Crescent Lake or Yueyaquan is a crescent-shaped lake in an oasis, 6 km south of the city of Dunhuang in Gansu Province, China. It was named Yueyaquan in the Qing Dynasty. 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. The lake and the surrounding deserts are very popular with tourists, who are offered camel and 4x4 rides.
The Crescent Lake is an oasis Gobi desert, which is surrounded the numerous sand dunes. The dunes reach a relative height of 250 meters (820 feet). The climb to the top is rewarded with the dramatic view back across the rolling desert sands towards the oasis. Descending the dunes is quite easy C silde down the dune to the sound of rumbling sands or the sound of thunder or a drum-roll as the wind sweeps across the sands. The Mingsha Shan is so named for the sound of the wind whipping off the dunes.
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. Typically the camels are guided by a local camel escort, who include both women and men. At the dunes, a popular activity for tourists is to ride sleds down the sand slopes, much like snow-sledding during winter in temperate zones.
In the past decades, the Crescent Lake kept shrinking while the desert expanded step by step.In 2006, the local government with help of central government has started to to fill the lake and restore its depth, its dept and size has been growing yearly since then. The lake and the surrounding deserts are very popular with tourists, who are offered camel and 4x4 rides.
Features of Dunhuang Crescent Lake
About 5km southward from Dunhuang County in Gansu Province, there are sand dunes winding like a dragon with deep peaks and sharp ridges. They are 40km from east to west and 20km from south to north with a relative altitude of 250m for the highest peak. The dunes are covered with sand waves. Sliding down from the top, sand flows with you with thundering sound. According to historical records, even in a fine day when the wind does not breeze and the sand does not move, there is beautiful tune from the dunes like the ensemble of Chinese traditional stringed and woodwind instruments. That's why they are called Singing Sand Dunes.
Overlooking from the top of the dunes, you will see a jadeite-green clear lake flowing peacefully. Surrounded by the dunes, the lake is 100m long from south to north and 25m wide from east to west with a deepest water level of 5m. The lake is in the shape of a crescent, so people call it Yueyaquan Lake (Crescent Moon Lake).
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.
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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