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Yumenguan Pass

As you cross the desolate stretches of the Gobi Desert, you will eventually reach Yumenguan Pass, a monolithic gateway nearly swallowed up by the desert. For centuries, this gateway served as a major trade post for a surging tide of traveling merchants, military generals and exotic emissaries, and in its heyday, gems and silk flowed westwards through the gates while music, art and religion streamed into central China. Over the centuries as smoother trade routes were discovered, the Yumenguan Pass was gradually abandoned, and a thousand years after its peak of prosperity, Yumenguan Pass sits in disrepair, its sunbaked walls standing in stark contrast to the barren flatlands it sits upon. Gone is the clash and clang of bundled wares slung across camelback, and in place of the jumbled cries of countless vendors there is only silence. History lives on though, and the pass’ name, Yumenguang, which means “Jade Gate Pass”, is etched into the region’s memory, harkening back to the days when gleaming trails of jade would pass beneath the massive gateway for days on end.

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