Starting Point of the Ancient Great Wall
Another important landmark in Silk Road China is Jiayuguan Fort, also known as Jiayuguan Great Wall. It is located 6 km from Jiayuguan City of Gansu Province. It is the most magnificent and best-preserved pass among the total over one thousand passes along the Great Wall of China.
Why Jiayuguan Was Built?
Jiayuguan, the “guan” mean “pass”/ or “check point” in English. It was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), taking 168 years to build, under the supervision of Feng Sheng, a founding general of the Ming Dynasty. Jiayuguan Great Wall was built as a fortress at first to protect the nomadic enemy coming from the desert valley and mountains area. This is the perfect location for military defensive base at the narrow point of Hexi Corridor as it is very hard to penetrate in. At the same time, the Jiayuguan Pass had also played a key focal point of the ancient Silk Road. Foreign travelers and traders came from the West, such as Europe & Persia and entered inner China through Jiayuguan. China goods were also transported to Persia and Europe from this pass. In shorts, this is the place where West meet East – cultural changes of religion, art and custom happened here.
Follow my 10 tips to explore Jiayuguan Great Wall
1.Visit Jiayuguan Great Wall Museum First
We visited the museum in Jiayugaun before exploring the Great Wall. The museum is located at the east gate of the scenic area. It is crucial to visit museum first before exploring other part of Jiayuguan, so that you have a better understanding and background of Jiayuguan Pass. We learn the architectural history of this huge defense line from the Silk Road China map and paintings. We also take a look at the old weapons used to chase away the nomadic Xiongnu tribe.
Statue of Feng Sheng – General who supervise the making of Jiayuguan Pass, located outside the museum.
Weapon used in Ming Dynasty
Ancient Silk Road Map
Guy with Ancient Guard Costume
2.Uneven Path at the Gate of Jiayuguan
When you walk through the gate, please take a close look at the path at the bottom. You will notice the uneven path which was caused by the wheels of the horse carriage many thousand years ago. The stones on the ground are still original.
3. Climb Up Jiayuguan Tower
Don’t forget to climb up to the top of the Tower and have a look at the structure of this brilliant defense system.
4.Steep Slope Up The Tower – Understand Why?
The original path to go up is only steep slope and without stairs. The stairs made recently for tourists to go up. The steep stairs back then was to prevent enemy from moving up easily with their horses or with their heavy weapons. The soldiers will throw heavy weapons with spike to roll down to kill the enemy when the enemy try to climb up and invade the tower.
5.Legend Of The Last Brick
There is an extra brick at the top of the tower here. This is an interesting story being pass down by generations.
The talented architect named Yi Kaizhan was tasked to build this fort. After finishing his plans, Yi announced that it would take exactly 99, 999 bricks to build the Jiayuguan structure, no more and no less. Yi’s supervisor thought Yi was too arrogant and threatened if Yi’s calculation were off, Yi would be punished. When construction was completed, there was an extra brick found unused. The supervisor wanted to punish Yi but quick-witted Yi explained that this extra brick had been placed by some supernatural being during the night to guard Jiayuguan and prevent its collapse. Hence the brick remains to this day.
6.Quality Control of Bricks
Go spot the bricks with surname printed at the bricks. In ancient time workers who made the bricks has to print their surname for quality control.
7. Stare at Gobi Desert
Take a look at the Gobi desert from the top of the Jiayuguan Tower.
8.Various Activities in Jiayuguan For Tourists
Various activities were offer here, such as camel rides and the chance to do some archery, shooting arrows at the invading Mongol hordes.
The Opera Tower is located near the east barbican outside the inner city. In ancient time, soldiers and traveling merchants often kill their boredom by watching operas here. You will notice the murals of the eight immortals at the Opera Tower. Look carefully at the murals and you will see some elements from the west depicting at the mural.
10.Temple of Guan Yu
The temple of Guan Yu is located outside the east wall city, it is a place where people pay special honor to Guan Yu, an invincible general of the Kingdom of Shu (221 – 263).
Final thoughts :
A good 2 hours is enough to explore Jiayuguan Great wall also considered to be the ending point of the great wall. Many foreign tourist did not know about the Jiayuguan Great Wall compare to famous Beijing Great Wall. Jiayuguan is another place to see the great wall of China.
There are electric car to bring you around in this huge complex. My suggestion is to visit the museum first as it will give you some background information about the fort.
If you have an experience guide to explain you all the things you see in this fort, then it should be a very interesting trip. If you don’t, just follow my 10 tips here. It cover basically everything you need to know in Jiayuguan Fort.