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'The Piano Guys' scales the Great Wall for video shoot

Internet sensation, the Piano Guys are in China. The Utah-based group took some precious time off their Asian tour in Singapore and Malaysia to fulfil their China dream - shooting a music video on the Great Wall of China...

September 16, 2013
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Great Wall Forest Festival kicks off

The 2013 Yanqing Great Wall Forest Festival, the fourth edition of its kind, was held from August 24 to August 25 in the Tanglewood Music Valley at the foot of the Great Wall Badaling Section in Beijing's Yanqing County...

August 29, 2013
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Jet Team above the Great Wall

Aircraft of Breitling Jet Team, a famous European aerobatic team, perform above the Great Wall of the Jiayuguan Pass in northwest China's Gansu Province, Aug. 13, 2013...

August 16, 2013
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Unique section of the Great Wall draws in visitors

As people all know what the Great Wall looks like but did you know that some of it is built over water? The Jiumenkou section of the wall in Liaoning Province in North East China is famous for just that...

  August 09, 2013
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The long and changing road to Jiayuguan

2008-01-11

Of all the transformations I have seen on this return journey along the Great Wall, perhaps none are collectively greater than in the province of Gansu, particularly Jiayuguan, the western end of the Ming Great Wall.

The long and changing road to Jiayuguan

William Lindesay reaches the Jiayuguan Fortress in Gansu province after four weeks on the road. Piao Tiejun

When I alighted from train No 69 here 20 years ago, alone with a small backpack, harboring my audacious ambition to trek along the Wall, the trip had taken 59 hours from Beijing. Now I am told it takes just 34 hours.

Once out of the station, I trudged along dusty roads and discovered this was indeed a desert city.

Today's Jiayuguan is also up to speed, an oasis with tree-lined streets, an impressive sports stadium and booming tourism, proudly promoting itself as China's smallest city with a population of "only" 300,000 people. It is here that you see the policy of Xibu Kaifa, or western development, is for real.

Jiayuguan of old seems far away now, but I can still recall the grubby eateries around the main traffic circle - although there was no traffic then. I could not speak Chinese, so ordering was a problem. I felt relieved to have found a few peppers and eggs, thankfully avoiding the fly-infested pork offering. The dietary choices today are astounding, but I opted for a local favorite: beef noodle soup at Da Huzi's (Big Beard's) Noodle House, run by a friendly Hui Muslim who serves the best bowl of this delicacy outside its hometown of Lanzhou.

In the late afternoon, I drove toward the fortress. Instead of heading for the interior, I took a track leading across the open desert. I have approached it many times this way on foot, and it is always a thrill: this time because we had driven all the way from our Beijing home. Every time I am here, words written by a Briton come to mind.

"The cart bumped mercilessly over the loose stones of the dismal plain", wrote Mildred Cable of her approach in the 1930s, "and each slow mile brought the outline of the fort into clear relief."

Most of my route to the city of Jiayuguan had been quite the opposite. Miles had sped past swiftly and smoothly as I cruised along National Highway No 312, which runs the length of the Hexi Corridor in Gansu province. Only this final furlong was bumpy - a brief reminder of what desert travel of yesteryear was like.

Now the reward stood before me: the fortress perched atop a plateau, taking me back in time to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and in my book one of the finest sights on the entire Great Wall.

I shot a roll of film in the golden evening, stopping to watch dust devils spin over the desert. It was not quite the end of our road. We had events planned in Jiayuguan before continuing further west, in search of a much older Great Wall.

(China Daily 01/11/2008 page6)

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