Gansu Travel Guide
Traditionally regarded as China’s final outpost, the last point of civilization before the desert, Jiayuguan is visited mainly for its Ming-era fort. Within town, the Great Wall Museum documents the history of the wall from the Han to the Ming eras. Exhibits include photographs of remote sections of the wall as well as scale models.
Several other sights lie around Jiayuguan. About 4 miles (6 km) north of the fort is Xuanbi Changcheng (Overhanging Wall), a restored section of the wall dating to the 16th century, that once linked the fort to the mountains. In the same area, the Hei Shan rock carvings depict scenes from daily life during the Warring States period. Situated 4 miles (6 km) south of town is the First Beacon Tower, a desolate outpost that marks the start (or end) of the western part of the Ming-dynasty Great Wall. About 12 miles (20 km) east of town are tombs from the Wei and Jin eras (220–420 AD), whose bricks are painted with celebratory scenes. The Qilian Shan peaks, 75 miles (120 km) to the south, cradle the 14,110 ft (4,300 m) Qiyi Bingchuan (July 1st Glacier), reached by a combination of train, taxi, and foot.
Great Wall Museum
- Xinhua Nanlu
safeguarding the civilized world of
the Ming dynasty
At the western extremity of the Great Wall stands the Jiayuguan Fort, dominating the stony plain that separates two mountain ranges. Built of tamped earth in 1372, in the distinctive, embattled Ming-dynasty style, it was dubbed the “Impregnable Defile Under Heaven.” It was of enormous strategic importance as it controlled the only military and trade link between China and the deserts of Central Asia. The frontier lay some way further west, but for the Chinese Jiayuguan was the last outpost of civilisation, beyond which lay barbarian country, a place of perdition, fit only for exiled officials and banished criminals.
Rising 56 ft (17 m) above the fortress walls, the gate tower was originally completed in 1506, although like the others it has been extensively renovated.
This provided spiritual nourishment for the troops. The temple would have offered a mixture of Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian ceremonies.
This was a later, Qing-dynasty, addition to the fort and was used for entertaining the troops stationed both at the fort and at garrisons along the Great Wall.
The 16th-century ramparts of Xuanbi Changcheng (Overhanging Wall), Jiayuguan
End of the Great Wall of China
The wall stretches out either side of the fort closing off the plain. The wall is made of tamped earth, a raw material in ready supply in the desert.
Built of tamped earth and bricks, the mighty 35-ft (10-m) high walls were designed to be accessed by horses via ramps that lead from the gates to the battlements. The total length of the walls is about half a mile (750 m).
This was used to lure the enemy into a place from where they could be attacked from above. It also served as a holding bay for caravans.
Detail inside tower
As shown by these wooden doors, the interiors of the towers were beautifully painted in typical Ming style.