Just a nine days into the month of July and the majority of Japan is in the grip of a heat wave. With highs of 35 C (95 F) and stifling humidity, city workers are already wiping themselves down with deodorizing body paper at every opportunity and dodging from one area of shade to the next while outdoors. It’s at times like these that many of us dream of escaping to a hidden oasis of our own, enjoying an icy cold beer and listening to soft music as we doze in the shade of a tree. For those of us working in the city, though, a trip to a cheap izakaya or beer garden is about as close as we’re likely to come to making our daydream a reality.
Today, though, we’d like to invite you to come with us to Gansu Province, China, which is home to a natural oasis known as the Crescent Lake, where the thought of padding across its lush grass and dipping our feet in the pure springwater is already helping us feel cooler. Welcome to Yueyaquan.
Viewed from above, the 218-metre-long expanse of water and its surrounding greenery look like little more than a plastic model; a section of a toy town that was accidentally placed apart from the rest. Indeed, this oasis is situated some six kilometres south of the city of Dunhuang in Western China, with naught but desert for miles in every other direction.
Known in English simply as the Crescent Lake, Yueyaquan may appear to be an idyllic, tranquil location to escape to, but it is actually a hugely popular tourist destination, not just because of its beauty but its historical significance. A rest stop for those traversing the Silk Road, a network of routes that merchants would take to transport their wares (including, of course, luxurious Chinese silk, from which the road gets its name) across the breadth of the Eurasian landmass, Yueyaquan must have welcomed tens of thousands of faces from all over the world in its time.
Although it is said that none of the trees that can be found within the oasis have ever wilted and died, the Chinese government was forced to take action in 2006 after the lake showed signs that it was losing its battle with encroaching desert. Unfortunately, experts believe that despite the recent addition of water to the lake, there remains a very real danger that Yueyaquan may disappear completely in the not too distant future. The construction of dams in nearby areas is also believed to have had a negative effect on the surrounding environment, although whether the two are linked has yet to be proved.
Hopefully, steps will be taken to ensure that this tiny but undeniably picturesque spot will remain in its current state for many generations to come, but those of you who would like to witness it with your own eyes are urged to visit soon.
▼Surrounded by desert, the oasis exists like a stroke of green on a beige canvas
▼ The oasis’ sole multi-storey building.
▼Images from Google maps.
[ Read in Japanese ]