Qinghai Lake, the largest inland lake in China, is half frozen in late December. CHEN MEILING/China DAILY

A desert may seem desolate, but walking on the dunes of Echoing-Sand Mountain on the edge of the Gobi Desert on a blustery and cold winter’s day, I felt the strong power of life.

The first time I saw the desert, located in the city of Dunhuang in Northwest China’s Gansu province, I was shocked. Born in central China, I’m familiar with rivers, forests, lush mountains and idyllic scenery. But I saw none of those during my seven-day travel in late December to Qinghai and Gansu provinces. All I saw were sand, grottoes and barren landforms, which in wintertime appear colorless and desolate.

But that was just the first impression. I soon came to see that the unfamiliar landscape has its own breathtaking beauty.

At Echoing-Sand Mountain, the sand itself sings a song of Gaia, as if it’s chanting an epic poem recalling all the millennia that have passed with the shifting grains of sand. At bottom of the mountain, withered reeds sway as they await the thawing embrace of spring, as if patted to sleep under the cold hand of winter.

A camel caravan, ready to rest, makes its way across the sand mountain led by a middle-aged man, while the sunset creates a semicircular halo as a backdrop. The scene makes me want to press my palms together in prayer.