I read somewhere that cities are living creatures.
They are shaped by their experiences and they have dreams which will shape their development. I think it was Gaiman who wrote it, but I can’t be sure… (I know… extensive fact-checking and well-researched nuggets of information are the main selling points of this blog)
I’ll be honest… I’ve not been a fan of Chinese cities so far. They seem to be obsessed with progress at any cost. Because of this, they tend to be gloomy, congested and so stifled (polluted) that they would too literally take my breath away. Sort of like that over-achieving kid at school…
In that sense, Dunhuang is very much like the exotic exchange student who seems just a little more worldly than the rest of the class and who is not really that concerned about the grades, because hey… Life is too short.
Being an essential stop along the Silk Road, Dunhuang had been at the crossroads of civilizations for a very, very long time. The result of this can be easily seen throughout the city. We’ve never been particularly sensitive to architectural details in our travels so far, but walking along the streets of Dunhuang, even we could tell that the designs of the buildings were a fusion of that from many cultures. It was not hard to see Islam-design-inspired temples, nor Buddhist-design-inspired mosques.
The Night Market is filled with food from all over China. From what we’ve heard, there is no “must-try food” of Dunhuang. (But from what we’ve tasted, Dunhuang has some of the most awesome BBQ lamb skewers in the WORLD)
Despite all the slogans we could see on the street about unity in China, Dunhuang is very assuredly not completely “Chinese”. It seems to know that it is different from other Chinese cities and it is not afraid to wear this difference like a badge.
This confidence in its own identity is charming, and coming from the self-professed great melting pot of Singapore, this self-assuredness of Dunhuang is a trait I hope my city would have when it grows up.