a bit more than the bus fare but still acceptable, so off I go in a taxi.


Paging through the brochure in the taxi it offers Chinese, English and Japanese translations. 

What the Chinese refers as “Ancient City” the Japanese is referring it as a “Ancient City Movie Set”, 

huh? Why such a difference? Well, when I got there and paid my 30 RMB ticket I realize the Japanese translation is more accurate.

The Ancient City is actually a movie set left form the days when a Japanese film company made a movie named “Dunhuan”. 

It was supposed to be burnt down but was kept.

Everything inside is fake, nothing reminds you of a anything ancient or historical.

If any of these photos could even attract you to spend any time or money here, I can only say the photos are well shot.

This is a dungeon that often appears on movies and it is housing a rabbit now. Is there a point to this at all?

Even the workshop where they built the set is included in the site. There are still incomplete work and saw dusts everywhere,

Here’s some weird kind of cells. Scarecrow used as prisoners. 

The markings on the uniforms tells me there are headed for a death sentence. :P

There’s also a market but it is just shallow and pointless. 

They could have hired or allowed a couple of peddlers and dress them up in historical clothing, 

that would have offered more flavor and more fitting. 

Maybe even a few guys walking on the street to make it more of a realistic feeling?


The Ancient City looked promising on the outside but is rather disappointing inside.

I think I spent 15 minute walking around and took a few photos and asked the taxi to take me back. 

I did however, went pass the famous “White Horse Tower” which is said to have 1600 years of history.


As with most towers built and named “White Horse” in China,

this tower was built as a memorial for the white horse that carried the Buddhism literatures from India to China.

Paid two tickets, 30 RMB and 15 RMB and I spent less than half an hour on it. 

I spent more time on the taxi, damn! 

After I got back to the hostel I took a four hour nap. It’s been a while to be this lazy. I feel better already.


Decided to check out the Dunhuan Museum just around the corner. 

Thought I have been disappointed twice this morning, this can’t be any worse even if I blew another 15 RMB away.

The museum is separated in six halls, three of them showing the Han great wall digs and some of the graves they discovered.

I am extremely amazed by the fact that a portion of the Han dynasty (200 B.C. ~ 220 A.D.) Great Wall still exists today.

It is a very simple construction but strong enough to stand through centuries.

The chopstick and the wooden spoon is about a thousand year’s old. 

The brush like tools on the upper left hand corner are “lice brushes”.

The Imperial Decree, it even started with the famous phrase “in the name of the Lord”.

This is a wooden engraving of Buddhism literature in Sanskrit. 

I have a traveling book "Cien años de soledad" which I travel with that has a piece of journal written by a Gypsy named Melquíades. 

The journal was only translated about a hundred years after it was written by the Buendía family and the journal was written in Sanskrit.

Sanskrit looks like tadpoles, how does anyone able to read this, 

no wonder you have to bring monks from India to tanslate.

These are what left after the vandalism at the Mogao Caves. 

Most of the literature was stolen and are either stored at museums around the world or in the hands of private collectors.

These sculptures are part of a burial, I wonder what the posture symbolizes.

The other three halls are shops. Misasa, they have your favorite elephants but really expensive, sorry I can’t afford it.

15 RMB worth of a ticket at least bought me a valuable hour in the museum. 

Strolled to the Dunhuan Night Market and had barbeque lamb chops for dinner. 

The taxi driver this morning is a local and I asked him what’s good to eat.

I have tried Dunhuan hand rolled noodle, yellow noodles with donkey meat, lamb noodle soup, stir fried lamb organs 

and apricot flavored water, the lamb chop is what I have missed.

500g of barbeque lamb chops is only 25 RMB, that’s about 26 chops. 

It is tender and tasty, none of those infamous lamb tastes, really, really tasty. 

This is one of best treat when you down it with a cold one.

I am scheduled to leave Dunhuan tomorrow. I have spent three days resting and I feel I am 120% recovered. 

Even more energized before I left Beijing. Long roads ahead and I am ready.

English version of trip log is translated by H2、MD、Liz、mouse、John、Robin、Eric、Moe、virginia, many thanks to them.