Friday, July 16, 2010


"The old granary was massive, more than two hundred feet long, with
ten-foot walls that rose stark above the scrubland. There were pillars
of tamped earth, and gaping holes that showed the sky; in the mud
walls I could see the matted straw that had been used for
construction. This part of Gansu is so dry that the straw still looked
fresh; in truth it had been here for more than twenty centuries. This
granary, like all the forts in the region, was surveyed in the early
1900s by Aurel Stein, the great Hungarian-British explorer and
archeologist. He made two trips here, spending months with camel
trains in the desert. On his second journey he literally retraced his
steps. At one point he stumbled upon two sets of tracks, the prints of
a man accompanied by a dog, and he realized that they were his own --
seven years earlier he had wandered here with his faithful dog Dash
II. He wrote, 'Time seems to have lost all power of destruction on
this ever-dry ground which knows no drift sand nor erosion.' "

Peter Hessler, Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to
Factory (Kindle edition, 2010), 27% into the book.