Silk Road China – Wuwei 武威 – Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

This June holiday I was doing Silk Road with Chan’s brother for 2 weeks. The first Silk Road that I experienced was in Konya, Turkey, only part of the route and I was exposed to the 13 Century Caravanserai which is a roadside hotels for the ancient travelers. That was the first introductory for me to learn about Silk Road.

This time I was going to experience the world’s longest Silk Road in China, which usually start from Lanzhou and move towards the West part of China through Xinjiang. Silk was one of the most important trade items many thousand years ago so it is called Silk Road. In fact Silk is more expensive than gold in the ancient time. Silk from China were sold with very high price to the West. To conclude, Silk Road was an old trade routes that connected the East and West and a place where many cultural meeting and exchange happened many thousands years ago.

Our original plan was flying from Singapore to Beijing and transfer to Lanzhou but we missed our domestic flights to Lanzhou when we arrived in Beijing Airport because our transit timing is only 2 hours and that is not enough to clear custom. It is common to see so many travelers at the Beijing Airport and the queue was super long. Recently the China immigration has a new law for all travelers at the immigration custom, that is to take finger prints of your 10 fingers plus taking picture of your face so it really taking a lot of times to clear the custom. If you are thinking of connecting flight to Lanzhou, please make sure at least 4 hours of transit time.

Anyway, we started our Silk Road journey from Wuwei instead of Lanzhou. Wuwei is located in Gansu province quite near inner Mongolia. Wuwei city is called Liangzhou 涼州 in the ancient time. It is a key link for Silk Road and many important archaeological finds were discovered here, one of the important and also most iconic sculpture is Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕.

Leitai Wuwei 

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Lei Tai translate as thunder tower in Chinese language, it is a platform to hold ceremony of paying respect in the ancient old days in China. Leitai is nice to walk around as it is nicely maintained. There is a tomb from the East Han Dynasty and some treasures inside.

In Leitai Wuwei, there are things that you should look at carefully.  Just follow my top 13 top things to see in Leitai Wuwei.  Well, at least top 9 things are really crucial to note before you go Letai Wuwei.

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

1. Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Upon entering Leitai after you have paid for your ticket, you will see the Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕.  This is an iconic sculpture in Gansu province.  You can see this sculpture in many of the important site in Gansu province.  When I arrived in Lanzhou Airport, the first thing I saw was Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕 outside the airport.

Some background of Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕 

Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕 was unearthed from the tomb here, which belong to Zhang Official. The original size of Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕 is small (34.5 cm in height, 45 cm in length, and 13.1 cm in width) and original sculpture was put inside the Lanzhou museum. The one you see in Leitai is the replica, bigger size too.

2.Replica of warriors, horse and  chariots

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Outside the tombs, you will find bigger size of bronze chariots, horses and warriors at the open space. These are all replica.  You should pay attention to look out for another real size replica inside the tombs.

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Leitai Tomb

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

3. Feel the cool air inside the tomb

The tomb is very small and narrow passage, we have about 30 pax in a group and we needed to break into two groups to take turn to enter the tomb. Inside the tomb, you will find it has the natural air-condition, super cool since it was summer when I was there.

4. House Shape at the Wall of the tomb

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

At the wall of the tomb, you will find a shape of the house.  Do pay attention for your guide to explain why there is a house shape at the wall upon entering the tomb.

5. Bixi  赑屃

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Tortoise Pedestal was found in the passage since tortoise was a good luck symbol in ancient to bless and protect the tomb owner and his offsprings in happiness and richness. The tortoise pedestal in Ming Dynasty was called “Bixi” 赑屃.  The heads are gone as many people touched it.  Just look and don’t touch anything so our next generation can still enjoy these artifacts.

6. Observe the Bricks – Mystery

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Metal steels were used now to enhance the whole tomb and prevent the bricks from collapsing.  Archeologists found each brick used can support super strong pressure as compared to current bricks. The ancient brick, each one of the brick can support pressure of 366 to 374 kg as compared to the current brick which can only support pressure of 150-200 kg, almost double the weight. Till now, it is still a mystery how the brick was made in the ancient time.

7. Tomb’s Robbery

You will see there is a hole being digged out caused by the smart tomb’s robber.  The robbers were so smart to know how the structure of the whole tombs was built.  They stole the treasure inside the tombs then sealed back the hole with the bricks so nobody can find this tombs.

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

8. Ninety-nine Bronze Carriages

Inside the tomb, there is a small room filled with the warriors, horses and chariots.  These are also replica but with the correct size.  The real thing are being cared in the Lanzhou Museum.

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

9. Shop for Replica of Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Outside the tomb entrance, there are few stalls selling the replica of Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕.  If you are interested do check it out.  I wanted to get one but because of it heavy weight I decided not to as I still have many days in Silk Road.

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

10. Tall trees

There are some tall trees without twigs and I find it quite pretty.

