Crescent Lake

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Crescent Lake
Crescent Lake

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.

Crescent Lake
Crescent Lake

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.

Crescent Lake
Crescent Lake

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).

Crescent Lake
Crescent 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".

Crescent Lake
Crescent Lake

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!

Reviews of The Crescent Lake

"Beautiful View": I was quite reluctant to g to Crescent Moon Pool due to its expensive entrance fee $120!! But...How could we skip it when we are already at Dunhuang!! We took bus to get there ($1); and paid extra $5 (or $10? Can't remember exactly) for the shuttle bus to get over to the Pool. It wasn't easy to climb up, I thought it's more difficult than 4-5 hours hiking!!! But the view's totally worth it. I would recommend watch weather forecast before visiting there because if you go in bad weather conditions, you will not able to see things clearly!

Crescent Lake
Crescent Lake

Amazing Desert:The amazing part of this part of Gobi Desert is how close it is located to the city of Dunhuang, it is only 5 km away. Crescent Moon Pool is a small oasis of spring water on the desert. It is tied up with the Sand dunes here known as Ming Sha Shan with one single entrance ticket. You can walk or pay for transfer to get to the pool from the entrance. The admission is quite costly, about RMB120 per person,exclude camel rides and some activitie which require more fees. So choose a time when it is not too hot, either morning or evening, and spend time to enjoy all the activities: walking on the fine sands, hike up the dunes, slide down the mountain, ride the camels or take an easy walk / drive to nearby Crescent Moon Pool.

"Crowded but still magical": Nothing beats the sunset view from top of the dunes looking backwards over the Crescent Moon Spring surrounded by chattering, laughing, and generally goofing around Chinese tourists. This is quite a hike up the dune to the first peak so bring your puffer and do some hill walking in preparation. If you bring your own large plastic bag to slide on you can save some money. The walk from the gate to the Spring is easy--you don't need the golf cart especially if you are there in the early evening when the heat is reduced. Overall a pleasant couple of hours enjoying the changing light on the dunes as sun sets.

How to get Dunhuang

Tourists can take bus No. 3 (about 1 Yuan) or taxi (about 15 Yuan) to the lake. If you are vigorous enough, you can rent a bicycle (about 1 Yuan per hour) in Mingsha Lu and ride to the sight spot. Entering the entrance to the scenic spot, tourists can take a camelback tour to the beautiful lake (about 30 Yuan per person for the round trip).