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Off the beaten path for your travel in Jiawuguan

When you visiting Jiawuguan for your last minute China travel deals, you can consider the Off the beaten path.

1. Heishan Rock Carvings

To the north-west of Jiayuguan, along the Shiguan Gorge that passes through the Overhanging Great Wall are a number of old carvings in the layers of thick black basalt rock.

In fact, you do not need to make the lengthy trek to the main gorge to see some of the carvings, although this is where the older Xiongnu (Hun) carvings can be seen. Just 1km along the gorge from the Great Wall, near the fragments of the old Ming barrier wall across the valley, there are Mingand earlier carvings of signs and religious symbols.

If you haven't the time, there are recreations of some of the biggest and clearest carvings at the grungy scuplture park at the Overhanging Great Wall, and the rather overgrown Heishan Sculpture Park at the Jiayuguan Fortress Resort Area (to the right of the commercial area).

2. The Community Restored Beacon Tower

The last beacon tower before the Overhanging Great Wall is an interesting example of comunity restoration - showing both good and bad in the management of cultura heritage management in China in recent years. In 2000, a local businessman was given permission to rebuild the small fortress to the south of the Shiguan Gorge, and local lbour was used to quickly rebuild the Great Wall along a short stretch nearby. This eradicated the remaining wall. The entrepreneur claims that he did it as a duty, but he also charges 6 RMB (unit for China money ) to visit the area. Given that the Great Wall is state-protected national heritage, requiring persmission for any work to be done (and that work to be designed and executed by certified cultural heritage professionals) it would appear that the rules were not followed. Most of the original Great Wall has now disappeared under this idelaised but well-intentioned, 'rebuilding'.

This remarkable effort from local people as an exercise in recreating their heritage deserves credit. Sadly,though, the final part was the creation of the idealised and inaccurate crenellations and widened footpaths.

3. The World's Largest Character

Just one kilometre east of the First Signal Tower you will see small trees that look like a forest. In fact, this is a curious feature of the landscape and one of the most unsustainable civic developments I have ever seen.

For the millenium, millions of logs and branhes were laid out on the ground and set alight on New Year's Eve, so creating, with fire, the world's largest character (the Chinese character for 'dragon'). Afterwards, trees were planted in the ashes.

The new forest requires 24,000 tonnes of water every year to sustain them. This is despite the fact that the water supply for the whole Hexi Corridor is in a critical state with increasing evaporation, increasing agricultural and industrial use, and glaciers receding in the Qilianshan. There is a very real concern that the entire Hexi Corridor may become uninhabitable by the year 2050 because of the decreasing aquifers and river water supply.

The forest seems an anachronism. The character cannot be seen from aircraft approaching Jiayuguan Airport because of the smoke and pollution from the factories in town (the airport is on the north side, the character on the south side of town), and so is only seen by the occasionally observant passenger flying from Hong Kong (Hong Kong travel guide) to northern European cities (about 3 1/2 hours into the journey).

Sad times when people talk about sustainable development and then waste water like this.

4. This is the First Peacon...

This is the First Peacon Tower, WOOOOOOOOOOOOW...!! This place is more than just words and writtings. You have to see it yourself. 100 points I rate. The taxi drove a long way with only desert around us just like this photo at left, we ask for a stop to take some photos, later we arrived here with a small inscribed stone 'The First Peacon Tower' (in Chinese). Here you can see the remaining of ancient GreatWall without reconstructed, looks ugly but very original but it wasn't the GreatWall that attracts us, it was the scenery of it's own, I can't tell you..Out of this world. Jiayuguan is an option for your Silk Road tour.

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