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

12. A Four Legged Friend

Not sure the four-legged friend will be there when you pay a visit but this particular cuties has only one eye.  Another eye is blind but he is pretty tame and gentle.

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

13. Ancient Door Knocker

The ancient door knocker with lion face can be seen everywhere in China, but in case you are coming from the West, you may find this interesting.  The scary lion/animal face symbolises power and strength.  Knock! Knock! Anyone home?

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Final Thoughts

The first thing you will notice in Leitai Wuwei is the Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕.  Do look carefull at the hoof of the horse. The horse is only balance with one hoof which rests without pressure on a flying swallow.

Another interesting thing would be the tomb in Leitai,the tomb is so much smaller compared to any other Emperor’s tombs in China.  After all, the tomb here belong to an ancient Officials only, not  Emperor.  So do not expect too much.

From the Leitai Han Dynasty tomb, you will discovered relics which relected the society condition of economy, politics, science and technologies development in that time.

If you are doing Silk Road China, this is one of the stop in Wuwei Gansu.  An hour is enough to see the tomb and the whole complex.

Silk Road China - Wuwei 武威 - Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕

Entrance Fees :

          • Adult : 45 RMB
          • Student & 60-70 years old : 22.5 RMB
          • Army & 70 above : Free of charge

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31 Replies to “Silk Road China – Wuwei 武威 – Flying Horse of Gansu 馬踏飛燕”

    1. Dear Paige,
      Thanks for your comment. Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West, that is where the East and West meet and have all the culture exchange. It was being called Silk Road because one of the most important items traded is “Silk” and it is widely loved by the West/Rome and caused more than gold. Silk Road is a very long and complex route but the part that I explored this time is Silk Road China.

    1. The trip to Silk Road is not that expensive, well depending on where you fly from. I usually don’t revisit the same location twice because there are many places that I have not been to. 🙂

    1. Dear Davindra,
      Yes, there is a lot of histroy hidden in Wuwei Letai, just like what you mentioned, stepping back in time. I actually did some research before stepping in the Letai tombs and get to feel the whole atmosphere.

  1. I like that you are doing a trip on such an ancient route, used for moving silk in the past. I was in Mongolia and I was in China as well, in a part close to the border between the the countries. The culture there is so different from what I was used to.

    1. Dear Joanna,
      You are so right about it, silk was an imporant trade item in the past. I have never been to Mongolia and wish to visit one day, to see how the nomads live in the grassland in their horses and tent.

    1. Dear Monique,
      Thanks for your comment. Leitai Wuwei is one of the important point in Silk Road. Hope my top 9 points will help any travelers to search what to look for in this complex.

    1. Dear Sue,
      Thanks for your kind comment. China is very big and plenty of history and treasure. Every province has its own history. I guess for a foreigner, the best to start in Beijing the capital, to see the Great wall 🙂

  2. This post was so interesting and informative! I have heard about the Silk Road in China many times, but I had no idea what it could be visit through it!

    1. Dear Nati,
      Silk Road China is a long stretch of route connecting east to the west part of China. The route that I cover including two provinces in China that is Gansu and Xinjiang. Both are unique in its own way.

    1. Dear Holly,
      Thanks for your comment. Wuwei Leitai is one of the important stop in Silk Road China, many interesting artifacts was discovered here. One of the iconic sculpture is Flying hourse of Gansu, the horse stand with one hoof and at the bottom of the hoof, you will see a flying swallow.

  3. I love reading about Chinese culture and heritage. Thank you for sharing your experience and these pictures. For me the flying horse stands atop of all.

    1. Dear Mariyaah,
      Thanks for your comment. Glad that you love Chinese culture and the heritage. Yes, this flying horse really look stunning as it is only stand with one feet and look carefully at the bottom of the hoof, it has a flying swallow. This is a great outstanding icon in Gansu Province China. You get to see it upon landed in the airport or any other major tourist site.

  4. Wow! what a great place, I never heard of Gansu before. I only know Guangzu a friend of mine live there. What a nice way to visit this place, the same for me I love to visit places that are filled with history, culture, & traditions, I’m sure you had a great time. cheers! Happy travel!

  5. I think it would be so cool to do the Silk Road route! I hope I can do it one day! Looks like you got to see and experience so many interesting things!

    1. Dear Amanda,
      One of the challenge for silk road China is the harsh weather and the long journey ride. These day the route has been improved and there are highway and bullet train ride as compared to 10 years ago when highway was not yet ready. That would be even tougher. Anyway, it is still a great experience for me. Just wonder how people survive using camel in many thousands years ago.

  6. What a wonderful start to your Silk Road adventure! I marvel at the wonders and findings of yester-year. Just reading your post, I am transformed to another time and place. Can’t wait to visit in person! Xo, Evelyn, PathofPresence

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