Profoundly Diverse Gansu: a Trip by ASEAN Diplomats

The scenery of Gansu is fascinating, and traveling across the province feels like riding a time machine back to the golden age of the ancient Silk Road,” said Dewi Avilia from the Indonesian Embassy in China, reluctant to leave as the trip was wrapping up.

A delegation of 25 diplomats and journalists from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam participated in the 7th China-ASEAN Jointly Build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road reporting trip to Gansu Province in northwest China from June 3 to 9.

Themed “China-ASEAN Sustainable Development and Cultural Diversity Conservation,” the trip was jointly sponsored by China International Publishing Group and ASEAN-China Centre and organized by China Report Press. The delegation visited Lanzhou, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Jiuquan, Guazhou, and Dunhuang to personally experience both the long-standing and profound culture of Gansu and understand its socioeconomic development. Gansu is a prime point on the ancient Silk Road and has preserved both natural and historical treasures across its vast land, which is brimming with vitality.

Modern Agriculture

Right after arriving in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu, the delegation headed to the Flower Cultivation Center of Modern Agriculture Demonstration Park in Lanzhou New Area. The center features four intelligent greenhouses and one tissue culture laboratory. The intelligent greenhouses, covering a total of 360,000 square meters, nurture upscale flowers such as phalaenopsis, gerbera, colored horseshoe orchids, and cut roses. It is expected to produce 100 million freshly cut flowers and 1.2 million potted flowers annually.

“We have similar flower bases in Vietnam but not at such a large scale,” said Chau Thai Binh, head of the Vietnam Television Representation Office in Beijing. “The temperature and humidity of the intelligent greenhouses here are controllable, and its refined production technology is pretty advanced.”

The Haisheng Modern Intelligent Greenhouse Cultivation Demonstration Project is known for the spectacular sight of rows of modern greenhouses. “We have introduced the world’s most advanced modern agricultural technology, and conducted localized improvement on the basis of that,” said a project worker. “Relying on an intelligent management system, we use computer to automatically control the whole process from temperature to humidity, light, and fertilizer. The lack of water and soil in the Gobi Desert makes this method of cultivation a perfect combination of ecofriendliness, safety, and technology.”

“They’re so tasty!” exclaimed Arianto Surojo, director of the ASEANChina Centre’s Information and Public Relations Division, upon tasting local tomatoes and peppers. “It is hard to imagine that this place used to be Gobi desert. Technology has completely changed my understanding of agriculture.” The project has already formed a complete industrial chain in terms of growing seedlings, production, processing, and sales, which has helped all the participants amass wealth.

A delegation member snaps a photo at Haisheng Modern Intelligent Greenhouse Cultivation Demonstration Project on June 5. (HAN HONG)

Magnificent Landscape

Every stop in Gansu was a breath of fresh air for members of the delegation.

“Seeing the colorful Danxia landform makes me deeply understand the power of nature,” said Do Vi Sa, a journalist from Vietnam People’s Newspaper. The delegation traveled through Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park by bus and marveled at the colorful and majestic mountains and hills.

Bars Snow Mountain, located in the middle section of the northern slope of the Qilian Mountains, is regarded as a “sacred mountain” by the Yugur people and known as the “Oriental Alps.” Through overlapping peaks and winding roads, the bus navigated all 22 bends to finally arrive at a viewing platform at an altitude of nearly 4,000 meters, where the snow-capped peaks and jungle were shrouded in fog, and only colorful prayer flags fluttered in the wind.

On the way down the hill, hail suddenly fell and instantly obscured the snowy mountain from view. When the delegation arrived at the foot of the mountain, the Yugur people had prepared local delicacies for lunch to entertain the international guests in yurts. After finishing lunch, members of the delegation exited the yurt to be greeted by bright sun glimmering off the snow above the snow line of the mountain. On the same day, Bars Snow Mountain displayed completely opposite climate and scenery.

“Bars Snow Mountain seems straight out of a fairy tale,” exclaimed one member of the delegation. “It’s both sacred and magnificent.”

Hospitable Yugur girls sang cheerful folk songs and presented white hada (a silk scarf symbolizing good luck) to everyone and welcomed the delegation with mellow barley wine in silver bowls. Nguyen Van Phong, counsellor of the Embassy of Vietnam in China, deemed Gansu an attractive tourist destination with unique customs and hospitable people. He expressed hope that China and ASEAN would carry out more cooperation and help more people experience the beauty of Gansu.

“On the other side of the sky, far, far away, there is a beautiful Crescent Lake,” goes the song “Crescent Lake,” which is popular in Dunhuang. “It is a mirror of the sky, eyes of the desert, and a paradise bathing in the stars.” Crescent Lake is located at the foot of Mingsha (Echoing Sand) Mountain southwest of Dunhuang. Surrounded by sand dunes, it is nearly 100 meters long from north to south and 25 meters wide from east to west. Its name was inspired by its shape, and it was dubbed “the No. 1 Lake in the Desert.”

“I was impressed by Mingsha Mountain because my country doesn’t have anything near such landforms,” said Chern Lea Keong, minister counsellor of the Embassy of Malaysia in China. “The sand is soft. I climbed to the mountain top, where the picturesque scenery stunned me.”

Hospitable Yugur women entertain the delegation with cheerful folk songs and mellow barley wine at the foot of Bars Snow Mountain on June 6. (GUO MENG)

Profound Culture

The trip to Gansu helped members of the delegation personally experience the profound historical and cultural heritage of Gansu. In the Gansu Provincial Museum, the rich collection of cultural relics such as a bronze galloping horse offered a peek at the glory of the past. Climbing the gate tower of Jiayuguan Pass and touching the ancient city walls, members of the delegation imagined scenes of the ancient battleground. The last two stops of the trip were the Yulin Grottoes in Guazhou County of Jiuquan City and the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang City. Every step into the caves brought members of the delegation back in time, and the exquisite murals and sculptures stunned them.

“These murals and sculptures have been well preserved for thousands of years and remain precious treasures for future generations,” said Erwin F. Balane, tourism attache of the Embassy of the Philippines.

“This was my first visit to Gansu,” said Yuk Sengponleur, tourism attache of the Embassy of Cambodia in China. “From the very beginning, I could feel the hospitality of people in Gansu. Angkor Wat, in northwestern Cambodia, has a lot in common with China’s grotto culture. Both sides should strengthen cooperation to promote the development of cultural diversity.”

“This year marks the 30th anniversary of dialogue relations between China and ASEAN, and the two sides have achieved fruitful results in many fields,” remarked Chern Lea Keong. “This trip to Gansu Province was very meaningful, and hopefully, China and ASEAN will conduct more cooperation in terms of culture, tourism, green energy, trade and investment, and people-to-people exchange.”

By Guo Meng

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