|We're in Jiayuguan, a city named after the Great Wall fort
nearby. This fort marked the beginning of the Great Walls during the
Ming dynasty. Here, the silk route caravans paid their customs tax
before heading out West to Central Asia and beyond. The Chinese
recognize old traditions. You still need to pay a customs tax if you
leave through the West Gate of the fort. We avoid the tax by
entering and exploring through the East Gate. In the afternoon we
visited extremely well-preserved tombs from the 3rd-5th century AD.
The tombs were 30 feet below ground, supported by intricate stonework
without the use of mortar (the domed stone roofs and archways are
engineering marvels). The people painted murals on the tomb walls
that depict everyday life during those times. A few murals showed
people eating with knives and forks, a tradition we wish the Chinese
would have kept. These tombs were discovered in 1972 and no one
knows yet who built them. The government just opened the site to the
public and it should turn into a famous tourist stop.