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Jiayuguan Pass

Meandering its way through the Chinese landscape for 4200miles, the Great Wall culminates at Jiayuguan Pass in the Gobi Desert. The Castle is flanked by two mountains thus making it a natural double walled fortress. This craftiness of the design served to entice invading soilders through the outer wall gate, where they would find themselves surrounded by arches shooting from the tops of both walls. It was said that the designer of the pass calculated his needs so precisely that when it was completed only a single brick was unused.

Located 4 kilometers west of Jiayuguan city on the northwest part of Gansu Province, Jiayuguan is the western end of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty as well as the most magnificent and best-preserved pass among the over thousand passes along the Ming Great Wall, known as "Impregnable Pass Under Heaven" . It took 168 years (1372?539) to build this strategic outpost.

Jiayuguan Pass, also called Jiayu Pass, is the first pass at the west end of the Great Wall of China.

The pass was built during the Ming Dynasty, and is located 6 kilometers southwest of Jiayuguan City, which is in the Gansu Province. It is located at the foot of Jiayuguan Hill, between two hills of which the pass lies, so earned the name "The First and Greatest Pass under the Heaven". This is different from "The First Pass under the Heaven", which is located at the east end of the Great Wall near Qinhuangdao City in Hebei Province. The pass is located at the narrowest point of the western section of the Hexi Corridor, and Jiayuguan often has the meaning of "Nice Valley". It was also a must point of the ancient Silk Road.

The pass is trapezoid-shaped with a perimeter of 733 meters and an area of more than 33,500 square meters. The total length of the city wall is 733 meters and the height is 11 meters. There are two gates-with one located on each of the east and west sides of the pass. On each gate there is a building. On the building at the west gate, the Chinese inscription of "Jiayuguan Pass" is written on a tablet. The south and north sides of the pass are connected to the Great Wall. There is a turret on each corner of the pass. On the north side inside the two gates, there are wide roads leading to the top of the pass.

The structure was initially built in 1372 during the Ming Dynasty and has a history of more than 600 years. A legend says that when Jiayuguan Pass was to be built, the official in charge of this project asked the designer to count how many bricks and other materials would be used precisely. The designer gave him a specific number.The army questioned his judgement on this, asking him if it was enough. He then added one more brick to the total, which was then placed loose on one of the gates and remains to this day.

Jiayuguan itself consists of three defense lines: an inner city, an outer city and a moat.

Around Jiayuguan Pass there are many historic sites such as the Mogao Caves. Today Jiayuguan Pass is the most intact ancient military building preserved from all the passes on the Great Wall. Many frescos were found in the areas around Jiayuguan Pass.

Jiayuguan Pass, located at the narrowest ravine of Hexi Corridor is made up of an inner city, wengcheng (barbican entrance to the city), luocheng (outer round defensive wall), outer city and moat. It a multi-tier defensive works. Its western outer wall extends southward to the bank of Taolai River at the foot of Qilian Mountain, and its northern end links with a hidden wall going halfway up the Heishan Mountain. Jiayuguan Pass is entrenched right in the ravine sandwiched in between two high mountains. So it reputed as Impregnable Pass Under Heaven where one defender can ward off the attack by ten thousand foes.

The inner city, standing right at the center of the Pass, is surrounded by 6 meter-high hardened loess as the base plus 3 meter-high brick wall on the top. 1.7 meter-high brick buttress aligned with crenels and lookout holes are built on top of the wall. Between crenels of the western wall there are notches for lamps. Beneath the notches, are slanting openings for shooting. The city has four corner towers, and a gate tower in the middle of each of the two north to south walls. The eastern and western gates are protected by wengcheng (barbican entrance), which connects with the inner city in a zigzag way. Once the enemy enters the wengcheng, he will find himself like a turtle in a jar waiting to be caught.

Admission Fee: CNY 60 (Jiayuguan Fort)
CNY 5 (Jiayuguan Museum)
Opening Hours: 08:30 to 20:00 in Summer; 08:30 to 18:00 in Winter
Recommended Time for a Visit: One and a half hour

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