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Silk Road culture glorifies Northwest mountain

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-04-22 09:57
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YINCHUAN - Cheng Yaodong, a part-time tourist guide, has told hundreds of tourists about the history and folklore of Xiaoguan Pass in Liupan Mountain, Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

"Although the exact location of Xiaoguan Pass has always been disputed by historians, we are certain that it served as a military fortress and an important stop on the Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) in the Guyuan region of southern Ningxia," says Cheng.

The Silk Road was a vital corridor connecting the East and West, established during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) about 2,000 years ago. Its name was derived from the lucrative trade in Chinese silk along the route. It was significant for trade and culture and brought civilization and prosperity to cities and towns along its network.

Cheng, 50, is a staff member of Ningxia Liupanshan Tourism Group in Guyuan, one of the cities that witnessed the history of the Silk Road. He likes to present tourists with ancient poetic works on the subject of Xiaoguan Pass.

Liupanshan Tourism Group is a government-run tourism company promoting local life in southern Ningxia to travelers by tapping the Silk Road culture. It arranges tours for over 1 million visitors each year.

In 2005, a park modeled after the ancient Xiaoguan Pass was built 36 kilometers south of Guyuan, where tens of thousands of visitors have left their footprints ever since.

"Tourism helps people better understand Guyuan's role in the history of the Silk Road and the rich culture it has developed over some 2,000 years of interaction with ethnic groups and foreign merchants," says Cheng.

About 55 km north of Guyuan lies another Silk Road tourist attraction, the Xumishan Grottoes. Despite being under restoration, with its 20-meter-high Buddha statue shielded by scaffolding, it draws hundreds of visitors weekly.

Nearly three years ago, cultural relics experts from across China began a restoration project on murals at the site, which date back over 1,500 years. The restoration project is still in progress.

The Xumishan Grottoes, initially built in the late period of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), comprise 162 caves and hosts more than 1,000 Buddha statues. The area was listed as a key State-level cultural site in 1982.

Located on the northern road of the eastern section of the ancient Silk Road, the Xumishan Grottoes is one of China's top 10 grottoes sites. In 2007, it was listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the 100 most endangered architectural and cultural sites in the world.

"The grottoes, known by many as 'the Pearls of the Silk Road', contain a whole set of cultural heritage items, including Buddhist sculptures, murals, temple buildings, ancient trees, Danxia landform and strange stones," says Wang Xi, head of the cultural relics management bureau of Xumishan Grottoes. "By popularizing ancient Silk Road culture, we have promoted local tourism and boosted the economy."

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