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Dunhuang, Fruit Lover’s Delight

In northwestern China, a place called Dunhuang captures our attention. Famous for not just its boundless desert and Buddhist art, Dunhuang is also a fruit lover’s delight every year when the freshest produce shows up at busy bazaars.

Juicy, colourful, brimming with irresistible fragrance, fruits are nature’s gift for earthlings. Our fondness for fruits dates back thousands of years. Today, we’d go to any length to infuse our love for fruits into everyday life. Behind the fruit frenzy lies a more profound connection that binds us all together—Dunhuang.

photographer:Elena Koycheva
source from:Unsplash

A Magic Fruit Lab Where Exotic Fruits Take Root

Dunhuang, located in Gansu province, used to be a garrison town built to protect the Silk Road and a bustling trade route linking China with the Middle East, Central Asia and India. 

In 139 BC, Zhang Qian, a Chinese diplomat and explorer, was sent by Emperor Wudi, the Chinese emperor who broadly increased the influence of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), to find allies in the West. Much to our pleasant surprise, not only did Zhang Qian’s discovery change the geopolitics for the better, but he also changed people’s dining table by bringing in plenty of exotic fruits. 

Watermelon was one of them.

Sweet as a mother’s love, watermelon infiltrated the Silk Road into Dunhuang and became our summer’s must-have. There’s more to watermelon than its taste in various sizes, shapes and stripes. Watermelon nourishes our body with dewy flesh and inspires our soul to create art of all forms.

Grape and Pomegranate Pattern Sunk Panel

No.209 Mogao Cave 

Besides thin-skinned, juicy watermelons, Dunhuang’s special honeydew has an average sugar content of 17% and is as crispy and succulent as can be. 

And oh the grape, such a curious fruit. Dunhuang’s grapes take up 60% of the arable land. The seedless white grapes and the red grapes are two primary varieties. The grapes people know as Yangguan grapes are seedless white, bursting with juice and flavour. The red ones that you commonly see in Dunhuang's night markets also manage to cast a spell on countless fruit lovers. Emperor Wudi was no exception. After successfully establishing a cultural bond with the West, he became obsessed with grapes. 

There may be a hundred ways to admire this juicy little thing, still, perhaps no one does it better than the ancient painters that used grape-inspired elegant lines to decorate the murals in Mogao caves that embody the wisdom and holiness of Buddhist art. 

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Local Fruits With The Ultimate Flavours

Situated in the warm temperate zone with a colossal temperature difference between day and night, Dunhuang, a desert oasis, is home to many locally grown fruits. 

A perfect example of Dunhuang’s local flavour is the General Li Guang Apricot. Legend has it that during the Han Dynasty, General Li Guang led his troops on a western expedition and brought the apricot seeds to Dunhuang on the way. The apricots flourish in the warm and dry climate and are rich in nutrients. Glistening yellow pulp with a tantalizing aroma, the apricot is on every traveller’s list when they set foot in Dunhuang.

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Another of Dunhuang’s fruit not to be missed is the perfume pear. To fully enjoy it, one must be patient: The pears are harvested in fall when mature but not quite ripe to eat. Then, they are stored and frozen till winter and turn naturally brown. A whole season’s worth of pent-up energy is finally released when you slice the pears open. And the flavours are the best reward.

Fruits played an important role in bridging peoples of different languages and cultures throughout the history of the Silk Road. Thanks to that, those fruits, once foreign, can now be enjoyed by fruit lovers from anywhere around the world.  People express their affection via writings, photography, documentary, etc. Too much is never enough. Tasting a fruit is like going on a sensational adventure; the more fruits you try, the farther the boundaries you push. 

No wonder people are crazy about fruits—the aroma, the simplicity, and the capacity they have to restore your most memorable times. We love the taste of fruits, as well as the culture behind them. These ancient botanic wonders have occupied the planet long before we existed. Nature has designed them to nourish us; we, in turn, 

release their beauty.

The article is inspired by ARTiSTORY 2022 Theme - Dunhuang: Ode to Glamour
Dunhuang, China, fruit, Ode to Glamour, ARTiSTORY, licensing
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