Our Docent and the People of Dunhuang
Lucy spoke great english, and sported the androgynous, even-fringed hairstyle which was all the rage in Dunhuang. Dressed in a modest striped suit and accessorised with a wide-brimmed white hat, I thought of her as a Chinese Mary Poppins, which made her guided tour of the caves all the more magical.
The solidity Ablajan held amongst his own Uygur people seemed to have dissolved upon entering the realm of Gansu. Lucy pointed out with a teacher’s precision all the grammatical errors he had made in his spoken Chinese, despite the similarity of accent.
Pushing her bicycle along, she tells me a reincarnated story – that it’s boring to live in a place like this, that there is nothing to do at night, and that she works her job to practise her English.
Entry to the Mogao Caves
A clumsy clanging followed the single soft click of a key; heavy metal doors yawn open with a groan, revealing musty secrets within its dark cavity.
With a flick of Lucy’s wrist comes the flicker of a dull beam; the little red dot hunts down every unique feature of the cave, and she flushes the secrets out into glorious light with a torrent of trivia.
The statues of Generals Ha and He stand guard at every cavern entrance, their ice blue eyes surveying with righteous fury. Any demon near the antechamber would surely be sighted and stomped into oblivion, before they even had a chance to peek at the buddha sleeping at the innermost chamber of the cave.