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Most visitors to Dunhuang never go to Sanweishan. The entrance road is only a few moments drive from the Mogao Caves and it towers over the river valley but it hardly gets a glance. It just streaches out there, like the sleeping dragon it is, rich in history and stories of Dunhuang and Chinese mythology. It is well worth a little more attention.

Craggy, dessicated and treeless, Sanwei Mountain lies to the east of Dunhuang and extends for 50km further east. From the north it looks like a sleeping dragon, with its head looking down on Mogao Caves. Barren and dessicated, at first glance it makes one shudder with fear. Walking along the dirt road that runs along its crest is like walking on a rusty moon. A closer look as the sun wheels around the heavens and its beauty becomes apparent. Mulitple shades of scorched rust colored stone rear up as if seared in some massive oven.

It has a companion mountain in Dunhuang with which it has little in common, the sand dune mountain Mingshashan. But in the hoary past these mountains were two dragons. Sanwei's convoluted coiled contorted body was a black dragon. Luminous topaz Mingshashan with glittering claws was a yellow dragon.

One day the yellow dragon flew over Dunhuang and saw gorgeous flowers and luscious melons and fruits. In a jealous rage at this abundance she spewed out a poisonous black wind that withered the vegetation and caused a monstrous sand storm to rage.

It happened that a daughter of the Jade Emperor was just then taking a bubble bath at Crescent Moon Spring. She sent a complaint to the Jade Emperor who promptly ordered the black dragon of the Eastern Sea into combat with the yellow dragon. For 49 days the two scabrous creatures fought a fierce battle in the heavens over Dunhuang.

With a crashing roar sound, as if heaven and earth were grinding together, the two mortally wounded dragons plummeted to the ground. the yellow dragon fell south of Dunhuang and was transformed into the Mingshashan. And even until today, when the wind blows, the sand emits roars of this dragon. The carcass of the black dragon became the Sanweishan. But no matter how furious the winds blow, the sands of Mingshashan never reach Sanweishan.

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