Just as oil and water don’t mix, so do springs and deserts. But Crescent Spring is an exception. About 6 kilometers (3.73 miles) south of Dunhuang city, and surrounded by the Echoing-Sand Mountain, Crescent Spring can be called a natural wonder in the Gobi Desert.
Some say it reminds them of the eye of a beautiful woman, lucid, beautiful and amorous. Some say it looks like the mysterious, gentle and seductive lips of a pretty woman, or a slice of lush, sweet and crystal cantaloupe. Actually, it resembles a crescent fallen down into this desert. Having been lying among these sand dunes for thousands of years, although given many surprise attacks by sandstorms, Crescent Spring still gurgles clear, and still remains worthy as the first spring in the desert.
The lake is in the shape of a crescent, so people call it Yueyaquan Lake (Crescent Moon Lake).
According to measurements made in 1960, the average depth of the lake was 4 to 5 meters, with a maximum depth of 7.5 metres (25 ft) In the following 40 years, the depth of the lake continually declined. In the early 1990s, its area had shrunk to only 1.37 acres (5,500 m2) with an average depth of 0.9 meter (maximum 1.3 meter). In 2006, the local government with help of the central government started to fill the lake and restore its depth; its depth and size have been growing yearly since then.
You may be wondering how this desert wonder formed. It was originally a part of Danghe River, but left as a separate lake when Danghe River changed its course.
According to the “Annals of Dunhuang County”, the lake has never been covered by sand brought by strong wind from history up to now. Scientific investigations explain that the subterranean streams of Danghe River continuously replenish the lake to keep the water balanced. The other reason is that because the lake is nestling among the dunes with the southern and northern sides higher than the eastern and western ones. The wind blows along the dune slopes. It rotates upwards suddenly from the southeast entrance with sand, up to top and then out of the northwest exit. The wind blows in such a direction all the year round and creates the beautiful scenery of mounting sand and crescent lake. The lake is always clear and blue with many ripples. It never spills over in rainy season or dries out in drought.
This lake was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO
Along the side of the Crescent Lake is a pagoda in traditional Han Chinese architecture. A street lined with souvenir stalls leads up from the entrance to the complex. Many tourists ride camels here, organized by the complex operators, to get to the summit of the sand dunes.
The areas of Dunhuang and Jiuquan abound in cups of phosphorescent jade, a priceless drinking cup with over two thousand years’ history. According to legend, a nation in the northwest tributes such a cup to the fifth king of Zhou Dynasty for peace in the 7th century AD. After pouring wine into the cup, it shines under the moonlight and the scent becomes heavier. Therefore it got the name “the cup of phosphorescent jade”.
Wanghan, a frontier poet in Tang Dynasty, wrote a verse, Songs for Liangzhou, in high praise of the cup:
Fine wine of the grape, cup of phosphorescent jade,
Ready to drink, the pipa plays wildly on the horseback.
Do not laugh at me if I lie drunk on the battlefield,
How many soldiers back alive from the wars in history!
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