Though perhaps not as bleak as the infamous Golmud (and the alleged ensuing oblivion), the Gobi Desert is a massive, foreboding body of sand, dirt and rock that appears wholly incapable of comfortably supporting life, though it has possessed pockets of civilization for thousands of years. This picture was taken in Gansu, where stretches of desert spread into the province from Inner Mongolia, adding another layer of geography and climate to the already diverse Gansu landscape. More on Gansu after the jump.... Gansu offers the China-traveler a number of popular options: Xiahe and the Labrang Monastery; Dunhuang and the nearby Mogao Caves; Jiayuguan, historically known as one of the final frontiers of Chinese civilization; the more adventurous tourist in Gansu can have it all—it may not be as glamorous as some of the ritzier cities in China, but it possesses plenty of natural beauty. And there's plenty of history to be seen—the Jiayuguan section of the Great Wall remains largely intact, and is in remarkably good condition considering it was built in the 14th century during the early days of the Ming Dynasty. In many ways, Gansu hasn't changed as much as many of China's provinces. The population is still largely rural, and though it is no longer the westernmost gate into China, it remains on the frontier and development has lagged in comparison to some of its glitzier eastern neighbors. I found this picture particularly alluring because of the power-lines looming high above the harsh, natural features. Historically, Gansu was an important stopping point on the Silk Road, and I like to think of how days of camel herds and bags of precious spices have been replaced with networks of cable transmitting a distinctly 21st century type of commodity. After all, if you had shown a trader along the Silk Road a light bulb in 1200 AD, he would have quickly hailed you as the coming of some all powerful, unnatural force. And then he would have given you all his gold.