National Geographic : 1951 Mar
The National Geographic Magazine Franc Shor and a Tungan Friend Row a 30-foot Boat Across Sinkiang's Heavenly Lake This American writer and his wife were among the few Westerners ever to visit the sacred Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in northwest China's Kansu Province. Starting from Urumchi, they rode balky trucks crammed with Chinese passengers, babies, and baggage (page 390). In the summer of 1948 we decided to see the caves. We had been in China for three years and had visited every part of the coun try except the isolated northwest. Now we were planning to return to the United States, and the military situation made it clear that it might be years before travel in the interior would again be possible. This would probably be our last chance. Beyond Tunhwang lay Sinkiang, now in Communist hands, and its capital city of Urumchi, plus the romantic cities of Turfan and Hami. We decided to fly to Urumchi and return overland, stopping to see the ancient caves. Getting permission to visit Sinkiang was difficult, but affable Jimmy Wei of the Minis try of Information took care of all our prob lems. We thanked him profusely. But by the time we had made the 14-hour flight from Shanghai in a war-weary C-46 airplane, we weren't really so sure he had done us a favor. A Perilous Flight Surrounded by airsick Chinese army officers, we bounced in and out of rough landing fields and finally made a dusk landing on a postage stamp field surrounded by towering glacier capped mountains, with no place to turn if we missed it.